Fusilli with Collards (the forgotten pasta)

collards plated **

I recently was looking through my folder of pasta recipes that I’ve collected over the years, and I came across this beautifully handwritten recipe for fusilli with collard greens.   As usual, the memoires started flooding back to me. My (non- Italian) friend brought this to me one day in 1990, and said, “I made this last night, and I KNOW you’re going to love it. It’s fabulous! ” She was so excited about it. I remember being somewhat skeptical, but appreciated the time she took to write this out so beautifully for me. Collard greens and pasta? This seemed like a very unlikely combination, but I trusted her.   I thought about filing it away for some time in the future, but she was so anxious that I make this recipe, that I knew I’d better do so immediately, for the sake of our friendship. Well, not really. Our friendship was indeed secure, but I was very curious.

I made this dish the very next night, but decided I’d better not tell my family the ingredients. I knew my children would immediately turn up their noses at collard greens. Even as I prepared it, I was still questioning the possibility that this was going to be something we’d like. Surprise…surprise! It was delicious! Everyone loved it, and wanted seconds. We enjoyed it so much that it became a weekly favorite. We couldn’t get enough of it. Then, it stopped. Why? I can’t remember why. It must have been replaced with a new favorite pasta dish.

When I saw it in the folder the other day, it called to me. I had to bring it back, and see if we were still as crazy about it as we were in the 90s. Tastes change.  Would we still find it as delicious as we did then? So I invited both my son and daughter for a dinner down memory lane. They remembered it, and how much they used to love it. They still thought it was absolutely delicious, and questioned how I could have forgotten about this recipe for all these years.

Well it’s now back on the “hit list,” and will be a regular in this household again. I hope it will become a favorite in your household as well.

RECIPE:  serves 4

1 1/2 lbs collards, coarse stems discarded, leaves washed and chopped coarse

1/4 lb sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces4 large garlic cloves, chopped fine

1 large onion, sliced thin

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes ( optional)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lb fusilli

1 1/2 TBP red wine vinegar

freshly grated parmigiano cheese

  1. Boil collards in large pasta pot of water for 10 minutes.
  2. Scoop collards from the pot with a slotted spoon, saving the water in the pot.
  3. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until browned, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a small bowl.
  4. Add 1/2 the olive oil and sauté the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes until the onion is soft and garlic browned.
  5. Cook fusilli in the collard cooking liquid.  Drain well.
  6. To the skillet, add the collards, bacon, remaining oil and vinegar.  Mix well.
  7. Toss with the fusilli, some freshly ground pepper and serve with the parmigiano cheese.collards recipecollards ingredientscollards baconcollards wholecollards in watercollards bacon cookingcollards onion pan2collards cookedcollards platedcollards closeup






Stuffed Squash (Zucchini or Cocuzza?)


At this time of year, you’ll see a plethora of extra large zucchini at your farmer’s market or even in some supermarkets. I’m always happy to see these large, green squash because I immediately think about stuffing them.   It was just about this time of year, many decades ago, when our neighbors, the Sandersons, would visit various farm markets (they were really just small stands by the roadside then,…nothing like today), and brought back what they thought looked good enough to eat. They were always nice enough to purchase some of this produce for our family. When these large zucchini came through our door, I knew my mother would stuff them with Ginny’s (our neighbor and mom’s friend for over 60 years no) delicious recipe. I still use this recipe, even though it has morphed into something a bit more Italian by adding marinara sauce or mozzarella ( why not?), but I make sure at least half of the batch is in its original form, which truly is my favorite way.

Now for the zucchini versus cocuzza question.   I always thought cucuzza was just Italian slang for zucchini, meaning “a useless person”, and pronounced (or mispronounced), “googoots.” While this indeed is true, there now is a hybrid squash called cucuzza, which really means “large squash.”   I wouldn’t have believed this, but last year, one of my husband’s customers dropped off a heavy box of cocuzza (or is the plural cocuzzi?) at our front door. Yes, some people are paid in cash for their services; my husband is paid in cocuzza! Just kidding, but I laughed as I dragged this 20 lbs box through my front door.

I went on a “stuffed squash” frenzy for days. I didn’t want them to go bad and rot. I gave several away, but I must say that the look on peoples’ faces when I arrived at their houses with this gigantic cocuzza in hand, was just a riot.

We have a friend who grows these cocuzza in his backyard garden, and he’s been kind enough to keep me supplied so I can enjoy Ginny’s recipe for stuffed squash as often as possible

 Truth be told, I prefer the taste of the smaller sized, large zucchini anyway, so don’t feel you have to go on a search for cocuzza. But don’t miss the opportunity to make this recipe or you’ll feel like a real “googoots!”


1 big squash

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 lb chopped meat

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated Italian cheese

2 eggs, beaten

salt and pepper to taste

mozzarella,sliced (optional)

marinara sauce (optional)

  1.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise and then again widthwise (into four pieces)
  2. Scoop out the insides and cut into small chunks.
  3. Put the skins in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Sauté the scooped out chunks of zucchini in the olive oil in a large skillet until soft.
  5. Add the chopped meat and brown.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the egg, breadcrumbs and grated cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Put the squash shells in a pan with a little oil on the bottom.
  8. Stuff each shell with the meat mixture.  If using sauce and mozzarella, top with these.
  9. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.s-squash-wholes-squash-boxs-squash-small




Crab Salad

crab salad plated**

I have another wonderful recipe for you to make with our meaty and delicious Jersey crabs.   I am especially fond of this recipe because not only is light and tasty, but it also brings friends and family together around the table for several hours. It takes time to break open the crabs and dig in for all the juicy meat. It’s a slow process with a tasty reward.   It’s as if life is in slow motion during these precious hours of love and food. We’ve spent many hours at the table doing just this….eating and talking. The stories abound. Memories are created. Taste buds are delighted.

Once again I recommend plenty of napkins or a roll of paper towels right on the table. You’ll be licking your fingers, trying to get every last drop of the lemon and olive oil marinade. I’m salivating as I write this! Don’t forget a bottle (or 2 or 3) of a crisp white wine, and the stories will just get funnier and funnier as the meal goes on. I guarantee a meal to remember. It’s times like these that I cherish.


crabs…allow several per person

5 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

1 cup of chopped parsley

6 or 7 lemons

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Catch or buy the crabs….usually your fish store can order them for you.
  2. Clean the crabs or ask you fish store if they will do that for you (I’m sure for a price).
  3. After cleaning the crabs, boil for 3 – 5 minutes until they start to turn pink.
  4. Put the crabs in a bowl and add chopped garlic, chopped parsley and the juice of 4 to 5 lemons.  Add the olive oil and mix to coat well.  Salt and pepper to taste and mix again.
  5.  Cover and refrigerate until cold.
  6. Pour onto platter, pouring every last drop of the juice on top. Add more olive oil and lemons.

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Crab Sauce over Spaghetti

crab sauce plated*

Some of my fondest food memories are from the Jersey Shore. “Down the shore” is where you’ll find some of the best fast food in our country. I’m sure you’re salivating right now just thinking about the sausage and peppers sandwiches, pizza, zeppole, clams on the half, Kohl’s custard…and the list goes on and on. Along with all this boardwalk food, I’m sure that we all have memories of the food cooked by our mom’s, grandma’s and aunts.   The food that we ate, after a hard day of sun and fun, was simply amazing. While we children were playing on the beach, our mom’s and grandma’s were cooking up a storm for their families.   When I reminisce with friends ( you might have to be Italian for this), the dish that always seems to come up as an all time favorite, is crab sauce over pasta. The crabs were right out of the bay, cleaned and made into a sauce that most of us still dream about.

All these decades later, I still dream about this sauce, but I’m lucky enough to have a husband who enjoys catching the crabs, cleaning them, and then turning them into a sauce that will linger with you forever.   It’s hard to get it out of your mind once you’ve had this crab sauce dripping from your mouth and fingers. Half the fun is breaking apart the sauce-covered crabs with your hands, and digging in to get every morsel of crabmeat. We spend hours at the table making memories to last a lifetime.

I’ll show you the entire process, bay to table, but most fish stores ( at least in New Jersey), will order bushels of jersey crabs for you, if you ask.

In the words of Bruce Springsteen, “down the shore everything’s alright,” especially the crab sauce.  Well, he didn’t mention the crab sauce.


  1. Please see recipe for marinara sauce in the “pasta archives.”
  2. Add fresh or dried rosemary to the sauce.
  3. Add as many cleaned crabs as your pot can hold.  Cook for 45 minutes.
  4. Cook spaghetti al dente, drain, and cover in sauce.
  5. Serve crabs on the side.
  6. You’ll need a roll of paper towels on the tablecrab sauce baycrab sauce trapcrab sauce cleaningcrab sauce watercrab sauce strainercrab sauce pot 1crab sauce pot closeupcrab sauce pan 1crab sauce bowlcrab sauce plated*


Mustard Chicken (Nancy’s or Ina’s?)

mustard chicken plated 2**

I was watching an episode of the “Barefoot Contessa” recently, and she was making a chicken dish that looked rather familiar.   The ingredients were reminiscent of a dish that I was first introduced to in the late 1970’s.   When Ina Garten presented the perfectly cooked chicken on a platter, I immediately recognized it. She had made Nancy’s “mustard chicken.” But as only Ina Garten can do, she stepped it up a notch, and added a few different ingredients, and twists and turns to the recipe. Now I’m not saying that she took the recipe from my friend. I’m sure she didn’t, but I think that perhaps she took an old recipe and perfected it.   I couldn’t wait to find my old recipe, and see what exactly the changes were.

I had filed this recipe away ages ago, but after much searching, I did find it. I compared the two recipes and found that they were somewhat different. There were breadcrumbs in both recipes, but of course, Ina made her own seasoned breadcrumb mixture with fancy Japanese panko breadcrumbs, which didn’t even exist in the USA in 1979. We used old reliable Progresso seasoned breadcrumbs. Ina combined the Dijon mustard with white wine. We used any mustard, combined with vinegar. There were a few differences in method as well, but I knew that the taste was probably similar.

This was a favorite dish of mine, so I was eager to try Ina’s recipe and compare. It had to be delicious. She’s the “Barefoot Contessa” after all.   At the very least, I was delighted to resurrect this old recipe. And of course, the memories flooded back to me, and I started remembering all the recipes my friend and I had shared during a very precious time in life……new babies, new friends, new recipes.

Recipe: serves 3 

4 garlic cloves

1 TBSP minced fresh thyme leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups panko bread flakes (crumbs)

1 TBSP grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

2 TBSP good olive oil

2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup Dijon Mustard

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken, cut in eighths

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the garlic, thyme, 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper into a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced.  Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate.
  3. In a shallow bowl, whisk the mustard and wine.
  4. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides, and then place skin-side only into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere (and get the sides too).
  6. Place the chicken on a sheet pan, crumb-side up.  Press any remaining crumbs on the  chicken pieces.
  7. Bake the chicken for 40 minutes.  Then raise the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Serve hot or at room temperature.

NOTE:  While the chicken is in the oven, I roast some vegetables in the oven as well, so you have a quick, easy meal. Any vegetable will do, but I love to roast small, sweet peppers and asparagus (see archives).

mustard chicken recipesmustard chicken ingredientsmustard chicken crumbsmustard chicken dippingmustard chicken panmustard chicken pan 2?mustard chicken plated 1mustard chicken plated 3*





Flank Steak a la Sous Vide

sous vide meat plated

I hope everyone is enjoying a summer full of barbeques and picnics with friends and family. We recently decided to spend a weekend at our house in Windham, New York, in the Catskills, to enjoy the mountains, and of course barbeque.  I was very happy to have some family joining us for the weekend, who graciously offered to bring up all the ingredients to make dinner one night. How fabulous!! They walked in the door with several bags of groceries and a contraption. The contraption was a “sous vide.” Never heard of it? Well neither had I. You’ll see in the pictures that it looks rather like a home pedicure foot soak machine. This is how they were planning to cook the meat for dinner…..in this crazy looking pedicure bath??!!

They were planning on cooking flank steak and promised me that it would be the most tender meat I had ever tasted. I was game. I relinquished all cooking responsibilities, and decided that I had nothing to do but relax. I relayed my confidence to them, turned over the kitchen, and then went straight to the internet to find out what the heck this sous vide thing is all about.

According to Wikapedia:

Sous-vide (/suːˈviːd/; French for “under vacuum”)[1] is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times (95 hours or more in some cases) at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) for meat and higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture.

After doing some more reading about this process, I must say I was intrigued. I now wanted to be involved so that I could report about it to you. So this post format will be a little different than usual. I’m going to tell you the process in simple terms. The should this interest you in any way, my suggestion is to go online and look at the various websites about sous vide, as that is where you’ll find the cooking information. You use your own recipes. For our flank steak, we made a simple marinade and threw it in a large Ziploc bag with the meat, and vacuum sealed it in the water. We set the water temperature to 133 for medium rare, as per the machine directions. We put our bag of marinating meat into the water and let it cook for 8 hours. 4 to 24 hours was recommended. The longer the meat cooks the more tender it is, but this could have been cooked in 1 and a half hours.   We took the meat out of the bag, dried it well with paper towels, and just seared it on a very hot grill for 2 minutes a side.

Science has never been my forte so I truly don’t understand how this works, but darn if they weren’t right! It was the most tender meat I’ve ever cooked. The part that was most amazing is that the entire piece of meat was medium rare, as we desired. Not even the ends were well done.

 Recipe for marinade ( you don’t need a sous vide to try this fabulous marinade):

 ¼ cup sherry

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup tamari or soy sauce

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

juice of 2 lemons

Throw all the ingredients in a large plastic bag and mix up. Add meat and roll it around in the marinade until covered. Marinate for several hours.

sous vide machinesous vide marinade recipe

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Blueberry-Lemon Bread

lemon bread plated ***

Blueberry season is just about here in full force., and I started to feel the overwhelming need to bake something, using my favorite seasonal berries. Please check in the archives under Blueberry Corn Muffins and Blueberry Pie to see more on my love of baking with blueberries.  So many blueberries, so many recipes….what should I choose?   I decided to look for an old cookbook on blueberries, purchased in 1975, that I knew I would find somewhere on my cookbook bookshelves. I did have to search, but stowed away, behind my more recent cookbooks, I found a very used and stained set of four fruit cookbooks…blueberry, apple, peach and strawberry. As I gave these books a hug (yes, I’ve been known to hug a cookbook or two), I recalled the day my childhood friend and I purchased these books. They were on sale for 4 for $10.00, and we were thrilled with our purchase.  Wehad saved $2.00!!  I had so much fun glancing through all the recipes, which held so many wonderful memories. These cookbooks were my “go to” for baking in the decade that followed. The simplicity of the recipes reminds me of a simpler time, when you couldn’t just “Google” blueberries and find hundreds of recipes at your fingertips.   I seemed to always have one recipe that I trusted and turned to, over and over again, like a good friend.

I couldn’t wait to make Blueberry-Lemon Bread, which was a favorite of ours every summer. It’s as simple as can be and absolutely delicious. I made this several times a summer for many summers when my children were young. I remember thinking that it was healthy for them because it contained fruit. How did I forget this old friend, Blueberry-Lemon Bread? I’m so glad it’s back in my life again ( I’ve made in twice in one week already).   I was especially happy when the other day, my daughter spotted the cookbook on the counter, and said, “I remember this cookbook,” and she had a big smile on her face. Memories! Kitchen memories! There’s nothing like them.

**NOTE Please notice the picture with the small hand of the next generation, “caught in the act” of sneaking a piece.   Aah……more kitchen memories in the making!


6 TBSP butter                                                            dash of salt

1 cup sugar                                                                 1/2 cup milk

2 eggs                                                                          zest of one lemon

1 1/2 cups flour                                                         1/2 cup sugar…for glaze

1 tsp. baking powder                                              juice of one lemon….for glaze

1 cup blueberries

  1.  Cream together sugar and butter.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour mixture, alternately with 1/2 cup of milk, to the sugar, butter and egg mixture.  Mix well.
  3. Add the zest of the lemon.
  4. Carefully fold in the blueberries.
  5. Prepare loaf pan by buttering the sides and lightly coating with flour.
  6. Pour batter into the pan, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately one hour.
  7. Cool 5 to 10 minutes.  Mix the 1/2 cup sugar with the juice of one lemon.  Pour over the bread in the pan.  Let stand for 1/2 hour and remove from pan.lemon bread bookslemon bread recipelemon bread ingredientslemon bread butter:sugarlemon bread creamedlemon bread batterlemon bread pan 1lemon bread pan 2lemon bread sugar:lemonlemon bread pan2lemon bread pan 3lemon bread handlemon bread close uplemoon bread plated *?







Easy Vegan Truffles

truffles plated *?

There’s nothing I like better than a recipe for a sweet treat, that appears to be somewhat healthy. This is one of those recipes. When you glance at it, you see that there is no added sugar. There’s no flour. The ingredients are quite good for you….walnuts, pecans, dates, cinnamon, cocoa powder, dark chocolate. What could be bad?   They taste great, so it’s a win/win situation.   I’m not sure I would have tried this recipe on my own, had my friend not brought me the finished product along with the recipe. She felt confident that I would enjoy the truffles and would definitely want the recipe. She was right! Once I popped one of these scrumptious morsels into my mouth, I was so happy to have the recipe, readily at hand, because I knew I would be making them real soon.   I love it when a friend knows me this well!

You certainly don’t need to be Vegan to enjoy them.   Unless you’re making these for someone who is vegan, there’s no need to even mention that. I hesitated even calling them that here, but I wanted to be true to the recipe. And by all means, there’s no reason to tell anyone that they’re healthy. That can tend to scare people away or cloud their judgment. They’re also gluten free, for that matter. But most importantly, they’re delicious!

Did I mention easy?

RECIPE: makes about 14 to 16 truffles



1 cup raw pecans

1 cup raw walnuts

1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder or cacao powder

1/4 tsp. seal salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

10 medjool dates, pitted   (I learned the hard way that these are found in the produce section)

1 1/4 cups dairy free dark chocolate (bar, not chips), roughly chopped. (Regular chocolate can be used if you don’t care about vegan)

1 tsp coconut oil

For Topping:

cacao nibs, crushed pecans/walnuts, and/or sea salt for topping


  1.  Place pecans and walnuts in a food processor and process until it reaches a consistency of meal.  Set said in a bowl.
  2. Place pitted dates in the food processor and process until small bits remain and/or it forms into a ball.
  3. Add in the cocoa powder and 1/2 the nut meal and pulse.  Continue pulsing and adding the nut meal a little at a time.  Add the cinnamon and a generous pinch of sea salt.  Continue pulsing until a posse dough is formed.  You may not need to use all the nuts, which is fine because you can use any leftovers for the topping.
  4. Once you have a dough that’s easy to form into balls, scoop out 1 TBSP amounts and roll carefully into balls. (If they aren’t quite forming, hold in your palm and let the heat of your hand warm them, then gently shape into a ball.)  Set on parchment paper and place in freezer to chill
  5. In the meantime, melt the chocolate in a double broiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments.  Be careful not to overheat.  Once melted, stir in the coconut oil to help the chocolate thin and ease the dipping process.
  6. Remove truffles from freezer and, one at a time, dip them into the melted chocolate. Transfer back onto the parchment paper and top with sea salt, crushed nuts and cacao nibs.
  7. Repeat until all truffles are dipped.  Let set at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Can be frozen for longer term storage. truffles recipetruffles ingredientstruffles nuts 1truffles nuts 2truffles date 1truffles dates 2truffles battertruffles on parchment 1truffles parchment 3truffles parchment close upturffles plated **


Sil’s Baked (and creative) Chicken

sd chicken plated**?

I’ve been following recipes, to a tee, for well over 4 decades. I’ve never waivered from a recipe, or tried to substitute one ingredient for another. If I didn’t have an ingredient, I’d go out to the store to get it. If the recipe called for tomato puree and I only had diced tomatoes, out I went, or I’d put the recipe away for another day when I had all the ingredients listed, exactly as listed. Never would I chance changing the intended taste of the recipe. Never!

Then one day, rather recently, I was in a frenzy looking for a recipe that I wanted to make for dinner. It was a chicken dish, which included artichokes and mushrooms, but that was all I could remember. I had already purchased the canned artichokes and the fresh mushrooms, but I couldn’t go on without the recipe.   I couldn’t find it anywhere. I frantically went on to the web and punched in the words, “chicken with artichokes.” All sorts of recipes came up, but I didn’t have all the ingredients required for any of them. I could feel a cold sweat taking over my body, as I watched the clock tick closer to dinner-time. I took a deep breath, and said to myself, “Okay, Sil, you can do this. Just look in the pantry and pull out whatever you think might work well together with chicken. You can do it!”

Once I got over the initial fear, I actually had a wonderful time creating my own recipe. It was a very different experience for me. Instead of following someone else’s idea of what would taste good, I created my own. To my delight, it was delicious. Aside from nourishing my stomach, I felt as if I’d fed my creative self. Perhaps that’s overly dramatic, but the experience was rather freeing. Since that evening, I still honor my recipes, but if I am missing an ingredient, I just let the creative juices flow.

RECIPE: serves 6

2  3 lb. chickens, cut in eighths

2  14 ounce cans of artichoke hearts, drained

2  8 ounce jars sundered tomatoes (in oil)

8 ounces fresh Shitake mushrooms, roughly sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 cup of dry white wine

drizzle of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Wash the chicken and pat dry.  Place in large baking pan.
  2. Salt and pepper each piece.
  3. Add the garlic, artichokes, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes (with as much of their oil as you like).
  4. Pour the wine over all and then drizzle,lightly, with olive oil.
  5. Cover with foil and put in preheated 350 degree oven.
  6.  Bake covered for 30 minutes.  Then remove foil and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

sd chicken ingredientssd chicken mushrooms2sd chicken artichokessd chicken garlicsd chicken winesdchicken pan1sd chicken pan2sd chicken pan4sd chicken pan5sd chicken pan6sd chicken closeup






Sardinian Minestrone

120 plated *

Would you like to live to be over 100 years old? Well then, have I got a soup for you!

There’s been a great deal of press about these Blue Zones around the world, where a large percentage of the inhabitants live to be well over 100 years old.   It’s truly fascinating. It makes you stop and think about their lifestyles and their diet, since this seems to be what they attribute mostly to their longevity.

I am especially intrigued by the village in Sardinia that’s considered a Blue Zone.   I love that they attribute their long life to the Mediterranean diet, close ties to family and friends, laughter, movement (they are shepherds who walk 8 miles a day and women whose “workout” is kneading bread, gardening and cooking all day), napping and red wine.   How fabulous! I can’t help but think about my grandparents, who lived to be over 100 years old, and for the most part, this is how they lived.

While this recipe for minestrone soup is probably very similar to your own variation, I share it with you as another delicious, healthy soup that I think your family and friends will enjoy. It’s versatile, so you can always add the freshest, seasonal ingredients of your choice. To keep it as traditional as possible, include beans and fregola, a tiny semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia. If you can’t find fregola, Israeli couscous or acini di pepe pasta will do just fine. However, you might shave a year off your long life, if you don’t use fregola!   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For the purpose of spelling out the basics of this soup, I stuck very closely to the original recipe from the Blue Zones website, which by the way, has great recipes on it. The only change I made was that I only used one type of bean, chickpeas, and I added savoy cabbage.   As I mentioned before, add whatever vegetables you like. You can’t mess this up.   I’m even going to say that if you forget to soak your beans overnight, use canned, added during the last half hour of cooking. OR…the quick soaking method is fabulous if you have the extra hour. Cover beans with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off. Then let them sit in the hot water for one hour. Drain and you are ready to go.

Enjoy, and as we say in Italian “cent’anni.”     Translation:…..”may you live to be 100 years old!”

RECIPE: serves 8 to 10

1  and 1/2 cups of dried beans of your choice (always include some chickpeas if possible….very Sardinian)

7 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped ( about a cup)

2 medium celery stalks, chopped ( about a half a cup)

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 28 ounce can of Italian crushed tomatoes  (San Marzano, please)

3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about  1 1/2 cups)

1 1/2 cups chopped fennel (include tops)

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2 TBSP. chopped fresh basil (I use at least double this)

2/3 cup of Sardinian fregola (or Israeli couscous of acini de pepe pasta)

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

I added one small head of savoy cabbage, shredded

  1.  Soak the beans overnight or use the quick soak method.  Drain in a colander, set in the sink and rinse well.
  2. Warm 3 to 4 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over a medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrots and celery.  Cook, stirring often, until soft, not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley, and basil, as well as the drained beans.  Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything os submerged by and inch or two.
  4. Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the bean are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets to thick, for about 1 1/2 hours.  Add any vegetables as you see fit.  Some vegetables take longer than others.  I added the cabbage when the soup had an hour to go.
  5. Stir in the pasta, salt and pepper.  Add up to 2 cups of water if the soup seems too dry.  Continue simmering, uncovered until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. **You can also cook the pasta separately, al dente, and then add it to the soup.
  6. Pour 1 TBSP of olive oil into each dish.  Add the soup and top with the grated cheese.

**For a stronger tomato taste ( which I like) add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste when you add the tomatoes.

120 blue zone recipe120 cici water120 cici drained120 ingredients120 pot 1120 pot 2120 cabbage120 pot 3120 fregola120 plated 3