Frankie Avalon's Italian Family Cookbook: From Mom's Kitchen to Mine and Yours

Frankie Avalon's Italian Family Cookbook: From Mom's Kitchen to Mine and Yours

by Frankie Avalon, Rick Rodgers


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Entertainment legend Frankie Avalon has cooked his way from his mother's kitchen in South Philadelphia to Hollywood and Las Vegas. Here in his first cookbook are pitch-perfect recipes for such Italian classics as Tomato-Ricotta Lasagna and Three-Meat Sunday Gravy with Pasta, as well as unexpected treasures like Roast Pork with Fig Sauce and Pork Milanese on Kale Salad.

Frankie Avalon's Italian Family Cookbook is first and foremost a collection of over 80 of his favorite dishes, ones that Frankie and his wife Kay regularly serve to their eight children and ten grandchildren. Weeknight meals, Sunday suppers, and holiday feasts are all covered with must-have recipes—each one taste-tested by Avalons of all ages. And Frankie is a great storyteller, so delicious tales of more than five decades in show business pop up like meatballs in marinara sauce. Novice and experienced cooks will find a lot to love between these pages—dozens of heirloom recipes, mouthwatering food photographs, plus candid shots of Frankie at home in Southern California with his family and some of his favorite food places and pals in the old neighborhood in Philly, tips on Italian ingredients, advice on cooking for a crowd, and more.

Frankie's latest ventures include his food company, which specializes in prepared Italian food products, like rice balls and sausages, based on his heritage (his father was a butcher) and currently available on QVC.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250059130
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 765,449
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

FRANKIE AVALON is one of the busiest nightclub performers in the country, playing the finest supper clubs and headlining top Las Vegas main rooms. He has a long string of gold record million-seller singles and albums, and 30 films, including Grease and Beach Blanket Bingo. Frankie lives in California with his wife of 50 years, Kay.

RICK RODGERS is an award-winning cookbook writer and culinary instructor. As a publishing consultant, his clients include Williams-Sonoma and Tommy Bahama.

Read an Excerpt

Frankie Avalon's Italian Family Cookbook

From Mom's Kitchen to Mine and Yours

By Frankie Avalon, Rick Rodgers, Teri Lyn Fisher, Ellen Silverman

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Frankie Avalon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6371-2


bruschetta with bell peppers, olives, and basil


When you need to serve a crowd without a lot of effort, bruschetta is the way to go — it's just toasted bread with topping. But with a great topping, it gets a party off on the right foot. This light but flavorful vegetable topping is good for when you know you have a big meat or pasta main course on the menu. My method for skinning the peppers cuts them into long strips so they are easier to cook without a lot of turning. For the toasts, use bread that is long and relatively thin so you have just a bite or two per bruschetta.

3 large bell peppers
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons drained nonpareil capers (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

24 slices crusty bread, cut from a long, narrow loaf, such as a ficelle
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

1. Prepare an outdoor grill for direct cooking over high heat. (Or position a broiler rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler.)

2. Cut the top and bottom end off each bell pepper, discarding the stem. Make a vertical cut into each pepper and open it up into a long strip. Trim away and discard the ribs and seeds. Grill the peppers, skin side down, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the skins have blackened, 6 to 8 minutes. (Or broil the peppers, skin side up, until the skins have blackened and blistered, 6 to 8 minutes.) Transfer to a bowl, cover with a plate, and let cool for about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, brush the bread slices on both sides with the oil. Grill, turning as needed, until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the toasts to a platter. (The toasts can be cooled, covered, and stored at room temperature for up to 8 hours.)

4. Whisk the vinegar, red pepper flakes, and garlic together in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil. Peel the bell peppers, cut them into ½-inch dice, and stir into the bowl with the oil. Add the olives, basil, and capers, if using, and mix well. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cover and marinate at room temperature for at least 1 or up to 4 hours.

5. To serve, top each toast with the bell pepper mixture and serve immediately.

salami-stuffed mushrooms


It's easy to say that everyone loves stuffed mushrooms. Knowing this, I served these recently to my family, and they disappeared from the platter in just a few minutes. Use the extra-large "gourmet" or "stuffing" mushrooms because they will shrink during cooking. I only recommend Genoa salami as a generic suggestion; you can use any kind of salami that you like.

16 large "gourmet" or "stuffing" mushrooms (about 28 ounces)
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup finely chopped Genoa salami (2 ounces)
¼ cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup Italian-seasoned dried bread crumbs
1¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (1 ounce)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, beaten

1. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, keeping the caps intact, and reserving the stems. Transfer the caps to a large bowl, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the oil, and toss to coat them with the oil.

2. Pulse the reserved stems in a food processor until finely chopped (or use a large knife). Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped stems and season them lightly with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they give off their juices and begin to brown. Add the salami, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened, about 2 minutes. Transfer the stem mixture to a medium bowl and cool slightly.

3. Stir in the bread crumbs, Romano, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the eggs.

4. Lightly oil a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Arrange the caps, stemmed side up, in the dish and season them with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Using a dessertspoon, stuff each cap with the bread crumb mixture, pressing it firmly into a mound. (The mushrooms can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.)

5. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

6. Drizzle the mushrooms with oil. Bake until the topping is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm.

stuffed artichokes with romano and garlic


If you want to bring a smile to my face, put a stuffed artichoke on the table in front of me. They aren't difficult to make, but they always take time to cook. Boiled, then stuffed with bread crumbs and baked, these are a fine first course to a special dinner, or serve them for a light lunch. One thing peculiar about artichokes is that they contain a rare chemical (cynarin) that makes wine taste sweet, so keep that in mind when choosing a beverage.

4 medium artichokes, about 9 ounces each
1 lemon, halved, plus lemon quarters, for serving


3 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs, made from day-old bread
1 ¼ cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (5 ounces)
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish and drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cut off the top ½ inch from each artichoke. Using kitchen scissors, snip the thorny tips from the leaves. Rub the cut parts of the artichoke with a lemon half.

2. Add the artichokes to the pot and cover tightly. Reduce the heat to low and cook at a steady, low boil until an artichoke leaf can be easily pulled off, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain the artichokes in a large colander. Turn the artichokes upside down and let drain and cool completely.

3. To make the stuffing: Mix the bread crumbs, Romano, parsley, and garlic together in a medium bowl. Stir in enough of the oil to moisten the crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

5. Working with each artichoke one at a time, hold it upside down and squeeze it gently but firmly to extrude excess water, making sure to keep the artichoke intact. Force about one-quarter of the bread crumb mixture between the outer artichoke leaves (don't bother with the thin leaves in the center of the artichoke). Place the stuffed artichoke in the baking dish.

6. Drizzle olive oil over the artichokes. Bake, uncovered, until the stuffing is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or cooled to room temperature, with the lemon wedges.

grilled tomato caprese with pesto


Tomato Salad Caprese (from the isle of Capri), is classically made with ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and beautiful fresh basil leaves — it is never served with vinegar, balsamic or otherwise. Here's a variation with grilled tomatoes which is equally delicious, as the heat softens the cheese, and the pesto brings a few more flavors than basil leaves alone. Serve this with crusty bread or focaccia.

9 ripe plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup Pesto
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 12 equal pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare an outdoor grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (450° to 500°F).

2. Lightly brush the tomatoes all over with a tablespoon or two of the oil. Brush the grill grates clean. Place the tomatoes, skin side down, on the grill. Grill, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the skins are seared with grill marks, about 3 minutes. Flip the tomatoes and cook, cut sides down, with the lid closed, until the other sides are seared with grill marks, 1 to 2 minutes more. Using a metal spatula, transfer the tomatoes to a platter.

3. For each serving, spread about 1 ½ tablespoons of the pesto in a pool in the center of each plate. Alternate 3 tomato halves with 2 mozzarella pieces on each plate. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

rice balls


One of the most popular of all Italian appetizers, these fried balls are sometimes called arancini ("oranges") because of their shape and color. With a crispy coating and creamy rice interior, they can be served plain with a squeeze of lemon, or in a pool of marinara or Bolognese sauce. The important thing is that you make them! To shape the balls, a food portion scoop works better than pressing the rice mixture into balls with your hands alone.

RICE FILLING 1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups water
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup shredded Fontina Val d'Aosta cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons plain dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups plain dried bread crumbs, for coating
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

1. To prepare the rice filling: Bring the rice, water, and ½ teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and tightly cover the saucepan. Cook until the rice is tender and has absorbed the water, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

2. Transfer the rice to a medium bowl and let cool completely. Stir in the Fontina, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. To make each ball, using a 3-ounce spring-loaded food portion scoop (see Note) dipped in cold water, scoop up the rice mixture, press it firmly in the scoop to mold it into a ball with one flat side, and release it onto the baking sheet. Using wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape each into a round ball. (The balls can be refrigerated for up to 2 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before frying.)

4. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 200°F. Line another baking sheet with brown paper (from a grocery bag) or paper towels. Pour enough oil into a deep saucepan to come 3 inches up the sides and heat over high heat until it reaches 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer.

5. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish. One at a time, roll the rice balls in the bread crumbs to coat them, patting the crumbs to help them adhere. Return the balls to the wax paper–lined baking sheet. Working in batches without crowding, add the balls to the oil and deep-fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a wire spider or slotted spoon, transfer the balls to the brown paper–lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while frying the rest. Serve hot.

note: You will find the perfect food portion scoop at restaurant supply shops and online. These scoops are standardized by a color-coded handle and by number. I use a red-handle #24 scoop, with a 2-inch diameter that holds about 2 ½ tablespoons.

stuffed eggs with mascarpone, basil, and pancetta


Stuffed eggs fit into the American appetizer category more easily than Italian antipasti, but this recipe with Mediterranean flavors mixes the best of both worlds. No one likes overcooked hard-boiled eggs with that strange green color to the yolks, but my low-heat method avoids this problem. Also, I always cook a couple of extra eggs to be sure to make enough filling.

8 large eggs
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 slice pancetta, cooked until crisp, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the eggs in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover. Bring just to a strong simmer over high heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover tightly. Let stand for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the pancetta in a small skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisped and browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and let cool. Finely chop the pancetta, cover, and refrigerate until serving time.

3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water. Let the eggs stand until chilled, about 10 minutes. Crack the eggs. Starting at the largest end, and working under a thin stream of cold running water, remove the egg shells.

4. Cut each egg in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. Discard four of the cooked egg white halves or save them for another use. Using a rubber spatula, rub the yolks through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Stir in the mascarpone and basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Dividing it equally, spoon the filling into the whites. (For a more professional look, transfer the yolk mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch star tip, and pipe the yolk mixture back into the whites. This is a lot easier than using a spoon.) Place the stuffed egg halves on a serving platter, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until serving time, or up to 8 hours.

5. Just before serving, sprinkle the eggs with the chopped pancetta. Serve chilled.

sweet-and-sour vegetables


When you have a big meal ahead, it is best to keep the antipasti on the light side. That's when it's good to have these marinated vegetables in the refrigerator. They are refreshing, with a sweet-and-sour flavor that keeps you coming back for more. Don't overcook the vegetables, as they will become tender enough from soaking in the hot marinade.

1½ cups water
½ cup chopped yellow onion
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, cut into ½-inch rounds
2 medium celery ribs, cut into ½-inch slices
1 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, and then into ½-inch slices
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ½-inch-wide strips
1½ cups thawed frozen baby onions (see Note)

1. Combine the water with the chopped onion, vinegar, oil, sugar, parsley, oregano, garlic, and bay leaf in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

2. Add the carrots and celery, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the carrots are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the zucchini, bell pepper, and baby onions and bring just to a simmer. Pour the vegetables and the marinade into a bowl and let cool completely.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 5 days. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a platter and serve chilled.

Note: Fresh cipollini, small and squat onions available at specialty markets, can be substituted for the thawed frozen onions. To prepare the cipollini, trim off the top and bottom of 12 small cipollini. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the cipollini and cook just until the skins loosen, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cipollini to a bowl of cold water and let them cool. Slip off the skins and pierce a slit into the side of each cipollini. Return to the water and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer just until the cipollini are barely tender when pierced with the tip of a small, sharp knife, about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold running water, and let cool completely.


Excerpted from Frankie Avalon's Italian Family Cookbook by Frankie Avalon, Rick Rodgers, Teri Lyn Fisher, Ellen Silverman. Copyright © 2015 Frankie Avalon. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Avalon Kitchen


Stuffed Artichokes with Romano Crumbs

Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Bruschetta

Salami-Stuffed Mushrooms

Grilled Tomato Caprese

Sweet and Sour Vegetables

Rice Balls

Clams Oreganata

Stuffed Eggs with Mascarpone, Basil, and Pancetta

Soups and Salads

Next Day Roasted Chicken Stock

Chicken Soup with Cheese Custard,

var. Stracciatella

Wedding Soup with Small Meatballs and Escarole

Lentil, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

Vegetable Minestrone

Pasta e Fagioli

Green Salad with Simple Vinegar Dressing

Orange, Fennel, and Onion Salad

Frankie's Marinated Tomato and Onion Salad

Dolores Hope's Antipasti Salad

Italian Tuna Salad


Spaghetti with Veal Meatball var. Turkey Meatballs var. Braised Meatballs

Sicilian Chicken Meatballs

Three-Meat Sunday Gravy with Spaghetti

(Ziti) with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Lasagna with Sausage and Cheese

Ziti with Sausage and Peppers Sauce

Pasta e Ceci

Stuffed Cheese Shells

Classic Fettuccine Alfredo

Shrimp in Lemon Cream Sauce

Frankie's Famous Crab Marinara

Linguine with Fresh Clam Sauce

Calamari Meatballs with Linguine

Homemade Gnocchi with Pesto

Risotto with Peas and Asparagus

Red Wine Marinara Sauce var: Sausage var: White Wine

John's Bolognese Sauce

Meats and Poultry


Chasen's Chili

Osso Buco

Veal Rolatini with Prosciutto and Fontina

Veal Scaloppini Marsala with Mushrooms

Roast Pork with Fig Sauce

Stuffed Pork Chops with Mortadella Stuffing

Pork Cutlets Milanese on Kale Salad

Spinach and Sausage Pie

Sausage-Stuffed Peppers

Frankie Boys with Sausage and Cheese

Roman Lamb Chop Sauté

Roast Stuffed Chicken with Chestnut-Sausage Stuffing

Chicken Cacciatore

Roast Lemon Chicken

Chicken Thighs with Sherry-Vermouth Sauce


Whole Branzino with Fennel-Pancetta Sauté

Sea Bass with Horseradish Breadcrumbs

Red Snapper with "Crazy" Tomato Sauce

Marinated Swordfish with Lemon and Wine

Clams Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Scampi

Stuffed Calamari

Seafood Salad

Vegetables and Sides

Frankie Boys with Broccoli

Roasted Broccolini with Olives

Basic Escarole with Garlic var. Broccoli Rabe

Baked Eggplant Marinara

Roasted Fennel with Lemon and Pine Nuts


Green Beans with Potatoes

Annette's Roasted Onions

Stuffed Radicchio with Ricotta and Parmesan

Mashed Potatoes with Fontina and Garlic

Crispy Potato Wedges with Romano

Mom's Tomato Pizza


Banana Pudding Ice Box Cake

Cannoli Cake

Limoncello Pound Cake

Ricotta Cheesecake


Chocolate Drops

Biscotti Braids

Butter Cookies

Puffy Italian Cookies

Rainbow Cookies

Fried Ricotta Balls with Fresh Berries


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