The BEST Chocolate!

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Perugina is Italy’s version of Ghirardelli. In my opinion, they have the best chocolate. I love dark chocolate. When I was young, I would eat milk chocolate but my mother cultivated my discriminating palette and now that I am a chocolate snob, I can no longer eat the sweeter, milkier version.

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Italy's best chocolate option! I love dark chocolate! You gotta try this!

Perugina makes all kinds. This one is a simple dark chocolate.
Italy's best chocolate option! I love dark chocolate! You gotta try this!

Some people do not care for nuts in their chocolate. I like a little crunch in mine so this one with almonds hits that spot.

Italy's most famous chocolate candy! You gotta try this!

Perugina’s most famous chocolate candy is Baci which is Italian for kisses, but this is NOTHING like a Hershey’s kiss. The gelato version is very good as well!

I have found Perugina chocolate at grocery stores but World Market has quite a few options to choose from!

Growing up in Italy, we would go visit my mother’s family in Naples and would inevitably end up at my Zia Rosalba’s dry cleaner’s shop. Right next door to them was a bar that sold loose candy. You could buy it by the kilo. There were several different kinds but my nonna always bought me Caramelle Rossana. I like them to this day.

Have you tried Perugina chocolate? What about Baci? I bet you’ve never had a Rossana candy! If you are local, come by my house. I have a few left and if you ask me, I’ll let you try one!


Italian Hand Gestures

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Today, we’ll take a little break from talking about Italian food and instead I’ll talk a little about a little culture. Italians talk with their hands, using gestures. It’s a pretty well-known fact; so much so that it’s become cliche’ and the butt of jokes. In one joke,  the punch line is an Italian guy who doesn’t crack under interrogation because the Nazis tie his hands and “How can I talk if my hands are tied?”

So with that in mind, let me share these two videos that describe all the hand gestures and what they mean. It’s an unofficial Italian sign language. We REALLY do use these! Ask my kids! When they were little, and we were at a friend’s house/the park/the soccer field and I would do the Italian sign language for “let’s go!” they knew exactly what I meant, without saying a word, but no one else did! We called it our “secret language!” Now I’m letting you in on it. I’m sharing all my secrets with you!

This first video is great! He gives you a quick history lesson. This guy is from Naples (I can tell by his accent – he sounds like my mom) Be sure to check out his facial expressions! They are a very important of the hand gestures! The two things go hand in hand!

This next guy does a lot of the same gestures but a few of them are different so I decided to include this one too. I have to say, I do use a LOT of these. Not all, but a lot. My husband and my kids have learned them too.

The obscene ones, which are not included in these videos, “say” the same kinds of things the American counterpart say.  Although the gestures are not the same as the American ones, they communicate the same kind of thing. Okay. Enough about that. This is a “G” rated blog after all!

Here’s a little test. Do you know what this means?


Ines di Lelio, the restauranter that owns The Vero Alfredo in Rome

Myth Busters! {and a giveaway}

Come spend 31 days in my Italian Kitchen with me and learn to cook delicious but easy recipes!

If you’ve been following this series, then you probably read the 10 Commandments of Italian Cooking post. {If not, then you can go read it and then come back. We can wait.} Well, in it was a little myth. An untruth.

In that post, number nine on the list of commandments stated that “Fettuccine Alfredo are popular only overseas.” It does mention that Alfredo di Lelio is the inventor of the dish. Imagine my surprise when I found a comment on that post by Ines di Lelio, Alfredo’s grandson! Oh my! In case you missed it, here it is below. I have omitted the Italian version that he included in the original comment.

Ines Di Lelio on October 17, 2016 at 3:33 am

With reference to your article I have the pleasure to tell you the history of my grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “Fettuccine all’Alfredo” (“Fettuccine Alfredo”) in 1908 in the “trattoria” run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). This “trattoria” of Piazza Rosa has become the “birthplace of fettuccine all’Alfredo”.

More specifically, as is well known to many people who love the “fettuccine all’Alfredo”, this famous dish in the world was invented by Alfredo Di Lelio concerned about the lack of appetite of his wife Ines, who was pregnant with my father Armando (born February 26, 1908).

Alfredo di Lelio opened his restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in Rome and in 1943, during the war, he sold the restaurant to others outside his family.

In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo” (“Alfredo di Roma”), whose fame in the world has been strengthened by his nephew Alfredo and that now managed by me, with the famous “gold cutlery” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).

See also the website of “Il Vero Alfredo” .

I must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome do not belong and are out of my brand “Il Vero Alfredo – Alfredo di Roma”.

I inform you that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo –Alfredo di Roma” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.

Best regards Ines Di Lelio

So there you go people! MYTH BUSTED! I had to do a little fact checking, of course, and this restaurant does indeed exist. I found it on Google Maps.

The website is legit. You can find it here. Here is a picture of Ines di Lelio that I grabbed from the website.

Ines di Lelio, the restauranter that owns The Vero Alfredo in Rome

I even found a video of how they make fettuccine all’Alfredo at the restaurant! In case you wanted to make them yourself…

Interestingly, they have franchise restaurants in other places around the world, but not the US. I find that strange because SOOOO many Americans love this dish. Since I am not fond of butter or melted cheese, it is not MY personal favorite, but next time I’m in Rome I’ll have to find this place. I checked out the menu and they have Bucatini all’Amatriciana for 15 Euro so I’ll order that. Michael can have the “the REAL Majestic Fettuccine all’Alfredo” for 19 Euro. What would you order? Would you go with the creamy, buttery pasta or the bacony tomatoy pasta?


Changing topics…

***** wants to honor the readers of the Write 31 Days series by offering a $100 shopping spree to their website! How cool is that? Not only do they have cute cards, but also mugs, teacups, bottles, jewelry, home decor, totebags, calendars…the list goes on!

I’m sure you’ll find something cute there! Maybe something for yourself and something for a friend? So go ahead and enter! And thanks for reading along! I have loved reading your comments – both here and on social media.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pasta and Garbanzo Beans {recipe}

Come spend 31 days in my Italian Kitchen with me and learn to cook delicious but easy recipes!

This pasta dish is one of my kids’ favorites. We love garbanzo beans: in hummus, in salads and we really like them in this easiest of pasta dishes.

It is probably THE easiest recipe EVER!! Literally four ingredients, but MAN is it tasty! It doesn’t get any easier than this!

You can buy them dry and soak them, cook them, etc. But if you don’t have time for any of that, buy them in a can, keep them in the pantry along with the few other ingredients and you will always be ready to put a tasty, satisfying dish on the table! When I’m feeling frugal *AND* ambitious, I’ll make a crockpotful of beans and freeze them in 1 cup servings. That way I can pull out as much as I need. But let’s get to it, shall we?

Pasta and Garbanzo Beans {Pasta e Ceci}


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 16 oz cans garbanzo beans
  • 2 cups pasta (either ditalini or broken spaghetti)
  • LOTS of parsley


You can boil the garbanzo beans yourself but if you don’t have time you can use canned garbanzo beans (called ‘ceci’ in Italian.) Start by heating the olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, whole, and brown briefly in the hot oil. Add the beans and stir, flavoring the beans with the garlic-infused oil. After a few minutes, cover the beans with hot water, about three cups and bring to a boil. When boiling, add salt and pasta, stirring to keep the pasta from sticking.

Enjoy! Buon Appetito!

The easiest recipe in the world: four ingredients and you can have dinner on the table in a jiffy!

Pasta and Beans {recipe}

Come spend 31 days in my Italian Kitchen with me and learn to cook delicious but easy recipes!

You might be familiar with today’s recipe, Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans), from the Olive Garden. My recipe is NOT a copycat recipe. This classic, Neapolitan dish utilizes inexpensive ingredients to make a delicious, filling meal! This version contains no meat and only white beans.

Pasta with Beans {Pasta e Fagioli}

This is *THE* recipe that captured my husband’s attention before we were even dating. He was helping my at-the-time boyfriend work on his car. I was inside my little apartment cooking lunch. Since it’s easier to make this for two to three people than it is for one person, I stuck my head outside and asked if they were interested in lunch. As Michael tells it, he thought: “Man, this guy is lucky to have a girlfriend who can COOK!” Little did he know that he would one day marry me! I’ve made this for him many times since!


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 celery stalk, shredded or minced (or 1/4 tsp celery salt, powder, seed)
  • 1 small tomato or ½ large, cut in large chunks
  • 2 cans navy beans (or cannellini, or great northern), drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • ½ box broken spaghetti or tubetti


Start with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil. Heat, then add garlic and celery and after a minute or two, the tomato. Saute for a little bit and then add the beans. Add water to cover.

Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans) is a classic Italian dish!

In the meantime, break up half of box of spaghetti into one inch lengths. Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans) is a classic Italian dish!

When water is boiling, add spaghetti and season with salt. NEVER add salt at the beginning; it will harden the beans. Stir, stir, stir to prevent pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When pasta is al dente and water has mostly evaporated it is done. It should be soupy but not watery. If it’s getting too dry, add some water. Serve immediately with diced onion and sprinkle with black pepper.

Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans) is a classic Italian dish!

Buon appetito!

If you like this recipe, check out these similar dishes: Pasta e Patate and Pasta e Piselli.

Pasta and Potatoes {recipe}

Come spend 31 days in my Italian Kitchen with me and learn to cook delicious but easy recipes!

Keeping with the pasta and ______ theme, today’s recipe is a carb-lover’s dream! Pasta marries potatoes with the added yumminess of bacon. The potatoes release their starch and the result is a creamy dish with no cream at all. If you want to up the creaminess factor, save your parmesan rinds for this dish and add them in when you are cooking the potatoes.

Pasta and Potatoes (Pasta e Patate)


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded or chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, shredded or chopped
  • 1 small tomato, chopped or 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 potato per person, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ box broken spaghetti or ditalini
  • salt to taste, about 1 tsp


Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Brown bacon, onion, carrot and celery in the oil until the onions are translucent and the bacon has rendered its fat. Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. When the veggies have wilted, add the potatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Pour water to more than cover the potatoes and bring to boil. Add salt; when the potatoes are fork-tender, add the pasta. If the water level is low, add HOT water. Keep stirring to prevent pasta from sticking to the bottom! When pasta is al dente and water has mostly evaporated, serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. This is especially good on a cold day!

Here’s the video!

And finally, I leave you with this. I thought it was so funny! I found it on Pinterest but the website that’s associated with it is for clothing. I have no idea where it really came from.Italian girls aren't afraid to eat. Come to to find great pasta recipes.

Buon appetito!

Pasta and Peas {recipe}

Come spend 31 days in my Italian Kitchen with me and learn to cook delicious but easy recipes!

Pasta and Peas is one of my family’s favorite recipes, and a good one to keep in your back pocket to pull out on short notice. In fact, all the recipes this week share that common thread of “pasta and _____.” Easy, quick and inexpensive these recipes call for ingredients so be sure to keep these pantry staples on hand. I like to keep a bag of peas in the freezer for those “Aaaak! It’s 6:00 and I haven’t given dinner a thought!” moments. Do you ever have those? Flavored with bacon (again with the bacon!) and onion, this recipe comes together in a jiffy. Watch the video for my little tip about bacon.

Pasta and Peas


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bag of peas
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ box broken spaghetti or ditalini
  • salt to taste, about 1 tsp


Heat oil on medium heat in a saucepan. Brown bacon and onion in the oil. Add the peas and sauté for about 5 mins. Pour in enough water to more than cover the peas and bring to boil. When the water is boiling, add the pasta. If the water level is low, add HOT water. Add salt to taste. To prevent pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan, stir, stir, stir! When pasta is al dente and water has mostly evaporated, serve sprinkled with black pepper.

Another video as part of my cooking school:

A delicious yet easy recipe using few ingredients!

My Favorite Italian Cookbooks + a Website

I’ve been alluding to some of my favorite cookbooks in the past few weeks. Although I love cookbooks, I do have some that I reach for again and again. Today I will share them with you.

My Favorite Italian Cookbooks

The Romagnoli’s Table

I remember watching The Romagnoli’s Table television show with my mom. I think it was on PBS. We must have lived in Puerto Rico at the time so that would make it the mid 70s. Mom bought the cookbook and would cook from it. When I started cooking , I wanted my own copy. Since more than a decade had passed I wasn’t sure if it would still be in print so imagine how happy I was to find the new, updated version! 

The cookbook that taught me to cook my favorite Italian recipe!
It has been well-used over the years as you can see from the photo. I like that it has classic Italian dishes from all over the country.

A Napoli Si Mangia Cosi’

Another favorite that has been used and abused over the years was a gift from my grandfather. Again, mom had a copy of this Neapolitan cookbook and when I began cooking my grandfather decided I needed my own copy, which was true – I did! Can you tell from the burn mark that this is my favorite Italian cookbook? It is!Can you see the round circles on the cover? I almost caught it on fire once when it was lying on the stove and I turned on the wrong burner! You can see what kind of shape it’s in. The binding is coming apart!!The pages are splattered and yellowed with age. Yet it is very much loved and used to this day!

Antica Cucina Napoletana

My mother bought me another book on Neapolitan cooking and although I do use it, it is not as loved as the first two.

Favorite Website

And finally, I thought I’d share my favorite website for Italian cooking. It’s called Giallo Zafferano which means Yellow Saffron. Although it’s an Italian website, they do have many recipes in British English. You may be unfamiliar with cooking by weight rather than volume but if you have a kitchen scale, it’s not difficult. Check it out and tell me what you think!


Italian Herbs and Spices {recipe}

There are certain herbs and spices that are used quite frequently in Italian cooking. I’ll break it down between fresh and dried as it does make a difference.

Fresh Herbs

Parsley – often used in vegetable dishes or sometime pasta sauce. Rarely used dried.

Basil – crowning glory on a pizza Margherita and insalata caprese. It is THE smell of summer! Also the key ingredient of pesto.

Mint – used in some vegetable dishes such as zucchine alla scapece.

Thyme – used in soups and some roasted veggie dishes.

Rosemary – often paired with meat such as pork or lamb or with roasted potatoes. Rosemary is an herb frequently used in Italian cooking. Come to my blog to learn about other herbs and spices!

Sage – mostly used with meats, especially pork (such as the pork pasta recipe I shared.)

Note: Try growing some of these herbs in a container garden or on a sunny windowsill. You can often find parsley and basil at grocery stores for not very much money. It will keep you in fresh herbs so you have them on hand whenever you might need them. These are annual herbs so they will die after a season.

Rosemary is a woody perennial which means it is heartier and will last quite some time. It prefers drier conditions so if you live in a wet environment, it would do well to planted in a pot so that it will drain well.

Dried Herbs

Origano – although it’s easy to grow, it’s predominantly used dried. In Sicily, it’s often sprinkled on pizza, on veggies, and used in marinades for meats on the grill. It’s a very powerful herb, though, and is not often paired with other herbs.

Thyme – used interchangeably dried or fresh.

Marjoram – used in some pasta dishes.


Origano is rarely used fresh whereas parsley and basil are rarely used dried. Thyme, sage and rosemary can be used either way.


A few spices, such as nutmeg, are used in Italian cooking. Others I’ve never seen (cumin). Red peppers is one “spice” that is used a lot, both fresh and dried. It can be used in pasta sauces, on pizza, in cheeses, in preserves such as pickled mushrooms or eggplant. A clue if a dish contains red pepper is if it’s called alla diavola (devil style).

Here is a quick, easy, favorite  pasta:

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

Cook spaghetti in salted water until al dente. In the meantime, in a large frying pan, heat a good amount of olive oil, more than enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add chopped garlic, at least two cloves, but you can add more if you like it garlicky, and a healthy sprinkling of crushed red pepper, depending on how hot you like it.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain and immediately toss with the garlic-infused oil, tossing to coat well. Sprinkle with minced fresh parsley and serve. (I have made it without the parsley and it’s still delicious.)

Pesto Genovese {recipe}


Pesto comes from the Liguria region, where Genova is located, up in the hip flexor of the boot. It is often called Pesto Genovese to distinguish this basil pesto from other kinds of pesto. This raw, cold “sauce” is, traditionally, served over pasta. I also like to use it in chicken salad! (My own personal spin, not an Italian dish.)

Pesto is so easy to prepare that there is no reason to buy the bottled kind, unless, of course, you can’t find fresh basil. I like to grow basil in the summertime as a crop so I can make lots of pesto! You can also freeze it for later.

The traditional recipe calls for a mortar and pestle (pesto comes from pestare which means “to pound”) and although I have one, who’s got time for that? I use my trusty Cuisinart.

Pesto Genovese


  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 medium cloves garlic (or one if you don’t like a strong flavor of garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cups pine nuts or sliced or slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup olive oil


Put basil, garlic, cheese and salt in the bowl of a food processor and give it a whirl. Add nuts and chop. Then stream olive oil until a smooth paste forms.

Two friends said I should have a cooking show. Here you go Leslie and Karla! Your very own show!

A few tips …

  1. You can store unused pesto in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Cover it with a film of olive oil to keep it from oxidizing.
  2. Start with dry leaves. Try washing your basil in the morning of the day you are going to use it.
  3. Try not to overheat the pesto when whirling it as it will speed up the oxidization process and instead of a brilliant green you’ll end up with a blackish paste. Like guacamole after a day.
  4. You can freeze pesto but allow it to come to room temperature on its own. You cannot heat it. It changes the chemical structure. (Actually, I don’t know if this is true but the cheese will melt, the basil will darken. Just trust me on this.)
  5. It makes a great pizza topping.
  6. As I already said, you can add it to your mayo when making chicken salad. It’s really good.