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In an Italian household part of the legacy that is passed down to the children are the recipes.  They are often unique from family to family although they are usually popular staples in the Italian kitchen.   Each family will often add a special little touch to the recipe which makes it uniquely their own.  


Getting these recipes is often a difficult task since the secret ingredient is just that, a well guarded secret.  Often the only way the daughters learn to make the recipes are by being there in the kitchen with Mom when she prepares it for a family gathering.    I stood along side Mom for every major family gathering and took close notice of the “special recipes.”


My Mom, however was not as secretive as most and even was gracious enough to write them down in a simple black and white notebook which as you can see above, is today yellowed with age.  What makes the perfection of these secret recipes so tough is that Italians rarely use measuring implements to prepare a beloved dish.   It is more likely that they will add “a dash of this,” or  “a pinch of that” and I have furiously scoured every kitchen store known to man never to find a measuring spoon with the dash or pinch indication on it.

Thankfully Mom took pity on me and managed to transcribe most of her recipes using traditional measuring components. However, among these treasured recipes are a few passed on by Grandma Patti and she wasn’t quite as kind.    So if you are adventurous, get out the pots and pans and give the accompanying recipes a try.  You will not be disappointed!

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Stuffed Sausage Pizza (Mom’s New Year’s Eve Tradition)




Every New Year’s Eve Mom would be in the kitchen at the stove preparing her famous sausage pizza. She timed it perfectly so that it would be hot out of the oven at precisely midnight, so that after we toasted, (adults with champagne kids with sparkling cider,) we would all bite into a delectable piece of her pizza.  What is great about this recipe is many of us liked it as much cold out of the fridge, as hot out of the oven.               


So for days following New Year’s Eve you could not pass the fridge without seeing someone’s butt as they stood at the door and picked up pieces of the tasty pizza, guarding it from the rest of the crowds.



Pizza or Bread Dough



  • 2 packages of yeast compressed or dry


  • 1/2 cup water (lukewarm for compressed yeast, warm for dry)

  • 2 cups boiling water


  • 2 tbsp. Oil


  • 6 cups sifted enriched flour


  • 1-2 eggs (if wanted)


Soften yeast in 1/2 cup water.  To boiling water, add shortening, sugar and salt.  Cool to lukewarm.  Add 2 cups of flour and beat until smooth.  Add softened yeast (eggs, if wanted) and about 2 more cups of flour.  Beat well again. Cover and let rise in a warm place until light and bubbly (about 45 minutes). Beat down and add enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough.  Turn out on floured board or pastry cloth and knead until smooth and satiny.  Place in greased bowl cover and let rise (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down. Let rise again and punch down again. ( You can buy pre-made pizza dough at most grocery stores if you want to make this recipe easier and less time consuming.)



Filling for Pizza



  • 2 lbs hot sausage


  • 1 small mozzarella


  • 2 eggs


  • Handful of grating cheese (preferably Loccatelli Romano)

  • Salt (about 1 tsp or to taste)


Cut sausage and mozzarella in small pieces.  Add eggs, grating cheese and salt. Mix all ingredients together.  Put oil in oblong pan (13 1/2 by 8 3/4).  Divide dough in half, fit to shape of pan. Put filling on top. Cover with remaining dough.  Join top and bottom layers of dough together so that filling is completely covered, with a fork pinch holes in dough. Coat top of dough lightly with oil. Bake at 350◦ for about 1 hour (after 1/2 hour turn pizza over carefully, again oil pan) If dough is still oily when removed from oven put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.

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Not everyone liked sausage, so there was always another pizza in the oven on New Year’s Eve.  It was a Sicilian specialty known as Sfincione.       This is a very basic recipe with a few key changes. To begin with Sicilian pizza is square not round. The sauce has more of an onion flavor and it is topped with Italian seasoned bread crumbs. Once ready to go into the oven it is then covered and baked for about 20 minutes.


The Dough


1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)


1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


1 teaspoon salt



In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, stirring to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes.


Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all mixed together and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until the dough is smooth but still slightly sticky. You might not need all of the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes. Oil a large mixing bowl with remaining olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place, free from drafts until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.




1 cup of tomato sauce 1/2 cup of onion

8 ounces of mozzarella cheese sliced Locatelli or Pecorino Romano grating cheese 1/2 cup of Italian flavored bread crumbs



Roll out dough into a square form using flour or corn meal to keep dough from sticking while rolling it out. Dice onion as small as you can either by hand or using a food processor.  Place tomato sauce over dough, sprinkle onions, place sliced mozzarella cheese on top, sprinkle with grating cheese and cover with Italian seasoned bread crumbs.  Place in oven with a larger pan covering the pizza.  Cook at 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.


Cioppino (Fish Stew)

My father’s family is from Sicily in Southern Italy.  Their fish recipes are to die for since this was the main staple of their diet.  This is a warm comfort food that you will adore.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  • 2 cups sliced onions


  • 4-5 minced garlic cloves


  • 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes


  • 1 cup white wine


  • 1 eight ounce can tomato sauce


  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


  • 1 tsp salt


  • 1 tsp basil


  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning


  • 1/2 tsp oregano


  • 1/4 tsp pepper


  • 1 dozen live clams (closed in the shell)


  • 1 1/2 lbs large shrimp (in the shell)


  • 1 lb firm white fish fillets such as Halibut cut in one inch cubes

  • 1 large crab, in pieces cracked and cleaned


  • 1/2 lb small scallops




Slice the onions into rings. Sauté onions and minced garlic in olive oil. Add all sauce ingredients (Onions to pepper). Simmer

1 1/2 - 2 hours. Add to the simmering sauce in the following order: (Cook a couple of minutes between each addition) Clams (in the shell), Shrimp (in the shell), firm fish, Crab, scallops if desired.  Simmer until the clams are open and the fish and prawns are done. Serve with crusty sourdough bread and butter.

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Pasta Fagioli

No Italian family can go very long without making a bowl of pasta fagioli.         It is like peanut butter and jelly in most homes, a definite staple.


  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil


  • 2 tbsp minced garlic


  • 1 diced onion


  • 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce


  • 1 15 ounce can cannelini beans (white northern beans)

  • 1 cup of water


  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning


  • 1/2 tsp basil


  • 1/2 tsp oregano


  • 1 lb dittalini pasta


  • Grated Locatelli Romano cheese


Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Empty can of cannelini beans into the pan and then fill can with water and add that to the mix (this will give you part of the water listed in the ingredients and will also provide a bit more flavoring from the beans.)     Let cook for 5 minutes and then add the tomato sauce.


Boil pasta in a separate pot and when slightly al dente drain and pour it into the pot with the sauce. Let cook for 20-30 minutes and then serve with Locatelli Romano generously sprinkled on top.

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Stuffed Mushrooms

This is a family tradition as an appetizer at every holiday dinner and it is so simple.

  • 1 package of mushrooms

  • Italian style bread crumbs

  • Butter

  • Crushed garlic

  • Cheddar or mozzarella cheese


Wash mushrooms and tear stems off.   You will just be using only the caps. Place them on a microwavable dish and microwave for 5-8 minutes or until mushrooms are tender(depending on quantity and size of mushrooms they may need additional time.)


In the meantime in a small sauce pan take a stick of butter, add garlic to it and melt it slowly on the stove.  Once butter is melted slowly add bread crumbs until mixture becomes solid and remove from flame. Spoon mixture into the mushroom caps.


Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese (or you can substitute mozzarella cheese) and place in microwave for 5-8 minutes or until cheese is melted.



This is my favorite dessert of all.  When you view the ingredients it sounds like a weird combination of flavors but trust me….it is wonderful.


16 ounces of Ricotta


1/2 cup of sugar

2 eggs


8 ounces of candied fruit


1 Hershey chocolate bar cut in pieces


3 cups long grain rice Plain bread crumbs Vegetable oil




Cook rice until it is a bit on the sticky side, set aside to cool.   Mix ricotta cheese, sugar, chocolate

pieces, one egg, and candied fruit together.  Take rice in your hand forming half of a ball, place the ricotta mixture inside the rice and take another scoop of rice to cover filling and form into a rice ball about the size of a baseball.


Place remaining egg in a bowl mix it up and set aside.  Fill a dish with plain bread crumbs. Take Orangina (rice ball) and dip it  into the egg and then roll it in plain bread crumbs until it is completely covered. Heat oil until a drop of water dropped into the oil sizzles. Carefully drop Orangina into the oil using a slotted spoon.  Let it remain in the oil until the bread crumbs turn golden brown. 


Remove to a plate covered in paper towels to absorb oil.  Drizzle honey over the finished Orangina….and enjoy!

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Cassatta Cake

This was the adult’s birthday cake. For every major birthday, and come to think of it holiday as well, Grandma always made a Cassatta cake. Even my Aunt Jackie, my Dad’s sister, who never ever cooked managed to continue the tradition of the Cassatta cake once Grandma was too feeble to do it herself. I have to say, Grandma’s was the best, but the rest of the family all gave it their best shot to keep up the tradition.  My Mom, did the best job so here is her recipe.



  • 1 lb ricotta cheese


  • 2 packages of lady fingers


  • 1 container of candied fruits


  • 1 chopped chocolate bar


  • Fresh Strawberries (optional)


  • Vanilla extract (just a drop)


  • Sweet vermouth (for dipping lady fingers)



Dip lady fingers in sweet vermouth and place in tin side by side in layer formation. Mix ricotta until smooth and add all other ingredients above. Put mixture in between layers of lady fingers. Put in freezer 1 hour before serving.  Add whipped cream on top and cherries.



These festive little balls of heaven were always made at Christmas, and sometimes even Easter.          The recipe is simple although the cooking of them a bit time consuming. They are one of those foods that once you start eating you just can’t stop.



  • 6 eggs


  • 1 lb of flour


  • Crisco shortening


  • Honey (warmed)


  • Multi colored round sprinkles(to top.)



Add a little bit of Crisco to the flour. Then add eggs.  Pull small amounts of the dough off and roll between your palms to form little balls. Deep fry in a large pot of hot oil, or in a deep fryer. When you have finished all of the dough stack them together on a large plate and heat honey and drip it generously over the balls. Then sprinkle the multi colored ball shaped confetti on top of the file of honey soaked balls. These can only be eaten with your fingers so bring plenty of napkins or hand wipes along to the party.



These are the Italian doughnuts that you will often find at street festivals and flea markets.       The recipe is simple and they are delicious.



  • 2 tsp baking powder.


  • 1 cup+ of flour.


  • 2 eggs


  • Butter (optional)


  • 1/4 cup sugar


  • 1/2 cup milk (tepid)



Beat eggs.  Add flour gradually (butter if desired can also be added). Mix in all ingredients gradually. Form into medium size balls and fry in hot oil until light brown.  Cool and sprinkle with powered sugar. Honey can be used on top also, but I prefer powdered sugar.


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Nanna’s Cookies

Grandma Patti used to make these cookies for every occasion when the kids would be around. We loved them and could eat them quicker than she could bake them.



  • 3 eggs


  • 1/2 cup sugar


  • 1/2 cup melted spry (or Crisco)


  • 3 tsp baking powder


  • 1 orange grated or 1-2 tsp vanilla


  • Flour (as much as it takes)



Mix eggs, sugar, spry, baking powder, and orange or vanilla and add as much flour as is needed. Roll in flour and bake as a long single roll.  Bake until brown.  Then cool and cut into pieces to form cookies.

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Saviad (Italian lady fingers)

  • 4 eggs


  • 1 cup sugar


  • 2 tsp baking powder


  • 2 cups sifted flour


  • A pinch of salt


  • 1 tbsp. anise extract (can use vanilla, or lemon also)



Beat eggs and sugar together.  Add the remaining ingredients.   Grease two cake pans. Fill them up about 1/4 inch thick and bake at 375 degrees until a light golden brown. Slice into strips and serve.

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The World’s Best Bolognese Sauce

  • 2 carrots


  • 1 yellow onion


  • 4 garlic cloves


  • 3 celery stalks


  • 1/2 pound of prosciutto or lamb


  • 8 ounces of pepperoni


  • 1 3/4 pounds fresh tomatoes


  • 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes


  • 10 ounces beef round


  • 7 ounces boneless pork


  • 1/4  cup olive oil


  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter


  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste


  • 2 anchovy fillets


  • 1 cup meat stock


  • 1/2 cup Sherry or Port


  • 1/2 cup Marsala or Madeira


  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 1/2 cup Locatelli or Pecorino Romano grated cheese

  • Cayenne to taste



Peel the carrots; cut lengthwise in strips and then dice into small pieces. Peel and mince the onion and garlic. Finely dice the celery.  Cut the prosciutto in small cubes. Blanch the fresh tomatoes, then peel; cut in half, remove the seeds, and dice finely.  Drain the canned tomatoes and chop coarsely.  Grind the meat coarsely.  Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the carrot.  Add the onion and garlic to the carrots and cook until golden brown, stirring constantly.  Stir in the chopped celery then add the chopped parsley and cook until all the vegetables are soft.  Add the ground meat and lightly brown it, stirring and breaking it up so it becomes crumbly. Add the prosciutto or lamb, pepperoni, and vegetable mixture and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add half of the butter and then the diced fresh tomatoes. Add the canned tomatoes and stir all the ingredients together thoroughly. Simmer briefly uncovered. Stir in the tomato paste.    


Let the sauce simmer a little to evaporate excess liquid.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper and simmer at least one hour, leaving the lid slightly ajar so that steam can escape. Add sugar, if desired, and simmer 30 minutes longer.

Add the rest of the butter, and season to taste. Must have bread and a glass of Sherry to indulge while preparing the sauce.  You won’t be able to stop dipping the bread in the sauce as it simmers.

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Mom’s Italian Cheesecake

For Filling:


  • 3 lbs ricotta cheese


  • 6 eggs


  • 1 cup sugar


  • 2 tsps. vanilla extract


  • 1 1/2 tsps. cinnamon


  • 1 tbs lemon juice


  • 4 tsps. Butter



For Crust:


  • 3 cups flour


  • 1 cup sugar


  • 1 1/2 tsps. salt


  • 1/4 cup cold water


  • 3 tbs. vegetable shortening


  • 2 eggs



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add eggs to cheese and mix in sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon juice.

Set aside.  Mix crust ingredients until they come together.  Divide dough so 2/3 is in one ball and 1/3 is in another ball. On a lightly floured board, roll out the larger ball until it is about 12 inches long and 16 inches wide. Carefully place the dough in a 9” x 13” glass baking dish. Pour filling into the crust and dot with 4 pats of butter. Roll out remaining dough and cut into long strips. Criss-cross the dough in a wide lattice formation over the top of the filling. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until golden brown and a knife inserted in the cheesecake comes out clean.  Serve at room temperature.



No Italian dinner is complete without a Cannoli for dessert.   My Mom’s recipe includes the shells so the entire dessert is from scratch.   However, unless you have the Cannoli forms and a lot of patience you might find it a lot easier to simply buy the preformed shells and simply fill them with this mouthwatering filling. If you are very adventurous, then give the shells a try, but it does take some practice to get them just right.

The Shells


  • 4 cups all purpose flour


  • 2 tbs. sugar


  • 1/4 tsp. salt


  • 3 tbs. butter, softened


  • 2 egg yolks


  • 3/4 cup white wine


  • Shortening for frying





  • 4 cups whole milk ricotta

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  • 1 tbs vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries

  • 1/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips



To Make Shells



To make shells, mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter. Add egg yolks; stir with a fork. Stir in wine, 1 tablespoon at a time, with a fork until dough clings together. Form a ball with the dough and let stand for 30 minutes. Roll dough almost paper thin, on a well-floured surface. Using the rim of a margarita glass (about 3-4 inches across), make circle imprints into rolled dough. Using a paring knife, make sure circles are cut all the way through. Roll each circle of dough around a metal cannoli tube, overlapping the ends and press to

seal, flaring out the edges slightly. Fry one or two


at a time in hot melted shortening (about 360°F) for approximately 1 minute, turning to brown all sides. Remove from hot grease and drain on paper towels, seam side down. Let cool a minute or two before trying to remove metal tube. To remove the tube hold cannoli shell down on the paper towel and carefully slide the tube out one end. Leave cannoli shells on paper towel, seam side down to cool completely. You can make the shells a few days in advance and store them in an airtight container.




For Filling:


For filling, drain ricotta cheese over cheesecloth if ricotta is watery. Combine ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until combined. Squeeze Maraschino cherries with paper towels to remove all liquid. (If you don't squeeze them good, you will have a pink water filling!).      Stir in cherries and chocolate chips into the ricotta mixture, being careful not to over mix. For a lighter filling, you may whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream to form stiff peaks, and fold into filling mixture at this step. Chill filling for about 30 minutes before piping into cooled cannoli


shells. You may garnish the cannoli by sprinkling powdered sugar on top or by topping with sprinkles. Whipped cream, a cherry, and shaved chocolate can also be used to garnish the top. Keep refrigerated until time of serving.

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Rainbow Cookies

My kids love these cookies. They are easy to find in New York, but a total challenge to locate on the West Coast. Once you try this recipe you will be hooked.



  • 8 ounces almond paste


  • 1 cup of butter


  • 2 cups flour


  • 1 cup sugar


  • 3 eggs


  • 16 ounces of seedless raspberry jam


  • 4 ounces apricot jam


  • 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chip


  • 6 drops red food coloring


  • 6 drops blue food coloring


Cream togther almond paste, butter, eggs and sugar. Add flour slowly. Mix until all combined     Separate dough into three equal parts in separate bowls. Add red food coloring to one bowl.       Add blue to the other. You can color the other bowl if you prefer. Spray a cookie sheet with vegetable spray. Spread dough onto tray.  Repeat using remaining trays and dough. Bake

350 degrees for ten Let cool.         


When cool, invert onto hard surface like counter tops lined with saran wrap or parchment paper. Take red cookie layer and spread with half of the raspberry jam. Place blue layer on top.          

Spread blue layer with raspberry jam. Place plain layer on top. Wrap in saran wrap and place a heavy book on top for at least 8 hours or overnight if you prefer.  After it has rested, dilute apricot jam in water and heat over stove. Spread thinly on top layer. Cool. Melt chocolate. Spread evenly on top of apricot jam. Refrigerate until chocolate has set. Cut into squares in the amount of your choice.

Thank you for reading my book or listening to my audiobook!  I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear from you.  Should you have any questions or require clarification on any of my recipes, you can contact me at or feel free to fill out the contact form below.

Mille Gracie,

Judith A. Habert

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