Everyone who has grown up in a big Italian family knows that their grandma is basically the foundation of the family. Grandma always make her presence known, especially when it comes to food.

When home from my first two terms of college, my grandma hit me with the classic phrases “You need to eat more! You are looking too skinny!” And on the Sunday I was going back to school, Nonnina (meaning “little grandma”) handed me containers with the essential leftovers I needed to bring back with me. Here is what I was given.

1. Baked Ziti


Photo by Daniele Marleneck

Do you like the taste of lasagna, but not the fuss? Then baked ziti should be the new go-to for you. It’s a lot like a classic lasagna, but much easier to make without the countless layers or broken noodles. Also, I’m just partial to this meal. Who wouldn’t love anything that has homemade sauce and various Italian cheeses holding it all together?

2. Meatballs


Photo by Tiffany Zau

Meatballs come in all different sizes, but that doesn’t mean they are difficult to make — especially when you consider the fact that they are a staple food in every Italian and Italian-American’s diet. Meatballs work with every meal, and that’s what makes them the perfect leftovers. Just think, you can put them in between warm Italian bread or on top a plate of perfectly-cooked spaghetti.

3. Pizza Fritte


Photo by Marissa Laliberte

This is definitely a cheat food… very simply, it’s fried dough, but in reality, it’s SO much better. You might categorize it as a type of mini fried pizza. By adding sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan it becomes savory, but if you are looking for sweet, a shake of powdered sugar does the job as well. Either way, they will still be delicious.

4. Manicotti


Photo courtesy of olivegarden.com

For starters, this delicious Italian dish is pronounced mon-e-cot-e (many people tend to butcher it). With it’s melt-in-your-mouth thin pasta shell and ricotta stuffing, surrounded by parmesan and homemade sauce, manicotti leave you dreaming about it the next day. Nonnina typically makes it around Christmas and Easter time, but hey, I guess going back to school for my last term of freshman year was a big enough event, too.

5. Panzerotti


Photo by Victoria Carter

By far my favorite leftover on the list. The baked, crispy, flaky outer dough in combination with mozzarella or ricotta is a prime combination. This is another leftover that can be done with a twist. Nonnina sometimes stuffs them with pepperoni for some added flavor.

#SpoonTip: Put these little crescents it in the toaster oven when you’re reheating them, not the microwave. This will prevent any sogginess and crisp the dough up even more. Who doesn’t love a golden brown flakey crust?

6. Chicken Milanese


Photo courtesy of alanagkelly on flickr.com

Major plot twist: Italians don’t just consume meatballs for their protein. Fried chicken cutlets are among one the the greatest parts of my Sunday dinners. With a fresh squeeze of lemon, this leftover tastes the same days after it’s first cooked. Whether freshly fried or even heated up in the microwave, they will still be delicious.

7. Eggplant Parmesan


Photo by Helena Lin

Breadcrumbs, parmesan, homemade sauce, mozzarella, olive oil… oh my. This is Italian comfort food at its finest. My Nonnina has been making this for Sunday dinner since I was a youngster and the dish is a family favorite. Its delicious contents baked to perfection will always leave you wanting more.

8. Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe


Photo by Ashley Hamati

To be completely honest, I only recently became a fan of this meal. Broccoli rabe can be bitter, even when thinly cut… surprising, I know, which is why I never really loved it before. But now the more leafy greens (especially if smothered in olive oil and garlic), the better.

9. Homemade pizza


Photo by Victoria Carter

Unless you are a member of my family, or my roommate (lucky her), you sadly will not be able to have a slice of Nonnina’s pizza. Handmade dough baked on bricks in her oven and the final product exhibits a wonderfully thin crust, homemade sauce, fresh basil, gooey mozzarella, and pepperoni.

Nonnina will always take time out of her day to make me or my brother one of her pizza pies. We are by far some of the luckiest grandchildren… as you can imagine.

So as you can tell by this point, your Nonnina (or Nonna) does always know best… especially when it comes to food. Your hallmates will love you for your leftovers, and getting to avoid the dining hall for a few more days is always a plus.