Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Butternut Squash and Rapini

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I came into the butternut squash fan camp way late in life.  I am embarrassed to say – given my mantra to my kids, “at least try it before you say you don’t like it!” – that it wasn’t until last Fall that I discovered my extreme love of this roasted beauty.  I had assumed (and you know what they say about assuming …) butternut squash would taste like sweet potatoes, one of my culinary arch-nemeses. By St. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of purgatory!! I was wrong and am in the throes of making up for lost time.

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Uncle Frank’s Italian Sausage

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Uncle Frank and his pilfered sausage making machine. It’s a whiz but he’s not sure where it came from or when it got there. It’s a mystery. If it’s yours, give him a call.

Another fabulous family cook pops out of the woodwork of our wacky family tree!  Uncle Frank is the husband of my mother’s younger sister, Dot.  He is a retired DC fireman, father of 10, currently a custom home builder, and (most important for our purposes here) a very good cook.  Lucky us!  Breakfasts at the Principe house would put an IHOP buffet – should an IHOP buffet serve Rapa brand scrapple – to shame… and that’s just on your standard Wednesday.  Breakfast not your thing?  Pfft! If you need a soup, Uncle Frank’s your man.  Other than one unfortunate incident where he went all not-in-a-good-way-free-form on a pot of pasta fazool (yes, I do have the memory of an elephant … a bizarre elephant but an elephant nonetheless), that man can toss things into a pot and come up with the most delicious combinations.

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Video Demonstration – Nonnie’s Biscotti

Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is life’s undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room. ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

A holiday indulgence, if you please.  In all their splendor, linked below are eight uncut, unedited, completely amateur (by yours truly) videos of our day of biscotti making with Aunt Dot.  Interspersed with an intro to “The Monsta,” nuggets of family chatter and some wicked dance moves (don’t ask but do watch if you dare), you will find all of the secrets to making a perfect batch (or six if you are Aunt Dot) of Nonnie’s biscotti.  Enjoy or be afraid … you decide!

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Old Nonnie’s Minestrone

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I’ve finally bitten the bullet and asked my mother to cook with me for the blog. It’s not that she’s not a good cook. To the contrary, she’s an excellent cook. It’s just that it’s my mother and I wasn’t sure I wanted to boss her around in my kitchen and tell her how to cook and where to stand and how to measure … I jest to amuse myself. Those reasons were exactly what got me moving.

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Spaghetti ala olio

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If I were given the opportunity to pick my last meal on earth, I would choose, without hesitation, spaghetti ala olio.  Or as we’ve called it since childhood, spaghetti ollie oley.  Though some dishes have more significant memories attached or elegant ingredients, none make my taste buds happier.

Noodles in oil tossed.
Golden garlic shaves atop.
Grated cheese completes.

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Pasta Fazool aka pasta e fagioli

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This dish is the reason that I started this blog.  If I think of Nonnie in the kitchen, it generally involves her making pasta fazool and me being shooed away from the pot.  “Elizabeth! Go. Out. Side!”  To be sure, I know this is correctly referred to as pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) but we have never called it that and I see no reason to start now.  Plus, I don’t think most of the family would know what I was talking about if it I called it Nonnie’s pasta e fagioli.

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