A handbook for anyone embarking on domestic independence

Your interest in my book has been overwhelming. I have received many emails and wonderful questions about what I call the lost art of homemaking. The book has seemed to rekindle those interests for a wide range of readers. I have been blessed to be able to share my household tips, recipes and all the emotions that went into the writing of “Lucia’s Survival Guide and Cookbook”.

Now, you can ask questions, make comments, share stories and read my responses in a new column called ASK LUCIA! Can't thank you enough for your tremendous support and I encourage you to visit us regularly to read and participate in ASK LUCIA!

Lucia Campilongo

Scroll Down or Click Below for Some Favorite ASK LUCIA Topics!

A Good Simple Marinara Sauce

An Italian Pancake?

Meat Sauce from Angri, Salerno

Italian Antipasto for Company

An Authentic Recipe for Roast Lamb

A Ricotta Dessert You Will Love

A Real Italian Meatball

No Time For a Fancy Red Sauce

90 Year Old Aunt's Favorite Cookie

For Many More of Lucia's Favorites, Order Her Book Here!


A Good Simple Marinara Sauce
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Dear Lucia: Sometimes I just need to make a simple marinara sauce. Unfortunately, simple doesn't always mean good. Any suggestions? ~ Annabelle 

Dear Annabelle: To make tasty marinara sauce can be very simple. You need . . .

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes, crush with your hands or a food processor)
4 or 5 garlic cloves (chopped)
1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
about 2 T. olive oil
salt (to taste)
about 1/4 cup of chopped parsley (optional)

Put the olive oil in a pot or saute pan. Add garlic. Keep the heat low so that the garlic doesn't burn. When the garlic gets a little golden color, add the tomatoes.

Place a little water into the tomato can (about 1/4 cup) and add it to the sauce. Add the basil, red pepper, and salt. When it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. If you decide to use parsley, add it to the pan before putting in the tomato.

Mangia Bene!


An Italian Pancake?
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Dear Lucia:  When in Italy, we had a dish called (we think) tortaloni. It was a pancake like semi-cooked round, about 5" in diameter. We sauteed it in olive oil in a pan and served it with a marinara sauce. Our question is whether the dish is really called tortaloni and do you know of a recipe for the flat round dough?
Many thanks,  ~ Dena

Dear Dena: Tortaloni are large ravioli that can have several different fillings. What you described (5" in diameter and sauteed in olive oil) sounds like Panzerotti or Pizzetti. Regionally, they could have different names. They are made out of the usual pizza dough and fried. The easiest way to make them is to buy frozen Bridgeford Bread Dough. Thaw the dough. Then roll out and cut to the size you want. Fry them on both sides in olive oil.

You did not ask about the filling or topping - but that is where you can be traditional or get really creative. Like pasta sauce, this can be the most interesting and delicious part of the recipe.

Mangia Bene!


Meat Sauce from Angri, Salerno
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Dear Lucia: My mother came from Angri, Salerno. She made Italian meat sauce with bones, pork ribs, pork knucles, beef bracciole . . . and it was out of this world. Where can I get the recipe? ~ Anthony 

Dear Anthony: I have heard of the meat sauce you described as made by your mother, but have never tried it myself. I have looked in several cookbooks, but couldn't find a sauce with the ingredients your mother used.

However, if I were to make it, I would brown the ribs, knuckles and bracciole in a dutch oven. Take the meat out after it's browned and then saute 1 or 2 chopped onions with about 2 to 3 garlic cloves (chopped). Add a good handful of chopped parsley and about 1 tsp. of dried basil. Then I would add 2 (28 oz. cans) of crushed tomatoes along with about 1 cup of water. When the sauce comes to a boil, add all the meat and turn the sauce down to simmer. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the consistency that you prefer.

I would make this sauce a day ahead of time and refrigerate. Next day, skim the fat that may have accumulated on the top. Heat the sauce before putting it on the pasta.

Good luck! Hope it turns out close to your mother's sauce.

Mangia Bene!


Italian Antipasto for Company
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Dear Lucia: I am looking for Italian antipasto recipes and ideas. We used to always have ricotta salata and hard-boiled eggs for antipasto but I'd like some ideas for other foods that are appropriate for company and even the holidays. Many thanks.  ~ Maria

Dear Maria: A marinated vegetable antipasto always goes well with a holiday dinner and is also a great company dish. One I love was always made by my mother-in-law.

1 large jar Giardiniera (mixed pickled vegetables)
1 jar green olives
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 jar small button mushrooms
4 garlic cloves (sliced)
handful of fresh basil
1 or 2 T. catsup (according to taste)
olive oil and vinegar to taste (optional)

Drain all jarred vegetables and mix together along with garlic, basil and catsup. Taste and if you want a more vinegar flavor, you can add more vinegar and some olive oil. Refrigerate and cover. Taste will get even better the next day.

Since you like ricotta, here is a Ricotta Pudding recipe you can try for a dessert. This recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup candied fruit
4 T. Marsala (sweet)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
finely grated rind of 1 orange
2 cups fresh raspberries

Press ricotta through a sieve into a bowl. Finely chop candied fruit and stir into ricotta with half of Marsala. Put the cream, sugar and orange rind in another bowl and whip until the cream is standing in soft peaks. Spoon into individual bowls and top with raspberries. Sprinkle with remaining Marsala and dust tops liberally with sugar. Decorate with orange rind.

Mangia Bene!

An Authentic Recipe for Roast Lamb
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Dear Lucia: I am a 3rd generation pure Napolean Italian. I am looking for an authentic recipe for roast lamb and side dishes for Easter. My grandmother on my father's side was a great cook (a butcher's wife) but I was too young to remember the wonderful Easter Dinners she created. Please help me find a simple but delicious recipe for Easter.   ~ Lou

Dear Lou: Here is a recipe that is perfect for Easter or for any special meal. My family loves this dish and I think you will find yourself going back to it on more than one occasion during the year.

1/2 leg of lamb (about 3lbs or larger if serving more than 4 people)
4 garlic cloves (cut into slivers)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 T. olive oil
1 cup stock or 1/2 cup white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp. dried
a few fresh sage leaves (chopped)
salt and fresh ground pepper

Cut any excess fat off lamb. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Using point of a sharp knife, make deep slits in lamb, especially near the bone, and insert slivers of garlic and some of the herbs in other slits. Put the lamb in roasting pan and rub all over with about 2 or 3 T. of oil. Also rub in any leftover herbs, patting them firmly on lamb. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Roast for 30 minutes turning once. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees, turn lamb again and add half of stock or wine. Roast 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours turning lamb 2 or 3 times. Add the remaining stock, basting the lamb each time it is turned. Cover with foil after it's cooked for 10 minutes.

Hope you like this dish as much as we do.

Mangia Bene!

A Ricotta Dessert You Will Love
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Dear Lucia: Any suggestions for a good ricotta dessert?   ~ Vitello

Dear Vitello: I have two suggestions for a ricotta dessert that you will just love. My very favorite are Sicilian Cannoli.

1 15oz. whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 T. finely chopped semisweet chocolate or you can use Nestle Mini Morsels
1/4 teas. cinnamon
3 T. finely chopped candied fruit (optional)

These shells can be found in many supermarkets or markets that carry traditional Italian delicacies.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta and sugar until well blended. Add the rest of ingredients and mix well. Fill cannoli shells before serving using a pastry bag or small spoon. Dust the top with confectioners sugar.

This recipe fills 6 cannoli shells.

Here is another delicious ricotta recipe for Budino di Ricotta (ricotta pudding).

1 cup ricotta ( 8 oz.)
4 T. sweet Marsala wine
1 cup double cream (whipping cream)
1/4 cup super fine sugar
rind of 1 orange (finely grated)
2 cups fresh raspberries
2 1/3 cup candied fruit (optional)

Press ricotta through a sieve into a bowl. Put candied fruit into ricotta with half of Marsala. Put the cream, sugar and orange rind in another bowl and whip until the cream is standing in soft peaks.

Fold whipped cream into ricotta mixture. Spoon into individual bowls or glasses and top with raspberries. Chill until serving time. Sprinkle with remaining Marsala and dust top of each serving with sugar just before serving. Decorate with orange rind.

Mangia Bene!

A Real Italian Meatball
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Dear Lucia: My husband likes real Italian meatballs. He wants them spicy but not too hot. What is your favorite?   ~ Bobbie

Dear Bobbie: Here's a recipe for you to try. My son-in-law wasn’t much on meatballs so I spiced things up with this recipe and he seems to like it quite a bit. Let me know how it works for your husband.

2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion (chopped fine)
2 or 3 slices white bread (crusts removed) break-up and soak in a little milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1or 2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
salt and pepper
chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)

Put meat in a large bowl and add onion. Squeeze bread slightly before adding to meat. Add rest of ingredients and mix with your hands or a fork. Pick up meat with an ice cream scoop or your hands to ensure meatballs will be the same size. Wet your hands and roll meat into a ball. Get a large (10 or 12 in.) frying pan and put enough oil to cover bottom of pan. Place pan on burner (med. high heat) and when oil is hot, place meatballs in pan. Do not over-crowd. Turn them over as they brown.

You will have to do them in batches and as each batch is cooked, place them on a paper towel to drain. After they are all browned, put them in your sauce to cook another 20 to 30 minutes. The sauce can be a Marinara or any meatless tomato sauce. This recipe should yield 14 to 18 meatballs. If any are left over, they freeze nicely.

Mangia Bene!


No Time for a Fancy Red Sauce
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Dear Lucia: I just don’t have time to make a fancy red pasta sauce from scratch. The best I can do is to buy something from a jar. What is the easiest way to quickly turn the jarred sauce into something special?   ~ Lisa on the Run

Dear Lisa: I, too, use a jar sauce sometimes if I’m very busy. What I do depends upon what type of sauce I am using. If the label says tomato garlic sauce, then I won’t add garlic to it, but will add some calamata olives cut up and some cut up green olives. Will also add about 1 tablespoon of rinsed and drained capers and maybe a pinch of red pepper flakes before I warm it up – which makes it more of a puttanesca sauce.

For a jarred tomato basil sauce, I’ll chop up 1 or 2 cloves of garlic and put a little olive oil in a small frying pan and sauté the garlic with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Do not burn the garlic! Add all this to the sauce along with some dried basil flakes or fresh basil. Also, ½ to 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds added to the sauce gives it a good taste if you like a fennel flavor.

Mangia Bene!


90 Year Old Aunt's Favorite Cookie
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Dear Lucia: My 90 year old Aunt is trying to remember how to make a cookie we used to call “straci”. We are from the Liguirian Region of Italy and her mom (my grandmother) used to make this cookie for us. It was a lightly fried thin light slice of dough with powdered sugar sprinkled on the top. Do you know what this cookie is and do you know where I could find the recipe? Thank you for your help. Love your cooking.   ~ Sally 

Dear Sally: My mother used to make these cookies too. They were called Bugie and of course, she never wrote any of her recipes down. Here is one I ran across which should get you close to what your grandmother made. Many recipes call for about 2 jiggers of some liqueur or cooking wine (like grappa, whiskey, marsala, etc.) Maybe that is one thing your aunt might be able to recall. Best of luck!

Bugie (5 to 5 1/2 doz.)

5 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of one large lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla (not necessary if you choose a liqueur or wine)
4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
peanut oil for frying
confectioner's sugar

Beat eggs and sugar with a whisk until well-blended. Add in lemon zest and vanilla (or liqueur). Sift 4 cups of the flour and the baking powder together and add them to the egg mixture. Mix with your hands to form a ball of dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until it is soft, but not sticky: you may need to add more flour.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece out on a floured surface using a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/4 inch. With a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, cut into strips 5 1/2 inches long and about 2 1/2 inches wide. Make two 2-inch-long slits side by side in the center of each strip. Place the strips on a kitchen towel, roll out and cut the remaining pieces of dough. If so inclined, you could use a pasta machine on the finest setting to thin out the dough.

Heat the peanut oil and fry the strips a few at a time until they are golden brown. Drain on brown paper and let them cool. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve. Should be delicious.

Mangia Bene!


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