Janette Volz, of Altoona and formerly of Carroll, compiled The Vanni Family Cookbook, a collection of old and new recipes to celebrate her family’s unique blend of Italian and Slovak heritage and love of cooking.
Janette Volz, of Altoona and formerly of Carroll, compiled The Vanni Family Cookbook, a collection of old and new recipes to celebrate her family’s unique blend of Italian and Slovak heritage and love of cooking.
June 10, 2013

Janette Vanni Volz recalls typical holiday meals growing up meant Italian meats and cheeses, Italian bread, turkey or ham (depending on the holiday), mashed potatoes and gravy, tossed salad, orange-banana Jell-O, pies, Potica (Slovak nut roll) and poppy seed rolls on the table. These days, holiday get-togethers include all of those childhood favorites and much, much more.

A few years ago, Janette, of Altoona and formerly of Carroll, and her brothers and sisters discussed the idea of putting together a family cookbook. Janette volunteered to compile and create the book as she creates annual reports, ads, logos, and print media as part of her job in corporate communications.

Janette and her eight siblings, as well many other family members shared old and new family favorites. A good number of the recipes celebrate the Vanni family's unique Italian and Slovak heritage.

The color cookbook contains 20 sections including appetizers, sandwiches, beverages, breads, brunch, recipes from their mother, Anna, beef, fish, pork, poultry, pasta, preserves, salads, sauces and marinades, soups, sides, wild game, bars, cakes and candies, cookies, pies and desserts.

John Edward Vanni and Anna Theresa Kurimski were married Aug. 28, 1946, and their family included nine children: Joan, John, Jerry, Jean, Janette, Joyce, Julie, Jacqueline and Jennifer. Their children grew up learning to raise their own fruits and vegetables on just two acres of land and how to prepare meals in the kitchen.

In 1950 John and Anna Vanni purchased the Granger Homestead Community House and converted it into a home. One large addition was added in the 1960s to accommodate their growing family.

Janette said one could never come out to the Vanni home without being asked if they wanted something to eat and drink (this was asked repeatedly until they gave in) and to this day, it is still the mantra in all of the Vanni homes.

John passed away in 1979 and Anna continues to live on the homeplace. She still starts seedlings every spring and always tries new varieties of plants. Although there is no longer the large garden at home; the love of fresh produce and good food is carried on through John and Anna's children and grandchildren.

Mike and Janette Volz moved to Carroll in 1976 where they raised their six children: Erin, Jennifer, Brandon, Marissa, John and Sarah. They left Carroll in 1994 and now live in Altoona. Janette is a communications associate in corporate communications for Central Iowa Power Cooperative. It is a generation and transmission cooperative (www.cipco.net) that provides power to its member systems. One member cooperative is Midland Power in Jefferson. Mike is retiring at the end of this month as director of transportation for Johnston Community Schools.

Next week's story will feature more about the Vanni and Volz families, as well as additional family recipes from the Vanni Family Cookbook.

Slovak Cabbage Pizza

Anna Kurimski Vanni

Anna remembers this as one of her dad's favorite "snacks." Her Grandpa Kurimski would come in from outside, take the pizza, fold it, and go back outside and continue with his chores.

Chop medium size head of cabbage. Salt to taste and fry in large skillet with enough butter to keep from sticking. Fry until light golden brown, not too brown.

Roll out bread dough ¼ inch thick x 14" circle. Spread the cooked cabbage from ½ to 1 inch thick on dough. Bring the edges up over the cabbage about three inches. Place in cake or large pie tin. Let rise in warm place for 45 to 60 minutes. Bake in 375 oven until golden brown.

Bread Dough:

5 to 6 cups flour

1 package yeast

1 stick butter

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar

1½ cups milk

Knead all together until well blended (as for bread dough). Let rise in warm place until double in bulk. Punch down, let rise again. Turn on floured board. Separate in 3 or 4 portions, let rise until light.

With rolling pin, flatten to about ¼ inch thick x 14 inch round. Spread cooked cabbage on circle.

Dad's Anchovy, Parsley and Garlic Concoction

This was one of John Edward Vanni's favorite appetizers.

2 cups finely chopped Italian parsley leaves

2 (2 ounce) cans flat anchovies

1 whole bulb finely minced garlic, more if you like

½ cup olive oil

Lay ½ cup parsley in a small deep dish. Cut 4 fillets of anchovies in half and lay on parsley, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon garlic. Keep repeating layers. Pour olive oil and oil from anchovy cans over parsley, anchovy, and garlic layer. Let layers sit for a few hours. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

Grandma Sarcone's Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce

Joan Vanni Kenneally

Back in the day this was called "junk sauce." Also Grandma Sarcone (Carmella Bova Sarcone) mother's maiden name was Capone and, yes, she was a relative of Big Al.

1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce

½ cup water

2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes

2 stalks celery

2 or 3 pork chops with bone (about 1 pound)

4 to 5 cloves garlic

Brown chops well in olive oil. Remove chops, sauté celery and garlic (can add hot peppers, onion, mushrooms, bell peppers too if desired). Add water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and chops. May add fresh basil if desired. Bring to a medium boil and then reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour.

Salt and pepper as you are browning chops and vegetables. Serve over spaghetti with cheese.

Turkey on the Grill

John Vanni

Salt and pepper the cavity of the turkey. Stuff cavity with lemon wedges and parsley. Truss legs and wings. Rub olive oil on the outside of the turkey, salt and pepper and sprinkle with rosemary leaves. Set your gas grill to 300-325 degrees and you will be using INDIRECT HEAT when cooking. Place the turkey directly in the center of the grill rack and close the lid.

Note: I like using a remote thermostat so that I can monitor the cooking from inside the house while enjoying a cold one. It's a great electronic gadget that every man should have. Mine even beeps when the set temperature is reached.

Cooking time will vary. A 17-pound turkey in Boulder takes 3 hours to cook.

Mediterranean Summer Greens Sauce

Jerry Vanni

2 tablespoons raisins, chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 gloves garlic, mashed (cloves should be mashed but whole)

4-6 anchovy filets, drained, diced

1 pound of greens (spinach, chard, collard; stems removed, washed, cleaned, broken into small pieces)

garlic, sliced thin (spring garlic - looks like a scallion)

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Kosher salt and pepper

1 cup of water

2 tablespoons of Feta or goat cheese or soft cheese

a few basil leaves or other herbs finely chopped-fresh herbs

Soak chopped raisins in hot water until plump. In skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil at medium to high heat. Add mashed garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add washed greens to garlic and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring constantly to ensure greens cook evenly. Turn heat down to low. Add anchovies and mix together about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process 30 seconds, or until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Place in bowl add grated Parmesan and Feta etc. - mix. Mixture will last 3 days in sealed container in refrigerator.

This sauce is good with baby potatoes or pasta. It can also be used to stuff mushroom caps or homemade ravioli. We have also used it over burgers.

Blue Cheese Dip with Onion and Celery

Jean Vanni Schwab

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup crumbled Roquefort or other blue cheese (about 3 ½ ounces)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

½ cup finely chopped onion

½ cup finely chopped celery

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon celery salt

Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using electric mixer beat until blended. Transfer to serving bowl. Cover and chill dip at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Makes 4 cups

Polish Vegetable Salad

Janette Vanni Volz

1 cup diced, cooked potatoes

1 cup diced, cooked carrots

1 cup cooked peas

1 cup diced celery

½ cup diced onion

2 parsnip roots, cooked and diced

4 hard-boiled eggs, diced

3 large brine-cured dill pickles, diced

In a salad bowl combine all of the above ingredients. Toss gently.

Note: The secret of a good Polish salad is to have all of the ingredients diced very fine, no larger than a green pea.

To make dressing mix together:

¾ cup mayonnaise

¾ cup sour cream

2 teaspoons coarse mustard

salt, pepper, oregano

Toss dressing gently into the salad. Garnish with hard-boiled egg slices.

Makes 10 to 12 servings