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Rachael Ray’s Carbonara

Rachael Ray’s Carbonara

italian recipeThis is a super easy classic Italian recipe (and inexpensive).  I will substitute bacon when good pancetta is not available.


  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta, such as spaghetti or rigatoni
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan)
  • 1/4 pound pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Freshly grated Romano cheese
  • Handful of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

italian cookingDirections:

  • 1.Put a large saucepot of water on to boil. Add a liberal  amount of salt and the pasta. Cook to al dente, about 8 minutes.
  • 2.Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add  the olive oil and pancetta. Brown pancetta 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and  garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Add wine and stir up all the pan  drippings.
  • 3.In a separate bowl, beat yolks, then add 1 large  ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water. This tempers the eggs and  keeps them from scrambling when added to the pasta.
  • italian cooking4. Drain pasta well and add it directly to the skillet with  pancetta and oil. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the  pasta without cooking the egg. Remove pan from heat and add a big handful of  cheese, lots of pepper, and a little salt. Continue to toss and turn the pasta  until it soaks up egg mixture and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley  and extra grated Romano.

Italian recipe

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel

October Book of the Month: Playing for Pizza

October 2011

Italy, Italian football, John GrishamPlaying for Pizza by John Grisham  I don’t know about you, but football fever is in full swing at our house.  More specifically fantasy football fever.  I thought I would list this book in honor of all of those people out there diligently trading, scheming and clawing their way to the top of their pretend….I mean fantasy……leagues.

I’m sure every one of you has heard, read or watched one of the many John Grisham books dealing with some form of the law (or lack thereof)…and this delivers once again.   It is an easy yet entertaining read about a washed up quarterback playing for a gruff league in Northern Italy.

Cinque Terre, Vernazza Flooding: Before and after photos and videos

For the most recent updates and news plus dramatic photos and videos please click here to go to my Vernazza flood page.

These shots found on Arbaspaa’s blog  (a tour organizer based in Manarola) gives you a better idea of the dramatic changes in the flood aftermath.

Before and After the flood in Vernazza, courtesy of Arbaspaa

To few the rest of the incredible pictures please go to their blog above.

I put this video on youtube to try and spread the word and inspire people to help with the immediate relief efforts and restoration.

Video of flooding through the piazza.

Video of the clean up in progress

Video showing the entire first floor of the main street buried  This one made me cry.

The initial cleanup  This gives you a clear idea of the hardiness of the people and how difficult a project they have had thrust upon them.

For more information on the Disaster Relief Effort see my latest Blog entry.

Thank you all for your kind words, the people and the village has certainly touched many of us.  I will continue to pass on the encouragement to them.

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel

Cinque Terre: Vernazza Flood Update

I have had a chance to make more contact with people from Vernazza, what did we do before the internet!  Unfortunately the news has not been good.

New video footage of the disaster in Vernazza.  It was really hard to see for me as I have so many memories of time spent there.

For more information on the Disaster Relief Effort see my latest Blog entry.

The people are resilient and I hope that they will receive the financial backing from both the government and outside sources that they will need.  Below is a post from someone who spent six years in Vernazza.  If you want to follow the conversation on TripAdvisor, here is a link.

The situation in Vernazza is bleak. Because it is such an isolated village the news is slow in coming. Floods have devastated the town, mud and debris arrive to at least the second floor of all buildings. Three people from Vernazza are still unaccounted for. There is no fresh water, half the town is without electricity and many are being evacuated. The talk amongst town is that it will take years to recover from the devastation. Some speculate that it might never recover and will be abandoned completely.

I put this video on youtube to try and spread the word and inspire people to help with the immediate relief efforts and restoration.

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel

Cinque Terre Floods: Update from Vernazza

I just heard back from one of my friends in the village.  Most everyone has returned and they are starting to dig themselves out.  She said they were determined to have the town open for next year.  All of the trails are washed out and their only connection to the world is by boat.  Below are some photos she forwarded.  Any kind words or comments will be relayed right back to them.

Photos courtesy of Martina Callo

I put this video on youtube to try and spread the word and inspire people to help with the immediate relief efforts and restoration.

For more information on the Disaster Relief Effort see my latest Blog entry.

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel

Flooding in the Cinque Terre

I have been watching the news and photos come in of the destruction of the Cinque Terre due to flooding.  Many of you know this is one of my special places and it is breaking my heart.  I heard that Vernazza’s residents were evacuated by sea and most of the damage was in Monterosso.

Latest news reports

cinque terre

Phote unknown source

I put this video on youtube to try and spread the word and inspire people to help with the immediate relief efforts and restoration.

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel

Homemade Italian Pizza

Jaime Oliver’s homemade pizza

From Jamie Oliver printed in Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication Ultimate Italian 2009

This is the best pizza I have had outside of Italy.  The recipe is easy and fun for the whole family but get ready for a mess!  I’m pretty sure we dirtied every dish in the house.

Each pizza is cooked individually so we make this an interactive Saturday night meal.  I have all the topping out and let the kids create their own.  Below is the dough recipe followed by one of my favorite pizzas.  The sauce is always the same amount and the cook time as well.

Jamie’s tip:  Less is more!!


  • 7 cups strong white bread flour or Tipo “00” flour or 5 cups strong white bread flour or Tipo “00” flour, plus 2 cups finely ground semolina flour
  • 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Sift the flours and salt onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Yeast mixture

italian recipes
Adding yeast mixture to flour
Kneading the dough

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.

Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don’t roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though – if you are working in advance like this it’s better to leave your dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. However, if you want to get them rolled out so there’s 1 less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about 1/4-inch thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted aluminum foil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with plastic wrap, and pop them into the refrigerator.

Potato, Mozzarella, Rosemary, Thyme and Tomato Pizza


  • 1 (per pizza) pizza crust
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 4 oz tiny new potatoes cooked*
  • 1 Tbsp snipped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 oz torn into sm pieces mozzerella


1. Preheat oven to 450 F.  Transfer the pizza crust on the foil to a baking sheet.  We used a pizza stone.  Tip:  Stone must be hot, keep it in the oven as it warms.

2. Smear the tomato sauce evenly over the pizza crust. Slice the potatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices and toss in a bowl with rosemary, olive oil, thyme, lemon juice, pinch of salt, and pepper. Scatter potatoes over the pizza crust and place pieces of mozzarella in the gaps.

3. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is crisp and golden.

Notes:  * to cook potatoes, place in a small saucepan and cover with lightly salted water.  Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 12 minutes or just until tender. Drain and cool.

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel

Top Ten: Italian Phrases to Memorize

UmbriaYou do not need to be fluent in Italian.  I tell everyone to memorize a few important phrases and use them frequently.  Just that small amount of effort will show the locals that you are trying and they will respond positively to you every time.

Italians are very formal and polite people.  Make sure you start every conversation with a ‘Hello’ and ‘Please.’  I next ask them in Italian if they speak English.

When all else fails….use your hand gestures!

Good Day (hello)   Buon giorno   bwohn JOR-noh

Please   Per favore   pehr fah-VOR-ray

Do you speak English?   Parla inglese?   PAR-lah een-GLAY-zay

Thank you   Grazie   GRAHT-seeay

I (don’t) understand   (Non) capisco   (nohn) kah-PEES-koh

Excuse me   Mi scusi   mee SKOO-zee

How much is it?    Quanto costa?    KWAHN-toh KOS-tah

I would like…    Vorrei…    vor-REH-ee

…..a reservation    una prenotazione   OO-nah pree-noh-ta-ZEE-oh-nay

Where is…?    Dov’e    DOH-veh

The bill    Il conto    eel KOHN-toh

italy dining

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel

Top Ten: Views from my rooms

Monterubbiano B&B

10. Vento di Rose in Monterubbiano

Soggiorno Battistero

9. Soggiorno Battistero, Florence

Albergo Bernini

8. Albergo Bernini, Siena


7. My daughter's last look over Rome

Franco's B&B

6. Civita B&B in Civita

albergo abruzzi

5. Rome at Albergo Abruzzi

Elisabetta Carro

4. Vernazza at Elisabetta Carro

Locanda Orseolo

3. Venice at Locanda Orseolo

Vernazza at Albergo Barbara

2. Vernazza at Albergo Barbara

Lucignanello Bandini

1. Lucignanello Bandini in Tuscany

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel

My New Page: Recipes

I have added a new page where I will feature my favorite recipes, all tried out in my kitchen and tested by my munchkins.

Weeknight Bolognese from Ina Garten

I am a huge Ina Garten fan, so when she did an Italian special on the foodnetwork I had to try it.  Mama Mia!  Once again she delivered and the meal got a double thumbs up from the kids.  The best part is that the recipe is easy and quick.  I made a few changes mostly because some things just weren’t available at our grocery store .

italian cooking
Weeknight Bolognese by Ina Garten


  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
  • 1 pound lean ground sirloin (I used plain ground beef that was on sale)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided (she recommends a good Chianti but I had to use a Merlot)  TIP:  Pick a good wine that you would drink too, the better the wine, the better the sauce!
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I have used cinnamon in the past, a tip from one of the chefs I met)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano (she says to crush the oregano with your hands to release the oils) , and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Ina Garten Weeknight bolognese
Adding basil and cream to sauce

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and

the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pastais cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.bolognese recipe

bolognese recipe

Buon Appetito

copyright 2011 Andi Brown Once in a Lifetime Travel


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