Food Column: Mix of family traditions earns 'Kitchen Boss' spot

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When Sarah Cardosi was growing up, her family added sugar to their spaghetti sauce. Then she married into a family that makes its sauce with hot banana peppers.

It was a clash of traditions that required some creative thinking.

The Cranberry woman isn't a big fan of hot peppers, but she wanted to make something her husband, Andy, would like. She'd decided to try hot peppers stuffed with hot sausage, a variation on the stuffed bell peppers she'd eaten as a kid.

They were such a big hit -- not only with her husband, but also with his entire extended family -- that she says she now has to bring them to every family function.

"No one will ever let me bring anything else."

So when she saw an ad on "Kitchen Boss" Buddy Valastro's Facebook page requesting favorite family recipes, she knew she had a candidate.

After she sent in her recipe, the producers e-mailed her asking for the recipe's story. Then they wanted her to take a video of herself holding the dish and talking about how she made it. Then they sent her a script and wanted another video. This was all happening at Christmastime, when she was plenty busy anyhow as a stay-at-home mom to two young children.

"This is why people on TV have assistants -- it was a lot of work," says Ms. Cardosi, a Title I reading and math coach for the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. She teaches a cooking enrichment class for the school, too.

All her work paid off March 27, when the show featuring her recipe premiered. She and her dish starred alongside other family favorites on a "Viewers Take Over" episode.

She says Mr. Valastro commented on the show that "Pittsburghers know how to eat" -- something he must have learned during recent celebrity appearances here.

To find Ms. Cardosi's recipe online, go to and search on "Sarah Cardosi." Or see her recipe below. Earth Day events

April 22: Screening of "The Apple Pushers," a film about five immigrant street-cart vendors selling fruits and vegetables in New York neighborhoods, followed by a live-streamed panel discussion with the film's writer and director. 6 p.m. at Cinemark, Robinson. Fee of $10 benefits Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank's Farmstand Project. Buy tickets at or at Whole Foods Market, East Liberty.

April 24: Earth Day Spudfest, 6 p.m. at Chatham Village Clubhouse, Mount Washington. Tasting of Boyd & Blair Vodka from the Shaler distillery, plus BYOB potato potluck supper.

Fee is $12 for Slow Food Pittsburgh members; $15 for nonmembers; free for children under 5.

Register at (click "events").


Tonight: The Pittsburgh chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition holds the second TEALtini Cocktail Contest and Fundraiser from 7 to 10 p.m. at Bakery Square. A dozen-plus local mixologists will offer drinks inspired by the group's signature color for sampling and guests will vote for their favorite. Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 at the door ($50/$60 with a VIP preview at 6 p.m.) via (search TEALtini) or 1-888-71-TICKETS.

Sunday, April 15: Kaya in the Strip District is the site for the 2012 Mix It Up Mixology Challenge, a multi-staged cocktail competition presented by Don Q Rum and the United States Bartenders' Guild. Area bartenders go at it starting at 2 p.m.; one finalist from each guild chapter wins an all-expenses-paid trip to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and a spot to compete in the 2012 Mix It Up Finals.

April 20: Savor: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience, 6:30 p.m. at The Yukon, Hidden Valley Resort. Beer and food tastings and live music. $60. Reservations: 814-443-8000.

April 24: Barrel-Aged Cocktail Dinner, 7 p.m. at 1947 Tavern, Shadyside. Outdoor barbecue with four whiskey pours, the premier of the tavern's first in-house aged cocktail, and the opportunity to sign up for the new Pittsburgh Bourbon Society. or 412-363-1947.

Other events

Sunday: International Food Festival, 4 to 7 p.m. at Boyd Community Center, O'Hara. Ethnic foods from area restaurants, performances, cultural displays and family crafts from around the world. Admission is $5 for adults and free for kids; food costs extra.

April 21: Root beer tasting, 5:30 p.m. at Village Candy, Sewickley. Free, but register ahead by e-mailing


Don't cuss out the Tax Man; at least you can get free coffee. Stop by the beverage bar at any Giant Eagle Market District store for a free 12-ounce cup anytime Monday.

Autism cookies

To commemorate Autism Awareness Month, Pittsburgh-area Panera locations are selling puzzle piece-shaped shortbread cookies tomorrow through April 22. All proceeds fbenefit the Autism Center of Pittsburgh. Cookies are $12 for a half-dozen box and $24 for a dozen. To preorder, go to

Sarah Cardosi's Stuffed Hot Peppers

When Ms. Cardosi submitted her recipe, she forgot to include a note to brown and drain the sausage before stuffing it into the peppers. Buddy Valastro makes the peppers using raw sausage, but at home, Ms. Cardosi browns the sausage first.

-- Rebecca Sodergren

  • 10 to 12 hot banana peppers
  • 1 pound mix of sweet and hot sausage, browned and drained
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Romano, grated
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 ounces grated provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut tops off the peppers, slice in half lengthwise and remove the inside ribs and seeds.

In a bowl, combine sausage, breadcrumbs, Romano and parmesan cheeses, parsley, egg and pepper.

Pour 1 cup marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Fill the peppers with the sausage mixture. Lay the peppers in the dish and top with the remaining marinara sauce.

Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the provolone cheese on top, and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

-- Sarah Cardosi


Rebecca Sodergren:


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