Orvieto Gelato

 Cassata Gelato

Miritello (Blueberry), Chocolate and My New Favorite – Cassata Gelato

 Regardless of the cities we visit during our stay in Italy, Tom and I are always inspired to try their local gelato. We have had some really creamy delicious gelato during our holiday this year but I have to say that each annual trip to Tuscany and Umbria warrants a return visit to the city of Orvieto where gelato is one culinary staple that is taken seriously and revered by Italians at their International Gelato Festival which we attended in 2013.   It may sound odd, but buffalo mozzarella gelato anyone?

Gelato Cake

Caffe del Corso’s Straticella Gelato Cake with Whipped Cream and Piroulines

The historic city of Orvieto is a must stop for Tuscan travelers driving north from the eternal city of Rome and heading toward the Tuscan sun. We love Orvieto for the handmade pottery, the warm friendly shopkeepers who remember us from the year before, the magnificent Duomo and yes, for a taste of our favorite artiginale gelato at the caffe del corso.

Orvieto Duomo

Orvieto Duomo


A Young Boy Helps An Orvieto Band Count Their Tips

I recently posted a picture on Instagram of my Orvieto gelato cornet with Miritello (Blueberry), Chocolate and my new favorite, Cassata gelato which is so creamy and rich that I could not differentiate if I was eating a cannoli, the filling of a rich cassata cake or my delicious gelato.

Cassata gelato is filled with cherries, candied fruit and thin long pieces of rich dark chocolate. Just eating this reminds me that the holidays are around the corner.

We will definitely plan to make Cassata gelato in our Pinocchio’s shops both in Sanibel and in our franchise store in Greenwood, Indiana partly because I want our loyal Customers to sample this wonderful flavor and admittedly, partly because I do not want to wait another year for my next taste of Cassata Gelato. If you get the opportunity to try Cassata gelato, please do so. You will not be disappointed.








Lemon Risotto Cakes

Lemon Risotto Cakes with Fresh Basil, Mozzarella, Toasted Pine Nuts and Diced Fresh Tomato Brushetta

Seasoned Chef Recipes

Seasoned Chef Recipes

I am always looking for a beautiful light starch to accompany a great piece of meat or fish. Risotto is just that starch. Although it appears easy to prepare, risotto takes time, patience and an eventual mastery in how much broth to use in making this creamy moist side dish.  Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort to make this northern Italian staple.

Parmesan cheese, mushroom, truffle and lemon risotto are a few varieties of risotto commonly found in markets. Depending on the risotto flavor, each variety is cooked in a vegetable or chicken broth.

The recipe for these risotto cakes can be prepared ahead of time and warmed when ready to serve which makes them a great catering option for holidays and parties. The recipe below makes 12 cakes.

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A box of Risotto – I prefer Vita Verde Tuscan Country Milanese Risotto – 10.5 oz.

One onion diced and sautéed in olive oil

Chicken bouillon

4 fragrant fresh lemons

For décor, basil leaves, pignoli nuts, brushetta diced tomato, balsamic glaze and small mozzarella balls


Dice and sauté the onion in olive oil. Add salt, pepper and a little paprika to brown the onion. Set aside.

Cut lemons in half. Juice the lemons.  Add lemon juice to the water so that package directions for the water liquid remain the same.  (Another words, I substitute some of the water with the fresh lemon juice).

Prepare Risotto according to package directions. Add onion to the bouillon and water mixture.

Cover and cook on medium heat 15 – 18 minutes.

Make sure the risotto does not lose moisture during the cooking process. If it does, then slightly lower the heat and add a little more water.

Let risotto rest 3 – 5 minutes.

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Fill the tins with risotto and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Let cool. Turn the risotto cakes upside down.

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Moderate Recipes

Moderate Recipes

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Do you recall the first time that you ate spaghetti as a child?  If you were like me, then the answer would probably be NO. I was so young and sitting in a high chair that I cannot recall that memorable moment but I can tell you that I begged my mother, my grandmother and my aunt  to serve it to me plain, with a little butter and in (post high chair) time with some pecorino romano cheese. I did not want spaghetti sauce on my pasta. As I grew up into a young lady of 6 or 7 years, I would be adventurous and ask for sauce “on the side”.  I still do at times but there are moments today that can only be captured by a good bowl of Bolognese sauce.

Regardless of the sauce and pasta dressings, I waited to travel to Italy with my husband before I fell in love with pici pasta, traditional pasta from the Tuscany region of Siena.  OK. I love all pasta, especially fresh pasta like  thin angel hair, spaghetti, linguine and bucatini but there is something so delicious about hand rolled pici pasta that I wonder why it is not served more frequently in restaurants in the states.  Pici pasta is similar to Bucatini but the strands are thick long solid pasta shapes made from dough that is primarily water, flour and on occasion, egg. Each pici strand is individually hand rolled and no two strands are the same.  Here is a recipe for preparing pici pasta that our friends at La Ferreira in Loro Ciuffena shared with us.  Enjoy!


100 grams of flour (96g = ¾ cup so add a little more flour than ¾ cup)

¼ cup water

1 egg (optional)

Sea Salt – ¼ tsp total for both pasta and sauce

Fresh Ground Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

¼ cup Crushed Garlic

1  cup Marzano or Grape Tomatoes

3 – 4 springs fresh Basil

Shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese

Moderate Recipes

Moderate Recipes


Slowly mix some of the water and flour until you can make a well in the center to add the egg. Continue to mix the flour, water and egg mixture.  Add a dash of sea salt. At this point you may not need all of the remaining water. Use only enough water to incorporate the flour into the dough mixture.post 401 image 1

Knead for 8 – 10 minutes into a ball

Place in a bowl and cover with a damp towel

Let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes

Generously flour your surface to prevent the dough from sticking.

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Roll the dough until it is ¼ inch thick.

Cut into long strips.

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Take each strand and roll it back and forth with the front of your fingers to create long pici.

Add a little flour on the rolled pici to prevent sticking.

Boil water with a pinch of salt and a cap of olive oil.

Cook Pici for 8 – 10 minutes until cooked ‘al dente’.  Do NOT overcook pici pasta.

Rinse well and set aside.

Moderate Recipes

Moderate Recipes


Heat a frying pan with1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.

Season the oil in the frying pan with salt, pepper, crushed garlic and fresh basil.

Prepare 1 cup Grape or Marzano tomatoes by cutting them in half, length-wise.

Add tomatoes to the frying pan.

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(Note:  Some use grape sized tomatoes.  If you can get them, the Marzano tomatoes are wonderful. They are a little larger and longer than grape tomatoes and really burst with flavor.)

Reduce the heat to med-low setting.  Add cooked pici pasta. Add more olive oil – just enough to prevent the pasta from sticking to the pan.  Pan fry pici no more than 4 – 5 minutes.

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Shave Pecorino Romano Cheese on top and enjoy.

Opening Day at The Famers Market on Sanibel Island


Guest Blogger: Veruska Koerner, President VK Media. Veruska is a native of Suriname and frequents the Sanibel Farmers Market with her husband,photographer Chris.  Photos for this blog are courtesy of Christopher Koerner Photography.

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It is Sunday, October 5th and the first cool crisp Sunday morning which tells even those of us living in Southwest Florida that it is the beginning of the fall season and even better, it is opening day at the Farmers Market on Sanibel.

The Sanibel Island Farmers Market was established in 2008. It is a favorite outdoor activity for islanders and visitors from October through April. Along with local produce vendors, you will find breads, honey, seafood, meats, flowers, cheeses and many other locally grown organic products that create a well-rounded enjoyable Sunday outing for everyone including well behaved dogs.

This year, a few new vendors were added, which was a nice welcome to the familiar favorites. One produce vendor in particular caught my eye. They imported a variety of exotic fruits to the US, some of which I enjoyed in my native country of Suriname. I have never seen these fresh fruits in any markets or stores in or around Fort Myers and Sanibel/Captiva so you can imagine my excitement to taste a little nostalgia. There were Rambutan, Longan, Knippa also known as Spanish Lime in the USA and Carambola or Star fruit just to name a few. If you are not familiar with any of these, see if your local gourmet market carries them or if you are in Sanibel on a Sunday morning, then stop byand give them a try.

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Another must try was the Dutch vendor called Dutchkinz. He sold all sorts of typical Dutch treats such as oliebollen and poffertjes which are sweet fluffy spongy pancakes made with buckwheat flour. If you have a sweet tooth and never had any of these before, you are in for a treat.

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There is something for everyone at the Sanibel Farmers Market. It has become a meeting place for the crowd of people who frequent this venue each week. The residents are there when the market opens. Vacationers meander throughout the morning and complete yet one more activity on their vacation travel bucket list. The vendors are friendly and the fresh produce will make your next meal a memorable one. Check it out if you are ever in the area. The Sanibel Farmers Market is open every Sunday through April from 8:00 am till 1:00 pm.

Seasoning food with Chutneys, Aioli, Pesto and More

Seasoning food with Chutneys, Aioli, Pesto and more

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Top Row: Avocado Guacamole, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Muffolata Tapenade,

Bottom Row: Mango Chutney, Basil Pesto, Lemon Herb Aioli

Preparing memorable food such as delicious tapas, great sandwiches and pairing our favorite meal with unforgettable accompaniments is not accidental. We invite you to think out of the foodie box, look beyond the beloved mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and relish and sample delicious alternatives sure to please both sweet and savory palates with chutneys, aioli, jams, pesto and vegetable tapenades. Here is a brief description on what they are and how to use them in your favorite foods:

  •  Aioli – A French sauce originating from Provencal cuisine, aioli is served with meat, fish and vegetables. Aioli is made with lemon, egg, garlic and olive oil and has a similar texture to mayonnaise but with less heaviness. Try lemon herb aioli on a Bavarian Pretzel bread sandwich layered with Roast Beef and Cheddar Cheese.
  • Chutney – Similar in consistency to jelly and relish, chutney consists of fruits and spices. Chutney typically lends a sweet and sour accoutrement to sandwiches, meats, fish, cheese, rice and cous cous but there are some hot and spicy variations available to accompany curry dishes.   Stonewall Kitchen offers a complete line of peach chutney, apple cranberry chutney and their award winning Old Farmhouse chutney with peaches, apples, raisins, cranberries, apricots and ginger.
  • Guacamole – Touted as a healthy alternative to mayonnaise, this avocado condiment is not just for the burrito or tortilla chip lover. Guacamole pairs well on a Turkey and Swiss Ciabatta, in a southwest salad or with grilled chicken and mango salsa.
  • Jam – Similarly sweet and delicious but different than its Jelly relative, Jams are preserved whole fruits while jelly is made from fruit chucks and pieces. Visibly different than jelly whose appearance is even and uniform, Jam is spreadable fruit, often made with less sugar and has a chunky texture in appearance. Thanks to purveyors of specialty foods, jam flavors are not limited to strawberry, peach and grape. Two of my favorite Stonewall jams are their wild Maine blueberry and raspberry peach champagne. Braswell’s European jams are another good find. Try their sweet Vidalia onion or chocolate peppermint jam on hot croissants, seasonal crepes and Panini French Toast.
  • Pesto – Traditionally, Pesto is an Italian sauce made of basil, garlic and olive oil and sometimes pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Alternative pestos are made with roasted bell peppers or sweet sun dried tomato. Pesto is typically used as a pasta sauce and as a brushetta topping appetizer for crusty crostini bread but it works just as well on a chewy Ciabatta caprese sandwich or salad of fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil.
  • Tapenade – A smooth paste made with chopped olives, capers, olive oil, garlic and herbs. Tapenade is as versatile a condiment in Mediterranean kitchens as ketchup is to the US household. It is served on bread as an appetizer or paired with Italian meats and cheeses for a light lunch. Tapenade is also used in soups and sauces.

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Vanilla infused French toast with Stonewall Kitchens Wild Maine Blueberry Jam

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Seasoned Olive Foccacia Bread with Pesto, Relish & Tapenade

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Brushetta Toast with Basil Pesto, diced Tomatoes, fresh Basil and shaved Parmigiano

Picnics in Paradise: Packing a Beach Picnic Basket

Picnics in Paradise: Packing a Beach Picnic Basket

picnic basket

Have you ever said to yourself that food actually tastes better when eating your meal in the great outdoors? You are not alone and that is why picnics are a popular dining choice to celebrate time together with friends, family and loved ones. Picnics are traditionally welcomed from Memorial Day through Labor Day all around the country. Hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob and new England clambakes are all part of traditional Americana picnic food but there are some great al fresco dining alternatives out there that offer simpler choices with big tastes and little prep time.

For the fortunate who vacation or live in warmer climates as I do in Southwest Florida, the time to enjoy a beach picnic lasts throughout the year. Good food, surrounding nature and beautiful beaches serve as a perfect backdrop of wonderful memories spent picnicking on Sanibel Island if the right food is packed cold, well insulated and includes set ups that make dining easy to chow down, especially where sand pails and seashells are all around you. Here are some tips to help you pack a beach picnic:

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Tips for Packing a Beach Picnic Basket:

  • Finger foods and artisan sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and covered in cello bags where little use of utensils is required will make the dining experience more enjoyable and convenient.

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Enjoy your beach picnic without the hassle of preparing the meal by ordering grab and go cuisine from your favorite market in advance.

  • Choose food that tastes great cold and does not require the use of gas grills such as:
    • Interesting sandwiches prepared on freshly baked Artisan breads seasoned with chutneys, pesto or aioli
    • Tomato or Spinach Wraps rolled into cone shapes and inserted into paper cones like snow cone cups making it easier to eat while holding the cone cup.
    • Spreads and Dips with a fresh Baguette, Foccacia or Crostini
    • Dry cured meats like Salami or Prosciutto with a fresh loaf of Italian bread
    • Seasonal fruit salad platters with spears or toothpicks for easy eating
    • Cold Pasta Salad with grilled Italian vegetables marinated in balsamic dressing
  • Take along a cooler and keep your drinks chilled. Make sure the beverage selection includes bottles of cold water. Hydration is important under the hot sun and refreshing H2O quenchers come in all sizes and flavors to quench your thirst. Try to stick with plastic bottles such as Perrier spring water or recyclable cans of lemon, lime and blood orange flavored San Pellegrino both of which are good for the environment and good for you.
  • There’s always room for sweets. Choose wisely if you are planning a day in the hot sun. espresso cookie brittles or bite sized dolce are a good choice. We created croissant donut holes called Crodoles© when we opened Geppetto’s Beach Foodies in 2012, offering grab and go beach cuisine. Crodoles© come in a variety of flavors from Mango Coconut to Key Lime, Cookie Butter, Canoli and more.
  • Last, always pack 2 trash bags for easy clean-up at the end of the day.

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Pictured Left: Key Lime Coconut Crodoles©,  Right: Variety Bags of Crodoles©

Beach Bons

Moderate Recipes

Moderate Recipes

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Want a new take on favorite ice cream movie bites?  Try making these at home. A plate of three different oversized ice cream bon bons makes a memorable ending to a great meal.  At our store on Sanibel Island, we refer to these giant treats as ‘beach bons’ because they were created with our homemade original Italian ice cream flavors inspired by the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva islands. We also received Taste of the Islands BEST DESSERT for these little treasures.  You can use your own gelato, ice creams and sorbet to create these flavorful frozen confections but keep in mind that the key to beautiful beach bons lies in the preparation. Enrobing is much easier if the ice cream is hard frozen. You can prepare the bons up to two days ahead before enrobing them.  Have fun and enjoy!

Basic Beach Bons:

Take a 4 oz scooper. Scoop a round ball of vanilla bean ice cream.

Select a stuffing for the ball such as diced maraschino cherries or dried fruits and nuts.

Poke a hole in the center of the round ball and stuff with your choice of filling.

Mold the ball like a small meatball.

Cover in saran wrap.  Freeze for 1 hour or more until frozen and formed.

Melt Chocolate in a double boiler or crock pot.

Remove saran wrap bons. Dip in melted chocolate with a slotted spoon.

Lay them on a small tray of waxed or parchment paper to cool.

Place them back in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Leave them in simple chocolate or drizzle with some melted chocolate to hold dusted cocoa, sprinkles or your choice of topping.

Return to freezer until ready to serve.

Decorate the plate with whipped cream and Lyons Raspberry sauce for garnish.

Beach Bon variations:

  1. Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream Sanibel Krunch© ice cream coated in toasted coconut which has been enrobed in chocolate and stuffed with mixed nuts.
  2. Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream Dirty Sand Dollar© ice cream coated in crushed whoppers and dusted in cocoa.
  3. Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream Sel de Mer© chocolate, caramel and sea salt gelato stuffed with creamy caramel and coated in dark chocolate with sprinkled sea salt