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An Italian feast for the holidays

Celebrate the season with these scrumptious dishes. The Scotto family of New York’s Fresco restaurant share some of their secrets.
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In search of new a dish to add to your family feast? Well, there’s nothing like some excellent Italian cooking to help celebrate the season with friends and family and the Scotto family is always a great source. On NBC’s “Today” show, Marion, John, Anthony and Elaina Scotto, from New York’s Fresco restaurant, share their secrets for a scrumptious holiday meal. Check out their recipes below.



4 cups cooked Arborio rice

3 eggs; beaten (1 egg should be set aside for the egg wash)

1/2 cup Romano cheese; grated

8 ounces cube fresh mozzarella

4 ounces Prosciutto, chopped


1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2 cups oil for frying


Mix together rice, eggs, Romano cheese, Prosciutto, salt to taste, 1/4 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix ingredients and place a tablespoon in your hand and insert a cube of mozzarella into the center of the rice mixture. Roll rice mixture into small balls, about 1-inch in diameter, dip in egg wash and then roll in the seasoned bread crumbs. Heat about 1 1/2-inches of oil in an 8 or 10-inch skillet. Fry rice balls about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.


Serves 6


2 pounds fresh mozzarella, diced

2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

5 pounds fresh ricotta cheese

3 eggs

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

4 fresh pasta sheets (store-bought), or 2 pounds lasagna noodles


1. To make the lasagna: Mix 3/4 of the mozzarella, 1 cup of the Parmigiano Reggiano, and the ricotta in a large bowl. Add the eggs and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. To cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the pasta until al dente, about 1 minute. Drain and shock in cold water.

3. To assemble: Preheat the oven to 350F. Pour 1 cup of the hot tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8 x 12-inch baking pan. Place a pasta sheet over the layer of sauce, cutting the sheet to fit if necessary.

4. Spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the pasta. Add some of the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat the layers of sauce, pasta and cheese two more times.

6. Spread the remaining cup of tomato sauce over the top layer of the pasta and sprinkle the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the sauce.

7. Bake the lasagna for 1 hour or until the top is golden.


Serves 6


1 carrot, finely diced

1 red onion, finely diced

1 stalk celery, finely diced

2 leeks, cleaned and finely diced

1 fennel bulb, finely diced

1 16-ounce can tomatoes, with juice

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon spicy red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 cups dry white wine

1 16-ounce can clam juice


2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 pound fillet sea bass, cut into 4 pieces (4 ounces each)

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

20 Manila clams (or cockles)

12 mussels, cleaned

1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into slices

4 red and yellow tomatoes, diced

1 cup cooked cannelloni beans (canned or fresh)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the carrot, onion, celery, leeks, fennel, and tomatoes in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the red pepper and oregano.

2. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce to half over medium heat. Add the clam juice and cook over medium-low heat for 15 to 25 minutes. Add salt to taste.

3. In a large sauté pan over low heat, sauté the garlic in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil for 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Pan sear the fish and seafood at the same time and sauté for 2 minutes, or until golden brown on each side. Add the sauce and cook the soup for about 15 minutes over low heat. Add extra clam juice if necessary if the soup seems too thick.

4. Garnish with the diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, and chopped basil.


Serves 6

Cheese Mixture

2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese

2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese

1/2 pound grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

4 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Eggplant and Zucchini Pie:

2 eggplants, peeled

4 zucchini

4 cups all-purpose flour

10 eggs

4 cups breadcrumbs (store bought)

1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

2 quarts extra-virgin olive oil

5 cups tomato sauce

1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, parsley, and eggs. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate briefly to make the mixture firm.

2. Slice the eggplants and zucchini into 1/4-inch thick slices. Set the zucchini aside. Fill a bowl with lightly salted water, add the eggplant, and soak for 1 1/2 to 2 hours to remove the bitter taste.

3. In one shallow bowl, place the flour. In a second bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until blended. In a third bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Line up the bowls on a work surface.

4. One at a time, carefully dip the eggplant and zucchini slices first into the flour, making sure both sides are covered; then into the egg mixture; and finally into the breadcrumb mixture. Coat both sides very well, and gently tap off any excess coating. Transfer to a large plate and season with salt and pepper.

5. In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the zucchini and eggplant and sauté on both sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes, making sure that they are cooked all the way through and soft. Try not to crowd the pan and fry eggplant first. Place the cooked eggplant and zucchini on paper towels to drain off the excess oil.

6. Preheat the oven to 450. In a large 9 x 13 baking pan, add 1 cup tomato sauce, a layer 1/4 eggplant and zucchini, and top with a layer of 1/4 cheese mixture Repeat the process three more times. Top with a layer of tomato sauce and sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately?


Serves 6


1 pound panettone (traditional Italian fruit cake), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 cups heavy cream

3 cups whole milk

8 large egg yolks

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons finely chopped orange zest

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

8 ounces semisweet (dark) chocolate, coarsely chopped

Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish

Note: Panettone is a traditional Italian fruit cake sold in Italian markets and specialty stores. One small commercially available cake is about 16 ounces.


1. Preheat the oven to 200F.

2. Spread the panettone cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until dried out.

3. In a large bowl, combine the cream, milk, egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar, orange zest, and vanilla extract. Whisk gently until the sugar dissolves. Add the panettone to the bowl and set aside to soak for 30 minutes.

4. Increase the oven temperature to 350F.

5. Rub the butter over the bottom and sides of a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish about 8 x 12 x 2 1/2-inches deep. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar over the butter.

6. Stir the chocolate into the panettone mixture and then pour the mixture into the baking dish. Set the dish in a larger pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the surface is golden brown and firm and the custard is set. Remove from the water bath and set aside to cool for 20 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with whipped cream.

Recipes provided by the Scottos of Fresco by Scotto in New York, New York. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.