Tag Archives: Neil Fusco

Spring to the defense of every human life

Springtime, or primavera as we Italians call it, is a time to celebrate new life!

In nature we see the beauty of trees blooming, colorful flowers peeking through, the new grass growing like a fresh green blanket thrown over the winter’s dead brown brush. In recent times, our appreciation and dedication for nature and the environment has grown on a global scale. If only we could elevate society’s appreciation for the new life of every human being!

Though the protection of the life of each person has gained momentum due to the tremendous efforts of the pro-life movement, it still pales in comparison to the global awareness promoted by modern-day environmentalists. The prolife movement desperately needs help from our Catholic communities to strengthen the awareness of the dignity and sacredness of every human life, especially the most vulnerable.

We must be united for this cause. Without the right to life, there is no need for the right to liberty or the pursuit of happiness. You cannot feed, clothe, or shelter a person who loses the opportunity to be born and to live.

You’ve probably heard that the staggering number of abortions in the U.S. since they were legalized in 1973 now exceeds 60 million. In 1994, the Wall Street Journal quoted St. Teresa of Calcutta: “America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation.” How prophetic!

“When we see the image of a baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of God’s creation. When we hold a newborn in our arms, we know the endless love that each child brings to a family. When we watch a child grow, we see the splendor that radiates from each human soul. One life changes the world.” These words for the voiceless were spoken at the 2020 March for Life in Washington, D.C., by President Donald Trump. What great hope to see thousands of young people marching for life. Let us courageously join our voices, our actions, and our prayers to theirs!

We must ask: how am I promoting the protection of life? What more can I do for those in the womb, and those just born, who cannot speak for themselves? Always in truth, always in charity, let us speak to those who do not know or understand that every life is created by God, that every soul is sacred. Let us be united in prayer. For those who are able, there are so many good organizations on the front lines promoting life that could benefit from donations. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing,” wrote Edmund Burke. So let us all do something — great things!

Here’s an Italian pizza recipe that’s ideal for primavera or any season.

CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods, Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’d grown there since the 1800s. His 2017 cookbook, May Love Be the Main Ingredient at Your Table, presents amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.


CHICKEN LA PIZZA

Ingredients:

1 jar of Cucina Antica La Pizza sauce
1 lb. ground chicken
½ cup mozzarella cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together ground chicken, ½ cup parmesan, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper.

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Form chicken mixture into a large round crust, about 1/2” thick.

Bake until chicken is cooked through and golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and heat broiler.

Spread a thin layer of sauce, leaving a small border around the circumference of the pizza. Top with mozzarella and broil until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Garnish with more parmesan if desired.

Evangelize comrades like Christ did

Everyone can experience temporal real and true happiness! Our Catholic Faith offers it to all – all we need to do is immerse in it.

Smart phones, emails, texts, tweets, Facebook – none of these nor any other created good can lead to true happiness in this life.

How does one live a fully Catholic life every day? We need to turn to God. Weekly Sunday Mass attendance is the start of it all. We nurture and sustain our bodies daily with food to live, and we must do the same for our souls, feeding them spiritually and sacramentally, receiving Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. Just as athletes train constantly to compete and win, so too must we practice our faith constantly if we are going to have a chance in winning in the battle of good versus evil. St. Paul describes it beautifully: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Following every Sunday, there is a Monday, when we are met with the demands of life. Family and financial responsibilities can be become burdensome and stressful and steal away our happiness if we do not prioritize our Catholic Faith daily.

We live our faith well by making it part of our everyday lives, at home and at work. Claim your home for Christ with a blessed crucifix. Add a statue or an image of Our Blessed Mother: she leads us all to Jesus! At work, place a holy image such as a Holy Card of your favorite saint near your computer screen, or as a screen saver. These are visual reminders that keep us focused on virtues.

Daily prayer is vital. Prayer is simply talking to God. Make meals special by beginning with a blessing and thanksgiving prayer. Bring your family together daily for prayer – a decade of the rosary, daily Mass, or a simple prayer together.

Through these spiritual exercises and the presence of religious images, our senses can truly feel the presence of God in our lives and in turn we live and breathe our faith in an almost subconscious manner, leaving very little room for vices. It becomes part of who we are, making us one with Christ, and leading us naturally to become evangelizers of the Gospel. That oneness gives us the joy and peace that makes our happiness real in this life.

Most importantly, unity with Christ allows for a virtue-driven life, which affords us the ultimate opportunity of an eternal union with God and thereby achieving perfect eternal happiness!

Let us heed St. Thomas Aquinas’ words: “It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness …….Therefore, God alone constitutes man’s happiness.” (Summa Theologica Part 2 Q.1.)

CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods, Corp, a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’d grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient At Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family and recipes from his Old World childhood.

Escarole Salad with Walnuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano • serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 large head escarole
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1 red onion, sliced into thin rings
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved, plus ¼ cup grated
¼ cup raisins
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. When using escarole for salads, try using the inner part of the escarole head with light green or white-ish leaves. Save the darker leaves for soup or sautéing.
  2. Chop escarole into large, bite sized pieces (you can also tear the escarole). Bathe and rinse thoroughly and spin dry.
  3. In a large bowl, toss escarole, walnuts, sliced onion rings, shaved Reggiano and raisins.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing well.
  5. Plate and top with grated Reggiano

Offering ‘fruit’ of self-giving to sustain, heal and reunite

The most fulfilling love one can experience is that of fully giving oneself without reservation and at all cost. In a sincere and total gift of self, we mirror Christ’s sacrificial love for us. St. John Paul II frequently quoted the passage from Gaudium et Spes, “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (GS 24).

Desmond Thomas Doss was a corporal who served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946. Doss refused to carry a weapon into combat or to kill anyone because of his personal religious beliefs. In 1945, Doss became the only conscientious objector ever to receive the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the medal for his bravery in saving 75 men at the Battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot.

At the Battle of Okinawa, Doss’s unit, fighting at the top of a cliff, was being decimated and was forced to retreat. Doss was helping others off the ridge to safety, and at one point, a wounded soldier died in his arms. At this Doss prayed a simple prayer to God: “What do you want of me?” and with that he heard the cries of the many other wounded soldiers still in harm’s way on the ridge. Doss was very much aware of the danger of losing his life by going back to help. He helped because he heard God calling him to a sacrificial love for his fellow man. While lowering the wounded one at a time to safety, the rope caused his hands to bleed, and he prayed again, this time, “Lord, please help me to get one more.” Each time he brought another to safety, he repeated the prayer because he knew God would supply the courage and strength.

Through faith and selfless sacrifice, Doss fully gave himself up to God’s will, unconditionally, and at all costs. Beautifully said in John 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Following the example of this incredible hero in uniform, let us remember that we must not be afraid to get our hands sullied until they “bleed” out of love, doing all we can to help our families, and our fellow man in need with the same sacrificial love of Jesus. We can recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” Let us reflect how we can respond more fully to God’s call. Lord, what do you want of me?

CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods, Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they have grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient At Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.

Prosciutto, Arugula and Melon Fig salad • serves 4

Ingredients:
½ lb. prosciutto, thinly sliced
2 bunches arugula, washed and stemmed
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (suggested: Cucina Antica Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Cup pecans, toasted at 375˚
4 firm ripe figs
12 ½-inch slices honey dew melon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Cup Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/3 oz.)

Preparation:
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Place arugula in a large bowl and toss with 4 Tbsp. of vinaigrette.

Trim the tough stems from the figs and cut each fig into 8 slices. Season melon with salt and pepper. Wrap each slice of melon in two slices of prosciutto.

Mound the greens on 4 plates. Place 3 prosciutto-wrapped melons around the greens. Arrange 8 slices of fig (1 whole fig) on each plate. Shave Parmesan cheese over salads and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.

Let love flavor your holiday table

It’s that time of year when our hearts and thoughts focus on family gatherings, and the food we will share. We bring out favorite recipes, plan menus and gather the perfect ingredients.

Growing up on a small farm in the Campania region of southern Italy, we celebrated a sort of Thanksgiving every day. The ancient Romans used to call this area Campania Felix, Happy Valley. The harvest there made for happy meals. We worked the land with the constancy of the seasons. The earth’s fruits were our livelihood, so we cared for it with the same attention you might extend to a dear family member. Hard work was a part of everyday farm life, and we were careful not to take for granted the gift of a good harvest, food on the table, or the family gathered together. In Italy, we take our time preparing food … and enjoying it! Meals stretch for several hours, lingering into the night with drinks and lively conversation. As a child, I remember meals around our worn, crowded table, often boisterous with my father’s stories and our laughter, and it made every hour working in the hot sun worthwhile. We cherished the earth because we cherished time together, and each other.

Our little village was very poor. Before emigrating to America in 1972, we had no running water, refrigerator or automobile! We didn’t have modern plumbing for cooking or cleaning. The local ladies would meet at the village fountain, then return home carrying big tubs of water on their heads. Looking back, it seems so archaic, but we didn’t know any differently; we were poor materially, but rich with family love!

Mt. Vesuvius, the ancient but still-active volcano, presides quietly and moodily over the Campania valley, giving the soil its unmatched fertility. Vesuvius serves as a constant reminder of the beauty and unpredictable power of nature, that the only time we have is the present. As St. Augustine says of time, “How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time, but eternity.” Therefore let us embrace the now, the present, with a sense of eternity.

This appreciation for time and food is also an appreciation for the earth itself. In Campania, we know the land is not truly ours, no matter how many hours we spend tilling its soil and picking its crops. It is a gift, which we care for knowing it has been entrusted to us. We know we cannot call our food, or the crops produced from our labors, our creations. We merely put together what has already been created by the Creator.

As St. Thomas Aquinas describes in his Five Ways: there must be a First Cause, one that was uncaused and made everything else to exist. Our appreciation for existence and nature becomes an appreciation for that First Cause: God, who has spread the earth before us like a table … who has caused this abundant feast and invited us to it. And since it has all been shared with us, our greatest joy comes in sharing it with others. Let us always place LOVE as the main ingredient at every table!

Chef NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods, Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’ve grown there since the 1800s.

 

 

Pasta Rosa

3 cups Cucina Antica La Vodka or
Tuscany Pumpkin sauce
1 lb. fresh or dried lasagna sheets
¾ lb. fontina cheese, thinly sliced
½ lb. prosciutto, thinly sliced
½ cup Pecorino Romano, grated
Fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 450 F. Cook lasagna sheets al dente, drain, and cool in a chilled water bath. Once cooled, remove and dry. Layer lasagna sheets with prosciutto and fontina cheese.

Roll each sheet into a 2-inch thick tube. Slice each tube into 2-inch wide “cartwheels” and lay them on their sides. Place the cartwheels in a medium-sized baking dish. Add ¼ inch of water to the pan and cover with foil. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Meanwhile, simmer sauce in a small saucepan. Remove the lasagna cartwheels from the oven and plate 3 per dish. Top with warm sauce and Pecorino Romano. Garnish with fresh basil leaves