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Mamma Mia! Italian grandma's housekeeping tips-turned-book

From Curtis Vogel, TODAY producer

When 20-year-old Gina Friedman decided to leave home for the first time by attending college in Italy in 1980, her mother, Lucille Campilongo, was worried about how Gina could possibly take care of herself.

"When it became a real reality," said Lucille, "I sort of panicked, and thought well how is this kid going to survive? She can't boil water. She's sort of domestically challenged."

In the months leading up to her daughter's departure, Lucille sat down every day to write down everything she knew and duhad learned from her own Italian mother about cooking, cleaning and laundry. At Gina's going-away party, Lucille gave her the spiral notebook that she had filled with all of her knowledge on domestic duties.

When Gina was growing up, her friends and neighbors gave her mom a nickname – "Santa Lucia," so the Lucille titled the notebook, "Lucia's Survival Guide and Cookbook."

"I knew I was receiving a family heirloom," said Gina.

When Gina got to Italy and her first apartment, the notebook became more than just a sentimental gesture. It guided Gina throughout her college life with simple recipes, basic cleaning tips and the best ways to wash and fold laundry.

When Gina started her own family, she held on to the notebook and used it to raise her two children. When Gina's daughter, Gianna, announced she was leaving home to go to college, Gina knew that she wanted to pass on her mother's knowledge to the next generation, but she wanted to hold on to the original notebook.

Gina's husband, Allen Friedman, started transcribing the notebook to make a copy for his daughter. That's when he and Gina realized that a lot of people might find Lucille's tips helpful. When they finished transcribing the notebook, they sent it to a publisher, unbeknownst to Lucille.

"On Mother's Day, they presented me with this folder with e-mails from the publisher saying they were going to publish it," said Lucille. "I was numb. I was totally numb. I still didn't believe it could actually happen."

Now, anyone can pick up a copy of "Lucia's Survival Guide and Cookbook" and learn from the same family recipes and tips that Gina has been using for almost 30 years."There's a lot of people who don't have time for cooking and cleaning and who maybe never learned from their parents," said Gina. "There's more working women now than ever, and I'm sure that many of these people didn't have a chance to teach their sons and daughters about this stuff."

"I can't believe that this is happening to me," said Lucille, now a 78-year-old grandmother, "that all of this came about from a little notebook."

Here is a recipe from the cookbook:

Pasta with cucuzza (zucchini)


1 lb. pasta (long kind)
6 zucchinis
Whole cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
Grated Parmesan cheese


For 1 lb. of pasta, use about 6 zucchinis. Cut washed zucchini in rounds (fairly thin slices about 1/4 inch thick). In frying pan, put in oil and about 4 cloves whole garlic. Heat oil and place zucchini in oil in a single layer. Salt and pepper one side of the zucchini. Turn them over when they are golden and beginning to brown just a tiny bit. Let them turn golden on the other side and then take out of pan and put in bowl. Repeat this until all of them are cooked.

Tip: When you're through cooking zucchini, don't throw the oil away. Turn off heat and save.

Cook pasta and when pasta is almost done, put zucchini back in frying pan and heat. Drain pasta and then pour zucchini and oil over pasta and mix gently. Put grated cheese on top.

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