There was a time in my early 20s when I moved back home to save money. I was working on my teaching certification, waiting tables full time, part-time nannying and doing my best to have a social life. Just about the only time you were sure to catch me at home if I wasn’t sleeping or showering was Saturday afternoons. Then, you could usually catch me in the back room of my parents’ house watching PBS cooking shows with my dad, including Mary Ann Esposito’s “Ciao Italia.”

When Joy Manning, editor of Edible Communication’s newest publication Edible Philly, contacted me and asked if I’d like to attend a cooking demonstration and dinner at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill in Philadelphia where Mary Ann Esposito from would be cooking, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

PDO sealThe evening was sponsored by Legends from Europe, a group of Italian products that all carry the Protected Designation of Origin seal (see photo at left). It was explained to the evening’s guests that PDO is a “European Community system designed to provide legally binding name protection for an elite group of high-quality foods. All cheeses, cured meats, and other products awarded PDO certification are made according to traditional methods in a specific geographic region in Europe.”

The products that Mary Ann used in the dishes she created that evening were the cheeses Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Montasio and the cured hams Prosciutto di San Daniele and Prosciutto di Parma. It was such an honor to have her cook for us. It was even more of an honor when she asked me to come behind the stove with her and help her out for a bit. I’m sure my dad was looking down from heaven, smiling at us.

Mary Ann Esposito and me at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill in Philadelphia

One of the dishes she made for us that evening was a seasonal salad, Yellow Squash Salad with Grana Padano. It’s perfect for this time of year to accompany Thanksgiving dinner, or any fall/winter meal very nicely.


  • 1 butternut squash peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded then cut into thin long slices, about 1/4-inch thick
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Anjou pears, not too ripe, cut in half, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch thick crosswise slices
  • 1 small head radicchio, shredded
  • 4 ounce wedge Grana Padano, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • Aged Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  1. Brush the squash slices with olive oil and either grill or roast them.
  2. Brush the pear slices with olive oil; arrange in a non-stick baking dish and bake them at 350 degrees F until soft and slightly browned.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the radicchio with 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tsp of Balsamic vinegar. Salt to taste.
  4. To serve, arrange the radicchio on a plate. Layer with squash, pears, and shaved Grana Padano. Drizzle with a little more vinegar and serve.
Recipe serves 4 but can be easily doubled or tripled for a crowd.

Grana Padano is a cheese that’s made from partially skimmed milk from cows that are never given growth hormones. The cows graze on both grasses and hay. The method for making Grana Padano dates back almost 1,000 years when monks first made it. It’s a cheese that’s good for grating on top of pasta or serving on its own.

Mary Ann Esposito’s “Ciao Italia” is the longest running cooking series in America. You can find it on your local PBS station.

Also on MNN

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Mary Ann Esposito’s Yellow Squash Salad with Grana Padano
The chef of PBS’ long running “Ciao Italia” taught me to make this flavorful, seasonal salad that would be a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving.