Tantissimi auguri di Buon Natale e felice Anno Nuovo~

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Last week I ran into a friend from Mississippi and asked him how he was doing. In true Southern form he replied, “Blessed and encouraged.” I laughed because only in the South would you hear that response.

Surprisingly, “blessed and encouraged” has been running around in my Yankee head ever since. It is such a simple saying, but it is having a profound affect on me—it speaks to me in a way that I find difficult to explain. Maybe it is because as I look back over this past year and set my sights on the coming year, I find myself in the same place as my friend from Mississippi.

My wish for all of you this holiday season and 2010 is that you find yourself in a Mississippi “blessed and encouraged” moment of your own. Whatever you choose to call it, however it dawns on you, whenever it reveals itself—I hope it happens and, in that moment, brings you joy.

Con affetto,


***In 2010, videos of Nonna in the kitchen are coming to the site and some recipes, too!

-The photo is from a wood panel in the Vatican Museums, Rome.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.