Zitella's Favorite Recipes

Buona Pasqua!

Easter Tulips

Buona Pasqua means Happy Easter in Italian.  Saying it evokes vivid childhood memories of Easters spent at my grandparents’ house.  I remember each and every Easter dress, coat, and hat I wore.  But mostly, I remember the food.

An Italian-American immigrant, my father’s mother was old-school when it came to holiday cooking.  For Easter, she made lamb.  A whole baby lamb.  Maybe it’s a texture thing, but I’ve never cared for it.  Despite the accompanying caramelized roasted vegetables that decorated the large oval meat platter, the lamb looked like a small dog sprawled out on the good bone china.  It was enough to make my little brother cry.  “It’s a puppy!  Don’t make me eat it…”

My reward for suffering through the lamb was the Easter bread, called “cuzzupe.”  My grandmother and her sister each made it differently.  A serrated knife was needed to saw through my grandmother’s cuzzupe, which was intentionally dry and hard, to symbolize unleavened bread, while my Aunt Theresa’s cuzzupe was moist with a subtle vanilla aroma.  Regardless of which sister you asked, getting the recipe for cuzzupe was not an easy thing.  My mother eventually pieced together this much from them:

7 ½ eggs cuzzupe
1 stick butter
1 ¼ tbs vanilla extract
2 ½ tbs sugar
3 ¾ tsp baking powder
Add flour, a little at a time – enough flour to knead
confectioner’s sugar and egg white for the icing

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Why were they so specific about the SEVEN AND A HALF eggs, yet so vague about the quantity of flour?  Did they know just how much flour was needed simply by how the dough felt in their hands?

When I began hosting Easter at my house, I tried making the cuzzupe.  It was a disaster.  Luckily my mother has the patience, and she continues to make it every year, adjusting the recipe here and there.

Me?  I like a sure thing.  So I make the “cassata” or Easter cheesecake.  And I’m happy to share the recipe with you.

Easter Cheesecake recipered poppy

Life Lessons

I Blame Shakespeare

The “rom-com” plot never changes: the pretty, but downtrodden, single woman gets saved by the rich, good looking, completely idealized man, whose only flaw is that it takes him a little while to figure out that he’s in love with her; then in the last ten minutes of the movie, he must race somewhere to find her and keep her from leaving town.

“Feel good movies,” that’s what they’re called.  But who feels good after seeing them?  Single women?  Like seeing this one movie is going to wash away past hurts and disappointments, bringing instead, inspiration and hope to carry on – and to believe – yes believe, that the exact same thing will happen for you because Mr. Right is just around the very next turn…

While channel surfing late one night, I realized this movie formula was well-established with 1950’s films like Sabrina, and the Doris Day comedies.  Who says that in order to have a happy ending, the couple must get together?

The BardShakespeare.  He’s the one.  All the comedies end with a wedding, just as all the tragedies end with a death.  We’ve had over four hundred years of conditioning!  But The Bard was wrong.  This is the new millennium and, back me up here ladies, in the real world the guy tells the girl that he doesn’t deserve her, that she’s going to be a great wife for some other lucky guy, blah, blah, blah, before leaving her with a few mementos and a broken heart.

So what’s a modern girl to do?

I muted the television and sat for a while in the darkness, only the blue glow of the screen lighting my way.  And in the solitude of my apartment, I figured it out.

It’s time to change the narrative.  You can’t expect or rely on another person for your happiness.  You have to find your own bliss.  A happy ending can be whatever you want it to be.red poppy

Life Lessons


Stick a fork in me – I’m done.  Am I exhausted?  Stressed?  Try depleted.  Like many of you, I’ve been working late nearly every night.  When I get home I’m tired and hungry.  My evening is deemed a success if my dinner goes beyond scrambled eggs, everything gets organized for the morning, and I’ve caught the 10:30 pm weather report.

This month’s issues of Marie Claire, Food Network Magazine, and MORE are waiting to be read; a neat stack of books on my coffee table including Adriana Trigiani’s latest, “All the Stars in the Heavens,” and Mary Karr’s memoir “Lit,” are temping me.  But keeping up with my reading has been challenging of late.

Last week, an out-of-town friend texted me:  MISS U…PHONE APT NEXT WED NITE?  Since when does a phone call need to be scheduled?  And how did we get so busy that dinner with an upstairs neighbor is not possible until the last week of April?

Our lives are cluttered.  The rushing around, I don’t mind so much.  Despite my many years in Boston, I’m still a New Yorker at heart.  What I miss is the time and the quiet needed for meaningful contemplation.  Decompression from the work day takes place on the noisy, bumpy bus ride home.  Thinking and planning occurs in the shower.  And it’s just me.  How on earth do the moms do it?  They deserve Superman capes!

It’s no wonder we’re all addicted to coffee.  But caffeine can only do so much when you’re depleted.   It’s time for a dose of something that can really heal me.

walk on the beach

In a few weeks, I’ll be going on retreat, returning to a welcoming old house by the sea.  I know my weekend at the ocean will be restorative.  And the spiritual renewal will lift me.  The tranquility of the retreat will be the shot in the arm I need.  Until then, I’ll have to settle for another cup of joe.red poppy



Best of Boston

Just Add Ice

Last Sunday night, while most people were watching the Oscars, I was at a Boston Bruins hockey game.  What can I say?  Hockey is my favorite sport.  Ordinarily my brother’s my hockey buddy, but he couldn’t make it.  A friend was eager to join me, much to the chagrin of her husband and children.  We brought a sign we thought would surely get us on camera.  It said,  COUGARS LOVE BRUINS.Bruins Sign_CC We were, after all, women of a certain age.  And my Boys are wicked cute.

When the roving cameraman ignored us, a couple sitting nearby shouted to get his attention.  He shook his head and said, “Can’t show that during prime time.”  Meanwhile, another live broadcast was underway where at least a half-dozen Hollywood starlets were dangerously close to having wardrobe malfunctions.  And my sign was too risqué?  Seriously?

My B’s scored first, but their puck luck didn’t last.  Suddenly they were behind 2 to 1 and it grew uncharacteristically quiet in the Garden.  That’s when I overheard the dad sitting behind us explaining the game of hockey to his two small girly-girl daughters.  “How many shots on goal do we have?” he asked one of them.  “Hear the tap tap of the stick on the ice?  That means pass me the puck…”

He reminded me of all the things I love about hockey.  The sheer speed and perfectly choreographed chaos of it.  The rattling of the boards.  How watching a game clears your head and gets your blood pumping.

spoked BWarriors on skates, my Bruins play with grit and grace.  At six-foot-nine, captain and defenseman, Zdeno Chara is the tallest player in the NHL.  When we say, “don’t poke the bear,” we are referring to Big Z.  Patrice Bergeron is the league’s best two-way forward.  He played Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals with a cracked rib, torn cartilage, and a separated shoulder.  It’s been said:  If hockey was easy, they’d call it football.

Win or lose, I love these guys.  Sunday night’s match up with Tampa Bay was a crucial game in the standings.  The final score was 4 to 1.  My Boys didn’t just lose, they stunk up the ice.  But no worries.  We’ll make the play-offs.   Just add ice.  And drop the puck.

Drop The Puck

POST SEASON SHOCKAH — My Bruins didn’t make the play-offs.  Instead, they’re off playing golf, and I’m rooting for the Blueshirts.  Go Rangers!

red poppy