CNYEats A Taste of Utica Pasta a La Mario

by Joanne on August 14, 2011

Our recipe this week is another terrific pasta recipe. It ranks as number one for me. It’s a dish where you can taste the pasta and it’s not hidden underneath loads of sauce.  The sauce is light and fresh and completely natural in every way.


Page 131 details the recipe posted by none other than Mario!


The “Lemonade Man” was my grandfather (and Joe Mezz’s *Joe is one of the author’s of “A Taste of Utica” ).  He was Mike Mezzanini who had the forethought to buy a truck and put some freezers on it and sell homemade lemonade from the truck.  The cost was a penny for a cone.  He later was known to be seen at all of the area ball games and had a big cowbell be rang as he entered the parks. People said “Here comes Mezzie” and that was painted across the truck.  Mr. Softy – eat your heart out – our grandfather was the first.  If only he had patented the concept!


Pasta a La Mario – serves 6

  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (sliced or chopped and add more if you like)
  • 1 pint Portabella mushrooms peeled, cleaned and cut into bite size slices
  • 15 oz can of Cannellini beans (reserve some juice for flavor)
  • 1 package frozen spinach – defrosted and squeezed dry (or use fresh but you’ll need a lot as it will cook down)
  • 20 grape tomatoes, cut in half – add more if you like
  • 3 large leaves fresh basil, torn
  • 1lb penne pasta (or ziti)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • shaved cheese (optional)

Put the water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt.  Just before putting the pasta in the water begin your sauce.

Saute the garlic in the oil (heated over medium heat).  Add the spinach. Put the pasta in the boiling water.

When the fresh spinach has wilted or the frozen spinach has heated through, add the mushrooms, beans (and some juice) and tomatoes.

When the pasta is cooked al dente (for whole wheat penne, about 9 minutes), scoop out and put in pan with the sauce.  Add water from the pasta to keep it wet – almost soupy.  Add the shredded basil and grated cheese to taste.   If you need it, add salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is cooked to desired tenderness, remove and plate.  Add cheese shavings on top.

Serve with crusty, hot Italian bread (the type you tear off in chunks and not slice).


If you really want to make it fantastic, add some dried hot pepper flakes to pan just before serving.




The burst of flavor:  the creamy white beans, the gentle hint of Persian herb better known as spinach, the cheese, all finished with a hint of fresh basil with its peppery-licorice essence.


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  • At 2011.08.15 05:24, Sophie said:

    Ohmygosh this looks like the most perfect pasta dish for me!
    I will just have to try it sometime soon 🙂
    Gorgeous photos too!

    • At 2011.08.15 11:52, Joanne said:

      Thanks. It was good but needed the cheese.

      • At 2011.08.15 08:23, Ali @ Peaches and Football said:

        This looks great! I agree – it’s good to have some recipes that aren’t totally drenched in sauces. I love the taste of pasta!

        • At 2011.08.15 11:52, Joanne said:

          Thanks Ali.

          • At 2011.08.15 17:59, Amanda @ bakingwithoutabox said:

            Great recipe! Even better lemonade story with it
            Looks like a perfect pre race pasta dinner.

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