Don't Fill Up on the Antipasto: Tony Danza's Father-Son Cookbook


It's wonderful to grow up in a large extended family with lots of uncles, aunts, and older and younger cousins. My son and I were lucky to have that. My mother's family did more than keep in touch, they lived near each other. In about a five-block radius, we had four sets of aunts and uncles with their children, and my grandma and grandpa too. That guaranteed a full house for Sunday dinner. That meant a big dinner with a big kids' table, and that also meant Sunday sauce.

Sunday sauce was different. First, there was more of it. It was a big sauce in a big pot, and there were a lot of things in it. When my grandfather was alive, you never knew what might end up in the sauce. He liked rabbit and some other stuff he wouldn't tell the kids about. Second, it cooked a long time. No shortcuts on Sunday.

It was fun when everybody was there. My mother's brothers Mike and Tony would kid with my aunt Rose's husband, Vinny. My father and Uncle Phil kidded all the aunts. Uncle Tony lifting me over his head with one hand. All the cousins running around. The Italian and English all mixed up. The neighbors stopping by. The moans and groans when everyone had to leave. Family.
Nowadays my son and I keep up the family Sunday tradition at one or the other of our houses. Most of the time we have it at my house, but we have made it over to his. He and his wife have a great house, right around the corner from our house. That's another tradition we try to keep alive -- living close together. Making up the rest of the regular group are Marc's wife (Julie) and their son (Nicholas), my brother (Matty) and his wife (Jackie), my wife (Tracy) and our two daughters (Emily and Katie -- although now Katie is away at school), and any of our friends who are nearby and hungry. As they used to say when we were kids, "More company! Throw another pound of macaroni in the pot." What they made then, and what we make now, is the Sunday sauce. It always has meatballs and pork ribs, and sometimes has braciole and/or sausages. Obviously this is a meat sauce. Not gravy. We think gravy goes on turkey.


Sherman Oaks Pesto with Fusilli and Chicken

2 fresh jalapeño peppers (one green, one red), seeded
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup macadamia nuts
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
_ cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
_ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 boneless, skinless whole chicken breasts, halved
1 pound fusilli
_ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

For the pesto, blend the jalapeños, sugar, ginger, macadamia nuts, lemon zest, garlic, and 1?2 cup of the olive oil in a food processor. Add the herbs and slowly pour in the remaining
1?2 cup of the oil while the machine is running. Process until a puree is formed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare the chicken, mix the seasoned salt, Worcestershire, and soy sauce in a shallow bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Marinate for 20 minutes, turning once or twice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and put it in a large casserole. Cover with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

To make the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the fusilli until al dente.

Add the 1?2 cup of olive oil to a large skillet and heat to smoking. Cut the cooked chicken into chunks or julienne and sear in the hot olive oil. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the chicken and tomatoes, then toss with enough pesto to coat but not to drench it.
Serves 4 to 6

From DON’T FILL UP ON THE ANTIPASTO by Tony & Marc Danza . Copyright © 2008 by Tony Danza. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.