“Food is fun and we all need to have fun,” says Father Matthew Mauriello, “but God is the most important.”
A priest in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Father Matthew Mauriello has become well known in Church circles. In 2010, as president of the North American Congress of Mercy, he met with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, and in 2019, he appeared at the Blue Army’s Mary-thon of Prayer:
In the spring of 2020, Father Mauriello led a pilgrimage to Portugal, Spain and Lourdes. And in the fall of that year, as chaplain of Assembly No. 126 of the Knights of Columbus Orinoco, his service to the sick and dying during the pandemic at the St. Camillus of Stamford attracted some notice in the community.
But for Father Mauriello, it’s also about food. For example, here is a September 2015 episode of the Cooking Channel program, Holy and hungry:
He attributes his passion for cooking and his kitchen skills to his Italian grandmother. As he noted, his grandparents were born in Italy and moved to the United States in the 1930s. They were devout Catholics, attending mass daily, and his grandmother, Serafina, even considered becoming a nun in her youth.
“Bishop Raffaele delle Nocche, her bishop, who founded a religious order, wanted her to be the founder and first mother superior,” Father Mauriello said. “But her father said, ‘No, she should get married, even though she was always so religious.'” And she did, moving to the United States with her husband in northern New Jersey, later joining members of others of the big Italian family.
His grandmother (his mother’s mother) had her mother living with her.
“My family lived a block away,” he said, “and I would walk the block after school. … She was always cooking and I helped her even when I was only 7 or 8 years old. Then I started oral sex and when she died, I took her kitchen utensils.”
Now as an adult, he makes all of his grandmother’s recipes from scratch, including her Christmas and Easter desserts, such as a delicious leg of lamb or sweet biscuits.
“When she passed away,” he said, “I wanted to carry on the recipes,” adding that his other grandparents and older aunts were also good cooks.
He also traveled to Italy in his twenties to collect family recipes, enough to eventually create a cookbook.
“I would visit my sister there and learned the family recipes,” he said. When he was parish priest at St. Joseph Church in Danbury, Connecticut, Father Mauriello and Franca Bosio Bertoli, the rector’s chef, became good cooking friends and began collaborating to write the cookbook. From a rectory kitchen: Cooking and serving in God’s love.
“We started the book in 1992 and it took us 20 years to get it done,” he said. “It is not surprising. The book is 300 pages.”
He noted that the cookbook is a compilation of both heirloom recipes from his grandmother, mother, sister and relatives, as well as those of his co-author.
Today, dad is not writing a cookbook, but cooking for parishioners. “They invite me and we invite priests and parishioners to join us,” he said. “I’m also the founder of the Forks and Corks Society, and we meet every two months.” The most popular recipe? Homemade manicotti (see below).
“I have been a priest for 35 years,” he said, “and I am happy to be a priest. Food is recreation and we all need to have fun. But God is the most important.”
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Homemade arm warmers
For the crepes:
- 4 beaten eggs
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of milk
Mix the ingredients to a smooth mass with a whisk and let it rest for 15 minutes
For the filling:
- 2 kilos of whole milk Ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Marinara or meat sauce
- Olive oil
To make the crepes:
Heat and lightly grease an 8-inch Teflon pan. Add 1/4 cup of batter, swirl on bottom and cook for about a minute, flip and cook for 15 seconds. Remove from pan and let cool. Repeat. You must be about 16 or older.
Divide the filling evenly between the crepes. Place it only on one side of the crepe and roll it, making sure that the filling reaches the edge.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place your favorite marinara or meat sauce in the bottom of a rectangular ovenproof dish and 2 tablespoons of water and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. You may need several containers. Place the filled crepes, sew from the bottom and cover with extra sauce. Do not pile them, as they expand.
Place uncovered in the oven for 25 minutes; they should bubble around the edges. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 to 7 minutes before serving. Sprinkle additional grated cheese on top.