Italian Stuffed Peppers

Coming to you from mom’s not so itty bitty, just outside of the city, kitchen.

Since it was Easter, we spent the weekend at my parents’ house.

Since it was Good Friday, we couldn’t make our usual Friday night pepperoni pizza and salami bread.

The pizza was no problem- just lose the pepperoni and there you have Good Friday ready, meat free dinner.

But what to go with it?

Salami bread without the salami is just bread.


How about take some bread and stuff it into peppers?

Italian stuffed peppers and pizza? Perfect Friday night dinner.

You will need

  • cubanelle peppers
  • bread, any kind will do, leftover rolls, white bread, whatever
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • vegetable oil

Wash the peppers, cut off the tops and remove the insides.



In a bowl, loosely tear the bread. We made four stuffed peppers and used 7 slices of white bread. The amount of bread will depend on how big the peppers are. Worst case scenario? You start stuffing peppers and run out of stuffing and make some more.


To the sliced bread


add about 1/4 cup bread crumbs


and drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil


mix and add more oil or bread crumbs as needed. you want a moist but not oily mixture.

Take your hollowed pepper


and start stuffing, making sure to push the bread all the way down


and stopping a bit from the top. If the pepper is overstuffed, the filling will fall out when you are trying to fry the pepper.


place your stuffed pepper in a skillet with enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan.


Stuff your remaining peppers and place in the pan.


Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes total, turning the peppers so they are cooked on all sides.

You want the skin to get nice and blistered and the filling to get crispy.


The perfect light dinner with a big salad or the perfect accompaniment to Friday night pizza!


Annie’s Antipasti


I realize two posts this week are coming from Annie’s kitchen. What can I say? We spent a week with her and great stuff comes out of her kitchen.

Plus, she can feed a lot of people with very little ingredients and very simple preparation that’s somehow always insanely delicious. And that’s what you need when you have an itty bitty city kitchen. Something that doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, because who has the fridge space?; something that’s easy, because who has time to prepare a souffle after working all day?; and something that’s yummy, because, well, when there is such potential for amazing food, why eat something that’s just okay?

One night last week at the beach she texted me and said they were having wine and antipasti on the porch. Well, we had dinner plans, but, hey, I’m not saying no to antipasti. Plus there’s always second dinner. It’s fine. It was vacation. And vacation is about eating all the things (This was the mentality that led to the purchase of 7 pounds of chocolate and to a very panicked bride to be who may not be able to fit into her wedding dress come fitting time).

So, back home in the city, after an exhausting work day, I asked the hubs what he wanted for dinner. He said he could go for the thing Annie made.


This is so simple and so amazing. You can make this for 2, like I did, or you can make a big tray of it for a crowd.

Also, this is great when it’s a thousand degrees out and you don’t want to turn on the oven because the kitchen already feels like on.

OKay, ready?



Some sweet and some spicy sopresseta (you can use just one or the other depending on your preferences, but I like the mix)



Some chunks of fresh mozzarella and some slices of roasted red peppers


black olives


A drizzle of olive oil, a splash of balsamic and some black pepper.



Antipasti for two.

Three Cheese Spinach Lasagna

This one goes into the top 10 recipe hall of fame in our house.

Don’t ask me for the other 9. All I know is that this one is in there.

I was thinking about how long it’s been since I made lasagna.

Then I was thinking about the fact that I didn’t have any gravy on hand.

And lasagna is one of those things that I will NEVER use store bought sauce for. You can get away with it for other things, but not lasagna. Whenever a dish is only three simple components (in this case, pasta, cheese and sauce) you want to make sure that each is the best quality. And my gravy is the best quality. So lasagna was a no go.

Or so I thought.

We were watching Best Thing I Ever Ate and the one guy, Adam Gertler, was talking about his Hometown Favorite dish, spinach pizza.

And that was all I needed for inspiration.

Spinach, three cheese lasagna.

No sauce. Lots of cheese. Lots of sauteed spinach.

For this recipe you will need

  • Lasagna noodles (I used 9, 3 noodles for each of the 3 layers)
  • 2 bags of baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 egg
  • mozzarella
  • parmesan
  • 15 oz container ricotta (why is ricotta sold in 15oz containers? why not 16? If you are doubling a recipe that calls for 8 oz or if you need 16oz you are forced to buy two containers, all for that one extra once. It’s a conspiracy!)

Okay. Sorry about that side rant.

I’m calm now.

This lasagna has a calming effect because it’s so damn good.

Preheat the oven to 400 and bring a pot of water to boil on the stove.

Drop in your lasagna noodles and cook to package directions.

Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet and toss in your spinach.


Season with salt and pepper and cook until it is wilted down.


It always amazes how so much spinach cooks down to that little pile.

Let the spinach cool down for a few minutes.

If your pasta is done drain that and set it aside to cool.

Dump the ricotta into a bowl and add your cooled spinach and one egg. We let the spianch cool a bit so it doesn’t cook the egg.


Mix well.


Now it’s time to assemble.

Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish and place your first layer of pasta down.


Spoon over half the ricotta spinach mixture.



Then add another layer of pasta.



Then the remaining half of the ricotta spinach


And another layer of pasta


Top with parmesan and mozzarella.


Bake for about 25-30 minutes.


The cheese will melts, the pasta will brown ever so slightly, and the layers will all sink into each other.


Let it cool for a few minutes before you slice so it doesn’t just melt all over the place.

And there you have a spinachy, cheesy plate of comfort.


PS. This is a great make ahead. I actually made it on Sunday, baked it, then popped it in the fridge. After a crazy work day, I just came home and popped it in the oven for about 10 minutes to heat it up.

Clams Oreganato


This is a super simple, 3 ingredient dish that can be part of an antipasto spread, serve as an appetizer, or can be a light dinner with the addition of a salad on the side.

All you need are Italian-seasoned bread crumbs, grated parmesan and canned clams.


For two people for dinner, I used 3 cans of clams. This made 7 large-ish servings. If you were doing these as antipasto or appetizers, I’d make them a little smaller. I’ll explain.

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, dump the clams and their liquid.


Next, start adding bread crumbs and stirring. This is one of those no measurements because we gotta go by feel kind of recipes. You want something almost like stuffing but a little looser.


Add cheese and stir


Now, you can be all fancy and bake these in clam shells or special serving containers. But I’m doing what my mom always does and making little cups out of foil.


Fill each cup with clam mixture


And place them on a foil-lined baking sheet.


Into the oven for about 25 minutes.


And ta-da! Clams oreganato.

Your friends will be very impressed

Kalamata Olive, Feta, Arugula Pizza



Friday night in my house has always been pizza night.

Which is very convenient during Lent when you need meat free dinners on Friday nights!

Now, pizza every Friday can sound a little boring.

But the thing about pizza is the possibilities are endless.

Mushroom ricotta, tomato basil, broccoli mozzarella…

Or, for something a little different, how about a Greek pizza?

Kalamata olives, feta and arugula.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Stretch out your dough and sprinkle with feta.


Add some pitted and chopped Kalamata olives


And then toss into the oven for about 10 minutes. We want to cook most of the way.

Then we’re going to remove form the oven, and sprinkle with arugula and add a drizzle of olive oil.


Back in the oven for another 4 minutes or so to wilt the arugula.


Then slice and enjoy.


A blend of Greece and Italy.

Hey, just like me and my fiance!



I know this is a few days late. But I hope you will cut me some slack. I wrapped, I cooked, I cleaned, and then Iumped around.

That’s right. I cooked!

Christmas dinner came out of the Itty Bitty City Kitchen this year!

And there was no skimping on the food just because it’s a small space, oh no! It’s Christmas! There needs to be an overabundance of food. I mean, I’m Italian. And my fiance is Greek and Armenian. It’s all about the food on both sides.

So I have to admit, I was a little nervous to cook the big holiday dinner. I mean, you get one Christmas dinner a year. Talk about pressure!

And I knew this year would be a little harder without meme here with us. So instead of worrying and stressing, I took a deep breath and decided to do Christmas my way. I talked to meme about it first. She told me not to worry and to do it my way.


I tend to talk to her when I’m in the kitchen. Cooking was a passion we both shared. That and our love for family, especially for Christopher. My god, I’ve never seen a grandmother love her grandsons so fiercely.

But anyway. The food. We decided to do a combination of Greek and Armenian mezze and Italian antipasto, a fusion of our families.

It started with meme’s hummus. That is the only hummus recipe you will ever need.


Then we added pita, olives, salami, prosciutto, and basturma (a seasoned and cured meat)

The we brought out the brie (the Armenian side of the family went to France after the genocide so there’s a mix of French and Armenian there), mozzarella, provolone, kasseri (a Greek sheep’s milk cheese) and Armenian String Cheese (no, I did not make that up)


We left this array of munchies out and everyone picked at it while we relaxed, drank some wine and, of course, opened presents!


After gifts were exchanged and thank yous were said, I got started on dinner.

I actually started dinner a few days prior by making a big pot of meatballs and gravy. I just doubled my usual recipe. I also fried up some sweet Italian sausage and added that to the pot of gravy as well.

I stored it in the fridge for three days, so the flavors could, okay dad’s word all together now, fester. Then on Christmas morning I pulled out the pot and pot it over a low flame, stirring occasionally, and filling the whole apartment with that awesome smell of meatballs and gravy.

To accompany the meatballs, I went with stuffed shells. They don’t require boiling. You throw some gravy on them and throw them in the oven, so you’re not standing at the stove and then draining pasta and dirtying another pot like you would if you were making raviolis say.

Instead, preheat the oven to 350 (or follow the directions on your package), pull out an aluminum baking tray, and layer gravy, shells and then more gravy in the pan. Top with mozzarella (because we didn’t eat enough cheese) and bake for about 45 minutes.



The cheese will get bubbly and melty.


And despite the amount of mezze/antipasto consumed, everyone will find room for a meatball or 2 or 3 and a few shells.


And as if that wasn’t enough, for dessert we had fruit salad, chocolate chips and Dad’s Favorite – the Cheesecake Thing

So, don’t be intimidated. Cook what you love. Cook what makes you happy.

And you can have an Itty Bitty City Kitchen Christmas too!


Buon Natale

Kalá Christoúgenna

Shnorhavor Surb Tsnund

Joyeux Noël


Cavatelli and Broccoli – the right way

If you’re going to make cavatelli and broccoli the right way, you first need to learn to say it the right way.

Your eye scans the menu and your immediate response is oh! Ca-va-tell-ee! I haven’t had that in ages.

But say it with me now. Ga-va-deal.

What rules of pronunciation dictate that the ca becomes a ga?

I don’t know. But that’s the way my family says it. That’s the way I grew up saying it.

So I kind of cringe when I hear ca-va-tell-ee. Much the same way I cringe when I hear sauce instead of gravy or ca-know-lee instead of ga-nawl.

Is it the region of Italy we’re from? Is it the town in which we settled upon arrival to the States?


It’s probably just my family.

But I digress.

Cavatelli and broccoli.

The right way.

Okay before I can tell you how to make it, I have to let you in on the little inside joke about making it the right way.

My Grandma Grace (my mom’s mom) is one of four sisters. She had brothers too, a big Catholic Italian family, but it’s the sisters that are important in this story.

I grew up with a very Italian grandma and three very Italian great-aunts.

My mom grew up with a very Italian mother and three very Italian aunts.

When I say very Italian what I mean is very loud, very bossy, very opinionated, very loving, and did I mention very loud?

One louder than the other.

I laugh when my Auntie Anna calls me and says “Jacky, it’s your Auntie Anna.” Oh trust me, Auntie Anna. I know it’s you.  I would know that voice anywhere.

These aren’t your average hard-headed and head-strong Italian women. These are Romano women. They are a breed unto themselves.

When my great grandmother was told she could no longer go to Florida by herself, she shrugged and said, fine, then I’ll die.

And guess what, despite her good health, she did.

She willed herself to die. Stubborn woman.

The Romano women are the strongest most independent women I have met in my life and I am grateful to count them as family and as role models.

They taught my mom, and later me, how to run a household, how to stand on your own two feet, how to hold your ground, how to support yourself, and how to curse.

They also taught us how to cook. It’s their recipes that I turn to most often.

So the cavatelli.

My mom always cooked for the whole family for Christmas. Aunts, Uncles, Great-Aunts, Great-Uncles, Grandparents, they all piled into our house.

And our house shook with their voices.

And I usually hid upstairs in my room. (Only child, remember?)

Christmas dinner starts at 2 O’clock with antipasti, moves onto pasta around 4 O’clock, continues with Turkey and the trimmings around 6 O’clock and concludes with coffee and dessert some time around 8 O’clock. There is copious amounts of wine necessary in between.

After the marathon of eating, and the even more intense marathon of cooking required to turn out the spread, everyone would contentedly sit back and thank my mom for the meal.

With one exception.

My Aunt Josie was the oldest of my grandma’s siblings. She never married. She worked as a waitress and had a big old house in Orange that everyone at one time or other lived in and that she later rented out to boarders.

She was a pip.

(When we went through her house when she sold it to downsize, there was a sign in one of the drawers that said “Keep the F* out. This means you.” My mom laminated and has it in her office now.)

She looked at my mom one Christmas, after my mom had slaved away over four courses of delicious food, and said, next time, if you want to make the cavatelli the right way…

The right way!

My mom and I will always and forever tease each other and ask the other if she is making the recipe the right way.

Recently I asked her, what is the right way?

She didn’t know.

I called my Grandma. Grandma, what’s the right way to make cavatelli?

Well, this is how I make it, was her response.

Meaning, well, my way is the right way.

I don’t think any of us know the right way to make it anymore, since Aunt Josie left us a few years ago. Maybe she’s making it the right way for St. Anthony. Maybe if we pray to St. Anthony we will find the right way to make it.

(For you non-Italians, Anthony is the Saint you pray to when you lose something. Don’t believe me?  Next time you lose something, say “”St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something’s been lost and cannot be found.” I lost the bracelet my boyfriend gave me for our one year anniversary (twice, once in Port Authority and once in Duane Reade) and after praying to St. Anthony, I got it back (twice).

But I don’t want to bother him about the recipe.

Instead, I’ll make it Grandma’s way and I’ll call it the right way.

This is a fantastic recipe for those nights when you think take out is the only option. It’s super fast and pretty much fool proof. And because it can be served hot or cold, it’s also a great recipe to make ahead if you know it’s going to be one of those weeks where you’ll be lucky to get out the door with two matching shoes. You can also dish this out into Tupperware for a grab and go lunch.

For cavatelli and broccoli you will need:

  • Cavatelli
  • Broccoli
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic

See, four ingredients. Super easy. You can add parmesan cheese at the end if you want, but that’s entirely up to you.

Also, this is a one pot meal since you’re going to cook the broccoli and the cavatelli in the same water.

So bring a pot of water to a boil.

Chop the broccoli into bit-size florets and drop into the water once it is boiling.

You don’t want to overcook the broccoli here. You want it to still be crisp. Give it 30 seconds to a minute tops, then scoop out of the water and into a big bowl.


Set aside the broccoli and add the cavatelli to the boiling water.

There is a lot of debate surrounding pasta water. To salt or not to salt?

I’ve seen Scott Conant rip chefs to shreds on Chopped when they don’t salt the water.

So I am going to quietly and quickly say that I don’t salt my water, but it’s because my grandma doesn’t either.

Scott, you can’t yell at my grandma. And you can’t yell at me because I am making this dish her way.

While the cavatelli cooks (follow the instructions on the packet for time), dice up two or three cloves of garlic. We’re not cooking the garlic, so you want as small a dice as possible.


When the cavatelli is cooked, drain and pour the hot pasta over the broccoli.


Drizzle with olive oil to coat and then add the garlic. A few grinds of black pepper can be added, too, if you wish.

Toss to combine. The pasta will warm the olive oil and the garlic and form a sauce that will coat the crisp broccoli and the tender cavatelli.


If you want a burst of freshness, you can squeeze half a lemon over the warm pasta. Or, you can sprinkle over a handful of parmesan. Or you can get crazy and do both.

Serve hot, immediately. Or refrigerate for a cold dish later.

Much as we joke about there being a right way to make the dish, the truth is that the beauty of cooking is that you can take your family’s recipes and make them your own. Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes. Add a twist that’s uniquely yours.


If anyone gives you trouble, you just channel Frank Sinatra and say, Hey, I did it my way!

Hockey Night Calzones

Meatless Mondays.

They’re great. They get everyone thinking about the effect of meat on our bodies and on the environment. They also help you detox after a weekend of heavy eating and boozing.

I like to go against the grain a little though.

We go meatless on Fridays.

Maybe it’s because with Greek Easter and Easter so far apart this year we had double the Lent. Maybe it’s just in me from years of Catholic school that Friday is a meat free day. But whatever it is, here’s my logic.

Rather than undo whatever you did over the weekend, why not set yourself up for some good choices?

That sounded lame didn’t it?

I’m sticking with blaming Catholic school.

Actually, I can blame my mom.

Now that I think about it, Friday night was always pizza night when I was a kid.

In case you didn’t guess by now, my parents are Italian. Being Italian, my mom and her family used to own a pizzeria. (My boyfriend’s Greek father also owned a pizzeria. Those Greeks just thing they can do everything!)

My mom came home every Friday and pulled out the pizza pan from the pizzeria, that had made hundreds and hundreds of pizzas and that was perfectly seasoned by the brick ovens of the pizzeria.

My friends were always in awe of the fact that she MADE pizza at home for dinner.

It’s not that hard really. I’ll show you some time.

So after a lifetime of Friday night pizza nights, I do admit that I often make pizza or pasta when Friday rolls around.

It being the Stanley Cup Playoffs, pizza is a great option.

But I wanted to mix it up a little bit.

So here are some super simple calzones. Perfect hockey food.

You will need

  • Frozen pizza dough, defrosted (feel free to make your own, but why?)
  • 1 carton white button mushrooms, sliced
  • spinach
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, diced
  • half small onion, chopped
  • ricotta cheese
  • parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • black pepper

I almost always have frozen pizza dough in the freezer. It’s a nice safety net for last minute dinners or for those when you have no idea what to make.

To defrost the dough, place the dough on a floured plate in the morning and cover with a kitchen towel. I suppose you could use a paper towel. But my mom always used a kitchen towel. And as much as us girls hate to admit it, we tend to do things the way mom did.

When you get home from work, preheat oven to 400.

Drizzle olive oil into a pan and add onions and garlic, cooking on medium low until slightly browned.


Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until brown.


While the mushrooms cook (sauteed mushrooms is one of my top 3 kitchen smells by the way. Closely behind cinnamon baking and chocolate melting), divide the dough in half. Roll out each half as if you were making two mini pizzas.

Place the stretched dough on a foil covered cookie sheet. You can grease the foil lightly if you’re scared of sticking.


When the mushrooms are cooked down add a couple handfuls of spinach and carefully stir (otherwise you’ll throw spinach all over your stovetop like I did)


Wilt the spinach and add a few grinds of pepper. I’m adding parmesan later so no salt needed here.

Meanwhile, spread the dough with ricotta cheese, leaving space around the edges so you can seal the calzones.


When the spinach mushroom mix is cooked, scoop half onto each of the ricotta covered dough, making sure to confine the mixture to one side of the dough so you can fold it over in a minute.


Carefully fold the dough over, pinching the edges to seal.


Bake at 400 for about 20-25 minutes.

If you’re making this ahead, you may want to undercook them a bit so you don’t overcook them the night you heat them up.

Grab a beer. Kick up your feet. And cheer on your favorite team.