Cooking up creativity: Alumna self-publishes cookbook

Mary Abitanto '90, '95 blends love of family and cooking in new book

In the kitchen of Mary (Mariooch) Abitanto '90, '95, the food is fresh, adaptable and filled with memories.

She recently released her first cookbook, available from Amazon, "Mariooch's Kitchen: Food That Will Gather Your Family," to pay homage to her roots (Mariooch translates to "little Mary" in Italian, her childhood nickname) and to share her love of creating family friendly, nutritional meals. Her recipes range from classic Italian dishes to party-pleasing appetizers to rich desserts, all using fresh, healthy ingredients and are designed to bring busy families to the dinner table together. The book is peppered with anecdotes from Abitanto's life.

Food has always been a family affair for Abitanto, whose earliest memories consist of her aunt and grandmother making homemade ravioli for Sunday dinner. The idea to author a cookbook first began when she wanted to preserve her family's classic Italian dishes.

"Some of my family's recipes were getting lost and forgotten," she says. "I wanted to record some of those recipes that had success with my own family and share them with others, as well as share other go-to family meals I have had success with."

Her desire to self-publish a cookbook was solidified when her son was diagnosed with an array of life-threatening food allergies and she was forced to get more creative and inventive in the kitchen.

"It was a process of trial and error at first to get certain recipes and substitutions right like removing eggs from a dish, but it sparked my creativity and I enjoyed every aspect of it," she says. "The food sensitivities aren't the focal point of the book, but everything in it is adaptable from an allergy to nuts and eggs, vegetarian to a gluten-free lifestyle. It is an all-encompassing cookbook.”

Abitanto considers herself a homegrown chef, spending the past 20 years perfecting her cooking. In 2015, she launched the food blog Mariooch's Kitchen, which has since expanded to include video recipes for easy instruction. She holds a bachelor's and a master's in business administration from Rider. Previously, she worked in the sales industry and ran her own apparel business. She credits those experiences with influencing her entrepreneurial spirit.

"From the day I started my blog to where I am now, everything has really come together," she says. "I love every bit of it from the creative process and it really doesn't feel like work."