The Lost Recipes of the Mob

First, a few disclaimers: Names, dates and locations have absolutely been changed for the safety of the real people involved in this story. It is absolutely true.

My wife and I were married in north San Diego County in the Spring of 2007. It was before the housing crisis hit, and it was before we had children, so we were happy, and still pretty young. I had a job at an internet company specializing in audience and data segmentation, and as near as I could tell at the time, it was mostly fraudulent. But they had a sweet ping pong table and an above average free snack deal, so life was good. They also paid me pretty well. My wife taught 2nd grade a fancy private school for wealthy families, so her life was also good. We lived in a rented, one story house in the nicer part of Del mar, a swank beach community. Our house up on a hill a few miles from the beach, but we spend the weekend biking, walking our dog, enjoying the beach and boozing with our friends. We were pretty normal 30 somethings.

About 2 months after we were married and moved into our house, we noticed a neighbor of ours. He was in his early 60s and began waving to us as we came and left, and was general smiling and friendly. One Sunday afternoon we bumped into him at the supermarket and we introduced ourselves. His name was Carmine. Carmine was a cool looking guy. He had slicked back dark hair, a nice suntan and a some quality threads. He also was wearing, the day we met him, the sweetest white loafers you’ll ever see. At any rate, he was stocking up on some pretty fancy ingredients, and my wife asked him if he was cooking for someone. He said only for himself and his dog, and then promptly invited us over for dinner the following Sunday. We accepted.

As the following Sunday approached, we considered cancelling (it was along hot day at he beach) but showed up at his house at 6:30 with a bottle of $25 Chianti. Carmine answered the door, and we were hit with an array of sensations: Auditory (Frank Sinatra), visual (a gold necklace, and open collared shirt, graying chest hair) and olfactory (exquisite aromas of pasta dishes, mixed in with cheap cologne). Carmine, whatever and whomever he was, was authentic if nothing else.

That night he made us a fantastic meal of antipasti, pasta, salad and more pasta. We drank our wine and bunch more of his. One of which was an expensive Barolo. We rolled out of there and fell into a deep coma, barely able to wake for the Monday morning bell. About 2 weeks later we did it again, and thus began a weekly tradition that lasted about a year, with a few missed Sundays. We would watch football during the Fall, and gorge ourselves on incredible food. As we drank and ate and got to know each other, Carmine would start surprising us with new parts about himself. One time he broke out a giant joint that we smoke between courses. He told us that would help us regain our appetite for the next two courses. The meals got finer and more fun and the wine got fancier. Once we had house guests and brought them over. Another time we invite some local friends to enjoy Carnie’s hospitality. He was something else.

All this time, my wife was quizzing him on how he was able to make such amazing meals, and he told us his mother taught him how to cook when he was a young man. This lead to question about his upbringing, and he told us he was from Philadelphia. And, in a stunning disclosure straight out My Blue Heaven, he confessed that he was a former mobster turned government witness, and that he was in ‘The Program’. Carmine was a real life member of the mob, living in secret 4 doors down from us in Del Mar. You can’t make this stuff up.

As our friendship with Carmine evolved, he slowly began divulging certain culinary tricks that made his plate special. The Marsala sauce had a dash of plum sauce, the Pesto had a pinch of walnuts, and the Bolognese has a bit of ground sausage from Italy. Eventually my wife got pregnant, I lost my job, and before we knew it we were off to San Francisco for our next adventure. At our farewell dinner with Carmine, he gave me copies of some of his recipes after we promised not to share with anyone. But later via email after his mother had passed away, he agreed to let me share them with the world. So here you go, in no particular order, the 4 greatest lost recipes of the Mob.

Veal Marsala

You can eat this over veal or pasta, it really doesn’t matter. The sauce is what is so special.

  • 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil (use the good stuff from Europe)
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • ½ pound mushroom stalks (don’t use the caps, just the stumps or stalks)
  • ½ cup Marsala wine
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 ½ cups beef stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of plum sauce

Heat up olive oil in a sauce pan, add in garlic, onion, mushrooms stalks. Sauté mushrooms for 2 minutes on low heat, add in flour, and then a minute later add in wine and stock. Cook until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste

Classic Pesto Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup fresh pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon walnuts
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Percorino cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Combine basil, garlic, pine but and walnuts in a food processor and chop. Add in ½ cup of the oil and blend until smooth. Add salt & pepper to taste. Stir in remaining olive oil and cheese right before consumptions

Lousie’s Bolognese

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion, medium sized
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chopped celery stalk
  • 1 chopped carrot
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • ¼ pound Italian sausage
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) of crushed tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pecorino cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Stir in garlic and onion, sauté until soft. Add in celery and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Raise heat and stir in ground beef and sausage, cook for about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, parsley and basil leaves. Lower heat and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in Pecorino cheese.

Lasagna Lust

Calling all lasagna lovers! If you’ve been making mom’s homemade lasagna recipe for years, but are looking for a new twist, we’re here to help. We chatted with Chef Carla Contreras, founder of the healthy cooking blog, for her expert tips for jazzing up lasagna. Here are a few ways to kick up the flavor -- and make healthier -- this favorite Italian dish your family loves.

Change Up the Sauce
“I love adding chilies to my pomodoro or red sauce,” says Contreras. Bringing in the heat changes the sauce and the overall flavor of the dish. If you don’t have fresh chilies, you could add smoked Spanish paprika, crushed red chili flakes or chili powder to your tomato sauce or alternative.

“I also like to add mint instead of basil to sauces sometimes, or sprinkle in a teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika along with a teaspoon of cumin,” says Contreras. “Add a tablespoon of fresh ginger to a pomodoro sauce for a unique-quality flavor that you can't quite put your finger on, but stands out.”

You might even want to swap your red sauce for pesto sauce in lasagna. Contreras likes making pesto sauces with different nuts, like pistachios, walnuts and Brazil nuts (they all make pesto a little more interesting), while adding a few tablespoons of lemon juice to the sauce to brighten up the flavor. “I also use different veggies to make pesto, like kale and broccoli rabe,” says Contreras. “Not only do they amp up the nutritional value, but they make the everyday lasagna something special with different flavors.”

Swap Out Meats and Cheeses
“I make a mean all-veggie lasagna that uses butternut squash as the ‘noodle,’ and is paired with pesto sauce,” says Contreras. To get started, slice raw butternut squash on a mandolin to turn it into thin noodle-like strips. These same strips would be delicious with a simple pomodoro as well, notes Contreras. Another option: Swap meat for vegetables, like roasted eggplant and portobello mushrooms, or cooked spinach and zucchini.

If you want to remove the cheese altogether from your lasagna recipe, swap in firm tofu that you’ve mashed up. The secret to making it taste delicious? Add one to two tablespoons of nutritional yeast to the tofu for that cheesy flavor, suggests Contreras. You can also add a clove of minced garlic and chopped up fresh basil, and season with salt and pepper.


Ditch the Casserole Dish
If you want to make slow cooker lasagna, spray the dish with cooking spray and layer the ingredients. If the dry, hard noodles don't fit, you can always break them to fit your crock. Then cook on low for three hours or until the noodles are cooked.

Or, there’s always the option to make single-serving lasagna if you have a night solo from the family. Contreras starts with fresh pasta, cutting it into circles and putting them in eight 10-ounce ramekins that have been prepped with cooking spray. Layer as you would lasagna in a large baking dish, then bake about 30 minutes at 350 F. Cover with aluminum foil the first 20 minutes, then take off the foil. You could also do this in a cupcake or muffin tin pan if you didn't have ramekins. Substituting round wontons for the fresh pasta could also be an easy swap.

One-Skillet 'BLT' Pasta


  • 2 tablespoons Pure Wesson® Canola Oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 can (14.5 oz each) Hunt's® Petite Diced Tomatoes, undrained
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup Hunt's® Tomato Sauce
  • 8 ounces dry rotini pasta, uncooked
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 6 slices fully cooked bacon
  • 1 pkg (6 oz each) baby spinach leaves
  • Kraft® Grated Parmesan Cheese, optional


  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add undrained tomatoes, water, tomato sauce, pasta and garlic salt; stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and cook 12 minutes or until pasta is almost tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat bacon in microwave according to package directions. Chop bacon; set aside.
  3. Place spinach on top of pasta mixture. Cover; cook 2 to 3 minutes more or until spinach wilts and pasta is tender. Add bacon; stir to combine. Serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Nutritional Information

6 servings (about 1 cup each) Calories 241; Total Fat 7 g(Saturated Fat 1 g); Cholesterol 4 mg; Sodium 635 mg; Carbohydrate 36 g; (Dietary Fiber 4 g, Sugars 5 g); Protein 8 g; Percent Daily Values*: Vitamin A 60%; Vitamin C 30%; Calcium 5%; Iron 15%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Kraft® is a registered trademark of Kraft Foods, Inc.

Your Grocery List: Lasagna Edition

Serving 8-12

  • Cooking spray
  • 14-ounce firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 50 ounces Hunt’s® tomato sauce
  • 3-4 bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 12 dried lasagna noodles (or, amount needed for 9-by-13-inch baking dish)