Recipes from Whispering Vines

Recipes featured in Whispering Vines from Nonna Nina’s Cookbook – Click on the recipe’s title to print.

Bocconcini Fritti (cheese and meat appetizer)

¼ pound Swiss Cheese, in one piece

¼ pound mortadella, in one piece

¼ pound pancetta, thinly sliced

1 cup flour spread in a dish

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup fine, dry, unflavored bread crumbs, spread in a dish
Cut 1/3 of the cheese into 1” cubes and rest into ½” cubes.

Cut 2/3 of mortadella into cubes.  Cut rest into thin strips, 2” by ½”.

Cut pancetta into strips about size of mortadella strips.

Wrap 1/3 of cheese with mortadella and 1/3 with pancetta.  Hold with toothpicks.  You will have cubes of cheese wrapped in mortadella, cheese wrapped in pancetta, cheese, and mortadella.

Roll all of them in flour, dip in egg, then roll in bread crumbs.

Pour 1” oil into skillet (not too large in size), and heat until very hot.

Fry everything until golden brown and drain on paper towel.


Salse Pesto (Pesto Sauce)

2 cups fresh basil leaves.  Here they are small.  If the leaves are large there, tear them into very small pieces.

2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed with a heavy knife handle and peeled

A pinch of coarse salt

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano Pecorino cheese

½ cup olive oil

Pine nuts
Using large, marble mortar and hardwood pestle, and with no pounding, use rotary motion to grind basil, garlic, and salt into paste.

Add cheeses and continue to grind until blended.  Add few pine nuts and taste.  Add more if you like.

Stir in olive oil, a few drops at a time and then beat with wooden spoon.  Taste and add more if you like.

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of hot water from pasta water before serving. You should serve with potato gnocchi or fettuccini.


Nonna’s Salse Marinara (Grandma Nina’s Marinara Sauce)

The best time of year to get the ingredients is July or August. You should jar enough for entire year. The below ingredients will make twelve 16oz mason jars of pasta sauce.
1 bushel fresh San Marzano plum tomatoes: find long and thin ones that are plummy – very red will mean more tomato meat inside rather than water/tomato juice.

Ask people in store which tomatoes are best.  If they are nice, they will tell you, but do not tell them why you are asking so you do not have to tell them your sauce recipe.  Remember, this is family secret.

2 white (medium) onions – chop small or long (if you chop long and someone doesn’t like them in sauce, they can pull them out)

12 cloves of garlic

parsley & basil to your liking

3 cups of olive oil
Wash tomatoes and paper towel dry them.

Cut tomatoes in half (take seeds out with spoon or your fingers if you have gloves).  Then cut tomatoes into fours.

You should cook one bushel in two halves. Take half bushel and boil them with one cup of water for 10-15 minutes.

Strain and grind tomatoes through machine (it’s called a mouli legumes there, I think) – put foil on side so skins and outside of tomato do not get everywhere.

Add onion and garlic to paste and cook for 1 hour (1 onion, 6 cloves of garlic).

Add parsley and basil and cook for another hour and half.

Add olive oil at end (1½ cups), and cook for another half hour (3 hours total).

*Add salt to the sauce throughout to your tasting – DO NOT PUT TOO MUCH!


Primi y Secundi
Tagliatelle ai Funghi Porcini (Tagliatelle with mushrooms)

Remember that you can keep your tagliatelle for a month before cooking it.  Keep it in a cool, dry place.  I keep mine uncovered, but you might have critters in America.  Maybe it’s best to buy it pre-made.  Do they have pasta there?
2 pounds fresh porcini mushrooms

1/3 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 or 4 fresh nepitella sprigs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound tagliatelle

2 tablespoons butter

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cut away the tips of the mushroom stems and thinly slice them lengthwise.

Over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add garlic and sauté about 2 minutes (until golden). Remove and discard garlic.

Add mushrooms and stir about 3 or 4 minutes with wooden spoon until soft.

Increase heat to high, add wine and nepitella and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Reduce the heat to low, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 15 until mushrooms are cooked and liquid has evaporated .  Remove mushrooms from heat and stir in butter. Add pasta and toss.


Tortellini con Ricotta e Prezzemolo (Tagliatelle with parmesan and ricotta cheese) 


3 eggs                    21/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon milk
Step One: Make a mound with the flour and form a well. Add eggs and milk to the well and lightly beat with fingers or fork, but be careful not to let the eggs and flour mix until you are finished beating.  Mix by drawing in the flour from the well in a circular motion, working from inside out, until a dough is formed using all of the flour.  Support the wall with one hand, and mix with other hand.  Do not let the wall fall.

Step Two: Scrape and wash our counter, and wash your hands.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic (about 8 to 10 minutes). Cut into two, cover one with damp towel and set aside.

Step Three: Dust work area with flour.  Flatten uncovered dough, and using a rolling pin, open the dough out into circular sheet. Do not press, but roll.  It must be circle.

Step Four: Wrap sheet of dough around rolling pin and and stretch it again and again until almost paper thin.  Do not stretch for more than 8 minutes.

Repeat with second half of dough after you have cut and stuffed the dough.
Gently fold the dough to keep it soft, but leave out one long strip almost 1½” wide.  Cut strip from rest of dough.  Cut strip into 1½” circles.  Fill with ¼ teaspoon.  Fold almost in half and seal.  Bend around index finger and pinch ends firmly with fingers.

1/3 cup chopped parsley – Italian parsley is best if you can get that.

11/4 cups fresh ricotta

1 cup freshly ground Parmesan cheese

1 egg yolk

¼ teaspoon nutmeg and salt
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and mix with fork.

Bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon olive oil to boil.  Drop in tortellini.  Return to boil and cook for 5 minutes.


Sugo de Pomodoro e Parma (Grandma’s Nina’s Tomato and Cheese Sauce for Tortellini) 

See if you can find real, Italian tomatoes in cans for this recipe.

¼ pound butter

3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion

3 tablespoons finely chopped carrot

3 tablespoons finely chopped celery

21/2 cups canned Italian tomatoes with juice

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon granulated sugar

½ cup heavy cream
Put all ingredients except cream into saucepan and cook at lowest simmer for 1 hour, uncovered.  Stir occasionally.

Puree and bring to simmer.  Add cream and cook for one minute while stirring.  Serve immediately over tortellini.


Gnocci Verdi al Mortadella e Ricotta (Spinach Gnocci with Sausage and Cheese)

1pound fresh baby spinach leaves (cooked)

2 tablespoons finely chopped mortadella

1 cup each ricotta cheese and 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ – 2/3 cup flour

2 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter
Melt butter in skillet and add mortadella.  Sauté just until done, about 3-4 turns of the mortadella to brown evenly. Add the spinach and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.  Do not add more butter even if the butter soaks into the mortadella.

In a mixing bowl, mix spinach and mortadella, ricotta, and ½ cup flour with wooden spoon. Add egg yolks, Parmesan cheese, salt, and nutmeg until slightly sticky dough forms.  Add flour if necessary.  You know what the dough should feel like.

Working in batches with floured hands, roll ¼ cup dough on floured work surface to form 5” rope (Paolo says 5” is correct.  This change in measuring is confusing to me). Cut rope into 1” pieces and form them into ovals using your hands. Transfer gnocchi to flour-dusted baking sheet. Repeat, using all of the dough.  Add gnocchi, one batch at a time, to pot of boiling salted water; cook until gnocchi rise to surface, and then cook 4 minutes longer. Drain, and serve, tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese.


Spaghetti e Ragù (Spaghetti Sauce)

2 tablespoons each olive oil and butter

1 small onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery rib, all chopped fine

¾ pound ground chuck

½ cup milk

1 cup dry white wine

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups canned, chopped Italian tomatoes including juice

Fresh or dried Spaghetti, cooked al dente
In earthenware pot or largest, heavy saucepan, heat oil, butter, and onion over moderately high heat until translucent.  Add carrot and celery, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add beef, crumbling with fork, and cook until meat is no longer pink.  Season mixture with salt.

Add wine and turn heat up to medium high.  Cook, stirring occasionally until wine has evaporated.

Turn heat down to simmer, and add milk and nutmeg.  While stirring, cook until milk has evaporated.

Add tomatoes, and stir thoroughly. Cook sauce at bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 hours.

Cook spaghetti. Immediately toss pasta with sauce in large, heated bowl.


Polenta Pasticciata (Béchamel Sauce and Polenta)

Béchamel Sauce – You can use this for many things.  It is good, white sauce that adds flavor to any meat or pasta.

2 tablespoons each, butter and flour

1 ¼ cups milk, heated to light bubbles

Salt and Freshly ground pepper
Melt butter in heavy saucepan. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until it bubbles some, but no more than 2 minutes.  You do not want it to turn brown.  Add heated milk, and continue to stir as sauce thickens, then bring to boil. Add salt and pepper, lower heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove from heat.

8 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups polenta – Can you buy polenta there?  If not, I hope that this does not make you sick for home.

Bring water to rolling boil over high heat in large saucepan. Add salt and boil for 15 seconds. Remove pan from heat and reduce to low.

Remove from heat, and slowly pour in polenta, stirring constantly with long, wooden spoon until smooth. Return pan to heat and bring polenta to slow boil. Adjust heat so that big, lazy bubbles break surface every several seconds.

Cook, stirring now and then to keep polenta from sticking and burning, until it thickens enough to pull away from sides of pan, it tastes cooked, and the texture is smooth and light, maybe 35 to 40 minutes.
Combine for Meal

Cover bottom of dish with sauce. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and ¼ cup of Fontina over sauce. Spoon half of warm polenta into dish and smooth it into even layer. Spoon half of remaining sauce over polenta in smooth layer. Sprinkle with 3 more tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and about ⅓ cup of Fontina. Pour rest of polenta on top and smooth it with spoon to level it. Pour rest of sauce on top to cover polenta. Sprinkle with 3 more tablespoons Parmesan and remaining ⅔ cup Fontina. Put pieces of butter on top.

Bake pasticciata in highest part of oven about 15 minutes until it is golden-brown. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.


Le Verdure (Vegetables – Spinace and Mushrooms with Truffle Oil)

Spinach and Mushrooms with Truffle Oil

2 tablespoons butter

10 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 large shallot, chopped

11/2 9-ounce bags fresh spinach leaves

1 cup truffles
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until brown and liquid cooks out, about 8 minutes. Add shallots and sauté 2 minutes.

Add spinach and truffles, 1/3 at a time, to skillet, and toss with mushrooms over medium-high heat. Allow spinach to wilt slightly before adding more. Cook just until all spinach is wilted and hot. Season with salt, pepper.
Italian Festival Cookies  (Grandma Nina’s Festival Cookies)

5 pounds of flour

1 dozen eggs

1 cup milk

1 lemon & 2 oranges squeezed

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups canola oil

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Anisette  (liquor)

12 teaspoons of baking powder

6 packets small paneangeli vanillin
Stir dry ingredients all together then add in others. Once the dough is together, cover in plastic wrap and then a clean dish cloth to keep warm and let rise (about two hours).  Cook 400 degrees in oven. Cut one inch roll and twist. Brush over with egg whites. Take out when golden brown.

“This is family recipe. If you make it, you will win prize.” Nonna Nina
Panna Cotta (Vanilla pudding)

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup half and half

2 tablespoons cold water

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Sprinkle gelatin over water in small saucepan, and let stand about 1 minute to soften. Heat over low heat until gelatin is dissolved. Remove pan from heat.

In large saucepan, over moderately high heat, bring cream, half and half, and sugar just to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in gelatin mixture and vanilla. Divide cream mixture among eight dessert cups and cool to room temperature. Chill, covered, at least 4 hours.

Dip dessert cups, 1 at a time, into bowl of hot water for 3 seconds. Run thin knife around edge of each and invert cup onto center of a small plate.  Garnish with berries or fruit as desired.


Torta alla Panna (Birthday Cake)

1 cup flour

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup cream

Icing sugar Beat eggs with sugar until light and fluffy.  Whip cream, and add to eggs gently.  Slowly add the flour and baking powder.

Grease and flour 10” baking sheet. Pour mixture into pan, and bake at 180 degrees for 35 minutes.  When cool, remove cake from pan and sprinkle the surface with icing sugar.