Frattacc e Minestra

On the weekend before Ash Wednesday, while my family and my husband’s family were over for Sunday dinner, I made a meal that my Mom and sisters hadn’t had for many years.  The meal is a typical recipe from Gallo Matese which is the town in Italy that my family comes from.  This is a hearty and filling meal.

The meal includes Frattacc (hard polenta) and Minestra (savoy cabbage with beans and sausage).  My sisters raved about the Frattacc.  I use great dried great northern beans in the Minestra and the meal should be made only after there has been a hard frost in the fall, as the savoy cabbage tastes better at that time.

Yield:  1 large family sized Frattacc



  • 1/2 lb dried great northern beans (about 1 mug or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 3 to 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda, divided


  • 8 to 10 sweet Italian sausage links


  • 1 large or 2 medium savoy cabbage heads
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 to 2 quarts water


  • 1 lbs corn meal
  • 6 – 7 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)


  1. Soak all beans in 3 – 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon baking soda overnight in a sauce pot; then drain and rinse well (rinse at least 3 times).
  2. Replace 3 – 4 cups water and add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Bring beans to a boil and then lower heat to simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add peeled garlic cloves after piercing with toothpicks (so they float and are easier to pick out).  Cook until beans are tender. Remove garlic cloves before they start to fall apart.
  3. An easy way to cook the sausages is to broil them in disposable aluminum pans.  Prepare the sausages by cutting two slits on the tops and bottoms and transfer them to the aluminum pan.  Broil on high for 5 – 10 minutes. Turn sausages over and broil another 5 – 10 minutes until cooked through..
  4. Wash and tear savoy cabbage leaves into smaller pieces.  In a stock pot add the cabbage, water (enough water to about half way as high as the savoy cabbage) and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a fast simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  5. Cook until the thickest parts of the savoy cabbage is fork tender.  Add beans, sausages and a tablespoon of the sausage drippings to the savoy cabbage.  Cook for another 15 minutes so the flavors meld together.
  6. To cook the Frattacc, bring to a rolling boil the 6 – 7 cups of water with the 2 teaspoons of salt in a separate stock pot.  Frattacc needs plenty of salt for it to taste good.  You will need to taste the water periodically before the corn meal is stirred in to ensure that there is enough.  If the taste is too bland, add salt to taste.
  7. After the water is at a rolling boil, lower the heat, so the water isn’t boiling as hard.  Begin adding the corn meal by making a mound in the stock pot.  Keep adding the corn meal using small handfuls at a time until all the corn meal forms a large mound partially above and partially below the water.
  8. Let the water and corn meal continue boiling for about 30 minutes.  Do not stir until 30 minutes has passed.
  9. After 30 minutes, begin breaking up the mound of corn meal and stirring it vigorously to incorporate it into the water.  It will be difficult to stir the mixture as it is thick but continue to stir until most of the lumps are incorporated for at least 10 minutes.
  10. Place heat-proof materials on the seat of chair and take the pot from the heat and place it on the seat of a chair to make it easier to for the next step.  Using a large flat wooden spoon gather the Frattacc to one side of the pot near a handle towards you, turn the pot 180 degrees so the Frattacc is on the side of the pot that is away from you.  While holding the handle that is close to you, begin scraping a thin slice of the Frattacc mixture (from the top of the mound to the bottom) towards you and up against the empty side of the pot.  Continue scraping thin slices to the Frattacc mixture towards you until all of the mixture is piled up on the side of the pot nearest you.
  11. Turn the pot 180 degrees again and repeat the scraping process another three times.  This will help incorporate all the corn meal and help to dry out the Frattacc to the right consistency.
  12. Place the pot on low heat for 5 – 10 minutes to help the Frattacc stay together.  Pat the outside and top side of the Frattacc so it appears more smooth.  Don’t worry about anything that might stick to the pot because soaking it in water will help it unstick.  Also anything stuck to the pot that you can scrape off and eat is delicious.
  13. Take the pot off the heat and have a clean dishtowel centered on a plate so you can turn the pot over and the Frattacc will drop onto the center of the dishtowel will a little help.  It will look somewhat like a triangle.
  14. Take a thick string (the string used by pastry shops to close their boxes is very good for this) and use it to cut the Frattacc from one low side to the other low side over the inverted V shape into 1″ – 2″ slices.  Then use the string to cut the slices approximately in half by cutting from one end of the inverted V shape to the other.  Cover with the unused ends of the dishtowel to keep it warm.
  15. To serve, place a piece of the Frattacc on one corner of a dinner plate, add a couple of large spoonfuls of the Minestra with the beans alongside the Frattacc and ensure a sausage is also placed on the plate.
  16. To eat, each forkful should include a piece of Frattacc, Minestra and sausage.

With the leftovers, you can make Le Frecule.  To do this, heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauce pan, add crumbled Frattacc to brown lightly and then add Minestra without sausage and cook until heated through.  There aren’t really measurements that go with this; it just has to do with how much is left over but usually there is about 2 parts Minestra to 1 part Frattacc crumbs.  Enjoy!!!

King Cake

The weekend before Ash Wednesday I had my family and my husband’s family over for Sunday dinner.  Since Fat Tuesday was in two days I was looking for a great King Cake recipe.  I found one on and thought it would make a great addition to the Sunday meal.  My husband also wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.which I made using a boxed mix and tub frosting because it reminded him of his childhood.

For the King Cake, I wanted one that had cream cheese filling and was really rich.  This recipe gives me all that and more.  I did change the recipe a bit because I knew that my guests wouldn’t want something too sweet (unbelievable, I know).  I skipped the colored sugar and just went with the colored frosting, although I made three large stripes instead of two inch stripes with alternating colors.  This is a similar to a very rich, wonderful Danish.

King cake represents the three kings who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.  For the tradition of Epiphany in the privacy of your kitchen cut the cake in as many parts as people in the party.  In one of them, the a little plastic baby (big enough to prevent swallowing).  In the old days, they used a dried fava bean.  Everyone picks 1 piece of cake the one who discovers the toy is made the king of the day and wears the crown.  He picks a queen by putting the toy in her glass and everyone raises his or her glass and applauds. Same process in reverse if a lady finds the toy.  Tradition says that the next party or King Cake should be at the king’s expense.  Enjoy the recipe.

NOTE:  Traditionally, you may NOT prepare and serve this before Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) or after Mardi Gras Day!  The problem is that once you serve this cake, it will be requested year round.

Yield:  2 cakes                 Cook Time:  15 – 20 minutes



  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast (I used 4 1/2 t of Rapid Rise Yeast in a jar)
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided (2 c +)

Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (16 ounces total)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Colored Frosting:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 drops green food coloring
  • 2 drops yellow food coloring
  • 2 drops blue food coloring
  • 2 drops red food coloring

Colored sugars:

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 drops green food coloring
  • 2 drops yellow food coloring
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 2 drops blue food coloring


  1. Cook first 1/4 cup butter, 16 ounces of sour cream, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over low heat until butter melts (stir often).  Let mixture cool to 100 – 110 degrees.
  2. Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes.  Add butter mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour a little at a time to make a soft dough.
  3. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl, turn dough to grease top of dough.  Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.  I heat my oven to 170 degrees and then turn it off and wait before using it as the warm draft-free place to let my doughs rise.  Just be sure it’s not so warm that it begins to cook.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add egg and blend well. Add sugar, salt and vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.
  5. Punch dough down and divide in half.  Place 1 half onto a lightly floured surface; roll to a 28 x 10-inch rectangle.  Spread half of cream cheese mixture on dough.  Roll dough, in jellyroll fashion, starting at long side.  Place dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bring ends together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal.  Repeat with remaining dough and cream cheese mixture.  Next time I prepare this recipe I will insert a coffee can in the middle of the cake ring during baking to ensure the hole doesn’t close up as the cake rises while baking.
  6. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden.  After cool, insert a dried bean, whole almond, pecan half or King Cake Baby into the bottom of each cake.
  8. Decorate with bands of Colored Frostings, and sprinkle with Colored Sugars.  Ice the cake one strip at a time from center of ring to outside.  Each stripe should be about 2 inches wide.  Spread colored icing on cake and sprinkle colored sugar over icing.  Repeat with each color of icing and sugar until entire cake is covered in icing and sugar topping.
  9. COLORED FROSTINGS:  Stir together powdered sugar and melted butter.  Add milk to reach desired consistency for drizzling; stir in vanilla.  Divide frosting into 3 batches, tinting 1 green (signifies Faith), 1 yellow (signifies Power), and combining red and blue food coloring for purple frosting (signifies Justice).
  10. COLORED SUGARS:  Place 1/2 cup sugar and drop of green (signifies Faith) food coloring in a zip-top plastic bag and seal.  Shake and squeeze vigorously to evenly mix color with sugar.  Repeat procedure with 1/2 cup sugar and yellow (signifies Power) food coloring.  For purple (signifies Justice), combine 1 drop red and 1 drop blue food coloring before adding to remaining 1/2 cup sugar.

Recipe adapted from

Almond Heart Cookies

I wanted to bake cookies for Valentine’s Day but I also wanted to try an Almond Crescent Cookie recipe that my friend and neighbor had given me.for Christmas.  Two crescents facing each other could become a heart shape.  So I modified the recipe a bit and they turned out delicious.

The chocolate and red frosting drizzle is great for Valentine’s Day.  Who doesn’t love chocolate or red drizzle for Valentine’s Day?  Your favorite Valentine will thank you for making these for them.  From my heart to yours – enjoy!!

Yield:  24 heart cookies or 48 crescents                 Cook Time:  8 minutes


1 c butter, room temperature
1 c powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 c all purpose flour

1/2 c semi-sweet or milk chocolate baking chips
2 t powdered sugar
1 t water


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment.  Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Mix in egg yolks and almond extract.  Reduce speed to low and and gradually mix in flour mixture.
  3. Start by shaping the dough into crescents about three inches long and half an inch thick.  Then form the crescents into heart shapes.  Place cookie dough hearts on prepared baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes (the cookies will barely change to golden on the bottom).  Do not over-bake as this will dry out the cookies.  Let cookies cool completely before adding drizzle.
  4. To make the chocolate drizzle, melt the chocolate and drizzle over the cookies.  To make the icing glaze, mix the powdered sugar with the water.  Add drops of water to reach the right consistency to drizzle over cookies.  Add red food coloring to signify Valentine’s Day.

Cookie recipe adapted from neighbor Marla.

Cannoli Filled Puff Pastry Cups

Another busy weekend gone by and to prepare for it I needed a quick, easy and delicious dessert to bring to a family dinner and have during Super Bowl.  I had two pounds of ricotta cheese in the refrigerator and puff pastry in the freezer, since I wouldn’t have the time to shop I decided that I would combine cannoli cream filling with puff pastry cups.  The cannoli cream needs to be made ahead of time so that it has the right consistency and isn’t too soft.  The cannoli cream recipe is one I’ve used before and I’ve had rave reviews every time.

I began by finding a recipe to turn the puff pastry dough into pastry cups on the puff pastry website.  I only needed the puff pastry cup portion of the recipe as shown below.  Once the puff pastry is baked and cooled it can be stored unfilled in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.

The cannoli cream had to be started a couple of days ahead of time because the ricotta cheese needs to be drained of extra liquid.  In addition, I only use the Polly-O brand for cannoli filling or ricotta cheesecake.  I have found that the Polly-O brand does not become grainy when processed in the food processor.


Yield:  24 filled cups                 Cook Time:  10 – 15 minutes


Puff Pastry Cups:
1 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (2 sheets), thawed according to package directions
1 egg, beaten

Cannoli Cream Filling:
2 lb container Polly-O ricotta cheese, drained overnight in a 2-ply cheesecloth
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
2/3 c mini chocolate chips; plus some additional for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray 12 (2 1/2-inch) muffin-pan cups with the cooking spray or line them with paper cupcake liners.
  2. Unfold the first pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry into a 12 x 9-inch rectangle.  Cut the rectangle into 12 (3-inch) squares.
  3. Press the pastry squares into the muffin-pan cups.  Brush only the sides of the pastry cups with the egg.  Prick the bottom of the pastry cups with a fork.
  4. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until the pastry cups are golden brown.  Begin checking the puff pastry after 10 minutes.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the pastry cups from the pan and cool completely.
  5. Repeat steps one through 4 for the second pastry sheet.
  6. For the filling, mix ricotta, vanilla and sugar together.
  7. Move the mixture to a food processor (I used a small Kitchen Aid chopper that was included with my stick blender) and mix until the filling is smooth and is the right consistency.  Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to mix in more than one batch.
  8. Fold in chips, place in a Ziploc bag and store at least overnight in the refrigerator.
  9. When ready to fill, make a 1/2 inch cut on one corner of the Ziploc bag and use as a pastry bag to fill the cups.
  10. Sprinkle some chips on top of each filled pastry cup.

Tip:  How to tell if Puff Pastry is done baking?  Take a sharp knife and nick off a teensy piece to test for crispness and flakiness.

Puff Pastry Cups recipe from puff pastry.
Cannoli Cream recipe from unknown source.