Labor Day weekend in Scranton traditionally involves all things Italian.
Though the annual La Festa Italiana celebration won’t happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, you don’t have to go without your favorite Italian foods and entertainment. Like many other happenings in 2020, you’ll just have to put a different spin on it.
Here’s how you can put together your own Italian festival from the safety of your own home.
Food stands, featuring many local eateries as well as vendors from the New York City area, draw thousands to dine at La Festa each year. We dug into our Local Flavor: Recipes We Love archives to find readers’ signature Italian dishes so you can still enjoy a taste of Italy.
Andrea Pizzo Gonzalez’s Sicilian Cannoli
Originally published: Nov. 17, 2019
For shells: 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 egg white for sealing edges
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg, oil, sugar, red wine and milk. Stir the ingredients in the center and gradually incorporate flour in order to form a dough. Using hands, knead until a dough is formed.
- Using a pasta roller or a rolling pin, cut off a small piece of dough and flatten with your hands. If using a pasta roller, begin with the widest setting and end by rolling your sheet of dough through the narrowest setting. The dough should be very thin, about 1/8 inch. Roll all pieces of dough and cover them with a kitchen towel in order to prevent the sheets from drying out.
- Using a 4-inch diameter circular bowl or cup, cut out rounds of dough with a knife. Again, cover dough to keep it from drying out.
- When all the dough has been used up, wrap each round of dough around a bamboo dowel or stainless steel cannoli molds and seal the edges with egg white.
- Fill a deep pot halfway with vegetable oil. When oil is hot, fry three or four cannoli shells at a time until golden. (Bakers may have to hold them down to ensure all sides are evenly fried.) Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray or plate. Carefully separate cannoli molds from the shell (they will be extremely hot) and continue to fry the remaining rounds of dough.
For Impastata ricotta filling:
- 4 cups Impastata ricotta
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar (or more if you prefer a sweeter filling)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Strips of candied orange peel (optional)
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped (optional)
- Chopped pistachios (optional)
- In a bowl, whisk together ricotta, powdered sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until smooth. Use a pastry bag or plastic freezer bag with the tip cut off to pipe the ricotta filling inside the shells. If desired, dip the ends in chocolate chips or pistachios or top with orange peel. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Kait Shoemaker’s Penne Pasta with Roasted Vodka Sauce
Originally published: Aug. 4, 2019
- Olive oil
- Half of a medium white onion, chopped
- 2 smashed cloves garlic
- Dash of red pepper flakes
- Dash of oregano
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 6 Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Penne, cooked
- Parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Fry onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Then, add in garlic and vodka and keep on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add in red pepper flakes, oregano and diced tomatoes. Cook for 5 more minutes on stovetop. Transfer to oven-safe pot and roast between 60 to 90 minutes.
- Take pot out, add sauce to a blender and blend it until smooth. Transfer to pan on stovetop and add heavy cream. Cook for about three minutes on medium and add Parmesan cheese.
- Cook pasta until al dente and add pasta to sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley as desired.
Andy Haser’s Meatballs
Originally published: Aug. 3, 2016
- 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
- 1 pound sweet Italian
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 1 1/2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- In a bowl, combine ground beef and sausage by hand. Add eggs, marinara sauce, bread crumbs and garlic to the mixture. Mix well by hand. Form into meatballs.
- Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.
Patty Condon’s Chicken Marsala
Originally published: Feb. 26, 2017
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons margarine
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 or 5 tablespoons flour, for coating
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup marsala wine (or rollo wine)
- In a skillet, combine margarine, chopped garlic and chicken bouillon over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for five minutes.
- Pour flour, garlic powder and chicken in resealable plastic bag and shake.
- Place chicken into pan and cook until white. Add wine and cook for five minutes.
- Pour chicken and sauce into casserole dish and bake at 300 F for 45 minutes to an hour.
While you’re busy in the kitchen, start up your personal musical library or go-to streaming service and put on some beloved Italian voices to get yourself in the mood. Here’s a starting point:
- “O sole mio,” Luciano Pavarotti
- “Mambo Italiano,” Dean Martin
- “Three Coins in the Fountain,” Frank Sinatra
- “Figaro’s Aria” from “The Barber of Seville” opera
- “Nessun Dorma” from “Turandot” opera
After you’ve filled your belly on pasta and cannoli, settle in for the night and enjoy one (or more) of these movies that put Italy in the spotlight.
- “Only You”: Robert Downey Jr. woos Marisa Tomei across picture-perfect Italian settings in this funny and sweet 1994 film.
- “Under the Tuscan Sun”: You’ll want to drop everything, sell your house and move into an quaint Italian villa as soon as you see this 2003 romantic comedy starring Diane Lane and Sandra Oh.
- “Gladiator”: If ancient Italy is more your style, there are few films better than this 2000 sword-and-sandals drama that won Russell Crowe a best actor Oscar.
- “Roman Holiday”: Let Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn sweep you up in this beautiful tale about a reporter and princess and their adventures together in Rome.
- “The Trip to Italy”: British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon continue their “Trip” series with this 2014 comedy that sends them on a road trip to review restaurants.
Grab one of these Italy-set books and settle in for a relaxing time.
- “The Godfather”: Dive in to Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel that formed the basis for the classic 1972 film.
- “A Room with a View”: Follow a young British girl as she undergoes a romantic awakening during a trip to Florence in E.M. Forster’s classic 1908 novel.
- “Sex and Vanity”: “Crazy Rich Asians” author Kevin Kwan offers a modern take on “A Room with a View” in his latest novel, released earlier this summer.
- “Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine”: Refresh your knowledge of the ancient world in Barry Strauss’s 2019 nonfiction book examining the leaders of the Roman Empire.
- “The Agony and the Ecstasy: The Biographical Novel of Michelangelo”: Irving Stone’s 1958 story takes readers back to Florence during the Italian Renaissance and traces the life of Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest