Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

Benvenuto Amici!

 Your Web-host, Bill Abruzzo

Ciao! I am a cookbook author and passionate Italophile! I have been cooking Italian food and traveling to Italy for over 35 years.  If you also love Italian food and traveling to Italy, then come with me on a culinary adventure. I will introduce you to the regional cuisines of Italy, and provide you with delicious recipes and cooking tips each week in my food blog. My travel pages provide detailed travel information about interesting places and will certainly entice you to start planning your next trip to Italy. Also, be sure to ramble through my web pages where you will find useful information on Italian cuisine, food traditions, holiday menus, Italian ingredients, and much more. I also offer cooking lessons.  I can show you in just a few easy steps how to prepare classic Italian recipes using traditional techniques and ingredients. And please, be sure to comment on the recipes posted each week in my food blog! If you would like detailed information on a particular food or travel topic, then please take a moment to become a member of and send me an internal email with your inquiry. Grazie Mille!  Please enjoy my website!                                 

Recipes and Ramblings - the Cookbook Series: In the Footsteps of Nonna              NOW AVAILABLE!                            

    By Bill Abruzzo, January 14, 2015   

Finalmente! I am very proud to announce that I have partnered with Pelican Publishing Company for the publication of the first of my two regional Italian cookbooks, In the Footsteps of Nonna: Recipes and Ramblings in Southern Italy and Sicily.  There are over 150 authentic and original recipes that are easy to prepare and delicious. My cookbook also contains plenty of wonderful short stories about my family's Italian food traditions, my many travels to Italy, and my colorful friends who live there. It provides wonderful and entertaining insight to Italian food and culture. 

Many thanks to my amazing wife, Jennifer, my family, friends and the members of for all of your support over the past few years! Many thanks also to Nina Kooij, editor in chief, at Pelican Publishing Company, Erin Classen, assistant editor and the entire team at Pelican for sharing my vision.  I appreciate all of your hard work and efforts over the past several months!  Hit the following link for a preview and to order your copy: 

Finally, with your continued support, I am confident that my second cookbook, Recipes and Ramblings in Northern Italy, Istria and Dalmatia will be available in 2017 or sooner! Grazie mille! 

Let the Canning Begin!

By Bill Abruzzo, May 25, 2015

The first week of July is canning time at our farm.  By now, all of the greens, cabbages, and beans have been picked, and we turn our attention to the vegetables that we love to can and pickle.  My favorite are zucchini spears, sweet green peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes pickled in a sweet and sour vinegar brine with fresh cloves of garlic, bay leaves and five different spices. I use black peppercorns, mustard seeds, celery seeds, coriander seeds and cloves. On a good day, I will can 150 jars!

In Italy, pickled vegetables are referred to as "sott 'acetto", which means "under vinegar".   Here in the United States, Italian style pickled vegetables are called "giardinara". You can find jars of fancy giardinara at your local Italian market, but it is more fun to make your own! If you wish, give mine a try. They will be ready in late September, when I typically open my online farm stand. This year, I will introduce a new food product line called "il Giardinetto Bello", which include sauces too. 

So, please check back in a few months.  My picked vegetables can be purchased in quart and half quart jars. They are always a favorite! If you would like to make your own, the recipe can be found in my cookbook, In the Footsteps of Nonna: Recipes and Ramblings in Southern Italy and Sicily.



Cucuzza -A Most Unusual Sicilian Squash 

 By Bill Abruzzo, June 1, 2015  


Cucuzza Squash hanging from the arbor in my vegetable garden

Cucuzza is a most unusual variety of squash that is native to Sicily.  The vines grow extremely fast and climb skyward up trellises, fences and buildings -hence the old Sicilian proverb. The cucuzza plant will also produce long slender squash that can reach five feet in length.  It is also invasive, and  will surely take over your garden if you do not give it enough room.  One summer, the vines of the cuccuzza plant in our garden climbed up the side of the house, on to the roof, and then into our attic vent.  Imagine my surprise to see the cucuzza vines growing in the attic!  In Italy, cucuzza is typically grown alongside a trellis or arbor so that the squash can hang down.  By the end of summer, there is sure to be at least a dozen cocuzza hanging from my arbor! 

The squash are mild in flavor and taste like zucchini.  The tendrils and young leaves (called "tenerumi")are also delicious sautéed and tossed with pasta. If you want to grow cucuzza, you must order the seeds online.  There is a company, CMC Farms, which is located in Ruston, Louisiana that actually grows cucuzza on a commercial scale.  In fact, it appears that CMC is the only commercial producer of cucuzza in the United States.  Fortunately, they will sell you the seeds, so you can plant them in your own garden.  Here is the website address for CMC: Be sure to plant your seeds early in the Spring if you live in the Middle Atlantic states!  The vines grow quickly and by mid July there is sure to be plenty of cucuzza hanging from your trellis.

This cucuzza is over 6 feet long!  

In August, it is time to make Cucuzzata (Sicilian Squash Marmalade) 

by Bill Abruzzo, June 1, 2015

What do you do with a dozen large squash that are over 4 feet long?  Make marmalade!  By the end of summer, we have so many cucuzza hanging from our trellis that it is not possible for my wife and I to eat them all.  Rather than let them go to waste, I make large pots of marmalade, which I then jar.  It is an all day event.  The squash must be peeled, deseeded and then pureed in a food processor.  The puree is transferred to a large pot, sugar and a few other ingredients are added, and then it is set to simmer for up to 2 hours. The end product is a delightful marmalade that has a mild squash flavor.  It is an old Sicilian recipe that was invented many centuries ago by nuns at a convent near Palermo.

Today, cucuzzata is enjoyed in Sicily, and here at my farm in Virginia, too!  The recipe can be found in my cookbook, In the Footsteps of Nonna: Recipes and Ramblings in Southern Italy and Sicily.  So far this summer, I have canned 60 jars, but there are still a few squash on the vines.  I will have a limited supply available for sale.


In September, its time to make Pesto!

 by Bill Abruzzo, January 14, 2016

In September, the basil in our garden stands over 3 feet tall. The large tender leaves are vibrant green and the tantalizing fragrance fills the air. Late September is the perfect time to harvest every last leaf of basil before the first frost sets in. And what better to do with fresh basil, than make pesto! Making pesto is a tradition handed down in our family by my grandmother, Josephine. She made the very best, and I have her recipe! Here, at my farm in Virginia, we make gallons and gallons of pesto! We offer it for sale and give to family and friends as a gift.  Check out my web page "Fall Harvest in Virginia" to learn more. If you love pesto or want to give it a try, purchase some from my  web store!  If you would like to make your own, the recipe will be available in my second cookbook, Recipes and Ramblings in Northern Italy, Istria and Dalmatia, available in 2018.   

Update on Bill's Italian Vegetable Garden 2017

By Bill Abruzzo, June15, 2017

Spring arrived early this year in the foothills of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. We had an average winter with several cold snaps a few significant snowfalls. My rosemary, tarragon and sage survived the winter cold, but my Italian parsley and oregano did not.  I was able to sow seeds during the third week of April. This year, we are growing a nice variety of beans, including borlotti, Italian flat beans and fava. As for the seedlings, I had to wait until mid May because of the possibility for frost. June arrived with plenty of warm weather and rain, which has really kick started the garden.  This week (June 15th), we harvested the first zucchini blossoms. What a treat!  We are hopeful to have a bumper crop of assorted greens, beans, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes in early July. August is certain to bring several varieties of peppers, onions, green onions and cucuzza!  Be sure to check out some great pics of my vegetable garden. Just click on the "Meet Bill Abruzzo" tab and then go to "My Vegetable Garden". 

Only at Recipes and Ramblings in Italy:  Italian Recipes with a Virginia Farm Fusion Twist!

By Bill Abruzzo, June 13, 2015


Virginia Okra Sautéed in Olive Oil with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, Garlic & Peperoncino 

Living in rural Virginia, I have limited access to traditional Italian ingredients.  This has challenged me to rethink and recreate many of my dishes using unique Virginia ingredients that are readily available.  I have also been inspired to cook southern dishes with an Italian flare.   Over the past 2 years, I developed some truly great recipes that I call "Virginia Farm Fusion".   These recipes are a great blend of my cultural heritage and the wonderful culinary traditions of the place where I now live. They are an example of the great American melting pot and what it means to be Italian-American.  You can find these recipes under Tuscany in Virginia under "Virginia Fusion Recipes".  I am sure you will enjoy them.  


Istria:  An Enchanting Land Where the flavors of the Italian and Slavic Worlds Collide in a Symphony that Will Please Your Taste buds! 

  By Bill Abruzzo, August 15 ,2014

Istria is a triangular shaped peninsula that juts into the Adriatic Sea.  It is the northern most section of Croatia’s Adriatic coast, and is very close to Italy.  Slavic and Italian peoples have both occupied Istria for many centuries.  In fact, many Istrian towns have both a Slavic and Italian name.  Take for instance rovinj, which is also called “Rovigno” and Novigrad, which is also known as “Cittanova”.  Take a stroll through Rovinj’s old town, and the influences of the Venetian Empire in Istria will be clear.

Istrian cuisine is a harmonious blend of Slavic and Italian flavors.  In Istria, Italian staples such as pasta, polenta, gnocchi and risotto are likely to be served alongside a hearty Slavic goulash or stuffed cabbage rolls filled with ground beef and rice.  The use of fine olive oil, Mediterranean vegetables and herbs and the freshest Adriatic seafood makes Istrian food very similar to the cuisine of Italy’s coastal regions.  And if you enjoy prosciutto, just wait until you try Istria’s version called “przut”. It is just as delicious as Italy's version.  My wife and I recently travelled through Istria and sampled the amazing cuisine.  We particularly enjoyed the traditional truffle dishes from Istria’s mountainous interior region.  If you ask the Istrians, they will surely tell you that their truffles are better than the prized truffles of Alba in Piemonte!  Above are some of the wonderful dishes we enjoyed.  First, is traditional, hand-rolled Istrian pasta called "Fuzi" tossed with venison goulash. Next, are delicate ravioli filled with sautéed Swiss chard and topped with a light cream sauce and plenty of shaved black truffles. Finally, chicken liver pate set atop crisp bruschetta and sprinkled with shaved black truffles and a drizzle of Istrian olive oil.  Oh, how delicious life is in Istria!  You can find Istrian recipes similar to these in my second cookbook, Recipes and Ramblings in Northern Italy, Istria and Dalmatia, which will be released in 2017.




An Amazing Trip to the Peljesac Peninsula of Dalmatia and a Wonderful Stay at My Favorite Bed & Breakfast -Vatikan Guesthouse in the seaside town of Trpanj 

 By Bill Abruzzo, August 15 ,2014


View of Trpanj from Vatikan Guesthouse  

There are many reasons why you should choose to visit Dalmatia over the coastal regions of Italy.  Dalmatia is everything coastal Italy once was and now wishes it could once again be -unspoiled, tranquil and full of authentic charm.  Along Dalmatia's rugged Peljesac Peninsula, you will find the cleanest and clearest seas, fine pebble beaches, and small fishing villages where the freshest seafood and fish are caught each day.  What you will not find are rows of soaring high rise hotels and condominiums pushed up to the sea.  Dalmatia, my friends, is nothing at all like the Italian Riviera! And, the Peljesac Peninsula is its best kept secret -a hidden jewel where vineyards cling to mountainsides that cascade down to the sea.  

If you venture on to the Peljesac Peninsula, I suggest that you stay in the traditional fishing town of Trpanj. It is a quiet place that has only a few small hotels and pensions to accommodate summer tourists. The pristine beaches are therefore never too crowded, even during the busiest holiday weeks of summer. Trpanj's quaint old town is a huddle of traditional structures crisscrossed by a maze of narrow winding streets and alleys, which surround an old church. It is fascinating to explore. The town's charming harbor front, ringed by small cafes and restaurants, is also a highlight. It is the perfect place for an evening stroll as the sun sets over the sea. Trpanj is also very close to the Peljasac wine region, so there are plenty of nearby wineries to visit, which all offer wine tastings.  If you want to venture further from Trpanj, the historic town of Mali Ston and the beautiful islands of Korcula and Miljet are within easy reach.  

If you choose to visit Trpanj, Vatikan Guesthouse is the absolute best place to stay.  Staying there was the highlight of our 17 day trip to Croatia.  The guesthouse is an authentic Dalmatian mansion that is many centuries old, but has been loving restored.  It is full of Dalmatian character with beautiful stone, masonry, tile, and antique wood details.  It is located in the heart of Trpanj's old town, on a charming alley.  It is only a 2 minute walk from Vatikan Guesthouse to an amazing beach area, where the water is crystal clear.  We swam and snorkeled for hours each day!

Our spacious room at Vatikan Guesthouse had stone walls, wood beam ceiling, an amazing view of the sea, and was spotless clean.  It was a quiet and romantic paradise. The guesthouse has several patio areas to relax and a charming, wine cellar.  The owners, Lenka, Joe and their daughter Morana, were absolutely fantastic!  They are very helpful and accommodating. They also speak English.  Lenka prepared a wonderful breakfast for us each day.  She also served us her special homemade liquors (sour cherry, walnut, myrtle, carob, and rose petal). They were amazing!   Lenka also took us into her vegetable garden, and later, she prepared a traditional Dalmatian meal made with vegetables picked fresh that day. Her food was delicious, and by far the best we had during our trip! 

My wife and I highly recommend to anyone in search of a relaxing respite from life to head to Trpanj and stay at Vatikan Guesthouse.  Forget the overcrowded Italian resorts of San Remo, Viareggio and Rimini!  You can find a Mediterranean paradise in the Peljesac region. And best of all, you will not have to share it with a hoard of package tourists! Thank you Lenka, Joe and Morana!