My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 12

May 26, 2011

        Meet the Amazing and Potentially Lethal Kilrooney Kids

I’ve introduced you to other unique characters from my past, but not my two favorites: Timmy and Jackie Kilrooney, two literally larger than life kids we grew up with in Hamden, Connecticut in the 50’s. My sister, Carol valued her life and  appendages, so she limited her Kilrooney kid interactions. Dave and I didn’t. We were too young to recognize imminent danger and frequently marched into hell with our best pals for any number of heavenly causes.

 We saved our planet from Invaders from Mars and kept our neighborhood free of Nazis.  In the winter, we survived sledding down “Dead Man’s Curve.”  And in summer, we used our magnifying glasses to burn holes in the butts of big fat June bugs, which I shrink to think about now. 

 We teamed up with Timmy and Jackie almost from the first day we moved into our house on hilly, Millis Street. They lived right across the street and the fit for the four of us was perfect. I was seven and so was Timmy. His brother Jackie was five and so was my brother, Dave. This meant we could totally hang around together as a fearsome foursome.  It was great fun for us, but living hell through my mother’s eyes. She was convinced every play session would end with a trip to the emergency room at St. Raphael’s hospital in New Haven. This was nonsense. It was three or four times a year at most.

One Christmas, my brother and I got an awesome telescope as a present. It wasn’t for us. It was for my mom so she could spy on us from our living room and hopefully stop the horror before it happened. She was rarely in time.

 It’s not that Timmy and Jackie were evil. It’s just that they were huge, reckless, kids who never thought about the consequences of their actions. As a result, Dave and I were frequently maimed. In their defense, I will also note their talents. Jackie, for example, could rattle off five music scales in one enormous burp. He’d begin by swallowing great gulps of air for about 40 seconds, then let ‘er rip: “Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do – do , re, me, fa, sol, la, ti, do…five times in a single belch!” It was amazing, but this story isn’t about miracles, it’s about the madness, mayhem and mischief these kids caused.

The Kilrooneys would fill water pistols with ink and blacken our clothes. They’d shoot us at point blank range with their BB guns. When we were swimming, they’d push our heads under water and count to 30—then try to break the record next time. Or they’d noogie our heads until hair fell out. It was all SKB – Standard Kilrooney Behavior.

And then there’s this horror story, though here my brother has to share the blame with Jackie. What they both did to my mom that day was truly unforgivable. They were out in our  yard playing with our bow and arrow set—real bows with real arrows with sharp, metal tips. What possessed my parents to buy us a real set like this I have no idea, but they did. We were told to shoot only at the cloth target that came with the set, but that got boring fast and we soon shooting arrows into trees and then it was only a short hop to aiming at squirrels and maybe a bird if one sat still long enough. 

Anyway, Dave and Jackie were shooting arrows in our back yard while my mom was ironing in the kitchen. Somehow, they had gotten hold of a trick arrow that goes around your head, but makes it look like you’ve been shot through your head instead. My brother put it on and Jackie smeared ketchup on Dave’s forehead. Then—in an inspired moment of sheer madness, Jackie went running into the house screaming “Mrs. Ardito, something horrible has happened!” That’s when Dave stumbled into the kitchen with the arrow sticking out of his head and the ketchup dripping down. My mother screamed, not stopping to wonder how he could still be on walking with an arrow through his brain. So she screamed the scream of mothers who have lost their children and will never be the same.

 It only took Dave a second to realize they had maybe taken things too far. He quickly said, “Mom, mom, it’s okay. It’s a joke, see?” And he took the arrow off. But the damage was done. Poor Flora Ardito. Poor Dave and Jackie when the punishments kicked in. 

                      Is There “Doctored” Sauce in the House?

                             (Making Ragu More than Do)


Thinking of Timmy and Jackie and our frequent trips to St. Raphael’s Hospital, made me think of “doctored” sauce. This is the Rx I turn to whenever I don’t have hours to make Sunday gravy and want something yummy in 15 minutes or less. My official estimate is that it’s 80% as good, which, when you’re hungry and in a hurry, is good enough. Here’s the specialist treatment I use:  

What Youza Need
1 26 oz jar of Ragu Old World Pasta Sauce Traditional
(or Marinara if you want to go vegetarian)

4 Tbsp spoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves diced garlic

2 ½ Tbsp oregano

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, to taste

1 Tbsp garlic powder

7-8 leaves fresh basil or 2 Tbsp flakes

2 bay leaves

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1 cup red wine

1 lb youza favorite pasta (mine is ziti, yum!)  

Den Do Dis  
Get a full pot of salted water boiling. In a medium saucepan, fry out the onion in olive oil until it’s translucent, then add garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Pour in Ragu, add all spices, including wine. Cook pasta until Al Denti says it’s done, pour on the sauce and dine sublimely. Pour yourself a big glass of wine too, for medicinal purposes only.


My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 11

May 26, 2011

                       She Washed that Man Right Out of Her Life

 The Bimontis lived right next door to us when I was growing up out east. Their family included Frankie, a boy who was a couple of years younger than me, his father, Dominick, whom I saw, but never exchanged words with and the “Human Cleaning Machine” herself, Franny Bimonti.

Franny was a short, block of a woman: a kind of combination armadillo and tank. She might have been pretty at some point of her life, but if so, it was eons ago.  Talk about letting yourself go—Franny was gone. She never wore makeup and had turned completely gray—and that was the color of her skin! (Just joshing)\She wore an apron at all times, not because she was cooking, but because she was constantly cleaning and wanted to protect herself from dirt, grime and any number of 409-type cleaning fluids. I’m not talking about a person who appreciates a tidy house. I’m talking about someone who’s looney toons with broom, mop and detergent. At some point in her life, she had taken the pledge to get rid of every speck of dirt and dust in the universe, including the mote in God’s eye. Can you imagine that confrontation?

 “Mr. God, come here for a minute, you got something in your eye. There, that’s better.”

 Franny vacuumed the entire house and washed the floors every day. But where she really shined, was doing the laundry. Every morning, unless it was raining, we’d see her clothes out on the line waving in the breeze. Winter didn’t stop her, either.  In January and February, the white sheets often became frozen sails in the wind and the frigid socks clacked against each other like they were about to shatter.

Inside, Franny pushed her vacuum cleaner around and under things so much, everything was banged and bruised along the bottom: chairs, bedposts, her family. And the living room? Who could “live” in there with the plastic coverings over all the furniture? If Dominic ever had to spend the night on the couch, he probably slid right off.

Our family didn’t socialize much with theirs even though we lived 30 feet apart.  Still, we exchanged next-door neighbor pleasantries; cookies at Christmas, or a loaf of spinach bread. Then one summer day, out of a clear blue sky good enough to “Hang ‘em, hang that laundry high,”  Dominic died of a heart attack. He was only 50!  Poor guy. Poor Frankie. And poor Franny. She’d be left all alone now to fend for herself and she’d have to rinse, I mean, raise Frankie without any help.

On the day we heard about Franny’s loss, my mom went next door pay her respects.  Many relatives were over so my mom didn’t plan on staying. She brought along a bunt cake as an offering. Bunt cakes blunt death somehow. She rang the bell and Franny appeared wearing an apron, only this one was black. (Just kidding).

            “I am so sorry to hear about Dominic,” my mother said sincerely.

            “Flora,” she said, “That’s all right. God has his reasons.”

             “I know,” my mother sympathized, “but it’s sometimes hard to understand or find the good when things like this happen.”

            “There is good, Flora,” Franny countered, “now that Dom is dead, I can get my cleaning done! He was always in my way, that Dominic.”

            Franny’s reasoning took my mother aback a little. “Well, I know you have guests so I’ll be going. It’s nice that you have family around.”

            “Nice? What a mess they’re making! Like I don’t have enough to do without cleaning up after them! I may not even get a chance to scrub the floors today, or put the wash out. Wouldn’t that be something, Flora? What would a day without washing be?

            “A day for celebration?” my mother mused.     

(Attention!  Thanks to several readers and eaters who pointed out that my Eggplant Parmigiana Lasagna recipe left a little to be desired, like the number of eggplants needed (2 large, peeled eggplants); it doubled the amount of garlic required (2 tablespoons of minced garlic is enough) and baking instructions were absent (yikes!): 25 minutes max at 325°. Find how to do it up right at www.what’ under the Lifestyles tab.)

                                  Pasta Bianco Delizia
                                   White Delight Ziti

One of Fanny’s sheets waving in the breeze was a white wonder to behold. So is this lovely, white and delightful béchamel sauce that is almost a breeze to make. This is not your mother’s béchamel; its way sweller thanks to the addition of spinach, mushrooms, white wine and vegetarian sausage crumbles. Trust me on the veggie crumbles, they add a fantastic touch. When poured over ziti or even tortellini, this dish is magnificent enough to be served at the greatest restaurant in the country: California’s The French Laundry. How wonderfully fitting.   

What Youza Need:
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup diced white onions

1 Tbsp minced garlic

¾ cup sliced mushrooms

1 ½ vegetarian sausage crumbles
(Boca or Morningstar)

2 ½ to 3 cups half and half

3 Tbsp flour

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

1 bay leaf

(Seasonings: salt, pepper, few shakes red pepper flakes,

plus 1 tsp nutmeg)

½ cup parmesan cheese

¾ cup white wine

1 lb Ziti (Tortellini, Mezzani, Rigatoni)

What Youza Do
Put on water to boil for pasta. In a large skillet, sauté onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, then add garlic and saute’ for 20 seconds more. Remove from pan. Add 1Tbsp olive oil and cook mushrooms until golden. Toss in vegetarian sausage crumbles and stir on medium heat until cooked (a few minutes). Add in flour and stir so flour cooks slightly. Put onions and garlic back, then pour in half and half, add bay leaves, spinach leaves (give them time to wilt), wine and all seasonings to taste. Bring up temp to thicken, until it’s as rich and thick as gravy.  Add parmesan cheese, which will thicken it more, so add pasta water if and as needed. Cook pasta al dente. Pour into a warm bowl and ladle on sauce. Top with more parmesan and serve proudly.

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 10

March 22, 2011

                  Night of the Living Deadbeats

 When I was 13, I delivered the New Haven Register to 60 customers and neither rain, nor blizzards, nor outbreaks of acne prevented the semi-swift completion of my appointed rounds.

That paper route taught me responsibility, money management and most importantly, how to fold a newspaper so you can toss it. This skill comes in handy later on in life when, when…okay, so it never comes in handy.

 I remember my crush on an older woman of 15 named, Lorraine DiNicola and, of course, I remember “The Living Deadbeats!” Ah-oooooo. Even now, as I write their name, the wind whips up, my skin crawls and my mind reels with recollection –or should I say “collection” because that’s the mistake I made on Friday evening: thinking I could collect a blasted penny from the biggest deadbeats on earth or under it. Ah-oooooo!

THEIR house on Church Street was shrouded in darkness as black as newsprint and the news itself. It was a home where collection hope faded and the welcome mat was buried alive under dunning letters, court orders, and hundreds of notices stamped: “FINAL NOTICE BEFORE IMPENDING LEGAL ACTION.”  It was the home of Igor Genetti and his horrifically cheap wife, Mrs. Ginnetti. Ah-oooo!

Whenever she appeared, I knew I was doomed to an eternity of excuses and postponements.  Each week, what stories rose from her painfully thin and purple lips…

“I don’t have any change.”

“I couldn’t get to the bank.”

“I couldn’t cash my paycheck.”

“I don’t have anything smaller than a hundred”

“I just sent my kid to the store with all my money”

“I mistakenly glued my wallet shut”

“We were just robbed”

And so forth. 

Mrs. Genetti would ask me to come back on Monday. I’d stop by on Monday and she’d tell me to come back on Wednesday. On Wednesday she’d say we were close to Friday, which was payday so why didn’t I stop by then? And, of course, on Friday, she’d tell me to come back on Monday and we’d start all over.  

This routine would sometimes last six to eight to 10 weeks, which would mean the bill would rise and rise until she’d decide to pay and ask how much it was and I’d have to say “$14 dollars.” Boy, would she howl then! “$14 dollars?!  No way! I’m not paying you $14 dollars. It can’t be more than 2 weeks. Igor…”

This was the signal for Igor Ginetti—part-time fiend and full-time accomplice—to appear and say things like, “Vot are you trying to do, suck the blood out of us, drive a stake through our hearts, send us to an early grave?!” Ah-oooo!”

With trembling hands, I’d try to fight back. I’d hold up my accounting ledger with eight weeks of records in it. At first, they recoiled at its sight. Then, like stale garlic, or a bent cross, the effect of the ledger wore off and The Living Deadbeats would laugh in the face of it. “Ha, ha, ha, do you think you can harm us with your sketchy records, paper boy? We’ve drawn blood from department stores, collection agencies, and Small Claims Court. We don’t fear your little ledger. Ahoooooo!”

What could I do? I invariably caved and told them to pay me for two weeks. It was a coward’s way out, but I did live to deliver the Register and fight another day. Besides, I still had to collect at Lorraine DiNicola’s house and maybe tonight she’d be home alone and I could finally tell her what I’d be meaning to say forever… “Y…your family owes for eight weeks!”  

                                                 EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA LASAGNA        
“EXTRA EXTRA eat all about it. Writer invents new dish and shares recipe with readers hungry for something new and delicious. When asked to comment, Ardito said, ‘This is a classic combination of two all time greats. Imagine regular luscious eggplant parmigiana layered with scrumptious lasagna noodles? People have to try it and yes, it takes time to make, but I don’t care how full your plate is, you gotta’ put some of this on it. Its EXTRA EXTRA good!’”
What Youza Need  (for two casseroles)
2 large peeled eggplants
2  casserole dishes (8” x 8”?)
2 16 oz cans of Italian crushed tomatoes

4 sheets of lasagna noodles cooked in boiling, salted
 water 4 minutes only

¾ cup parmesan cheese

1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella

2 cups or so olive oil

2 to 3 cloves minced garlic

½ cup parsley, chopped

3 tbsp oregano

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

1 tbsp garlic powder

7 leaves fresh basil

2 bay leaves

1 medium onion, chopped

6 eggs (for eggplant wash)

1 ½ to 2 ½ cups flour

1 cup red wine

What Youza Do

Lotsa short cuts here. First, fergetabout salting the eggplant. Also, don’t fry the eggplant in olive oil on top of the stove. Baking it in the oven is easier, faster and a bit healthier. Slice the eggplant into ¼” rounds. Cut extra large rounds in two. Take two large sheet pans (with sides), spread olive oil lightly over  bottoms. Now, you’re ready for the egg/flour wash. Beat eggs in large soup bowl, add salt and pepper. Add flour to another large soup bowl and season with salt and pepper. Dip each round of eggplant in egg wash (both sides), then dip the round in the flour (both sides). Put eggplant on pan and fill both pans that way. When done, salt and pepper them (yes again) and sprinkle on oregano. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Flip eggplant once and remove when golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Lower oven to 325°.

Make marinara sauce. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in 2 qt pan, fry out onions until translucent, add garlic for 10 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, 2 tbsp oregano, basil, bay leaves, garlic powder, wine and simmer for ½ hr.

Put sauce in bottom of casserole dish. Add layer of eggplant, add parmesan cheese, mozzarella, layer of lasagna noodles and more sauce. Add another layer of eggplant and repeat process. Should make 3 or 4 layers with no more than 3 layers of lasagna noodles, but 2 may do just fine. Put sauce on very top, parmesan on top of that. Make other casserole, bake both at 325° for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and casseroles are bubbling. Yum and thensome!

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column (Story 9)

February 20, 2011

                       Sleep with Me, It’s a Scream!                    

Some women I’ve spent the night with will tell you, “Sleeping with Jim is a scream.” The guys I sleep with will agree since I can start screaming like murder at any time.

It’s your basic 1950’s scream right out of horror movies like the Body Snatchers or Dracula. Aside from this, I’m fine, really—your average writer, father, chef-kind-of guy. Also, for the record, I should say that the women I’m talking about are my wife and daughter and the  men I’m talking about are my son and fishing buddies who share a cabin with me on fishing trips.  

I’ve been doing this for years. I’ve tried to discover why, but the jury is still out and that includes the analysis of two separate therapists who have heard me scream, though that was when they handed me the bill.  

It doesn’t happen every night.  It’s more like once a month, but that doesn’t make it easier to take for those within earshot. Imagine how it is for them. They’re peacefully dreaming along when, “Ayiiiiiiiiiiyiiiii” comes blasting out at a level that could drown out a jet.  That’s got to shake you up and it’s tough on me, too. I haven’t been invited over for a pajama party in years.

My next door neighbors, the Polanzanis are still suffering from a traumatic screaming experience that happened several years ago. Our houses are close together. It was a warm summer night and my wife, Merry and I were sleeping with the windows open. That night, I let out a 9.0 scream on the “Screechster Scale.” The next thing I know, though a daze, I hear the screen door of their house fly open as Bob Polanzani shouts to his wife, Linda, “You go around the front, I’ll take the back!”

They were coming to our rescue not knowing what they might be running over to confront.  But that wasn’t stopping Bob and Linda. Goodness, what neighbors! What fearless human beings! Fortunately, I was able to stop them.  “Bob,” I shouted, “it’s okay. It was a nightmare. I’m soooo sorry.” They never said a word and we’ve never discussed the incident; I’ve always been too screamish, er squeamish to bring it up.   

I do know this: 90% of the screaming has to do with dreams in which I experience my death.  I go all the way, too. I don’t just jump off a cliff then wake up before I hit the ground. Oh, no. I jump off the building, hit the ground, die, then realize I’m dead. That’s when I wake up screaming.

My kids, Zoë and Sam are convinced it’s because I read Stephen King and Dean Koontz books constantly. Or maybe, I’m rehearsing my death so it doesn’t come as a shock and kill me. I could also be screaming at the gross injustices of the world like the price of popcorn and soda at the movies. $10.00?!! Yeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! . 

That’s it. Again, I apologize to all who’ve experienced my episodic, neurotic behavior. Maybe it’ll all go away when I’ve finally died and am laid to rest. But I’m putting all you folks who attend the wake on notice. If it’s an open casket and I’m lying there looking like I’m asleep, well…you’ve been warned.     

Pizza Heaven on Earth

 Obviously, I need to find peace on earth, but since that appears difficult, what about settling for pizza on earth? Naturally, it has to be the best, which takes me to a pie similar to the one they make at Sally’s Pizzeria in New Haven, Connecticut. I saw a show on the Food Network recently that proclaimed Sally’s Pizza as the best in the world.  When I saw that show, I screamed (the pleasant kind) since Sally’s is where we went when I was growing up.  

This is thin pizza with minimal ingredients. It’s cooked in a brick oven, but in lieu of that, I crank the oven up to 475 o. I don’t fuss with dough either. I buy 2 1/2 pounds of raw French Boule dough from the local bakery. You can also find pizza dough at bigger grocery stores in the dinner rolls section.  

What youza need for three 12” inch New Haven pizzas:

2 ½ pounds French Boule dough

1 16 oz can Italian Crushed Tomatoes

3-4 Tbls olive oil

Parmesan cheese to please

16 Oz. shredded Mozzarella  

7 cloves garlic diced

2 Tbls oregano flakes

12 leaves fresh basil, salt, pepper, a few shakes red pepper flakes

Parmesan cheese

Salt, pepper, dash of red pepper flakes

Cooking spray for pans (get ones that are holy and will bless you with a crispy crust)

(Optional) Pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, yadda, yadda  

Do Dis Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 475o. Spray pizza pans with Pam and set aside. Pour tomatoes in a bowl and add all the spices and herbs. Dats a nice. Now, make three balls of dough 3-4 inches in diameter or the size of a baseball. Make sure the dough is at room temperature. Squish each ball down flat and use your hands and a rolling pin to start the spreading process. Letting the dough rest a few minutes as you go will help prevent it from constantly snapping back. Also, make sure your rolling surface is not covered with too much flour.            

Roll each dough circle out it’s about 1/8 inch thick and slightly larger than the pan. Stop just short of being able to see through the dough. Spread it on the pan until it overlaps the edges about 1”, then fold the edges back on themselves to make a crust. Spread the sauce over the dough in a thin layer then add a thin layer of mozzarella. Add your favorite toppings, then shake on Parmesan cheese and add streaks of olive oil over the top. Bake on the low part of the oven for 12-15 minutes until the top is done and bottom is crispy, not burnt. Remove pizza but wait until it cools down to take a bite or you’ll start screaming.

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column (Story 8)

February 20, 2011

               Eerie Sound in Jamaican Singing Caves—“Ka-Ching!”

 Cold days like this make me think of warm, wonderful Jamaica and the mistakea we made in Jamaica once while traveling. It happened when we were in Port Antonio with our friends, John and Joan. It was a rare rainy day so we decided to take a road trip to a place we found in a guidebook called the “Famous Singing Caves.” Wow, caves that sing?! That had to some kind of natural phenomenon worth a visit, so we headed out.

 About 10 minutes before we were due to arrive at the caves, a big, muscular Jamaican guy on a motorcycle pulled in front of the car and waved for us to follow him. He soon led us down a dirt road to an area where we saw a number of shacks and some fields. Our bike buddy pulled up and so did we. That’s when the entire town of 25 people came running out to meet us, cheering and waving.  

John looked skeptical. “This is going to get interesting,” he said. Our motorbike buddy was obviously the leader and introduced himself as Carlton. I told him we wanted to see the Singing Caves.

“Yeah, mon” he said, no problem, but first we show you our beautiful town.” I was going to say “but we don’t want to see your beautiful town,” when a Jamaican appeared alongside each of us. Four people. Four guides. Four people to tip. Let “The Ka-Chings begin!”

They took us on a long walk around their village to see things of cultural interest like the 10 huts, five fields and two dairy cows. Finally, the tour ended and we tipped our guides generously. “Now, can we go into the caves?” I asked Carlton.

“This way” Carlton said and led us to a small entrance, where, on cue, the next production began. Carlton clapped his hands and with the choreography of a Broadway musical, a child suddenly scooted up alongside each one of us to take our hands and lead us into the Caves. Four darling kids. Four more Ka-Chings to reckon with.

Carlton lit some candles and began his well-rehearsed speech. “Welcome, men, women and young children to the famous Singing Caves of Manville Town.” The tour had formally begun. I didn’t need John to shed light on the obvious—this was a major way the town earned money. They grew a few crops, milked their cows and milked The Singing Cave for all it was worth.  I don’t mean to sound insensitive; when you visit Jamaica you need to contribute to the economy, but supporting it singlehandedly is another thing. I secretly hoped the tour would end soon and it should have since there were only two rooms to see.

Carlton continued, “Now people, you be ready to experience total darkness for de first time in your lives. The children put out the candles and we were engulfed in complete blackness—well, at first and then it was almost complete blackness and then it was just quite dark. I could easily make out John’s face. It had the terror of projected Ka-Chings written all over it.

As we entered the second room, the children disbursed, ran up some rocks and pulled  back a tarp revealing makeshift musical instruments. Carlton took his position in front of the group to conduct and the secret of the Singing Caves was revealed. The caves didn’t sing at all. The kids did. And, they didn’t sing just one number, oh no, mon. They sang …Ka-Ching!…and sang…Ka-Ching…and sang.

This was the denouement of the tour and we were soon outside again. I grabbed John. “What do we give this guy?” I asked. “Your first born son,” John wisecracked. John and I asked Carlton point blank what the wonderful tour cost. “$50 dollars U.S.” he announced. Whew,” I thought. That’s not too bad. “Per person,” Carlton added.

$200 dollars cash? That was pushing it. I wanted to be fair, I wanted to help the small town out, but I also wanted us to be able to eat the rest of the week.

“Look, Carlton,” I said, “we can’t pay you $200. We don’t even have that much on us.” “We trust you, mon,” he said, “you go get de money and come bock.”

John was less diplomatic. He opened his wallet and said. “All right, Carlton, here’s the deal. You get $100 bucks U.S., take it or leave it.” Carlton took it and was very happy, much to my relief.  “Yeah, mon, no problems.”


Spaghetti con Tonno

 ( Spaghetti with Tuna)                                                     

With ka-chinging ringing in my ears, I present a fabulous dish you can have for a song—not from little Jamaican children—but from big grocery stores where you can buy all the ingredients for just a few bucks. Spaghetti with tuna is very entrepreneurial. Open up two cans of tuna and you’re in business! This dish is the essence of delicious simplicity. The tuna is transformed into something else. Is it chicken of the sea? Sorry, Charlie, it’s fish!

What Youza Need  
2 small cans of tuna (with oil)

4 Tbsp spoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, diced

½ cup parsley, chopped

2 ½ Tbsp oregano

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

1 Tbsp spoon garlic powder

7 leaves of fresh basil

2 bay leaves

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup white wine

1 16 oz can of Italian crushed tomatoes

21 halves of black olives (okay, maybe 22)

8-10 capers (6 antics, they’re stronger)

1 lb thin spaghetti

Sheik Technique   

Fry the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the can of crushed tomatoes. Toss in all the spices and ingredients, including wine and simmer sauce for half an hour. Now add el tonno. Cook for 15 minutes max. Meanwhile, cook the pasta ‘til its al dente. Add the parsley to the sauce. Drain the pasta, pour it into a warm bowl, stir in the sauce and celebrate a dish that’s on the money—KaChing!

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column (Story 7)

December 29, 2010


                  Experience the Joy and Power of Rejection

Have you been totally rejected lately? Have you applied for a job or sent something in to a publisher and received a form rejection back? They’re always the same—impersonal, indifferent, coldly standardized. Don’t despair, Jimbo’s here and I am a master of rejection. In my younger days, I was rejected by countless women. Maybe that was because I looked like Quasimodo and had a hump on my face! But most of my rejections came from magazines that shot down the articles or stories I sent in.

The rejections piled up; in fact, I literally papered the wall with them. Worst of all, they were always form rejections, which inspired my desire for revenge. I found a brilliant way to get back and make a point, which I joyfully share with you now as a way of getting even and who knows?—maybe a way of getting what you want.  I devised this rejection of their rejection letter.

 Dear _____________ Magazine.

 Thank you for your recent submission of a rejection letter to my article suggestion. It has been carefully reviewed by our editorial staff and, unfortunately, has been found unacceptable. This in no way reflects on the quality of your rejection; it simply means that rejection is not suited to our purposes at this time.

We apologize for the form letter, but the sheer number of rejections we receive makes it impossible to respond personally. We wish you luck in rejecting other people and thank you for thinking of rejecting Jim Ardito.

I sent that letter out and got some wonderful responses back from editors, including a rejection of my rejection of their rejection letter. This letter allowed me to establish a relationship with one editor who eventually did publish an article. See? Being a smart aleck and wiseacre can pay off. Rejection? Who needs it? We get enough of it in life—especially if you have a hump on your face! P.S. My picture has been edited.

Lobster Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil)

 (Lobster in Spicy Marinara Sauce)

 Leap from rejection to utter love and acceptance with this dish. In Italian, the “brother devil” in the name comes from the addition of red pepper, which adds nicea spicea.  This is truly my favorite food in the world and that covers a lot of dishes—the essence of lobster permeates every loving spoonful of the sauce and each strand of luscious linguini. When I was growing up, this was our family Christmas Eve, “White Dish” favorite. My mother did not particularly love it or any shellfish, but she wasn’t selfish so she served it anyway. Oh, reject adding parmesan cheese. That’s forbidden with this recipe and most every Italian fish dish.  

 What youza need:

3 Tbls olive oil

10 unclothed cloves of garlic (this dish is spicy!)

1 onion (chopped)

Salt, pepper to taste

¼ cup oregano, 10 leaves fresh basil, garlic powder, 2 bay leaves

4 16 oz. cans Contadina Crushed Tomatoes in Puree (if you’re making this, make a lot)

 2  whole lobsters (3 if you can swing it—Super H market in Niles often has live lobsters for $8.00 a lb)

 Red pepper flakes (shakes to taste)

 ½ cup parsley

 1 ½ cups white wine

 What youza do:

This is gross, but you’re going to have to kill the lobsters or have the fish monger do it.  Is there a humane way to kill a lobster? Is that an oxymoron? Who knows, but I’ve read about this and the jury seems to be out as to whether lobsters feel pain and if you can get a life sentence for killing them? The prevailing opinion is that the best way to do them in is to numb them first in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour, then plunge a sharp knife straight down right behind the eyes. Yikes! Sorry to bring up an indelicate point when discussing a delicacy – and it really is—so don’t hesitate for a second to kill them and cook this anyway. (Sorry, Peta people.)

 After they’re dead and you’ve expressed proper remorse (seriously), cut the belly open. I used to throw out the “tamale” (a.k.a. guts). I now know this is considered a sacrilege since the tamale is a source of much lobster flavor.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions and then the garlic. Remove these babies, add a little more oil, put the lobsters in and sauté them until they turn as crimson as a Cape Cod sunset. Remove lobsters, put onions and garlic back in, add tomatoes, wine and all the spices. Simmer for around an hour. Add lobsters and cook on medium high heat for no more than 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and go read the Brothers Karamazov. In short, wait a long time.

The longer you let this sauce sit, the better. Let it rest for at least three hours, but it’s best if you can keep it in the fridge overnight. This really transforms the dish and I strongly recommend it. Reheat the sauce just before the linguini is done. Cook your pasta al denti, pour it onto a platter and add sauce quickly so the pasta doesn’t get pasty. Place at least one lobster in the center, garnish with parsley and serve proudly. The presentation looks spectacular and the taste is incomparable. Your guests will go wild—expect it and accept it.


My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column (Story 6)

October 31, 2010

                “OMG, I Ticked off the World’s Greatest Writer!”

 Once upon a time, I had a nationally syndicated column called, “Fightin’ Mad.” It appeared in two spots that were dots on the map, plus the not so tiny town of Huntsville, Alabama. One of my biggest distinctions as the “Fightin’ Madman” was managing to tick off Isaac Asimov, whom many people consider to be one of the greatest writers who ever lived. He wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 9,000 letters and postcards. Four of those postcards belong to me. I received them as part of a continuing correspondence that led inexorably to one conclusion: Isaac wanted me to go jump in the lake.

The correspondence came as the result of two downside discoveries. First, that building a highly successful column takes years and is largely a function of how much dough that is poured into its promotion. I had a national syndicate promoting me, but they weren’t exactly big time. Whenever I called and asked for the President, the voice on the other end would yell, “Daddy it’s for you!”   

The other downside of the column was the fact that it was always due. I wrote two columns a week and could never get ahead, which meant vacations were kaput. I came up with an inspired answer, however, called the “Great Guest Writer Request.” The idea was simple: I’d send a letter to the best writers on earth telling them that I needed a vacation and asking them to write my column for me while I took two weeks off. They probably didn’t have anything better to do and if they turned me down, I’d turn their refusals into columns. It was win/win situation. So I wrote.

I sent The Great Guest Writer request to Saul Bellow, E.L. Doctorow, Woody Allen, William Goldman and many others, including Isaac Asimov. The letters went out. The rejections came back, including this surprising denial from Isaac:   

Dear Mr. Ardito,
I figure anyone who asks for a favor should take the trouble of spelling the favor-bestower’s name correctly. You’d be surprised how many favors I don’t have to donate, like the one I don’t have to do for you!

— Isaac Asimov

I was puzzled at that response then checked my correspondence and discovered that  I had somehow managed to spell Isaac’s last name incorrectly. Instead of Asimov, I spelled it Assimov, which doesn’t look so great in print. I was mortified, so I sent him back a letter in which I misspelled every word in the letter, except his name. It started with “Deer Mester Asimov: Yew kant beeleeve howe embareassed eye yam. Howe coud I bee sew stoopid!” You get the idea. I thought this was a riot and was convinced Asimov did too, especially when he sent back this reply

Dear Mr. Ardito:

With your sense of humor, I doubt the rest of us freelance writers need fear much in the  way of competition from you!

 — Isaac Asimov

Ha, ha, ha, I laughed. What a card! He was egging me on, right?  Okay, I thought, if that’s the way he wants to play it, I’ll really let it all hang out, which I did in the following questionably sane note:  

Dear Mr. Asimov:

You are a veritable idol to me. Imagine my dismay, therefore, to learn that the world’s most prolific writer is a bit of a dork?!  How can I model myself after you now that I know you’re Mr. Potato Head? (And it went on from there.)

Four days days later, I got this:

Dear Mr. Ardito:

I see your spelling is improved. Perhaps you don’t find that funny anymore. You have apparently decided to exchange humor for filth. Your choice.  May I have the extreme pleasure of hearing nothing further from you?

–Isaac Asimov

 “OMG!  He had misunderstood it all. He wasn’t kidding and I had managed to tick off one of the greatest writers in existence. I was a human blur putting together another letter that apologized from the bottom of my heart. Imagine my relief when he sent back this note:   

“Dear Mr. Ardito:

Next time, skip the pointless humor and tasteless insults, and move right into the  apology. All is forgiven and forgotten. We can start over.


Whew! I breathed a sigh of relief. “We can start over” he said. So I immediately picked up a pen and paper and wrote, “Dear Mr. Assimov”… Nah, no way I did!

                 OMG—The World’s Most Misunderstood Dish!

                 Spaghetti Allege

                 (Spaghetti with Anchovies)

My whole correspondence with Isaac Asimov was based on misunderstanding. This dish can be misunderstood, too. It is simply phenomenal, but you can’t let anyone know that it contains anchovies. Keep a lid on the pan; when they ask about the sauce, just say, “It’s, err chicken pate,” or “tapenade.” Yeah, that’s a good one. Nobody ever knows what tapenade is. Keep the anchovy part a secret until they take a bite and say, “OMG, this is incredible?” Believe me, no one will mistake or misunderstand was an awesome experience eating this is. Enjoy the prolific compliments.


2 Tbsp olive oil

3 tins anchovies (flat’s where it’s at for me)

Olive oil from all three tins

4 cloves minced garlic

15 fresh basil leaves (gotta be fresh, forget flakes)

1 heaping Tbsp capers

Black pepper

Red pepper flakes to taste

1/2 to 1 cup pasta water

1 lb spaghetti

Elected Method

Start your pasta water boiling because this dish can be ready in a nanosecond. In a small pan, heat up the olive oil and fry out the garlic. Add the anchovies, including the oil from the cans. Heat and stir until they the anchovies form a paste. Add basil, pepper, capers and 1/4 cup pasta water to the anchovy mixture. Just before the spaghetti is done, add another ½ cup pasta water to your pasta bowl. It will soak up water like crazy. Pour the pasta in the bowl, quickly stir in the mixture and serve immediately. By the way, don’t have a Caesar salad with this dish; that was Mark Anchovy’s downfall! Get it? See that’s the sense of humor, Isaac misunderstood! Maybe that’s because he didn’t have one.

My Funny/Yummy “Food 4 Thought” Column Story 5

October 16, 2010

                The Practically Perfect Gift  

 These days, kids get fantastic presents. Imagine unwrapping a laptop computer, X-Box or iPhone for your birthday or Christmas? Presents were not quite so glorious back in the (ahem) good old days when my brother Dave, my sister Carol and I were growing up. Not only because the toy market was dull in the Jurassic period when the hot seller was “Mud,” but also because we were forever getting “practical” gifts from our parents.

This was especially true on Christmas when we got a few toys, but also received pajamas, belts, gloves, swimming lessons, dental floss, and life insurance policies. Believe me, it was hard  to express appreciation for Term Life Insurance as a present. Nonetheless, we tried to show some enthusiasm…”Gee, Mom and Dad, just what we wanted, Term Life. And the premium’s so cheap.” 

There was one toy we wanted more than anything and we bugged my parents about it for years. We wanted a LIONEL TRAIN SET with lots of cars and miles of track and an electric control panel and a little red caboose pulling up the rear. Was that too much to ask from Santa, from the Gods, and from parents who supposedly loved you?!  Yes, especially since these parents were practical to a fault.

My mom told us that a train set was out of the question, but we still held out hope. Late at night, I would hear Dave in the bed next to me going, “Chugga, chugga, chugga, whoo, whoo! And I would respond, “Engineer, slam on the brakes there’s a girl tied to the tracks ahead!” And Dave would answer, “Then let’s go faster you (bleep!)” And we’d laugh hysterically because we never ever swore.

Dreaming seemed the best we could do until we encountered the “Miracle on 31 Millis Street” when a huge package arrived before Christmas that was about 10 feet long, five feet wide. It took two men to carry it into the house as Dave and I watched in amazement. My mother immediately said, “Now, boys, promise you won’t touch this package before Christmas.” Well, that was the clincher. It could only be one thing—a board with train tracks attached to it, that’s what!  We celebrated in private as we hugged each other and chanted, “Chugga-chugga, whoo, whoo!”

Christmas morning we dashed to that package and shredded the wrapping, when what to our wondrous eyes should appear, but a great, big, wonderful—ping pong table.

A PING-PONG TABLE? Oh, no, Joe, say it isn’t so.  Our hearts were smashed to smithereens, but somehow we managed to utter the expected words, “Thanks mom and dad for the ping-pong table. It’s just what we wanted.”

My mother stiffened her lip and said, “Look boys, I know you had your hearts set on a train set, but I guarantee you’ll love this present if you give it a chance.”

And she was right. That stupid ping-pong table did turn out to be the practically perfect gift. We got enormous enjoyment out of it and Dave and I became so good we eventually became New England Ping Pong Doubles Champions! Nah, that’s a lie. We did get good though and my sister got great use out of it in high school, hitting the ball once every five minutes when she was making out in our basement with Pete Barberi.

Ironically, years later, my brother and his wife Lois found themselves confronted with the same dilemma when their son, Jude (a.k.a. Ben) desperately wanted a train set for Christmas. They weighed the fleeting, razzle-dazzle of the train set compared to something a lot more practical that Jude would appreciate for years and they made the only decision they could – they picked the “Train set, the train set, the Lionel train set!” “Chugga-chugga, whoo, whoo!”

                    SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

Where do you weigh in with practicality versus passion? Are you a sense or sensibility person? Is it possible to classify political parties along the same lines? Are Democrats usually opting for train sets for everyone and Republicans always buying underwear and life insurance? Maybe parties could try switching roles sometimes and Democrats could buy train cars filled with underwear?  Post your comments here and open them up for discussion.

                        Today’s Thoughtful Fabulous Italian Recipe          

                       Spaghetti con Lenticchie

                       (Spaghetti with Lentils)

In Hamlet, Polonious gives the following advice to his son, Laertes—“Neither a borrower nor a lentil be,” which shows you that in literature and life, lentils don’t get the time of day.  Too bad.  Lentils are yummy if you know a few things. For one, don’t eat lentils as a snack. They will crack your teeth. You’ve got to soak lentils overnight, or cook them for at least 1 ½  hours with a lot of water to make them edible. Also, don’t confuse lentils that you eat with lintels that are used for structural support. If you try to eat those lintels you will not only crack your teeth, you would be a complete “stoonod,” as we Italians say.

Spaghetti with Lentils is a perfectly practical dish because it tastes absolutely delicious and is also very good for you. Like a ping pong table, however, you’ve got to give this a chance. I had something else to add, but I lost my train of thought. “Chuggg, chugga, Whoo whoo!


2 cloves of minced garlic

2 cups chicken broth (or aqua)

3 tbsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil as Rachel Ray would say)

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Chunk of salt port, or if that grosses you out, 3 or four pieces of bacon

2 cups dry lentils

1 lb spaghetti

Cooking Method

Sauté the garlic in the olive oil. Pour in 2 cups of chicken broth (you can use water if you want). Add the lentils and salt, pepper, and hot pepper to taste. Add the salt pork or the raw (yes raw) bacon strips. Cover and simmer for at least an hour and a half, until the lentils are cooked and soft. You may have to add more chicken broth or water as you cook. You want this to be  quite soupy when you add it to the pasta. Speaking of that, boil water, break the spaghetti in two and cook it. When it’s al dente (firm to the tooth, but not as firm to the tooth as a lintel), add the lentils and love it up. Everyone, even Laertes, will want to borrow this recipe.

My Funny/Yummy “Food 4 Thought” Column Story 4

October 16, 2010

                        The Fists of “Young Faithful”

They say kid’s like routine, in which case, I should have loved the fact that when I was  growing up, I could count on Howie Larson to beat the heck out of me up every day after grammar school.  He did this with the dependability of “Young Faithful,” blowing his stack at precisely 3:15 p.m., erupting with a flurry of fists that he reined upon me day after day, month after month or for at least three weeks anyway.

I tried to avoid this, not only because it was painful, but because my mother always said, “Fighting is wrong, boys. You should try to talk things out or tell a grownup if someone is bothering you.” Yeah, easy for my mother to say, she wasn’t being pummeled by Howie Larson’s fast flying fists. I tried to talk to him. Whack, he smacked me. I turned the other cheek. Whack, he smacked the other cheek! I told the teacher. She wanted to smack me! I had it rough.  

I tired other routes to get home, but Howie was always there. It was like he could read my mind and had ESP—Extra Special Punches—for trying to avoid him.

I relay this casually, but it was a terrible thing in my life. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and told my mom what was going on. She marched me over to Howie’s house where we had your basic kid/kid, mom/mom confrontation. The downside of this encounter was my complete humiliation. On the upside, Howie did promise not beat to me up anymore. Unfortunately, he meant that day
Eventually, Howie’s horrible assaulting ended.  This was not due to him becoming bored with the routine. It had more to do with my father’s surprising advice to, “Quit being a baby and whack him back,” which is precisely what I did.  The next day when Howie stopped me and started his fist barrage, I somehow found the courage to make a fist and let it fly. I slugged him in the upper chest, though I was aiming for his face. That didn’t matter. He was in shock and awe and started running. I ran after him shaking my fists – my newly found weapons of mass destruction— while yelling, “You’d better run, Howie Larson, cause I’m gonna’ hurt you bad!”

I eventually stopped chasing him. The next day in the playground he came up to me, but instead of wanting to beat me up, he wanted to know if I could come over after school and play. Imagine that, fight fans! Imagine my even greater surprise when I said, “Sure.” After that we became terrific friends, which is how it goes, isn’t it? We hung around together all the time, playing football, building forts, picking on other kids—you know, fun stuff.  

                           SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?

What are the lessons learned from this story?  Choose from the possibilities below or come up with your own conclusions and post them here.  

Possible Story Conclusions (pick one or more):

a)  When kids punch you in the face or maim you, it may be because they’re still learning how to channel their emotions correctly. Or, they are possessed by Satan!

b)  The ““slap-each-other-silly” method of eventually becoming friends is a painful way to create long-term friendships. Howie and I learned this. It has also been discovered by Muslims and Christians, the Pakistani army and the Taliban, the ethnic and tribal groups in Darfur, and Sara Palin and the liberal media. Becoming pals by constantly beating each other up leaves too many people dead and without hands to shake when you’re through fighting. Here’s a thought…Maybe everybody’s mother needs to be told about what’s going on in the world. The moms could line up and shout, “Now, you boys play nice. Don’t make us come over there!”  

                         THIS WEEK’S THOUGHTFUL RECIPE


                     Pasta con oilo e aglio

                    (Pasta a la Frank Sinatra)


Supposedly, Frank Sinatra loved this dish. I didn’t steal it from Frankie—you’d have to be nuts. I stole it from my cousin, Patricia Riess who lives in Lake Forest, is a heck of a cook and a true lover of all things Italian. This recipe is perfect because Frank Sinatra was known to let his fists fly and he sure could belt one out there, which would have endeared him to Howie.

This recipe is really simple and a staple in most Italian households when there’s nothing in the pantry or you only have 10 minutes to cook dinner and still want a winner, though it won’t make you thinner so get the water to simmer and shut up already! “Stat da zit!”  We toss fresh basil into the olive oil (frozen in the winter) to add a little more flavor. Take it or leave it, or follow Sinatra’s and Howie’s advice, “Do it my way, or I’ll punch in your face!”

What Youza Need

½  cup extra virgin olive oil (or very little foolin’ around)

4 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt & pepper

Few shakes red pepper flakes

½  cup Italian parsley, chopped

½ cup parmesan cheese, grated (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano)

1 lb fettuccini, linguini, or spaghetti

What Youza Do

Boil water and start cooking the pasta right away cause this can be whipped up in the blink of a black eye. In a large frying pan, add the olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper and garlic. Sauté garlic until it’s done, but for heaven’s sake don’t burn it! Jeez, do I have to tell you everything?!  What you need is a good smack. Drain the pasta when it is done (never rinse) and add pasta to the olive oil in pan. Add lotsa parmesan cheese, mix and plate it. Mangia! Peace on earth. Good fill to men.


My Funny/Yummy “Food 4 Thought” Column Story 3

October 16, 2010

                          The Man Who Could Eat Bones

Every kid should have an Uncle Sal in their lives—a completely riveting character full of magic, mysteries and joie de vivre. So what if he gambled away thousands on the horses or broke his promises to my brother, father and his wife—these were flaws that made him such a man in full and so hugely memorable.

Uncle Sal was my mother’s sister, Abby’s husband—a dark, handsome, guy who wore a fedora, smoked a pipe and was delightfully old school Italian. He sported an Italian tee on hot summer days, wolfed down huge quantities of pasta and drank his fair share of red wine at family get-togethers. He was also short like the rest of us. Boy, were we ever a bunch of munchkins. The twenty or so members of the immediate family could have had any holiday dinner in a closet with plenty of room for the kids’ table.

Other relatives I loved mostly because I had to. Uncle Sal, I loved with abandon. How and why? Let me count the ways…

                          Stasher of Cash and Bone-ified Hero

 I loved Uncle Sal for four primary reasons.

He hid thousands in cash in the wall of his basement. Uncle Sal loved to gamble and hid as much as $5,000 behind some bricks in the basement of his house. My mother revealed this to me in a “facts of family life discussion” that was fairly horrifying to sit through. My mother also revealed that my Aunt Abby, who knew of her husband’s vice,  took an interesting strategic approach to curbing his gambling—she spent their money before he could lose it—a new sofa here, a dining room table there. I think they were the first on our block to own a big screen TV—10 inches!  

Uncle Sal could control traffic lights. Whenever we drove to visit my Aunt Ella in Wethersfield, we’d hit The Berlin Turnpike, a 15-mile stretch of road with dozens of traffic lights. One day, when I was riding in Uncle Sal’s car he said to me. “Jim, I can control traffic lights with my mind and I won’t hit one from now until we get to Aunt Ellas.” And he did it. Holy, macaroni! He never told me that the traffic lights were speed controlled and if you drove 45 miles per hour on the bean, you’d never hit one. Of such stuff, are legends made. 

Uncle Sal could eat bones!  One night when we were having “Sunday Sauce” with pasta for dinner, Uncle Sal said to me, “Jimmy, I can eat bones.”  “What?” I questioned. Uncle Sal explained, “I have such powerful teeth, I can crush and eat bones. Watch.”  And he took a sparerib with a bone in it, stuffed it into his mouth and downed it all. No ogre from any fairy tale could have ground bones better. “Wow!” I blurted. “How did you do that??” “Years of  practice and pain,” said Uncle Sal. And I believed this bone-ified hero.  Years  later, after I  became a cook, I learned that spareribs simmered in sauce for hours have all the backbone of  butter. They’re incredibly tender. Prove it for yourself with the yummy, authentically Italian recipe for sauce below, which can also be found online at www.what’

 My final reason for loving Uncle Sal? He loved me and I knew it. He was  always glad to see me and encouraged my argumentative skills telling me for years  that I’d make a great lawyer. It was mostly because of Uncle Sal that I did go to  Law School—and promptly dropped out after six months. Uncle Sal had no clue about what it takes to be a lawyer and I was going to tell him that after I bolted, but I changed my mind when I saw him. No sense making bones about it.

                     What Do You Think?

 Was Uncle Sal wrong for lying (ok, exaggerating) like he did to an impressionable kid? How do you think he broke his promise to my father and brother and why were they ticked at him for years? Tell me what you think and find out the additional revealing Uncle Sal truths in my slightly longer column online at  where you can post your comments and achieve publishing fame if they’re cool enough 
                     This Week’s Throughtful Recipe:

                     Ardito’s  Sunday Gravy

                (Super- Authentic Old World Italian Red Sauce)

So folks, this is the recipe noted in the story above. It’s for thick, rich Italian sauce with meatballs and sausage and spare ribs in it that get so tender they fall off the bone and into your heart forever.  Just like “The Man Who Could Eat Bones,” this sauce is full of spice and life and everything after that is just, well, gravy.

Here in Chicago, Italians call sauce “gravy,” which we never did out East. FYI, I used to think you could cook this sauce all day, but now I know three hours is about the max if you still want to be able to actually see or pick up a meatball. The real trick is letting this sauce rest. I cook it on Saturday and stick it in the fridge overnight. By Sunday it is amazingly rich and flavorful.


What It Takes:

1/3rd cup olive oil

1 large red onion nicely diced

1 mess minced garlic (1 mess =7 cloves)

10 leaves fresh/frozen basil (if you think Basil’s fresh, you should meet Rosemary, HeerHwrb’s sister).

Other spices, including lotsa shakes basil flakes (see below for specific amounts), oregano, garlic powder, fresh thyme (search for it because you can’t always find thyme ), half-cup chopped parsley (I’m partial to parsley), sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 bay leaves (needn’t be San Francisco Bay leaves)

1 cup decent red wine (something with a year rather than a month)

4 16 oz. cans crushed Italian tomatoes, what the heck, use 5 so you can freeze the leftovers 

1 1/2 lbs mild Italian sausage

1 lb hot Italian sausage

2 1/2  lbs spare ribs

8-10 neata meata balls (I use 3/4 lb ground beef and 3/4 lb ground pork mixed together. To this, add 1 egg, salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, garlic powder, oregano flakes, basil flakes, 1/3rd cup sautéed onions, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/3rd cup of parmesan cheese and 1 ½ cups crumbled stale bread. Form into 1 ½ inch balls and brown in olive on every side at a pretty high temp)

1 lb spaghetti, ziti, gnocci, mezzani, mostacolli, cavatelli, ditali, fusili, ravioli, etc.


How Youza Make 

Begin with ½ cup of wine. Drink it. Then you can really start cooking! Use a heavy bottom pan and fry onions in 3 tbsp olive oil. When it gets transparent, tell it you can see right through it. Add minced garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Remove onions and garlic and set aside. Season both sides of the meat (sausage and spareribs only) with salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil and oregano then add ¼ cup  more oil to the pan and brown meat on fairly high heat. To save time, use two more pans with oil or browning can take eons. Remove meat, wipe bottom of pans with paper towel to remove some grease but preserve seasonings. Add a little of the wine to deglaze.

Add all cans of crushed tomatoes. Add sautéed onions and garlic plus fresh basil. Now season with spices and the wine. How much of each do you add?  You had to ask, right?  Salt and pepper to taste, but enough, ok? 15 shakes each of basil and oregano flakes (I almost cover the surface). 3 tbsp garlic power. Only a few shakes of red pepper and 3 bay leaves. Simmer for ½ hour, then add meat. Cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Let this sauce rest in the pot overnight in the fridge. It will be a totally different sauce if you do. Simply re-heat and pour over your favorite pasta. Abondonza.