Friends & Family Friday

Baba makes Marcella Hazan’s Dad’s Fish!

Friday’s new theme is….Friends and Family! Those of you who know me personally know that when you are in my life, you are pretty much family (whether you like it or not!) and I appreciate you. There is so much loneliness in the world, and I can tell you this. You’ll never be lonely if you are chopping garlic at the counter. I don’t know exactly how it works, but there is something healing and ministerial about finely chopping garlic. Or onions.

Today, I had a chance to go see my dad, mom and sister in our family home in the far south suburbs. My sis and her husband live with my folks. Yes, it’s sort of like the movie Moonstruck but with a big sausage and beef place instead of a plumbing business. And instead of seventy million dogs, there are seventy million deer outside, because the environment is out of balance and the deer have nowhere left to forage, so they have taken over the family yard. I enjoyed watching them while I cleaned up the lunch dishes.

Baba’s Italian Kitchen Today!

Dad is 86-years-old and cooks dinner in his pajamas, which like any other Italian knows is very normal. We also eat dinner at noon which any other old person knows is also very normal. We used to fight a lot more at the kitchen table, but my sister plonked down a talking speaker that settles all our family disagreements. Today she (the speaker, not my sister) told us “there are two-point-two-zero-five pounds in one kilo” which vindicated my dad’s insistence that he used to eat a pound of pasta every day in Italy growing up, which apparently was “half a kilo” or “mezzo chilo”.

Some of the noodles were good with butter and cheese too!

Dad deserved the win anyway, because the lunch he cooked us all was better than any five-star restaurant you could ever hope to visit. This is partially because he was born and raised in Italy, where his family lives and cooks fabulous food. It’s also because he uses Marcella Hazan’s ultimate no-fail cook book: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Not only will you never be lonely if you are chopping garlic in your kitchen, but you will never be without a loyal following if you follow Marcella Hazan’s recipes. That’s a Renata’s Kitchen guarantee! If you want her cook book, by all means order it from your local bookstore. Or I suppose you could make the world’s richest man richer and order it off Amazon.

So! Here are some photos and videos of my dad cooking Marcella’s dad’s fish. If you are vegan, you could, for sure, adapt this recipe and use the tomato broth sauce for anything you may like such as white beans or even some simple vegan sausages made from vital wheat gluten which has a nice bite.

I reached for the DeCecco spaghetti to go with this dish, but Dad said he wanted to try egg noodles he had just gotten. The noodles were not particularly Italian looking, and I wondered to myself if they would taste very good. But I felt quite strongly that this was my dad’s chance to shine, and he should let his food flag fly. So I encouraged him to give it a try. It was a major success!!

I dare you to come up with a better smell than garlic, oil, onion and a splash of white wine.

I made a nice leafy vegetable salad accompany the meal. I microwaved the chopped carrots, ran them under cold water so they would keep their orange color, and promptly broke their glass dish thus proving the laws of physics to be true. Mom said she didn’t like that dish anyway, and I was grateful!

So the main things I learned from Friends & Family Friday are these:

Dad insisted a big salad was the way to live a long and healthy life. But he poured a glass of red wine right afterward!
  • Chopping garlic and onion is mesmerizing.
  • Dad still salutes Mussolini while he cooks, and I wish he didn’t
  • The Holy Spirit unites us all through the addition of white wine to garlic, onion and olive oil cooking on the stove, and all healing is possible.
  • My sister is not only my best friend, but also a cherished saint.
  • Egg noodles are one of the most comforting foods on the planet.
  • I am thankful for my family and friends, because they are delicious ingredients in God’s gorgeous stew.
One of the world’s greatest cookbooks: Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.


I say, if everybody in this house lives where it’s God first, friends and family second, and you third, we won’t ever have an argument.

-Jeff Foxworthy

I wasn’t positive about the egg noodles, but Dad nailed it.

Marcella’s Basic Recipe ‘Renatafied’

  • Saute 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic with 1 small finely chopped onion, dried parsley, salt and pepper in a lot of olive oil (1/2 cup!)
  • Add a glug of dry white wine or vermouth (1/3 cup) and let it cook a minute.
  • Add a small can of chopped tomatoes (14 oz) and cook for about 10 minutes. (You could add a large can too, and you’d have more sauce.)
  • Add fresh cod fillets and snuggle them in the tomato sauce to cook 7 minutes.
  • Flip them over (careful now) and cook another 5 minutes until opaque.
  • Pour them over buttered noodles or spaghetti and sprinkle with Parmesan if you wish.
This photo sums up my childhood nicely.

Click HERE to learn more about Enzo’s “Enzo’s Restaurant” which is run by my (also sainted) nephew, Kyle Hallberg! Tell him “Auntie Renee sent ya”.


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