Family and Food: Taking Care of What we Cherish


Maricelle Cardenas and her husband Roberto grew up in different countries and cultures, but when it comes to family and food, they have everything in common. Maricelle sums it up: “Lots of time spent together, and never without plentiful meals.”

Roberto’s family in Italy always prepares a large pot of pasta, planning ahead to use the leftovers to make a classic pasta frittata. And by no means is it regarded as a lowly leftovers dish. “Every family has their signature way of making this dish that they’re proud of,” explains Roberto. His version incorporates leftover veggies and involves heating the oil just right, so the frittata gets crispy golden. Their two-year-old daughter Lavinia loves her dad’s frittatas, especially if he adds in her favorite snap peas.

   Roberto’s Pasta Frittata

  1. Heat 2–3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in an oven-safe skillet.2.Add 2–3 cups leftover pasta with sauce.
  2. Stir briefly, then allow bottom to get crispy golden.
  3. Chop leftover cooked veggies and add to skillet.
  4. Beat 3 eggs, ⅛ cup milk, ½ teaspoon salt, and grated cheese if desired.
  5. Pour egg mixture over pasta, lower heat, and cover or place skillet in the oven at 350°. Cook until set.

In Maricelle’s Filipino-American family, dishes based on leftovers that make meat go a long way also have a long tradition—born out of necessity, but no less valued. One of Maricelle’s favorites is her mom’s version of pancit, a noodle stir-fry with bits of cooked chicken. “If we make a classic American turkey for Thanksgiving this year, I already know what the leftover meat will be used for,” she jokes.

       Maricelle’s Chicken Pancit

1. Cook 12 ounces Bihon rice noodles or Canton wheat flour noodles in chicken or     turkey broth.
2. Heat 1–2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet.
3. Sauté 1 finely diced onion and 3 cloves minced garlic until soft.
4. Stir in 4 cups thinly sliced vegetables like cabbage, carrots, peas, etc.
5. Cut 2 cups leftover cooked chicken or turkey into small pieces and add to the  vegetable mix, along with ¼ cup soy sauce.
6. When vegetables are almost cooked, toss in noodles, stir until heated.
7. Garnish with chopped green onions and calamansi or lemon wedges.

Even more than family tradition, it’s Lavinia who motivates Maricelle and Roberto to be mindful about food. “We want our daughter and future generations to have a livable planet, and that means appreciating food and making sure that all the resources that go into growing and preparing our food are not wasted,” says Roberto.

Get inspired: Throughout the holiday season, Edible East Bay’s e-newsletter features more family food saving and waste prevention tips. Visit to sign up for the newsletter or to read it online. You can also find more resources at