Badassamys: Tales of the World's Most Badass Family

I woke up this morning to this lovely short film in my inbox. A sweet friend, who has devoted her professional life to therapeutic foster care issues, sent it along with the words, “Shelley: for those days you wonder ‘why’.”

I’m unsure of how the makers of this film so completely understand the path of a foster child, but I suspect at least one of them has shared the path of this little girl. This film is especially poignant for me, because my children came to me one at a time, which will resonate once you’ve seen the film. Please view and share. My heart is full of tears and love for these artists.

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Frozen Italian Margarita Recipe

Frozen Italian Margarita 

Here is a recipe that adds an Italian twist to the classic frozen Margarita! it’s definitely an unexpected choice of cocktail when you are cooking Italian fare or if you just want a new twist on a classic cocktail. This recipe calls for added ice – so I just wanted to share with you, what I do to make your margarita more flavorful when it melts down. (sometime you just can’t drink it fast enough for this to NOT happen!)  I add the lime juice with H20 ( about 1/4 lime juice to 3/4 H20 you can use more or less, depending on how tart you like your margarita’s ) I use a water sports bottle to make it easier to fill ice trays. Place trays in freezer until frozen through.


     12 oz can of Minute Maid Limeade (use same can to measure out water and tequila)

  • 1/2 can of water
  • 1/2 can  tequila
  • 1 or 2 shots of limoncello
  • 5 1/2 cups of ice cubes * (Read my suggestion at the top)
  •  Gran Gallo (if desired)


Add all of the ingredients to a blender and run it on high for about 30 seconds (or until a slushy consistency).

You can float about a teaspoon of Gran Gallo on the top or a little more Limoncello.


Ricotta Gnocchi & Pesto alla Genovese



One of my very favorite Italian pastas is Gnocchi. A traditional dish that has been been served since the early Roman times. The word gnocchi itself means “lumps”, but it has been said that it’s derived from the Italian word, nocca – which means knuckle or nocchio – a knot in the wood. This particular gnocchi recipe I am sharing, uses ricotta cheese as the base, which produces a lighter, pillow-like consistency. But you will have to prepare at least 2 days in advance, because you will need to drain the ricotta overnight, and then freeze the gnocchi before cooking them. However, I promise that it will be well worth the effort!

pesto gnocchi raw
Everyone knows that one of the most quintessential Italian exports is Pesto – but not everyone knows that it originated in Genoa, Italy before it made its way around the world. Pesto gets its name from the Italian verb pestare which means to crush or pound, and it’s traditionally made by using a wooden pestle and a marble mortar to grind the dry ingredients to a paste to which a drizzle of olive oil is slowly added to create a thick sauce. One of the biggest issues cooks have when making pesto is keeping it really green in color and I will give you a great tip how to do just that.


pesto mortar better


Ricotta Gnocchi
Ingredients for the gnocchi:
 3 pounds whole-milk ricotta, drained overnight in cheesecloth (in refridgerator)
 6 egg yolks
 2 teaspoons sea salt
 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling and dusting
To prepare gnocchi:
 Using the back of a large spoon, press the ricotta through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Add the egg yolks and sea salt. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour; the less you work the dough, the lighter and tender the gnocchi will be. (This is very important – if not your gnocchi will end up chewy) Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
 Lightly sprinkle a cold and smooth work surface, ( I use a marble cutting board or you can use a countertop) and two baking sheets with flour.


ricotta cheeseclothricotta sievepesto gnocchi cutting board


Pull off about a quarter of the gnocchi dough and gently roll it into a rope about 1 inch wide. Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Gently transfer each gnocchi to a baking sheet and dust with flour. Repeat with the remaining dough, slide the gnocchi on trays into the freezer and freeze for at least 24 hours, and up to 1 month. (Take the gnocchi directly from the freezer, and place them into the boiling water to insure the best consistency.)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook about 24 gnocchi for 30-45 seconds after they float to the surface, or 2- 2 ½ minutes. With a skimmer, transfer the gnocchi to warm serving plates. Cook the remaining gnocchi while the first batch is plated.


pesto ricotta gnocchi


Pesto alla Genovese:
Serves about 4
Pesto is one of those sauces that everyone likes a little bit differently. I like mine with a bit more texture, so I add extra pine nuts that are lightly chopped. You need to test it and taste for the balance that you like the best. So you can add a little more salt, garlic, cheese if you like. By the way, another interesting and delish twist is to substitute the basil leaves with a few or entirely with rughetta /arugula which produces a slightly bitter, more peppery version.
I do suggest making extra batches, you can freeze the Pesto for future use. I freeze the pesto in ice cube trays and then pop them in individual freezer bags. I can just pop out a few pesto cubes when I need them. You can also store them packed down into containers with a little layer of olive oil on top.


Pesto Ingredients:

1.7 oz. of fresh basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic
3.5 oz. of extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
A pinch of sea salt
While can use a food processer to save time, the most authentic Italian method is to use a pestle and mortar which will give the freshest, most flavorsome result. Provided you have the patience and arm strength to obtain the right consistency.
If you’re using a Pestle and Mortar:
First crush the garlic and salt then add the basil leaves and grind until it starts to release its oil. Then add the pine nuts, crushing them until they become almost creamy. Mix in the parmesan and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil which mixing until you obtain a thick sauce.



Food Processor/ Ice Bath Method
To get the brightest green pesto you need to use the ice bath method. Bring to a boil a huge pot of salted water. While it is heating, prepare a large ice bath. (Large bowl with water & ice) In a food processor on low speed add the pine nuts and garlic with some of the olive oil. When the salted water is boiling, add the basil leaves in batches for only 8-10 seconds at a time – do not overcook! Remove immediately with skimmer and plunge into the ice bath, swirling them around. Remove and drain of the excess water using either a salad spinner, a colander or placing on paper towels. Repeat until all of the basil has been blanched and patted dry.
Add all the blanched basil (can be a little damp) to the food processor with the pine nut-garlic mixture and blend again on low-speed, slowly adding the rest of the olive oil and salt. Puree until the texture is to your liking.
One of the biggest mistakes of making pesto in a food processor is blending on high, especially if you don’t blanch the basil leaves. It warms up the basil and will make the pesto soupy – so if you are not going to use the ice bath method. Put your food processor bowl in the freezer to cool it down first and follow the same directions –add pine nuts, garlic and olive oil – blend on low- then add basil – a little more oil until it’s the right texture/consistency you like.


Buon Appetito and let me know how your Ricotta Gnocchi & Pesto alla Genovese comes out!

Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe & Arugula, Eggplant, Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

So you are going to get two recipes for the price of one with this authentic eggplant parmigiana recipe, it was my Grandma Luciana’s recipe who came from Napoli (Naples) Italy. Then I give you one of my absolute favorite summertime recipes! That just so happens to need the fried eggplant to create it – so I am giving you a twofer! It’s great as a side dish, but normally I just make it as the main meal as it is quite filling. I prepare this dish a lot when I have guests over and they all rave about it and always have to email the recipe to someone afterwards! Buon Appetito!



Eggplant Parmigiana

2 – 3 medium eggplants


olive oil or vegetable oil to fry eggplant

2 1/2 – 3 cups of marinara/gravy

8 – 12 oz of fresh mozzarella thinly sliced

1/2 – 3/4 cup of pecorino-romano or parmesan-reggiano or combination of all

4 – 6 eggs

1 cup flour

1 cup italian bread crumbs

Fresh Basil to garnish

Ricotta Cheese ( optional – if you like ricotta – you can add spoonfuls in the layers of eggplant – yummy)

Cut eggplant 1/4 inch slices ( you can keep skin on or off – it’s a personal preference – I keep mine on), layer eggplant in a colander and sprinkle salt between layers. Let the eggplant seep for about 30 minutes. Once the eggplant has seeped – beat the eggs in big shallow bowl – take a piece of eggplant dredge it in flour, then put it in the egg covering both sides, then dredge through the bread crumbs. (You can also take a storage bag and add the flour & bread crumbs together and dredge eggplant piece in egg and then put it in bag & shake the bag to cover the eggplant.) On medium heat fry the eggplant in 1/2 inch of oil on both sides in large skillet. Fry in batches turning once, until browned on both sides. Drain the eggplant on paper towels. Until you are done frying all the eggplant. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a baking dish, spread marinara on the bottom, layer the eggplant its ok if it overlaps slightly top with mozzarella, more sauce then sprinkle grated cheese. Repeat the layers, ending with eggplant, sauce & grated cheese and mozzarella and a little extra gravy. Bake for 45 minutes or until sauce is bubbling. (If you make ahead of time and put in fridge take out 30 minutes at room temp before putting it in the oven!)


So presentation is key for this – it’s esthetically beautiful – make sure you really make an effort to stack this properly and you use a little balsamic glaze around the bed of of arugula. In the pic it shows this as a side dish presentation and if you want a meal as per the recipe use the bed of arugula as your base. I hope that isn’t confusing to you! Regardless, you will love this and be thanking me later, I promise you. If you have any left overs – you can take it put in a piece of italian bread and make a sandwich with it the next day. 

Arugula, Eggplant, Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

Using the eggplant recipe above – again,this is a great salad, use it as a starter or main course!

You will need about 3 -4 slices per person/individual salad

Fried Eggplant –


Cherry tomatoes for garnish

Fresh mozzarella

Arugula – 1 – 1 1/2 cups

Balsamic Vinegar/Canola Oil/Sugar

In a large individual serving salad bowl or plate – make a bed of arugula about 1 – 1 1/2 cups – layer one piece of fried eggplant, slice of fresh mozzarella, one slice of tomato and arugula. Then repeat, making several layers. To make dressing take 1/2 cup of balsamic & 1/2 cup of canola oil and about 1/4 cup sugar ( can make it as sweet as you like) Drizzle dressing over sliced eggplant, tomato and mozzarella. Use balsamic glaze to dress the plate.

Mangia, Mangia!! 

Italian Bread & Mozzarella Salad


This is a great salad to use as a side to a nice pasta dinner. It’s also for those nights when it’s hot outside and you might not want to have a full heavy meal. Sorry that I don’t have a picture, but I am sure that you imagine what I should look like and it’s yumminess by the recipe! Enjoy!


Italian Bread & Mozzarella Salad

Makes 6 – 8 Servings ~ Great Starter or Main Meal

1 pound of slightly dry italian/country bread

2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice

1 pound of fresh mozzarella cut in 1/2 inch dice

2 sprigs of basil leaves torn

1 tsp dry oregano

seal salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Tear bread into chunks. briefly dip in water, and squeeze dry. Crumble bread and combine with the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, oregano, and salt to taste in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well.

Crema Con Le Fragole – Strawberry Zabaglione

Crema Con Le Fragole – Strawberry Zabaglione



6 egg yolks

20 tbsp. of granulated sugar

1 cup dry marsala wine

2 tbsp. powered (unflavored) gelatine

1 cupwhipping cream

3 tbsp. confectioners sugar

2 tbsp. lemon

1/2 glass white wine

Beat the egg yolks with 14 tbsp. of granulated sugar until creamy. Add the marsala and place in a double boiler over medium heat. Continue to beat until the zabaglione thickens. Add the powdered gelatin dissolved in 2 tbsp. of water. Set aside to cool completely. Whip the cream with the confectioners sugar until it forms stiff peaks, and add to the zabaglione. Puree about one-sixth of the strawberries with a food mill or processor and marinate the rest in a bowl with the remaining sugar, the lemon juice and white wine. Put the zabablione in a serving bowl (or in individual bowls – serve it in wine glasses) pour over the strawberry puree and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Serve with the remaining strawberries!

Sorbetto di Melone

sorbetto di melone

Sorbetto di Melone – Melon Sorbet

2 cantaloupes
1/3 to 2/3 cup fine sugar

Cut cantaloupes in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the halves into wedges, remove the skin, and cut the melon into 1- inch chunks. Puree the cantaloupe in a food processor until smooth. Add sugar to taste, starting with the 1/3 cup. Chill the puree in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Freeze the puree in an electric ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions. Store sorbetto in the freezer until ready to serve. Scoop into wine glasses or desert bowls.