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Classic Italian recipes

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Heirloom recipes from Italy

Here are a few family heirloom recipes from my long line of Italian family. Whether you sink your teeth into these recipes or some of your own, keep in mind that the number one secret of good Italian cooking is the joy and love that goes into it. So gather your whole family in the kitchen and mangia, mangia!


Classic Italian recipes

Special Macaroni

Serves 4 to 6

We could never come up with a name for this dish, so we just call it "special" because the macaroni is always a treat when made with super-fresh ingredients.


1 pound fresh unsalted mozzarella cheese
8 large fresh plum tomatoes
1 pound fresh homemade spaghetti
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
A few snips of fresh basil
A few good pinches of salt and pepper


1. Dice mozzarella and tomatoes and set aside.
2. Cook pasta in a pot of lightly salted water until al dente.
3. Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more oil and vinegar if desired.
4. Drain pasta and pour into a large bowl. Top with mozzarella and tomatoes. Pour vinegar and oil mixture over and gently toss. Serve hot.

Stuffed Calamari

Serves 4 to 6

Most people know calamari as fried rings, but this dish serves calamari stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella and tossed with a fresh tomato sauce and pasta.


1 pound fresh or frozen whole large squid
1 pound part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 pound grated mozzarella
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper


1. Clean squid thoroughly. If they still have spines, remove along with the inners. Also, remove the thin outer layer of skin.
2. Combine ricotta with egg, other cheeses and salt and pepper. Carefully open one squid at a time and spoon a few teaspoons of cheese mixture into the opening with a demitasse spoon. Do not fill all the way to the top. Secure the top with a toothpick. Continue with remaining squid.
3. Place squid in a pot with tomato sauce (homemade is the best, but store-bought can be used). Cook sauce until squid is fully cooked through, about 45 to 60 minutes. Squid will no longer be white when finished. Serve with fresh pasta.


Makes 3 dozen

This recipe took awhile for us to master. We finally got it down pat, although my grandmom's are still the best!


1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup whole unblanched almonds


1. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until creamy. Beat in butter, anise, and orange extract. Combine flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Gradually beat flour mixture into egg mixture.
2. Mix in nuts. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove dough from refrigerator and form into 3 long ovals. Place on baking sheets. Bake in oven for 20 to 24 minutes or until golden. Take loaves out of oven and let cool slightly.
4. Move loaves to a cutting board and slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place cut side down back onto the baking sheets. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes. Cool cookies on wire racks. Serve with wine or coffee.

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