May Recipe of the Month: Simple Frittata

I have fallen behind on my post for my recipe of the month. I do apologize but life has gotten crazy.

One of my favorite foods is the classic Italian egg dish- the Frittata. It is so simple to make, it doesn’t require much prep work and it is oh so delicious.

The best part is it makes the best lunch the next day. A slice of cold frittata between two slices of Italian bread, that is just delightful.

fritata25_17-16-09_923A Frittata differs from an omelette in the way they are made. A Frittata can be made on a stove top or oven and is an Italian dish. It is an open faced omelette of sorts, and can be made with a plethora of ingredients; it is thick and hearty dish. A traditional omelette on the other hand is always made on the stove top, cooked in a little butter and rolled and folded over- think like a business envelope. It is thin, seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh herbs.

Below is my recipe for a simple Frittata. It is a quick and delicious dish and perfect for these chilly spring nights. Serve a side salad and some crusty Italian bread to make it a complete meal. This a peasant meal fit for a king.

Buon Appetito,


Nicky D Cooks: Simple Frittata
Copyright 2012 recipe first appeared on Ciao Pittsburgh 11/ 16/12


2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium potatoes (red bliss), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
6-7 eggs beaten with a few tablespoons of water
1 medium onion- chopped
Grated Italian Cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Cook the potato slices in a skillet on a medium heat. Do not crowd the pan and lay the potato slices across bottom of the pan. Cook until they are golden on both sides.
Beat the eggs in another bowl with the water- season with salt and pepper.

Pour the beaten eggs over the potatoes. Move the eggs so that they are evenly distributed throughout the pan.

Turn heat to medium low and cook until the eggs are almost done.

Pan-cover the skillet with another frying pan (same size) and flip it so it is now upside down in the other pan. Let it cook in that pan. Cover and let cook another few minutes until the eggs are done in the center.

Mother In- Law of the Year (Or Why My Mother In-Law is Way Better Than Yours)

first appeared on ciao pittsburgh May 8, 2015

ground hogI was so nervous to meet my future mother in-law. I knew very little about her other than she was Italian. I will be the first to admit this, Italian women are tough, especially when it comes to their sons.

In Italian families, there are euphemisms thrown around like “first born Italian males, the baby boy of the family, and Italian sons love their moms”. These are not in jest I can assure you, they are all very real.

Are Italian boys treated like royalty in a family? I can neither confirm nor deny this fact because I am now an Italian mother of a son.

These moms are fiercely protective and devoted to their sons. Unconditional love is just implied, it goes without saying and no need to state the obvious. Think of it in terms of lioness in a pride on the Serengeti, except Italian mothers will make lion moms looks like simple house cats when it comes to the area of dating their sons.

Trust me when I say I have witness this first hand. I watched it when my older brother began to date. When a potential “girlfriend” is brought to a house to meet an Italian mother for the first time, it is like that of an interrogation process.

It begins with everyone sitting around the kitchen table with some biscotti or other Italian pastries and some coffee. It is the Italian momma, her son, several family members (because we are all there to watch this onslaught) and the young woman. The kitchen is the mom’s home territory you know, it is the home field advantage for the lady of the house. The mother has arranged it this way, it may seem unfair to the unassuming party but it is just the way things happen.

The conversation starts with the mother asking the poor girl “so tell me about your family”. And then it begins, the questions will come fast and furious. Each answer scrutinized like and IRS auditor looking for a fraudulent error on a tax return.

It’s not a pretty sight, but in order to date an Italian boy it was something that had to be done. If you date an Italian boy, it is comes with the territory.

Knowing full well what I was in for, I flew in to meet her, SJ. That is what I call her, it is her nickname.

I had a flown in with gifts for my mother in-law. Remember, Italians never show up to a person’s house empty handed. This is one of the many unwritten rules that we live by, kind of like an Italian code of ethics. We just abide by these “laws” and don’t question it for fear that the maloik (evil eye) will strike where we are standing.

The gifts weren’t bribes mind you, it was just showing respect to my future mother in-law. If I didn’t do this, it would have upset my family and I would have brought shame upon them. According to my own mother, “it would have proved that I had the manners of a barn animal”.

When I came to SJ’s house and met her, she welcomed me opened arms. She is a beautiful woman with a great smile. She graciously accepted the gifts and we began to chat. I met the rest of the family later that day and she introduced me as “Bill’s girlfriend who talk’s real funny”. I just laughed at this.

Yes, I have a New England accent. It isn’t a thick one per say, but my diction will tell you that I am not from Western PA.

Apparently my accent was particularly strong on this day and certain words just came out sounding quite funny. Let’s face it I still mutilate the words Martha, orange, horrible and it makes my kids giggle to this day.

The visit was really going well, until SJ realized that her future daughter in-law was complete a city person. It was a watershed moment for sure.

I just don’t “do nature”, it just is not my thing. I’m a city slicker to the umpth degree, it is really quite simple.

The first epiphany came to light when I saw my in-law’s female neighbor riding a lawnmower cutting grass. I looked aghast at SJ and said in my most horrified voice “women cut grass like that”! Look, I have seen women back home cut small city lots sizes patches of grass. I was taken aback by seeing a woman cutting acers of grass on a tractor.

SJ just looked at me and laughed and said in her most kind voice, “yes dear, woman can cut grass on tractors”.

Next came the deer on the back porch incident. I came out to sit in the morning to have my coffee and a deer came up near where I was sitting. Ok it was several feet away- but I had never really seen a wild deer in my life this close to me. I was convinced by my future husband, who took full advantage of my naivety, and that the deer could attack me at any given moment.

My reaction, not a big surprise was to scream. I am not ashamed for my actions, because it was completely natural. However, I caused such a ruckus that my future husband had to come running out of the house to see what sort of distress I was in.

I had to explain my near death experience and my newly acquired phobia of deer to him. SJ came out and looked at me knowing full well what had transpired. She is a very smart woman and caught on quickly that I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to nature.
City rats and vermin don’t bother me, county deer, chimp monks and other woodland creatures – well I just keep my distance from them.

SJ assured me that deer were gentle creatures like Bambi and at best they are nuisances that eat her flowers and plants. She just looked at her son with a look that only a mother could give, it would be best described as a “stink eye”. She knew her son all too well and realized without me telling her what he had told me about these wild animals.

I was guaranteed that I was in no imminent danger. I still have a fear of deer to this day, I don’t trust them with their big doe eyes and fluffy white tails. They can give you a killer look and I know they are plotting my demise.

The last incident is what forever solidified my relationship with SJ. It goes down in the family history books as the “Whistle Pig Affair”. To this very day my beloved husband still laughs so hard about this. I on the other hand find little humor in this.

Sitting on the back porch with my future husband one morning, he began to tell me about the story of the ground hogs or as he called them “whistle pigs”. He told me that if you spotted one in your yard, you could call it to you by whistling to it.

Now on this day as he was telling me about this vermin, up pops this exact species-a ground hog. He convinces me to stand in the middle of the yard whistle to at the darn thing and it will come to me. So the scene is set and you can only imagine what is about to happen.

Like a buffoon I am standing in the yard whistling at this ball of fur, I’m looking back at the love of my life as he assures me “whistle louder so it can hear you and it will com…trust me”. Yes, this went on for several minutes and I kept thinking to myself, “why would he ever lie to me”?

Suddenly the back door flew open from the house and SJ came out. She looked at me and said sternly “honey, get back in the house … you’re embarrassing yourself those things don’t answer to whistles”.

She isn’t a loud Italian woman, which is a rare thing. So when she spoke in this tone, I knew she meant business.

She then spun around on her heels and glared at her son. SJ spoke in a firm tone and said “don’t take advantage of the city girl, she doesn’t know any better”!

What happened next is still a blur because it happened so quickly. I swear I thought I saw out of the corner of my eye SJ giving her son a love tap to the back of the head.

SJ then just walked back into the house.

I was awe struck. From that point I knew that she was a force to be reckoned with, a true Italian mom. I just adored her and I knew that I loved her like she was my own mom.

SJ has been there for me through thick and thin and has taught me what it is to be a great mother in-law. I hope that when it is my turn, I can be just like her when I become an in-law. She still continues to love me despite my numerous flaws and that is what I adore about her the most.

I wanted to share with you SJ’s Giambotta recipe. Giambotta is an Italian vegetable stew recipe and it is the perfect dish to make with all of the fresh vegetables available at the farmers market or from your garden. This dish can be served as a main dish with some good crusty Italian bread or as a side with grilled meats or fish.

I hope that you enjoy this dish.

Buon Appetito,

Nicky D Cooks: Grammy’s Giambotta

Grammy is what my children call my mother in-law. It was one of the first dishes that she made for me that I fell in love with. It is an old family that has been in the family for years. Every time I make it, I always think of her.



1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 assorted peppers-cored, seeded, and cut into 1⁄4″ strips
4 cloves garlic- minced
1 medium sweet onion- quartered and sliced thin
1-2 small cans of tomato sauce
Fresh Herbs (basil, parsley or mint) 1-2 tbsp
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Italian cheese (optional)
Italian Bread


Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium- heat. Add peppers, garlic, onions, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer several minutes then add the tomato sauce.

Cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until peppers are soft. Add the herbs now and let the peppers finish cooking. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Garnish with grated cheese.

Serve with some good crusty Italian bread. Great either warm or room temperature.


Broccoli Rabe: My Fond Memories of a Bitter Green

first appeared on Ciao Pittsburgh on May 1, 2015

Nicky d's version roast pork sandwich

                         Saveur’s Pulled Pork Italiano by Nicky D

If there was ever a food that I can associate with my grandmother, it would be broccoli rabe. I remember walking into her kitchen as a child and the smell of the broccoli rabe cooking on the stove top would just stop you in your tracks.

It was such a distinctive smell and you knew immediate what she was making. The aroma of garlic and greens cooking in olive oil is like no other. It is a dish that represents so much more to me than just food on a plate- it is a symbolic representation of her love, our family and my Italian heritage all in one.

Yes, Italians do get that caught up in our food. We are such a quirky breed, but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My grandmother would cook these greens simply, with garlic and oil and a pinch of crushed red pepper. A slice of crusty Italian bread was the perfect accompaniment. It was peasant cooking at its finest; so delicious and unpretentious.

My big brother went wild for these bitter greens, he devoured them by the bowl full. I will confess that I kind of liked them as a kid-but I didn’t love them like my brother did. I did eat my fare share, but I could take them or leave them.

My husband never had broccoli rabe growing up. So I began to make this dish for him when we got married, he instantly became a fan.

I started to experiment with it, I wanted to see what else I could do with besides just sautéing them in garlic and oil.

I began pairing them with different dried pasta and meat combinations. Broccoli rabe marries so nicely with Italian Sausage. There is something about the pork, the fennel (sausage spices) and the bitter greens that really makes this a lovely combination.

I recently stumbled upon something in my quest to try new broccoli rabe dishes. Saveur Magazine featured Pulled Pork Italiano, a recipe based on the famous sandwich from the Philadelphia eatery, DiNic’s.

DiNicks 2

                Original DiNic’s Sandwich

Picture this vision: slow roasted Italian spiced pork topped with sharp provolone cheese, garlic fried broccoli rabe on a crusty Italian roll.

I have made this dish several times already. The combination of slow cooked pork, greens and sharp provolone cheese is absolutely amazing. I like that I can make it in a crock pot as well as the oven. It is perfect dish for parties because it feeds a large number of people. I make it in the spring and summer when you can get broccoli rabe fresh from the farmer’s markets. But honestly, this is a great dish anytime of the year, as long as you can get your hands on the greens.

As a side note, I made a trip to the original DiNic’s in Philadelphia last year and had their version of this sandwich. It was a real treat, a food highlight of my trip. This homemade version is definitely as delicious and worth all of the effort.

If you like broccoli rabe and want to eat it in a new and delicious way, I highly recommend making this recipe.

Nicky D's Italian pork

                     Roasted Italian Pork

I played around with this recipe and made it in the crock pot. I followed the directions and cooked a 4-5 lbs roast in the crock pot until the pork was fork tender.

Approximate cooking time is about 6 to 8 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.

I hope that you enjoy this dish.

Buon Appetito,

Saveur’s Pulled Pork Italiano


3 tbsp. ground fennel seeds
3 tbsp. dried parsley
1½ tbsp. dried thyme
3½ tsp. crushed red chili flakes, plus more
1 6-7-1b. Pork shoulder, butterflied
3 sprigs rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
1 head garlic, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups beef stock
½ cup red wine
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
½ cup canned crushed tomatoes
2 lb. broccoli rabe
¼cup canola oil
32 slices sharp provolone
8 12″ crusty Italian rolls, split
24 roasted long hot peppers


1. Heat oven to 450°. Combine fennel, parsley, thyme, and 3 tsp. chile flakes in a small bowl; set aside. Open pork shoulder on a work surface, and spread with half of herb mixture, rosemary, ¼ of the chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. Roll up shoulder, tie with kitchen twine at 1″ intervals to secure, and season out-side with remaining herb mixture, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a roasting pan and roast until browned, about 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and heat broiler. Add remaining garlic to pan, along with stock, wine, onion, and bay leaf; pour tomatoes over top and sides of pork shoulder. Broil until tomatoes are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°, cover pork with parchment paper, and cover roasting pan with aluminum foil. Cook until internal temperature of pork reaches 165°, about 2 hours. Set aside to cool.

2. Transfer pork to cutting board, and remove bay leaf from pan. Transfer juices to a blender and purée; transfer to a 4-qt. saucepan and keep warm. Pull pork apart into large pieces and add to pan juices.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add broccoli rabe. Cook, stirring, until just tender, 2–3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet. Working in batches if necessary, add remaining chili flakes and broccoli rabe and cook, stirring, until crisp and warmed through, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

4. Place 4 slices provolone on bottom half of each roll, and top with pork. Add broccoli rabe and peppers.

Failure as an Italian Mother (or why I will not get mother of year award)

First appeared on  In pursuit of simple on 4/1/15 as part of Great Pittsburgh Blog Swap of 2015

failure stampWith the ever so subtle Pittsburgh twang, I heard my friend smartly say to me that night as we were unloading my car for the event “ how can you be in the industry (food) and teach cooking classes, yet your kids can’t boil water…jeeze what kind of EYE-talian mom are you”.

The words were stinging in my ears and by golly it hurt to hear this, but he spoke the truth. As I walked into the event that night, I realized that I failed as a mother.
I not only failed only as a mother but as an Italian mother, a fate worse than death. I had brought shame to my family and I hung my head woefully.

Surely my female Italian ancestors were turning in their graves. I’m convinced there would be some sort of curse bestowed upon me for my grievances. Lightning strikes, perhaps a sudden onset of horrific plagues would happen or my car would be swallowed up by a giant sink hole as I parked it for the evening.

I had shaken up the family tree for sure. Italian women and mothers are not the most forgiving breed- trust me I’m one of them. I could just feel the disappointment from these ladies beyond the grave!

How could I let this happen? Where did I go wrong? More importantly what could I do to rectify the situation with my children? I had to set the course back in the right direction and I was tired of looking for “bad luck” to strike at any time.

Let me back track so I can tell you my tale of woe that lead up to the realization that I will not win mother of the year award.

It was one of those weeks where a mulligan would just be called for. My husband was traveling for work and the house mo-jo was off. I had a big baking gig at the end of the week (I own a small Italian Cookie company) that I needed to get ready for.

Chaos is the only way to describe life that week as a single mom living with 2 teenagers. The event that I need to go to was on a Saturday night and it is somewhere in an area that I’m not familiar with.

I would like to note that I am directionally challenged and don’t know how to work my GPS.I have a teenager who knows everything, why do I need google or a GPS?

I agree to meet my friend who was going to the event so I could follow him. I hoped that would decrease my chances of me getting lost.

For the record I did indeed get lost while in route to meeting my friend. Apparently my left and rights get somewhat confused and I was living momentarily in opposite land.
Before leaving the house, my children inform me that they wanted to cook dinner- solo!

Luckily they had conspired against me and had the menu all planned out. The eldest assured me that there was nothing to worry about- she had a devious twinkle in her eye as she waved good bye and closed the door behind me.

I yell at them both “don’t fight, and PLEASE don’t burn down the house” as I get into my car. I swear I heard hysterical devilish laughter from the beyond the door.

The kids have cooked before, but under my tutelage. There was always an adult present, this was different. No one was there to put out the flames if the kitchen caught fire.

Yes, Italian mothers have a flare for the dramatics! It is in our DNA and it just who we are.

En route to the gig, I tried to reach my husband to no avail. The same was true for the house and the kid’s cell phones. Being true to my roots- I instantly go to the dark place and think the worst. Plagues, fires, earthquakes have all struck my house and this is why no one has answered the phone, Absurd yes, but in my neurotic Italian mother brain, there is a slight possibility.

Trying to navigate the unfamiliar road, use my cell phone, keeping an eye on my friends car in front of me and making sure my cookies didn’t spill all over the back of my car, needless to say I was a hot mess behind the wheel.

I finally reached my husband and he said “our daughter needed to be walked through on how to make mac and cheese”. Really? I thought to myself, I didn’t recall buying the materials for scratch made mac and cheese.

My husband proclaimed “she needed to know how to boil water on the stove”.

These was a pregnant pause, a sigh and then a breath. My husband said “you haven’t failed YET as a mother, she needs to learn what pan to use and finer details of making box mac & cheese….. because you don’t make it for the kids, and I had to explain what to do”.

Yes, my husband is the resident in house box mac & cheese maker.

My husband could hear it in my voice as I started to speak, he said “look at that age you were cooking full meals and baking from scratch, but the kids have to start somewhere…you had to start somewhere”.

I knew he was right, but how boil water to make box mac & cheese? I was flummoxed.

My phone rang and cheerfully the eldest called and proudly said “Ma we are making box mac & cheese, the water is boiling and I salted the water for pasta”.

Ok, she remembered to salt the water for the pasta, so I guess I can’t complain.

All those years of my children sitting with me in the kitchen were not wasted. The child knew she had to salt the water, so I guess I’m not a complete failure.

Later that night, I received a text from the kids with a picture of the dinner that they had made. It was something that resembled the Thanksgiving Feast from the Charlie Brown Holiday special. Toast as the side dish, well that is ok in my book.

The kids proudly worked together and made their dinner, no one fought and the house didn’t burn down. I realized that they will never starve now when they go off to college in a few years

A complete failure in motherhood, not really. But the fact that the kids still need help boiling water for pasta, well no maternal medal awarded here. The fact they remembered to salt the water for pasta- check one in the win column for me.

Dinner made by the kids

Ukrainian Perohi – A Holiday Favorite

I am pleased to be part of the 3rd annual Pittsburgh Guest-Blogger Event! This event is otherwise know as The Great Pittsburgh Blog Swap of 2015. Today’s blog post comes from the talented team of Fox and Michael from the blog 101 Achievements. You can see my post over on In Pursuit of Simple where I share with all of you my reason why I will not be getting the mother of the year award.

Michael and Fox from 101 Achievements here; we are so thrilled to be guest blogging on Nicky D Cooks for The Great Pittsburgh Blog Swap of 2015!

We’d like to share one of our favorite “peasant foods” that we often make for our families. That food is homemade Ukrainian-style perohi, better known around Pittsburgh as pierogies.


Buttered Perohi Cooling

While most ‘Burghers know that you can put pretty much anything you want into a pierogie, we make our pierogies for Christmas Eve and the Lenten season, which in the Ukrainian tradition are meatless. So, we use Fox’s Baba’s recipe to make a potato-and-cheese pierogie, as well as a prune pierogie.

Now, before you get grossed out over prune-stuffed pierogies, just trust us that they’re a delicious, desserty counterpart to your typical savory pierogie.

A word of warning before we begin: if you embark upon this adventure, it’s important to note that pierogie making is an all-day affair. The recipe we’re sharing makes between 6 and 8 dozen pierogies, depending on how thinly you roll your dough; that’s a lot of pinching, boiling, and frying. The more family members you can recruit to help, the faster, easier, and more fun this process will be. In addition to the two of us, our assembly group has included our mother, grandmother, aunt, cousins, and occasionally a father (whose pierogies resemble a handlebar mustache more than your typical pillow of dough).


Raw Perohi

We often prepare the dough and the filling ahead of time, as that alone can take quite a while. For the filling, there are a variety of cheeses that you can use; Fox’s Baba always used Velveeta cheese block, though, and even as die-hard buy-fresh-buy-local folk, that’s what we still use to this day.

Dough ingredients:
• 24oz farmer’s dry cottage cheese
• 2 eggs
• 2 tbsp vegetable oil
• 1-1/2 tsp salt
• 4 cups flour

Potato filling ingredients:
• 1 1-1/2 pound jar sauerkraut
• 1 small onion
• ½ stick of butter
• 7-8 medium potatoes
• ½ pound Velveeta cheese block (or roughly 8-10 slices of American cheese)

Prune filling ingredients:
• 7oz dried prunes

Frying ingredients:
• 2 sticks butter
• 1 large chopped onion


To make dough: stir and mix up the cottage cheese until it is reasonably smooth (it will still have some fine lumps). Beat eggs, oil, and salt into the cheese. Gradually add flour. After three cups, the dough may be dry enough to roll. Reserve the remainder of the flour for rolling the dough out.


Dough ready for rolling


Dough circles cut with pint glass

Dust a flat surface and a rolling pin with flour; roll out the dough to about 1/16th of an inch thickness. Cut the dough into circles—the mouth of a pint beer glass is the perfect size to do your cutting.


Potato filling ingredients

To make potato filling: pour sauerkraut into a colander and rinse with cold water to take out some of the excess salt. Place drained sauerkraut in a pot. Saute a small onion in butter. Add butter and onions to the pot containing the sauerkraut. Add water to the pot until it reaches the top of the sauerkraut. Simmer until most of the water evaporates—the kraut should be soft, not crunchy like when first out of the jar. Drain well. Peel and boil the potatoes until soft; drain and begin mashing. Slice the cheese into 8 to 10 chunks and stir into mashed potatoes. Add sauerkraut-onion mixture and stir until everything is blended. Allow filling to cool.


Prunes-more delicious than you think!

To make prune filling: add dried prunes into a pot and fill pot with water until tops of prunes are covered. Simmer gently until prunes are soft. Cook out most of the water and let prunes cool until they are comfortable to touch.


Better and onions; smells like Baba’s kitchen

Assembly: fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. In a separate pan, melt two sticks of butter. Chop a large onion and fry it in the butter; remove from heat when onions soften. Take a circle of dough and fill with either a small scoop of potato mixture, or one prune. Fold dough and pinch the edges, forming a complete seal.


“Pinch them till they hurt”

If the dough has begun to dry, dip your fingertips in water before pinching. Repeat until you have about 1 dozen uncooked perohi. Carefully drop the dozen perohi into the boiling water, letting them sink to the bottom.


Boiling perohi

Boil until perohi begin to float; lower the heat and let them cook for three minutes more. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain them in a colander. Move perohi to a bowl and coat them with onions and butter to prevent sticking. Place perohi on a pan covered with wax paper and allow them to cool. Repeat process until all dough and filling has been used; makes approximately 6 to 8 dozen perohi.


Perohi ready to serve


Our Lucy, an honorary Ukrainian

At this point, the perohi are ready to be eaten or stored. They can be refrigerated or frozen. The perohi can be reheated in the microwave, but they taste best if reheated by frying them again in fresh butter and onions, until slightly crisped.


The Great Pittsburgh Blog Swap of 2015

sunshineOn Wednesday April 1, I am partaking in blogger event in Pittsburgh known as The Great Pittsburgh Blog Swap of 2015.

It is blog swap that involves about 40 Pittsburgh bloggers. We will be guest blogging for one specific blogger on this day.

Here is what you will see on my blog- I’ll be featuring a guest post from another talented Pittsburgh blogger. And yes it is a food themed blog- but I can’t tell you what it is because it is a secret, but all I can say is that it is incredible and I am putting this on my must try list soon.

You will be able to read my post that I have written for this occasion on another amazing Pittsburgh blog.

It has been such a wonderful opportunity and I am so excited to be part of such a great event.

A special shout out to the person who put this together Alex. A talented writer, witty twitter person and an all-around great human being to know.

Check out his blog@

Fish Pizziola- A perfect dish for any season

first appeared on Ciao Pittsburgh March, 6, 2015

The Lenten Season is upon us again and I believe that there are only so many fish sandwiches this gal can eat.

pizziola-3-225x300My thought was always why limit fish to just this season? There are numerous fish recipes out there to try, perhaps I should expand my fishy repertoire and see what else I can make?

So throughout this year I did try many new fish dishes, and there were several that I really liked. However, there is one dish that I keep coming back to and it is the one that I just adore- Fish Pizzaiola.

Fish in Pizziola Sauce is a simple peasant dish, and is one that I grew up on. To me it is a comfort food, a dish that takes me back to my childhood.

This Neapolitan peasant sauce is made from tomatoes, olive oil, and oregano (and sometimes other spices). Pizzaiola sauce I have read loosely translates to “in the style of the pizza maker”, so the ingredients replicate what one may see one the base (red sauce) of a pizza.

My spin on this dish is that the sauce isn’t cook separately like some recipes call for. For my recipe, the fish and tomatoes are cooked together. This was the way my family made it and the way I make it now.

Growing up in Rhode Island, Cod Fish was abundant so it was the fish of choice in our family. It was cheap to buy and you could feed a large family with this fish. If you were adventurous enough, you could buy the salted cod (Baccala), prep it and make with that.

Usually we went to the fishmonger to buy our fresh fish or went to the dock to see what the local fishermen brought in.

What I like most about this recipe, is that is marries nicely with most white fish. Haddock, Cod, Tilapia all work well with this dish and I use them interchangeably. I have seen families use Swordfish and other fishes with this and it looks really delicious.

This is a very forgiving dish, it is easy to prepare and cook. So here are some things to note when you make this dish: cooking times will vary depending on the thickness of the fish that you are choosing to use. Fresh fish will cook quicker than frozen. A thin Tilapia fillet will cook quicker than a thicker piece of cod. The fish will be done once the middle is opaque, and becomes easy to flake into pieces with a fork.

pizziola baking in pan  (2)When I make mine, I prefer to lay my fish piece on a bed of slices onions before I bake it. I find that it also will prevent burning of the thinner pieces of fish, however this is optional. If you want some heat, add a pinch of crushed red pepper to the layer of tomatoes.

I hope that you try this delicious dish, I promise that it will be one that you will return to over again. Don’t let the simplicity of this recipe fool you, it has rich flavors that are prefect when you want just a great fish dinner.

Buon Appetito,

Nicky D Cooks: Pesci Pizzaiola

White Fish in herbed tomato sauce- a simple peasant dish that goes perfectly over rice pilaf, couscous or lightly dressed orzo in olive oil.


1 ½ lbs cod fillets or a light white fish
1 -2 cans small tomato sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup (about) olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the pan, then put fish on top of the onions. Pour a thin coat of the tomato sauce over the fish. Sprinkle oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and cheese over the fish. Cover and bake fish in the oven about ½ hr (approximately) or until the fish is done. The fish will become white and flaky- this is when it is done.

Soppressata Making- Old School Pittsburgh Style

sopresatta makingI wanted to share this great video of a friend of mine making Soppressata Italian Sausage, called “The Lost Art”.

Pittsburgh native Michael Pizzuto, shares with us a glimpse of what it is like when his family gets together for the annual Soppressata making.

Sopressata is a cured dry sausage, and honestly it is one of my favorites. It is different than other types of cured sausage, because of the spices used and the way the meat is ground for the process. If you have a chance to get to taste homemade Sopressata, it is amazing and something that you will never forget.

Michael Pizzuto is carrying on the old world Italian traditions that were taught to him by his family. Michael is serious when it comes to the art of sausage making. He along with his friend chef Blair Hahn III and Brandon Gajdos are the owners of the local Pittsburgh sausage company The Salted Pig.

Michael, Blair along with several member of the Pizzuto family gather for this annual Sopressata making tradition. Check out the video below and you can tell it is one heck of a time.

Thanks Mike for sharing this video, it is really great!charcuterie plate


Recipe for Hope: A Benefit for Hair Peace Charities and Cancer Patients

2015 rfh card backI have the pleasure of being part of a wonderful event: RECIPE FOR HOPE
This amazing event benefits the Hair Peace Charities- a charity which raises money to help women and girls buy wigs while undergoing chemotherapy treatment for any type of cancer.

Come and eat some specially prepared dishes all the while supporting a noteworthy cause. Many local celebrities will be donning special aprons while serving guests mouthwatering food.

Included on this list are Dave Crawley @DaveCrawleyKDKA KDKA-TV Reporter, Val Porter @DVEValPorter WDVE- FM Morning Show, Jennifer Antkowiak KDKA- TV Morning News Anchor @jenantkowiak, Rick Dayton @rickdayton KDKA-TV Morning News Anchor, Michelle Wright @MichelleWTAE WTAE Morning News Anchor, Cris Winters 99.7 WSHH Radio personality , Scott Harbaugh @WPXIScott WPXI – TV Meteorologist, Cara Sapida @WPXICara WPXI – TV News Reporter, Doug Oster @dougoster1 Pittsburgh Post Gazette Writer, Heather Abraham @KDKAHeather KDKA-TV Reporter, David Highfield @DavidHighfield KDKA-TV Reporter, Sheri Van Dyke, 94.5 3WS radio personality, Shelley Duffy @ShelleyDuffy Star 100.7 Morning Show, Flick and Kelly @FlickFM Star 100.7 Afternoon show @KelOnAir Star 100.7 Afternoon show, Melanie Taylor @meltaylor1007 Star 100.7 Morning Show, Bill Rehkopf @BillyRayKDKA KDKA Radio News Anchor, John Chamberlin from YaJagoff blog @YaJagoff and many more….

For more information about Recipe for Hope and Hair Peace Charities
Hair Peace Charities
102 Cleveland Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15202
Phone: 412.327.5177
Or visit their webpage at


Football food: A Game day tradition

With the Superbowl just around the corner, I wanted to re-post one of my favorite pieces from the past.  This originally appeared on on January 31, 2013.

finishes calzonesI have a great Dad. While I was growing up, he was the best Dad any kid could ever ask for. He could put my hair in braids, play games with me and bring me a glass of juice while I was sitting on the couch watching my favorite TV show.

I guess you could say I was Daddy’s little girl. Yes, he spoiled me. How could he not, I looked like a mini version of him growing up. Even now I still look just like him, nothing really has changed. The only difference is that we have aged a bit and have gotten a few more grey hairs.

From my parents, I inherited the best traits each from them. I look like my mellow, Portuguese Dad but I have my mother’s fiery Italian personality.
I would say it is a healthy combination of the two, I guess I have the best of both worlds.

The other familial trait that was passes along to me from my parents was the ability to cook. Both parents cooked meals in our house growing up; they were equally adept in the kitchen.

I was a lucky to have this experience as a kid growing up. It explained why I always loved to be in the kitchen with them.

One of my fondest memories of my Dad in the kitchen is of him cooking his famous football food. As a child, I liked football season. Not only did I get to hang out with my Dad and watch football, but there was a shift in the type of cooking that went on in the house.

We called it football food. This genre of food that my Dad would make that only came out during football season, hence the term football food.

My Dad would help cook throughout the year but all that changed when football season started. During this time, my Dad began to cook the “Sundays Dinners”. Sundays were usually reserved for big Italian dinners, but not during football season.

My Dad is a huge football fan. He would watch his favorite team, and also would like to watch other games. On Sundays, the TV went on after lunch and stayed on most of the day. He just liked to watch football and eat good food.

We still ate our big dinners together as a family, that was a must and that never changed. The cuisine was different, it was football food. We went about our business on Sundays and life went on, however there was always the din of the football game in the background.

It was always fun to help my Dad cook on game days. We would be in the kitchen preparing the food and the football game was on the TV, there was just a hint of excitement in the air. I loved the way the house smelled on these days.

My Dad could make almost anything and it would be incredible. He could cook some Italian dishes, but Ma did most of that type of cooking. Dad’s pot roast is mouth wateringly fork tender, his BBQ spare ribs are mind blowing, he makes a mean beef stew and his chicken soup is to die for. My Dad is the master of the crock-pot, the czar of grilled sausage and the tycoon of tacos.

When the play offs came and during the Super Bowl, my Dad stepped up his game. He then brought out some favorites that only came out during these types of games. He would make his special game day chili and chicken wing, nachos, assorted dips and chips.

Sometimes we had a large crowd and other times it was just the immediate family. No matter the amount of people, the food portions never changed. My Dad’s worst fear was that half time would come and he would run out of food.

My Dad would always have his favorites stand by foods during these big games, but he would always like to add a few new dishes as well. That was always exciting because you never knew what he would make until it was game day.

I always think about how much fun the Super Bowl was for me growing up, and now I try to the same for my family. I do enjoy a good game of football but I think that I enjoy the football food a little more.

cooking in the kitchenMy Dad recently came in for a visit and I had to have him make one of his specialty football foods while he was here. It was so much fun to cook with my Dad; it reminded me of being a kid in the kitchen again with him.

It was a special for me to do this again, and my children loved coming in from school having these delicious snacks waiting for them.

He shared one of his recipes for a great game day snack

I hope that you enjoy it.

Buon Appetito,

Dad’s Mini Italian Sausage Calzones


1lb Italian Chicken sausage- removed from casings
2 small onions- finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 cans large of refrigerated biscuits
Marinara sauce or pizza sauce for dipping

Preheat oven according to biscuit directions. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the sausage and the onion.

Cook it until it is golden brown, season with salt and pepper to taste and drain off any excess oil. Let it cool.


Roll out biscuits into a large circle. In the center of the biscuit add a heaping tablespoon of the sausage, and then add a heaping tablespoon of shredded mozzarella cheese to that.

Fold the edges over and bring together to seal. Use a fork to seal the edges together. calzone-making-copy-150x150Bake according to directions or until golden brown.

Serve with warm marinara sauce

These mini calzones work well will pizza dough or readymade pie crust, just cut into desired mini size and roll into circles, bake @ between 350- 375 for 20-30 min or until golden brown (oven times and temperature may vary depending on the size and thickness of the dough)

inside calzone (3)