Italian Moms - Spreading their Art to every Table: Classic Homestyle Italian Recipes

Italian Moms - Spreading their Art to every Table: Classic Homestyle Italian Recipes

by Elisa Costantini

ISBN: 9780692367780

Publisher Costantini Publishing

Published in Cooking, Food & Wine/Regional & International, Cooking, Food & Wine, Nonfiction

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Book Description

In her debut cookbook, Costantini collects her tried-and-true recipes for Italian favorites in one place, sharing them with anyone who has an interest in making phenomenal meals for the people they love. She includes recipes that rely on specialized ingredients and techniques, Costantini’s rustic, authentic recipes call for only fresh, simple ingredients available at local markets. Her clear writing allows even novice cooks to bring the old-world charm of the Italian countryside to their home dining room tables.

Sample Chapter


Being the one responsible for putting food on my family’s table gives me a sense of pride, and it is how I express my love for those who gather at my table. Because it is a matter of love and affection when I prepare meals, I tend to add ingredients on whim and whimsy rather than according to instruction. That is to say, I do not typically follow formulas, but rather instinct and experience. I do not record my recipes (actually, I have never in my life written one down until now), nor do I ever really look at other recipes for inspiration. I suspect many home cooks operate the same way: add a little bit of this or that and adjust according to taste.

So, why am I now gathering a collection of recipes that have been in my family for generations? In part, it is because of the name of the coauthor on this book, my son Frank. I have happily spent a lifetime preparing food and caring for my family, and so when he approached me with the idea of recording my recipes, I saw it as an opportunity to spend time with my son while enjoying a lifelong passion. It would be a blessing if anything, that what I have learned over the years could be useful to someone else.

There is perhaps a notion of legacy in these pages, as well. The recipes I present here have gathered in my memory for decades; each one has at one time or another been prepared for my family or loved ones. I am humbled to remember those moments of satisfaction my children or my husband (or whomever I was cooking for) felt when they ate my food. And so, I associate memories with the meals I have prepared, and this collection is a way to honor those memories.

The other aspect of legacy is that now that I have this collection, I have something tangible to pass forward to my children and to others who may be interested in reading about the art of Italian cooking. I was not fortunate enough to have such a guide when I learned to cook, and so if these recipes are at all a help to the at-home cook, I am more than happy to share a few of my secrets.

Where do all these recipes come from? From a lifetime spent in the kitchen, taking simple ingredients and transforming them into something greater. In a way, each of the recipes is a story. To me, each meal is an amalgamation of what may seem like ordinary ingredients—tomatoes, basil, meats and cheeses—but when they are put together in just the right way, and when done so with love and affection, they blend to create something much greater.

And isn’t this an interesting analogy for life? If one takes care to nurture the essential things—family, friends and loved ones—they become the sustenance of life, capable of nourishing your soul and feeding your every pleasure.

I recall fondly the memories of my early years in Poggio Valle, a simple community of 25 or so families. It is where I learned the importance of family and it is where I would one day meet my beloved husband, Francesco. I was stricken the moment he rode into town on a motorcycle looking for work as a bricklayer. Having already been promised to another, I tried to ignore him, but Francesco wooed me through a series of conversations late at night through a neighbor’s kitchen window. We were young and in love. Perhaps we did not know much better, but fate brought us to the same place; and so, when we married, I felt like we were simply soul mates following our destiny.

There was, however, one source of disagreement between us. Francesco desperately wanted to live in America, a land I had little desire to even visit. Although I was born in Italy, I had the ability to apply for US citizenship because my mother had gained citizenship and lived in the United States prior to my birth. I had little interest in doing this, but alas, I finally gave in and decided to at least try living in America.

In April 1961, our family began the voyage from Italy to a new homeland. As a 23-years-old, I boarded the SS Independence for an arduous 9-day journey. Because Nadia’s paperwork got held up in bureaucracy, Francesco and my daughter would have to come later. This was actually quite a frightening thing to me: I would be a foreigner traveling to a new land without my family nearby to comfort me. I had never traveled outside of Abruzzo, let alone another country. It was the longest 9 days of my life. But Francesco surprised me; he had secured the proper paperwork and had flown to America ahead of my arrival, and we were quickly reunited. I do recall having Francesco promise me that he would not fly with our daughter on a plane all the way to America. But the joy of seeing him when I arrived in Philadelphia tempered my frustration with him. Besides, the years have passed, and these small details tend to fade away in the face of happier memories.

I will admit that life was strange in America where I learned English watching episodes of I Love Lucy. I often got lonely because, while Francesco, my brother, his wife and cousins who had come before us, all had jobs to go to, I was alone in the apartment with Nadia. We were fortunate to settle in Philadelphia among a community of like-minded Italian immigrant families. My hopes for a return to Italy were dashed after my second child, Agnes, was born with a medical disability. She received excellent care in America, and I felt she had to stay close to her doctors and nurses. And so, I had to resign myself to a new reality - I would never return to live in Italy full time.

Despite never having much money, we were a happy family, and I took great pride in being able to prepare meals for my family and care for their basic needs. We would be blessed with another child, a son, Frank, and we would continue to make many great friends. I would also find salvation after the death of my daughter when fate and chance brought me to the doors of the Don Guanella School run by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where I found a career caring for children with special needs as a housekeeper and cook. Over 35 years later, I still work with these lovely children, and it gives me a sense of purpose and belonging to be in their company. They were my salvation after I lost my daughter, and again now that Francesco has also been taken from me. They need me, and I need them.

I have seen a great many things in my life from unbelievable joy and happiness to moments of sadness and hardship; through it all, I have found meaning and purpose in my family and my ability to care for them in the best way I know how. I was blessed with a talent for cooking, and so I am honored and humbled to share these skills now in this collection of recipes. I would like to dedicate this collection to my beloved Francesco. I was fortunate to spend over 55 years with him, building a family and living an extraordinary life together.

When I say that preparing food is a responsibility, it means so much more than that. It means caring for family, the kinship of friends, and the sharing of good times despite life’s struggles. It means giving a little of yourself each time you put food on a plate to share with whomever has gathered at your table. It means taking the time and care needed to lovingly take a collection of ingredients and shape them into something more. Food is a way to tell a story, to share yourself, to create, to care for, to nurture. Food … is love.


Excerpted from "Italian Moms - Spreading their Art to every Table: Classic Homestyle Italian Recipes" by Elisa Costantini. Copyright © 2015 by Elisa Costantini. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Elisa Costantini

Elisa Costantini

Elisa Costantini was born in 1938 in Poggio Valle, a small town in the province of Teramo, located in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The daughter of farmers, and one of six children, she learned to cook at a very young age using simple, fresh ingredients to create wonderful food for family and friends.

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