About Beth

Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

June 13, 2011

Marcella's Epilogue

Every day for sixty-two weeks the members of a group that called itself Pomodori e Vino, working in rotation, made one of the more than 400 recipes from the fourth of my six cookbooks. They posted the results of their work, candidly describing predilections and aversions, trials alternating with successes, laying out the procedures they followed in strict observance of my published instructions, and documenting their efforts with photographs that were unfailingly lucid and often potently evocative.

That they should have set themselves such a task excited wonder. That they accomplished it exactly in the terms that they imposed on themselves – absolute fidelity to the recipes as they appear in my book – arouses amazement. They held me spellbound for fourteen and a half months. Their posts were often so felicitously anecdotal, that Victor and I pulled them up, gripped by the kind of anticipation with which one might follow suspenseful episodes of cliff-hanging adventures.

Will Irene overcome her loathing of eggs and taste the frittata? How can Palma get past cooking a whole fish that is looking at her in the eye? Is Jerry about to touch those lamb kidneys with his ungloved hands? How is Doug going to fulfill his assignments if there is nowhere in Ontario that he can get caul fat, cranberry beans, or maraschino liqueur? Can Deborah make smothered lettuce with that hateful Boston variety?

63pomodori1.jpg During its life, and even before its existence in its present form, my book was itself pushed to the edge of a few cliffs. A substantial part of it was first published in 1973 as The Classic Italian Cook Book. It nearly perished in the indifferent hands of its original publisher until it was rescued and reissued by Judith Jones, Julia’s editor at Knopf.

In 1992 I updated the recipes of that first cookbook, combined them with those of my second, More Classic Italian Cooking, added a long chapter on the fundamentals of Italian cooking and fifty new recipes, and titled this compilation Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, the book through which the Pomodori team have cooked their way. Curiously, it did not win the heart of the editor who had once been so supportive, and Essentials might have been stillborn had it not found immediate favor with cooks everywhere. The last time I looked, it was in its 28th printing and going strong. It has been equally successful in its British edition and in several translations.

The history of Essentials reaches its zenith in the odyssey of the Pomodori, who lifted it out of its pages and brought it to their kitchens and onto their tables. It felt as though two decades and more had fallen away and I was living again, day after day, a significant part of my productive life. No author could ever expect such a gift.

Thank you Beth, thank you Irene, thank you Doug, thank you Cindy, thank you Sandi & Jan, thank you Jerry & Palma! Thank you Deborah, peerless photographer, irresistible persuader, supreme organizer. Friend.

June 12, 2011

Beth’s Final Thoughts

This has been an incredible journey for me. My background is in science. I have worked in a research lab for the last 24 years. I think that is why my writing style tends to be on the dry side. After being a straight line thinker for all of these years it is tough to change! That was my biggest fear when Deborah talked me into helping out with this. I figured I have been cooking for years so the cooking wouldn’t be that big of a challenge, but the writing scared the living heck out of me. Well, like all things that scare you I have learned if you just attack it bit by bit you can handle anything. Little would I know that the cooking would turn out to be the bigger challenge.

As Deborah laid out in her final blog, one of our commandments that we all swore to live by, was to follow the recipes exactly. We were not allowed to change anything. I really hadn’t realized before how much I tinker with every recipe that I make. When I started to make my first recipe, I had to stop myself multiple times from adding or subtracting ingredients. I even had the sneaky thought that as long as it wouldn’t show up in the picture who would know! I then stepped back and realized that the challenge is about working outside of our comfort zone. I needed to conform to the rules.

This was so much harder than it sounded. You have to understand that one of my jobs for our business is to come up with the recipes for the café. The way I normally do that is to find a few recipes that have aspects that I like and then combine them until I come up with a recipe that works. This was quite a hard habit to break. I did it though, even when it just seemed wrong to me. I found out that when I did exactly as Marcella said, the results were amazing.

The recipes that I loved the most were ones that stretched my cooking skills to the limit. I had never made my own pasta so I was especially proud of how my Tortelloni with Swiss Chard and the Gratineed Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi turned out. My mouth waters just thinking about them. My favorite meat recipe was the Veal Roll with Spinach and Proscuitto Stuffing.


I have made this a couple of times now and it is always a hit. I found a lot of recipes to love in this book, so it is hard to narrow down my favorites, but I think these would be my top three.

I want to thank all of the other Pomodori for their wonderful stories that they have posted during this process. It is my habit to read the blog every morning after checking my email. I will dearly miss this. Even on those days when I didn’t feel great something in the post would make me laugh. I also felt connected to these other people that were going through this process with me. That was a very special feeling. I did not comment on many of the posts, but there were so many that touched me greatly. I will also miss Marcella’s comments to all of us. They made me realize, even more, how much thought and care that she had put into every recipe in the book. I really want to thank Deborah for including me in this process. It has been a great learning and growing experience. I will miss it.

June 11, 2011

Saturday's Final Thoughts from Palma

Let me begin my final post with an apology for not posting my last recipe on the scheduled date. I have JUST returned from 4 weeks in Italy (Venice, Bologna and Lake Como), where I ate many of the foods from The Essentials of Italian Cooking. The very last page of my list was missing, and I happily thought I had one more dish to prepare for TODAY, when I would be home. As it turns out, on my last weekend in Italy, I contacted Jerry, and found I was scheduled for last Saturday, June 4. I had no kitchen, so I enjoyed my last few days in Italy, hoping for forgiveness for my goof. I have now back-posted Focaccette - Cheese-Filled Pasta Fritters, on June 4 where they belong! We are complete! I'm glad I was able to try this recipe, as it is one of my favorites!


Looking back over the past 15 months, I am very pleased and honored that I participated in this project. I have learned much, and eaten well. I am touched by the knowledge, the experience, the love and support Marcella and Victor have given to this blog. I am humbled to be in the company of my fellow pomodori, and admire everyone’s dedication, persistence and honesty. I raise my wine glass to toast this group of brave home cooks!

There have been many special moments. I learned to clean an artichoke correctly. I cooked lamb kidneys and a whole fish. I made Marcella weep at my aversion to tomatoes. I also made her laugh with a “Pasta, Pasta, Pasta” DVD. I wandered the markets in Venice and Bologna with an improved understanding of ingredients. I have a new repertoire of dishes to serve guests. I have a slightly stained and well-used copy of a wonderful cookbook.

My favorite dishes could be served in this dinner party menu:

Chunks of 36 month parmigiano with 25 year-old balsamico and Cresentina (mine WAS better than Diana’s)


Handmade tagliatelle with butter and rosemary sauce (my absolute favorite recipe!)
I think of this as "making dinner from nothing". There is always pasta and bullion cubes in my pantry. There is always rosemary in my garden. If there is butter and garlic in the fridge, we have the makings of a remarkable and simple dish!


Rolled-up breast of veal with pancetta OR Veal Rolls with anchovies and mozzarella


Braised and Gratineed Celery


Pan Roasted Diced Potatoes



I’m not a big dessert person, but some macerated fruit and a hazelnut cookie sound perfect!

Mille grazie to Marcella, Victor, all the Pomodori, and to Deborah for keeping us organized on this memorable project!

June 10, 2011

Friday's final thoughts~

In March of 2010, at the encouragment of Deborah, several friends from several countries decided to embark on an adventure. We decided to cook our way through Marcella Hazan's 'Essentials of Italian Cooking'. Everyday a new recipe, everyday a new adventure. We posted on Facebook and on our blog Pomodori e Vino. The rules were very simple . . . If it was your turn you made it. It didn't matter if it was tripe, cotechino, or prune gelato. We would work our way through pasta and variety meats.
In this adventure, I was very smart to pair up with a partner. Jan and I took on Fridays; then we split the recipes. I think Jan and I will agree we were lucky with the recipe draw! We spent the next 15 months cooking Italian.
The recipes were only a part of the challenge. In 15 months . . . I have worked 2 jobs, traveled to London and Italy twice, had breast surgery, buried my father and my father-in-law, planned a beautiful wedding and watched my daughter get married, and waved my son off to cook in the wilds of Michigan. L-I-F-E in a nutshell. Though it all, we have faithfully followed Marcella's recipes and posted our attempts.
The other Huge part of the challenge was finding the ingredients. I live in Alabama, where Italian is chef-boy-r-dee with a southern accent. It is near impossible to find young artichokes, whole chestnuts, or fresh ricotta cheese. My weekly trips to Piggly Wiggly were more interesting because of this challenge; I carried Marcella with me every time.
I feel that I feel like I can call her Marcella, because through this process she and Victor have been in my kitchen every week. They have followed along our journey, and commented on our progress. She has been kind and generous... and very absolute in her recipes. I cherish each comment she has made along the process. I was rightfully chastised for implying Tuscany was Italy, using chicken breasts once again, the thickness of my veal. . . but, more than once she refered to me as her talented southern cook.

Sandi, who could have imagined an Alabama belle making such deft tortelloni! You've proven that if one really loves pasta one doesn't have to settle for second-rate store bought stuff. It has to do with whether eating well is worth making an effort or not. And that, I understand, is what Southern cooks know something about.

I have not one, but two favorite memories, through out this process. The first, of course would be when Jan and I were in Venice at the same time. We were able to find Victor's favorite little shop at the Rialto market. With Jan's excellent Italian, we purchased the ingredients we needed for our recipe. We made our Botarga together in Jan's little apartment overlooking a canal... we drank a toast to the Hazan's and our fearless Pomodori. This is a moment that we will both cherish for the rest of our lives.
My second memory is my son and I in the kitchen together, making Gnocchi. Flour and potatoes everywhere, laughter, with a little wine and some gorgonzola~ We experimented together until 'allora'... we had the perfect gnocchi. I am a firm believer that making memories in the kitchen are treasures you can't replace.
More than once, Marcella commented that she wished we were neighbors. I would love nothing more than to share my polenta, and a glass of wine as I stir the risotto and listen to her stories. She has left with each of us the treasure of 'Essentials of Italian Cooking'. It is up to us to share these treasures with others.

Jan, Marcella, and Victor~ Thank you for the journey!
Ciao y'all~

June 9, 2011

Cindy's Final Thoughts

So here I am, writing my final post for our Pomodori E Vino blog. Such mixed emotions I have as I try to gather my thoughts. Yes, there have been frustrations. Those times when I thought "How do I get that recipe made and posted in time when I forgot to purchase a special needed ingredient." and "Can my weight really handle one more really good meal, when I really should just be eating a salad for dinner?". But those frustrations have been so outweighed by the rewards of this experience. How many people have the opportunity to cook their way through an extraordinary cookbook, and have the author herself comment, critique, and give suggestions on each and every recipe you have made? Not many, I don't think. But Marcella has been so generous with her time in giving this to us, and I treasure each and every word she has written to us.

So today, I will share with you the menu that I have choosen based on the recipes I have cooked from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking". This menu is the one that I would cook when planning a feast for friends. The one that I can imagine really enjoying cooking, as my friends sit around sipping great wine and lending a helping hand as needed. This is the meal I can picture sitting around my large dining room table, in front of a roaring fire, with the lights dimmed, as we anticipate the awaiting flavors that our noses have already experienced, and now our mouths are now eagerly waiting to taste.

We would begin the meal with the simple appetizer of Marinated Carrot Sticks. Tender carrots, gentle spices, and the tang of red wine vinegar.

We would next move on to our first course. An amazing Lasagne with Mushrooms and Ham. Creamy, earthy, and very flavorful.

The main course would be Oven Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary. A delicious simple roasted chicken, flavored with the perfect duo of garlic and rosemary. And of course, roasted potatoes would be served alongside.

The chicken would be accompanied by the side dish of Asparagus and Proscuitto bundles. Who cares if there was already ham in the lasagne - this dish is too good not to include.

Asparagus and Proscuitto Bundles

And Fresh Mushrooms with Porcini, Rosemary, and Tomatoes, because we haven't yet had our fill of mushrooms or rosemary.

Dessert would be a fruit dessert of Baked Apples with Amaretti Cookies. Few ingredients, but those that mesh perfectly together.

Did I mention there would be lots of wine flowing, lots of great conversation, and lots of toasts to Marcella and Victor, with whom this wonderful experience would never have been without their support and encouragement? Cheers, Marcella and Victor. I thank you both.

June 8, 2011

Notes from a conscript

I was not a volunteer on the Pomodori e Vino blog. Rather, I was conscripted by Deborah in May 2010 when an original member had to drop out. I had already made comments on the blog revealing that I possessed a copy of Marcella's book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I was intrigued by the project; had already met Jerry, Sandi, Jan and Palma at Slow Travel GTGs in Toronto and North Carolina; and thought it would be a great way of expanding my culinary horizons.

But I must confess that I was a bit intimidated. I had only prepared one of my assigned recipes previously and several of them called for unfamiliar ingredients or implements. I would never consider myself more than an enthusiastic cook and I knew that at least some of my cohorts are very accomplished and expert in the kitchen. Plus, I wasn't really a great fan of Italian cooking. Most of my travels in Europe have been based in France, that most civilized country - and my culinary interests, such as they were, centred around French cooking.

Early on, I decided to conclude my account of preparing each recipe by addressing three issues:

1. What I liked about the recipe.
2. What I didn't like about the recipe.
3. Would I make it again?

I thought such an approach would keep me honest about the recipe and might be of some assistance to followers of the blog. It was the best decision I could have made.

How is my life different from having participated in this project?

• I don't skip over a recipe because it might seem a bit complicated or call for a novel ingredient.
• I am a familiar face in some specialty food stores in the Ottawa area.
• I do more shopping at butcher shops.
• I assemble all the ingredients for a recipe in front of me before starting.
• I plan my garden with specific recipes in mind.
• I prepare many more meals than before.
• I use the "Defrost" setting on the microwave much less often.
• I am much more confident in the kitchen.

Those are a few of the more obvious changes, but I know it goes deeper than that.

Recipe prepared most often:

Stuffed Spaghetti Frittata with Tomato, Mozzarella and Ham. This is a great recipe, a favourite with friends and family - quick and easy and delicious. Everybody asks for the recipe.

Biggest surprise:

Sunchoke and Spinach Salad. I had difficulty obtaining the sunchokes - Jerry came to my rescue. I have planted sunchokes on my property. This simple recipe was my favourite salad.

Forever favourites:

Shrimp with Tomatoes and Chili Pepper. Easy to prepare with my favourite shellfish as the main ingredient.

Fricasseed Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon Juice. Now I much prefer starting with a whole chicken, fresh from a butcher shop, rather than parts wrapped in plastic and laying on a styrofoam tray.

Veal Scaloppine in Parchment with Fontina Cheese. Sure to impress, this is the first recipe I prepared that I thought approached a professional standard.

Tuscan Meat Roll with White Wine and Porcini Muchrooms. A big leap up from the humble meat loaf - economical, easy to prepare and a great result.

Crisp Fried Zucchini Blossoms. A seasonal treat not to be missed. The main reason to plant zucchinis in my garden.

Eggplant Patties with Parsley, Garlic and Parmesan. Another summer treat using fresh produce from my garden.

Diplomatico - A Chocolate Dessert with Rum and Coffee. A great dessert, as good or better than the best you can recall. Guaranteed.

Frozen Tangerine Shells Filled with Tangerine Sorbet. This takes a while and requires an ice cream maker, but the final result is well worth the time and effort.

When I joined this group I owned Marcella's book, but I had never really heard of her. I had no idea of the place that Marcella Hazan occupies in the pantheon of cooking icons. A couple of weeks ago I read her memoir, Amarcord and got a better understanding of the person behind the inspiration for this project and her generally positive comments on this blog.

Thank you, Marcella, for your faithful attention to our efforts.

And thank you to all those who have contributed comments.

And thank you to Beth, Irene, Cindy, Sandi, Jan, Jerry, Palma, Kim - my fellow travelers on this journey.

And thank you, especially, to Deborah who invited me along for the ride.

June 7, 2011

"Amarcord" From the Tuesday Pomodori

I am more than a little amazed we actually accomplished this. What started as an impulsive suggestion has turned into one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Marcella Hazan is one of my few culinary heros. I have two copies of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. A stained and dog-eared one I've been using for years, and one I bought new when we began the project so I could send it to her for an autograph.

When the suggestion was made that we cook our way through Essentials, my immediate reaction was horror. Horror at the idea that we would be compared to a certain self-absorbed basket case who made a name for herself by stumbling through another well known cookbook.

I'm so grateful to my partners in this project. They all agreed that If we were going to do this thing, we wanted it to be about the process, not about our own personal dramas. We wanted this challenge to be an educational experience.

Most of all, we just wanted to remind as many people as we could that before there was a Food Network creating instant celebrities; before there were classically trained chefs building signature restaurants in Las Vegas; before cooking became a sport -- there was a woman who married a man who loved food. A woman who did the best she could to bring the cooking of her home country to a strange city in order to feed her husband well. And as it turned out, a woman who ended up teaching America what real and authentic Italian cooking was supposed to be. Marcella may have been knighted in Italy, but she is America's national treasure.

We set only two rules because we knew we weren't good at following them. Those two simple rules proved to be what pulled us out of our comfort zones and by doing so shaped the character of our blog.

Rule Number One: We were to follow the recipes exactly. No changes of any kind. That deceptively simple rule caused mighty consternation for a bunch of self-described "acomplished home cooks". We each trusted our own tastes and were all quite comfortable tinkering with recipes. But by following that rule, we learned a lesson about the art in cooking. It is just as much about what you don't put in a dish as what you do.

Michelanglo's David is a masterpiece - not because of the stone you see, but because of the stone you don't see. His talent was in knowing what to remove.

If Marcella tells me to peel a bell pepper before cooking, its because her talent is knowing the skin couldn't be part of the masterpiece.

Rule Number Two: - we would take the recipes in order - forced every one of us out of our comfort zones. Of the 62 recipes I was responsible for, only a handful were regular favorites I had cooked before. Some of them intimidated me. Some of them just didn't appeal. But not having a choice was very liberating.

I passed up the Risotto with Celery page in the book for years. When it ended up on my list I turned up my nose. The idea of making plain old celery the star of a risotto dish just sounded ridiculous to me. It appears my attitude was what was ridiculous. I've made it repeatedly since I was forced to on July 27th.


Another dish that I would have never cooked had it not been assigned was Frittata with Pasta. I seriously wondered if Marcella had thrown that recipe into the book to see if anyone was paying attention. But now? Well, if there was a picture in the dictionary next to the term "comfort food", it would be this!


When I discovered I had not one but three squid recipes, I considered trying to renegotiate the rule. I hated squid. In my experience, squid was deep fried, greasy rubber bands that tasted of stale oil. I made my first squid recipe, a soup with artichokes. It was tender and delicious. Next came Halibut over Squid Sauce. Quite nice. And then, one of my favorite recipes of the entire 62 weeks. Squid with Porcini Mushrooms Stuffing. This dish is now one of my food daydreams.


As it turns out, we did have to break the no switching rule. But we did it because Doug found he absolutely could not locate a key ingredient where he lived. So he and I traded back-to-back recipes and I ended up on a wonderful quest to find fresh caul for Grilled Pork Liver Wrapped in Caul.


But what was my favorite dish out of the entire 62? How could I even choose? As I sat here writing it turned out to be an easy choice. It was Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Sauce with Sausages , the dish that combined the adventure of making something that seemed impossible happen with the chance to give back to Marcella and Victor. It was the dish that sent me all over The Hill neighborhood looking for something that didn't exist until I insisted - sweet Italian pork sausage with only salt and pepper.


What do I consider to be the highlight of the last 62 weeks? That's an easy one. Dan and I had the great pleasure of meeting Marcella and Victor last January when we were graciously invited to there home for dinner. What an honor sharing a table with Victor & Marcella; enjoying a meal prepared by her hands. It was something I could never have dreamed when we began this delightful journey.


Another unexpected, yet cherished result of this project is Marcella's wonderful husband and writing partner, Victor Hazan. His old world gallantry and witty writing make it a delight to open my email and find a new note, sharing a link to yet another wonderful online source for some delicacy. They are a perfect team.

Thank you, Marcella and Victor. Thank you for allowing us to intrude on your lives for 62 weeks. Thank you for generously embracing our project. We will be forever in your debt.

April 2012

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