Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss

posted: 01/01/70
by: TLC
Photo Courtesy DCL

TLC's beloved Buddy Valastro is not only a master baker and the Cake Boss, he's also a great cook and star of the hit show, Kitchen Boss. Now he shares 100 delicious, essential Italian-American recipes - from his grandmother's secret dishes to his personal favorites - with his own signature touches on pastas and poultry, pizza and vegetables, seafood and, of course, the kind of creative desserts that make dinner a family event.

Buddy Valastro and his family business, Carlo's Bake Shop, have become a worldwide phenomenon, thanks to his popular television shows, Cake Boss, Kitchen Boss, and Next Great Baker. And Buddy knows far more than just desserts. As a great cook, he uses his own personal touches and flair to make these favorites and classic dishes even more delicious, and also shares tips passed down through generations.

From 100 easy-to-follow recipes that use ingredients that are easily obtainable and affordable, here is the all-important Sunday Gravy (tomato sauce), a foundation for many a pasta meal, as well as Steak a la Buddy, Auntie Anna's Manicotti, Buddy's Swiss Chard, and mouth-watering desserts like Lemon Granita, Apple Snackin' Cake, Cocoa-Hazelnut Cream with Berries, and Rockin' Rice Pudding.

Read an excerpt from "Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss" on the next page!

Photo Courtesy DCL

Buddy's Author Note

In August 2009, a violent storm ripped through New York and New Jersey. The weather reports focused on how the storms uprooted a number of trees in Central Park, but for my family, the most noteworthy and heartbreaking damage occurred in New Jersey, where the extreme wind and rain devastated the local tomato crops.

I know what you're probably thinking: "Buddy, you're in the baking business, not the tomato business." That's true. My family, the Valastros, makes its living by baking and selling just about anything you can think of: cookies, pastries, pies, and--of course--our incredible theme cakes, at Carlo's Bake Shop. It's what we're known for. What put us on the map.

There's another side to our family and its relationship with food, and it's just as personal, maybe even more personal, than what we do at the bakery. I'm talking about the recipes and dishes, meals and traditions that nourish our bodies and souls when we go home. There's no more important recipe or dish in our lives than Sunday gravy, sometimes known as Sunday sauce, the pasta sauce we gather to eat together at the end of every weekend. We eat it so regularly that a few years back my family began our own tradition, one that we borrowed from my wife Lisa's family: making huge batches of sauce at the end of the summer and canning it for each household, based on how many bushels of tomatoes each family orders. To give you a sense of how much Sunday gravy we go through in a year at my house, Lisa orders twenty bushels of tomatoes, and each bushel yields twelve large jars!

Lisa and I began doing this after we were married, then we expanded the tradition to include our extended families at Carlo's Bake Shop on Washington Street in Hoboken. And today we do it at our new, nearby factory. is is how it works: One team of relatives is on cleaning duty, scrubbing the tomatoes in the industrial sinks; another team quarters the tomatoes and gets them into the huge forty- sixty-, and eighty-gallon steam kettles, along with olive oil, onions, and salt. The tomatoes are cooked until they break down, then we allow them to simmer for an hour. Another team processes the fruit through a machine that removes the skin and seeds, leaving us with a sauce. That sauce goes back into the kettle and is brought to a boil, then transferred to jars that have been sterilized in the dishwasher. We add basil and the jar is vacuum sealed, locking in all that incredible, just-cooked flavor until we're ready to call on it throughout the year.

In 2009, those storms wreaked havoc with our sauce making. Rather than just placing a huge order for tomatoes from one source, we had to scrounge around, securing a bushel here and there from area farms. Because tomatoes were so scarce, some family members had to drive out to farms in person and beg for a few bushels. But we were that determined to stick to our tradition and make our Sunday gravy!

I'm not going to lie: What we ended up with after all that work and the cooking that followed wasn't exactly world-class: the tomatoes had survived the storm, but they had a lot of scars and bruises. As a result, the sauce was runny and, even after all our patient simmering, the flavor wasn't as intense as it usually was.

But I'll tell you something: We didn't get upset. To us, the Sunday gravy of 2009 was a metaphor for life itself, especially life in a big, tight-knit family like ours. There will always be ups and downs, but we worked together to make the best of it, we were all there for our annual cooking and jarring ritual, and we left with those jars of sauce we treasured so much. It may not have been the best, but it was good enough, and next year, we knew, we'd have better luck.

For me, that story is and always will be a gentle reminder of my family's priorities and how far we'll go to adhere to them: Even with all the fame we've enjoyed as a result of Cake Boss, when we're away from the lights and cameras, live shows, and book signings, we're just like any other family. We enjoy chilling out and spending time together, and there's no way we'd rather do that than around a table, a place that keeps us grounded and connected to each other, as well as to the relatives who came before us. As proud as I am of our professional success, I'm just as proud that we've been able to continue making time for our family and extended family, and we're talking a lot of people, to meet several times a week and eat together. And, as busy as we are at the bakery and filming our television show, we'll still make time to hunt down bushels of tomatoes if we need to, in order to keep our traditions alive and well.

Of course, Sunday gravy is just one thing that we eat. We also have lots of other family dishes--appetizers and salads, soups and pastas, main courses and desserts that have become part of our repertoire over the years. In this book, I'm honored to share with you my family's favorite recipes, and tell you the stories of what makes them so near and dear to our hearts. I hope they might become favorites for your family as well, and that they help you create memories to last a lifetime, the same way they've done for us Valastros.

Buon Appetito,

Buddy Valastro

Hoboken, New Jersey

April 2012

Get an exclusive recipe from Buddy on the next page!

Photo Courtesy DCL




It is another dish that my father used to make, and it also happens to be a favorite of my sister, Lisa. I love it, too. What's not to love? A pasta made out of potato: Starch heaven, baby.

Contrary to popular belief, gnocchi are not that difficult to make: once you've done it, and seen how they come out so you can adjust, you'll be a pro in no time at all.

The main thing is to not overwork the dough, which will cause the gnocchi to become leaden and gummy.

I offer my Dad's mushroom sauce to go with gnocchi, but you don't have to go to the trouble of making a sauce; gnocchi are so soft and delicious themselves that you can simply toss them with a simple tomato sauce, or with melted butter and minced herbs.


  • 3 large Idaho potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 to 2 cups all-purpose our (you may not need it all), plus more for dusting your work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg, optional


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400?F.
  2. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork, arrange on a rimmed baking tray, and bake, turning every 15 minutes or so to ensure even cooking, until a sharp, thin-bladed knife, such as a paring knife, slides easily into the center of a potato, 45 to 60 minutes.
  3. Remove the potatoes from the oven, use tongs to transfer them to the cutting board, and use the knife to make slashes lengthwise across the potatoes. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, press on the ends of the potatoes with your hands to force out the steam. (In order to make less gummy gnocchi, the potatoes need to be as dry as possible.)
  4. Remove the potatoes from the oven, use tongs to transfer them to the cutting board, and use the knife to make slashes lengthwise across the potatoes. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, press on the ends of the potatoes with your hands to force out the steam. (In order to make less gummy gnocchi, the potatoes need to be as dry as possible.)
  5. While the potatoes are still quite warm, scoop out the potato flesh and rice them in a ricer or transfer to a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Measure out 3 (loosely packed) cups.
  6. Lightly flour a work surface and transfer the 3 cups of potato to the surface. Add 1/2 cup flour, gently knead and form into a mound. Make a well in the center and add about 3/4 of the egg to the well. Use a fork to work the egg into the mixture. When almost incorporated (the mixture will begin crumbling), sprinkle another 1/4 cup our over the mixture and work it in with the fork, then gently knead together. If the mixture seems too dry, add more of the yolk. Continue just until the mixture comes together in a slightly shiny and fragile dough--adding more flour and egg yolk, as necessary.
  7. Lightly press the dough together into a ball and set it aside. Scrape any stuck-on dough from your work surface, then dust lightly with flour.
  8. Working on the freshly floured surface, fold and knead the dough just enough for it to hold together. If the dough is sticky, add a little more flour, but as little as possible; the less flour you add and the less you work the dough, the lighter and more tender the gnocchi will be.
  9. Lightly flour a rimmed baking sheet. Cut the dough into four equal pieces. Working with 1 portion of dough, roll it into a long rope, about 1/2 inch in diameter. With the bench scraper, cut 1-inch pieces of dough from the rope and place on the oured sheet. These are your gnocchi. The gnocchi may be frozen on the baking sheet, then transferred to a freezer bag and frozen for up to 1 month. There is no need to defrost the gnocchi before cooking them.
  10. To cook gnocchi, bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi. They are done after they bob to the surface then cook for 1 additional minute, about 2 minutes total for fresh gnocchi, 3 to 4 for frozen. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi either to mixing bowls to gently toss with other ingredients (see headnote), to pans full of sauce (as in Mushroom Sauce for Gnocchi, page 000), or directly to serving dishes.
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