This recipe comes down from my Grandmother—well, my Nonni—Grace Navarretta DellaCamera who came to the U.S. from a small town north of Naples, Italy. She learned to cook here as her family had a cook. She learned to make simply meals like this one from women she met in Waterbury and New Haven. The New Haven neighborhood where she raised her family was multi-cultural. Mrs. Romanoff, who lived on the first floor of my grandparents’ three-family house on Legion Avenue and the Ella Grasso Boulevard (house is still there), gave her recipes like chicken soup and kugel. She taught my mom, Clare Criscuola, how to make Pasta Piselli and it became a favorite of mine and my kids. Elena, my kids nanny, would make it for Olivia and Frank and it became a weekly dinner and leftover meal.
I came across Claire Criscuolo’s—owner of Claire’s Corner Copia, a popular vegetarian restaurant in New Haven—recipe for Pasta E’ Piselli in the New Haven Register and tried it. I now make a version inspired by all three versions. Funny how the names are so similar and we are not related.