Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.
On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.
Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.
Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.
Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.
Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.
Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).
La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese
The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.
Dough (will make two “14″ pans)
- 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature
- Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
- Sea salt, to taste
In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.
Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.
Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.
Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).
When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.
Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.
Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.
Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto
- 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
- 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
- 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
- 2 potatoes
- 1 leek
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 rib celery
- 1/2 medium onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
- 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.
After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.
Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure
- 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
- 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
- 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).
Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.
Ligurian Olive Oil Cake
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.
Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.
MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- A Sicilian Style Christmas Eve Dinner (jovinacooksitalian.com)
La Lingua Della Cucina
The passion that Italians bring to the kitchen is reflected in the language that they use to describe techniques and individual ingredients or recipes. Since Americans first started cooking spaghetti and tomato sauce in their homes in the early part of the twentieth century, they have expanded their preparation of Italian foods within the home. Lasagna, risotto, chicken cacciatore, minestrone, tiramisu – just to name a few; all came to be commonly prepared in the homes of Americans over the last century.
At the time when Julia Child caused a sensation by convincing American cooks that they could create the wonders of classic French cuisine in their own kitchens, Italian food was already a loved and accepted mainstay of the American diet. Today, it seems more popular than ever. America’s steady love of Italian food, in recent years fueled by a host of cookbooks and television shows, has thrust Italian home cooking once again into the spotlight. Attracted to “authentic” Italian food’s simplicity and affordability, Americans have taken to cooking Italian food at home.
Here are some of the culinary terms, you will most often come in contact with in your Italian cooking.
Aioli – A garlic mayonnaise is a delicious accompaniment to cold or hot grilled vegetables, steamed or boiled artichokes, boiled potatoes and grilled or baked fish and shellfish.
Al dente – “To the teeth.” The expression is used to describe pasta that is still firm and chewy when bitten into. When pasta is al dente, it is considered fully cooked and ready to eat.
Al forno - an expression used for baked or roasted in the forno (oven). Pasta al forno is a layered pasta, much like lasagna, but made with a shorter shaped pasta, such as penne or ziti.
Antipasto – Translates as before the meal, i.e. pasto, and not before the pasta, as some mistakenly believe. A selection of antipasti can be modest or extravagant, but in all aspects of Italian food, quality is always more important than quantity.
Arancine – ‘little oranges” are rice croquettes, perhaps stuffed with veal or a soft cheese such as caciocavallo or a cow’s milk mozzarella. Their orange hue originates from the addition of saffron to the rice and the subsequent frying in vegetable oil.
Arrabbiata – “Angry.” A tomato-based pasta sauce spiced with chilis and Amatriciano is a similar spicy sauce with the addition of pancetta.
Bagna Cauda - a warm anchovy–olive oil sauce served as a dip for vegetables.
Battuto – The action of the knife striking ingredients against the cutting board, in short, the first stage of the preparation of any dish, which requires basic and efficient skills with a sharp blade.
Besciamella - More commonly referred to in the French form, béchamel, this cooked sauce of butter, flour, milk and some nutmeg is often used in baked pasta dishes and as a sauce for vegetable side dishes, such as cauliflower.
Bolognese – A pasta sauce native to the Bologna area of Italy. It traditionally features finely chopped meats and a soffrito of onions, celery and carrots with a small amount of tomato paste.
Bufala – The water buffalo of the southern region of Campania produce the milk for the softest, creamiest form of mozzarella cheese. So very delicate in flavor that it is better used in a salad (Caprese Salad) instead of on a cooked dish, such as pizza.
Burro – Butter is traditionally viewed as the favored fat in northern italy where it is used for sautéing.
Capelli d’agelo – “Angel hair.” Long, thin strands of pasta that are thinner than capellini.
Carbonara – a spaghetti sauce based on eggs, cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon (guanciale or pancetta) and black pepper.
Contorni - Accompaniment to the meat or fish course of the meal, usually consisting of prepared vegetables such, as green beans, spinach or braised fennel.
Crostini – toasted bread, but usually topped with chopped tomatoes or porcini mushrooms or roasted peppers or chicken livers – called crostini in Tuscany and bruschetta in Rome.
Dolce -or the plural form, i dolci, on restaurant menus, refers to the sweet or dessert course of the meal, such as zabaglione, tiramisu and gelato (ice cream).
Fiorentina -a substantial slab of meat roughly equating to an American T bone steak. Not to be tackled without a hearty appetite.
Formaggio - cheese.
Insalata – The salad course, usually positioned between the main (meat or fish) course and the dessert, can consist of a simple bowl of greens or something more elaborate. Olive oil combined with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little seasoning, or perhaps balsamic vinegar used sparingly, is all that is required to make the perfect dressing.
Polpette – meatballs.
Pomodoro – a meatless tomato sauce. The name means “golden apple” and refers to tomatoes that are yellow in color. Yes, I know – tomatoes are red. Here is the story:
David Gentilcore, professor of early modern history at the University of Leicester, writes, “ When explorers first brought tomatoes to Europe from the New World, they also brought over tomatillos. Tomatoes and tomatillos were considered interchangeable (they are botanical and culinary cousins) and many tomatillos are yellow. Italy and most of the rest of Europe soon took a pass on the tomatillo, but the name stuck. “Pomodoro” it was.”
Primavera – “Spring.” A pasta sauce traditionally made in the spring that features fresh vegetables as the main ingredient.
Primo - The first course (after the antipasto), hence the name, it usually involves a risotto or pasta dish.
Puttanesca - (literally “a la whore” in Italian) is a tangy, somewhat salty pasta sauce containing tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers and garlic.
Saltimbocca -( literally “jump into the mouth”). In Rome this dish is prepared with veal and prosciutto crudo, or cured meat, and sage, all held together by a skewer in a sauce of white wine or marsala. Chicken and pork cutlets work just as well.
Secondo – the main dish of the menu that usually consists of meat or fish.
Semolina – A coarse flour made from durum wheat: a hard wheat with a high protein/low moisture content and a long shelf life.
Soffritto – the foundation of many Italian recipes, especially a pasta sauce or a braise of beef or lamb. It consists of finely diced carrots, onion, garlic and celery, or any combination of them depending on the recipe.
Below are a few sample courses to get you started.
Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Favas Beans
- 2 cups canned fava beans (Progresso is a good brand), rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 16 grilled baguette slices
- 1/4 pound buffalo mozzarella, torn into thin strips
- Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
Transfer the favas to a food processor and add the oil, lemon juice and zest and pulse to a coarse puree. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the fava-bean puree on the toasts and top with the mozzarella strips. Drizzle the toasts with the balsamic vinegar and scatter the basil on top.
- 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 red or orange bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 1 pound thin spaghetti or linguine
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Shaved Parmesan
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and green beans; cook 4 minutes. Add peppers and cook 1 more minute. Scoop out vegetables with a large slotted spoon and place in a colander.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook to the al dente stage, about 7-8 minutes. Drain; return to the pot.
In a mixing bowl, combine half-and-half, chicken broth, cornstarch, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the half-and-half mixture and simmer for a few minutes, stirring until slightly thickened.
Add cooked vegetables and tomatoes. Cook, stirring a few times, for about 2 minutes.
Pour into the pot with the pasta and stir gently. Add grated Parmesan and parsley. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve in pasta bowls with shaved Parmesan on top.
- 8 small skinless, boneless chicken thighs (2 pounds)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly smashed
- 4 large rosemary sprigs, broken into 2-inch pieces
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup spicy Italian pickled peppers, sliced
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned and crusty on both sides, about 8-10 minutes.
Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Transfer the chicken to a platter, leaving the rosemary and garlic in the skillet.
Add the stock to the skillet and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and butter and swirl until emulsified.
Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Add the peppers and cook, turning the chicken until coated in the sauce, about 3 minutes.
Transfer the chicken and sauce to a platter and serve.
Spinach Salad with Bagna Cauda Dressing
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 anchovies, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
- 3 thyme sprigs
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup coarse dry bread crumbs (see tip below)
- 10 ounces baby spinach
- Freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat until foaming. Add the anchovies and cook until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Add the thyme sprigs and let steep for 20 minutes. Discard the thyme and season the dressing with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a small dry skillet, toast the bread crumbs over moderate heat, tossing, until golden, about 4 minutes. Let the bread crumbs cool.
In a large bowl, toss the spinach with half of the dressing and half of the bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the salad to plates or a platter and top with the remaining bread crumbs and the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Pass the remaining dressing at the table and serve with lemon wedges.
The bagna cauda dressing can be refrigerated overnight. Warm gently before using.
To make bread crumbs, tear 2 slices of day-old white bread into pieces, spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 300°F oven until dried but not browned, about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a food processor and pulse a few times until coarse crumbs form.
Almond Crusted Limoncello Pound Cake
- 3/4 cups sliced almonds
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- Grated zest & juice of 2 large lemons, divided
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons Limoncello
- Oil for coating the pan
- 1/4 cup Limoncello
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Use a pastry brush to thoroughly oil a 12 cup bundt pan, then sprinkle almonds evenly in the pan and set aside.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest, reserving the lemon juice for later use, with the mixer on low speed until creamy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 cup of cake flour, blending well, then add the salt and remaining eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add the remaining flour with 3 tablespoons Limoncello, beating just until mixture is well blended.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, gently tapping the filled pan on the counter a few times.
Bake in the preheated oven until a wooden skewer inserted near the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.
Just before the cake is done, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, blend Limoncello, reserved lemon juice, sugar and butter. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 2 minutes.
Remove cake from oven after it tests done, then pour the glaze mixture over the top of the hot cake while still in the pan.
Let cake cool in the pan, placed on a wire rack. The glaze will be absorbed into the cake as it cools.
When the cake is cooled, invert it onto a serving plate and serve.
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A good director makes sure that all parts of a film are creatively produced and brought together in a single totality. A director interprets the script, coaches the performers, works together with the montagist, etc., interrelating them all to create a work of art. The director begins with a vague idea of the entire film and uses this to help him determine what is to be done. The position of the director in the traditional filmmaking process varies greatly and is extremely complex. The film director is seen as a leader of others, as providing a kind of guiding force.
Judging from the comments of most professional directors, there is very little agreement as to what exactly their function is. There are some directors who say that they must concentrate primarily on the structures of the script. If their films are to be works of art, it will be because of the inherent beauty in the narrative and dialogue patterns in the script. Other directors are occupied primarily with the performance of actors. To them, the beauty of the film will be correlative with the quality of acting. These directors attend not only to the performance as a whole, but to endless minor nuances and gestures throughout.
Some directors attend primarily to the camerawork, their chief concern being for a pictorial beauty and smoothness of execution. There are still other directors who say that the art of film resides in the editing process. For them, all steps prior to editing yield crude material, which will be finally shaped and lent an artistic worth through their imaginative juxtaposition. The point is that there have evolved nearly as many theories of film directing as there are directors.
Since the development of the Italian film industry in the early 1900s, Italian filmmakers and performers have, at times, experienced both domestic and international success and have influenced film movements throughout the world. As of 2013, Italian films have won 13 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the most of any country, as well as 12 Palmes d’Or, the second-most of any country.
Fellini is well known for his distinct style and is considered to be one of the most influential and widely revered film-makers of the 20th century. Fellini’s works garnered numerous awards, including four Oscars, two Silver Lions, a Palme d’Or and a grand prize at the Moscow International Film Festival. 8 1/2 is frequently cited as one of the finest films ever made.
Federico had fairly humble beginnings. He was born in the small town of Rimini on January 20th, 1920 to Urbano, a travelling salesman and vendor, and Ida, whose family were merchants. He had two siblings, a brother Riccardo, and a sister, Maria Maddalena, both younger than him. He was a creative child and spent time drawing, creating puppet shows and reading the comic “Il corriere dei piccoli,” whose characters may have influenced his films later. The friends he made along the way often became the subjects upon which his movie characters were based, such as Luigi “Titta” Benzi, whose character he used as the model for young Titta in Amarcord (1973).
La Strada (The Road, 1954) with Anthony Quinn won an Academy Award for best foreign film. The films depicts the painful emotions endured by Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) when sold to a circus strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) who shows no compassion and treats her cruelly. The harsh environment of the landscape adds to the emptiness and distance experienced as a result of Zampano’s indifference. In the end there is remorse, but too late. Il Bidone (The Swindlers, 1955) reflects on the pious and the poor and how advantage is taken when morality is sidelined. Next was Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria, 1957) again starring Masina.
Fellini considered himself to be an artist as opposed to a “normal” person, as he said in his interview with the BBC in 1965. He felt that as an artist he was entitled “to explore the dreams and visions, the surreal and the spiritual and to dance with his imagination wherever it took him”. He certainly had a curiosity and sense of humor when it came to exploring human emotions and observing the human behavior, directing the camera to enlarge and exaggerate the quirkiness of human actions so that they became incredibly funny or indeed profoundly sad. La Dolce Vita was released in 1960 and it starred the handsome, Marcello Mastroianni, who continued to feature in Fellini’s films for the next twenty years. The film was judged immoral by some critics and was subsequently banned, yet it went on to break box office records. The film took the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Fellini is admired by many contemporary filmmakers, directors and actors and his audience. He has left a legacy of fascinating films to remind us to think and feel and above all imagine and dream.
Rossellini was one of the most important directors of Italian neorealist cinema, a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class and filmed on location with nonprofessional actors.
Rossellini was born in Rome. His mother, Elettra (née Bellan), was a housewife and his father, Angiolo Giuseppe “Beppino” Rossellini, owned a construction firm. Rossellini’s father built the first cinema in Rome (Barberini’s). Granting his son an unlimited free pass, the young Rossellini started frequenting the cinema at an early age. When his father died, he worked as a sound maker for films and for a certain time he experienced all the accessory jobs related to the creation of a film, gaining competence in each field. Rossellini had a brother, Renzo, who later scored many of his films.
Some authors describe the first part of his career as a sequence of trilogies. His first feature film, La nave bianca (1942) was sponsored by the Navy Department and is the first work in Rossellini’s “Fascist Trilogy”, together with Un pilota ritorna (1942) and Uomo dalla Croce (1943). Just two months after the liberation of Rome (June 4, 1944), Rossellini was preparing the anti-fascist film, Roma città aperta (Rome, Open City 1945). This dramatic film was an immediate success and Rossellini started work on his, so-called, Neo-realistic Trilogy, the second title was Paisà (1946) and the third, Germany, Year Zero (1948), was filmed in Berlin. One of the reasons for his success is credited to Rossellini’s ability to rewrite scripts that would utilize regional accents, dialects, costumes in real life situations.
After his Neorealist Trilogy, Rossellini produced two films now classified as his transitional films: L’Amore (1948) (with Anna Magnani) and La macchina ammazzacattivi (1952). In 1948, Rossellini received a letter from a famous foreign actress proposing a collaboration:
Dear Mr. Rossellini,
I saw your films, Open City and Paisan, and enjoyed them very much. If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian knows only “ti amo”, I am ready to come and make a film with you.
With this letter began one of the best known love stories in film history, with Bergman and Rossellini both at the peak of their careers. Their first collaboration was Stromboli terra di Dio (1950) (filmed on the Island of Stromboli, whose volcano quite conveniently erupted during filming). This affair caused a great scandal in some countries (Bergman and Rossellini were both married to other people); the scandal intensified when Bergman became pregnant. Rossellini and Bergman later married and had two more children. Europa ’51 (1952), Siamo Donne (1953), Journey to Italy (1953), La paura (1954) and Giovanna d’Arco al rogo (1954) were the other films on which they worked together until they divorced in 1957.
Wertmuller was born Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller von Elgg Español von Braueich in Rome to a devoutly Roman Catholic family of aristocratic descent. She was a rebellious child and was expelled from more than a dozen Catholic schools. Though her father wanted her to become a lawyer, she enrolled in theatre school.,After graduating, her first job was touring Europe in a puppet show. For the next ten years she worked as an actress, director and playwright in legitimate theater.
Through her acquaintance with Marcello Mastroianni, she met Federico Fellini and in 1962 Fellini offered her the assistant director position on the film 8½. The following year, Wertmüller made her directorial debut with The Lizards (I Basilischi). The film’s subject matter—the lives of impoverished people in southern Italy—became a recurring theme in her later work. Several moderately successful films followed, but not until 1972 did Wertmüller achieve lasting international acclaim with a series of four movies starring Giancarlo Giannini. The last and best-received of these, Seven Beauties (Pasqualino Sette Bellezze) in 1975, earned 4 Academy Award nominations and was an international hit. Wertmüller was the first woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow are the only other female directors nominated (with Bigelow the first to win for The Hurt Locker).
Her 1978 film, A Night Full of Rain, was entered into the 28th Berlin International Film Festival. Eight years later, her film, Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) was entered into the 36th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1985, she received the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.
She is known for her whimsically movie titles. For instance, the full title of Swept Away is Swept away by an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August. These titles were invariably shortened for international release. She is entered in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest film title: Un fatto di sangue nel comune di Siculiana fra due uomini per causa di una vedova. Si sospettano moventi politici with 179 characters is better known under the international titles, Blood Feud or Revenge. Her 1983 film, A Joke of Destiny, was entered into the 14th Moscow International Film Festival.
Although Wertmüller has had a prolific career and still actively directs, none of her later films have had the same impact as her mid-1970s collaborations with Giannini. Wertmüller was married to Enrico Job (who died 4 March 2008), an art and set designer.
Bertolucci is an Italian film director and screenwriter, whose films include The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, 1900, The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky and The Dreamers. In recognition of his work, he was presented with the inaugural Honorary Palme d’Or Award at the opening ceremony of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Bertolucci was born in the Italian city of Parma, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. He is the elder son of Ninetta, a teacher, and Attilio Bertolucci, who was a poet, an art historian, anthologist and film critic. Having been raised in such an environment, Bertolucci began writing at the age of fifteen, and soon after received several prestigious literary prizes including the Premio Viareggio for his first book. Bertolucci initially wished to become a poet like his father and, with this goal in mind, he attended the Faculty of Modern Literature of the University of Rome from 1958 to 1961. However, Bertolucci left the University without graduating to work as an assistant director. In 1962, at the age of 22, he directed his first feature film, La commare secca (1962). The film is a murder mystery and Bertolucci uses flashbacks to piece together the crime and the person who committed it. The film which shortly followed was his acclaimed, Before the Revolution (Prima della rivoluzione, 1964).
Bertolucci’s personal idea about cinema is based on the individuality of people who are forced to deal with sudden changes in their lives.This theme is present in almost all of Bertolucci’s works and starting with his second film, Prima della rivoluzione (1964), this theme becomes very clear in the story of a young upper-middle agrarian class boy from Parma (Francesco Barilli), who is incapable of dealing with his best friend’s suicide. Bertolucci became infamous in 1972, with the controversial film, Last Tango in Paris, with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Massimo Girotti, because certain scenes were thought to be exploitative and serious concerns emerged about how women were represented in the film.
Bertolucci increased his fame with his next few films, from Novecento (1976), an epic depiction of the struggles of farmers in Emilia-Romagna from the beginning of the 20th century up to World War II with an impressive international cast (Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland, Sterling Hayden, Burt Lancaster, Dominique Sanda) to La Luna, set in Rome and in Emilia-Romagna and La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (1981), with Ugo Tognazzi. In 1987, Bertolucci directed the epic, The Last Emperor, a biographical film about the life story of Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last Emperor of China and was the first feature film ever authorized by the government of the People’s Republic of China.
After The Last Emperor, the director went back to Italy to film with varying results from both critics and the public. In 2007 he received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for his life’s work and, in 2011, he received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He was the President of the Jury at the 70th Venice International Film Festival held in September 2013. Bertolucci is working on his next film, a historical romance centering on 16th-century classical musician (and murderer) Carlo Gesualdo.
Vittorio De Sica
De Sica was yet another neorealist director who radically reshaped the cinematic landscape in Europe and elsewhere. De Sica’s early films defined the meaning of neorealism by transforming film projects with small budgets into aesthetic art, making a commitment to working with nonprofessional actors, filming on location using available lighting and encouraging intense character exploration and improvisation. Guided by intelligent and rigorously structured screenplays by his frequent and most important collaborator, Cesare Zavattini, De Sica’s major films – The Children Are Watching Us, Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, Umberto D. and The Bicycle Thieves – are preoccupied with critical social and political topics facing post war Italy – poverty, hard life on the streets, intergenerational estrangement and a sense of general moral decay.
Born into poverty in Sora, Lazio (1901), he began his career as a theater actor in the early 1920s and joined Tatiana Pavlova’s theatre company in 1923. In 1933 he founded his own company with his wife Giuditta Rissone and Sergio Tofano. The company performed mostly light comedies, but they also staged playsand worked with several famous directors. De Sica turned to directing during WWII, with his first efforts typical of the light entertainments of the time. It was with The Children are Watching Us (1942) that he began to use non-professional actors and socially conscious subject matters. The film was also his first of many collaborations with scenarist, Cesare Zavattini, a combination which shaped the postwar Italian Neorealist movement. With the end of the war, De Sica’s films began to express the personal, as well as, the collective struggle to deal with the social problems of a post-Mussolini Italy.
De Sica and Zavattini created some of the most celebrated films of the neo-realistic age, such as Sciuscià (Shoeshine) and Bicycle Thieves (released as The Bicycle Thief in America). These are heartbreaking studies of poverty in postwar Italy. His later directorial career was highlighted by his work with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (1963), which won the Oscar as best foreign film. His film, Two Women, starring Sophia Loren is probably his greatest. It tells the story of a woman trying to protect her young daughter from the horrors of war.
Four of the films De Sica directed won Academy Awards. Sciuscià and Bicycle Thieves were awarded honorary Oscars, while Ieri, oggi, domani and Il giardino dei Finzi Contini won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The great critical success of Sciuscià (the first foreign film to be so recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and Bicycle Thieves helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Oscar. Bicycle Thieves was cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.
The New Generation
In recent years, Italian cinema has experienced a quiet revolution: the proliferation of films by women. However, their thought-provoking work has not yet received the attention it deserves.
Morante was born in Santa Fiora, province of Grosseto (Tuscany) in 1956. Morante came from a large family of nine siblings. Her father was a magistrate and her aunt was acclaimed novelist Elsa Morante. Formerly a dancer, Morante started her acting career in the theater before her film debut in Oggetti Smarriti (Lost Belongings). Oggetti Smarriti was directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci, whose brother would direct the second film in which Morante would appear, La Tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (The Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man). Under the auspices of the Bertolucci brothers, Morante’s career had a successful beginning.
Morante’s acting roles include La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (1981), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Bianca (1984) and The Son’s Room (2001), both directed by Nanni Moretti. She also starred alongside Javier Bardem in The Dancer Upstairs (2002) and in Remember Me, My Love (2003).
One of the country’s most famous actresses, Morante, who could be described as a kind of Italian Catherine Deneuve, is as well known for her intense roles, the high calibre of her films and for her remarkable beauty. Now she is hoping to exploit the changing times in her country by playing her own part in promoting a different, more powerful role for women in cinema.
For the first time, the actress is stepping into the director’s role for a film, in which, she also stars and takes a co-writing credit. “I hope more films get made in Italy by women, as well about women, which is rare,” said Morante, who played a grieving mother in the Palme d’Or winning film, The Son’s Room in 2001. Morante said she was one of a number of Italian women film directors breaking into a traditionally male-dominated profession, along with Valeria Golino and Francesca Comencini.
In Ciliegine, Morante plays a woman with high expectations of men, who dumps her partner after he selfishly eats the lone cherry on the top of their anniversary cake. Morante claims she was inspired to write the script by a 1907 essay by Sigmund Freud that her father had told her about, in which Freud states that people throw up obstacles to stop themselves from declaring their true love. Morena is currently working on a stage play, called The Country.
Aria Asia Maria Vittoria Rossa Argento (born 20 September 1975) is an Italian actress, singer, model and director. Her mother is actress Daria Nicolodi and her father is Dario Argento, an Italian film director, producer and screenwriter, well known for his work in modern horror and slasher movies. Her maternal great-grandfather was composer Alfredo Casella. When Asia Argento was born in Rome, the city registry office refused to acknowledge Asia as an appropriate name and instead officially inscribed her as Aria Argento. She nonetheless uses the name Asia Argento professionally. Argento has said that as a child she was lonely and depressed, owing in part to her parents’ work. Her father used to read her his scripts as bedtime stories. At age eight, Argento published a book of poems.
Asia Argento started acting at the age of nine, playing a small role in a film by Sergio Citti. At the age of 10, she had a small part in Demons 2, a 1986 film written and produced by her father as well as in its unofficial sequel, La Chiesa (The Church), when she was 14 and in Trauma (1993), when she was 18. She received the David di Donatello (Italy’s version of the Academy Award) for Best Actress in 1994 for her performance in Perdiamoci di vista!, and again in 1996 for Compagna di viaggio, which also earned her a Grolla d’oro award. In 1998, Argento began appearing in English-language movies, such as B. Monkey and New Rose Hotel.
In 1994 she moved into directing, calling the shots behind the short films, Prospettive and A ritroso. In 1996 she directed a documentary on her father and in 1998 a second one on Abel Ferrara, which won her the Rome Film Festival Award. Argento directed and wrote her first movie, Scarlet Diva (2000), which her father co-produced. Four years later she directed her second movie, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004), based on a book by JT LeRoy.
She is currently working on a number of film projects. In November, Argento wrote the storyline for the music video and short film “Phoenix” along with director, Francesco Carrozzini, taken from the ASAP Rocky album, “Long Live”. She is married to Michele Civetta, a filmmaker and multimedia artist. He is also the founder of Quintessence Films.
La Dolce Vita Recipes
- 8 oz bucatini pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 100 g or 3.5 oz guanciale or pancetta (about 3/4 cup)
- 100 g grated pecorino romano cheese (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- One 14 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, or more to taste
Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to boil. Put in a small handful of large-grain salt.
Dice the guanciale into medium pieces, cubes of about 1/2 inch. Be wary of dicing the meat too small, if so it will be easier to overcook and you’re aiming for tender rather than crispy.
Saute the guanciale and hot pepper in the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the fat becomes translucent, remove the meat and drain on a paper towel.
Add onions to the rendered fat and saute, stirring constantly, until translucent. Add the tomatoes and the guanciale. Simmer on low heat about 5-10 minutes.
When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package states.
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss with the sauce and add the pecorino romano cheese, stirring constantly, so that the melted cheese coats the pasta.
Remove from the heat and serve immediately with additional grated pecorino for sprinkling on top.
Abbacchio alla Romana (Roman-Style Pan-Roasted Lamb)
- 2 pounds lamb shoulder or shoulder chops, cut into 3-inch pieces with some bone attached
- All-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
- 1 rosemary sprig, plus extra for garnishing
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 salted anchovies, soaked in water for 10 minutes
Dust the pieces of lamb with flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the lamb and brown on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Add sage, rosemary and garlic, and turn lamb pieces over several times to soak up the flavor. Add vinegar, bring to a boil and simmer until it almost evaporates. Add the water, bring to a boil, adjust heat to a simmer, and cover pot.
Turn the meat from time to time until tender and beginning to come away from the bone, which could take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes; the younger the lamb, the quicker it will cook.
When the lamb is done, remove from the heat, add the anchovies to the pan and mash them with a wooden spoon to dissolve them. Turn the lamb pieces around in the sauce before serving and garnish with rosemary.
Torta della Nonna (Grandmother’s cake)
For the pastry
- 7 oz all purpose flour, plus extra
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 oz unsalted butter, chilled and chopped
- 3 oz granulated sugar
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg
For the filling
- 12 fl oz skimmed milk
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- 2 eggs
- 3 ½ oz granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 oz all purpose flour
For the topping
- 1 oz pinenuts
- Powdered sugar
Put all the pastry ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together.
If you don’t have a processor, mix together the flour and baking powder, then rub in the butter with your fingers. Next, stir in the sugar and zest, then mix in the vanilla and whole egg with a blunt-ended kitchen knife and bring the pastry together.
Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Next, make the filling. Heat the milk and lemon zest until nearly boiling (there should be bubbles around the inside edge of the pan). Meanwhile, put the two eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and flour into a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk together to combine.
Gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture, then scrape contents back into the empty pan. Return pan to the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick (it will need to boil before it thickens). Take off the heat and let cool completely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180°C). Lightly flour a work surface and roll out two-thirds of the pastry. Use it to line a deep 8 inch round tart pan with a removeable bottom.
Whisk the filling to break it up any lumps that have formed while cooling, then spoon into the pastry base and spread to level. Trim the lining pastry so it comes about 3/4 inch above the filling, then gently fold the pastry edge on to the filling.
Next, roll out the remaining pastry on a lightly-floured surface into an 8 inch round. Lay on top of the filling and press edges lightly to seal. Sprinkle the pinenuts on top and press them down gently.
Bake for 50 minutes until nicely golden. Let cool for 10 minute, then carefully remove the outside ring and cool completely on a wire rack. To serve, liberally dust the cake with powdered sugar.
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Sometimes it seems that there are as many types of coffee in Italy as there are pastas. And just like pasta, Italian coffee is an art form with many customs and traditions. Whether it’s a caffè corretto thrown back like a shot, a cappuccino and brioche for breakfast or a granita di caffè con panna to cool off from the hot midday sun, in Italy there is a coffee drink specific for every time and mood. It would be fair to say that Italians are passionate about coffee. So much so, you would think they had discovered it. They didn’t.
Around 600 CE Ethiopian goat herders noticed their hyperactive goats were eating leaves and berries from a strange tree with glossy green leaves. Coffee was discovered and cultivation soon spread to Yemen. Around 900, Arab physician, Rhazes, first mentions coffee in print but as a medicine. Around 1400 Ethiopians were roasting, grinding and brewing coffee beans. Coffee as we know it was born.
When coffee was first shipped from the Middle East to Venice, it caused a uproar and was almost banned from entering the port. Coffee houses were already established in Istanbul, but the fate of this drink was in the hands of Islamic preachers, who at first considered it on a par with alcohol. Eventually, it was accepted under Islamic law and trade began in the 16th century. Coffee houses in Venice sprung up and very quickly the black drink, which was until now solely consumed as medicine, achieved status and it became a luxury item, out of reach for most of Venetian society. However, as coffee plantations became established within the European colonies in South America and Asia, availability increased, the price decreased and, as it became more accessible to the poorer population, it’s popularity increased.
With over two hundred coffee houses along its canals, the reputation of this new drink soon spread to the neighboring cities of Verona, Milan and Turin. Coffee consumption soon spread to Rome, Naples, Bari and Sicily. The spread nationwide escalated and it wasn’t long before every household in Italy became familiar with the drink, eventually evolving in a culture that is still relevant today.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable images that depicts the importance of coffee in Italian society is the ‘macchinetta’. The famous aluminum stovetop percolator, designed and produced by Bialetti in 1933, can be found in most Italian kitchens. However, times change and now electric coffee machines stand on bar counters that force scalding water over ground coffee beans to create a rich, frothy drink.
In Trentino ask for a ‘Cappuccino Viennese’ and you’ll be served a creamy coffee with chocolate and cinnamon. In the Marche region, stop for a ‘Caffè Anisette’, an aniseed-flavored espresso, in Naples enjoy coffee flavored with hazelnut cream and in Sicily, a ‘caffè d’u parrinu’, is coffee flavored with cloves, cinnamon and cocoa powder.
The Italian Coffee
Like many hot coffee drinks, The Italian Coffee is defined by a single liqueur. In this case – Strega, an Italian digestif. Strega brings a distinct herbal blend to coffee with hints of juniper, saffron and mint. When made with dark roasted beans this drink makes an excellent after dinner cup of coffee.
- 1 oz Strega liqueur
- Hot black espresso coffee
- Whipped cream for garnish
- Nutmeg for garnish
Pour the Strega into a glass coffee mug.
Fill with hot coffee.
Top with whipped cream
Garnish with grated nutmeg.
Makes 1 large mug
- 8 ounces water
- 1/4 cup espresso ground coffee
- 8 ounces milk
- Sugar (optional)
Pour the water into the bottom chamber of a stovetop espresso pot. Fill the filter basket that fits over the water with the coffee, tamping down gently. Place on the stovetop burner over medium-low heat. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as all the water has boiled through the filter into the top part of the pot.
Meanwhile place the milk in a 16-ounce coffee mug. Heat in the microwave until hot but not starting to bubble on the sides. (Alternatively, you may heat the milk on the stovetop in a small pan, then transfer to a mug.)
Hold the handle of a small 4-inch whisk between the palms of both hands. Put the whisk in the hot milk and twirl rapidly back and forth until foam appears on the top, about 20 seconds. Pour the coffee into the mug. Sweeten if desired and serve immediately.
Chocolate Espresso Cake
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 cup brewed espresso coffee
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
Combine the first six ingredients (flour through salt) in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add buttermilk, eggs, coffee, oil and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes with the mixer at medium speed. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in the baking pan on wire rack.
This plain chocolate cake is very moist.
Optional: Frost it with sweetened whipped cream with a teaspoon of cinnamon added to the cream or use your favorite chocolate frosting.
- 2 cups (16 oz.) freshly brewed espresso coffee
- ½ cup sugar
Put espresso and sugar into a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves completely. Let rest until room temperature.
Pour coffee mixture into a medium baking dish and transfer to the freezer. Using the tines of a fork, stir the mixture every 30 minutes, scraping edges and breaking up any chunks as the mixture freezes, until granita is slushy and frozen, about 4 hours.
Divide granita into individual serving glasses or transfer into a plastic container, cover, and freeze until ready to serve.
If you want your soufflé to rise above the dish, you can make this in a 4-cup soufflé dish. Make a collar by wrapping a strip of buttered parchment paper around the outside of the dish and securing it with a string. Serve this soufflé with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.
- Butter to coat baking dish
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- 3 tablespoons espresso brewed coffee
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 6 egg whites
- 4 egg yolks
Preheat oven to 400F.
Thoroughly butter a 2-quart soufflé dish or 6 (8-ounce) ramekins and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.
Combine espresso and chocolate in a glass bowl. Microwave about 1 minute; stir until chocolate melts.
Whisk egg yolks into chocolate mixture.
Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl with a mixer until frothy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.
Stir about 1 cup egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold remaining egg white mixture into chocolate mixture.
Spoon into the prepared souffle dish. Place on a baking sheet and bake 30 to 40 minutes (soufflé dish) or 20 to 25 minutes (ramekins), until soufflé rises. Serve immediately.
Espresso Pudding Cake
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cups hot brewed espresso coffee
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Coat a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
Whisk all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a glass measuring cup. Add to the flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish.
Mix hot coffee and brown sugar in the measuring cup and pour over the batter. (It may look strange at this point, but during baking, cake forms on top with sauce underneath.)
Bake the pudding cake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
- Coffee? (anitalianthatlovesitaly.wordpress.com)
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Wine has a long, rich history as a cooking liquid. One of the early “cookbooks,” compiled in the first century, “De re Coquinaria” (“On Cooking”), included dozens of recipes that used wine. Since the beginning of recorded history, wine has been considered one of the essential ingredients in cooking. The ancient Greeks used wine and there are numerous references to its use in their meal preparation. When the Romans came along, they spread the practice of cooking with wine throughout Europe and developed special varietals, such as Marsala. The Romans also prepared a concentrate of grape must (unfermented grape juice) called defrutum, which was kept around the hearth and used both to color and sweeten foods. In the East, centuries of Japanese and Chinese cooks have made wine from fruits or rice and used these liquids in cooking.
Italians take wine very seriously and, just as they eat regionally, Italians drink regionally. Go to Tuscany where you will find Chianti, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Brunello di Montalcino. Head to Abruzzo and you will find Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo or Trebbiano d’Abruzzo on the table. The characteristics of a given wine are reflective of the culture in which it is made. Each of Italy’s 20 wine-producing regions proudly claim their own sub-cultures and cuisines, leading to many variations of wine. Piedmont and Tuscany are the Italian leaders in quality wines. Italy is respected as a wine-producing country and no other country can boast as many varieties. They use their 350+ varieties of domestic grapes, along with international varieties to produce wines in a class of their own. Approximately one-fifth of the world’s wine comes directly from Italy’s vineyards and there are over one million throughout the entire country.
The Major Types of Italian Red Wines
Amarone is made from air-dried Corvina grapes and is produced in the northern Veneto region near Venice, using the “recioto” method. This technique involves picking the grapes that grow on the outside of a cluster and have the most exposure to the sun. The result is a full-bodied wine in a style more common to warm growing areas. Amarones are aged for five years or more before bottling. Some, but not all, are aged in oak barrels. Amarone (the name means big, bitter one) has a powerful, concentrated, almost Port-like texture with hints of mocha. Amarone is ideal with roasted beef or pork and also with cheese.
Barolo is a powerful and full-bodied wine with a complex mixture of tastes and textures – wild strawberry, tobacco, chocolate and vanilla. Barolo gets better with age and is frequently referred to as “the king of wines”. Barolo requires many years (three years minimum by law) of aging to soften it and it is improved by decanting. Barolo is made in the Langhe Hills region of Piedmont, entirely of Nebbiolo grapes. Nebbiolo is a difficult grape to grow well. It thrives in the region’s clay, limestone and sandy soil, preferring to be planted on sunny, south-facing hillsides. Barolo is a perfect accompaniment to meat, rich pastas and creamy risottos.
Chianti has come a long way from its image of wicker-wrapped bottles with candle drippings alongside a plate of spaghetti. Today’s Chiantis are produced in Tuscany, in central Italy near Florence and Chianti has a government-controlled wine designation. That means all of the wine called Chianti has to be made within the Chianti area. Chianti is produced from primarily Sangiovese grapes, sometimes combined with Cabernet Franc, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It has high acidity with hints of plum and wild cherry. Chianti and any tomato-based sauce are a classic wine and food pairing, but Chianti also goes well with steak or other grilled meat.
Barbaresco is also produced from Nebbiolo grapes, but tends to be a more softer wine than Barolo. There are just three, small growing regions for Barbaresco compared to Barolo’s eleven regions, so there is less Barbaresco available each year. Barbaresco, too, requires aging – a minimum of two years and up to twenty years – to meet its full potential. It also pairs well with red meat and the rich food of Piedmont.
Bardolino is a light, fruit-filled wine made in the Veneto region of Italy. Named after the town of Bardolino on Lake Garda, this wine has faint cherry flavors with a hint of spiciness. Like Amarone, Bardolino is crafted, primarily from Corvina grapes. Sometimes made into a dry, rose or sparkling wine called “chiaretto,” Bardolino is best served chilled and goes nicely with fish, seafood, light meat entrees, pasta and pizza.
Montalcino is Tuscany’s second most famous wine zone, after Chianti. Montalcino is a small, medieval town just outside of Siena. The wine district there is a warm, sunny, hilly area with few extremes in temperature. The cool evenings insure high acidity. Brunello di Montalcino is created entirely from Sangiovese grapes. By Italian wine law, Brunello must be aged longer than any other wine – a minimum of four years. Brunello is subtle with overtones of blackberry, black cherry, chocolate and sweet vanilla. Drink it with the hearty dishes of Tuscany.
Cooking with Wine
Using wine in cooking is so natural, it probably would have occurred anywhere grapes could be grown and turned into wine. Wine can accent, enhance and intensify the flavors and aromas of food. The ways of using wine in cooking are numerous: marinate, saute, poach, boil, braise, stew or deglaze. Some cooks use wine for stir-fries, steaming or blanching. A splash of it straight out of the bottle is an added flavor in vinaigrettes or sauces.
Cooks use wine instead of water because wine adds flavor. But just as the four vinegars made from cider, sherry, red wine or white wine differ from each other, so do wines differ in what they add to a recipe. “Wine adds acidity to sauces,” says Jeff Mosher, chef for the Robert Mondavi Winery. “Food that has a level of acidity goes better with wine than food that is flat.” A careful cook, however, needs to consider the cooking preparation when utilizing wine. For example, wine could concentrate and become too tart after boiling down a marinade into a sauce. So, likewise, would any sweetness in wine; too much can be cloying. “It’s best to use red wines that don’t have huge tannins,” says Mosher. “When reduced, they leave a bitter flavor. I usually cook with merlot or pinot noir … never all cabernet sauvignon. Avoid wines labeled “cooking wine.” Not only are such wines often oxidized, but they are also packed with salt.
Finally, it isn’t necessary, as the old adage has it, to cook with the same wine that you will serve. According to Mosher, the flavor compounds and nuances of a very fine wine simply don’t survive the heat of most cooking. For example, preparing boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin doesn’t require an expensive red Burgundy. For these dishes, any of well-made, balanced, medium- to full-bodied red wine will do.
Red Wine Bagna Cauda
- One 750-milliliter bottle Italian dry red wine, such as Nebbiolo
- 1/4 cup marinated anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
- 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 cups good quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Assorted crudités, such as carrots, radishes, fennel and bell peppers, for serving
In a large saucepan, boil the wine over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
In a blender, combine the reduced wine with the anchovies, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice and blend until smooth. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the bagna cauda to a medium saucepan and rewarm over low heat. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with the crudités.
Red Wine Glazed Meatloaf
- 2 slices of sandwich bread, torn into pieces
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound lean ground pork
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tomato, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- Chopped basil for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a medium oval baking dish with oil.
In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the milk and mash to a paste. Add the egg, chopped parsley, sage, thyme, salt, black pepper and cayenne and stir until smooth. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and dry bread crumbs and stir until thoroughly combined.
In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Let cool, then transfer to the bowl with the bread mixture. Add the meat and knead in until evenly combined.
Transfer the meat loaf mixture to the prepared baking dish and pat it into a 4-by-12-inch oval loaf. Bake for about 50 minutes or until firm but not quite cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the red wine with the honey, chopped tomato and molasses and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the all the ingredients. Boil until the glaze is thick and syrupy, about 10-12 minutes.
Brush half of the glaze over the parially cooked meat loaf. Continue baking for about 20 minutes longer until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150°F; brush once more with the remaining glaze. Let the meatloaf rest for 15 minutes, garnish with chopped basil, slice and serve.
Red Wine Risotto with Mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 pound fresh porcini or cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup arborio rice (6 ounces)
- 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Amarone
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- One 2-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for shaving
- 2 teaspoons chopped mixed herbs, such as basil, chives, parsley, etc.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until browned. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate.
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer; cover and keep warm over low heat.
In the skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated.
Pour in 1 cup of the hot stock, or enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until the stock has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Repeat, adding 1 cup of stock at a time and stirring until all of the stock has been absorbed.
The risotto is done when the rice is cooked al dente, about 25 minutes. Stir in the butter and mushrooms and heat until the butter is melted and the mushrooms are heated. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon the risotto into serving bowls and shred Parmigiano-Reggiano over the risotto, sprinkle with herbs and serve.
Chicken Parmesan with Red-Wine Pasta Sauce
- 4 ounces uncooked linguine
- 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Large pich of crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups homemade or store bought pasta sauce
- 4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- Chopped Basil, optional
Sprinkle chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and the salt. Combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg and dredge in breadcrumbs.
Heat oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
Add wine to the pan and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and red pepper, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 minute. Add pasta sauce; cook 1 minute or until bubbly.
Combine the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Arrange chicken over sauce; top each breast with a portion of the cheese and a spoonful of sauce.
Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked and cheese has melted.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta. Garnish with basil, if desired.
Chocolate-Red Wine Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter or butter alternative, softened
- 1 3/4 cups sugar or the equivalent of a sugar alternative
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups Italian dry red wine
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.
In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer.
Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, just until incorporated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and serve.
- The Deeper Meaning of Italian Wine: An Interview with Leonardo LoCascio (selectitaly.com)
- Amarone: From Novelty to Tradition in 55 Years (ubriaco.wordpress.com)
- Hello Barbaresco (chezsirene.wordpress.com)