Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italian Cuisine

Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini,

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1598 – 1680) was an Italian artist and a prominent architect, who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his time, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. In addition, he painted, wrote plays and designed metalwork and stage sets.

Bernini was born in Naples (1598) to sculptor, Pietro Bernini, originally from Florence, and Angelica Galante. Bernini did not marry until 1639, at the age of forty-one, when he wed a twenty-two-year-old Roman, Caterina Tezio, in an arranged marriage. She bore him eleven children, including his youngest son, Domenico Bernini, who became his first biographer.

Gian-Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) Damned  Soul - Rome, Spanish Embassy

Dammed Soul

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Blessed Soul

In 1606, at the age of eight, Gian accompanied his father to Rome, where Pietro was involved in several projects. There, Gian’s skill was soon noticed by the painter, Annibale Carracci and by Pope Paul V, and he soon gained the important patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the pope’s nephew. His first works were inspired by antique classical sculpture. Under the patronage of Cardinal Borghese,  young Bernini rapidly rose to prominence as a sculptor. Among the early works created for the cardinal were decorative pieces for the garden of the Villa Borghese, such as The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun, and several allegorical busts, including the Damned Soul and Blessed Soul. By the time he was 22, he was considered talented enough to have been given a commission for a papal portrait, the Bust of Pope Paul V.

Bernini’s reputation was solidly established by four works, executed between 1619 and 1625, all now displayed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome—Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1619), The Rape of Proserpina (1621–22), Apollo and Daphne (1622–25), and David (1623–24). Adapting the classical grandeur of Renaissance sculpture and the technology of the Mannerist period, Bernini forged a new conception for religious and historical sculpture.

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Unlike those done by his predecessors, these sculptures focused on specific points of tension in the stories they were trying to tell—Aeneas and family fleeing Troy; the instant that Pluto grasps Persephone; the moment Apollo sees his beloved Daphne begin the transformation into a tree. Bernini’s David is the most obvious example of this. Unlike Michelangelo’s David—and versions by other Renaissance artists—which shows the subject in his triumph after the battle with Goliath, Bernini illustrates David during his combat with the giant, as he twists his body to catapult towards Goliath. To emphasise these moments, Bernini designed the sculptures with a specific viewpoint in mind. Their original placements within the Villa Borghese were against walls, so that the visitors’ first view was to gauge the state of mind of the characters and, therefore, understand the larger story at work, for example, Daphne’s wide open mouth in fear; David biting his lip in determined concentration or Proserpina desperately struggling to free herself. As well as psychological realism, they show a greater concern for representing physical details. The tousled hair of Pluto, the fleshiness of Proserpina or the forest of leaves beginning to envelop Daphne all demonstrate Bernini’s exactitude in depicting complex real world situations in marble form.

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ApolloAndDaphneDuring his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. Under Pope Urban VIII, the artist’s opportunities increased. He was not just producing sculpture for private residences, but also for the city. His appointments included, curator of the papal art collection, director of the papal foundry at Castel Sant’Angelo and commissioner of the fountains of Piazza Navona. Such positions gave Bernini the opportunity to demonstrate his skills throughout the city. Perhaps most significantly, he was appointed Chief Architect of St Peter’s, in 1629. From then on, Bernini’s work and artistic vision would be placed at the symbolic heart of Rome.

St. Peter’s, Baldacchino was the centrepiece of this. Designed as a massive spiralling bronze canopy over the tomb of St. Peter, Bernini’s four-pillared creation reached nearly 100 feet. As well as the Baldacchino, Bernini’s rearrangement of the basilica left space for massive statues created by Bernini. Bernini also began work on the tomb for Urban VIII, a full 16 years before Urban’s death. Bernini also gained royal commissions from outside Rome, such as Cardinal Richelieu of France, Francesco I d’Este of Modena, Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria. But it was the commission for the Cornaro Chapel that fully demonstrated how Bernini’s innovative skills continued to grow. The chapel showcased his ability to integrate sculpture and architecture and create what scholars have called a ‘unified work of art’. Bernini was able to portray the swooning Teresa, the quietly smiling angel delicately gripping the arrow that pierced her and, also to the side, portraits of the astonished Cornaro family – the Venetian family that had commissioned the piece. It was an artistic accomplishment that showed the forms Bernini employed, such as, hidden lighting, differently painted sculptures, thin golden beams, recessive spaces and over 20 diverse types of marble to create the final artwork.

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Pope Alexander VII (1655–67) commissioned large-scale architectural changes in Rome, connecting new and existing buildings by opening up streets and piazzas. It is no coincidence that Bernini’s career showed a greater focus on designing buildings during this time, as there were far greater opportunities. Bernini’s most notable creation during this period was the piazza leading to St Peter’s. Previously a broad, unstructured space, Bernini created two massive semi-circular colonnades, each row of which was formed of four white columns. This resulted in an oval shape that formed a spectacular, inclusive arena within which any gathering group of citizens, pilgrims or visitors could witness the appearance of the pope – either as he appeared on the loggia, on the facade of St Peter’s or on balconies on the neighboring Vatican palaces. Often likened to two arms reaching out from the church to embrace the waiting crowd, Bernini’s creation extended the symbolic greatness of the Vatican area, creating an architectural success.

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Roman Cuisine

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 (the king is definitely the artichoke, whether deep-fried, simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint or “alla giudia”), inexpensive cuts of meat (the so-called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chilli pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and filled zucchini blossoms) and sharp “pecorino cheese” (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside), a very important ingredient in many recipes. Not to mention the pasta, of course, a staple for every Roman. From “carbonara” to spaghetti “ajo e ojo” (so simple with its mix of olive oil, garlic and chili pepper), from rigatoni “con pajata” to a hearty, fragrant soup such as “pasta e ceci.”

Authentic recipe source: http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/about/

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Trippa alla Romana

4 main-course servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lb raw beef honeycomb tripe (not partially cooked)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, with juice reserved
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: Pecorino Romano and chopped mint

Directions

Trim any fat from the tripe, then rinse tripe under cold water. Soak tripe in a large bowl of fresh cold water 1 hour, then rinse again.

Put tripe in an 8-quart pot of cold water and bring to a boil, then drain and rinse. Bring tripe to a boil again in the pot filled with fresh cold water, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, turning tripe occasionally and adding more hot water to the pot, if necessary, to keep tripe covered, until very tender, about 4 hours (tripe will have a pungent aroma while simmering). Drain in a colander and cool completely.

While the tripe is cooking, heat olive oil in a 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add salt, pepper and wine and boil, stirring, 1 minute. Pour juice from the tomatoes into sauce, then chop the tomatoes and add to the sauce with the 2 cups cold water and mint. Simmer sauce, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Trim any remaining fat from the tripe and cut tripe into 2 inch by 1/2 inch strips. Add to the sauce and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tripe is a little bit more tender but still slightly chewy, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve tripe sprinkled with finely grated Pecorino Romano and additional chopped fresh mint.

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Coda alla Vaccinara (Roman Oxtail Stew)

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 1 kg (about 2.5 pounds) cows tail
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 150 grams (1/3 pound) pork cheeks, pancetta or bacon
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • 1 kg (2.5 pounds) chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cloves
  • Pine nuts (to taste)
  • Raisins (to taste)
  • Unsweetened cocoa (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot water

Directions

Wash and dry the tail and cut into large pieces (or rocchi as they are called in Roman dialect). Brown the pieces of the tail with the chopped bacon and oil, then add chopped onions, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper. Add the dry white wine and cook for about 15 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook the meat for at least 3 hours on a low heat always making sure that the pieces are covered with sauce and until meat almost falls off the bone. If it becomes dry, add water.

When the stew is almost done cooking, chop and blanch the celery for a minute or two in boiling water. Then sauté the celery with a bit of the sauce that the tail cooked in, a handful of pine nuts, raisins and a couple of tablespoons of cocoa. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes. Once cooked, add the celery sauce to the main dish. Heat and serve.

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Pomodori Ripieni di Riso con Patate (Rice stuffed tomatoes with potatoes)

Ingredients (makes 14 medium-sized tomatoes)

  • 14 Ripe tomatoes
  • 20 tablespoons carnaroli or other risotto rice
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • Basil
 leaves
  • Potatoes (at least 1 per tomato)

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut off the top of the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and pulp and place them in a mixing bowl. Set aside the pulp.

Place the empty tomatoes (with their tops) in a large baking pan that you will be using for this recipe.

Mix the tomato pulp with the oil, garlic, salt, basil and pesto. Set aside one cup of this mixture  (which you will be using with the potatoes at the end). Add rice to the remaining mixture.

Sprinkle some salt into the tomatoes. Fill the tomatoes with the rice mixture. Replace tomato lids.

Dice the potatoes into ½ inch cubes.  Pour the tomato mixture, which you set aside earlier, over the potatoes, stir and add some salt. Add the potatoes to the baking pan with the tomatoes.

Sprinkle with more salt over the top of the tomatoes and drizzle some oil all over.

Bake for at least 1 hour, until the  potatoes and the top of the tomatoes are brown.

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Torta Caprese

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 sticks (196 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups (196 grams) blanched whole almonds
  • 6 ounces (168 grams) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar to garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter and flour a 10-inch spring form pan.

In a small pan, melt the butter and let cool completely.

In a food processor, finely grind together the almonds and chocolate.

Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer and the whites in another large bowl.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very thick and pale; then add the almond chocolate mixture and the butter and beat together.

In another bowl, with cleaned beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch salt until they form stiff peaks. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the almond chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly and spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake the torta for 50 minutes, or until it begins to pull away from side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool the cake completely before releasing the sides of the pan. Dust the cake with powdered sugar and serve. Serves 8–10.

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fallpasta

WHITE BIRCHES by Leonid Afremov

Pasta is a great way to warm yourself up after a long day and there are so many different types of pasta dishes out there. Make the most of the fall harvest and use butternut squash, pumpkin, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, greens, Brussels sprouts and cranberries in your cooking.

For a really healthy, fast way to serve pasta cook up some fresh chopped vegetables while your pasta is boiling,. You can steam the vegetables, cook them in the microwave with a little water or saute with just a little oil. I always use onion and garlic as well for flavor. Then add any of the following: finely diced mushrooms, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, diced carrots, peas, sweet corn niblets, canned chickpeas, any type of bean or any other fresh, seasonal vegetable. Add fresh herbs to taste, if you have them. When the pasta is cooked, stir the vegetables through, with some pesto or tomato sauce – either homemade or store-bought– sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top and you are done.

Another great way to serve pasta with vegetables is to use roasted vegetables. In a small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan. Roast in a 450 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned. When the pasta is done and drained, scape in the vegetables and their juices from the roasting pan and mix with canned tomatoes or pesto as a sauce. The roasted vegetables have great flavor and are also a good way to make use of vegetables that are past their peak of freshness.

Pasta Bake

Make this, when you have a little more time, on those days when just a bowl of pasta doesn’t seem like enough. Make pasta with the vegetable sauce as above. You can add a can of flaked tuna or some diced cooked chicken to make the dish more substantial. Put the cooked pasta into an ovenproof dish. Make a béchamel sauce, by blending together 1/2 cup flour with a 1/4 cup butter or vegetable spread over a low heat, and gradually whisk in 2 cups low-fat milk to form a sauce. Season with pepper and grated nutmeg and pour over the pasta. Sprinkle with grated cheese on top and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve with a green salad.

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Baked Pumpkin and Sausage Rigatoni

You can use 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), baked in the oven and the flesh scooped out instead of the pumpkin.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 12 ounces links uncooked hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 29 ounce can solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 4 ounces Neufchatel (light cream cheese) cheese, softened
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling.

Add sausage to a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until browned, breaking apart with a wooden spoon. Stir in sage and cook 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon; set aside. Pour off and discard drippings.

In the same skillet, whisk pumpkin, milk, Neufchatel, egg yolks, 1 cup of the Asiago, the nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir over medium heat until cheeses are melted.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in the boiling water 1 minute less than the package directions, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Return pasta to the pot. Stir in sausage, pumpkin mixture and reserved pasta water.

Mix well to combine. Transfer to a 13 x 9 x 2-inch dish and top with panko and remaining 2 tablespoons Asiago. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Turn broiler on HIGH and broil 1 to 2 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

fallpasta2

Bucatini with Mushrooms

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 8 ounces uncooked bucatini
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms or mushroom blend, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon truffle oil
  • Sage sprigs for garnish

Directions

Rinse porcini thoroughly. Combine porcini and 2/3 cup boiling water in a bowl; cover and let stand 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Chop porcini and set aside.

Cook pasta with 1 tablespoon salt in boiling water 10 minutes or until al dente; drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, mushrooms and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in porcini, sherry and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

Finely grate 1 ounce of the cheese; crumble remaining cheese. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in pasta, 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid, 1/4 cup reserved porcini soaking liquid, 1/4 cup grated cheese, cream, chopped sage and pepper; toss well to combine. Drizzle with truffle oil; toss. Place about 1 1/4 cups pasta mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon of crumbled cheese. Garnish with sage sprigs, if desired.

fallpasta3

Pasta Shells with Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/3 pounds in all)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 pound fresh Brussels sprouts (or one 10-ounce package frozen), cut into quarters from top to stem end
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound medium pasta shells
  • Lemon for garnish

Directions

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon each of the oil and the butter over moderate heat. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cook the breasts until browned and just done, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut into small pieces.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over moderately low heat. Add the red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, Brussels sprouts, broth and red-pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, 5 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice, parsley, Parmesan, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain and toss with the sauce. Garnish with lemons

fallpasta4

Sausage-Cauliflower Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 12 ounces sweet Italian pork or turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the skillet and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Clear a space in the pan, add the garlic and cook until just golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook until the edges are browned, about 2 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the reserved cooking water, cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 8 more minutes. Uncover and boil over high heat until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 2 more minutes.

Add the spaghetti to the skillet along with the scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Toss for a minute or two to wilt the scallions and coat the pasta with the sauce, adding up to 1 cup cooking water, if needed, to loosen. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the cheese and toss. Divide among shallow bowls and drizzle with more olive oil, if desired.

fallpasta5

Penne with Fennel and Pork Ragù

Ingredients

  • 2 lb ground pork, preferably from the shoulder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups minced fennel bulb
  • 3 cups minced onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cups (or more) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 12-oz. can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • Finely grated Parmesan

Directions

Using your hands, thoroughly mix ground pork and the 2 teaspoons of salt in a large bowl. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Roll pork mixture into 16–18 large meatballs (about ¼-cupful each). Heat 1½ tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches and adding the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil between batches, cook meatballs until all sides are brown, adjusting heat to prevent browned bits on the  bottom of pan from burning (they will flavor the sauce later), about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer meatballs to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.

Reduce heat to medium. Scatter fennel, onions and garlic over the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally as needed to prevent sticking, until vegetables are translucent and juices have evaporated, about 25 minutes. (A flavorful browned layer may form on the bottom of pan. The moisture from the vegetables will help loosen it from the pot as you stir.)

Add wine, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the wine has reduced by three-quarters, about 15 minutes. Return meatballs to the pot. Add the 4 cups of broth and the tomatoes. Return sauce to a simmer, scraping up all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat, covered with lid slightly ajar and stirring occasionally, until meatballs are very tender, about 2½ hours.

Using a potato masher or fork, break meatballs into small pieces. If sauce is too thick, add broth by the half cupfuls until desired consistency forms. Season ragù to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Ragù can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool in the pot, cover and place in the refrigerator. Return sauce to a simmer before continuing.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook pasta stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and transfer to pot with the hot ragù. Stir until well incorporated.

Transfer pasta to a large wide bowl. Sprinkle with cheese.


gardens

In 1630 the Barbarigo family,  a powerful noble family from the Republic of Venice, owned most of the land in Valsanzibio. They took refuge in this location to escape the black plague outbreak that was spreading throughout Venice and the rest of Europe and that had already killed the wife of Zuane Francesco Barbarigo. Soon after, Zuane Francesco made a solemn vow that, if the rest of his family would be spared from this terrible disease, he would create a spiritual masterwork.

This vow was completed by his son, Gregorio and his grandsons. The garden plans were drawn by Luigi Bernini, a distinguished Vatican architect, and the sculptures were completed by Enrico Merengo (1628 – 1723), who was a well-known sculptor in Venice. The garden contains seventy statues all of which have engraved inscriptions. Symbolism abounds around every corner and down every path, as the gardens were designed to serve as an allegory of man’s progress towards perfection.

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Diane’s Pavilion or ‘Diane’s Doorway’ was the main entrance by water to the Barbarigo estate in the 17th and 18th century and was one of the first works in Bernini’s project. This impressive doorway represents one of the most important areas of the complex, in fact, it was not only the entrance to the Barbarigo estate, but it represented, as it does still today, the beginning of one’s salvation’s itinerary, desired by Gregorio Barbarigo in the plans. Just in front of the doorway, on its outside, on two solid pillars, are the  Barbarigo shields held up by two statues representing angels with a peaceful attitude. Thirteen other statues adorn the area.

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The sculptures depict a world of buildings, streams, waterfalls, fountains, small ponds, game and fish ponds and hundreds of different trees and plants all over an area of more than 10 hectares (over 24 acres).

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The labyrinth paths were created with six thousand boxwood plants, many of which are almost 400 years old, since they were planted between 1664-1669. The pruning work takes fifteen hundred hours of work, with the help of manual and mechanical cutters, ladders, levels and plumbed lines. The maze of labyrinths represent the complex voyage toward achieving human perfectibility. The paths are designed to disorient the visitor by the high boxwood walls, The right path to arrive at the exit is never the shorter one. Every promising shortcut considerably lengthens the walk or ends up in a dead-end. Symbolically teaching: whoever mends his way and finds the right path, will have to avoid repeating errors.

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This symbolic garden was awarded the first prize, as ‘the most beautiful garden in Italy’ in 2003 and as the third most beautiful garden in Europe in 2007.

The gardens are near Padua (Italian: Padova) Italy. The city is sometimes included with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, The city is the home of the University of Padua, almost 800 years old and famous, among other things, for having had Galileo Galilei among its lecturers. Padua is also the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew.

Padua Hens

Paduan Hens

The culinary tradition of Padua has its roots in the simple produce of the vegetable garden, the farmyard and the vineyard. Farmland products are represented by the well-known Paduan hen. Paduan hens are an ancient breed (a favorite subject of 16th-century European painters) of small crested and bearded chickens from the surrounding province of Padova, in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, The Paduan hen is distinguished by the splendor of its plumage and elegant form. The crest is replaced by a tuft of long feathers on the head, which gives the appearance of a chrysanthemum flower in the male or of a hydrangea in the female.

DOC wines are produced in five areas and Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes exclusively from the area of the Euganean Hills. All varieties of chicory (a bitter green) are cultivated in the countryside of Padua. Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, a specialty of the area, has a festival designated in its honor on the third Sunday of May.

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Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • One-ounce packet dried porcini (25 g, about a packed half cup)
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil  
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) short-grained rice, for example Arborio or Vialone Nano
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • The water the mushrooms were soaked in, strained and added to chicken broth to equal 4 cups
  • One bunch parsley, minced
  • 1 cup (50 g) grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Steep the porcini in one cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Drain and reserve the mushroom water. Chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Strain the mushroom water and add chicken broth to equal 4 cups. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Slice the onion finely and sauté it in oil in another large saucepan. Stir in the rice and cook for several minutes, until it becomes translucent, stirring constantly.

Add the wine and continue stirring until it has evaporated completely. Then stir in the first ladle of the chicken broth.

Add the mushrooms, 3/4 teaspoon salt and continue adding broth, a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally.

About five minutes before the rice is done, check seasoning and add more salt if needed.

As soon as the rice is al dente, turn off the heat, stir in the butter, a little ground pepper, the parsley and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the risotto for two minutes. Serve with the remaining grated cheese.

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Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

Since Padua hens are not available everywhere, I offer an alternative.

Ingredients

  • 4 Cornish game hens, about 1 lb each
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 24 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in the cavity of each hen. Place in a large, heavy roasting pan and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over the hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with the pan juices every 10 minutes.

Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve.

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Limoncello Tiramisu

Ingredients

SYRUP:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons limoncello
  • 3 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers, split

LEMON CURD: or 1 (10-12 ounce) Jar Lemon Curd

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 cups cold water
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, plus extra for garnish

FILLING:

  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2  cup sugar
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) Mascarpone cheese

Directions

For the syrup: In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir in limoncello; set aside.

For lemon curd: in another saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from the heat.

Stir a small amount of hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Return to the heat and bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat. Stir in butter. Gently stir in lemon juice and peel. Cool to room temperature without stirring.

For the filling: In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold cheese and whipped cream into lemon curd.

Arrange a third of the ladyfingers on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Drizzle with a third of the syrup; spread with a third of the filling. Repeat layers twice.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Carefully run a knife around edge of the pan to loosen. Remove the sides of the pan. Garnish the top with lemon zest and mint, if desired. Yield: 16 servings.

Related Articles


beans

Beans play an essential role in Italian cooking and, consequently, they are grown throughout the country. From Sicily in the south to Piedmont and Veneto in the north, various regions produce different kinds of beans, all of which are enjoyed by the Italian culture. While many cooks will substitute one white bean for another, each type provides its own individual shape and texture to a given dish.

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Borlotti (cranberry beans) is a favorite bean in northern Italy. These red, tan and brown speckled beans turn  dark brown on the outside and  yellow on the inside when cooked. They add a creamy consistency to any recipe.

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The region of Tuscany is famous for Cannellini, white kidney beans, and are simply referred to as fagioli. Other popular Tuscan white beans include sorani, toscanello, corona and schiaccianoci.

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Chickpeas (Cece) or Garbanzo Beans are the most widely consumed legume in the world and have been adopted in every region of Italy. The chickpea has a round shape and are beige in color. They have a firm texture with a flavor somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. Chickpeas can be cooked in soups and stews, added to pasta, eaten cold in salads and ground into a gluten-free flour.

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Corona, a large white bean,  is a member of the runner family and when cooked, they almost triple in size. This is one reason this hearty bean is often called the “poor man’s meat.”

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Fava beans are a staple of Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania, as well as Sicily. A staple of southern Italian cuisine, fava beans are hardy and widely available.

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Lentils, or lenticchie, are eaten all across Italy. With their nutty taste, lentils are ideally small and brown. The most select lentils are grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Although lentils do not require soaking previous to cooking, they are best when soaked for about an hour.

With all beans, keep in mind that the fresher the bean, the better it will taste when used in your favorite recipes.

A diet rich in fiber is a great preventative of coronary heart disease and colon cancer. Beans can provide a reduction in serum cholesterol levels and are also thought to prevent diabetes in at-risk individuals. Additionally, beans contain more protein than any other vegetable; some beans even rival chicken or meat in protein content.

Cooking beans at home is a simple way to save money and provide the base for many healthy meals. It requires little effort and they’re easy to keep on hand in the refrigerator or freezer. You can quickly put together soups, salads, dips and spreads.

Basic Directions for Cooking Dried Beans

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Spread beans in a single layer on a large sheet tray; pick through to remove and discard any small stones or debris and then rinse well.

Soak the beans using one of these two methods:

Traditional soaking method: In a large bowl, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

Quick soaking method: In a large pot, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove pot from heat and set aside, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain soaked beans and transfer to a large pot. Cover with 2 inches of cold water, add onion and bay leaves and bring to a boil; skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain beans, discard onions and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Beans develop flavor as they cook, but the flavor is subtle. You can boost the flavor of cooked beans by adding aromatic root vegetables, herbs and spices or meat to the pot near the end of cooking—the last 10 to 30 minutes. The flavor of the vegetables, herbs and meat is infused in the water and in turn is drawn into the bean. The conventional wisdom about salting beans is that salt toughens the skins as they cook. So it is best to add salt at the end of the cooking time. Do not add acidic ingredients, like vinegar, tomatoes or tomato juice, as this will slow the cooking process. Instead, add these ingredients after the beans are cooked.

Here are several flavoring options to add near the end of cooking dried beans:

  • Sauté separately diced aromatic vegetables—onions, celery, carrots, leeks, celery root, parsnip, garlic–in olive oil until just soft then stir them into the bean pot with about 10 minutes left to cook.
  • At the end of cooking, stir in salt and pepper to taste, add a bouquet garni–a few thyme sprigs, parsley stems and two bay leaves tied in kitchen twine–to soak.
  • Add a ham hock or a piece of prosciutto to cook with the beans for a deep meaty flavor. Diced bacon or ham steak added to the liquid will also deliver flavor to the beans, as will chunks of beef, pork or lamb.
  • When using beans in a soup, you can thicken the soup by transferring a cup or two of the cooked beans and broth to a blender and purée thoroughly. Then return the purée to the cooking pot.

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Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach and Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta (small ears)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Cook the orecchiette in boiling water  for 1-2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time. Drain and do not rinse.

While the pasta is cooking, saute garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a saute pan for 1-2 minutes.  Do not allow garlic to brown. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Saute until the spinach is wilted. Add broth and simmer about 5 minutes. Add beans and drained orecchiette to the broth mixture. Stir to combine and cook 1-2 more minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

TIP: If you under cook pasta by a few minutes and then add it to your soup to finish the cooking time, the pasta will absorb some of the broth and be more flavorful.

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Bean and Sausage Stew

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 4 Italian sausage links, either pork or turkey, cut in half
  • 1 cup cooked beans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 small potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium high. Brown the sausages on all sides for about 10 minutes and remove onto a plate.

Add the onions to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil, return the sausage to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low.

Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.

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Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes

Serve with pita bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons diced shallots
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • 14 oz. diced tomatoes, slightly drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the lentils in a pot with the water and let rest one hour. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Drain any excess water from the lentils and set them aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils, basil and parsley to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until warmed through. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper and serve.

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Beans and Broccoli 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried large white beans (corona), soaked overnight
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese with rind
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1½ pounds broccoli, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, finely chopped
  • 2 wide strips lemon zest, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Drain beans and place in a large heavy pot. Remove the rind from the cheese and add to the beans along with the onion and garlic. Pour in water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, adding water as needed to keep beans submerged, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Season with salt. Let the beans cool in the liquid. Discard vegetables and Parmesan rind, then drain.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix broccoli with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, 15–20 minutes. Let cool. Finely chop the broccoli.

In a large bowl combine the anchovies, lemon zest, lemon juice, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and beans. Mix gently. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Shave Parmesan cheese over the mixture and serve.

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Braised Chicken with Fennel and White Beans

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cut-up whole chicken (about 3 lbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 can (28 oz) Italian whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cups cooked beans
  • Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

In a deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces to the skillet; cook 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken is light golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet to a platter.

Add onion, garlic, fennel and bell pepper to the skillet. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add browned chicken, tomatoes, wine and rosemary. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, turning chicken once, until chicken is tender.

Stir in beans. Cook uncovered about 5 minutes longer or until sauce is slightly thickened and juice of chicken is clear, when the thickest area reads 165°F on a meat thermometer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


 

 

Valt2Valtellina or the Valtelline (occasionally spelled as two words in English: Val Telline) is a valley in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland. Today, it is known for its ski center, hot spring spas, bresaola, cheeses and wines. In past centuries, it was a key alpine pass between northern Italy and Germany and control of the Valtelline was much sought after, particularly during the Thirty Years’ War.

The earliest settlements date back to prehistoric times: prior to the Roman conquest, the area was inhabited by Rhaetians and Celts.Thanks to its strategic position at a crossroads on one of the main routes connecting northern Italy with the trans alpine regions (the Via Imperiale d’Alemagna), it was already being fought over in the 10th century by various potentates, passing from one ruling power to the next (the bishops of Cosmo and Chur, the Visconti and Sforza families, France and Spain), although it maintained its municipal independence thanks to a 14th – century statute that gave its residents special rights and privileges and helped it become a commercial center.

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Valtellina is also an area of great natural beauty. Nature lovers and sports enthusiasts come here to enjoy a whole range of outdoor pursuits all year round, in a valley dominated by some of the most beautiful and best-known mountains in the Alps. Its internationally renowned tourist resorts have been attracting skiers and mountaineers from Italy and abroad since the 19th century. The best skiing resorts are Bormio, Santa Caterina Valfurva, Livigno, Aprica and Madesimo, the venue of such international events as the 1985 and 2005 World Alpine Skiing Championships.

Ski Trails

Ski Trails

The Stelvio National Park, one of Europe’s largest protected areas covering 134.620 hectares of central Alpine territory, straddles two italian regions: Lombardy and Trentino Alto Adige. The idea to protect this area in the Italian alps was first proposed at the beginning of the 20th century, although the law creating the park was not approved until 1935, and only as recently as 1977 were its present borders defined. The scenery of the park, which ranges in altitude from 650 to 3905 meters (over 12,000 feet), includes glaciers, alpine pasture, extensive woodland, agricultural holdings with farmsteads inhabited all year round, glacial lakes and mountain streams.

Stelvio National Park

Stelvio National Park

Other areas of natural interest include: the Valtellina Orobian Alps Regional Park, the Acqua Fraggia Waterfalls and several nature reserves (Marmitte dei Giganti, Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola, the Postalesio Pyramids, the Bordighi Forest, Pian di Gembro and Paluaccio di Oga.

Valtellina’s grapes are grown on the mountain slopes in an east-west direction, which means maximum light exposure:, so the vineyards enjoy similar sunshine hours to those in Sicily. Vines are almost all planted on terraces carved into the granite and slate rock. All grape picking is by hand, as is the heavy work of hauling grapes up and down the slopes – around three-times more man-hours are required to work these vines than the gentler slopes of Piedmont. A few growers have invested in funicular transporters and even helicopters to aid in this back-breaking work. Nebbiolo has always been the only grape variety bottled in the region’s red wines, though recently some experimental plantings of Merlot and Pinot Noir are being watched with interest.

Mountain Vineyards

Mountain Vineyards

A number of ingredients make up pizzocheri; a local pasta made with a grain known as grano saraceno. This is a medium-width pasta much like fettuccine that is cooked with casera, a local cow’s milk cheese and a cabbage known as verza, which has a blend of sweet and slightly bitter flavors.

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Valt6Other famous foods of Valtellina include bresaola, a cured meat served in an antipasti. This is usually made from beef, but sometimes a restaurant will serve bresaola made from deer, written on the menu as cerva. The most famous food from here is Bitto, a D.O.P. cheese that is aged for various periods ranging from 70 days to 10 years. Primarily a cow’s milk cheese (up to 10 percent goat’s milk may be added) and is made only during the summer in the area’s mountain dairies.

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VALTELLINA PIZZOCHERi

Original recipe of the Pizzocchero Teglio ®

Coded and registered by the Academy of Pizzocchero Teglio

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 400 g of buckwheat flour
  • 100 g white flour
  • 200 g of butter
  • 250 g of cheese Valtellina Casera DOP (protected origin den.ne)
  • 150 g of grated parmesan cheese in
  • 200 g of cabbage
  • 250 g of potatoes
  • a clove of garlic, pepper

Preparation:

Mix the two flours, mix with water and work for about 5 minutes.

With a rolling-pin roll the dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm which are derived from the bands 7 -8 cm. Overlap the strips and cut widthwise, tagliatelle getting about 5 millimeters wide. Bake the vegetables in salted water, the cabbage into small pieces and potatoes into chunks, add the pizzocheri after 5 minutes ( the potatoes are always present, while cabbage can be replaced, according to the seasons, with ribbed or green beans.)After about ten minutes to collect pizzocheri with a slotted spoon and pour a part in a very hot pan, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and Valtellina Casera dop flakes Continue alternating pizzocheri and cheese. Fry the butter with the garlic color leaving for good, before pouring it on pizzocheri. pizzocheri. Without stirring serve hot with a sprinkling of pepper.

The Cuisine of Valtellina

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Insalata Della Valtellina (Bresaola salad)

Bresaola is cured, air-dried beef typically made in the Valtellina area of Lombardy. Lean and tender with a little added salt, it is perfect in salads. It is readily available in Italian delis and larger supermarkets.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 Romaine lettuce leaves, separated
  • A small handful arugula
  • 4 oz radishes, sliced
  • 20 black olives
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered
  • 3 oz bresaola, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely shaved fresh
  • Parmesan, shaved

Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, left whole

Directions

Remove the crusts from the bread and slice into small triangles. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the bread and fry on both sides until golden. Remove and place on a plate.

Combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk together until the dressing is creamy. Remove the garlic clove from the dressing.

Arrange the lettuce leaves, arugula, radishes and olives on a serving dish, drizzle with the dressing and toss well. Arrange the eggs, bresaola and fried bread on top and scatter the Parmesan shavings over all.

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Polenta Taragna alla Valtellinese

It is generally served with salami and pickles.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups polenta mixed with 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup butter plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1/4 pound casera cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter an oven proof dish with 3 tablespoons butter and set aside. In a 6 quart sauce pan, heat 8 cups water to a boil. Whisking furiously, slowly drizzle in mixed flours until all are incorporated. Switch to a wooden spoon.and cook until the texture is thickened. Add the butter and cheese. Stir through and pour into baking dish. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, remove and serve immediately.

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Italian Pork and Vegetable Saute

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless sirloin pork chops, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.

Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet and heat. Add pork and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and meat is slightly pink when pierced in the center with the tip of a sharp knife, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the pork.

Add wine and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits in pan with wooden spoon. Return the vegetables to the pan and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.

Makes 4 servings

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Bisciola

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Grappa, Port or Marsala (dessert wine)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of whole milk
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons or 1 packet (¼-ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt, rye or whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (about 15) dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, pistachios or hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon water, for brushing dough top

Directions

Combine raisins and grappa or dessert wine in a bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium until just warm. Transfer to a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

While yeast is foaming, put flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. With mixer at medium-low, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture.

Mix until well blended, then add the remaining flour mixture along with the butter and egg yolk. Mix for five minutes on low.

Drain raisins, discarding the liquid. Add raisins, figs and all the nuts to the dough. Mix on low until just incorporated.

Remove the bowl from mixer and knead dough with your hands to finish incorporating ingredients and forming a stiff, wet dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out on the prepared pan and form the dough into an 8-inch oval loaf. Cover with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened towel.

Let rest at room temperature until double in size, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle of oven.

In a small bowl, beat 1 egg yolk with a teaspoon of water. Brush dough with the egg mixture then bake, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove and cool on wire rack. Will last 4 to 5 days wrapped in plastic.

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wine

Italy is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and Italian wines are known worldwide for their broad variety. Italy, closely followed by France, is the world’s largest wine producer by volume. Italian wine is exported around the world and is also extremely popular in Italy: Italians rank fifth on the world wine consumption list by volume with 42 litres per capita consumption. Grapes are grown in almost every region of the country and there are more than one million vineyards under cultivation. Italy’s twenty wine regions correspond to the twenty administrative regions. Understanding of Italian wine becomes clearer with an understanding of the differences between each region and their cuisines.

The Italian Wine Regions

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In 1963, the first official Italian system of classification of wines was launched. Since then, several modifications and additions to the legislation were made (a major one in 1992), the last of which, in 2010, established four basic categories, which are consistent with the last EU regulation in the matter of wine (2008–09). The categories, from the bottom level to the top one, are:

  • Vini (Wines – informally called ‘generic wines’): These are wines that can be produced anywhere in the territory of the EU; no indication of geographical origin, of the grape varieties used, or of the vintage is allowed on the label. (The label only reports the color of the wine.)
  • Vini Varietali (Varietal Wines): These are generic wines that are made either mostly (at least 85%) from one kind of authorized ‘international’ grapes (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah) or entirely from two or more of them. The grape(s) and the vintage can be indicated on the label. These wines can be produced anywhere in the territory of the EU.)
  • Vini IGP (Wines with Protected Geographical Indication): This category (also traditionally implemented in Italy as IGT – Typical Geographical Indication) is reserved to wines produced in a specific territory within Italy and following a series of specific and precise regulations on authorized varieties, viticultural and vinification practices, organoleptic and chemico-physical characteristics, labeling instructions, etc. Currently (2014) there exist 118 IGPs/IGTs.
  • Vini DOP (Wines with Protected Designation of Origin): This category includes two sub-categories, i.e. Vini DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) and Vini DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin). DOC wines must have been IGP wines for at least 5 years. They generally come from smaller regions, within a certain IGP territory, that are particularly known for their climatic and geological characteristics and for the quality and originality of the local winemaking traditions. They also must follow stricter production regulations than IGP wines. A DOC wine can be promoted to DOCG, if it has been a DOC for at least 10 years. In addition to fulfilling the requisites for DOC wines (since that’s the category they come from), before commercialization DOCG wines must pass stricter analyses, including a tasting by a specifically appointed committee. DOCG wines have also demonstrated a superior commercial success. Currently (2014) there exist 332 DOCs and 73 DOCGs for a total of 405 DOPs.

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1 Abruzzo
Abruzzo produces one DOCG – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane – and three DOC wines: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Controguerra and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.

The region vineyards cover 33,252 hectares or 82,166 acres.; yearly wine production is 4,184,000 hectoliters or 110,541,611 gallons of which 17.6% isDOC.

2 Aosta Valley
In this small region in the Western Alps along the French border, the grapes are grown up 800 meters above sea level. The Valle d’Aosta DOC zone includes seven sub-zones.

Vineyards cover 635 hectares, or 1,569 acres; yearly wine production is 22,000 hectoliters, or 581,241 gallons; 10% white, 90% red; 22.8% is DOC.

3 Apulia
Apulia economy is based mainly on wine production and counts 25 DOCs, including Aleatico di Puglia, Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera, Primitivo di Manduria, Salice Salentino and Rosso di Cerignola among others.

Vineyards cover 107,715 hectares or 263,693 acres; yearly wine production is 7,236,000 hectoliters or 191,175,693 gallons30% white, 70% red; 3.8% isDOC.

4 Basilicata
Basilicata produces only one DOC wine, the Aglianico del Vulture.

The region is 9,992 Km2 or 6,205 square miles, vineyards cover 10,848 hectares or 26,825 acres; yearly wine production is 481,000 hectoliters or 12,708,058 gallons; 27% white, 73%red; 2.4% isDOC.

5 Calabria
Calabria produces 12 DOCs including Bivongi, Ciró,Greco di Bianco, Pollino and Verbicaro among others.

The region vineyards cover 24,339 hectares or 60,142 acres; yearly wine production is 753,000 hectoliters or 19,894,319 gallons; 9% white, 91% red or sosé; 2.4% is DOC.

6 Campania
Campania produces one DOCG wine – Taurasi – and 19 DOCs including Aglianico del Taburno or Taburno, Campi Flegrei, Cilento, Fiano di Avellino and Vesuvio among others.

The region vineyards cover 41,129 hectares or 101,630 acres; yearly wine production is 1.971,000 hectoliters or 52,073,976 gallons; 36% white, 64% red; 2.8% is DOC.

7 Emilia – Romagna
Emilia–Romagna produces one DOCG wine – Albana di Romagna – and 18 DOCs, including three kind of Lambrusco – di Sorbara, Grasparossa di Castelvetroand Salamino di Santa Croce – in addition to Sangiovese di Romagna, Colli Bolognesi Pignolettoand Bosco Eliceo among others.

The region vineyards cover 58,237 hectares or 143,904 acres; yearly wine production is 4,733,000 hectoliters or 125,046,235 gallons; 43% white, 57% red; 21.4% is DOC.

8 Friuli – Venezia Giulia
Friuli–Venezia Giulia produces one DOCG wine –Ramandolo – and 9 DOCs including Colli Orientali del Friuli, Friuli Aquileia, Collio Goriziano or Collio andLison – Pramaggiore among others.

The region vineyards cover 18,704 hectares or 46,218 acres; yearly wine production is 1,018,000 hectoliters or 26,895,640 gallons; 52% white, 48% red; 60.5% is DOC.

9 Latium
Lazio produces 25 DOCs including Castelli Romani, Colli Albani, Montecompatri-Colonna, Est! Est! Est! di Montefiascone and Velletri among others.

The region vineyards cover 47.884 hectares or 118,321 acres; yearly wine production is 2,940,000 hectoliters or 77,675,033 gallons; 84% white, 16% red; 6.5% is DOC.

10 Liguria
Liguria produces 7 DOCs: Cinque Terre or Cinque Terre Schiacchetrà, Colli di Luni, Colline di Levanto, Golfo del Tigullio, Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Rossese di Dolceacqua or Dolceacqua and Val Polcevera.

The region vineyards cover 4,837 hectares or 11,952 acres; yearly wine production is 165,000 hectoliters or 4,359,313 gallons; 66% white, 34% red; 13.9% is DOC.

Wine-Map-wine-folly

11 Lombardy
Lombardy produces two DOCGs wines – Franciacortaand Valtellina Superiore – and 15 DOCs includingGarda Classico, Oltrepó Pavese, Cellatica and Botticino among others.

The region vineyards cover 26,951 hectares or 66,593 acres; yearly wine production is 1,665,000 hectoliters or 43,989,432 gallons; 38% white, 62% red; 47.3% is DOC.

12 Marches
Marche produces 12 DOCs including Bianchello del Metauro, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Rosso Cònero, Lacrima di Morro or Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and Falerio dei Colli Ascolani among others.

The region is 9,694 Km2 or 4,330 square miles, vineyards cover 24,590 hectares or 60,762 acres; yearly wine production is 1,815,000 hectoliters or 47,957,443 gallons; 62% white, 38% red; 19.6% isDOC.

13 Molise
Molise produces only three DOC wines: Biferno, Molise or del Molise and Pentro di Isernia.

The region is 4,438 Km2 or 2,756 square miles, vineyards cover 7,650 hectares or 18,903 acres; yearly wine production is 360,000 hectoliters or 9,511,228 gallons of which 3.9% is DOC.

14 Piedmont
Piedmont produces seven DOCGs wines – Asti, Barbaresco, Barolo, Brachetto d’Acqui or Acqui, Gavi o Cortese di Gavi, Gattinara and Ghemme – and 44DOCs including three Barbera – d’Alba, d’Asti and del Monferrato – two Freisa – d’Asti and di Chieri, seven Dolcetto, Erbaluce di Caluso o Caluso and Roero among many others.

The region vineyards cover 57,487 hectares or 142,050 acres; yearly wine production is 3,405,000 hectoliters or 89,960,369 gallons; 30% white, 70% red; 55.8% is DOC.

15 Sardinia 
Sardinia produces one DOCG – Vermentino di Gallura– and 19 DOC wines including two Malvasia – di Bosa and di Cagliari – three Moscato – di Sorso-Sennori, di Cagliari and di Sardegna – Vernaccia di Oristano, Cannonau di Sardegna, Nuragus di Cagliariand , Carignano del Sulcis and Mandrolisai among others.

The region vineyards cover 43,331 hectares or 107,070 acres; yearly wine production is 1,062,000 hectoliters or 28,058.124 gallons; 43% white, 57% red; 15.6% is DOC.

16 Sicily 
Sicily produces 19 DOCs including four Moscato – di Noto Naturale or di Noto, di Pantelleria Naturale or di Pantelleria, di Passito di Pantelleria or Passito di Pantelleria and di Siracusa – Marsala, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Malvasia delle Lipari and Sambuca di Sicilia among others.

The region vineyards cover 133,518 hectares or 329,923 acres; yearly wine production is 8,073,000 hectoliters or 213,000,000 gallons of which 2.1% is DOC.

17 Trentino – Alto Adige
Trentino-Alto Adige produces 8 DOCs including Alto Adige or Südtirol which has six subzones, Valdadige or Etschtaler, Teroldego Rotaliano, Casteller and Lago di Caldaro o Caldaro among others.

The region vineyards cover 12,810 hectares or 31,653 acres; yearly wine production is 953,000 hectoliters or 25,178,335 gallons; 45% white, 55% red; 79.1% is DOC.

18 Tuscany
Here they say that grapes preceded mankind …

Tuscany produces seven DOCGs wines – Chianti which includes seven subzones, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – and 44 DOCs including Bolgheri or Bolgheri Sassicaia, Valdichiana, Bianco della Valdinievole and Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario among many others.

The region vineyards cover 63,633 hectares or 157,237 acres; yearly wine production is 2,156,000 hectoliters or 56,961,690 gallons; 30% white, 70% red; 55.5% is DOC.

19 Umbria
Umbria produces two DOCGs wines – Montefalco Sagrantino and Torgiano Rosso Riserva – and 11DOCs including Rosso Orvietano or Orvietano Rosso, Colli del Trasimeno or Trasimeno, Assisi, and Colli Altotiberini among others.

The region vineyards cover 16,503 hectares or 40,779 acres; yearly wine production is 740,000 hectoliters or 19,550,858 gallons; 58% white, 42% red; 30.5% is DOC.

20 Veneto
Veneto produces two DOCGs wines – Recioto di Soave and Bardolino – and 11 DOCs including Soave, Valpolicella o Recioto della Valpolicella, Lessini Durello, Bianco di Custoza and Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene among others.

The region vineyards cover 73,314 hectares or 186,101 acres; yearly wine production is 6,785,000 hectoliters or 179,260,237 gallons; 55.4% white, 44.6% red; 29.1% is DOC.

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Vendemmia

While the majority of tourists prefer to visit Italy during the summer months, for wine lovers September and October is the time the magic happens. The vendemmia – Italian for grape harvest – takes place every year during these months (the exact dates vary between vineyards, depending on the weather and the grapes reaching their peak of ripeness). During the vendemmia, wine festivals take place across Italy, though Tuscany remains the home of winemaking. The Festa dell’uva in Impruneta is the oldest and most revered festival in Italy. Featuring local wine tasting, fresh local produce, music, dancing and parades, it is their biggest event of the year. The Italian grape harvest is underway as you read this, with grower organizations promising less quantity but more quality from the 2014 vintage.

The first grapes were picked in Franciacorta in Lombardy last week, 10 days earlier than in 2013, despite variable weather in the lead-up to harvest. Sicily also started picking around the same time. The total Italian harvest is expected to be smaller than last year’s bumper crop, which yielded 49 million liters of wine, according to Wine-Searcher.

What To Serve With Italian Wine?

wine4

Homemade Ricotta & Spinach Filled Ravioli

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • A pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 4 ounces lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces lean ground pork
  • 4 ounces sweet Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup beef  broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian crushed tomatoes
  • A pinch of fresh sage, rosemary and 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Dough:

  • 2 cups All-Purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

The filling:

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, one egg, half of the Parmigiano, some grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well. Refrigerate until reading to make the ravioli.

The sauce:

Heat a skillet over low heat; add the olive oil and then the shallot. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the herbs, meat and sausage—breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon. Raise the flame to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes or until the meat is cooked through. Add the wine and season with salt and pepper. Cover and continue to cook on a low flame. Add broth to keep the mixture moist. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring often. Add the crushed tomatoes and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

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The dough:

Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Or you can mix the ingredients in the food processor.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Cut the ball of dough in 1/2, cover and reserve the piece you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with a little flour. Press the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at the widest setting. Pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue tightening until the machine is at the second narrowest setting; the dough should be almost paper-thin.

Cut two long rectangular strips of equal size, a little more than 3 inches wide. (Keep the rest of the dough covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.) Spoon a generous amount of filling every 2 to 3 inches along the dough. Place the other sheet on top and press it lightly all along the edges. Using the wheel cutter, first trim off the four sides of the rectangle; then cut out each square. Seal each one well with your fingers or a fork. Lay them on a tray with some semolina flour on the bottom to avoid sticking.

Continue this procedure, preparing as many ravioli as you can, balancing the amount of filling with the remaining dough.

To cook:

In a large pot, bring a gallon of water to boil; add a half handful of salt and then add the ravioli one by one. Stir them very gently and cook for 8 minutes. Drain them with a colander or a sieve and then place them in a warm pasta bowl, alternating them with the hot meat sauce and Parmigiano cheese.


There are five islands in the Ligurian Sea and all are protected nature reserves or part of the collection of Italian national parks. The Ligurian Islands are characterised by their small or even tiny size and by their vicinity to the coast. These islands share two common features: their well-preserved Mediterranean vegetation with rare surviving species and the presence of ruined abbeys and monasteries dating back to the late Roman times.

Palmaria

islandspalmaria

A ferry service takes visitors to the island of Palmaria, which is a regional park: a protected area which is rich in natural beaches, cliffs, vegetation and caves that can only be reached by boat. From a tourist point of view, the island of Palmaria is the biggest and the most popular of the La Spezia Archipelago and every year thousands of tourists choose to visit its beautiful, uncontaminated beaches and crystalline waters.

It is close to the town of Portovenere, separated only by a narrow strait called Le bocche. The Palmaria island probably takes its name from the term “balma” which means cave, rather than from the presence of dwarf palms. The island offers many different landscapes: the eastern part is densely covered with Mediterranean scrub and the western side is characterized by steep sea cliffs that reach (188 m) over 600 feet high.The island also contains many interesting sights, such as the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave) in the western side which can be reached only by boat and the Grotta dei Colombi (Cave of Pigeons) accessible only with climbing ropes. Another noteworthy site is an abandoned quarry situated in the southern part of the island called Pozzale, which was used for mining black marble with gold streaks.

Tino

islandstino

The island of Tino lies beyond Palmaria. It is a military zone and is only open to visitors once a year on the occasion of the feast of San Venerio, the hermit who lived on the island in the tenth century.The area measures about 127,000 square meters and presents a triangular and rocky shape, with dense vegetation made up of maritime pines, live oaks, myrtles, mastics and strawberry trees.

A military lighthouse is located on a 400 foot (122 m) high cliff and has been a guide for thousands of boats, ships and vessels. On the eastern side there’s also a small port, the only landing-place for visitors. Nearby, there’s an archaeological area with ruins dating back to the Roman Age which prove the presence of ancient monastic settlements. In addition, on the northern coast, are the ruins of a monastery, whose construction probably dates back to 11th century.

Although the island is a military area, every year on September 13th the day of the patron St. Venerio, the island can be visited by tourists and, in addition, it is also possible to visit it with excursions organized by the Park. On the other days of the year it is strictly forbidden to land there.

Tinetto

islandstinetto

The island of Tinetto is the smallest one in the La Spezia Archipelago and is separated from Tino by just a few submerged rocks. The area is about half a hectare and doesn’t exceed 55 feet (17 meters) in height. Tino island lacks vegetation, with the exception of some Mediterranean shrubs and it hosts a rare subspecies of wall lizard, which is not present in any other corner of the world.

Tinetto had the first monastic settlement that was built in the 6th century. but it was destroyed by the Saracens. On the southern side, a small oratory remains intact along with a church with two naves to which a second oratory and the monks’ cells were linked.

Gallinara

islandsgallinara

The island of Gallinara takes its name from the wild hens (Gallina = hen in Italian) which once lived there.The island has a surface of 0.23 sq. miles and lies less than a mile from the coast, near Albenga. It is a small Island and sheltered St. Martin of Tours between 356 and 360, who was escaping from Milan in order to avoid the Aryan persecutions. It became a center for monks and subsequently, the Benedictines. The monastery extended its influence into the Riviera di Ponente in 11th century but, during the 13th and 14th centuries, the abbey gradually fell into decay. Today, the island preserves the monastery ruins, the 16th century tower and the little neo-gothic church.

The Island, with its rare Mediterranean vegetation and its uncontaminated environment has become a Regional Natural Park. The Herring Gulls chose this place to nest without being disturbed, creating one of the largest colonies in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea. The less steep northern coast used to be a landing-place for the Roman ships, whose important discoveries are safeguarded in the Albenga Museum. Visitors can find Mediterranean Paleolithic flower species, rare reptiles and an unpolluted sea environment. Sea beds host several interesting and, in some cases, rare species of animal and vegetative life. The island’s vertical rock is characterized by formations of Coralligeno, whereas the northern area shows a wide area of oceanic Posidonia, a genus of flowering plants. The area surrounding the whole island is a marine conservation area. The only mooring place is on the north-western side. Its 1.86 miles coastline is steep, but the seabed is beautiful and famous for the presence of very rare black coral.

Bergeggi

islandsbergeggi

The little island of Bergeggi is a mile from the small promontory of Punta Predani. It is part of a regional protected area and it has a medium high rocky coast which is a little over 170 feet (53 meters) high. The natural environment includes the Mediterranean scrub and other species named campanula sabatia and euphorbia dendroides.The surrounding marine area was included among the conservation areas for the presence of important biological species in its sea beds.

The island has several signs which prove human settlement occurred on the island during the Roman age. One can find a very ancient circular sighting tower and the ruins of a Roman church dedicated to St. Eugenio, which dates back to the fourth century. In 992, the bishop of Savona ordered the construction of a monastery on the island to pay homage to the saint and it was given as a gift to the Colombian monks of Lérins. Today, the ruins of the monastery remain intact. Recently, a private villa was built on the island, but now it is empty and abandoned.

On the western part of the island, a pifferaio (Pied piper), a metal statue which represents a sitting human figure playing a wind instrument can be seen. According to reports, the statue represents a shepherd who’s calling a little goat from the gardens of the promontory, Torre del mare.

In all the areas, it is strictly forbidden to do any activity that might disturb the animal and plant life, such as bathing, navigation, anchorage, mooring, use of water motors, water skiing, underwater fishing, fishing or aquaculture.

The Cuisine of Liguria

The Mediterranean diet combines certain ingredients with the climate, traditions and cultures of the Mediterranean countries. Olive oil, pasta, fruit, vegetables, fish, some meat, legumes and wine are the basis of the Mediterranean diet. The word “diet” come from the Greek “diaita” that means “way of living”. Since the 1960’s, scientific research has proved that the Mediterranean people enjoy better health conditions than much of the western world.

Italy is one of the major consumers of olive oil and pasta in the world. Moreover every region can boast different types of pasta produced locally and olive oil is produced throughout much of the country. Liguria produces extra virgin olive oil that bears the certification of “origine protetta” (i.e., protected origin) and is characterised by precise qualities according to its production areas. Extra virgin olive oil that is produced in Western Liguria is characterised by a fruity aroma with hints of almond and apple and a low acidity. The oil of Western Liguria is extracted from the Taggiasca olives that are small and dark whose cultivation was introduced into Liguria by the Benedictine monks many centuries ago.

Typical foods of the Ligurian cuisine include stuffed vegetables, salads and home-made pasta (e.g., ravioli and trofie) with pesto sauce. One can also find “rabbit with Vermentino”, “dried cod brand de cujun”, “torta verde” (rice and vegetables cooked in a thin sheet of pastry) or pizzas – such as “Sardenara” with tomatoes, anchovies, olives and extra virgin olive oil.

islandtart

Leek and Smoked Mozzarella Tart

This Ligurian tart is prepared by chef Fausto Oneto at Ristorante U’ Giancu in Rapallo.

For the dough:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra if needed

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick)unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 4 ounces smoked Mozzarella or smoked Scamorza, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a round 16-inch pizza pan with low sides with olive oil.

Make the dough: Combine the flour, salt, milk, and olive oil on a counter. Add a little more milk if the dough is dry, or a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Knead 30 seconds, or until smooth, and wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the leeks and milk, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and the milk has evaporated. Add the Parmigiano, smoked Mozzarella and salt, and cool to room temperature. Adjust the salt, if needed.

Roll out the dough until it is very thin on a lightly floured counter (it should measure about 22 inches in diameter) and line the prepared pan with it, letting excess dough hang over the sides of the pan. Spoon in the leek filling. Use the overhanging dough to create a pretty border around the tart.

Bake the tart in the preheated oven until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

islandpasta

Pasta with Mediterranean Herbs

Maria Rosa Costa owns the renowned Ristorante Rosa overlooking the fishing town of Camogli. Here is her recipe for pasta with Mediterranean herbs.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, minced
  • 4 sage leaves, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shell pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep saute pan over a high heat. Add the rosemary, sage and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and cook 10 minutes, adding a little water, if needed.

Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the shells and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Stir the pasta into the rosemary sauce and add the Parmigiano. Add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to dilute the sauce and saute until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. Adjust the salt, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve hot.

islandfish

Ligurian Style Snapper with Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 (6-ounce) pieces snapper fillet
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lightly toasted and ground fennel seeds
  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 3/4 pounds ripe but firm tomatoes, seeded and cut into 3/8-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed torn fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in each of 2 baking dishes, each large enough to hold 4 pieces of fish with space in between. Put the dishes in the oven to heat the oil, but don’t let it get to the smoking point.

With a sharp utility or boning knife, make a few shallow slices through the skin of each snapper fillet to keep them from curling in the hot oil. Season each piece on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel. Place the fish in the hot oil, skin side down, to coat with the oil, then immediately turn with a fish spatula so that the skin side is up. The oil is the correct temperature, if you hear a light sizzle when the fish is added.

Divide the olives between the dishes, scattering them around the fish, then splash equal amounts of wine into each dish.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fish is slightly firm and starts to flake when the tip of a knife is inserted into the flesh. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillets. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, then divide them between the baking dishes, making sure they fall between the pieces of fish and into the hot pan juices. The tomatoes just need to get slightly wilted in the hot pans.

With a fish spatula, transfer the fish to warmed plates or a serving platter. Toss the basil in the olives and tomatoes and when the leaves are coated with the pan juices, spoon the mixture over the fish.

Italian-hazelnuislandcake

Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with oil.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly then rub in a clean dish towel to remove the skins. Set aside to cool completely.

Grind cooled nuts in a food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour and baking powder; whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add hazelnut-flour mixture; then add olive oil, milk and lemon zest, beating 1 minute more to combine.

Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake cake until golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on a wire rack. Release cake from pan and serve.

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