Recipes from La Cucina di Carmela Cookbook

The following is excerpted verbatim from my mother’s cookbook she’s been assembling for her kids for many years (July 31 she will turn 86—she’s still cookin’). I’ve excerpted only a few savory ones. Soon, I’ll post some of her cookies and other sweets.

Welcome to La Cucina di Carmela!
For many years, my children would call me and ask how to cook a certain recipe they remembered—that Broccoli Soup or Pizza the way we ate it on Fridays when meat was forbidden. So for many years I’ve wanted to collect these recipes in one place. As time went on, I also added new recipes from good friends who enjoyed the simple pleasures of cooking and eating. You’ll find recipes as humble as Pasta and Peas and as fancy as Beef Wellington. As some guy, I think he was French said: To eat is a necessity, to eat well is an art. That’s why I am so excited to finally present these recipes, old and new ones, to my ten children, their spouses and partners, my twenty-four grandchildren, my fifteen great-grandchildren, plus, at this writing, the seven great-grand-kids on the way (in the oven, so to speak) and to my many good friends. As we Sicilians say, a tavola, mangiamo!

Buon appetito!
Eggplant Salad (Capunatina)

Yield: 4 Servings

This is a nice appetizer and also good with cold cuts.

2 Large Eggplants

1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
2 Large Onions, Chopped
1/4 Cup Capers
4 Stalks Celery, Chopped
1 Cup Green Olives, Chopped
1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Sugar
4 Tablespoons Fresh Basil Or 1 teaspoon, Dried
1/4 Cup Wine Vinegar, Or To Taste

Peel eggplant and cut in cubes about 1-inch. Put in colander and salt lightly and let stand for 1 hour to let bitter juices drain. Rinse eggplant and squeeze well. Pour oil in large fry pan, add eggplant, onions, celery, tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, capers, olives, sugar, vinegar. Simmer about 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. This can be put in sterile pint jars or refrigerate and sere as an appetizer.
Spinach Balls

Yield: 12 Servings

2 Packages Chopped Spinach
3/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Cups Pepperidge Farm Stuffing
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Onion Chopped Fine
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
2 Eggs, Beaten

Mix all ingredients together and form into balls (your size, you choose). At this point they may be frozen. When ready to serve place in pan. If desired add slice of tomato and cheese if desired. Bake to heat through 350 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes, till heated through. If frozen bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes.

Rice Balls

Yield: 20 Servings

This recipe was given to me by a friend, Jean. I was visiting her and she was serving this for an appetizer. As soon as I tasted it, I asked for the recipe. It is different.
1 Cup Cooked Rice
Some Parsley, Chopped
1 Large Egg
1/2 Small Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
1/2 Cup Grated Cheese
1 Egg White, Beaten
1 10-Ounce container Ricotta Bread Crumbs To roll the Rice Balls

Mix rice, egg, grated cheese, ricotta, and parsley. Take some rice mixture the size of a golf ball in the palm of your hand, insert a cube of mozzarella in center and cover with rice, so you will have a ball of rice with a cube of mozzarella in center. Roll in beaten egg white, then in bread crumbs and chill in refrigerator for about an hour. then fry till lightly brown. Drain on paper towel.
Favorite Pizza Dough

We have used this recipe for many years. It makes 3 large pizza.

5 To 8 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
4 Teaspoons Salt
2 2/3 Cups Very Warm Water About
2 Tablespoons Yeast Or Two Packages 120 F.
2 Tablespoons Sugar

Mix about 4 or 5 cups of flour. Add all dry ingredients, mix well, then add oil and water. Mix well again and let stand for about 20 minutes. Start mixing again adding a little flour until dough holds together. Knead by hand adding flour as needed so dough is not too sticky. Put in bowl. Sprinkle some olive oil and turn dough over to oil. Place plastic wrap on dough and cover with towel away from drafts. Leave until double in bulk. Then roll out for 3 pizzas and put your favorite sauce (page XX) on top. Bake for 15 minutes or till edges are brown. 400 degrees.
Pepperoni Loaves

Yield: 12 Servings

This is a nice appetizer, especially for Christmas holidays. Our friend Margie, Aunt Liz’s sister, gave me this recipe. Use your favorite bread dough, or frozen dough may be used.

4 Loaves Bread Dough (see Pizza dough) Cheese,sliced
3 Sticks Pepperoni
1 Egg, For Painting
1 1/2 Pounds Provolone

Slice pepperoni in half and then sliced thinly lengthwise. Roll bread dough rectangular 6″ X 8″. Brush with egg wash (beat egg with 1 tablespoon of water). Layer pepperoni slices, provolone, sliced on bread dough. Roll jelly roll style and tuck ends to seal. Brush with egg wash. Place rolls on cookie sheet sprayed with oil spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. This may be frozen.Meat Balls

Yield: 16 Servings


This recipe is for meatballs you add to Tomato Sauce.

3 Tablespoons Parsley
1 Pound Beef Ground
1 Teaspoon Salt and Pepper
1 Pound Pork, Ground
2 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Flavored Bread Crumbs
1/4 Cup Water To Moisten Meat
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, for frying

Mix all ingredients, except for olive oil. The mixture should be moist, but not so moist that they fall apart. This takes some experience, but no matter they will taste good. This makes about 20 to 26 meat balls. Fry meat balls in pan with olive oil till brown. Add to tomato sauce where they will further cook.

Mom’s cookbook was rushed through production in order to be ready for the huge family reunion about to start. Here is a photo of the brochure announcement. It was taken in the late 1920s in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Among the men posing are my Paternal Grandfather Vincenzo Cusumano and maternal Great-Grandfather Pasquale Catalano. My father, (baptized Calogero Cusumano), about seven or or eight here, is halfway shown on the left. All posing are Sicilians belonging to the Saint Lucy Society.

Some 90 people in attendance at the reunion are descendants of the two names. We range in age from 86 (Mom) to, as Mom noted above, still in the oven.


  1. Judith Fisher says

    Hi Carmela,

    Greetings from Seattle… happy to have heard from you…and the new book you were writing in BA when we met…WOW…I can’t wait to purchase and read….what a woman…I had no idea who I was meeting in BA, very impressed.
    Great website too.
    Can we look you up when we come to San Fran.?

    Let’s keep in touch.

    Congrats on your book!!

    Judith Fisher

  2. Hi camille, I wonder if my grandfather J. Fascella is in the photo. His nickname was “Barone”, Your mom looks great, say hello for me.


  3. Donna and Grace says

    Hi, we have tried some of these recipes and let me tell you, we have a whole new set of friends! Honestly, food really does have some magical powers. Thanks Carmela! We love this cookbook. Can’t wait for the follow-up!

  4. Carmela has decided to speed up the next edition thanks to your heartfelt encouragement. She’s cooking with fire now.


  1. […] I’ve posted some recipes from her cookbook—which is hot off the press ready to be distributed to her kinfolk and close […]