Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The coasts of Sardinia are generally high and rocky with long, relatively straight stretches of coastline that contain a few deep bays, many inlets and smaller islands off the coast. The Strait of Bonifacio is directly north of Sardinia and separates Sardinia from the French island of Corsica. The region’s capital is Cagliari.
The island has a Mediterranean climate along the coasts, plains and low hills and a continental climate on the interior plateaus, valleys and mountain ranges. During the year there are approximately 135 days of sunshine, with a major concentration of rainfall in the autumn and winter.
During the Second World War, Sardinia was an important air and naval base and was heavily bombed by the Allies. In the early 1960s, an industrialization effort was begun with the initiation of major infrastructure projects on the island. These included the construction of new dams and roads, reforestation, agricultural zones on reclaimed marshland and large industrial complexes (primarily oil refineries and related petrochemical operations). With the creation of these industries, thousands of ex-farmers became industrial workers.
The Sardinian economy is constrained due to the high cost of importing goods, transportation and generating electricity, which is twice that of the continental Italian regions and triple that of the EU average. The once prosperous mining industry is still active, though restricted to coal, gold, bauxite, lead and zinc. Granite extraction represents one of the most flourishing industries in the northern part of the island. Principal industries include chemicals, petrochemicals, metalworking, cement, pharmaceutical, shipbuilding, oil rig construction, rail and food.
Agriculture has played a very important role in the economic history of the island, especially in the great plain of Campidano, where it is particularly suitable for wheat farming. Water scarcity was a major problem that was overcome with the construction of a great barrier system of dams. Now, the Campidano plain is a major Italian producer of oats, barley and durum wheat. Sardinian agriculture is linked to specific products: cheese, wine, olive oil, artichokes and tomatoes that contribute to a growing export business. Sardinia produces about 80% of Italian cork and ranks 5th among the Italian regions in rice production. The main paddy fields are located in the Arborea Plain.
Sardinia is home to one of the oldest forms of vocal music, generally known as cantu a tenore. The guttural sounds produced in this form make a remarkable sound, similar to Tuvan throat singing. Sardinia is home to professional soccer and basketball teams and auto racing. Cagliari hosted a Formula 3000 race in 2002 and 2003 around its Sant’Elia stadium.
Sardinia boasts the highest consumption of beer per capita in Italy. The discovery of jars containing hops in some archaeological sites are evidence that beer was produced in the region since the Copper Age.
The Cuisine of Sardinia
Thousands of rare species of plants and animals grow and live on the island, some entirely unique to Sardinia. An excellent example of the longevity of Sardinia’s heirloom produce is the Grenache wine grape which dates back to about 1,200 BC. The Grenache grapes grown on the island today are genetically indistinguishable from their ancestors grown thousands of years ago in the same areas.
Wild boar, lamb, pork, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, lobsters, sea urchins, octopus, clams, mussels and squid are plentiful. Salty flavors are preferred by Sardinians, such as, bottarga (a pressed and salted mullet roe) and salt preserved sardines.
Traditional hearty Italian pastas like culingiones (spinach and cheese ravioli) share center stage with Arabic-inspired couscous dishes. Many first-time visitors are surprised by the Sardinians’ liberal use of saffron, which grows well on the island. Saffron is a particular favorite in gnocchi dishes.
A wide variety of herbs, including myrtle (berries, flowers, leaves and stems), flourish on Sardinia and flavor the local dishes. Whether savory, sweet, used for wood smoking or instilled into digestive liqueurs, myrtle is a major part of the Sardinian palate.
Cheeses are especially important and the island’s most exported food product. Pecorino sardo, Fiore sardo, ricotta, caprino, pecorino romano and the famous casu marzu are all made within the region. Casu marzu is illegal now in Italy due to its bizarre culturing and aging process involving the introduction of live cheese fly larvae into the process to bring about a poisonous stage akin to decomposition. Though obviously a risky gastronomic health adventure and definitely not for the timid, casu marzu is nonetheless a very popular black market commodity and is considered a distinctive delicacy by many locals.
For more traditional tastes, you will find local rock lobsters topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and roasted in the oven and cassòla, a flavorful seafood soup, that can have as many as a dozen types of seafood cooked with spices and tomatoes.
Fava beans are cooked with cardoons, wild fennel, tomatoes, salt pork and sausage to create the thick stew known as favata. Farro, a locally grown grain, is simmered slowly in beef broth with cheese and mint to make su farro.
Chickens are marinated with myrtle leaves and berries, boiled and eaten chilled. Other Sardinian recipes for meat are agnello con finocchietti, a stew of lamb with wild fennel, tomatoes and onion. Not people to waste food, Sardinians stew lamb or kid intestines with peas, onions and tomatoes.
Sardinians love pasta in all forms and their cuisine features specialties found nowhere else. Plump culingiones are shaped like ravioli and stuffed with chard and pecorino cheese and served with tomato sauce. The regional dish, malloreddus, are tiny semolina gnocchi topped with a garlic, basil, pecorino and saffron flavored sausage and tomato sauce.
Every village has a unique shaped bread, either a round loaf, a long cylindrical loaf or a donut shaped loaf. Sardinian recipes also include a sweet focaccia flavored with pecorino cheese and a local bitter honey. The entire island loves flatbread and crisp carta de musica or “sheet of music”, a paper-thin crisp bread. One popular way to serve this cracker style bread is to soften it in warm water, then spread it with tomato sauce, grated cheese and poached eggs.
Sardinian cooking also offers a wide selection of cookies, pastries and cakes. These desserts are usually flavored with spices, almonds, raisins and ricotta cheese. Pabassinas are pastries filled with a raisin walnut paste.
Mirto is a liqueur unique to the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. It is made from the berries of the flowering Mirto (or Myrtle) plant, a distinctive plant that grows throughout the Mediterranean basin but is most prolific on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. The berries are dark blue in color and look somewhat like blueberries but bear no relationship to blueberries in taste or other properties.
Sardinia’s wines have little in common with those produced in the rest of Italy. The Island’s remote Mediterranean location, as well as the historic influence from other cultures, gives the wines a unique character that might be considered to have more in common with Spanish wines rather than Italian wines. Production is extensive around the port of Cagliari in the Campidano area, where the little known Girò, Monica, Nasco and Nuragus varietals grow alongside Malvasia and Moscato, all bearing town names: Girò di Cagliari, Monica di Cagliari, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Malvasia di Cagliari and Moscato di Cagliari DOCs.
Traditionally, it is made with whatever is growing in the garden, but it always includes beans and fregula (or fregola) a toasted pebble-size semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia.
- 1/2 cup dried peeled fava beans
- 1/2 cup dried cranberry beans or cannellini beans
- 1/3 cup dried chickpeas
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
- 2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (about 3½ cups)
- 3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1½ cups)
- 1½ cups chopped fennel bulb
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2⁄3 cup of Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous, or acini di pepe pasta
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano (about 2 ounces)
Soak the fava beans, cranberry beans and chickpeas in a large bowl of water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse well.
Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery; cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 20 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil, as well as the drained beans and chickpeas. Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything is submerged by 1 inch.
Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the beans are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets too thick, about 1½ hours.
Stir in the fregula, salt and pepper. Add up to 2 cups water if necessary. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into each of four serving bowls. Divide the soup among them and top each with 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese.
Notes: You can vary the beans in the minestrone: pinto beans make a good substitute for cranberry beans; great northern or cannellini beans, for the favas. Use the stalks and fronds that come off a fennel bulb for the most intense flavor. Add other fresh vegetables from the garden or market, such as zucchini, cabbage, green beans, and cauliflower or broccoli florets.
Cavatelli with Sardinian Sausage Sauce
Cavatelli pasta is shaped like a small hot dog bun with a long, rolled edge that is good for holding thick sauces.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 large pinches saffron
- 1 pound fresh or frozen cavatelli pasta
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving
In a large deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, water, salt and 1 pinch of the saffron. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli with the remaining pinch saffron until just done, 10 to 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the cavatelli and toss with the meat sauce, the basil, the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.
Sardinian Lamb Kabobs over Couscous
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into small florets
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
- 1 3/4 cups canned chicken broth or homemade stock
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 1/2 cups couscous
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Light an outdoor grill or heat the broiler.
In a glass dish or stainless steel pan, combine the lamb, 6 tablespoons of the oil, the thyme and 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice.
In a large frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the cauliflower, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the saffron, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, the tomatoes, broth and raisins.
Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous and parsley. Bring back to a simmer. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Put the lamb on skewers. Sprinkle the kabobs with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill or broil the kabobs, turning and basting with the marinade, until the lamb is cooked to your taste, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Serve the skewers on the couscous.
“Torta de arrosu” Saffron rice cake
- 200 gr / 7 oz rice
- 150 gr/ 5 oz sugar
- 750 ml / 1 ½ pints of milk
- 1/2 oz butter
- 5 eggs, lightly beaten
- 100 gr/ 3 1/2 oz skinned almonds
- Grated rind of a lemon
- A pinch of saffron
- A pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F (180 C). Grease a 9 inch (24 cm) cake pan.
Put the milk, butter, saffron, sugar, salt and lemon rind in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until all the milk has been absorbed. Let cool and then add the eggs and the almonds.
Spoon mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for one hour. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
Make some healthy, delicious spring desserts with in-season ingredients like lemon, berries, rhubarb, cherries and herbs. A great way to celebrate spring.
These desserts can fit any occasion, whether you are entertaining guests or as a delicious ending to a family dinner.
Olive Oil Cornmeal Cake with Strawberry Sauce
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon coarse sugar or sparkling sugar
- Strawberry Sauce, (recipe below)
- Fresh basil leaves and/or fresh strawberries
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pan; set aside.
In a medium bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, milk and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture and snipped basil until combined.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Remove cake from the pan. Turn cake, sugar side up. Cool completely on a wire rack.
To serve, cut cake into wedges. Serve with Strawberry Sauce and garnish with fresh basil leaves and/or fresh strawberries.
- 2 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
In a blender or food processor, combine strawberries, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the white balsamic vinegar. Cover and blend or process until smooth.
If desired, stir in additional white balsamic vinegar to taste. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Stir before serving.
Rosemary and Lemon Cupcakes
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 ¾ cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons lemon extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Lemon Glaze (recipe below)
Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Line fifteen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.
In a medium bowl combine cake flour, rosemary, baking powder and salt; set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, lemon extract and vanilla. Beat on medium-high for 2 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping bowl.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture; beat on low after each addition, just until combined. Stir in the lemon peel and lemon juice.
Spoon batter into prepared cups to three-fourths full.
Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean.
(Bake 36 mini cakes 15 to 18 minutes; 6 jumbo cakes 25 to 30 minutes.) Cool in the muffin pan on a rack 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan; cool completely.
Spoon Lemon Glaze on cupcakes. Let stand 10 minutes. Makes 15 (2-1/2-inch) cupcakes.
- 1 cup of powdered sugar
- 5 teaspoons of lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon of finely shredded lemon peel
In a small bowl combine powdered sugar and enough of the lemon juice to reach spreading consistency. Stir in lemon peel.
Cherries Poached in Red Wine with Mascarpone Cream
- 2 1/4 cups red wine
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1-by-3-inch strip orange zest
- 2 pounds sweet cherries, halved and pitted
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
In a medium stainless-steel saucepan, combine the wine, sugar and orange zest. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Add the cherries and bring back to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the cherries are just tender, about 5 minutes. Pour into a glass or stainless-steel serving bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone with the honey. Remove the strip of orange zest from the cherries. Serve the warm cherries and syrup in bowls or stemmed glasses, topped with a large dollop of the mascarpone cream.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut up
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons fat-free milk
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
- 1 recipe Honey-Yogurt Cream (below)
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl stir together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.
In a small bowl beat egg lightly with a fork. Stir in milk, 2 tablespoons of the honey, 2 tablespoons yogurt and the lemon peel. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.
Using a large spoon, drop dough into 8 mounds onto a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer shortcakes to a wire rack; let cool.
To serve, split the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place bottom halves on serving plates. Evenly top bottom halves with the Honey-Yogurt Cream and blueberries.
Top with shortcake tops and drizzle evenly with the remaining 1 tablespoon honey. Serve immediately.
- 1 ounce of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1/2 cup of whipped cream
In a medium bowl stir together yogurt and honey. Fold in whipped cream.
Buckle Is a type of cake made in a single layer with fresh fruit added to the batter. The topping is similar to a streusel, which gives it a buckled or crumpled appearance.
For the cake
- Vegetable-oil cooking spray, for cake pans
- 1 pound plus 10 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
- 2 cups sugar, divided
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream
For the crumb topping
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup light-brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the oven rack in the center position.
Coat two 9-inch square cake pans with cooking spray and line them with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides.
Stir together rhubarb and 1 cup sugar; set aside to macerate.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat together butter, remaining 1 cup of sugar and the lemon zest until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Make the crumb topping:
Stir together flour, brown sugar and salt. Add melted butter; stir to combine.
Divide batter between the pans. Top with rhubarb mixture and sprinkle with crumb topping.
Bake until golden on top and cooked through, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks, then lift cakes from the pans using the parchment overhangs.
Remove parchment. Before serving, cut buckle into 2-inch squares.
The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago from slavery in ancient Egypt. When the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise. For the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten and that is why Passover is also called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is a symbol of the holiday. Other scholars teach that in the time of the Exodus, matzo was commonly baked for the purpose of traveling because it did not spoil and was light to carry, suggesting that matzo was baked intentionally for the long journey ahead.
It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a seder. The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. The Passover seder is one of the great traditions of the Jewish faith. Following the pre-meal chants, the charoset is passed around. “With unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it,” is recited while biting into the Passover matzo, horseradish and charoset. One of the most revered of Jewish dishes, it closes the ceremony and begins the feast. Charoset is a dense fruit paste that represents the mortar used by the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt to make bricks.
People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, probably because Rome has hosted the seat of the Catholic Church for close to 2000 years. Jews arrived long before the Christians, however. Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues in Ostia Antica (an area just outside of present day Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and swelled and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD), there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout the Roman territory.
Like their fellow countrymen, Italian Jews suffered through thousands of years of invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, but they managed to live fairly peacefully in Italy almost everywhere — from Venice, where the Isola della Giudecca (across the canal from Piazza San Marco) is so named because it was the home of many Jews, to the Arab lands of southern Italy. At least until 1492, when the Spaniards drove the Arabs back across the Mediterranean Sea into Africa and turned the liberated territories of Sicily and Southern Italy over to the Inquisition. Southern Italian Jews fled north to more tolerant regions, where they were joined by Jews from other parts of Europe as well. Florence, Torino, Mantova and Bologna all had strong Jewish communities during the renaissance.
Because Passover celebrates freedom, a small amount of charoset is placed on the seder plate as a reminder to Jews that they were once slaves and they should not take their freedom for granted.
(adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden)
In Italy there are various regional versions of haroset. The haroset of Padua has prunes, raisins, dates, walnuts, apples and chestnuts. In Milan they make it with apples, pears, dates, almonds, bananas and orange juice. Other possible additions include: chopped lemon or candied orange peel, walnuts, pistachios, dried figs, orange or lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
- 3 apples, sweet or tart
- 2 pears
- 2 cups sweet wine
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2/3 cups ground almonds
- 1/2 lb. dates, pitted and chopped
- 3/4 cup yellow raisins or sultanas
- 4 oz. prunes, pitted and chopped
- 1/2 cup honey or to taste
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Peel and core the apple and pears and cut them in small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pan together and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until the fruits are very soft, adding a little water, if it becomes too thick.
Sweet-And-Sour Celery (Sephardic Passover Apio)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons mild honey
- 4 lbs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces, reserving about 1 cup of celery leaves (2 to 3 bunches)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Cut a round of parchment paper to fit just inside a wide heavy 6-to 8-quart pan, then set the paper round aside.
Simmer water, lemon juice, oil, honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the pan, stirring, until the honey has dissolved.
Stir in celery (but not leaves) and cover with the parchment round. Simmer until tender and liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 35 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop reserved leaves. Serve celery sprinkled with celery leaves and parsley.
Chicken with Lemon and Olives
- 2 chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin removed
- 4 thighs (about 1 pound), skin removed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 3/4 cup pitted whole green olives
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Add onion and garlic to the pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add browned chicken, broth, olives, cinnamon, ginger and coriander; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
Turn chicken over; cook, uncovered for 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon; place 1 chicken piece on each of 4 plates. Add lemon zest, juice, and parsley to the pan; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Spoon sauce over chicken.
Vegetable Farfel Kugel
Farfel is small pellet or flake shaped pasta used in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It is made from an egg noodle dough and is frequently toasted before being cooked. It can be served in soups or as a side dish. In the United States, it can also be found pre-packaged as egg barley. During the Jewish holiday of Passover, when dietary laws pertaining to grains are observed, “matzah farfel” takes the place of the egg noodle version. Matzah farfel is simply matzah broken into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
- 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
- 10 ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 4 cups boiling water
- 6 ounces matzah farfel
- 7 large eggs, whites only
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- Dash pepper
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- Dash paprika
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9 x 13 inch oven proof dish.
In a large, nonstick skillet, sauté the fresh vegetables in oil 3-5 minutes. Add drained spinach. Pour boiling water over farfel (in a strainer) to moisten. Add farfel, vegetables, salt, pepper and nuts. Cool.
Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the farfel mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake 45 minutes or longer until browned.
Passover Honey Nut Cake
(adapted from A TREASURY OF JEWISH HOLIDAY BAKING By Marcy Goldman)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup matzoh cake meal
- 1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 7-inch round layer cake pan. (If you do not have one that size, you can use a round foil pan of the same or similar size available in the supermarket baking aisle).
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, beat the granulated and brown sugars with the oil and eggs until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in the remaining batter ingredients. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is light brown and set. Cool for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the Soaking Syrup.
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool well.
Pour the cooled syrup over the cooled cake, poking holes in the cake with a fork, to permit the syrup to penetrate. Allow it to stand for 2 to 4 hours to absorb the syrup.
Refrigerating this cake while it is absorbing the liquid helps the cake to firm up, which makes it easier to cut.
The region of Abruzzo is hilly and mountainous and stretches from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. In this part of the Adriatic, the long sandy beaches are replaced by steep and rocky coasts. L’Aquila is the regional capital. Pescara, Chieti and Teramo are other important cities.
Abruzzo boasts the title of “Greenest Region in Europe” thanks to one third of its territory, the largest in Europe, being set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves. In the region there are three national parks, one regional park and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of all of Europe’s living species and are also home to some rare species, such as the small wading dotterel, golden eagle, Abruzzo chamois, Apennine wolf and Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe’s southernmost glacier.
The Abruzzo region has two types of climate: the first is strongly influenced by the presence of Abruzzo’s Apennines range. Coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters, rainy hills and a climate where temperatures progressively decrease with increasing altitude. Precipitation is also strongly affected by the presence of the Apennines mountain ridges with increased rain on the slopes of the mountains in the region.
Until a few decades ago, Abruzzo was a region of poverty in Southern Italy. Since the 1950s, Abruzzo has had steady economic growth. In 1951, the Abruzzo per capita income or GDP was 53% of that of Northern Italy, the nation’s richest region. By 1971, Abruzzo was at 65% and, by 1994, the per capita income was at 76% of Northern Italy’s per capita income, giving Abruzzo the highest per capita GDP of Southern Italy and surpassing the growth of every other region in Italy. The construction of superhighways from Rome to Teramo (A24) and Rome to Pescara (A25) opened Abruzzo to easy access. Abruzzo also attained higher per capita education levels and greater productivity growth than the rest of the South.
The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake led to a sharp economic slowdown. However, according to statistics at the end of 2010, it seems that the economy of Abruzzo is recovering, despite the negative data regarding employment. At the end of 2010, Abruzzo’s growth was placed fourth among the Italian regions with the highest annual growth rates after Lazio, Lombardy and Calabria.
Abruzzo’s industrial sector expanded rapidly, especially in mechanical engineering, transportation equipment and telecommunications. Both pure and applied research are carried out in the region where there are major institutes and factories involved in research, especially, in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, electronics, aerospace and nuclear physics. The industrial infrastructure is spread throughout the region in industrial zones, the most important of which are Val Pescara, Val Sangro, Val Trigno, Val Vibrata and Conca del Fucino.
A further activity worthy of note is seaside and mountain tourism, which is of considerable importance to the economy of the region. In the past decade, tourism has increased due to Abruzzo’s wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially around L’Aquila. Beach-goers also flock to places like Tortoreto, Giulianova, Silvi Marina, Roseto and, further south, Ortona, Vasto and San Salvo. Ski resorts are equally popular.
Agriculture has succeeded in modernizing and offering higher-quality products. The mostly small, agricultural properties produce wine, cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, olives, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Traditional products are saffron and liquorice. Most famous in the wine world is Abruzzo’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has earned a reputation as being one of the most widely exported DOC classed wine in Italy.
Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with various traditions attached to each province.
Battered and fried zucchini blooms, spit-roasted scamorza cheese, vinegar-poached lobster, salame di pecora (a rare sheep’s meat salami), crepes loaded with cheese and vegetables in a rich mutton broth, hearty ragus, ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and dusted with saffron powder .… are just a few of the complex and elegant flavors to be found on Abruzzi tables.
Ragus are a generalized term for any type of meat-based sauce. Ragus are heavily associated with the cooking of Southern Italy, as well, and seem to have begun their migration southward from the Abruzzi region.
This is a cheese-loving region and mozzarella and scamorza take center stage on the dairy scene. Both cow’s milk cheeses are young, mild, creamy and sweet with smooth textures and a stringiness that allows them to hold up equally well in baked dishes or on their own as table cheeses.
The maccheroni alla chitarra are highly renowned (homemade pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades) and scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup. On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of “poor man’s fish,” that are caught off the shores of ancient fishing villages.
As for second courses, a typical recipe is scapece, which is pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also popular in coastal towns. Other than sea fare, one will find plenty of lamb, kid and mutton on the dinner table, while pork is used for prosciutto, lonza, ventricina and other typical salamis that are produced locally. Abruzzi lamb, in general, is considered superior in flavor to other lamb found elsewhere because of the animals’ mountain-grazed diets rich in herbs.
Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, you will find nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds) and cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey.
Traditional Recipes from Abuzzo
Potato Soup with Saffron
- 1 ¼ lb potatoes
- 10 oz cannarozzi – spaghetti cut into small pieces
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 teaspoon Saffron threads
- 2 ½ oz extra virgin olive oil
- Celery leaves for garnish
Lightly sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil. As soon as the mixture has cooled, add the saffron, mix well and then let rest to dissolve the saffron.
Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.
Add 8 ¼ cups of water to the pot containing the saffron mixture and then salt to taste. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, add the potatoes. Heat and serve garnished with celery leaves.
Timballo di Crespelle
This recipe is often served at wedding lunches, where it generally follows the soup course.
For the crespelle (crepes):
- 50g [2 oz] all-purpose flour
- Olive oil, for the pan
- 3 eggs
- 6 tablespoons water
For the filling:
- 125g [4 oz] ground meat
- 100g [3 1/2 oz] spinach
- 75g [2 1/2 oz] mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 20g [1 scant oz] butter
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 artichokes
- 2 tablespoons grated Grana or Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 chicken liver
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
To make the filling.
Mince the chicken liver and combine it with the ground meat.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and gently brown the ingredients over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Set aside.
Clean the spinach, blanch in a little salted water for 5 minutes; drain, squeeze out any excess water and lightly cook it with the butter for 4 minutes. Set aside.
Clean and trim the artichokes, discard the tough outer leaves and trim off the tips; cut in half, discard the inner fuzz and slice them. Sprinkle with the parsley and a dash of salt and cook in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons olive oil for 20 minutes, moistening with a little water, if need be. Set aside.
Break the egg into a mixing bowl, add the milk and egg yolk and whisk with a fork. Set aside
To make the crespelle.
Put the flour, eggs and 6 tablespoons water into a mixing bowl and beat with a fork. Take a small frying pan, the bottom should be as wide as the ovenproof dish to be used for the timballo, and heat a little olive oil in it over a moderate to low heat.
Place 2 tablespoons batter into the pan, tilting to make sure it spreads out to cover the bottom; let it set and then flip. When the crespelle is ready, remove it from the pan and continue until all the batter has been used, greasing the pan each time with a little oil.
To assemble the timballo.
Butter an ovenproof dish and lay a crespelle on the bottom.
Make separate layers of sliced mozzarella, meat, spinach and artichokes, separating each with a crepe, adding a sprinkling of Grana cheese each time and a couple of tablespoons of the egg and milk mixture.
Make sure there are at least 2 layers of each ingredient, cover with another crespelle and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and egg-milk mixture.
Place the dish in the oven and bake at 220°C/425°F for 30 minutes.
Penne with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Ragu
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juices
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.
Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.
Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.
Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.
But among Abruzzo’s desserts, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread eaten at the time only by higher classes. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented that recipe by using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the bread’s golden hue. He kept the dome shape and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.
- 2 cups 70% dark chocolate
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sweet almonds
- 10 bitter almonds
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 eggs, separated
Blanch almonds in boiling water and peel off the husk, and grind them with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a processor. Work butter with a fork, add the remaining sugar and the egg yolks and whisk well. Fold in the ground almonds and then the flour and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites in a mixer until soft peaks form and then and fold into the almond mixture.
Pour mixture in a buttered Bundt pan or dome-shaped cake mold and bake at 450° F for 45 minutes.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and once the parrozzo has cooled, spread the chocolate sauce over the entire surface. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting.
Lazio located in central Italy, stretches from the western edges of the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is mainly flat with small mountainous areas in the most eastern and southern districts. Lazio has four very ancient volcanic districts, where the craters of extinct volcanoes form the lakes of Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Albano and Nemi. Lazio is the third most populated region of Italy and has the second largest economy of the nation. Rome is the capital of Italy, as well as the region. Other important cities are Frosinone, Latina, Viterbo and Rieti.
Until the late 19th century, much of the lowland area of Lazio was marshy and malarial. Major reclamation work in the early 20th century resulted in drainage and repopulation of the plain that transformed the region. Migratory grazing was greatly reduced and wheat, maize, vegetables, fruit and meat and dairy products were able to flourish in the lowlands, while olive groves and vineyards gradually began to cover the slopes.
Light industry developed with the help of regional development programs, particularly in and around the new satellite towns of Aprilia, Pomezia and Latina, south of Rome. Rome is the region’s commercial and banking center, but it has little industry apart from artisan and specialized industries, such as fashions. Large numbers of persons are employed by the government. In the rest of the region only chemical and pharmaceutical plants, food industries, papermaking and a few small machine industries are of significance.
Rome, including the Vatican, is Italy’s largest tourist center and tourism is also important at resorts in the Alban Hills, the Apennines and along the coast.
Lazio’s transportation is also dominated by Rome’s railways and roads and the city has one of Europe’s busiest international airports. Civitavecchia, the only port of importance, is noted chiefly for its trade with Sardinia.
Take a tour of the Lazio region with the video below.
Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed the cuisine for all. Add to this a heavy influence of Jewish cooking and a variety of flavor combinations emerge.
Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (artichokes, deep-fried or simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint) and inexpensive cuts of meat (called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chili pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and zucchini blossoms) and sharp Pecorino cheese (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside).
The hills in Lazio are rich and fertile making it easy to grow vegetables of all types which in turn makes them an important part of the cuisine. They are cooked with liberal amounts of oil, herbs and garlic and, more often than not, a good portion of anchovies.
Lazio appetizers feature fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, artisanal breads, olives and olive oils produced within the region. Lazio cuisine may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is usually found in lasagne or fettuccine. Lazio recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Potato, rice or semolina gnocchi dumplings are also commonly prepared. Suppli al telefono are hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver or anchovies.
Chicken is used more here than in other regions and they also eat a fair amount of rabbit. Pork is used to make Guanciale or cured pork cheek, Ventresca or cured belly meat, Mortadella di Amatrice, sausages or salsicce, lard and prosciutto. Often the salumi are spicy and flavorful.
Much of the fish consumed in Lazio comes from the Tiber River and Bolsena Lake, including ciriole, caption and freshwater eels.
Even when it comes to desserts, they keep it simple. Maritozzi, a type of cream-filled pastry, doughnuts, fried rice treats and ricotta tarts are all popular.
Lazio is known for Est Est Est a wine that is produced in the area near Lake Bolsena and Falerno.
This deep dish pie is probably named for the town of Gaeta and the pan they used to prepare the pie. It was popular for the farmers and fishermen, so that they had a meal that could keep for a few days. It consists of a rustic pizza round that usually contains olives, fish (such as anchovies and / or sardines, octopus and squid), ricotta cheese or other cheeses and vegetables, such as tomatoes or onion.
- 10 ½ oz (300 gr) Italian flour (00 flour)
- 7 oz (200 gr) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
Ingredients for the filling
- 1 1/4 lbs (500 gr) octopus
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup (60 gr) black olives
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup (200 gr) tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons (20 gr) parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons (3 gr) crushed red chilli pepper
- Salt to taste
Combine the dough ingredients and let it rise, push the dough down and let it rise again.
Roll out half the dough to fit a 10 inch baking pan.
Put the octopus in a large pot of boiling salted water with the vinegar and boil until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel as much of the skin off the octopus as you can while it is still hot. Chop the octopus into bite-size pieces.
Combine the filling ingredients.
Place the filling in the dough covered pan.
Roll out the remaining dough and cover the filling. Seal and brush the dough with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake at 350 degrees F (180-200) for about 25-30 minutes.
Spaghetti and Roman Broccoli
- 1 head Romanesco broccoli or regular broccoli
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 ¼ cups (500 ml) of vegetable broth
- 8 oz (220 gr) of spaghetti, broken into pieces
- Salt and Pepper
- 5 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For Romanesco broccoli:
Clean and dice in small pieces. Set aside in a bowl.
If using regular broccoli:
Wash the broccoli, clean the tops and cut off the florets. Dice the stalks. Set aside in a bowl.
Fry the garlic in the oil until golden in a large saucepan. Add the broccoli to the pan and stir well.
Add the vegetable broth and the tomato paste, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until the broccoli is tender.
Add salt and pepper according to taste.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water. Drain and add to the broccoli in the saucepan and heat. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese.
Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana and Gricia are the four most popular pasta dishes in Rome. Together they form the backbone of Primi courses at every trattoria in the Eternal City, where the locals have strong, vocal opinions on where to find the best execution of each, never all at one place.
- 12 oz (320 gr) bucatini pasta
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) Pecorino romano cheese, grated
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) guanciale or pancetta or bacon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Dice the bacon and brown over low heat in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil.
Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water, al dente. Drain well. Add to the skillet with the bacon and sauté for 1 minute.
Sprinkle with the cheese and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.
Salt Cod Fillets Roman Style
- 1 1/3 lbs (600 gr) salted codfish (baccalà), soaked
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 (1/4-ounce) packet dry active yeast
- 2 tablespoon butter, melted
- Olive oil
Soak the baccalà in cold water for at least 3 days prior to preparing this dish. Change the water each day.
Combine butter, flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
Dry and cut the cod into serving pieces.
Coat each fillet in batter, then fry in a large pan with very hot oil.
Place fillets on paper towels to drain before serving.
Hazelnut Cake Viterbo
- Cake pan – 10 inches or 26 cm diameter
- 1/2 cup (50 g) potato starch
- 7 1/8 oz (200 gr) 00 Italian flour
- 1 2/3 cups (350 gr) sugar
- 1/3 cup (60 gr) milk chocolate, chopped
- 1 ¼ cups (200 gr) chopped toasted hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup 50 gr raisins softened in a little milk
- 6 oz (170 gr) milk
- 3 eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 5 ¼ oz (150 g) butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Powdered sugar for garnish
In a large bowl mix the potato starch, flour, baking powder, sugar, chocolate, chopped hazelnuts and softened butter.
Add one egg at a time and mix it into the mixture before adding the next. Add the drained raisins, lemon zest and milk.
Butter the pan and sprinkle with flour mixed with a little sugar.
Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake in the oven at 325 degrees F (160-170) for 45-50 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.