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The most wonderful thing about being Italian, it’s not the food, it’s the family.
I’ve have seen many different family formations and interactions and hands down I will say nobody hands your ass to you like an Italian, but also has the biggest heart to swallow you into when you need them.
The Italian people are full of love, passion, good food and tradition.
In college I would always feel guilty that I would never call my Nonna unless I forgot a family recipe. At least I wasn’t calling for money!
No matter the excuse or what I was asking Nonna, and even once my Nonno, would happily share the method of meals with me.
When you ask an experienced cook what the recipe to something is they don’t tell you the process, they just spit out a list of ingredients and the order to put them in and it’s up to your cooking experience to figure out the rest.
My friends laugh when I show them my recipes as they just lists of ingredients that more resembles the shopping list and not a precious family secret. I actually have shown off my Borscht during dinner parties as the list is short and vague, but the results are magnificent.
As I grow into an older Italian woman I am learned the beauty and respect for our traditions. It’s funny to me now as I was always the one bored with these same traditions as a child, but they make me feel whole inside now.
One new tradition I have started is to compile all the family recipes together. It serves two points for me and you! One, I get to spend time with my Nonna once a month, two, you and I both get all my family recipes in one convenient blog page! Yes, I told my Nonna that her recipes will be published alongside my naked butt photos. She said that was fine, but she won’t be cooking naked.
When I undertook this project I had a dream of Nonna and I standing side by side, laughing and chopping onions and garlic together…. The reality is equally funny, but involves Nonna pushing me aside and showing me how its done. It instantly reminded me of when I asked her to teach me to sew and three minutes later she already fixed them hem on my pants, I never saw a thing.
Too bad for Nonna I have learned her ways and I am practicing my mother’s Ox like ability to stay steadfast and capture all the Nonna during our cooking time together.
Just before Christmas we got together and made a regular fast lunch of Pasta Carne Tritata.
One thing to keep in mind about any kind of cooking, usually the simplest recipes are the tastiest.
It was a good thing I brought my camera to my parent’s home otherwise Nonna would have cooked it all up without evidence. Infact, my mom and I went shopping (I strictly told Nonna to wait to cook lunch when we got back) and by the time we came back Nonna had everything in a pot simmering away. I was dying with laughter and re-explained how I needed to document the directions. She shrugged and said “there’s nothing to do, just chop some garlic and make a sauce”. Don’t worry guys, I’m here to slow down Nonna’s process so we can all enjoy good Italian food.
If you’re keen on reading on after the recipe I have written down how to play an Italian Card game. It’s super fun and guaranteed to bring some laughter to the table. Unless your a bunch of old Italian men, then it’s a lot grunting and farting.
Pasta Carne Tritata
Time: 30 minutes
- 2lbs of Ground beef
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can (6oz) Tomato paste
- 1 can (28oz) Peeled tomato
- 1 bag (10oz) Frozen peas
- Extra water to make sauce thinner if needed
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1- 2tbsOlive Oil
- 1 lb Rigatone, Cavatappi, Paccheri, or Mafaldine pasta (yes you can choose a wrong pasta)
- Grated Romano Cheese, optional
Seeing as Nonna hijacked this meal, I will put the steps down as best as possible for you 🙂
- Start by heating a deep saucepan on medium high. Add your ground beef and brown it. If you’ve chosen a fatty beef you may want to drain some fat out… or not. Remove your beef from the pan and set aside for now. If your pan needs some olive oil add enough to coat the bottom of the pan in fat.
- Next add in your chopped onion, stirring occasionally until just clear. Add your beef back into the saucepan. Stir, then add your garlic.
- Next add in your tomato paste and peeled tomatoes. Be sure to crush your tomatoes before putting in the sauce. I like to feel my food, so I prefer squishing the tomatoes with my hands over the pan.
- At this point stiff all of your ingredients together and add any water so that you have a sauce. It’s okay if you accidentally add too much water, just cook the sauce down longer.
- Add your peas and check for salt and pepper needs. Keep stirring until and cooking on medium low (at least 20 minutes) until your ready to eat.
- In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil for your pasta.
- Add about 3tbs or so of salt to your water. It should smell and taste salty like the sea (there is such thing as too salty!!!).
- Add your pasta and cook as box instructs you to. Drain your pasta and add a little of just the sauce to all of the pasta.
- Scoop pasta into bowls and top with your Carne Tritata sauce and serve! Add a little cheese to give it some extra salt if needed. My family says if the flavor is perfect then you don’t need cheese. I always eat some first, but I love cheese so I add it anyway!
Tip: – When I cook with canned tomatoes I always add a pinch of sugar to offset the can taste.
- Nonna started this early because she knows the longer the sauce has to cook the better flavor you have!
- Enjoy the rest of the sauce at the bottom of the bowl with some fresh crusty bread!
Italian Card Games: Sette Mezza
Playing gambling card games is a holiday tradition in my family. On Christmas eve certain games are played, on New years eve we play a special game of Tombola. We are seriously packed tight with so many traditions Jamie makes a joke that we have even have minor holidays covered like St. Patrick’s day and eating green mashed potatoes and corned beef and cabbage.
Anyways, Sette Mezza is one of these games. If you’ve never played with an Italian card deck, yes they are different than American decks) I recommend just shuffling through and seeing all the cards. They have different images so it’s a little skill building just to understand if your holding a one or does that strange decorative vase count as two (It’s just one)?
Sette Mezza is a lot like 21, except it means 7 ½ . The rules of Italian cards change for every game, as far as point values goes, and in this game there are half points.
Anything that is a person (people on horses, women who look like men, and kings) is a half-point card. The King, il Re, with the coin is a wild card. The wild card can either be worth any amount of points, but he must either be a whole number or a half point only. You can’t make him a 6 ½.
All the other cards are as many points as is shown. So a card with three coins is three points, a card with 6 swords is six points.
Just like Blackjack, you want to get as close to 7½ as possible without busting, going over the points limit.
Dealers are super important in Italian games, they are the rulers of the table.
Dealer will shuffles the cards and one person will split the deck. Dealer bring the deck together and distributes the cards clockwise, giving each player (including the dealer who goes last) one card facedown. Players can look at their cards to see how many points they have right now.
Next once you’ve guaged your chances of getting 7½ you place a monetary bet (we play with coins, not pennies) in front of you. The dealer will go back around clockwise and ask each player if they want another card. The player keep the initial card secret, but the new cards are publicly shown. This way everyone can see the points your getting. Keep track of the points you have in your hand and the new ones being dished out so you don’t go over! If you are safe (at 7½ points or less) then it becomes the next person’s turn. If you overdrew and busted over 7½ then your bet gets paid to the dealer.
Once everyone has placed a bet and had a chance to pass or get cards then the dealer does the same to themselves. At this time three things can happen.
- The dealer busts and everyone who hasn’t lost already gets their bet matched by the dealer.
- The dealer gets 7½ or at least closer to 7½ than your card and you pay the dealer.
- The dealer has a lower card than you and the dealer pays you.
- If you and the dealer have the same amount of points then nobody wins or loses any money.
It takes a few slow games to grasp it and decipher the cards, but it’s really rather easy and fun to play with family of all ages!