Sunday, March 30, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Last week my friend and food writer Sue Doeden contacted me. She had developed a recipe for Baked Ziti with Ham, Asparagus and Fresh Peas -- what a breath of Spring that is!

The reason for her call was to talk about cooking pasta, a subject that I love to discuss and teach in my many culinary classes. After I told her everything I could think of that is important about pasta -- the various kinds of pasta, how to cook it, and matching sauces with the different types of pasta -- she asked if I would be willing to do an audio-interview for the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper. Of course I readily agreed.

To read Sue's column and to get her recipe for Baked Ziti go to then click on her link, All About Food. If you would like to hear what I had to say about pasta (and I hope that you do), click on the audio icon that is part of her column.

Sue and I would love to hear what you think about the recipe and interview and, if you have a recipe that you would like to share, send that to us too. Most of all, if you have a pasta tip that you would like others to know about, please submit that as well.

And remembe, keep cooking pasta. The possibilities are endless!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I had a few free hours this afternoon and decided to go and check out the new cooking school where I will be teaching in April, Mothersauces. Located at 76th and Lyndale, Mothersauces is not only a beautiful store front offering any kitchen tool that you might want to purchase, cookbooks and spices, but they also have a beautiful area where they offer cooking classes.

I am scheduled to teach one of my favorite classes there on Wed. night April 8th at 6:00 p.m., Grazzietta's Farm House Dinner. The cost is $60 and you can go to the Mothersauces web site to register at: or phone them at 612-331-9680.

Grazzietta was my first instructor in Tuscany. We first met as dusk in her beautiful Tuscan garden where she was picking herbs and vegetables for the meal that we would later prepare together. Loaded in her basket were sage, rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano and spinach as well as fresh asparagus. From there we went straight to her cucina and created the meal that we will make together at Mothersauces. We will begin with a Bruschetta of Spinach and Mushrooms and for our pasta course make Pasta ala Erbe, a pasta in a rich herb and tomato cream sauce, we will enjoy sage stuffed chicken breasts and fresh roasted asparagus and then end our meal with a delicious Torta di Limone with fresh berries and a flourish of whipped cream. This meal is a real spring time treat and I know that you are all ready for spring.

So, do not delay, click on the web site link in this posting or just move to the right hand side of this page where you will see the link to the web page and sign up for this fun filled class. And I promise you I will give you more tips about cooking Italian and the Italian life style.

Looking forward to seeing you at Mothersauces in April.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Greetings From Carmela's Cucina,

I finally got to collect tonight on a Christmas gift from my husband, Bob. Tickets to the Jersey Boys! "Oh What a Night." From their opening song to their final encore, the Jersey Boys brought back hundreds of memories for this Italian girl growing up in "Little Italy" in Des Moines, Iowa. The energy of the performers who had Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons dances, and mannerisms down perfectly was amazing. The rough talk reminded me of some of my former school mates, OK guys, I promise not to give you up!

If you don't have tickets get them now, I understand that there are still good seats left go to and buy yourself some of the best entertainment in this town. You won't be disappointed. By the end of the evening the audience was up and singing and dancing to great tunes like, Rag Doll, Working My Way back to You, Walk Like a Man and my favorite My Eyes Adored You. It's a blast from the past so be prepared to have a good time and enjoy this great performance. Just a small warning the show was about 2 and half hours long, but went by so quickly that I was very sad to see it end.

And if you are looking for a quick bite to eat before the show, we like to drop into the M and S Grill at 5th and Nicolett for their Happy Hour from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.. They are still serving one of the best cheeseburgers in town with tomato, lettuce and onion, it weighs in at a half pound, so bring your appetite with you and it includes a large serving of fries, for just $1.95 (yes, I do have the price right). With a nice glass of Pinot Noir at $5.00 a glass it can be one of the best bargains in town.

So, "Hang On To What You've Got", and start making some plans!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, March 24, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I would like to tell all of you about my up-coming cooking class and book signing. On March 28, 2008 you will find me in the kitchen at Byerly's Grocery Store in St. Louis Park, creating Mini Meals in Minutes. This one hour class will include three recipes that are fun, easy and delicious. We will begin by making an Antipasti on a Skewer which will consist of Italian meats and cheeses, tomatoes and basil, all marinated in a zesty Italian dressing. I will then demonstrate Grilled Shrimp on a Skewer with a Pesto Sauce and end our Mini Meal with Nutella Ravioli. Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread made in the Northern Part of Italy. The ravioli are deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar and are a real treat.

Following the demonstration I will be available to talk to you about my up-coming trips to Italy and sign my cookbook, Carmela's Cucina. This all starts at Noon in the kitchen at Byerly's and is sure to be a lot of fun. I hope you can make it for either the class or the book signing. You will pick up many good entertaining tips as well. For more information go to or call 952-253-3409. The cost of the class is a real bargin too, only $10.00.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Last fall, ten of my clients and I made ourselves at home in the hilltown of Tofori in Tuscany.
Tofori is located an hour from the Florence airport and just minutes from the charming walled town of Lucca. Our group was split in two; some of us called Villa Margherita our home, while others claimed the villa Il Mulino di Torrigiani.
Our hosts Doug Haynes and Doris Fortino, formerly of the Twin Cities, are fortunate to call IL Mulino their permanent residence. After meeting our group at the Florence airport, they immediately began to make us feel at home with a welcoming bottle of cool crisp Proseco, the sparkling wine of the area and a long awaited Tuscan dinner. Doug and Doris were not only our hosts, but also our tour guides and translators. We experienced one glorious week of touring, dining and tasting the best wines of Tuscany.

Our week began with a leisurely stroll and a guided tour of Lucca. We found ourselves having lunch at the famous Buca di Sant’Antonio, a classic since 1794.Our seven-course lunch culminated with a tour of the restaurant’s wine cellars. Then we proceeded to the village of Petrognano and our first cooking lesson with Chef Lido Martini of the Fattoria Gambaro. Fattoria Gambaro is a quaint and rustic restaurant, with a busy kitchen… as we soon found out! Guido had us slicing, dicing, rolling and stuffing. The end result a multi-course meal we enjoyed consisting of ravioli, gnocchi, involtini of pork, a molded vegetable terrine that the locals call sformata, and Pannacotta for dessert. And, of course, there were bottles of Limoncello and Vin Santo to end our evening.Our week also included a visit to the Cinque Terre, an area of five fishing villages located on the Ligurain Sea. We hiked from town to town and found ourselves eating lunch at a restaurant built over the aquamarine sea.

We were driven around the Chianti countryside, admired the endless olive groves, vineyards and Tuscan pines, and sampled the liquid gold and the wine of the area. We stopped to visit the world famous butcher of Panzanno, Dario, and sampled his meats and lardo while being entertained with a recitation of poetry, which we could not understand, but thought was romantic anyway.
While we sipped the local wine and listened to melodic Italian music, we enjoyed our day with one of the village women, Anna Maria. She showed us how to prepare tortelli, the half moon shaped filled pasta with meat sauce. We worked in Anna Maria's cucina all day rolling and stuffing pasta, roasting pork loin, preparing potatoes, vegetables and pastries that we would have for dinner. After our work, we were rewarded with a candlelit evening al fresco under the Tuscan moon on the Ponte that is the bridge to the villa. We ended our day happily sipping our grappa and espresso and talking about a return trip.
Our final day was spent in Viareggio, a seaside resort, visiting the fish market as the fisherman delivered their catch of the day. We purchased the necessary ingredients to make Cacciuccio, the hearty seafood soup of the area. We returned to the Villa Costa where our hostess, Sandy, instructed us in the fine art of preparing the area’s specialty.
We dined around the swimming pool under the starlit skies of Italy and later danced and enjoyed the music of Beppe and Sergio and company, who entertained us by playing and singing Italian favorites. At midnight, we made our Limoncello toasts to our hosts Doris and Doug and thanked them for providing our group of Minnesotans with a perfect week in Tuscany.

The group found it difficult to leave the beautiful Villa Margherita and IL Mulino and the welcoming hospitality we found from all whom we encountered on our brief stay. My consolation was that I would be returning with other groups in the future to enjoy a repeat of what I feel is a trip of a lifetime.
If you would like to join me in such an adventure in Sept. of this year, then contact me at my web site and we can begin making you travel arrangements.
I hope to see you in Tuscany very soon.
Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

For all of you who are Italian, married to an Italian, have Italian friends or just wish you were Italian, I have a great way for you to learn more about all things Italian.

If you would like to acquire more knowledge about living, cooking and traveling in Italy the U of M is offering a class that you will not want to miss. Offered by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the class meets on Mondays from March 24-April 28 from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m.

Located at the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota on the East Bank at the intersection of Washington Ave. and Oak Street. Parking is available at the parking ramps near the building. For more information on the class,"Italia in Minnesota" go to class number 1663.

I will be the speaker on Mon. March 31, 2008. My subject is growning up in an Italian-American Family. My cook book will be available for purchase and I will also have my condimento with me. And best of all I plan on bringing some samples.

I hope you will think about this class as it is a great opportunity to learn more about the Italian culture. And the best thing about all of this, the class is free!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,
It was always a sure sign of spring when my mother’s beautiful PANE DI PASQUALINA appeared. And since we could all use a dose of springtime around now, the recipe of the month for March is her Easter Bread. My grandmothers and mother always nestled eggs into the intertwined braids of the bread. Eggs are a symbol of the renewal that we experience during the season of Easter. I like to color my eggs first and then put them into the bread. Simply dye uncooked eggs as directed on the package of Easter Egg Dye. The eggs will cook as the bread bakes. Using an odd number of eggs will give the Easter Bread a more pleasing look. I hope you and your family will enjoy this special bread this Easter morning.

5 pounds of flour plus 1 cup
3 teaspoons of anise seeds (optional)
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
2 cups water
½ stick butter, softened
½ cup of oil
4 packages dry yeast
5 teaspoons salt
5 teaspoons sugar
3 - 5 eggs per loaf nestled into the bread
Use colored sprinkles for added fun.

In a large bowl, mix flour and anise seed together. Scald milk and water, let cool, and then add yeast. Add eggs to flour, then add the butter and oil and finally add the liquid with the yeast. Add sugar and salt. Knead the mixture until elastic; it may need a little more water. Cover the bowl of dough, and put it in a warm place to rise.Let the dough rest for about an hour. Knead again for about 10 minutes, and let rest again for about an hour. Divide the dough into 15 balls and roll each ball into a rope about 25 inches long. Take three ropes and braid them together.On a greased cookie sheet, form the braid into a ring. Add the uncooked eggs between the braids. Cover the bread and let rise until double in size, about an hour. Brush with melted butter and bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. Makes 5 loaves.
Buona Pasqua e Buon Appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, March 14, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I am looking ahead to next week and to the feast of St. Joseph on March 19th. For Italian's this is a very important feast day, honoring the foster father of Jesus. One of my Italian reference books describes St. Joseph as a "good and just man."

Many Italians celebrate the feast with a St. Joseph Table. Inviting the poor into their home and feeding them as St. Joseph would have. In my own Italian family, the feast was always celebrated by my grandmothers by making St. Joseph Bread. Small rolls, of crusty chewy bread, hot out of the oven and with a thick layer of butter, these small breads were delicious.

My grandfather, father, brother, two nephews and many male cousins are all named Joseph. My own son is Patrick Joseph, so we celebrate St. Pat's Day with him and then 2 days later St. Joseph's Day. At a recent Tursi family reunion one of the cousins asked if all of the Joe Tursi's would step forward for a photo, there were 23 that came to get their picture taken. Not all go by the name of Joe as it is confusing, but go by their middle names, Tony, or Louie for example.

My great aunt, Eliza Tursi, always had many guests to her home on this special day, she would make the bread and several other Italian specialties, but the one I remember the most were her Zepolle. She always deep fried her puffs which is the traditional way to do it and when they came out of the oil and still hot, she would dust them with powdered sugar. Over the years though, I have found that my clients don't care for deep fried food, so I have come up with a lighter version. Below is my recipe for Zeppole which are baked and then filled with a velvety Almond Cream. If you have any extra cream serve it with fresh berries for a nice spring time dessert. For more recipes for Zeppole go to


1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted butter
4 eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in all of the flour. Put the pan back on the burner and beat vigorously with a spoon until flour and liquid mixture are blended or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove the pan again from the heat and add the eggs one at a time. After each egg is added, beat the batter until it is well blended and smooth.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool puff, cut in half, and fill with desired filling. ( I like to cool the puffs in the oven, with it turned off and door propped open, I also try to poke the puffs with a fork or the tip of a knife to release the steam built up in the puff, so they will be nice and crisp.


1 package instant French Vanilla Pudding 3 ounce size
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 pint strawberries
powdered sugar for dusting

Follow directions on package of vanilla pudding, substituting 1 teaspoon of almond extract for some of the milk. Let pudding set for 1 hour. Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the pudding. Slice cooled puffs in half and fill with almond cream. Top with some raspberries. Put the top back on the puff and dust with powdered sugar. Garnish with more raspberries. Makes 12 servings.

Buona Festa e Buon Appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I am sure by now many of you are thinking about creating beautiful Easter Baskets for your children. Having been a reading teacher for so many years, I think a book is always nice to include among the decorated eggs and candy. Also believing that our children should be exposed to other languages I would like to suggest that you contact Judy Mahoney at Teach Me Tapes for a wonderful selection of foreign language tapes and books created for pre-school and school aged children. The books are in Spanish, German, French and my favorite Italian. The illustrations and songs are delightful and your children will love them. To order books call 952-933-8086 or see all of the available books at the Teach Me Tapes web site at

Her recently released Buon Natale tape includes 2 of my own family recipes of Manicotti and Biscotti that would be perfect additions for your Easter Feast.

And if you are making an Easter Basket for an adult, why not include a copy of my own cook book, Carmela's Cucina. To purchase a copy contact me at or reply to this blog posting.

Buona Pasqua (Happy Easter).

Buon Appetito,

Carmela Turis Hobbins

Monday, March 10, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I just received an email invitation from my friend Daniela Grossi to visit her in Tuscany and be her guest at Villa La Volpe near Lucca. I am disappointed that I will not get to visit her this spring, but am hopeful that I will be going in the fall when I lead some culinary groups to this beautiful area of Italy.

For the past 5 years I have been taking small groups of people to Italy to show them the sights, wine and food of the area. All of our trips are a week long and the best part is we only have between 10 and 14 clients at a time. I first became acquainted with Daniela when we started using her beautiful villa about 3 years ago.

If you would like to learn more about the tours that I host in the fall go to my website at and click on the tours button for a full description of the trip.

To rent a villa in Tuscany or throughout Italy contact my partner Doris Fortino at and click on the link for La Volpe.

I may not be visiting La Volpe this spring when the beautiful red poppies are in full bloom and the entire countryside is a picture postcard, but I will be there for the fall harvest which is equally beautiful. You will find me with my clients at a lovely Chianti vineyard, among the grapes, sipping a glass of wine and indulging in a wonderful bowl of pasta and other Tuscan specialties. I hope you can join us too. Just contact me at to make your reservation for the fall now. Register before March 31st and receive a $300 discount.

I hope to see you in Tuscany in the fall.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Turis Hobbins

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I was taking a look at my monthly calender today and realized that it is time to dig out my Irish Soda Bread Recipe. As most of you know I am of Italian descent and may be wondering why I am interested in making this bread. My husband, Bob is Irish, his family comes from county Mayo in Ireland and that makes our three sons half Irish. So I always try to do something on March 17th to make this day special. I usually cook up a big pot of Irish Stew and make some Irish Soda Bread to go with it. On occasion I know the men in my family have raised a pint or two as well to celebrate the day.

My quick and easy bread is full of currents and caraway seeds and when slathered with butter is delicious. You may want to try making this recipe for your friends and family too. Go to my web site at and click on the recipe of the month link and then on to archived recipes, then go to March 2005 for the recipe that I have been using for years. I hope you enjoy this bread as much as my family does. Let me know what you think about it and if you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share with us for Irish Soda Bread or Stew, please do.

And if you would like more information about the origins and history of Irish Soda Bread go to

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you and yours.

May good luck be with you
Wherever you go.
And your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow.

Buon Appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I took a break from cooking, recipe developing and writing this week and joined my husband Bob for a few days in Key Biscayne, Fl. We were lucky enough to stay at the Ritz Carlton. Bob was there to take a law seminar and I was with him to sit in the sun, relax, enjoy a few spa treatments and eat. And the Ritz Carlton helped me to achieve all of my lofty goals.

We arrived at 1:00 a.m. last Sat. morning after a very long uncomfortable flight from Minneapolis. But once we got there it was nothing but relaxing. As I stepped out of the taxi, I was greeted by a very handsome young man and handed an icy cold bottle of water. We were ushered into the candlelit lobby and enjoyed lively Cuban music while we registered. Then we were escorted to our beautiful room where the beds had already been turned down and chocolates, (Belgian) rested on each of our pillows. I of course indulged and enjoyed mine as I unpacked.

Since we arrived in the pitch black it was not until the next morning when I woke up that I got a look at our view. BEAUTIFUL! I was no longer looking at my snowy, frosty Minnesota backyard, but enjoyed a beautiful ocean view. Folks were already walking the beach, chairs were being draped with luscious terry towels for sun worshipers and there were many, many sail boats out already and several cruise ships in the distance making their way to the Miami harbor.

I got my hubby up and the first thing we did was go for a long walk, in shorts and a tank top, I won't be doing that again for a while (temp in Minneapolis this morning 2 below, ugh! Why do we live here???) We found a place to have breakfast and then walked and explored the island for the next several hours. We discovered that there isn't that much to do on Key Biscayne, which was perfect for us, because all we intended to do was relax, and or course Bob had his seminar.

When we got back to the hotel, we decided it was pool time and while one of the pool staff was preparing my chaise lounge I was deciding on which spa treatments I was going to sign up for. First on the list "hot stone massage." But not for a few days, I just wanted to think about it and anticipate the experience.

The Ritz Carlton is all about service, that alone is reason enough to make a visit there, but then there are the two beautiful pools. One pool is reserved for adults, the tranquility pool and one for families. I spent time at both and enjoyed them equally. Then there is their beach which is beautiful, well kept and includes service from the hotel as well. The restaurants are great, Ciopino, is Italian, and our waiter did tell us that they have their fish and cheeses flown in from Italy twice weekly. The beach front eatery is mostly Latin and then there is the Rum Bar a tribute to Hemingway and it is quite beautiful and includes an expensive selection of rums and cigars, for those of you liking those two manly items. But the comfy leather sofas and the Cuban coffee were what got me. Don't miss Rum Bar when you get there.

But the thing that makes this Ritz Carlton really special is the tranquil spa. I loved it and was there daily, not just for treatments, because after all, I do have a spa budget and it is easy to blow it on just one splurge. But just visiting the spa and using the whirlpool, steam room and sauna is a relaxing experience and believe me I did get my monies worth that way.

The spa is candle lit even during the day, setting the mood for the experience, the music is soft and relaxing and their detoxifying tea is wonderful. There are so many small touches that makes this a first class experience. Juices, coffee, teas, infused waters, fruit, pastries are always available. And so are thick towels, toiletries and my favorite, wash clothes in an ice bath with cucumber slices for your use when you come out of the steam room. So refreshing that you have to experience it for yourself to really understand how wonderful it is.

And the "hot stone massage" was heavenly and worth the wait. The spa book describes it as a simple healing practice, stone therapy massage is a complex and highly synchronized treatment that utilizes hot stones with Swedish techniques to re-energize and stimulate the muscles. This experience restores grounding and harmony to the body. Seventy five minutes of delicious pampering. Need I say more? I was completely grounded and harmonized!

The Ritz Carlton, is a totally relaxing experience. If you are in the Miami area make sure and plan on spending at least a night there and treat yourself to a wonderful time.

Oh, by the way, Bob did enjoy his law seminar too.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins