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NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson Nellie Cattani sits at her dining room table with a bowl of Italian Zuccarine cookies in her Ladd home. Cattani bakes the cookies in her home and obtained the family recipes from traveling to her mother and father’s hometown in Italy.
More than a century ago a young Italian woman named Delma picked chestnuts off nearby trees that flourished along the alpine foothills of Northern Italy. Delma and her family were poor. And like most people living in the small village of Fanano, the chestnut harvest meant a variety of foods from cookies to potato-like pancakes. Over time, Delma would eventually come to America and settle in Cherry. That’s where she passed down her recipes to her daughter, Nellie Cattani, 85, who currently lives in Ladd. “Very few people really know how to make Italian food,” Cattani said. “You see, my mother was poor. And she would use chestnuts for everything.” When Cattani was in better health, she often had friends and family over to eat. Even today, she’s asked for recipes about everything from zuccarines to marinated mushrooms. Take, for instance, the family’s recipe for what they call “Buddin” — a caramelized custard that’s very similar to the French form of flan. But Cattani’s recipe has two secrets. First, send the children to a local dish shop and have them pick out a pretty bowl to use as the molding dish. As for the second secret, Cattani says coyly: “You don’t really think I measure the whiskey do you?” On special occasions, Cattani would put out a batch of zuccarines, and then immediately start on the next batch. The small, bite-sized pastries were always a hit among her family. However, she is quick to warn that anyone wishing to try her recipe should remember to be careful when measuring out the anise because it is really strong. “I’ve cooked all my life but people don’t really cook anymore because they just don’t have time,” she said. “Maybe someday that will change.”
These are just some of Nellie’s family recipes MARINATED MUSHROOMS Simply marinate mushrooms in a pre-mixed jar of oil and vinegar. CHESTNUT COOKIES Filling 2½ cups mashed chestnuts ¼ cup applesauce 1 cup mincemeat 1 jigger of whiskey “more or less” 1 teaspoon anise Grated lemon You will need about 65 chestnuts. Roast them for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. When cooled, take out the meats and mash it. It should make 2½ cups. Mix the mashed chestnuts and other ingredients together and set aside. Dough 1 egg 1 tablespoon of sugar 2 cups flour 1 tablespoon lard 2 teaspoon baking powder 1 dash salt Mix the above ingredients together and roll out thin. Cut the dough into squares. Put the filling close to the end and fold the square in half. Seal with a little water if dough doesn’t stick. 4. Fry until golden brown. When cool, top with powdered sugar.
BUDDIN (Flan) 1½ cups of sugar 1 quart milk 6 eggs 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 teaspoon whiskey Caramelize only one cup of sugar and then mix with one tablespoon of water. Spread in mold. Heat milk and add to beaten eggs ½ cup sugar. Add vanilla and whiskey to egg/milk mixture. Pour contents into mold and bake in pan of hot water at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool and turn onto plate.
ZUCCARINES Dough 3 cups flour ½ cup sugar 3 tablespoons baking powder Make a well and add: 1¼ sticks of margarine that has been melted and cooled ½ cup heavy whipping cream 3 eggs beaten 2 teaspoon lemon extract 2 teaspoon anise extract Mix together and knead. Take a pinch of dough and roll out in your hands and wrap around your finger. Bake cookies 12-15 minutes until lightly brown. Let cool. When ready to ice cookies put them into a large dish pan as used below. Icing 1½ cup sugar 1/3 cup water 3 teaspoon anise Cook sugar and water until large clear bubbles appear. Take off the burner and add anise. Pour sugar mixture over cookies and shake until covered. Place on a cooling rack until totally dry.
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