PBS's Mary Ann Esposito is all about tradition (Valley Breeze)

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By Rhonda Hanson 

PROVIDENCE - The crew of America's longest running cooking show and best selling author Mary Ann Esposito gathered around the new set of "Ciao Italia," on Sunday, June 8 to celebrate her 7th year of shooting in Rhode Island on PBS. 

Thanks to some local businesses' and artisans' donations of time; Ann Huntoon Design, Castellucci and Associates Stone Contractors, HSI Construction and Douglas Lumber Kitchens and Home Center, they are left with an ultra modern state-of-the-art functional kitchen with 360 degrees of camera shooting angles now possible. 

"Most kitchen sets are a facade," said Carol Costa of C2Communications, "This is a real working kitchen with real appliances." 

"Ciao Italia" is in its 19th season and said Mary Ann Esposito, "Being here (in Rhode Island) and being in Providence has made me happy as a Rhode Island clam." 

Very important to her are preserving and sharing the Italian cultures and traditions as well as the recipes which have all been categorized and maintained on the Web site, ciaoitalia.com. Available "free" are many recipes which are easy to seek out and follow. 

A new Spanish marble topped island - terra-cotta veined in green and white - will be used to present delicious dishes and for recipe preparation. Portage style cabinets and stainless steel appliances all add to the old world ambiance. 

Growing up in Western New York, Mary Ann was surrounded by her heritage, two grandmothers - her "noonas" - one of Sicilian descent and one from the Neapolitan area who taught her cooking while preserving the culture and family traditions. 

According to her Web site, "A pivotal trip to Italy made her (Mary Ann) realize that what she was learning in cooking classes abroad, she had learned as a child." What she wanted to do was teach cooking on a cable TV show. Thus "Ciao Italia Cooking with Mary Ann Esposito," was born. The show airs nationally on the local PBS channels which vary by viewing areas. 

The Web site is highly specialized, easy to use and includes some lifestyle components as well; gardening, wines and travel to Italy. This recipe for the artichoke cheese lasagna was shared by Mary Ann. In Italian named lasagne, not lasagna, it was derived from the Italian word meaning a pot for cooking. 

In ancient Rome the flat wide noodles were made with water and hard durum (semolina wheat), and were air dried to preserve them. Also the old Italian cookbooks referred to the wide noodles recipe as "cooked in broth and just sprinkled with cheese." It is not the lasagna of today, layered and stuffed with cheese, meat and more. 

Mary Ann said this nifty stovetop version using no-boil noodles cooks well in a cast iron skillet or a Le Creuset style pan. The recipe is ready in approximately 25 minutes and she urges you to purchase a brand name noodle such as Delverde to use in this savory artichoke and cheese lasagna. Add a salad and some fresh Italian bread, invite over friends with good taste in wine and enjoy! 

Note from Rhonda: Please feel free to submit your own favorite recipes to me, or share a family tradition, but quickly as the days are drifting away! 

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