Cooking with Val

This summer was full of change, challenges and more importantly, blessings in abundance.  Our daughter graduated from college, our son was an ROTC Field Training selectee, we drove through 4 states (love Arches Nat’l Park in Utah!) to our 11th assignment, we spent some amazing quality time together and with friends and family.

Arches National Park
Arches National Park

We made the trek out East to visit Angie and her family in Ohio… While there, we had a great time visiting and sharing and eating with famfriends, the Da Bramos.  (Rina, and her brother Bruno, have just hit the streets in a fire engine fitted with an Italian wood-fired pizza oven, cleverly called Playing with Fire Pizza).  I know I’ve written a post about this, however, I wanted to share some of the great food that came from the hands and hearts of these incredible women… I am blessed!  1082528_564291756966558_104563907_o

Cooking with Val


*1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped

*3 Garlic cloves minced (or more, you can never have enough garlic)

*1 T sugar

*1/2 carrot finely shredded

*Tomatoes (we used POMI brand, or other San Marzano tomatoes)

*3T tomato paste

*1 Bay leaf

*salt/pepper/crushed red pepper/oregano

*Rind of a good Italian cheese (if you have an extra, throw in freezer til you need it for this)


1. Sweat onion/garlic, carrot and spices in EVOO in tall pot til translucent

2. Add paste and stir til incorporated

3. Add tomatoes, sugar and bay leaf

4. Bring just to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for an hour, or more…enjoy!


*1/2 Sweet onion

*3 garlic cloves

*Grape Tomatoes


*salt/pepper/crushed red pepper

*1/2 block cream cheese

*reserved pasta water from your cooked pasta

1. Saute onion, garlic and spices til translucent in EVOO

2. Add tomatoes, continue cooking until tomatoes crack open and then soften

3. Right before serving, add cream cheese and melt in.

4. Add water from pasta to get the right consistency for your taste!


*3 Lbs total of equal ground beef, pork, veal

*2 eggs

*2T Pecorino or Parmigiano grated cheese

*1/2 c. bread crumbs soaked in ¾ c. milk

*5 cloves garlic minced (or more)

*salt/pepper/oregano/parsley/red pepper


*Finely chopped mushrooms

*1/2 cup bread crumbs

*2 cloves garlic minced

*2 shallots finely chopped

*salt/pepper/red pepper/oregano

*1/2 c. Ricotta or mozzarella


mix in bowl all stuffing  ingredients to make thick tacky mixture, put aside

Mix in another large bowl all meatball ingredients, then shape each meatball and using your thumb make an indent into it, place a small spoon of stuffing into it and cover up.

Place stuffed meatballs on parchment paper on cooking sheet

Bake 450’ for 15-18 minutes


*5 eggs separated

*500 grams mascarpone cheese

*5T sugar (separated into 4 and 1)

*1 package hard lady fingers (aka savoidardi)

*Strong coffee or espresso with added sugar to taste, cooled to room temperature

*good quality cocoa

*coffee liquor if want

1. Beat egg yolks and 4T sugar til light golden yellow

2. Beat egg whites and 1T sugar to stiff peaks

3. GENTLY fold in egg whites to yolks

4. In a glass dish, figure out which way lady fingers will be arranged to best fit pan

5. Lightly dust bottom of dish with cocoa

6. Quickly dip each lady finger into coffee (or coffee/liquor) and then arrange on bottom of pan

7. Spoon 1/3 to half of your creamed egg mixture on top (depending on how many layers you do)

8. Repeat step 5, dipping and placing another layer of lady fingers on top of cream mixture

9. Spoon remaining cream mixture on top.

10. Dust cocoa on top

11. Refrigerate for an hour at least to cool, serve and watch them smile!



Slice Eggplant thin and generously salt and let sit for 1 hour til softened.

Rinse well, pat dry.

Lay flat on baking sheets lightly oiled and cook on 350 for 10 min til soft but not mushy.


2 cups ricotta cheese

2 eggs

Minced garlic

Salt/pepper/red pepper/oregano

Finely chopped basil

½ cut Parmesan cheese grated

fresh pasta (lunga, maccheroni or other long pasta)

Lay each eggplant and fill with spoonful of filling. We also added the fresh pasta, it must be fresh don’t use dry! But will be equally delicious w/o the pasta.

Then gently roll and place open side down in roasting pan.

Cover GENEROUSLY with the red sauce and sprinkle again with parmesan cheese.

Bake 350 degrees for about 20 min til hot and bubbly!

Even if you don’t like, have never had, or are seriously confused by the eggplant ~ TRY THIS DISH!

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