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12 minute read

Guest Feature: Cruisin in the Kitchen with Dan & Kim Varano, Part 2

December 15, 2023

Trained chefs Dan and Kim Varano have a passion for both food and travel. The three-time Odysseys guests recently returned from our Northern Italy small group tour, which they highlighted in two recent editions of their newsletter, Cruisin in the Kitchen. Read all about their adventure – and try some of their favorite recipes from the trip – below.

Read Part 1 here.


Cruisin in the Kitchen | Northern Italy, Part 2

By Dan and Kim Varano

Ciao fellow Cruisers!  As we write this we are winding down from Thanksgiving and revving up for the Christmas holiday season.  As promised we will be finishing up our Italy trip in this episode with some more delicious authentic recipes that we discovered while we were there.

After three glorious days in Radda-in-Chianti, Tuscany, visiting Siena and Florence and eating their hearty food (yes we ate wild boar ragu!), we traveled north to Bolzano by way of Verona.  Known for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  We then traveled farther north to the region of South Tyrol which borders Austria and Switzerland, and the city of Bolzano.  While there, we took a bit of a journey that started with a cable car ride up to Soprabolzano, a village resembling a typical Austrian town with its open fields and Alpine architecture.  We ate lunch in a beautiful garden and enjoyed an Italian/Austrian meal of meats, cheeses, and Knodel (bread dumplings).  We also took a train from here farther up to the village of Renon where we walked to see the famous “earth pyramids,” natural cone-shaped pillars of deposited clay formed when the snow melted from the previous ice age thousands of years ago.  And lastly…we were able to visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology where we learned about the story of “Otzi”, a 5000+ year-old ice man discovered fully intact in a glacier in 1991.  He is believed to be the oldest mummy in the world and is kept in a frozen room in the museum where we got to see him.

We traveled from Bolzano through the Dolomites, an alpine mountain range of jagged mountains formed by years of volcanic and tectonic activity.  We took a pit stop for some Italian hot chocolate, which is nothing like our American drink.  It is intensely chocolatey, thick, and served with a side of fresh whipped cream.  It is so thick that you can eat it with a spoon!

Our last stop was the beautiful city of Venice.  Lying in a shallow lagoon located between the Po and Piave rivers it consists of 126 small islands connected by 472 bridges.  Through every alley and over every bridge you feel like you are walking in a postcard.  From the enormous St. Mark’s Square to the Rialto Bridge, there is something amazing to see at every turn.  We took a break to sit and have a treat at the famous Café Florian, at 300 years old it is known as the oldest café in the world.  We enjoyed another Italian treat known as Affogato, made with a scoop of vanilla gelato doused with a shot of espresso and served with a wafer cookie.  It can’t get any better than that.  Alas…after our short visit to Venice, it was time to say goodbye to our beloved Italy.  We were treated with a water taxi ride to the airport, where we caught our flight back to the USA…and reality.

We are going to share three recipes with you in this article.  Spaghetti allo Scolgio (Italian seafood pasta) which we enjoyed in Santa Margherita on the Italian Riviera in a little mom-and-pop osteria located down an alley and decorated with the traditional red and white check tablecloths.  Accompanied by fresh crusty bread and pitchers of vino de casa, it was one of our best meals of the trip.  Another excellent meal that we had was in Tuscany.  Known for wild boars roaming freely, they are also hunted and used for roasting and a wonderful tender ragu served over pasta. Knowing that wild boar is practically impossible to find here we have suggested pork as an alternative.  And finally the best dessert of our trip…Tiramisu!  We lost count of how many times we enjoyed this creamy dessert which is actually very quick and easy to put together.

We hope that you enjoy these recipes as much as we did.  And we wish all of you a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season.  And as always…happy cooking!

 Spaghetti allo Scoglio (Italian Seafood Pasta)

Serves 4 


  • 1 lb. dry spaghetti, cooked with 1 cup of pasta water reserved
  • 12 little neck clams, cleaned by soaking in water
  • 12 mussels, cleaned by soaking in water
  • 8 large shrimp shelled and deveined
  • 1 8-10 oz. package of cleaned squid (found in the frozen seafood section)
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 5 oz. dry white wine
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt to taste


  1. Soak the mussels and clams in water to purge out any sand
  2. Thaw the squid and cut the bodies into rings
  3. Saute garlic in olive oil over low heat for 1 minute, add the red pepper flakes
  4. Add the wine, increase heat to medium and add all of the seafood. Cook for 2 minutes
  5. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring regularly until the clams and mussel shells open.
  6. Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan of seafood along with ½ cup of the pasta water and the parsley and cook for 2 minutes.
  7. Serve each portion with 3 clams, 3 mussels, 2 shrimp and ¼ of the squid.

Tuscan Wild Boar (or Pork) Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta

Serves 4


  • 1 pound of wild boar cut in 1 inch chunks or pork stew meat
  • 1 package pappardelle pasta


  • 1 medium onion peeled and halved
  • 1 carrot peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 celery stalk cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. juniper berries (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • ½ bottle Chianti wine
  • Ground black pepper


  • 1 jar of tomato passata or 1 can of Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 medium onion peeled and diced ¼”
  • 1 carrot peeled and diced ¼”
  • 1 celery stalk diced ¼”
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. Chianti wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add all marinade ingredients to boar or pork and combine.  Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
  2. In a Dutch oven saute garlic, carrot, celery, and onion until soft. Add the bay leaves
  3. Add in the wild boar/pork to the pot and brown on all sides.
  4. Add the red wine and reduce by half.
  5. Add the tomato product, salt, and pepper, and simmer covered for 1.5 to 2 hours until tender. You can add beef stock or water if the sauce becomes too thick.
  6. When the ragu is finished cooking cook the pasta according to package directions. Add cooked pasta to the ragu and mix together being careful not to break the pasta.  Serve immediately.



  • 1 ¼ cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. tub mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1 tbsp. kahlua or rum (optional)
  • 1 package lady fingers (found in the Italian section of the grocery store)
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder for dusting


  1. In a chilled bowl whip the heavy cream for 2 minutes, add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue until the cream starts to thicken. Add mascarpone and continue mixing until stiff peaks form.  Do not over mix.
  2. Combine granulated sugar, liqueur if using and espresso, quickly dip lady fingers into coffee and place on the bottom of a 9x9 baking dish.
  3. Spread half of the cheese mixture over the lady fingers and start a second layer of soaked lady fingers on top. Top with the remaining cheese mixture.
  4. Place the cocoa in a small sieve and sprinkle over the top. Refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours before serving.






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