Florentine Carnival Cake (Orange Cake)

I love Italian food.

I love cooking channel’s Deb and Gabriele

I love the beautiful and simple Italian food in their cookbook Extra Virgin.

New York’s been having some strange weather so far this summer. It’s been 100 and humid and it’s been 65 and a bit chilly.

So to make it feel like summer, no matter what it looks like outside, I though I’d make a bright, citrusy dessert to at least give us some sunshine on our plates.

This recipe is ridiculously easy. You probably already have all of the ingredients. Oh and the bright orange burst in this light and fluffy cake is out of this world.

You will need:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • .5 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • zest and juice of one orange

Preheat oven to 350. Butter  a 9×13 pan.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. (That’s right. everything into the bowl. No wet and dry ingredients, no separating eggs, no sifting. Just dump it all in.)


Whisk until combined.


Pour into your buttered pan.


Bake for about 30 minutes.


Allow to cool. You can dust with powdered sugar or, you can serve with sliced strawberries and some whipped cream.



I should probably have my Italian card revoked.

No seriously.

How have I been blogging for a year and never shared a Bolognese recipe with you?!?

With the air getting cooler, with Sunday football days being back and with a honeymoon to Italy looming near, it’s high time we brought a pot of luxuriously rich meat sauce to a simmer.

There’s an intense debate in my family. Meat sauce vs. Meatballs.

The meat saucers like the complexity of the flavors and the bits of meat clinging to the strands of pasta. The meatballers want a fat meatball perched atop their pasta. End of story.

Now, when I say intense debate, I mean a serious discussion went down on the beach one day. My fiance, not being Italian, just said he liked them all. My cousins, all having experienced every meatball and meat sauce concocted by my aunts, had very strong opinions.

Me? I prefer a meatball.

But a really good, hearty Bolognese has its place.

Especially when the Giants lose to the Cardinals and you need something to drown your sorrows in.


The Bolognese.

You will need:

  • One white onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground sirloin (or whatever kind of ground meat you like)
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed (why not buy tomato puree? because it’s not the same. and because this is how grandma does it and it is highly advisable not to question an Italian grandma
  • 1/2 cup red wine (I used chianti because it was open)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Drizzle olive oil in a nice, sturdy pot and add in your onion. Cook on medium heat until translucent.


Add the carrots and cook until they are soft.


Then add the celery and garlic


You want to let the veggies go long enough to get some nice browned bits, but you also want to watch that the garlic doesn’t burn.


At this point, you want to add your ground meat, using a wooden spoon to break it up.


While the meat browns, pour your can of whole tomatoes into a blender or food processor and give them a whir.


The pour over the browned meat.


Let that bubble away for about 20 minutes, then add your red wine.


Let it got on low to medium low for about 2 hours, checking occasionally and giving a stir once in a while.

It will get rich and dark and meaty and the whole house with smell of caramelized onion and browning meat, with the slightest hint of red wine.


When you’re ready to eat, boil up some pasta and top with the sauce.


sprinkle with some Parmesan


Give it a mix


and mangia!

Something from nothing – pasta salad



We were away for a week with my aunt Annie and some of my cousins.

It was one of those blissfully perfect beach days, that stretches long into the evening.

So long in fact that we all were sitting with grumbling tummies, still sandy and basking in the  sun at 7:30!


What does everyone want?

No one wanted to go out. No one wanted to go to the store.

But there was almost nothing in the house.

Almost nothing.

Annie said Don’t worry. I’ll whip something up from nothing. Just come over.

Normally, I’d be afraid when someone said this. But not when my aunt said this.

We showered quickly and walked into the house and it was filled with the smells of onions sauteeing, bacon frying, and fresh juicy tomatoes being sliced open.

I’ve got two kinds of pasta, she said.

From the kitchen with nothing came a rich and filling pasta topped with sauteed onions and bacon, salty and fatty and delicious, and a second pasta topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and sauteed summer squash.

We all sat on the floor with plates of pasta and plastic cups of wine.

My cousin’s Ipod was on shuffle, and the breeze blew from the front porch.

It wasn’t fancy, but it was good.

And that’s really what Italian cooking is. Simple. Rustic. Homey. And from basically nothing.

Inspired by that meal, and with bare cupboards after a week away, we whipped up our own something from nothing. A can of black olives, some tomatoes we brought back with us from the farmer’s market and some mozzarella cheese (I’m Italian. There is always some kind of cheese, even if there is nothing in the house), tossed with olive oil and bow tie pasta.

We were listening to the sirens on 2nd avenue instead of my cousin’s Ipod, and the wine was in our new glasses (Thanks Mrs. Follis!) but we were sitting on the floor eating something from nothing.


Sausage and Peppers


Every good Italian knows where to go to get a good sausage and pepper sandwich.

The boardwalk at the Jersey Shore, the Feast of San Genaro, and your grandma’s kitchen.

Because if you’re a really good Italian, your grandma or your mom makes the best sausage and pepper sandwich! How dare you even think of comparing something from the boardwalk to hers!

And you know what, it’s easy enough to do at home that you should be making a big ‘ol pot and having your friends over.

This recipe is enough for 4 sandwiches. Multiply as necessary.

You will need

  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 4 bell peppers, chopped (I used green and yellow but use what you prefer)
  • 2 links hot Italian sausage
  • 2 links sweet Italian sausage
  • Olive Oil
  • Italian bread
  • Provolone cheese

Get out the big pot and drizzle in some olive oil. Toss in the onions and peppers.


Let these cook over medium until the onions start to brown and the peppers are soft (about 20 minutes)


Cut your sausage up into small one-inch or so bite-sized pieces. It’s easier to build a sandwich when the pieces are smaller. When the onions and peppers are cooked, toss in the sausage.


You want to nestle the sausage in amongst the peppers and onions so that the sausage can get browned by the bottom of the pain and pick up all the brown bits the onions left behind.

I use a blend of sweet and hot sausage because I like the depth of flavor. All hot is too hot for me and all sweet is just a little boring. Both is just right! Says Goldilocks.


You want to turn the sausage occasionally so it cooks on all sides. It takes about 20 minutes to get it all browned and cooked through. During that time, the onions and peppers melt into the sausage and the oil and fat from the sausage drips over the onions and peppers. Heaven.

Slice up a piece of bread. Pile high with sausage and onions and peppers.


Top with a piece of provolone for some extra indulgence.