Saturday, December 12, 2015

Aunt Ann's Pepperoni Roll - The coveted appetizer

          Aunt Ann was the classiest lady I knew. She and Uncle Tony ran a jewelry store in Northway Mall, Santini’s Jewelers, and every time I visited the shop, I’d take note of Aunt Ann and her two pretty sisters who either worked there or were always there for a visit. They never failed to look like fashionistas – dressed and accessorized to the nines with perfect makeup and hair. Aunt Ann was well-coiffed well into her eighties. She was barely five feet tall and had the tiniest hands, but the dazzling four carat diamond she wore never looked out of place on her little fingers. It was her calling card.

     Auntie was not only the epitome of fashion but was an avid connoisseur of the good life. She and my Uncle Tony painted the town pretty often. Their favorite restaurant was Rico’s – an old school Italian classic here in the North Hills. They graced the restaurant at least twice a week, where my uncle would embarrass Aunt Ann by snapping at the waitresses to get their attention, demanding this or that. Rico and the staff loved him though. Aunt Ann and Uncle Tony traveled to Las Vegas several times a year, where they’d do a little gambling and Uncle Tony would inevitably buy a few silk shirts for his snazzy collection. In my eyes, the two were jet setters. I never expected Aunt Ann to be a good cook. I was way off.

     Uncle Tony passed away shortly before I got married. In fact, he took my husband diamond shopping for an engagement ring just before he fell ill. My husband has fond memories of Uncle Tony showing him ginormous stones.

     “This is a nice one, eh?” Uncle Tony would say, wiping the sweat from his bifocals and nodding, as Bobby shook in his shiny black shoes. Bobby finally swayed Uncle Tony away from the four carat stones that so resembled Aunt Ann’s big rock and toward the ones that were more his (and my) speed.
      After Uncle Tony died, Aunt Ann was terribly lonely. She never really got over the loss of her one true love, her best friend. She yearned for him and spoke of him every single day of her life, even years later when dementia unfortunately set in. My mother took Aunt Ann under her wing, picking her up for Friday lunches – Rico’s of course, to the salon to get her perms, and to the mall – Auntie loved to shop. She spent more time with our family than she ever had, and I was able to get to know her even better, which was really a blessing. She was a beautiful woman inside and out and was one of my grandmother’s very best friends.

     I cannot, for the life of me, remember exactly when I asked my great Aunt Ann for her pepperoni roll recipe. I have a pretty good memory for things like this, but this one’s gone. All I remember is calling her on the phone the first time I tried to make it. I was confused about exactly how to roll out the dough. She calmly explained what to do.

     “Let it thaw until it’s easy to roll, you know,” she said. “And, Dana, make sure you put a lot of peppers in it. I mean, you don’t have to put them in, but the peppers are what make it really tasty.”

      Her words were gospel. Aunt Ann’s pepperoni roll has been a huge hit since I started making it fifteen years ago and the God’s honest truth is the trick is in the hot peppers.

     This post is for you Aunt Ann. Every time someone raves over the pepperoni roll, I swear I give you credit. I hope you’re dancing with Uncle Tony in Heaven!'

Pepperoni Roll - Bring this app to your holiday party. You'll win the prize!


1 loaf Rhodes frozen bread dough
Pepperoni- pizza slices or sandwich slices – doesn’t matter
Shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese – or a mix of both
Banana Pepper rings – hot or mild, depending on what you like

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Let the dough thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter for a couple of hours. Roll it out into a long rectangular shape. Lay pepperoni all over the dough. Don’t skimp on this step. The more pepperoni, the better. Overlap the pieces so that every space of dough is covered. Lay shredded cheese on top. Sprinkle peppers over the cheese. Roll it up from the short end and tuck in the sides, so you have a nice loaf shaped roll.

Bake on a greased sheet for 40 minutes.

Slice and serve.


Happy holiday partying!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tis' the Season to Nosh!

And so we have begun the season of "The Nosh."

Nosh – to eat food enthusiastically or greedily

I love this time of year. Everything is festive, especially the food. I don't know about your house, but at holiday time, we indulge. Usually I'm not the baker extraordinaire; I much prefer cooking. Close to Christmas, I get the itch, and I end up baking at least 20 different types of treats. My cookie trays are an art form, to me, and I take painstaking care to perfect them for delivery to neighbors, friends and family every Christmas Eve morning.

 Here's a pic from one year.

Our parties revolve around food. Christmas Eve is the ultimate. Everyone brings something to my Uncle Vince's house where we have a display of noshing fit for royalty.Stuffed artichokes, Pizzachina, stuffed banana peppers, ham, marinated vegetable platter, fried cauliflower and mushrooms, pasta, etc.. etc...  The buffet is an overflowing apex of pleasure where we converge and chatter and tease and love on one another as family does.

It's so beautiful. It's so extraordinarily traditional. 

To kick off the season of the nosh, I have, as promised, the recipe for my family’s homemade Thanksgiving ravioli. My mother willingly shared the recipe, because she doesn’t believe anyone will make them to taste like ours.

     But, I believe in you!

     FYI, the measurements are questionable. We are Italian. We don’t really measure out ingredients!

     You will need a pasta machine for this recipe.

Babe’s Ravioli

In food processor mix for dough:
  3 Cups flour
  3 eggs
  1 tablespoon oil
  Add water a little at a time until dough forms into a ball.

2 lbs ground Veal
1 lb. ground sausage   We use Jimmy Deans Original recipe. 
Approximately 6 cloves minced garlic
About 1 cup chopped fine parsley
10 oz. pack of chopped frozen spinach,  thawed with all of the liquid squeezed out.  
1 small chopped onion
3/4 cup Romano cheese
dash salt and pepper
3-6 eggs, depending on the consistency. Should feel a little wetter than a meatball mixture.


Mix all of the filling ingredients together. My mother uses the food processor to chop the garlic, parsley, and onion then mixes in the rest by hand in a large bowl. Once the filling feels similar to meatball mix but slightly wetter, you’re good.

Use a food processor to make the dough and then follow your pasta machine’s directions for rolling it out into sheets. With ours, we start on a high gage so that the flattened dough fits through the slot. Then, we work our way down through the thinner settings until it’s about on the second or third to thinnest notch. You want the dough to be thick enough so that the filling can be wrapped inside. You don’t want it to split apart during boiling.

After we roll the dough into sheets, we lay it flat on a floured surface and fill it, about ¾ tsp to  1 teaspoon per rav. My aunt Ceil might be shaking a finger at me from Heaven, admonishing “No it’s a ½ tsp, Dana!” She always yelled at us that we made them to big, but I like a nice, hearty ravioli. You can’t really screw them up by making them bigger.

As shown in the pic below, we fill one long strip then fold it over. 

We then use a juice glass to cut the ravioli into little half-moons.

 We press the edges closed with a fork and pierce the centers then lay them in rows on waxed paper covered baking sheets. 

The ravs are frozen, bagged and stored for Thanksgiving day, when we boil them until they float then toss them with delicious homemade sauce.

The ravs are a  treat we only get to enjoy a few times a year, but the best part about making them is the fun we have together, carrying on a delicious family tradition that would make our ancestors proud.

Good luck! If you make a batch of ravioli, please write and tell me how it works out for you. I can’t wait to hear how much your family loves them! In the coming posts, I'll be sharing more sweet and savory recipes! People are always looking for a great holiday appetizer to bring to a party. I have a few up my sleeve that I’m willing to share, and I’ll post my very favorite (and everyone else’s) next week. Later in the month, I'll have some special cookie recipes for you to include on your cookie tray!