Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Monday, May 6, 2013

See you in soon!

I'll be taking some time off from this blog before and after we welcome our baby this June. I hope to return to posting regularly again soon.

In the meanwhile, I will be posting periodically on the Fare La Scarpetta Facebook Page. I hope you'll join the conversation there.

For the parent writers out there, I will be posting periodically on my new blog, Woman Mother Writer, as well as on our new Facebook page.You can also follow my Writing Coach blog.

See you later, alligator!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stocking a Kitchen (While Making Room for Baby)

The moka made the cut

As we prepare for our baby, we're working to clear out clutter and make some room in the kitchen for bottles and whatnot. This has made me think about what I can't live without:

Cuisinart Food Processor and attachments
I love the speed with which I can chop, mix dough, grate, etc. with the food processor. It was expensive, but worth it.

Moka coffee maker
Quick, satisfying and best way to make Italian coffee cheaply at home. Don't forget a favorite mug.

Le Creuset cast iron pot
I'm pretty obsessed with my Le Creuset. If you are staying home, it serves as a slow-cooker without taking up space on the counter.

A few good knives for chopping and a medium sized chopping board that fits in the kitchen.

Just a few good pots and pans: Heavy, small pan for omelets, large pot to boil water, medium pot for sauces, smaller pot for rice or grains and a pan for meat.

Since I presume we'll be busy, the donut maker, fryer, pasta maker, and other "treat" items are now either put away or in the back of the cabinets. (Don't worry; I kept everything for a later date.)

I look forward to the day when our child is old enough to help prepare meals and eventually a full meal.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crossover Post: Raising Baby Bilingual

As you might know, my husband and I are expecting a baby this June. Over on my Woman Mother Writer blog, I've reviewed two books on raising your baby to be bilingual:

The Bilingual Edge

The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents

I hope you'll follow the links and read the reviews. Are there other books or techniques that you might recommend?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bread Stuffed with Sausage and Cheese

When I was a kid, my father would bring home bread stuffed with cheese and sausage from the Second Street Bakery in Jersey City, New Jersey. It was delicious any way we ate it - room temperature, toasted with the cheese oozing out, or with a pasta dinner to "fare la scarpetta" the sauce. 

With that memory in mind, I prepared Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Spicy Italian Sausage and Cheese Bread. While it was tasty, it wasn't exactly right. I'm not sure what was off, but I do know that I need to eat more stuffed bread in New Jersey to help with this very serious research project. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FDU Food Writing Blog

I really enjoy teaching food writing online at Fairleigh Dickinson University. We read Dianne Jacob's Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More and published essays available online. The final assignment is to choose one of the formal essays that the students wrote (and revised) over the course of the semester and edit it for a public, class blog.

I hope that you'll read through this semester's blog and welcome the students to the world of online publishing. There are restaurant reviews, recipes, family stories and more.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Venetian Ball at the Italian Embassy

As we were moving to Washington, D.C., a few years ago, I decided that meant we'd be attending regular parties at the embassies around town. While clearly that's not the everyday life of two professors, we were excited to attend a Venetian Ball at the Italian Embassy recently. Here are some pictures from the event: 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Italian Easter Specialities

Buona Pasqua! 
Happy Easter!

Philadelphia's 9th Street Italian Market

I love eggs and chocolate, which makes Easter one of my favorite culinary holidays. There are the large Italian chocolate eggs filled with a surprise gift (or more chocolate) and the decorated hard-boiled eggs. And of course we can't forget the sweet, almond colomba cake. Maybe these treats taste even better because you're "allowed" to eat them first thing in the morning (it isn't just because I'm pregnant and want to eat everything all the time.)

This year we picked up our Italian chocolate eggs in Philadelphia's 9th Street Italian Market. Among the pasta shops, butchers, spice and cheese stores, the Italian groceries were filled with Italian chocolate eggs and colomba cakes for the upcoming holidays. Compared to what I've seen in New York, New Jersey and D.C., the prices were great, too.

Let's see if I can wait until Sunday to open up one of the three eggs we bought. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Joseph's Day Pastries from The Italian Store in Arlington, Va.

Yesterday was St. Joseph's Day and Italian Father's Day. We made it over to The Italian Store in Arlington, Va., for the pastries traditionally eaten on the holiday. While I'd only known the cream filled, fried zeppole, they had three choices for the holiday: sfogliatelle, zeppole and genovese. 

These pastries are so popular that we will place our order early next year because they were already out of zeppole when we arrived for lunch. My husband and I each tried a genovese - a buttery, warm pastry filled with cream dotted with chocolate. Delicious! Since there were more zeppole coming in that afternoon - from New York! - we placed an order for two zeppole and returned that evening for our second round of pastries. 

The pastries were a steep $4.99 each. If they need to be ordered from New York, clearly there's a local market here. Who's ready to open a local, Italian bakery?



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy Italian Father's Day!

Buona Festa del Papa'! Click here for cards you can print out and color to celebrate your father today.

March 19th is Saint Joseph's Day in the Catholic tradition. Saint Joseph was the Virgin Mary's husband and Jesus' step-father.

One of the traditions is to eat the delicious St. Joseph's zeppole. Try your hand at preparing your own with this Barilla recipe. Photographer Melabee Miller shares pictures of the cream filled, fried pastry on her blog today.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Italian Baby Vocabulary

As we prepare for the arrival of a new baby this June, we're also thinking about baby-specific vocabulary. I'd like to speak to the baby in Italian as much as possible to help the baby become bilingual. Below is the list I've been working on. What else should I add? 

pregnancy (gravidanza)
five months pregnant (incinta di cinque mesi)
maternity clothes (abiti pré-maman)
I am expecting a baby girl (Aspetto una bambina)
I am expecting a baby boy (Aspetto un bambino)
beautiful, big belly (bel pancione) 
maternity leave (essere in maternità)

labor (travaglio)
delivery (parto) 
infant (neonate/neonata) 
hospital (ospedale)
to swaddle (fasciare)
onesie (tutina)

mother (madre / mamma)
father (padre / babbo / papa')
daughter (figlia)
son (figlio)
grandmother (nonna)
grandfather (nonno)
aunt (zia)
uncle (zio)
grandchild / niece / nephew (nipote)

diapers (pannolini) 
change the diaper (cambiare i pannolini)
to pee (fare pipì)
to poop (fare cacca)
to spit (sputare)
to cry (piangere)
to throw up (vomitare)
crib (culla / lettino)
doll (bambola)
bottle (biberon)
pacifier (ciuccio)
to breast feed (allattare)
to take a bath (fare il bagno)
lullabies (ninnenanne) 
sing or rock a baby to sleep (ninnare or cullare)
to kiss (baciare)
to sleep (dormire)
to adore (adorare)
to cuddle (coccolare)
nap (sonnellino / pisolino)
child (bimba/bimbo or bambina/bambino) 
to crawl (strisciare)
daycare (asilo nido)

terms of endearment for a baby:
amore mio
piccino / a
when babies are butterball chubby, "che coscia!" (what a thigh!)

For more on raising an Italian baby, you might enjoy this video for the lullaby Stella Stellina

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Women's Day!

Happy International Women's Day on March 8th! In Italy, it is tradition to give women yellow mimosa flowers. This is my bouquet for you, dear reader. reminds us of the history:

Women’s Day has its roots in two events that took place outside of Italy. On March 8, 1857 a strike by garment workers in New York, led to the formation of the first women's union in the United States. Sixty years later Russian women led a strike calling for "bread and peace" during the twin horrors of World War I and the Russian Revolution. In 1945 the Union of Italian Women declared that this special date, March 8, should be set aside to celebrate womanhood across the country.

Read more about the day's history and tradition in Italy, and outside of Italy, here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Preparing for a Bambino o Bambina

Stella Stellina (lullabye) 

As some of you know, my husband and I are expecting a baby this June. I'm hoping to raise the baby bilingual, but I'm realizing that there are many baby-related words I don't know (yet.)

I'm starting by making some lists of new words to learn and reading about raising a baby bilingual. Meanwhile, I'm also finding Italian lullabies and songs to sing to the baby. I am particularly taken by Stella Stellina (listen above.) 

I'd love to know about any resources you might have.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

That's Amore! Saying, "I love you" in Italian

That's Amore! 
Statue in La Pietra Gardens, Florence, Italy

There are many ways to say, "I love you," in Italian (and not just on San Valentino!)

The first thing to understand is the difference between two common verbs, amare and voglere. (Amore is the noun for love.) You don't want to mix up these verbs:

"Ti amo" means "I love you" in a romantic fashion. Say this to your partner.

"Ti volgio bene" means "I love you" in a platonic, family-way. Say this to your best friend or family members.

Of course, there are even more creative ways to declare your love:

Mi hai stregato / stregata. (You have bewitched me.)

Potrei guardarti tutto il giorno. (I could watch you all day.)

Se non ci fossi dovrei inventarti. (If you weren't, I'd invent you.)

Click through for more from

To try out your own romantic phrases, try Google Translate for some extra help.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Little Italy in Baltimore

Baltimore's Little Italy has a few streets filled with Italian restaurants. (See a full list of restaurants here.) Of course, that isn't to say that there aren't great Italian restaurants throughout the city. My husband and I recently dined at the Enoteca Cinghiale, a few blocks away from Little Italy.

We enjoyed two pasta dishes:

Hand Formed Tortellini Filled with Prosciutto, Mortadella, Ricotta, Rosemary Sauce
Squid Ink Farfalle with lobster

Everything was delicious and the atmosphere was very contemporary-Italian, with a beautiful, wooden bar and center work area where waitstaff were slicing cured meats and assembling bruschette.

Looking forward to returning to Baltimore for another meal! What's your favorite Italian restaurant there? 

Monday, January 28, 2013

2013: Year of Italian Culture

2013 marks the Year of Italian Culture. There are events throughout the US, including many in Washington, D.C.

I'm particularly excited about the April exhibit at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.:
Nineteen sculptures from the artist's first period and ten drawings illustrating De Chirico's mythology
Click through to see the schedule of events throughout the year. You can also search by city, artist or more. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Italian Calendar

Every morning my husband I read the day’s phrase or cultural tidbit on our Living Language’s Italian2013 Day-to-Day Calendar. The calendar is clear and offers pronunciation help, too.

It isn’t easy to teach your partner Italian, or well, anything. The dynamic changes and not in a good way. With the calendar, we can discuss vocabulary and grammar without hierarchical, didactic lessons. Plus, it’s fun. (Well, at least on the days when we’ve had enough coffee before we flip the calendar page.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Buono!: Pasta Alle Vongole / Pasta with Clams

Pasta over the Christmas Eve menu
Thanks to Melabee M. Miller for the photo!

Here's a Buono! post to dispel any fears that preparing pasta with clams (in a white sauce) is difficult to make:

Based on a southern Italian tradition, many Italian-Americans will eat seven different fish on Christmas Eve. Vaguely following in the tradition of abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve, I prepared Linguine with Clams as our Christmas Eve entrée.

The recipe I followed is fairly simple, although the prep work required of the clams – especially when serving six people – can take some time.

My husband picked up 50 small clams (probably Little Necks) from the Washington Fish Market. Remarkably, out of all those clams, only one refused to open. Clearly, that's a fish market to return to!

We chose fresh pasta from Vace in Cleveland Park (I started at the Italian store, but they didn’t have any linguine or fettuccini, only smaller, filled pastas.) Everything else we could find at the supermarket.

I slowly cooked small batches of clams in olive oil and garlic in an effort to save the clam juice (instead of adding bottled clam juice.) Before too many clams had opened, I added just a little water to the pot. Then, I placed in the clams in a separate bowl as they opened. To make things easier for our guests, I took the clam meat out of the shells (usually I like to leave it in), saving the juice from the bowl with the open clams, too. In the end, I mixed the two liquids (the cooking liquid and the open clam liquid) and strained it through cheese cloth. And, ta da!, fresh clam juice.

If you promise not to tell anyone, I'll let you know that I offered my guests (and used myself), freshly grated cheese on the pasta. If you’ve been to Italy, you know that Italians are firmly against mixing cheese and fish. That is to say, if you ask for grated cheese over your fish dish, you’ll probably be denied it. This article outlines some possible reasons why the cheese/fish mixture is forbidden. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Trattoria Gargani's Recipes for Osso Buco & Saffron Risotto for Christmas

The winter holidays are prime eating cooking and eating season. For the Christmas entrée, my father and I prepared osso buco and saffron risotto. We followed recipes from the cookbook, Once Upon a Tuscan Table. The cookbook is about and from the beautiful Trattoria Gargani (formerly called “Garga”) in Florence, Italy. I have tasty memories of many meals surrounded by the murals on the walls there. 

I chose to make the dish because my husband brought home saffron this fall from a trip to Madrid and we wanted to share it with our family visiting for the holidays. I also wanted to serve something that would be primarily prepared and finished before our guests arrived to avoid last minute kitchen fuss.

Most of the ingredients, from the Arborio rice to the vegetable base for the osso buco were easy to find at any supermarket. I also saw fairly inexpensive saffron at a local Trader Joe's. I ordered the bone-in veal shanks from Whole Foods (there’s a general dearth of butchers in our neighborhood and the District in general, as Kojo Nnamdi discusses in a fall episode.)

I’m afraid that I failed to take any food pictures over the holidays. Too busy cooking and eating, as, perhaps, it should be. What were some of your favorite holiday dishes this year?