Frank’s Big Night Birthday Meatballs

It’s Frank my husband’s birthday Sunday, and it’s Superbowl, so he is one happy guy. His request for his birthday/Superbowl Sunday supper is this classic. It’s really the perfect cold night supper. Here’s my recipe below, and I hope everyone has a great Super Bowl Sunday!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Makes 12 to 16 servings

You will need:

  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 cups torn day-old Italian bread
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 pound)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground veal
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (not lean)
  • 1 cup olive or vegetable oil

For pasta:

  • 2 pounds dried spaghetti

Prep: Make sauce
Drain tomatoes, reserving juice in a large bowl. Crush tomatoes with your hands and add to juice. Cook onions in oil in a pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, 4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Simmer sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with salt.

Make meatballs while the sauce simmers:
Cook onions in extra-virgin olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to cool. Soak bread in milk in another bowl until soft, about 5 minutes. Firmly squeeze bread to remove excess milk, discarding milk. Stir together cooled onion mixture, bread, eggs, Parmesan, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, 51/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoon pepper until combined. Add meats to bread mixture, gently mixing with your hands until just combined (do not over mix). Form meat mixture into about 70 (1 1/2-inch) balls with dampened hands, arranging meatballs on 2 large baking sheets or in shallow baking pans.

In a cup of olive oil in a deep fry pan heat oil and fry the meatballs in shifts be careful not to pack them too closely in the pan to allow them to brown evenly. Remove meatballs and place into the sauce to continue to cook.

Serve with pasta and Parmigiano cheese.

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4 Places to Organize Today to help your tomorrow

It’s resolution time! I know many of you have vowed to become more organized in 2022, so I wanted to share some of my best tips with you. I am crazy organized; it’s just how I am, so I love helping those who are more challenged in this area. Truthfully, it clears your mind to have an uncluttered space. My biggest tip is to start small.

Even the smallest of organizing projects can launch you into a full-on organizing frenzy. In order to keep from being overwhelmed, select one project per week. It’s totally doable and will make a huge difference in your home which will trickle into the rest of your life.

First things first, identify the areas of attack. Let’s go room to room, shall we?


Check your pantry for expired items and toss accordingly. You will be surprised how quickly your pantry clears out. If you make it a regular practice to toss and check labels, your pantry will stay organized.


I like to go through my clothes and purge them every 3 months. If you are starting fresh in January with a closet purge, start with reorganizing your jewelry. I find that the Container Store has some great jewelry storage solutions.

Home Office

I work from my home, as many of you do these days. Staying organized at home is more important than ever before. An organized office makes for an efficient workplace. Toss unnecessary papers (or go paperless!), and make sure everything has a place.

Laundry Room

I don’t know about you, but I love a well-appointed laundry room. Sometimes this is the easiest room to effectively change. Storage bins and baskets on an added shelf might be all you need. Something decorative like a small piece of artwork makes this workspace feel pretty. A quick and easy fix is to color coordinate some pretty soap and laundry products. There are so many available now at any store like Target, and Mrs. Meyers detergents and cleaning supplies are some of my go-tos. It makes for instant design, and it’s functional too.

I would love to hear about your projects and organizational practices. Use the start of the year to challenge yourself to organize your home and create peaceful and beautiful spaces to live in. All the best for 2022! Make it a good one.

xx Annette

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Holiday Party Punch

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I am back today with a little treat for you from the archives: festive holiday party punch.

Here’s the thing: I found out less than a week ago that we are hosting my husband’s family for Christmas this year. Oh, and I’m hosting my family on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, because of various conflicts, everyone can’t be together at one shindig, so this is the best we can do. Needless to say, my stress meter is a pinch off the charts.

One thing I know I can do to make life easier is to make a batch cocktail, aka, punch. Annette has always stressed the importance of enjoying the party as the hostess, too. That’s part of the fun, right? I plan to make a holiday punch, put everything out on a table, and let guests serve themselves. I might even leave the liquor out, so the kids can get involved, and so the adults can select their libation of choice. Here’s one of Annette’s fabulous holiday party punch recipes. Enjoy!

Holiday Punch
Serves 16

You will need:

– 6 cups Pomegranate Juice
– 1 cup Lime Juice
– 1 cup Orange Juice
– 1 cup Honey syrup
– 1 cup fresh cranberries
– 2 ice cube trays

Honey Syrup:

1 cup water and 1 cup honey boiled and reduced about 10 minutes

Cranberry Ice Cubes:

Fill trays with pomegranate juice and cranberries. As the juice melts, it will only make the cocktail merrier!


Mix all ingredients together in a large serving bowl or pitcher. Ladle punch into ice-filled glass.
Garnish with clove stuffed orange slices (or simply with rosemary sprig; the punch’s red color is
gorgeous with this “evergreen” garnish). Serve with cranberry ice cubes.

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Meet Our New Brand Identity

I was determined to give La Fortezza it’s own crest. Since it’s a 12th-century fortress, let’s face it, it deserves one. I decided to consult one of the most talented artists I know, Betty Soldi. Betty lives in Florence and is an incredible calligrapher and graphic designer. She’s a delight as a person and wonderful to work with. Over the summer we worked on assembling all the elements that would make up the La Fortezza crest. I think that the collaboration was a dream. I am so pleased with our new crest. It gives our space the branding that was meant for it and brings our home to life. Let me know what you think? In the next months, you will see how I use the crest on branding everything at La Fortezza. Here are a couple of things that I’ve used our new crest on.

I hope you love it as much as I do!

xx Annette

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Touring the Marble Mines of Cararra, Italy

When a local Italian home goods manufacturer approached me to collaborate, I was pretty thrilled. I was even more excited when I saw that they made all of their products using Cararra marble. The marble mountains of Cararra are located about 30 minutes from La Fortezza. I pass them all the time and marvel at the glow of the distinctive white marble cavities that have been carved out of the massive mountain range for centuries.

The idea that these enormous craters were carved and transported by hand is mind-blowing. Of course, over the years the cutting, collecting, and transporting of marble blocks has been modernized. Still, it is hard work, and the miners are in danger and take great risks to this day. The FiammettaV Home Collection is impressive. But honestly, when I drove to their location, right under the marble mountains where their materials are mined, I was even more impressed. One thing that I cannot get over is my proximity to amazing experiences. I think sometimes the Italians take for granted the amazingness around them. I guess when your office is at the bottom of a marble mountain with the most incredible view, that’s just normal, right? But for me, I am always in shock and awe and frankly pure glee.

Seriously always pitching myself.

Mattia, the PR director for FiammettaV casually suggested that we take a look at the mines where their product materials are mined. I was like, “Sure why not?!” I never expected to be driven literally into the mine. I have never seen anything like it. I have toured the mines before, but this was VIP access, and I was speechless. Which if you know me, takes a lot.

Our driver Michael was amazing, The ride to the top of the mine was treacherous, and the switchbacks were precarious. Some of the steep angles made me laugh; they were so ridiculously dangerous. Not to mention the giant trucks hauling hundreds of tons of marble down the mountain. We had to pull over several times to let them pass. As you can imagine, it’s hard for the loaded trucks to stop once they start their downhill descent. Let’s say it was the most insane ride at an amusement park you can imagine. Once we reached the top, the giant carving machines were in full action. It was so vast that the full Starwars sized vehicles looked like a child’s toy from our vantage point. Some of it was hard to comprehend. At one point we had a view of the mountain and a view of the sea. It was like a dream.

Watching the giant marble slabs fall as they were pried from the mine walls was amazing and unreal. The sound alone shook the ground as the block toppled to the ground. The walls look like art installations, and even the giant blocks look like they belong in a museum. I have always loved marble and marble products. FiammettaV made the experience very special. I will keep you posted on our collaboration. I can not stress enough if you’re in the area, make sure you tour the mines. Head to my site to the free day activities page to book your tour. Grazie mille FiammettaV for the very very special experience.

xx Annette

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