Tomato Basil Pie

Years ago, I started teaching cooking classes in my kitchen.  At that time I belonged to a welcoming group called “New Neighbors of Germantown”.  This group was a great way to  met new people in the community.   We had LOTS of different activities in this organization.

One of my “new neighbor” friends was traveling to Connecticut for a visit.  I asked her to bring me a couple bottles of faucet water, yes water (for my pizza, of course).  As a thank you I made her a pizza, brought it over to her home nice and hot.  Here reply was “you have to teach us how to make this”.  So, I became an activity for New Neighbors, “Cooking Adventures in Galena’s Cucina” (Gail’s Kitchen).  I had NO idea where that path would take me!

"Cooking Adventures in Galena's Cucina"

“Cooking Adventures in Galena’s Cucina”

Classes in my kitchen became out of control…I would have more than 25-30 ladies in attendance and not enough room for them.  Another friend from this group recommended me to the owner of a quaint gift store in Germantown (Gift Horse) that also hosted cooking classes.  I was so excited to teach there and having the opportunity to met so many wonderful people!

One recipe that really reminds me of that school is  “Tomato Basil Pie”.  I can remember teaching that class almost 10 years ago; people are still talking about it! This recipe is perfect for this time of the year.  Fresh garden tomatoes and basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, yum!  I hope you enjoy it as much as my “Gift Horse” class did!

Pie Crust  (You can also use a frozen store-bought crust or mini pie crusts)
4 tbsp. butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sour cream
4-5 basil leaves
couple dashes of salt

In food processor with knife blade process butter and basil leaves until smooth.
Add flour, salt and sour cream. Process until mixture balls up. Chill for 1/2 hour
for better handling of the dough. Place on floured pastry sheet or board and roll
out to fit a 9” pie pan. Place shield or wrap edges in foil to prevent over browning
during the baking of the pie. Cook in pre-heated 425° oven until slightly golden,
about 10 minutes.

Tomato Basil Pie

1 9” pie crust
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
3 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano, or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
10 Roma tomatoes, or garden tomatoes, skins removed*, chopped and drained
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive
Salt & Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

While pie crust is warm, place 1 cup mozzarella on top of crust. Layer tomatoes
and sprinkle with, salt & pepper. In separate bowl mix basil, garlic, remaining
mozzarella, romano or parmesan cheese and mayonnaise. Place on top of tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake in a preheated oven at  375° for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Let pie cool at least 15 minutes for easier cutting.

*Cut an X on the bottom (pointy end) of the tomato and place in a pot of rapidly boiling
water.  The tomato skin will begin to peel, about 1 minute. Remove from heat
and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  Peel skin under running cold water.

You can always add wonderful ingredients to the filling, fresh sautéed mushrooms, some cooked bacon, black olives, red pepper flakes.  You are only limited by your imagination!

Tomato Basil Pie

Tomato Basil Pie



Mini Pie

Mini Pie

Recently I made this wonderful recipe for my “Live at 9” demonstration, here’s the link:

The only bad thing about being a member of New Neighbors is so many friends move away, but I guess that’s part of life!

New Neighbors Board Members 1998

New Neighbors Board Members 1998

“Pizza Fritta” aka Fried Dough

Coast of Naples

Coast of Naples

When I was a little girl, my grandparents lived in Schnectady, NY.  Grandpa and grandma migrated here from Scilly, and like so many immigrants, came into this country through Ellis Island.  I will never know why, but they planted their roots in Schenectady, NY.  Grandpa opened a bakery and was well known for his wonder Italian Bread and Pizza.

Here comes the awful part of this story, unfortunately someone robbed the bakery and shot and killed my grandfather.  I don’t remember him…so my uncles took over the bakery….

Uncle John & Uncle Dick

Uncle John & Uncle Dick

During the summer months I would spend several weeks at grandmas house….I loved playing dress up with her clothes, jewelry and shoes….I would prance around the house and feel like a queen.  I loved waking up to the wonderful aroma of grandma making me pizza fritta (fried dough) for breakfast.  She would sprinkle sugar on top and it was the best!

Years later I found myself making this same wonderful comfort food for my own children.  During lent on Friday I would make Pizza Fritta and top it with sauce and a little sprinkle of parmesan.  Living in the east coast, this was always a BIG draw at local church fairs….

Here’s the recipe for both sweet and savory..

Pizza Fritta – Fried Dough

Pizza Dough:

1 package Fleischmann’s RR Yeast (

1 teaspoon sugar

1 3/4 cup water – 115 degrees

4 1/2 – 5 cups flour

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine yeast, sugar and water in the bowl of a stand mixer, yeast will bloom in 3-4 minutes (this is known as “proofing” the yeast which means it’s active & good).  Add remaining ingredients.  Using a dough hook, mix ingredients on low until combined.  Increase to medium low and mix 9-10 minutes (this is known as “kneading” the dough.  If you do not have a stand mixer, the same process can be done in a large mixing bowl using your hands to “knead” the dough for 10 minutes.

Place dough in a well oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow dough to double in size, approximately 1-2 hours (or overnight).

In a large skillet place 2-3 cups of corn or vegetable oil and heat over medium high.  While oil is heating up, tear off a 3 inch piece of dough, using your hands, flatten out like a pancake.  When oil has reached a 350 degree temperature, place dough in oil, cook 2-3 minutes, or until slightly golden, turn and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until dough is slightly golden.

Place cooked dough on a wire rack.  Top with favorite pizza sauce or cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bon Appetito!

Galena’s Pizza Sauce


16 ounce size plum tomatoes, chopped (Pomi Brand is recommended)

2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

1 teaspoon dry basil

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed

1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon butter

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan.  Simmer over low heat 20-30 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thick.

As seen on “Live at 9″….

Bon Appetito!!!

Roasted Butternut Squash Filled Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. The memories of family together, cooking, eating, scrabble after dinner. I think my families favorite memories are the ones we spent in Readfield, Maine with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…we would have 25-35 people at the dinner table (and LOTS of dogs), which overlooked beautiful Marancook Lake.

I was always in charge of the “Italian Entree”, which was usually lasagna or manicotti. This year I thought I would try something different, (we always have an Italian entree for holiday meals). Since my family LOVES homemade ravioli, I thought I would fill them with roasted butternut squash, and the best sauce for this ravioli is a brown butter sage sauce. I know they are going to LOVE these little pillows (ravioli). I hope you do as well…
3 eggs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 1/2 cup all purpose and 1/2 cup semolina flour)*

Add the eggs, oil and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Process until eggs are blended. Add flour and process the mixture until the flour is evenly moistened and crumbly; this will take about 10 seconds. Dough should come together when removed from the bowl. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest 15-30 minutes.


1 butternut squash (approximately 3 lbs.), 2 cups roasted and mashed
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onions or shallots
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Cut butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place butternut squash halves on a large baking sheet flesh side up. Roast 25 minutes or until flesh is fork-tender.
Scoop squash into a medium sized bowl; using a potato masher mash squash until smooth.

In a medium size sauté pan over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon butter. When melted add onions or shallots and cook until transparent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add mashed squash, white pepper, nutmeg, and heavy cream, parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese. Mix until well combined. Remove from pan and place on a large dish to cool. When cool, place filling into a large zip bag. Snip a corner off with scissors. This will allow you to squeeze the filling into the ravioli pockets.



Roll dough to #5 on pasta rolling machine using 1/4 of the dough at a time. Keep remaining dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. During the winter months when the humidity is low roll to #5 twice (#6 is too thin). Place one layer of dough on a ravioli press (make sure bottom of dough is well floured so it doesn’t stick when removed). Gently press the pasta dough with the ravioli press. Fill pockets with 1 teaspoon of filling. Top filling with another layer of dough. Use a rolling pin to cut the ravioli. Flip ravioli unto a large sheet pan that has been sprinkled with polenta (to prevent sticking). This recipe makes 5 dozen ravioli. Place sheet pan in freezer, and when ravioli are frozen, place in a zip lock bag until ready to use. Cook in a large pasta pan with an insert in salted boiling water, about 5 minutes.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat add 8 tablespoons of good quality butter (I prefer Kerrygold brand). When butter is melted, add sage leaves. Cook until butter is golden brown. Remove and top sauce of ravioli, make sure you eat the sage leaves, they become very crunchy and quite tasty.

Bon Appétit!!!

The Ultimate “Baked Mac & Cheese”

One of my families favorite meals is the ultimate baked mac & cheese, such comforting food….and so easy to make…With the onset of Rob’s wedding to Cecile, thought I would make his favorite “mom” food….hope you enjoy it!!!

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 cups milk
¼ lb. white American cheese
¼ lb. Swiss cheese
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated cheese
1/3 cup pankos (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 lb. good quality Penne or Shell macaroni, cooked al dente

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter, flour, mustard powder and black pepper until bubbling and lightly brown. Slowly whisk in 3 cups of milk, American and cheddar cheeses. Cook on medium low heat until boiling; add Swiss and grated cheese, combine until cheese has melted.
In a large baking pan add cooked macaroni and ¾ of cheese mixture. Stir until well combined. Pour remaining cheese sauce over macaroni; top with pankos. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy on top.

"ditch the box"...

Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza

I don’t know if it’s the “Italian blood” in me, but in my home every other Sunday night is “PIZZA NIGHT”…..Definitely my families favorite meal…think if I had one last meal it would be pizza.  After winning Food Network’s Ultimate Recipe Showdown , I have been trying to come up with a new winner….I think this is it, “Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza”.  Who doesn’t like grilling on a on a warm summer evening night.  The trick to success in this technique: make sure your grill doesn’t get much hotter than 350 degrees.  I also recommend making your dough at least two to three days ahead, the longer it sits, the more flavorful it will be.  I have also made this with shredded pork shoulder, also very yummie.  Hope you enjoy, please feel free to leave your comments or if you have any questions. Crust:

  • 1 package active dry Fleishman’s yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water (110 – 125 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (I love Kirklands brand, the one with the “harvest date” on it)
  • 5 cups King Arthurs Bread Flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Add yeast and sugar to stand mixer.  Add warm water and wait 2-3 minutes until yeast blossoms.  Add remaining ingredients.  Using a dough hook, knead for 8 minutes.  (Can also be made in a large mixing bowl, then knead by hand, or use a food processor and process until all ingredients are combined).  Place dough in a large bowl (oil bowl first), and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Remove dough at least an hour before rolling out pizza.  Recipe makes enough for 4 pizza’s.  This dough also freezes well for up to 2-3 months. Sauce:

  • 1 quart crushed tomatoes (Pomi Brand is best, $$$ at Fresh Market)
  • 1/4 cup red wine….drinking wine
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • 1/2 cup Webers “Kick’n Spicy” BBQ Sauce

Combine all ingredients, simmer 30 to 60 minutes until slightly thick.  Serves 3-4 pizza’s. Pizza:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded roasted chicken (store bought roasters work great) tossed with 1 teaspoon liquid smoke and 1/4 cup Webers “Kick’n Spicy” BBQ Sauce
  • shredded cheese – mozzarella, pepper jack, sharp cheddar (use your imagination)
  • 2-3 grilled jalapeños, sliced

Roll dough thinly and place on a flour dusted pizza peel.  Using a silicon pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the pizza.  Place pizza oiled side down on hot grill (make sure you either oil or pan spray your grates).  Close grill cover and cook for about five to 10 minutes, checking periodically to make sure dough is not burning (if so, reduce your heat).  Oil top side of dough, when bottom is slightly browned, flip dough over.  Cover dough with sauce, cheeses, shredded chicken and top with jalapeños (I grill these while preheating the grill).  Cover grill and let cook 5-10 minutes until slightly golden and cheese are melted.  Enjoy…..

“Firecracker Shrimp”….something spicy for that special DAD in your life…..

With Father’s Day coming up on Sunday, thought you might like to cook him up a very yummie appetizer.  You can also make this “lite” by using low fat cheeses and turkey bacon, but I think dad deserves the real deal!!!!  Enjoy….

12 jalapenos, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed

1 lb. large shrimp (31-35 count)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1/2 tsp. Ancho Chili Powder

1 lb. bacon

2 dozen 6” wood skewers (soaked in water for 30 minutes)


Preheat oven to 425º. Place bacon on a sheet pan and pre-cook for 10-15 minutes, do not brown. Remove from pan and set aside until needed

In a small mixing bowl add cream cheese, cheddar cheese and Cajun seasoning. Mix until well combined (you can also use a food processor). Place creamed cheese mixture in a gallon size zip-lock bag.

Cut the corner of the bag ½ inch width, creating a tip. Squeeze the cheese mixture into the jalapeno, top with piece of shrimp and wrap a slice of bacon around jalapeno. Thread the stuffed jalapeno onto wooden skewer. Place skewers onto a sheet pan and bake at 425º for 5-10 minutes or until bacon is crispy. If preferred, cook on a hot grill placing the jalapeno shrimp side down, cook 2-3 minutes, turn and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bar’s

This is one very easy and tasty treat, guaranteed to delight the entire family…made these for my spin class yesterday as a birthday surprise for one of my members…they were a bit hit….enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars



PREHEAT oven to 325° F.

COMBINE crumbs, butter and 1/4 cup sugar in medium bowl. Remove 1 cup mixture and reserve for topping. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle 3/4 cupmorsels over crust.

BEAT cream cheese, remaining sugar, flour and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Pour over crust and morsels in pan. Sprinkle with reserved crumb topping and remaining morsels.

BAKE for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars.


I LOVE going out to dinner, trying new restaurants, different types of food, viewing food presentation….however i have a few chain restaurants that are always winners in my book…tonight we are headed off to one for dinner….”Bonefish”….always consistent….good food and service.  But I am stuck one entree, the “Pistachio Encrusted Rainbow Trout” with butter sauce…..yum!  Tomorrow I will post my take on this and my “copycat” recipe….

If you are spending some time watching football this weekend (and who isn’t), don’t forget to make the “Franks Red Hot Sauce Buffalo Chicken Dip” listed below….another big YUM…make it healthy with low fat cheeses and salad dressing, serve with celery and carrots….