Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts


The Province of Bari is in the Puglia region of Italy. It is attractive to tourists and has a large commercial harbor and airport and an excellent university. It is also the second most important economic center in Southern Italy after Naples.

Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari

Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari

The large, fertile plains of Bari stretch inland from the coast where olives, grapes and almonds are grown. Bari is among the largest and most populated province in Italy. Apart from the plains area around the city of Bari, the territory is mainly high hills, called “murge” that is partly occupied by the recently established National Park of Alta Murgia.


The old houses in this region are interesting, ranging from the ancient masserie (old fortified farmhouses) and the very popular, much photographed conical houses called trulli.

The area is famous for its olive oil. Italy is the second biggest producer, after Spain, and Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.

Durum wheat grows in abundance here and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘orecchiette’ (meaning little ears). The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in a traditional wood burning.

Vegetables grow well in the warm climate and are used frequently in Bari’s cuisine. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and eggplant, peppers and squash are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.

The province is a good area to raise sheep and goats. They are bred for their meat, as well as their milk, which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.

Local cheeses include, Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream, Cacioricotta – a seasonal ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk and Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk.

Fish plays a large part in the cuisine because the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.

The daily cuisine, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and unprocessed with most locals growing, rearing and making enough food for their individual needs.

Eggplant Rollatini



  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 8 lengthwise slices (You may also choose to leave the skin on)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped fresh oregano, thyme and basil ( or ¼ teaspoon each of dried herbs)
  • ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce


Combine the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the eggplant.


Heat a grill pan or the broiler. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil. Grill or broil eggplant slices three minutes on each side or until lightly brown.

Spread about 3 tablespoons of the filling on each eggplant slice.  Roll up tightly, jelly roll style. Place the eggplant rolls in an oiled baking dish and cover with the marinara sauce.

Bake in a 400-degree F oven for about 20 minutes.  Makes 8 appetizer or 4 main dish servings.

Focaccia Bari Style



  • 2 cups (500 grams) 00-type flour {substitute all-purpose if you don’t have the Italian flour}
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and quartered, boiled until fork tender, drained and cooled.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (1/2 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 kalamata olives, halves
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese


Place flour in a large mixing bowl and whisk in the yeast. Using a ricer, add the cooked potatoes.

Add the water and a small pinch of salt to the flour and begin kneading to obtain a sticky, firm ball.

You can also make the dough in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with olive oil. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in a warm, dry place. About 1 hour — depending on the warmth of your kitchen it may take longer.

Preheat oven to 430 degrees F.

Use olive oil to generously grease a large baking pan (about 12 inches). Don’t use anything smaller or the dough will creep over the edge. Stretch the dough to evenly fill the pan.

Press the halved tomatoes into the dough, cut side down and do the same with the olives. Sprinkle with oregano and sea salt.

Drizzle the surface with more olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the surface appears evenly browned and the tomatoes are caramelized.

Lightly dust with Parmesan cheese when the focaccia is finished baking. Let cool on a cooling rack before cutting.

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage


Serves 4

  • 1 lb (500 grams) spicy Italian sausage links
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (sometimes called turnip greens in Italy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 oz.(100 ml) white wine
  • 1 hot pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


To prepare the broccoli rabe:

Wash the broccoli rabe well and cut off the bottom tough part of the stem. Cut the stalks into one inch pieces.

Blanch the broccoli rabe for 5 minutes in boiling salted water and drain well.

Place the garlic, oil, chopped chili and bay leaves in a large skillet with a cover; heat and saute for a few minutes.

Add the sausage links and cook until brown, about 5 minutes, add the white wine and allow it to evaporate. Add the blanched broccoli and season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and continue cooking over medium heat for about 30 minutes . Uncover and cook for 5 minutes to allow the liquids to evaporate. Remove the bay leaves and serve hot.

Cartellate (Honey Pinwheels)



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup honey or fig syrup


In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, oil, salt and cinnamon.

Slowly add the water and beat until the dough comes together.

Add additional water, if necessary, so the dough holds together.

Shape the dough into a ball.

Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Dust each piece with flour.

Pass the dough through a pasta machine set at the widest opening.

Pass each piece through successive settings until thin.

On a manual pasta machine, stop at setting #6.

Place each pasta strip on a lightly floured surface.

With a fluted pastry cutter, cut the dough into strips 10 x 1-1/4 inches.

Fold each strip in half lengthwise but do not press it together.


With the wavy edges pointing up, roll the strips into loose spirals about 2 inches wide.

Pinch the edges to seal. Place on an oiled baking sheet.

Let the pinwheels dry at room temperature for 2 hours.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or Dutch Oven to 370 degrees F.

Carefully add a few pinwheels at a time to the oil.

Fry until evenly golden, about 1 minute.

Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Heat honey in a small saucepan until it thins.

Arrange the cartellate on a large platter. Drizzle with the warm honey.

Best served immediately or within a few hours.




Turin is in the northwest section of the Piedmont region between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. The city is famous for the Shroud of Turin, Fiat auto plants, Baroque cafes and architecture and its shopping arcades, promenades and museums. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics because the nearby mountains and valleys are ideal for winter sports.


The Piedmont region has some of the best food in Italy. Over 160 types of cheese and famous wines like Barolo and Barbaresco come from here as do truffles. The hilly region bordering France and Switzerland is perfect for growing grapes. Turin has some outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones. Chocolate bars originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty of Turin. In addition, an enormous array of artisanal cheeses, the white truffle of Alba, cured meats and a vast assortment of herb products are all part of the Piedmont table.


The cuisine of Turin is unlike the food you expect to find in Italy. Local dishes incorporate a much larger variety of savory sauces which are more traditional in French cuisine than in Italian. Chefs tend to cook with butter and lard rather than olive oil, which is also more French than Italian. Another difference is that appetizers play a much larger role on the menu in Turin than in other parts of Italy. The city’s signature dish is bollito misto, a mix of boiled meats served with three sauces: bagnet verd, a green sauce made from parsley, anchovies, garlic and olive oil; bagnet ross, a red sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic and hot peppers and sausa d’avije, a yellow mustard sauce sweetened with honey and crushed nuts. Other classic dishes include brasato al Barolo, locally raised beef slowly braised in Barolo wine and finanziera, a stew of cock’s crests, chicken livers, veal, peas and porcini mushrooms. In the fall and winter you’ll find slices of reindeer meat, on some menus along with beef and veal, free range poultry and freshly caught fish.


The dinner menu below serves 4-6 and is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Turin, Italy.

Bagna Cauda


Serves 6

Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. The dish is eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoons, carrots, peppers, fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes and onions in the hot sauce. It is traditionally eaten during the autumn and winter months and must be served hot, as the name suggests. Originally, the Bagna Càuda was placed in a big pan (peila) in the center of the table for communal sharing. Now, it is usually served in individual pots, called a fojòt, a type of fondue pot traditionally made of terra-cotta.

It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.


  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
  • Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
  • Italian bread – sliced


Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, an electric skillet or a wok.

To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.

Brasato Al Barolo


“Braised in Barolo”, a classic Italian beef dish from this region uses a simple slow cooking technique to tenderize the meat. In Italy, Piedmontese is a dual-purpose breed of cattle that are raised for their milk, which is used in the production of several traditional cheeses of the region, including Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Toma Piemontese; and are also raised for meat. Beef from Piedmontese cattle is seen as a premium product. The unique genetics of the breed combine to create cattle that is more muscled than conventional cattle, so the yield of lean meat is greater than with other breeds. All cuts of beef are lean because as they grow, the cattle add more muscle but less fat. In addition, Piedmontese cattle produce shorter muscle fibers and less connective tissue, so the meat remains tender in spite of its minimal fat.

Serve this dish the traditional way, with polenta, or if you prefer, mashed potatoes.

Serves 4-6


  • 3 lb Piedmontese brisket flat
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 to 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 to 5 juniper berries
  • 1 bottle Barolo red wine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup dry Marsala wine
  • 2 tablespoons flour


Put all the vegetables and spices in a bowl, add the beef and cover with the wine. Refrigerate overnight, or a minimum of 10 hours.

Heat a heavy-bottom pot, large enough to hold the beef and wine, over medium-high heat. Melt half of the butter with all of the oil. Take the beef out of the marinade, season it with salt and pepper, and brown it in the hot-pot on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, take out all the vegetables from the wine and add them to the beef, stirring until they color a bit.

Add the wine to the pan, turn the heat down and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and turning the beef.

Pour the Marsala into the stew and let cook a few more minutes. Take the beef out of the pan and set it on a carving board.

Remove and discard the bay leaves and juniper berries.

To make the sauce:

Put the wine and vegetables in a food mill or pour through a fine mesh sieve, applying pressure to the vegetables to extract all the juice. Reserve the juice and the vegetable puree.

In a saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to brown the mixture. Add the wine and vegetable puree and cook for a bit longer, until the sauce thickens slightly.

Slice the meat against the grain, arrange it on a serving plate and pour the very hot wine sauce on top.

Cardoon Gratin


Cardoons are closely related to the artichoke. They look like very large hearts of celery and have thorns in the stalks. The stalks are not solid like celery, but are semi-hollow and stringy.

4-6 servings


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 lb. cardoons
  • 1 cup grated Italian fontina cheese


Place cream, stock and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wash cardoons, then remove and discard tough outer stalks. Cut away thorns and pull off stringy fibers. Cut cardoons into 1½”–2″ pieces, placing them immediately into the cream mixture as you go, to prevent them from discoloring.

Bring cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cardoons are tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cardoon pieces to a 1-quart baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Reduce cream mixture to about ¾ cup over medium heat, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and pour the sauce over the cardoons in the baking dish, sprinkle cheese on top and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart



  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from the heat and add sugar and vanilla, stirring until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add flour and mix together using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Press the dough into an ungreased, 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes. Set crust aside to cool.

Toasted Hazelnuts

  • ½ cup hazelnuts (also called filberts)
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda

Boil 2 cups water; add baking soda. The water will foam up a bit. Add the nuts to the boiling soda water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the nuts and rinse with cold water. Peel the skins away from the nuts and place on a kitchen towel to dry.

When the  nuts are dry, toast them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes.


  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 7 1/2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella

Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate pieces, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the chocolate-hazelnut spread and whisk until smooth.

Pour filling into the cooled crust and sprinkle toasted hazelnuts on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When ready to serve, cut into small wedges and garnish with fresh fruit.




Italian American cuisine is a popular and delicious cuisine. It is a style of cooking adopted throughout the United States that was shaped by waves of Italian immigrants and their descendants. However, what is known in America as Italian food is often not found on the Italian table.

Pizza originated in Naples but Americans usually don’t like the original Neapolitan pizza with a crust that tends to be soggy in the middle — unlike the crisp New York Italian American version. Italian Americans continued to put new spins on the Neapolitan version. In Chicago, they created the deep-dish pizza. New Haven’s legendary Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is famous for its white clam topping. Corporations also got into the act, including Domino’s and California Pizza Kitchen. Few foods are more popular in the American and pizza is now synonymous with American cuisine.

If you go to Naples and ask for a Pepperoni Pizza – what you’ll get is pizza with peppers, because the word pepperoni in Italian sounds almost the same and, in Italy, there is no type of salami called pepperoni. In Italy, you would need to ask for pizza with sausage or spicy salami.

It is traditional in Campania to make a soup with green vegetables and meat, especially pork, called Minestra Maritata, which is the translation for wedding soup or married soup. It is not what Americans call “Italian Wedding Soup”.

Garlic bread- no Italian restaurant will ever serve that to you. Instead bruschetta is served as an appetizer topped with fresh chopped tomatoes or rubbed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

In Italy, they make meatballs and sometimes small meatballs can be found in lasagna, but no Italian family serves spaghetti with meatballs for dinner.

No one in Italy knows what marinara sauce is. There may be different variants of such a sauce that depend on regional or family traditions (with or without garlic, with or without onions, with or without carrots, with or without a pinch of sugar to counter acidity, etc.) but tomato sauce is simply called “salsa” or “sugo” depending on whether you’re from northern or southern Italy. What’s commonly called marinara sauce in America is tomato sauce in Italy that is the base for pizza, pasta, etc., but without garlic or onion or herbs that are not fresh basil.

Parmigiana is made with eggplant, tomato, caciocavallo cheese and basil. No chicken or veal. At best, in some parts of Italy, they alternate the layers of eggplant with prosciutto or beaten eggs for added flavor.

Here are some classic Italian American recipes for you to try:


New York Style Pizza

Authentic Italian pizza is far less cheesy than its American counterpart and definitely won’t have a cheese-filled crust.


  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir to dissolve. Mix in the flour, salt and olive oil. When the dough thickens, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Knead in a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

When the dough has risen, flatten it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll or stretch out into a 12 inch circle and place on a baking pan. If you are using a pizza stone, you may place it on a piece of parchment while preheating the stone in the oven.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with oregano, mozzarella cheese, basil, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bottom of the crust is browned when you lift up the edge a little and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.


Marinara Sauce

Pasta alla marinara (“mariner style” pasta) does exist in Italy, but it’s usually prepared with shellfish or olives—sometimes both. In the United States, the term “marinara” refers to the simple tomato-based “red” sauce that’s a standard in Italian-American cooking.


  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 6 oz can tomato paste
  • Four 28 oz containers Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.
  • Salt and pepper


Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute the vegetables and garlic. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and the dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.

Simmer, uncovered, for another hour or until the sauce thickens.


Chicken Parmigiana


  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten lightly or egg whites or egg substitute
  • 2 chicken breasts, halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups Homemade Marinara, recipe above
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 8 slices of mozzarella cheese


Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour and eggs in three separate dishes.

First, dredge chicken breast halves in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, make sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in the breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Fry chicken until golden. Be sure to turn for even cooking, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from the hot oil and onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

To bake, preheat oven to 375˚F.  Spread about 1 cup of Marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Arrange the breaded cutlets on top of the sauce. Top with 1 cup of Marinara, covering each piece. Sprinkle with Parmigiano.  Cover the dish with foil and bake, 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbling.

Uncover and place a slice of mozzarella on each cutlet. Bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.


Shrimp Scampi

“Shrimp scampi” is a dish where large shrimp are sautéed with garlic, wine, butter, herbs and red pepper flakes, then served over pasta or rice. It is a staple in Italian-American restaurants, most likely the descendant of an Italian recipe that involves langoustines sautéed in wine, olive oil, onion, and garlic. Langoustines are a type of tiny lobster, called scampi in Italy. Italian-American cooks adapted the recipe but kept the old name.


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails attached
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 lb thin spaghetti, cooked
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped parsley


Heat 4 tablespoons butter and the olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook, turning once, until beginning to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate; set aside.

Add chili flakes, garlic and shallots to the skillet; cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add wine, lemon juice and zest; cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Add pasta, reserved shrimp and remaining butter; toss until evenly combined. Transfer to a serving platter with the cooked spaghetti; sprinkle with parsley.


Mozzarella Sticks

This great appetizer comes to you from Little Italy. However, if you’re looking for mozzarella sticks in Italy, according to Fodor’s, there is only one place you’ll find them—McDonald’s.


  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 (16 ounce) package mozzarella cheese sticks or a 16 oz block cut into 4 by 1/4-inch sticks
  • Marinara Sauce


Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs.

In another shallow bowl place the breadcrumbs.

One at a time, coat each mozzarella stick in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the procedure with all the coated cheese sticks (double coat), dip the sticks in the egg again and then in the breadcrumbs.

Return to the baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer until all the sticks are frozen. I usually leave them there overnight.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees F.  Fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Serve with warm marinara for dipping.


You can also bake the mozzarella sticks. Place the frozen sticks on an ungreased baking sheet; drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for about 8 minutes turning them over after 4 minutes. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.


Rainbow Cookies

These famous cookies, also known as Tricolor Cookies, Neapolitans, Venetians or Seven Layer Cakes, can always be found in Little Italy. They were invented in New York by Italian immigrants who designed them to invoke the flag of their motherland.


  • 1- 8 ounce can almond paste
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 drops green food coloring
  • 8 drops red food coloring
  • 1- 12 ounce jar apricot preserves
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dishes; line with waxed paper; grease paper.

Break up paste in large mixer bowl with fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract and beat with the mixer until fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and salt.

Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the almond mixture with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

Remove 1-1/2 cups batter; spread evenly into one of prepared pans. Remove another 1-1/2 cups batter to small bowl; tint green with coloring and spread in the second pan. Tint remaining 1-1/2 cups of batter red. Spread in remaining pan.

Bake 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden; cake layers will each be about 1/4 inch thick. Immediately remove cakes from the pans onto large wire racks. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Cool.

Place red layer on an upturned jelly roll pan. Heat preserves; strain; spread half of the strained preserves over the red layer. Top with the white layer. Spread with remaining preserves. Cover with the green layer, top side up.

Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with large wooden cutting board, heavy flat tray or large book. Refrigerate overnight.

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Trim cake edges even. Cut cake crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Frost the layer side of one strip with chocolate. Turn strip on its side and frost the other (green) side. Let chocolate dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Repeat with remaining strips. Makes 6 dozen. Cookies freeze well.


The Province of Perugia is the larger of the two provinces in the Umbria region of Italy. The eastern part of the province is a hilly region while the rest is covered by forests. Perugia is home to the largest lake in central Italy, Lake Trasimeno. The southern regions are less hilly. Silk, corn and grass are some of the most important agricultural products of the province.


Over the centuries, Perugia has been ruled by numerous different peoples, evidence of which can be found in the many archaeological remains. Artifacts from the Roman period include paved roads, the forum, the cisterns, a Roman amphitheatre and the thermal baths.


The Province of Perugia hosts events, such as Eurochocolate where chocolate in all its varied forms is on display and Umbria Jazz, a music festival that every year gathers together important artists of the jazz world.


The cuisine consists of rustic cooking traditions with many recipes still influenced by ancient rituals and rules. Black truffles, a local product, are used in many dishes. Easter Pizza and a salted panettone (Christmas cake) flavored with pecorino (made from sheep’s milk cheese) are regional classics. The lentils from Castelluccio are known for their tiny size and their soft hull. Salami and cold cuts from Norcia are well-known throughout the world.


Strangozzi, or Strozzapreti pasta made with water and flour is served with meat sauce. The types of meat that are used for second courses are pork made from nut-fed black pigs, boar and lamb.

Fish from Lake Trasimeno are the basis for many dishes, such as Tegamaccio, a seafood soup, made with different types of lake fish such as perch, trout, carp and pike.

Another local favorite is Parmigiana di Gobbi, a dish that dates back to ancient times made with cardoons (the gobbi), served with sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano.

Popular desserts include pinacate, a pine nut-based sweet, torciglione made with raisins, walnuts and dried figs and torcolo, essentially a large donut with raisins and candied fruit.


And of course, Italy’s version of the chocolate kiss, Baci Perugina, chocolate and hazelnut truffles in their famous silver and blue wrapping, with a romantic message tucked inside, were invented here. Also Stacchetti (a mix of almond, cacao and sugar covered with meringue) and Struffoli (small balls of dough fried and sweetened with honey) are additional well-known desserts.


Torta Umbra al Formaggio

(Easter Cheese Bread from Umbria)


In the past, Torta Umbra al Formaggio, a savory cheese bread from the Umbrian region, was traditionally enjoyed on Pasqua (Easter) morning with boiled eggs, prosciutto and other cold cuts. Today, it can usually be found as an accompaniment to any meal.


  • 2 tablespoons dried yeast (2 packages)
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 ounces Pecorino Romano, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 5 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, cut into ½ inch dice


Grease a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil. Using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the pan to add an additional 2 to 3 inches of height.

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (110°F) in a large stand mixer bowl; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes). Add sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour without stirring. Let it rest (covered with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, the eggs, butter and oil. With the paddle attachment mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the salt and continue mixing at medium speed until the dough is soft, shiny and elastic (7-10 minutes). Add the pepper and cheeses and knead the dough until thoroughly combined. Let it rest in an oiled bowl, covered, until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).

Punch down the dough. Form the dough into a round loaf. Place into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).

Bake for 45 minutes at 400° F. Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Crostini with Garlic and Black Truffles


Ingredients for each serving

  • 2 slices bread (Torta Umbra al Formaggio would be excellent for this appetizer)
  • 1 winter black truffle
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 ¼ tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt – to taste
  • Pepper – to taste


Shave half the truffle and set aside. Pound the remaining truffle in a mortar together with the garlic, adding the lemon juice and olive oil until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Tear the bread slices into smaller pieces, toast and spread the truffle and garlic paste on top. Garnish with the shaved truffle slices and serve.

Minestra Di Ceci (Umbrian Chickpea Soup)



  • 1 lb (500g) dry chickpeas
  • 1 twig fresh rosemary
  • 10 leaves fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil


Soak chickpeas overnight in a bowl of cold water. Drain.

Place chickpeas in large soup pot. Cover with water to 1 inch above the chickpeas. Add rosemary and half the sage leaves. Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

In a skillet placed over medium heat, heat  2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender. Set aside.

Remove and discard the sage leaves and rosemary from the cooked chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid.

In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, purée half the chickpeas, along with 2  cups of the chickpea cooking liquid.

Return puréed chickpeas and sautéed vegetables to the soup pot.

Cover and cook 60 minutes.

Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a drizzle of oil, remaining sage leaves, black pepper and grated cheese.

Pasta alla Norcina


Ingredients for 4 people

  • 14 oz (400g) Penne pasta
  • 4 sausages of Norcia
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ onion
  • 1 cup heavy (cooking) cream
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Grated parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese of Norcia.


Finely chop the onion and saute in extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet. Remove the casings from the sausages and add it to the onion and cook until brown and crumbled. Lower the heat and add the white wine. Cook until it evaporates. Add the cream and as soon as it’s hot remove the pan from the heat.

Cook the penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and mix the pasta with the sauce. Add black pepper and grated cheese. Serve immediately.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Loin)



by CHEF BIKESKI (Culinary Director and Owner of Italia Outdoors Food and Wine)

This is best started the day before you wish to serve it.


  • One 2 1/2 – 3 pound piece fresh pork belly, skin on
  • One 2 1/2 – 3 pound boneless pork loin roast
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 bulb fresh fennel, tough outer layer and inner core removed, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped


Preheat oven to 500°F.

Place the pork belly skin side up. Using a sharp knife, score the skin on the diagonal making a diamond-shaped pattern. Try to cut only the skin itself.

Turn the belly so the skin side is down. Score the belly flesh in the same diagonal diamond-shaped pattern.

Salt both sides of the belly, as well as the pork loin roast. Set aside while you make the seasoning mixture.

Place the fennel seeds in a hot sauté pan and toast just until they start to brown. Add the olive oil, chopped fresh fennel, garlic and rosemary and saute until the fennel is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel fronds and remove from the heat.

Cover the entire loin and the flesh side of the pork belly with the seasoning mixture. Roll the belly around the loin so the short ends of the belly meet or come as close to meeting as possible. If there is a bit of loin still exposed along the bottom, put this side down in the pan. If the loin is longer than the pork belly or the belly longer than the loin and one sticks out, trim the longer piece so the ends are flush.

Tie the roast with kitchen twine at about 1/2” intervals. Place the roast on a wire rack set in a sheet pan, with any gap where the pork belly may not cover the loin at the bottom. Place the roast, uncovered, in your refrigerator for 1-2 days to allow the seasonings to penetrate the roast and the skin to air-dry.

When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Roast for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and continue to roast until the porchetta reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. If the skin is not as brown and crispy as you’d like, turn on the broiler and finish browning the skin, keeping a careful eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Slice into 1/2 inch rounds for serving as a roast or into very thin slices for porchetta sandwiches.

Chocolate Tart


by Baci Perugina


10” tart pan

For the crust:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 pound (5 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish

For the filling:

  • 1 bar Perugina Dark (51%) chocolate
  • 8 Baci candies
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs


Combine the sugar, salt, butter,egg  yolk and vanilla in the mixer bowl and start on medium.

Sift the flour and cocoa together. Pour the flour and cocoa into the mixer bowl. Turn up the speed until the mixture comes together into crumbs. Press into a ball, wrap tightly and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Roughly chop the chocolate bar and the Baci and melt them in a double boiler. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling and pour over the melted chocolate.

Stir until the color is uniform and mix in the sugar until it dissolves completely. Let cool slightly.

Lightly beat the eggs and set aside.

Line the bottom of the tart mold with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Roll out the crust to about 1/2” thick and place in the mold. Press it down gently and eliminate any overhanging pieces.

Quickly whisk the beaten eggs into the chocolate cream and pour the filling into the tart shell. The filling will appear quite liquid.

Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft but set and not jiggly and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly damp but otherwise clean.

Let cool and dust lightly with cocoa powder before serving.



With the weather getting cooler in many parts of the country, we may find ourselves entertaining friends for dinner rather than hosting casual, warm weather BBQs. There are so many good choices in the fall for your menu that it is difficult to know where to begin. Chicken is always a good choice but for a dinner party,  the chicken recipe should be something a little different; something your guests may not have had before – just to keep things interesting. Choose vegetables in season, a side of potatoes, noodles or rice and a great appetizer.

Please find below one of my fall dinner party menu suggestions and the recipes to go with it.

Entertaining Menu

Antipasto Stromboli

Wine: Pinot Grigio or Prosecco

Vinegar Braised Chicken with Pappardelle Noodles

Olive Oil Braised Broccoli Rabe

Wine: Barbera from Emilia-Romagna or a Chianti from Tuscany

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti and Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Fresh Fruit


First Course


Antipasto Stromboli


  • 2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa Salami
  • 1/4 Pound thinly sliced Pepperoni
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced Provolone Cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced pickled cherry peppers
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil.

Use half the meat, cheese and peppers, and cover the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.


Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, place the roll on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other roll in the same manner.

Brush the rolls with the beaten egg mixture and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Second Course


Vinegar-Braised Chicken


  • 8-10 pieces of chicken – combination of bone-in breasts cut in half if large and thighs (skin on or off; your choice)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced thin
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz pappardelle noodles


Preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the upper third.

Coat the chicken in flour and season generously with salt and pepper.

In a Dutch Oven or large ovenproof skillet heat half of the butter and half of the oil. Add half the chicken, skin side up, and cook over high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook the chicken for 1 minute. Remove to a large platter. Repeat with the remaining butter, oil and chicken. When brown place on the platter with the first batch of chicken.

Add the scallions and garlic to the skillet and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on top, skin side up and roast for about 25 minutes, until it is cooked through.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pappardelle and cook until the al dente stage. Drain. Place the noodles on a large serving platter.

Place the Dutch Oven on top of the the stove and transfer the chicken with a slotted spoon to the  platter with the noodles, arranging the chicken attractively over the noodles.

Bring the mixture in the pot to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add a little of the sauce to the sour cream, mix well and whisk the sour cream into the mixture in the pot. Simmer until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Do not boil or the sour cream will curdle. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.


Olive-Oil-Braised Broccoli Rabe

Look for broccoli rabe with vibrant green leaves and plump stems.

Serves 8


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 2 bunches (1 1/4 pounds each) broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon julienned lemon zest, plus fresh lemon juice for serving
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock


Heat the oil and garlic in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is sizzling and aromatic, but not browned, about 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, zest and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then use tongs to toss and coat in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until broccoli rabe is tender, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer contents of pan (including liquid) to a serving bowl. Grind pepper over top and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

Dessert Course


Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti


  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place pistachios in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix toasted pistachios, cherries, sugars, baking powder and flour.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush the loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti (3/4-inch-wide cookies)


  • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur


Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool. Chop the nuts into large pieces.

In a large bowl, mix toasted hazelnuts, chocolate chips, sugars, baking powder, cocoa, flour, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and coffee liqueur. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container.



Como is a province in the northern part of the Lombardy region of Italy that borders Switzerland. Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a popular tourist destination and the area contains numerous works of art, churches, gardens, museums, theaters, parks and palaces. Como’s climate is humid and subtropical. Winters are not long, but foggy, damp and chilly with occasional periods of frost; spring and autumn are pleasant while summer can be quite oppressive and hot.


The most famous area within the province is Bellagio, a historic town surrounded by ancient city walls with narrow roads that run through the hills. The town’s ancient origins are visible in its Romanesque Cathedral dedicated to San Giacomo, the interior of which seems unchanged from the 12th Century. Another interesting town is Laglio that lies near the “Bear Cave” (buco dell’orso), where fossils of prehistoric bears and other remains found in the cave are displayed in the Town Hall. The annual Medieval Palio takes place at the beginning of September and is a knightly jousting contest between various province districts that is reenacted in the town of Cernobbio.


Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian) is located in this province and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. The lake is shaped like the letter “Y” and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. Many famous people have or have had homes on the lake’s shores. The lake’s deep-blue waters, set against the foothills of the Alps, makes for a stunning view.


The Cuisine of Como Province

Lake Como’s cuisine is shaped by the three geographic areas that make up the Como area – the lake, the mountains with their valleys and the hills of Brianza (the area between Milan and Como). The province’s cuisine is closely tied to its primary natural resource, the lake, that provides an abundance of freshwater fish. Lavarello , a popular local lake fish, is usually served fried with a squeeze of lemon. Misultitt (a type of Shad) is usually dried and preserved with bay leaves in special tin containers. Another traditional dish is Risotto al Pesce Persico (European Perch filet Risotto), a fish grown in Lake Como, that is prepared with white wine, onion and butter.

Polenta is popular especially in the mountain valleys. In this area, it is common to make polenta by mixing corn flour and buckwheat flour together. It is usually served with meat, game, cheese or fish.

South of Como, the food becomes more Milanese. Popular in this region are polenta e osei (polenta served with poultry), cassoela (a stew with pork ribs and cabbage), cotechino sausage with beans and many different kinds of salami and cheese.

As far as traditional sweets and cakes are concerned, in Lake Como, you can find fritters often filled with apple and, Resca de Comm, a panettone made with raisins, citron, pine nuts and anise, that is baked in a cylindrical tube.

Among the red and white wines produced in the province are Rosso di Bellagio and Vespertò di Canzo. The best liqueurs are made by the Piona friars using local herbs.

Valtellina Pizzoccheri


Pizzoccheri is one of Lake Como’s typical winter pasta dishes. It usually consists of flat short tagliatelle noodles, made from buckwheat flour that is common in the area of Valtellina in Northern Italy (on the east shore of Lake Como). The buckwheat flour gives the noodles a grayish color and they are easy to make at home. However, most supermarkets now sell boxes of dried pizzoccheri, which has helped to spread the word of this delicious recipe throughout the country and, of course, cuts down on preparation time.

The noodles are served with a mixture of greens and diced potatoes and dressed with butter, sautéed garlic, sage and Swiss Casera and Parmesan cheeses (or grana padano). There are several variations to the recipe, including substituting the cabbage with Swiss chard, spinach or green beans depending on what you have on hand. The amount of butter can also be altered to your own preference although the original recipe states that the pizzoccheri should be practically drowning in the sage and garlic-infused butter. Vatellina Casera cheese can be difficult to find outside of Lombardy, so a good alternative is Italian Fontina, which is more widely available.

For the pasta:

  • 2 cups (200 grams) fine buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) plain flour
  • About 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water
  • Pinch salt

For the pizzoccheri:

  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) savoy cabbage
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) potatoes (2 to 3 small potatoes)
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 8-10 sage leaves
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) Valtellina Casera DOP or Bitto (Gruyere or Fontina can be substituted), thinly sliced or shaved
  • 2 ounces (about 60 grams) Grana Padano, grated
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the pasta:

Combine the two flours in a bowl and gradually add the water, mixing until well incorporated. Work the dough for a few minutes. It should be smooth and compact, but not dry or crumbly and it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s dry, add a little more water until it becomes smooth. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin to a thickness of 2-3 millimeters (1/10 of an inch). With a sharp knife, cut the dough into large strips about 7-8 cm (2.5 to 3 inches) wide then cut these into short pasta strips about ¼ inch thick. (If you have a pasta machine, I would use it)

For the pizzoccheri:

Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage and chop roughly.

Boil a large saucepan of salted water, cook the potatoes for 20 minutes and then add the cabbage and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a separate pan and saute the garlic and sage.

Drain the potatoes, cabbage and pasta and layer in a dish with the melted butter, slices of cheese and black pepper.

Serve with Grana Padano cheese.

Risotto with Perch Fillets


This recipe is the national dish of Lake Como and one that is used in most of the area’s restaurants. Perch is one of the most valuable species of freshwater fish because of its tender and delicate meat and the fish can be found in all the lakes of Northern Italy.

Serves 5-6


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 4 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
  • Flour  for coating
  • Butter or oil for frying


In a heavy saucepan, heat the 4 tablespoons butter until it melts.

Add the chopped onion and cook until tender. Add the rice and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly until all the liquid is absorbed.

When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and Parmigiano cheese.

Dredge the fillets in the flour and cook in a hot skillet in butter or oil, turning them over once, until each side is golden brown.

Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets.

Parmesan Barley Soup


Barley is a healthy high-fiber, high-protein whole grain containing numerous health benefits. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. Although soup is the most popular way to eat barley, you can use it like any other grain, such as couscous or rice.  Hulless barley is unprocessed and takes longer to cook than pearl or pearled barley, which is more common. Quick cooking barley is just as healthy and takes only 10 minutes to cook. Try adding a handful of quick cooking barley to a simmering pot of soup.


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup barley
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Parmesan rinds
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


Pre-soak the barley in water to cover for one hour. Drain well and set aside.

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, then add the diced carrots and celery. Reduce the heat and cook for another two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to coat the vegetables well.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the barley and vegetable broth, stirring to combine.

Heat for ten minutes, then add the Parmesan rinds and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until the barley is almost cooked.

Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, milk, white wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat another five minutes or until the barley is fully cooked.

Remove the Parmesan rinds and serve with additional Parmesan cheese.



Lake Como’s sweets are mainly cakes, tarts and pies that are eaten for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Among them you can find the cutizza, a homemade focaccia made of flour, milk, sugar and lemon peel. The cutizza is a sweet bread known as the poor man’s cake because it uses only a small amount of flour. This is a very old and rustic recipe.


  • ½ lb white flour
  • 6-7 oz whole milk
  • Oil for frying
  • 3 eggs
  • Lemon rind
  • Vanilla sugar
  • Salt


Break the eggs in a bowl, add the flour and mix well. Add the grated lemon and milk and mix until smooth. Add the smaller amount of milk at first and then more, if needed, to make a smooth dough.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and pour in the mixture. Cook on one side and then turn over to cook the other side. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.

Variation: add some chopped apple to the mixture before cooking.

The cutizza can be eaten as a snack or as a dessert accompanied by a glass of Moscato.



The province of Caserta is in the Campania region of Italy located 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Naples. It is an important agricultural, commercial and industrial area. The Roccamonfina Regional Park is the location of an extinct volcano whose eruptions shaped this region long ago. It is an ideal habitat for the chestnut forests, vineyards and olive groves that are found in the area.


Festivals and fairs that marry both the sacred and the pagan recall the history, culture and traditions of Caserta Province – in particular, the Sagra delle Pallottole, a food festival held every year in San Leucio. The event features a historic procession in which participants wear traditional clothing and the local women prepare and serve potato croquettes. Exhibits, events, concerts and the famous float parade all enliven the streets in celebration of one of the most colorful times of the year, Carnevale.


The cuisine of Caserta is made of simple recipes using local products.


Buffalo mozzarella is produced with craftsmanship in this province. It is often made into different shapes: round, braided, knotted or small balls. The water buffalo milk is also used to make butter and other cheeses such as, burrino, burrata, smoked provola and fresh or dried ricotta. Salaprese is a sheep’s milk cheese that is not matured but eaten right after having absorbed the salt. It tastes fresh and sweet, with a strong hint of sheep’s milk.


Local farms supply meat used to prepare cold cuts such as capicollo, prosciutto di Monte, pancetta tesa and the filet, Vairano Patenora. The province is also famous for its salsiccia, a sausage seasoned in special terra-cotta vases.

The Campanella artichoke, porcini mushroom, the many varieties of apple, the golden plum and the chestnut are all delicacies that distinguish the local cuisine.

Desserts consist of honey and walnut biscuits; pigne are glazed sweets and a pastry called serpentone that is stuffed with honey and walnuts.

The wine list is long as well and includes Asprinio di Aversa, Falerno del Massico and Galluccio, all labeled DOC.

Culinary Specialties of Caserta


Mozzarella di Bufala Salad



  • Buffalo mozzarella (1 large ball for every 2 servings)
  • Breadcrumbs
  • All purpose flour
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Mixed salad greens


  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small chili pepper
  • Handful of basil leaves, plus extra for garnish


Make the sauce first.

Grill the red pepper, turning it often until it starts to char evenly on all sides. When cool enough to handle, peel away the skin, cut open the pepper and clean out the seeds and any pulp. Cut the flesh into smaller pieces and place in a food processor along with the oil, chili pepper, garlic, basil, salt and mascarpone. Process until smooth. Taste and correct for salt. Place in the refrigerator to thicken while you prepare the other ingredients. Remove the sauce about 5 minutes before serving and give it a good stir.

Tip: You can make the sauce in advance to save time. It will keep for a few days. If you want a thicker sauce, leave out the olive oil.

Prep the mozzarella.  

Set out a plate for flour and another for the breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Drain the mozzarella and slice each ball in half. Gently pat both sides of the slices dry with a paper towel. Dredge each piece of cheese in the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs, making sure to cover the cheese entirely; set aside on waxed paper. Repeat until all the cheese is breaded. Depending on how many cheeses you are using, you may need more breading ingredients.

You can serve all the cheese on one platter with the salad or as individually plated servings. Arrange the salad greens accordingly.

Heat the olive oil. You want at least an inch of cooking oil, so use a small pan and fry the cheese in batches. Gently slide the slices into the oil. They are ready to turn over after about 3 minutes, or when the bottom has turned golden brown and firm. Gently turn them and cook for another 3 minutes. When golden and crunchy on all sides, transfer the cheese to paper towels to drain and lightly salt them.

Let them cool slightly, but be sure to serve them warm-hot. You can also slice them in half. Drizzle the pepper cream sauce directly over the cheese and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Linguine with Colatura di Alici and Erbe di Campo



  • 1 lb (500 gr) linguine
  • 1 ½ lbs (700 gr) wild greens or broccoli rabe
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon colatura di alici (Italian anchovy sauce)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes


Wash and clean the broccoli rabe and cut them into 2-inch pieces; set aside.

In a large pan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until lightly golden, add the broccoli and season with salt. Cook over medium heat until the broccoli is tender, then remove the pan from the heat.

Place a pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the pan with the broccoli. Toss the mixture over low heat, add the colatura and chili; toss again to coat the pasta evenly.

Add a couple of ladles of pasta cooking water to create a creamier sauce. Serve hot.

Salt Cod Baked in Spicy Tomato Sauce



  • 2 pounds (900 g) thick salt cod fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cans (each 12 ounces; 340 g) Italian plum tomatoes, pureed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper


Salt cod must be soaked overnight before cooking to remove the salt. Place it in a bowl with cold water to cover and soak for 24 hours, changing the water three or four times.

If you’re in a hurry, try the quick-soak method. Rinse the cod under cold running water for 15 minutes. Place it in a pan with cold water to cover and gradually bring to a boil. Drain the fish and rinse in cold water. Repeat the boiling and rinsing process two or three times.

Cut the cod into 4 x 1 1/2-inch (10 X 4-cm) pieces, then pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Sauté the garlic in the olive oil until golden. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the hot pepper flakes and parsley. Stir, then replace the skillet on the stove. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper and oregano. Simmer 5 minutes and set aside. Remove and discard the garlic.

Heat the vegetable oil in another skillet over moderate heat. When a cube of bread browns in about 1 minute, the oil is ready for frying. Flour the cod fillets lightly and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Arrange the cod fillets in a bake-and-serve dish and cover with the tomato sauce. Bake for 20 minutes.

Limoncello Sorbet Cups



  • 2 cups water
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup limoncello
  • Lemon zest from two lemons
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Lemon cups (1 hollowed out lemon  per serving)


Bring the water and sugar just to a boil in a sauce pan, stirring frequently, until you have a thick, clear syrup. Turn off the heat and let cool.

Transfer the syrup to a bowl and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, limoncello and salt. Stir well and transfer to a ceramic baking dish or plastic container, cover and freeze for at least 3 hours.

Check the sorbet periodically and move it around with a fork. When ready, scrape the sorbet with a fork; then use an ice cream scoop to serve.

To make the lemon cups:

Slice ¾ of an inch off the stem side of the lemons. Using a paring knife and teaspoon, carefully cut and scoop out the lemon pulp. Do this over a bowl so you can save the juice. Slice about ¼ inch from the bottom of the lemons, so they will stand.

Freeze the cups along with the sorbet. When the sorbet is ready, fill the cups and place them back in the freezer until serving. You can make a batch of several sorbet cups in advance.


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