Thursday, February 28, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Tired of winter? Looking forward to Spring? March is going to be a very busy month. With St. Patrick's Day, the Feast of St. Joseph's Day and Easter all in the same week! Maybe a cooking class is just what you need to get you through these last long days of winter and in the mood for the warmth of spring.

I have just the thing for you a cooking class. And I am offering several during March that should get you jump started with your menu planning for Easter and into the beautiful season of spring.


I will be teaching a Handmade Manicotti course at Cooks' of Crocus Hill at 50th and France on Monday March 10 at 6:00 p.m. (to register click on their link to the right of this posting). Make Manicotti just like the Italian nuns, whose white, muff-like sleeves inspired this pasta's name. You'll get practice making a version using light crespelle (crepes) and then put together an array of fillings.
Menu: Ricotta and Mozzarella Cheese Manicotti, Cheese, Spinach, Mushroom and Onion Manicotti, Herbed Meat and Cheese Manicotti, Tomato Sauce with Basil, Anitpasti Platter, Mixed Green Salad, and a Fruit Compote completes this delicious meal.

Manicotti would make a beautiful first course for your Easter dinner as it does for ours. And the best thing is you can make them ahead and freeze to use later.

Be sure and sign up for this class now as it always sells out.


On March 11, I will be back at Cook's of Crocus Hill at 50th and France offering a class for Parents and Grandparents with their Pre-School Aged Child. This is a fun daytime class that gets your child involved in meal preparation. And if they are involved they are more likely to eat the food that you are preparing. Kids will learn to have fun in the cucina and you will come home with recipes that will delight the whole family. If you enjoyed cooking as a child you will love being in the kitchen with your own pre-schooler. Come and create some wonderful memories while enjoying special time with your child and sampling some great food.

We will make and eat Parmesan Chicken on a Stick, Tortellini on a Stick with a Marinara Dipping Sauce. Fresh Fruit on a Stick with Yogurt. For dessert enjoy a Sugar Cookie Pizza, Apple Rings with Assorted Toppings. And enjoy a fun and easy Snack-Mix mid-way through our class. To register for this fun class, click on the Cook's of Crocus Hill web site link to the right of this posting.


While leading my most recent culinary groups to Tuscany, I had the opportunity to study under the guidance of two great Tuscan Chefs, Chef Gianluca Pardini from Lucca and a wonderful home cook, Maria of Villa La Volpe. This menu is designed to make you feel like you are eating right in the heart of Tuscany.

The menu includes and Antipasto of Tuna Cream stuffed into a Pastry Shell. Pici is the pasta specialty of Tuscany and we will enjoy ours in a thick robust tomato and garlic sauce. Our next course is also famous in Lucca, Braised Chicken in a wine sauce with onions, and pancetta and with it we will enjoy fresh Green Beans sauteed with olive oil garlic and Italian herbs and spices. For dessert we will make and prepare a Nutella Tart. The chocolate and hazelnut spread is baked in a short bread crust, topped with chopped hazelnuts and garnished with whipped cream.

To register for LA CUCINA TOSCANA click on the Cook's of Crocus Hill web site link to the right of this posting.


Sue Erickson executive chef at Byerly's of St. Louis Park has invited me to be a special guest at their cooking school on Friday March 28, 2008. (for registration details click on their web site link to the right of this posting.) I am very excited to be teaching a "mini class" there and then to sign my cookbook CARMELA'S CUCINA. After all Byerly's is where I got my start cooking professionally, so they have a very special spot in my heart.

MINI MEALS are fast, fun and fabulous. You can put this menu together in just minutes and are sure to be a big hit with your family. We will make Antipasti Skewers, of mozzarella, salami, basil and artichoke hearts marinated in a zesty sauce. Broiled Shrimp Skewers and Nutella Ravioli, lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

These lunch time classes cost only $10.00 each and at the end of the class you are given a coupon of $10.00 to use in the store. How's that for a free and tasty lunch?

So get up off the couch and register for one of these fun classes that I am offering around town. You will get some new recipes and entertaining ideas, get to eat a wonderful meal and it is a sure cure for "Cabin Fever."

I hope to see you soon at a cooking class or at a book signing event.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Restaurant Week

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

My youngest son, Teddy told me about Restaurant Week last year, but it was too late to take advantage of dining in some of the Twin Cities best eating establishments at a reduced price. This year I was determined to make sure and get a reservation. My search began by going on the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine ( web site and seeing which restaurants were participating in this second annual event. I took some time and looked at each of the tastings offered at the places I thought would be fun to try. D' Amico Cucina ( was selected because the group that we were going with loves Italian food and good wine. And last night we were not disappointed.

Everyhting about our dining experience was just great. My friend and I pulled up to the front door and immediately, there were two nice young men ready to whisk are car away, welcome us and lead us to the host's desk. D'Amico's general manager, Michael Gentile was there to greet us and escort us to our table, which was very nice. While we waited for our other two dining companions, we perused the 3 course menu and munched on their delicious bread basket. I was very familiar with the tasting menu for the week and knew what I was going to be ordering before I even left home as I had gone on line to see the complete menu for the evening.

When the four of us had a moment to look at the menu our friendly waiter suggested that we also try their wine flight with our dinner. At $20 for a flight of three wines we felt we were getting a good deal and went with that.

I ordered the Butternut Squash Cappelletti with Mascarpone, Pistachio and Pumpkin Seed Oil. The presentation was colorfully and artfully presented in a white pasta bowl. Since I eat with my eyes first, I was already in heaven before tasting even the first bite. The three stuffed Cappelletti (small hats) were filled with lots of well spiced squash and drizzled with a delicious mascarpone sauce and then the oil with chopped pistachios strewn around the plate. The half glass of wine that accompanied the course was a light crips Anthilia, Donnafugata 2005.

Two at our table ordered The Terrine of Braised Octopus with Saffron Aioli and Green Olive. My husband insisted that I try a bit of his and I did. For a gal that loves just about any food, I just don't like octopus anyway you serve it. While I think the kitchen did take special care with the preparation of this dish, it is still octopus and I still don't like it. That is why I went with the pasta and loved every bite of it, although I did reluctantly share a bite with my husband, Bob. After all he did share his octopus with me! The fourth member of our group ordered the Truffled Cauliflower Soup. While I did not taste his first course, he said it was very good. I thought it looked very pale in the white bowl it was served in despite the Caramelized Onion and House-Made Pacetta garnish.

The second course offering was a Pan Roasted Skate Piccata in White Wine with Fingerling Potato and Haricot Vert which I ordered. The serving was large, and the fish moist and flaky, but I felt that the sauce was missing a little something. I was hoping for a little more of a lemon, caper flavor. The haricot vert were cooked perfectly. The other three were all set to order the Beef Shortrib, Osso Bucco style. When they went to order it they were told that it had been substituted with Pork Osso Buco style, a very meaty portion of pork served over soft polenta with a horseradish gemolata. The group loved it and were not disappointed that there had been a change in plans. While they enjoyed their main course they sipped on a glass of Nero d" Avola, Poggionotte 2003 and I enjoyed a smooth Soave, Inama 2006.

In my opinion the dessert course was the very best. I have eaten many desserts in my life all over the world, and I have to say that the Warm Almond Fragipane Crepes with Vanilla Mascarpone Mousse and Candied Apricots has to be up there with the top 10. Of the 4 of us, 3 of us selected the crepes and loved every last bite. On my way out the door I begged my new friend, Michael for the recipe and he agreed to email it to me. I am waiting Michael!

The fourth person in our group, not one who really likes sweets, ordered the House Made Gelati and Sorbetti. I made it a rule many years ago to enjoy my gelati while touring in Italy and not to bother with American made ones, no matter how good they are supposed to be. If you are not eating gelato in Italy, then you just aren't eating gelato, is how I feel about it. She thought of the three selections, the Meyer Lemon Gelato was the best and that the Raspberry Red Wine and Chocolate Sorbetti were just OK. She kept eyeing my crepes and I knew she was sorry that she had not gone with them. But hey, she had the same chance to order them that we all had, and I was not going to give up even a teeny bite of mine even though she is one of my best friends.

As wonderful as the dessert was the dessert wine was the star of the evening. Cool, crisp, bubbly, the Moscato d' Asti Sourgal was the best ever. So much so I am sending my husband, Bob out to Syrdyk's wine sale this afternoon to stock up on some.

Restaurant week at the end of a cold winter is a great idea. There are 41 restaurants that are participating this year. Most tasting menus are in the $20 to $30 range. There is still time to make a reservation, I suggest that you do.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, February 25, 2008



Are you thinking about a trip to Italy in the near future? Perhaps a culinary week is just what you had in mind. Then I have an offer for you! Join one of my culinary weeks before March 31, 2008 and save $300. Tour weeks are May 3-10 and Sept.20-27 and Sept.27-Oct. 4, 2008.

Join me as we tour Italy and experience it's wonderful culture and cuisine. Tour 1 includes Lucca, Cinque Terre, Sinena, San Gimiganno, Chianti and 2 cooking classes. Tour 2 (Sept. 27-Oct.4) will include visits to Carrara and Pietrasanta, Volterra, Portofino and Santa Margherita, Parma and Modena and Lucca and cooking classes.

Both tours include lodging in beautifully restored farmhouse villas, ground transportation throughout the week with pick up at the Lucca or Florence train stations. Breakfast daily, 5 lunches and 7 dinners with wine, cooking classes with local culinary experts in Italian cuisine. Tours are fully escorted with Italian and English speaking guides.

For complete details go to my web site at for complete details and to register. Remember to be able to take advantage of the great discount that we are offering a deposit of $500 must be made by March 31, 2008.

I hope to see you in Italy in the very near future. It will be a trip that you will remember always.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ciao From Carmela's Cucina

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I am very excited to be entering into a new area for me, blogging. For those of you who have been getting my monthly newsletter with all kinds of information about my classes, trips, book, products, and recipes, you now can visit my new blog anytime you want.

Hopefully, I will be posting a few times a week with up dates on my classes held around the Twin Cities and other areas, get more information about my culinary tours of Italy, my speaking appearances, information on my new book that will be out at the end of the year and recipes. Since I get to travel quite a bit to fun cities with great food, I will also try to report on that.

Most importantly, I will try to bring you ideas, recipes and concepts for Italian dining and living. I am looking forward to this new way of communicating with you and hope that you will offer me your feed back as well too.

Buon Appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins