Gina’s Italian Family Recipes!


Olive Oil

When I was asked to taste-test Botticelli Foods’ Tomato Basil Sauce, Spaghetti, Olive Oil, and Bowtie pasta, the words “of course” sprang out of my mouth faster than I could say Mangia! Since I am Italian, I saw all those ingredients and thought – done, dinner for a few days.

The first thing I did was open the jar of Tomato Basil sauce, give it a quick smell and stick a piece of bread in the jar.  The sauce had just the right consistency – thick and slightly chunky. It has a sweetness to it that made me turn the jar around to see if it came from  added sugar. To my utter delight, it did not! The ingredients were everything that I put in my own sauce: Italian tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, onions basil, garlic sea salt and black pepper. That’s it, nothing else. That delicious sweetness comes from the tomatoes themselves!

The next thing I did was rip off another piece of the Italian bread and dip it right into the olive oil.  Like the tomato sauce, the olive oil tasted pure. I was afraid I might finish the loaf of bread dipping it in the sauce and olive oil, so I grabbed my pots and started cooking.

First up was Spaghetti and Grandma Tarallo’s Meatballs (family recipe). The sauce clung to the spaghetti perfectly, and there wasn’t the pile of water at the bottom of the bowl like you find with most jar sauces.


Grandma Tarallo’s Meatballs

1 pound ground chuck
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. Oregano
1 Tbsp. Thyme

Mix all ingredients together and form into meatballs.  Put on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 35 minutes.


The next day we had chicken and mushrooms with the bowties. The one thing I loved about the bowties was that they were just pretty.  They weren’t flat on both sides like most – instead, one side had ridges which were perfect for holding onto the sauce.


Chicken and Mushrooms with Bowties

4 Tbsp. butter, divided
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 tsp. fresh tarragon, chopped & divided
1 cup white wine
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
2 cup mushroom or vegetable broth [see Kitchen Notes]
12 ounces cooked bow tie pasta
salt, freshly ground pepper

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons each of butter and oil, swirling pan to mix. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté for about 5 minutes, turning to brown them on both sides. Sprinkle half the tarragon over the mushrooms, then pour in the wine [all at once, to reduce spattering]. Let the wine reduce by about half, then transfer mushrooms and wine to bowl.

Add remaining butter and oil to skillet. Sauté chicken until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring to brown it on all sides. Salt it just slightly as it cooks. Give it a couple of generous grinds of pepper. Halfway through, add the remaining tarragon and the onion, stirring occasionally.

Return mushrooms and wine to pan. Add broth and simmer over medium heat to combine flavors and warm everything through. Adjust seasonings.

Take the chicken off the heat. Add cooked pasta to chicken pan. Serve with generous helpings of shaved Parmesan.


Botticelli Foods is located in Hauppauge, New York, but if you check your local grocery store’s specialty aisle, you’re sure to find everything from olive oil to vinegar to sauces and every type of pasta – everything you need for a good Italian Sunday Dinner. Mangia!

Gina DeNicola

I feel like I’ve been baking forever, but I believe my dad is the reason I started. He would bake all the time for us as kids and everything was always from scratch. I learned how to make everything from bagels to cream puffs to angel food cake from him. I worked my way up from selling cookies for extra money to buy my kids Christmas presents to owning a full-service bakery in Nashville. After making croissants by hand for a year straight, I developed arthritis so bad in my thumbs I couldn’t hold a rolling pin anymore and I had to close my doors. To give my hands something to do that didn’t involve butter or a rolling pin, I started to write and discovered a new love. I am excited to share with what the country might already know, Nashville is more than Country Music and Cowboy Boots, it has amazing food. Check out my blog, Heart Written Words chronicling the journey of closing a bakery and life after.