Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

PumpkinChocolateCake_BLAD blog - 10 copy

To tell the truth I’ve never been a huge fan of pumpkin. Only when I moved to the US I revalued this beautiful, orange squash. Lombardy, the northern Italian region where I came from, has a long and strong tradition of pumpkin recipes and the Chocolate Pumpkin Cake is one of them. Despite of its look, this cake is healthier then other cakes because it’s made mostly of pumpkin puree. The Chocolate Pumpkin Cake has a super moist texture and a sweet, chocolatey and nutty taste. I  personally love this cake and I will absolutely bake it for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

PumpkinChocolateCake_BLAD blog - 02 copy

Photo by Ale Gambini –

Servings : 6-8

Difficulty : easy

Prep Time : 45 min.

Cook Time : 35 min.


15 oz. pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup + 3 tbsp all purpose flour

4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup milk

1 sachet vanilla baking powder  (1/2 oz or 16g)

1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chocolate chips

powdered sugar, to dust


- If using a fresh 2 pound pumpkin : halve the pumpkin. Remove seeds and stringy pulp. Peel, cut into chunks and boil in lightly salted water for 25 minutes or until tender. Purée in a blender or food mill.

- Preheat oven at 350 F degrees.

- Grease with baking spray or butter and breadcrumbs a 9 inch cake pan. Set aside.

- In a big bowl, beat eggs and sugar, then add pumpkin puree and flour and mix thoroughly.

- Add cocoa powder, butter, milk and blend together.

- Gently fold in the vanilla baking powder until well incorporated.

- Stir in chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

- Pour the cake batter into the greased pan and bake for 35 minutes.

- Allow to cool in its pan.

- Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Bruscolini (Roasted Pumpkin Seeds)

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a yummy and healthy snack for the whole family. In Italy they are known as BRUSCOLINI and are usually eaten at the stadium while watching the soccer game, at concerts or during country festivals and fairs. Although the whole pumpkin seed is edible, is a common practice (not elegant but functional) to remove the outer husk with the tongue and spit it out.


Photo by Maurizio “OttO” DE Togni


1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp olive oil


Preheat oven at 325 F degrees.
Remove all the filaments, wash the seeds, then pat dry with paper towel.
In a medium bowl mix together seeds, salt and oil.
Spread the seeds onto a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes. Stir and bake for other 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to cool before eating.

Authentic Italian Lasagne

Lasagne are wide, rolled flat, egg pasta sheets but commonly this term refers to a main dish made with several layers of lasagne sheets alternated with sauces and other ingredients. When we (the Italians) talk about lasagne we usually mean Lasagne alla Bolognese, the typical first course (primo piatto) from the city of Bologna (Emilia-Romagna region) made with lasagne sheets, ragù (meat sauce), béchamel sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano DOP (authentic Italian parmesan cheese). Although this dish is worldwide known as LASAGNA and pronounced Lasanya, let’s call it the Italian way : LASAGNE [laˈzaɲɲe].

Pair this beautiful dish with Chianti or Barbera wine.

Buon Appetito!!!


Recipe by Ale Gambini – Photo by Maurizio “OttO” De Togni

Servings : 4-6

Difficulty : intermediate

Prep Time : 30 min.

Cook Time : 1h  30 min.


ragu’ sauce, see recipe below
9 oz lasagne (rolled flat egg pasta)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 pinch grounded nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
For the ragu':
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork (for a milder taste use 0.25 lb ground pork and 0.25 lb ground chicken)
1 beef bouillon cube
30 oz of organic tomato sauce (vine ripened tomatoes)
1 cup of red wine
1 pinch of ground black pepper
3 leaves of basil (washed and pat-dried)


For the ragu':
In a medium sauce pan put olive oil, butter, chopped onion, carrot and celery and heat until the onion became golden.
Reduce the heat and add all the ground meats, stirring constantly.
Pour the red wine, simmer until reduced (about 2 minutes) then add tomato sauce, one beef bouillon cube, basil and black pepper.
Reduce the heat as low as possible and cover the pan with the lid.
Cook for at least one hour and remember to stir very often. If the sauce became too thick add half glass of hot water.
To assemble Lasagne:
Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
Prepare a béchamel sauce heating the butter until it melts, then add the flour and stir very well smooth and yellow. Remove the butter mixture from heat and pour in hot milk, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to boil , add the nutmeg and stir constantly until just thick. Set aside.
Grease the bottom of a rectangular pan with a knob of butter and spread the bottom of the pan with a couple of tablespoons of ragu’.
Make a layer with enough lasagne sheets to cover the pan.
Cover the lasagne sheets with ragu’, then béchamel sauce and sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano. Repeat the process (lasagne sheets, ragu’, béchamel, Parmigiano Reggiano) until you have four layers of pasta. The top layer should be béchamel sauce sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the edges are browned and the sauces are bubbling.
Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Gnocchi With Red Walnuts Cream Sauce

I’ve never seen red walnuts until I came across the Sanguinetti Family Farm’s Red Walnuts. Red Walnuts are no-gmo California grown raw walnuts with a mild flavor and a sparkly red color. Although Red Walnuts are beautiful on salad and baked goods, I used them to develop a delicious first course (primo piatto) : Gnocchi With Red Walnuts Cream Sauce.

I would recommend to pair this dish with Pigato or Vermentino wine.

A special thanks to Sanguinetti Red Walnuts

Buon Appetito!!!

OKGnocchi Con Sugo di Noci_BLAD blog - 153 OK

Photo by Ale Gambini


1.1 pound gnocchi

5 ounces Red Walnuts

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of ground nutmeg

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

4 Red Walnuts coarsely chopped, to sprinkle

parmesan cheese, to sprinkle


- Toast the red walnuts in a large plain skillet for a couple of minutes. Allow to cool.

- Grind the walnuts in a food processor or high speed blender, then add chopped garlic, chopped parsley, salt, nutmeg, heavy cream, melted butter and parmesan cheese. Whirr all the ingredients together until smooth and creamy.

- Place the red walnuts cream sauce onto a large serving bowl.

- Drop the gnocchi into a pot of boiling salted water and cook until they rise to the surface (usually 1 minute).

- Remove the gnocchi quickly with a skimmer, shake off the excess of water and place them over the red walnuts cream sauce.

- Stir gently until well blended.

- Serve hot, sprinkled with chopped walnuts and parmesan cheese.

Misspelled And Misused Italian Food Words




GranCentralMarket_DTLA_BLAD blog - 065

One of the first thing I noticed when I moved to the United States was the huge amount of Italian food words written and/or pronounced incorrectly. Some of them have been misused for so long that have become neologisms.

Here is a short list of misspelled and misused words in which I came across by shopping at the grocery, dining at the restaurant or reading cookbooks:

- Capicola instead or Capocollo. Capicola doesn’t exist, in Italy we have Capocollo, or Capicollo or Coppa.

- Prosciutto De Parma instead of Prosciutto Di Parma.

- Linguini, Fettuccini, instead or Linguine , Fettuccine. There is always an i as a final letter, maybe because in English e sounds like the Italian i.

- Gnocchi (Italian: [ˈɲɔkki]) are called GHnocchi , perhaps because in English there is no sound corresponding to the Italian GN.

- Bruscietta instead of Bruschetta. This dish is written correctly but incorrectly pronounced.

- Panini, Salami, Scaloppini, Cannoli instead of Panino , Salame, Scaloppina or Cannolo The plural is used even if it relates to a single unit

- Lasagna often pronounced Lasanya, refers to the entire dish of Lasagne. In Italian Lasagna is the singular noun and Lasagne is the plural.

- Osso Bucco instead of Osso Buco.

- Zucotto instead of Zuccotto

- Quattro Formaggio instead of Quattro Formaggi

- Penne Arabiatta instead of Penne all’Arrabbiata

- Pepperoni: in English refers to a spiced sliced salame, but in italian doesn’t even exist. In Italy we have peperoni, the green, yellow or red vegetables.

- Biscotti : in English refers to the Italian Cantucci. Any other kind of Italian Biscotto is called cookie.

- Mortadella or Bologna sometimes refers to another cold meat.