Russo Famiglia Broccoli Salad By Tonya Russo Hamilton

The next cook extraordinaire I’m featuring in May’s Guest Chef, Cook, & Foodie series is Tonya Russo Hamilton. I met Tonya at an Italian meeting in the Portland area years ago. She really impressed me and we found out we had something in common; my hubby and Tonya’s father attended Arizona State University at the same time. This is really amazing since Tonya’s father, Tony Russo, is from Naples, Italy, and my hubby (not an Italian bone in his body) is from upstate New York. Come to find out, they knew many of the same people who attended ASU at that time. What a small world it is sometimes. 

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Tonya Russo Hamilton is a teacher and author in the greater Portland area. Her first published work, Wrestling with the Devil; A Story of Sacrifice, Survival, & Triumph, from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame, is an inspirational memoir inspired by her father’s journey from a small town in southern Italy to Brooklyn, New York and eventually Portland, Oregon. Her children’s book via Gemelli Press is titled, Tino and the Pomodori and is about a young boy who plants and harvests tomatoes with his grandfather in a small town just outside of Naples. It celebrates the wonders and beauty of family and Italian culture. Tonya has a love of cooking, but she especially enjoys it when she is re-creating the recipes brought to the U.S. by her Italian family. She currently teaches STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts & Mathematics) and Drama at a local elementary school.

I want to add that Tonya doesn’t give herself enough credit for all that she contributes as a teacher and to the community. In the plays that her 4th and 5th-grade drama classes participate in (they are entertaining!), Tonya brings out the individual student’s talents and builds self-esteem and stage presence. And for the community, Tonya established the Westside Italian Cultural Group, an Italian culture group that promotes and preserves Italian heritage. She also organized, leads, and serves on a team to feed those in need through the St. Francis Hope Diner

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Russo Famiglia Broccoli Salad

As you might imagine, this recipe starts with broccoli.

I love the Mezzetta brand of olives and peppers. There’s always one or more of these jars open in my fridge.

This dish looks phenomenal! I can’t wait to try it myself. 

Tonya’s recipe and story:

When this salad was prepared by my grandmother in Italy it was simply made with chilled broccoli, fresh lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. Garnished with lemon slices, it made a simple yet striking presentation on the table.

It wasn’t until my family arrived in the U.S. that she started adding the olives and marinated peppers. The addition of olives, and marinated peppers, takes this dish to another level. It adds a depth of flavor and makes for a beautiful color combination.

This salad presents beautifully as an antipasto platter.

Tip: There was some discussion among family members whether salt was needed in this recipe. It was agreed that there is no need to add salt if you cook the broccoli in salted water. 

Russo Famiglia Broccoli Salad By Tonya Russo Hamilton

Yields 4

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  • 3 - 5 Bunches Broccoli
  • Olive Medley (one medium to large jar)
  • Roasted Red Peppers (one medium to large jar)
  • Sweet Cherry Peppers (one medium to large jar) (seed & rinse cherry peppers)
  • Fresh Lemon Juice (one or two whole lemons)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil


  1. Boil the broccoli in salted water until just fork tender. This usually takes about 10 minutes or so. Boil with the stem side down and florets up as the stem takes longer to cook than the florets.
  2. Rinse broccoli with cold water in a colander to stop cooking. Drain broccoli and cut hard bottom part of stem off, then cut broccoli length-wise into long spears all the way down stem.
  3. Arrange broccoli in a deep-set platter (not a bowl). Squeeze the juice of one or two (depending or your taste) whole lemon(s) over broccoli.
  4. Layer your olive medley, roasted red peppers and sweet cherry peppers (seeded & rinsed) on top of broccoli. Be fairly generous with juices from the jars as these add to the flavor.
  5. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Leave salad in layers do not mix.
  6. Chill in refrigerator overnight or for 4 to 8 hours so that flavors can blend.
  7. Use a large serving fork making sure to get some of each layer onto your plate. Enjoy!

Here are Amazon links to Tonya’s books in case you’d like to take a look at them or purchase: Wrestling With the Devil; A Story of Sacrifice, Survival, & Triumph, from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame, and Tino and the Pomodori.

Hubby and I have read both of these books. Tino and the Pomodori is just a delightful story any parent/child would enjoy and Wrestling With The Devil is more than just a book about wresting as the subtitle suggests – sacrifice, survival, and triumph. Both great reads!

Thank you Tonya!

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