Nonna Tullia’s Cooking Tips

Cooking Tips from Tullia I Learned Through the Years.

Cooking Tips from Tullia I Learned Through the Years.

  • If you are going to make a mess, make a big mess!

  • When cooking string beans in Teccia or any other vegetable, be sure to check the pan often so that the vegetables do not burn, add water in small amounts and stir. You can also cook with the pan covered to help retain moisture and speed up cooking.

  • When using a meat grinder, run the mixture through the grinder twice to get a smoother texture.

  • CANNED TOMATO PASTE: Most recipes call for only a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste which leaves a lot remaining in the can. To freeze tablespoon sized amounts, on a plate lined with wax paper or plastic wrap, spoon heaping tablespoon amounts in separate lumps onto the plate and freeze. When frozen, cut up the separate amounts wrapping them with the wax paper or plastic wrap and put into a labeled freezer bag. Mom used Contadina and Cento brands of paste.

  • FRESH TOMATO PUR´EE: Prepare several pounds of fresh tomatoes by removing the cores and cutting them up with seeds and skins into large chunks. In a large heavy bottomed Dutch oven or soup pot, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the tomatoes and heat over medium high heat until they begin to boil and then lower the heat to medium low. Cook until very soft and much of the juice from the tomatoes has cooked off. Cool and then strain a few ladles at a time through a food mill, sauce maker-vegetable strainer, or a fine mesh strainer pushing the tomatoes through by hand with a wooden spoon. When completely cool, ladle the strained puree into quart containers and freeze.

  • LABEL WHAT YOU FREEZE: Mom had a great memory and rarely labeled anything in her freezer. I, on the other hand, cannot distinguish between quarts of ragu´, tomato sauce marinara and homemade stock….or the many casseroles, so I keep masking tape and a black marker in the kitchen. I also have a dry erase board or chalkboard next to my chest freezer to list what is in there and delete what I’ve removed.

  • FRESH INGREDIENTS: When an ingredient is on sale, such as mushrooms, eggplant, artichokes, a lot and prepare them “in teccia” and freeze in pint or half-pint containers. Mom would prepare chicken marsala in less than 30 minutes.

  • BUY WHOLE CHICKENS: Save a lot of time and money by cutting up whole chickens into wings, legs, thighs and breasts. Freeze wings with remaining bones to make chicken stock. Freeze legs and thighs together and breasts separately. If parts are wrapped individually first with wax paper or thin plastic bags, they will defrost more quickly.

  • GROW FRESH HERBS: Parsley, sage, rosemary, and basil. Parsley and basil are grown as annuals, that is, buy fresh plants or seeds every year. One or two plants of each will suffice per year. Sage and rosemary are woody plants. Sage survives outside even in zone 5 winters. Rosemary needs to be brought inside before the first hard frost and kept in a sunny window, One plant of each is sufficient.
  • FREEZE FRESH HERBS: Sage leaves and branches of rosemary are simply placed into freezer bags and removed as needed. I chop both basil and parsley first before freezing. Parsley can be rolled into a tight roll of aluminum foil and a slice can be removed at a time as needed. Or placed in a small container, you can scrape off as much as needed. Since basil discolors quickly, I prepare a small rectangle of aluminum foil for each 1/4 cup of chopped basil and drizzle with olive oil and then fold into a packet, placing the packets in a labeled freezer bag.
  • NOODLE/PASTA BOARD: My mother had a handyman make her a large wooden board with a lip on one side. The lip hung over the edge of her kitchen table and the wooden board allowed her to knead and cut her pasta while protecting her table.
  • COTTON TABLECLOTHS: Cotton tablecloths help absorb moisture while pasta dries and protected my mother’s dining room table. You need space when making pasta.

  • MANY CASSEROLE DISHES: Mom made several casseroles of lasagna, chicken and eggplant parmigiana or gnocchi at a time. She also collected small ceramic dishes for single servings which could be defrosted and served within minutes.