The region of Abruzzo is hilly and mountainous and stretches from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. In this part of the Adriatic, the long sandy beaches are replaced by steep and rocky coasts. L’Aquila is the regional capital. Pescara, Chieti and Teramo are other important cities.
Abruzzo boasts the title of “Greenest Region in Europe” thanks to one third of its territory, the largest in Europe, being set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves. In the region there are three national parks, one regional park and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of all of Europe’s living species and are also home to some rare species, such as the small wading dotterel, golden eagle, Abruzzo chamois, Apennine wolf and Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe’s southernmost glacier.
The Abruzzo region has two types of climate: the first is strongly influenced by the presence of Abruzzo’s Apennines range. Coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters, rainy hills and a climate where temperatures progressively decrease with increasing altitude. Precipitation is also strongly affected by the presence of the Apennines mountain ridges with increased rain on the slopes of the mountains in the region.
Until a few decades ago, Abruzzo was a region of poverty in Southern Italy. Since the 1950s, Abruzzo has had steady economic growth. In 1951, the Abruzzo per capita income or GDP was 53% of that of Northern Italy, the nation’s richest region. By 1971, Abruzzo was at 65% and, by 1994, the per capita income was at 76% of Northern Italy’s per capita income, giving Abruzzo the highest per capita GDP of Southern Italy and surpassing the growth of every other region in Italy. The construction of superhighways from Rome to Teramo (A24) and Rome to Pescara (A25) opened Abruzzo to easy access. Abruzzo also attained higher per capita education levels and greater productivity growth than the rest of the South.
The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake led to a sharp economic slowdown. However, according to statistics at the end of 2010, it seems that the economy of Abruzzo is recovering, despite the negative data regarding employment. At the end of 2010, Abruzzo’s growth was placed fourth among the Italian regions with the highest annual growth rates after Lazio, Lombardy and Calabria.
Abruzzo’s industrial sector expanded rapidly, especially in mechanical engineering, transportation equipment and telecommunications. Both pure and applied research are carried out in the region where there are major institutes and factories involved in research, especially, in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, electronics, aerospace and nuclear physics. The industrial infrastructure is spread throughout the region in industrial zones, the most important of which are Val Pescara, Val Sangro, Val Trigno, Val Vibrata and Conca del Fucino.
A further activity worthy of note is seaside and mountain tourism, which is of considerable importance to the economy of the region. In the past decade, tourism has increased due to Abruzzo’s wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially around L’Aquila. Beach-goers also flock to places like Tortoreto, Giulianova, Silvi Marina, Roseto and, further south, Ortona, Vasto and San Salvo. Ski resorts are equally popular.
Agriculture has succeeded in modernizing and offering higher-quality products. The mostly small, agricultural properties produce wine, cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, olives, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Traditional products are saffron and liquorice. Most famous in the wine world is Abruzzo’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has earned a reputation as being one of the most widely exported DOC classed wine in Italy.
Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with various traditions attached to each province.
Battered and fried zucchini blooms, spit-roasted scamorza cheese, vinegar-poached lobster, salame di pecora (a rare sheep’s meat salami), crepes loaded with cheese and vegetables in a rich mutton broth, hearty ragus, ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and dusted with saffron powder .… are just a few of the complex and elegant flavors to be found on Abruzzi tables.
Ragus are a generalized term for any type of meat-based sauce. Ragus are heavily associated with the cooking of Southern Italy, as well, and seem to have begun their migration southward from the Abruzzi region.
This is a cheese-loving region and mozzarella and scamorza take center stage on the dairy scene. Both cow’s milk cheeses are young, mild, creamy and sweet with smooth textures and a stringiness that allows them to hold up equally well in baked dishes or on their own as table cheeses.
The maccheroni alla chitarra are highly renowned (homemade pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades) and scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup. On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of “poor man’s fish,” that are caught off the shores of ancient fishing villages.
As for second courses, a typical recipe is scapece, which is pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also popular in coastal towns. Other than sea fare, one will find plenty of lamb, kid and mutton on the dinner table, while pork is used for prosciutto, lonza, ventricina and other typical salamis that are produced locally. Abruzzi lamb, in general, is considered superior in flavor to other lamb found elsewhere because of the animals’ mountain-grazed diets rich in herbs.
Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, you will find nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds) and cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey.
Traditional Recipes from Abuzzo
Potato Soup with Saffron
- 1 ¼ lb potatoes
- 10 oz cannarozzi – spaghetti cut into small pieces
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 teaspoon Saffron threads
- 2 ½ oz extra virgin olive oil
- Celery leaves for garnish
Lightly sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil. As soon as the mixture has cooled, add the saffron, mix well and then let rest to dissolve the saffron.
Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.
Add 8 ¼ cups of water to the pot containing the saffron mixture and then salt to taste. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, add the potatoes. Heat and serve garnished with celery leaves.
Timballo di Crespelle
This recipe is often served at wedding lunches, where it generally follows the soup course.
For the crespelle (crepes):
- 50g [2 oz] all-purpose flour
- Olive oil, for the pan
- 3 eggs
- 6 tablespoons water
For the filling:
- 125g [4 oz] ground meat
- 100g [3 1/2 oz] spinach
- 75g [2 1/2 oz] mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 20g [1 scant oz] butter
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 artichokes
- 2 tablespoons grated Grana or Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 chicken liver
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
To make the filling.
Mince the chicken liver and combine it with the ground meat.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and gently brown the ingredients over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Set aside.
Clean the spinach, blanch in a little salted water for 5 minutes; drain, squeeze out any excess water and lightly cook it with the butter for 4 minutes. Set aside.
Clean and trim the artichokes, discard the tough outer leaves and trim off the tips; cut in half, discard the inner fuzz and slice them. Sprinkle with the parsley and a dash of salt and cook in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons olive oil for 20 minutes, moistening with a little water, if need be. Set aside.
Break the egg into a mixing bowl, add the milk and egg yolk and whisk with a fork. Set aside
To make the crespelle.
Put the flour, eggs and 6 tablespoons water into a mixing bowl and beat with a fork. Take a small frying pan, the bottom should be as wide as the ovenproof dish to be used for the timballo, and heat a little olive oil in it over a moderate to low heat.
Place 2 tablespoons batter into the pan, tilting to make sure it spreads out to cover the bottom; let it set and then flip. When the crespelle is ready, remove it from the pan and continue until all the batter has been used, greasing the pan each time with a little oil.
To assemble the timballo.
Butter an ovenproof dish and lay a crespelle on the bottom.
Make separate layers of sliced mozzarella, meat, spinach and artichokes, separating each with a crepe, adding a sprinkling of Grana cheese each time and a couple of tablespoons of the egg and milk mixture.
Make sure there are at least 2 layers of each ingredient, cover with another crespelle and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and egg-milk mixture.
Place the dish in the oven and bake at 220°C/425°F for 30 minutes.
Penne with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Ragu
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juices
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.
Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.
Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.
Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.
But among Abruzzo’s desserts, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread eaten at the time only by higher classes. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented that recipe by using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the bread’s golden hue. He kept the dome shape and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.
- 2 cups 70% dark chocolate
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sweet almonds
- 10 bitter almonds
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 eggs, separated
Blanch almonds in boiling water and peel off the husk, and grind them with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a processor. Work butter with a fork, add the remaining sugar and the egg yolks and whisk well. Fold in the ground almonds and then the flour and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites in a mixer until soft peaks form and then and fold into the almond mixture.
Pour mixture in a buttered Bundt pan or dome-shaped cake mold and bake at 450° F for 45 minutes.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and once the parrozzo has cooled, spread the chocolate sauce over the entire surface. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting.
Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the word “salad,” they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil and herbs. Pliny the Elder, in Natural History, for instance, reported that salads (acetaria) were composed of those garden products that “needed no fire for cooking and saved fuel, and which were a resource to store and always ready” (Natural History, XIX, 58). They were easy to digest and were not calculated to overload the senses or stimulate the appetite.
The food writer, Marcus Apicius, of the first century C.E. offered several salad recipes, some of which were unusual. His recipe for bread salad:
Cover the bottom of a large salad bowl with bread, then add layers of sliced chicken, more bread, sweetbreads, shredded cheese, pine nuts or almonds, cucumber slices, finely chopped onions, then finish with another layer of bread. A dressing made of celery seed, pennyroyal, mint, ginger, coriander, raisins, honey, vinegar, olive oil and white wine is poured over the salad.
Another dressing Apicius used on lettuce was a cheese sauce that included pepper, lovage, dried mint, pine nuts, raisins, dates, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, garum (fish sauce), oil, wine and other ingredients.
Other Roman salads were similar to present-day ones, such as lettuce and cucumbers or raw endive dressed with garum (fermented fish sauce), olive oil, chopped onion and vinegar or a dressing of honey, vinegar and olive oil. Roman salad dressings eventually became more complex. Apicius gave a recipe for one containing ginger, rue (herb), dates, pepper, honey, cumin and vinegar.
With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs.
The United States popularized mixed greens salads in the late 19th century. Several other regions of the world adopted salads throughout the second half of the 20th century. From Europe and the Americas to China, Japan and Australia, salads are sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the US market, restaurants will often have a “Salad Bar” laid out with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their individual salad.
While we may not want to make Apicius’ salad, adding some different ingredients can bring new life to your old salad.
Insalata Nizzarda – Italian Version of Nicoise Salad
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
- Two 7 oz jars or cans of tuna in olive oil, drained and the oil reserved
- 4 salted anchovy fillets, halved lengthwise
- 3 ripe plum, cores removed, cut into wedges
- 1/2 cup pitted green or black olives
- 4 cups arugula
- Extra virgin olive oil added to drained tuna oil to equal 6 tablespoons
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add the eggs, and boil for 10 minutes, drain and cool in cold water.
Drain the oil from the tuna and add enough olive oil, if needed, to the tuna oil to measure 6 tablespoons. Break the tuna into chunks or coarse flakes.
Whisk the tuna oil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and the capers in a large deep salad bowl, one that gives you enough room for tossing once you have layered all the ingredients.
Add the tuna to the dressing and turn to coat everything. Lay the anchovy fillets on top, then the tomatoes and the olives.
Pile the arugula on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place.
To serve, shell and quarter the eggs. Gently turn the salad over a couple of times and arrange the eggs on top.
- 2 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 slices bacon
- 2 slices crusty bread, cut into small cubes
- 2 cups fresh torn lettuce leaves
- 2 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
If using frozen peas just defrost them. Do not boil.
Boil fresh peas 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk well.
Cook bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan. Toss bread cubes in drippings and cook until crispy.
Combine peas, lettuce, vinaigrette and bread cubes. Top with cheese.
Strawberry Salad with Pine Nuts and Avocado
- 1 ripe avocado, preferably Hass variety, peeled, pitted and diced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup (heaping) strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil or hazelnut oil
- 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Combine avocado with lemon juice in a large nonreactive bowl. Add berries, oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and combine well. Place arugula on a serving plate. Top with avocado mixture and pine nuts. Serve.
Spinach, Grape and Feta Salad
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 1 cup red grapes, cut into halves
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons sliced, skin-on almonds, toasted
- 2 green onions (light green and dark green parts only), finely chopped
Whisk mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil; add salt and pepper.
Toss spinach, grapes, feta, almonds and green onions in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad, toss to combine and serve.
Chicken Salad with Zucchini and Pine Nuts
- 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of 2 lemons
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 medium zucchini (2 pounds), cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 cups lightly packed baby arugula leaves
In a large nonreactive bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic, oregano, lemon zest, half of the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the zucchini and cherries and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a large, shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine the minced shallot with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining lemon juice. Add the chicken breast halves, turning to coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning a few times.
In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing a few times, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade, scraping off the shallot. Slice the chicken on the bias 1 1/2 inches thick and season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken slices and cook over moderately high heat, turning a few times, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a large, shallow serving bowl and let cool slightly. Add the marinated zucchini, toasted pine nuts, arugula and toss lightly. Serve immediately
Lazio located in central Italy, stretches from the western edges of the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is mainly flat with small mountainous areas in the most eastern and southern districts. Lazio has four very ancient volcanic districts, where the craters of extinct volcanoes form the lakes of Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Albano and Nemi. Lazio is the third most populated region of Italy and has the second largest economy of the nation. Rome is the capital of Italy, as well as the region. Other important cities are Frosinone, Latina, Viterbo and Rieti.
Until the late 19th century, much of the lowland area of Lazio was marshy and malarial. Major reclamation work in the early 20th century resulted in drainage and repopulation of the plain that transformed the region. Migratory grazing was greatly reduced and wheat, maize, vegetables, fruit and meat and dairy products were able to flourish in the lowlands, while olive groves and vineyards gradually began to cover the slopes.
Light industry developed with the help of regional development programs, particularly in and around the new satellite towns of Aprilia, Pomezia and Latina, south of Rome. Rome is the region’s commercial and banking center, but it has little industry apart from artisan and specialized industries, such as fashions. Large numbers of persons are employed by the government. In the rest of the region only chemical and pharmaceutical plants, food industries, papermaking and a few small machine industries are of significance.
Rome, including the Vatican, is Italy’s largest tourist center and tourism is also important at resorts in the Alban Hills, the Apennines and along the coast.
Lazio’s transportation is also dominated by Rome’s railways and roads and the city has one of Europe’s busiest international airports. Civitavecchia, the only port of importance, is noted chiefly for its trade with Sardinia.
Take a tour of the Lazio region with the video below.
Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed the cuisine for all. Add to this a heavy influence of Jewish cooking and a variety of flavor combinations emerge.
Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (artichokes, deep-fried or simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint) and inexpensive cuts of meat (called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chili pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and zucchini blossoms) and sharp Pecorino cheese (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside).
The hills in Lazio are rich and fertile making it easy to grow vegetables of all types which in turn makes them an important part of the cuisine. They are cooked with liberal amounts of oil, herbs and garlic and, more often than not, a good portion of anchovies.
Lazio appetizers feature fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, artisanal breads, olives and olive oils produced within the region. Lazio cuisine may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is usually found in lasagne or fettuccine. Lazio recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Potato, rice or semolina gnocchi dumplings are also commonly prepared. Suppli al telefono are hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver or anchovies.
Chicken is used more here than in other regions and they also eat a fair amount of rabbit. Pork is used to make Guanciale or cured pork cheek, Ventresca or cured belly meat, Mortadella di Amatrice, sausages or salsicce, lard and prosciutto. Often the salumi are spicy and flavorful.
Much of the fish consumed in Lazio comes from the Tiber River and Bolsena Lake, including ciriole, caption and freshwater eels.
Even when it comes to desserts, they keep it simple. Maritozzi, a type of cream-filled pastry, doughnuts, fried rice treats and ricotta tarts are all popular.
Lazio is known for Est Est Est a wine that is produced in the area near Lake Bolsena and Falerno.
This deep dish pie is probably named for the town of Gaeta and the pan they used to prepare the pie. It was popular for the farmers and fishermen, so that they had a meal that could keep for a few days. It consists of a rustic pizza round that usually contains olives, fish (such as anchovies and / or sardines, octopus and squid), ricotta cheese or other cheeses and vegetables, such as tomatoes or onion.
- 10 ½ oz (300 gr) Italian flour (00 flour)
- 7 oz (200 gr) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
Ingredients for the filling
- 1 1/4 lbs (500 gr) octopus
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup (60 gr) black olives
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup (200 gr) tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons (20 gr) parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons (3 gr) crushed red chilli pepper
- Salt to taste
Combine the dough ingredients and let it rise, push the dough down and let it rise again.
Roll out half the dough to fit a 10 inch baking pan.
Put the octopus in a large pot of boiling salted water with the vinegar and boil until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel as much of the skin off the octopus as you can while it is still hot. Chop the octopus into bite-size pieces.
Combine the filling ingredients.
Place the filling in the dough covered pan.
Roll out the remaining dough and cover the filling. Seal and brush the dough with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake at 350 degrees F (180-200) for about 25-30 minutes.
Spaghetti and Roman Broccoli
- 1 head Romanesco broccoli or regular broccoli
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 ¼ cups (500 ml) of vegetable broth
- 8 oz (220 gr) of spaghetti, broken into pieces
- Salt and Pepper
- 5 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For Romanesco broccoli:
Clean and dice in small pieces. Set aside in a bowl.
If using regular broccoli:
Wash the broccoli, clean the tops and cut off the florets. Dice the stalks. Set aside in a bowl.
Fry the garlic in the oil until golden in a large saucepan. Add the broccoli to the pan and stir well.
Add the vegetable broth and the tomato paste, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until the broccoli is tender.
Add salt and pepper according to taste.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water. Drain and add to the broccoli in the saucepan and heat. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese.
Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana and Gricia are the four most popular pasta dishes in Rome. Together they form the backbone of Primi courses at every trattoria in the Eternal City, where the locals have strong, vocal opinions on where to find the best execution of each, never all at one place.
- 12 oz (320 gr) bucatini pasta
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) Pecorino romano cheese, grated
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) guanciale or pancetta or bacon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Dice the bacon and brown over low heat in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil.
Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water, al dente. Drain well. Add to the skillet with the bacon and sauté for 1 minute.
Sprinkle with the cheese and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.
Salt Cod Fillets Roman Style
- 1 1/3 lbs (600 gr) salted codfish (baccalà), soaked
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 (1/4-ounce) packet dry active yeast
- 2 tablespoon butter, melted
- Olive oil
Soak the baccalà in cold water for at least 3 days prior to preparing this dish. Change the water each day.
Combine butter, flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
Dry and cut the cod into serving pieces.
Coat each fillet in batter, then fry in a large pan with very hot oil.
Place fillets on paper towels to drain before serving.
Hazelnut Cake Viterbo
- Cake pan – 10 inches or 26 cm diameter
- 1/2 cup (50 g) potato starch
- 7 1/8 oz (200 gr) 00 Italian flour
- 1 2/3 cups (350 gr) sugar
- 1/3 cup (60 gr) milk chocolate, chopped
- 1 ¼ cups (200 gr) chopped toasted hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup 50 gr raisins softened in a little milk
- 6 oz (170 gr) milk
- 3 eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 5 ¼ oz (150 g) butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Powdered sugar for garnish
In a large bowl mix the potato starch, flour, baking powder, sugar, chocolate, chopped hazelnuts and softened butter.
Add one egg at a time and mix it into the mixture before adding the next. Add the drained raisins, lemon zest and milk.
Butter the pan and sprinkle with flour mixed with a little sugar.
Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake in the oven at 325 degrees F (160-170) for 45-50 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
Citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemons, limes and oranges) are at their best in the winter and can add a burst of flavor to your recipes. These fruits are a rich source of vitamin C, which helps protect you from infection, can help keep your skin smooth, heals wounds and cuts and assists in red blood cell formation and repair.
A little bit of lemon zest brightens up morning pancakes while some freshly squeezed orange juice can be used to marinate mahi-mahi before grilling it.
Try these suggestions for adding citrus fruit to your menu.
- Make citrus fruit salad and include all of your favorites Try it with a sprinkling of unsweetened coconut flakes or a bit of raw honey and a sprinkling of nuts.
- Enjoy citrus for dessert with a square of dark chocolate.
- Pair with almost any variety of cheese. Hard, salty cheese adds wonderful balance and flavor to the sweet acidity of the fruit.
- Stir into Greek yogurt, cottage or ricotta cheese and eat as is or with a bit of honey or sliced dates for breakfast or a snack.
- Bake with citrus fruits.
- Cut into rounds and serve with a leafy green salad for a beautiful presentation.
- Add citrus to smoothie blends, such as green apple and parsley.
- Dip citrus segments into sweetened cream cheese dip or spread with your favorite roasted nut butter.
- Use citrus zest to add flavor to condiments.
- Add citrus segments to whole grain salads.
Some tips in using citrus fruits
- Heavy citrus fruits with firm rinds will have the most juice.
- Citrus fruits will stay freshest when wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
- Fresh-squeezed juice and citrus zest can be frozen for later use.
- When a recipe calls for strips of zest, a vegetable peeler works well. But for fluffy, grated zest, try using a microplane zester.
How to cut citrus fruit into segments:
Cut off the top and bottom of the fruit and stand it up on one end. Slice downward to cut away the skin and pith, moving around until all is removed. Holding the fruit over a bowl, slice along both sides of the membrane to release the segments.
Italian Kale Salad with Citrus Fruits
Lacinato kale is a variety of kale used in Italian cooking. It is also known as Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage, Italian kale, Dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, black kale, flat back cabbage, palm tree kale or black Tuscan palm. Lacinato kale has been grown in Tuscany for centuries. It is one of the traditional ingredients of minestrone and ribollita.
- 3 cups raw lacinato kale, stems removed, cut into strips 1 cm wide (measure after cutting)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
- 1/4 of a red onion, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese or feta cheese
- 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into sections, dividing membranes removed
- 1 orange, peeled and cut into sections, dividing membranes removed
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
For the dressing:
Combine in a bottle or small bowl. Mix well before using.
For the salad:
Mix kale, pine nuts and onion in a large bowl. Season salad with salt and pepper. Cut goat or feta cheese into small pieces and mix into the salad.
Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat the leaves. Arrange grapefruit sections on the salad after it is put on the plate so they do not break.
Lemon Rice Soup with Tiny Meatballs
- 1/2 cup medium-grain white rice
- 3 cups water
- Kosher salt
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 pound lean ground turkey or lamb
- 1/3 cup sweet onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped mint, plus extra for garnishing
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped dill, plus dill sprigs for garnish
- 1 1/4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
In a large saucepan, cover the rice with the 3 cups of water, season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the rice is tender and the water is nearly absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Transfer 1/2 cup of the rice to a blender and spread the remaining rice on a plate.
Add the chicken stock to the empty saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Add 1 cup of the hot stock to the blender with the rice, cover and puree until the rice is smooth. With the machine on, add the egg yolks and lemon juice and blend until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture into the hot stock and keep warm over low heat.
In a medium bowl, mix the meat with the onion, mint, 2 tablespoons of the dill, 1/4 teaspoon of the lemon zest, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Form the mixture into 1-inch balls. Lightly dust the meatballs with flour, tapping off any excess, and drop them into the warm soup.
Increase the heat to moderate and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved rice and the remaining 1 tablespoon of dill and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with dill or mint and serve.
Lemon Gnocchi with Peas & Spinach
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 8 ounces heavy cream
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- Fine Sea Salt
- 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 (1-pound) package Potato Gnocchi
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
In a large skillet, combine peas, cream, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook uncovered until leaves are wilted. Remove pan from the heat and mix in lemon zest and juice.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they float to the top, about 4 minutes. Drain gnocchi, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Mix the drained gnocchi with the cream sauce in the skillet. Add the reserved pasta water and stir to coat. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.
Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel
- 3 navel oranges
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 4 – 4 ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice grinder
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 3 cups arugula, tough stems removed
Remove the skin and white pith from oranges with a sharp knife. Working over a bowl, cut the segments from their surrounding membranes. Squeeze juice in the bowl before discarding the membranes. Transfer the segments with a slotted spoon to another bowl. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the bowl with the orange juice. Set aside.
Season pork chops on both sides with fennel seeds and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chops and cook until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Add sliced fennel and shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add arugula and cook, stirring, until it begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in the reserved orange segments, then transfer the contents of the pan to a large serving platter. Place the pork chops on top.
Add the reserved orange juice mixture to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Pour over the pork chops and serve.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
- 3/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more to thin glaze
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a bundt pan with olive oil, then dust with flour.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. Stir in sugar.
In another bowl, sift baking powder and flour. Once combined, slowly add the flour to the wet ingredients as you mix.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. It should come out clean.
Remove cake from the oven and allow to rest. Once it has cooled, turn it onto a plate.
To create the icing, mix sugar and lemon juice together until smooth. Drizzle the over the cooled cake.
Serves 8 to 10
Tips To Make Your Baked Goods Better
Use Room-Temperature Ingredients
Many baked goods start by creaming together butter and sugar, which is made easier with warm ingredients. The exception – biscuits and pie dough need chilled butter to make a tender dough.
Invest in Quality Bakeware
Flimsy, thin pans and sheet trays won’t conduct heat efficiently, causing your cake, pie, cookies or pastries to bake unevenly.
Butter and Flour Your Pans Generously
When a recipe calls for a greased and/or floured pans, it’s for a reason: Your batter has the potential to stick to the pan and the cake will be difficult to get out of the pan in one piece.
Use Fresh Ingredients
The majority of ingredients used in baked goods—like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, and flour—have a relatively short shelf life, so if you don’t bake frequently, purchase them in small quantities so they don’t sit in your cupboard and become stale.
Measure Accurately or Weigh Ingredients
Successful baking means eliminating as much potential for error as possible and, that means, making sure your measurements are exact.
If you’re looking to cut down on the sodium, baked goods are not the place to do so. The half teaspoon of salt added to two dozen cookies won’t set you over your daily allotment, but leaving it out will drastically change the taste of the cookies.
Rotate Halfway Through Baking
Every oven has a hot spot, and if you don’t correct for it, you run the risk of unevenly cooked pastries—or worse, some that burn or wind up underbaked.Don’t, however, open the oven constantly to check on progress—it’ll lower the temperature and alter the baking time.
Pay attention to key instructions like “cream until light and fluffy,” “mix until just combined” and “fold in gently.” Otherwise, your end result will be dense and heavy.
- 1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour, plus additional for dusting
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift the whole wheat flour to make sure there are no clumps.
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse flour, baking powder and salt until well combined.
Add cold butter and pulse until a fine crumb is formed, about 10 pulses.
Through the feed tube of the processor, drizzle in the milk and process until a ball of dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until no longer sticky; knead in the chives.
Press dough into an oval shape about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into 8 equal parts and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15 to 18 minutes.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup mashed roasted butternut squash or 1 cup frozen cooked winter squash, thawed
- 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line sixteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.
In a medium bowl combine all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper; set aside.
In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add squash, ginger, egg and vanilla; beat until combined.
Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the squash mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just until combined.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.
Bake in the preheated oven about 20 minutes or until muffin tops spring back when lightly touched.
Cool in the muffin pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan. Serve warm.
Walnut-Yogurt Zucchini Bread
- 1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
Spread the walnut halves in a pie plate and toast them for about 8 minutes, until very lightly brown. Transfer the toasted walnuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop them; then freeze for 5 minutes to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, oil and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.
Spinach Corn Muffins
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (or 3/4 cups oat flour)
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 oz baby spinach, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sage leaves, minced
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a blender, blend oats to the consistency of flour.
In a large bowl, combine oat flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, honey and oil. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir. Stir in spinach and sage.
Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Fill three-quarters full with the batter. Bake muffins for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.
Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
- All-purpose flour, for shaping dough
- 1 pound pizza dough from your supermarket or homemade and thawed if frozen
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a 16 x 10-inch rectangle; with a knife or pizza cutter, cut crosswise into 16 strips.
Tie each strip into a knot and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush knots with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.
While the rolls are baking, heat garlic and the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until garlic, about 5 minutes.
Pour garlic and oil over the bread knots in bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Serve.
The first Jews began arriving in Rome as far back as 160 BC, creating one of the oldest Jewish communities in Western Europe, and with over thirty-thousand Jews calling Italy home, it isn’t surprising that Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is celebrated just as passionately as Christmas. Hanukkah 2014 begins in the evening on Tuesday, December 16.
Hanukkah celebrations last for eight days, with the dates being dictated by the Hebrew calendar. Each night a candle is lit on the nine-branched candle holder called the menorah until all eight candles are burning. The shamash; the ninth candle is raised above the eight others, its purpose being as a flame to light the religious candles below. On Rome’s via Sacra, near the Coliseum stands the Arch of Titus, built in AD81, shows a sculpture of a procession following the raid on the Temple of Solomon and, above the heads of the triumphant Romans, a menorah is held aloft. Today, a twenty-foot menorah is erected in Piazza Barberini and this becomes the central focus for Rome’s lighting ceremony. In Milan the large public menorah is traditionally set in Piazza San Carlo with the hope that its light will reach the hearts of the people.
While in Venice, following the lighting of the menorah, the Cannaregio neighborhood is brought to life with music and dancing. Once the home of the world’s oldest Jewish ghetto, the five synagogues remain intact and are still used for worship by the local community. Florence’s past is also steeped in Jewish history with the Jewish museum on Via dei Giudei (street of the Jews) where the city’s ghetto once stood. Nearby is Tempio Maggiore, built between 1874 and 1882, and is the Synagogue of Florence where the city’s Jewish community gather to celebrate and light the Menorah before the feasting begins.
The fried foods that are served during the holiday commemorate the miracle of the one day’s supply of olive oil that burned for eight days after the destruction of the temple. The Jewish communities celebrate with traditional recipes, such as, chicken marinated in olive oil, lemon and nutmeg before being dredged in flour and fried, thin slices of fried eggplant and potato pancakes. Frittelle di Chanukah (sweet fried dough fritters) are the traditional end to all Italian Hanukkah meals; balls of bread dough are stuffed with raisins and flavored with aniseed, fried and drizzled with hot honey.
Fennel and Orange Scented Challah
By Joan Nathan (New York Times)
- 1 ½ tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
- Grated zest from 2 large oranges plus 1/2 cup of the juice, strained
- 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 7 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
- 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup of lukewarm water.
Using the paddle attachment, stir orange zest, juice and oil into yeast mixture, then add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, and remaining sugar and salt. Switch to the dough hook and gradually add 6 cups of flour, kneading for about 5 minutes and adding more flour as needed to make a slightly sticky, smooth and elastic dough.
Grease a large bowl, turn dough into it and then turn the dough over to grease the top. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
When the dough has almost doubled, punch it down, remove it to a lightly floured counter, knead it briefly until smooth and divide it in half.
Roll each piece into a cylinder about 27 inches long, making sure there are no seams in the dough. Bring one end of the dough up to the other and twist to form a spiral. Push both ends together to make a squat 12 inch loaf.
Repeat with the other piece of dough and arrange loaves on a parchment lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. You can also twist the long spirals into a circle if you like; the dough is very malleable.
Beat remaining egg and egg yolk and brush about half the mixture on the loaves, reserving the rest. Let the dough rise uncovered another half hour or overnight in the refrigerator.
If dough was refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and in a small bowl, combine fennel, poppy and sesame seeds. Brush the loaves with egg again and sprinkle with seeds.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden and firm when tapped with a spatula. Cool on a rack.
- 1 chicken, cut into eighths
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- The juice of a lemon
- Olive oil for frying
- Salt & pepper to taste
Place the chicken pieces in a bowl, seasoning them well with salt and pepper. Mix the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, nutmeg and the lemon juice in a measuring cup and beating the mixture well with a fork. Pour the mixture over the chicken pieces, turn them to coat on all sides and let them marinate for about an hour, turning them several times.
When it comes time to cook, heat the oil in a pot. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat them dry.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, seasoning them lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, then dip them in the egg and slip them into the oil. When they are well browned on all sides, remove them from the pot, drain them well, and serve them.
Butternut Squash and Sage Latkes
- 1/2 medium onion, grated
- 6 cups grated butternut squash (1 3-pound squash)
- 1/4 cup chopped or slivered fresh sage(more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons oat bran
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Sour cream, for serving
Place the grated onion in a strainer set over a bowl while you prepare the other ingredients. Then wrap the onion in a dishtowel and squeeze out excess water. Place in a large bowl and add the squash, sage, baking powder, salt and pepper, oat bran and flour. Add the eggs and stir together.
Begin heating a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Place a wire rack over another sheet pan.
Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill with 3 tablespoons of the mixture. Turn out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining latke mix. You should have enough to make about 30 latkes.
Add the oil to the pan and when it is hot, use a spatula to transfer a ball of latke mixture to the pan. Press down with the spatula to flatten.
Repeat with more mounds. Cook on one side until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the spatula underneath and turn the latkes over. Cook on the other side until golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the rack set over a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Serve hot topped with low-fat or regular sour cream.
Couscous With Olives, Lemon And Fresh Herbs
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) pareve margarine
- 6 cups chopped onions
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 1/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 1 cup pitted halved brine-cured black olives (such as Kalamata)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups couscous (about 13 1/2 ounces)
Melt margarine in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions; stir to coat. Cover pot and cook onions until very tender but not brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
Mix in ginger and turmeric.
Add broth, olives, basil, mint and lemon juice. Bring to simmer. Mix in couscous.
Cover pot, turn off heat and let stand until couscous is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour couscous into a bowl and serve.
Honey-Glazed Doughnuts With Raisins And Pine Nuts
MAKES ABOUT 32
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F), divided
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 envelope active dry yeast
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 large egg, beaten to blend
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying
- 1 1/2 cups honey
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Combine 1/4 cup warm water and sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over; stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture is foamy, about 6 minutes.
Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Make a well in the center. Add raisins, pine nuts, egg and 1 tablespoon oil to well. Pour remaining 1 1/4 cups warm water over, then pour yeast mixture over. Stir until a smooth dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; cover bowl with plastic, then a towel. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Pour enough oil into large deep saucepan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pan and heat oil to 360°F to 370°F. Working in batches of 5 or 6 doughnuts, dip a metal tablespoon into the hot oil to coat and, without deflating dough, gently scoop up a rounded tablespoonful. Drop dough into the oil. Fry until deep golden, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to prepared sheet and drain.
DO AHEAD Doughnuts can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm on the same sheet in a 350°F oven about 15 minutes.
Whisk honey, 3/4 cup water and cinnamon in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until syrup comes to boil. Remove pan from the heat. Dip warm doughnuts into honey syrup and pile onto a serving platter. Pour remaining syrup into bowl. Serve doughnuts with remaining syrup.
The diverse nature of Italy’s landscape accounts for its attractiveness which has made the country a popular place to visit. The country is a peninsula with a unique shape, extending into the waters of the Mediterranean, that is surrounded by seas on all three sides. On the south-western corner of the country is located the Tyrrhenian Sea, while the Adriatic Sea is on the north-eastern side. In the south-eastern area is the Ionian Sea and the Ligurian Sea is located in north-west Italy.
Italy has two major mountain ranges, the Alps and the Apennines. The natural position of both these mountain ranges is in the shape of an arc and this semicircular topography strengthens the northern boundaries of Italy against any possible foreign invasions. Mont Blanc, 4810 meters or 5,781 feet above sea levels, is the highest Italian mountain summit. The country also has two volcanoes, among which Mount Vesuvius, close to Naples, is presently in a dormant state. The other volcanic peak in Sicily, Mount Etna is still very active.
Next to the mountains and the seas, come the valleys and the plains . The Italian plains, known as the Padan Plain, contains one of the longest rivers in Italy – the Po (652 km) and its numerous tributaries, mostly flowing down from the Alps and Apennines to join it. Some of the tributaries of the Po River like Mincio, Dora Baltea, Trebbia and Secchia bring extensive alluvial deposits onto the plains, increasing its fertility and making it ideal for cultivation.
Italy is also a land of lakes. The largest lake in Italy is Lake Garda that covers an area of 142 sq. mi./370 km² and, another, is Lake Como, a major tourist attraction. All these fresh water lakes add to the scenic beauty of the land, making it more and more inviting to tourists.
Northern and southern Italy are very different in climate. The south has very warm weather while in the north the weather is cold for a good portion of the year. Dry pasta, like spaghetti and rigatoni, is found more in the southern areas because it is easier to dry pasta in warm weather. Since it is more difficult to dry pasta in the north, fresh pastas, like pappardelle and tagliatelle, are more popular. Other types of pasta popular in the north are stuffed pastas, such as ravioli. The climate also affects the types of food and plants that grow in Italy. Some plants, like olive trees grow better in warm weather. Olive trees do not grow well in the northern areas where it is cold. In the south olive oil is used while in the north butter and lard are used in place of olive oil. Because of the gradually sloping hills in Parma, the consistent dry breeze make it an ideal location for curing and aging pork products, such as Prosciutto di Parma. The weather in southern Italy is conducive to growing vegetables and chilis that like hot weather conditions.
Although Italians are known throughout the world for pizza and pasta, the national diet of Italy has traditionally differed greatly by region. Italy has 20 regions and I will be writing about them in the future. From the early Middle Ages, Italy consisted of separate republics, each with different culinary customs. These varying cooking practices, which were passed down from generation to generation, contributed to the diversity of Italian cuisine. Italy’s neighboring countries, including France, Austria and Yugoslavia, also contributed to differences in the country’s cuisine. Pride in the culture of one’s region, or campanilismo, extends to the food of the locality and regional cooking styles are celebrated throughout the country.
The mountainous regions of the north feature hearty, meaty fare. The Veneto’s coastal lowlands provide mussels and clams and the lakes and waterways inland provide a tremendous variety of fresh water fish, in addition to ducks and other wild birds. You’ll find a southern meal isn’t complete without a pasta course, while the north prefers gnocchi, risotto and polenta dishes. Cooking ranges from boiling and frying through slow braising and stewing and, in the latter cases, northern cooks use much less tomato, preferring to use wine or broth as the liquid and chopped herbs for flavor. The results can be elegant and the same holds true for roasts, especially those that contain winter vegetable stuffings.
In Central Italy the summers are hotter and longer than those of the North and, consequently, tomato-based dishes are more common than they are further north; at the same time, the winters are chilly inland, making it possible to grow leafy vegetables that reach their best after it frosts, for example black leaf kale. Though there are braised meats and stews, in much of central Italy the centerpiece of a classic holiday meal will be a platter of mixed grilled or roasted meats, with poultry, pork or beef, especially in Tuscany, where the renowned Chianina cattle graze the fields. In Lazio, on the other hand, the platter will likely have lamb, which may also be present on Umbria and the Marche table.
Central Italy also has a rich specialty farming tradition, with many crops that are difficult to find elsewhere, including farro, an ancient grain domesticated by the Romans and saffron, whose distinctive sharpness adds considerably to many dishes. The area, which is almost entirely hilly or mountainous, also boasts massive chestnut stands on the steeper slopes; chestnuts were in the past one of the staple foods of the poor and even now roasted chestnuts are a wonderful treat in winter, as are the dishes made with fresh chestnut flour.
In the sun-drenched south, you will find more Greek and Arabic influences, with a cuisine featuring fragrant olive oils and many varieties of tomatoes both fresh and dried, spiked with hot peppers and seasoned with basil and oregano. Historically the South is known for shepherding and lamb and kid play a much more important role in the diet than they do in much of the rest of Italy. Fish in many coastal areas dominate. Sicilians add citrus, raisins, almonds and exotic spices that set their cuisine apart. The Spaniards’ influence, most notably saffron, is found throughout the south and also in Milan and Sardinia where they once ruled.
Classic Regional Recipes
A classic northern Italian stew.
- 2 pounds (800 g) lean beef, cubed
- 2 medium-sized onions
- Bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic
- Freshly ground nutmeg
- Pinch of powdered cinnamon
- Pinch of sugar
- Beef broth
- 2 cups full-bodied dry red wine
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper
Flour the beef and brown the pieces in the butter, taking them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and setting them aside when brown.
Slice the onions into rounds and brown them in the same pot, add a ladle of broth and simmer until the broth has evaporated. Add the meat, the spices, the bay leaf, salt and add a pinch of sugar. Then add the wine, bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook, covered, adding more broth as necessary to the meat submerged.
After about 2 hours or when the meat is tender, add a grinding of pepper and serve it over polenta.
Yield: 4 servings
Spaghetti Aio Oio
A central Italian traditional dish.
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced, or more to taste
- 1/2 a dried chili pepper, crumbled, or more to taste
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano, optional
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Meanwhile, mince the garlic, crumble the red pepper and sauté them in the oil until the garlic begins to turn a light brown.
Turn off the heat (the garlic will continue to brown; you don’t want it to over brown and become bitter).
When the spaghetti is cooked to the al dente stage, drain, transfer to a serving bowl and toss with the sauce.
Serve with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano on the side; some people like it, whereas others, especially traditionalist Romans, shudder at the idea.
A southern Italian staple.
To make the dough for 2 12-inch pizzas, you’ll need:
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons, or about 20 grams) active dry yeast
- 1 1/3 cups (330 ml) warm (105-115 F, or 42-45 C) water
- 3 1/2 cups (400-430 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- A healthy pinch of salt
For the topping for each pizza, you’ll need
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes
- Quarter pound of shredded mozzarella
- 4 fresh basil leaves.
Begin by dissolving the yeast in the water, in a large mixing bowl; let it stand for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix, either by hand or with a mixer set to low-speed, until the ingredients are blended. Hand-knead the dough or mix it with a dough hook setting the speed to low for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Coat the insides of another bowl with olive oil and turn the dough in it to coat it in oil, then cover with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour or until it doubles in volume.
Preheat the oven to 475 F (250 C) — if you are using a baking stone it should heat for at least 45 minutes. Otherwise grease and dust two flat baking sheets with corn meal. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a ball and let rest for 15 minutes. Then shape them into disks, stretching them out from the center on a floured surface. Do not roll them, because rolling toughens the dough.
Ladle and spread a half cup of tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes over the dough, add the cheese and basil and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
If you’re using a baking stone and have a baker’s peel, lightly flour it, slide the pizza onto it and transfer it to the stone with a shake — the flour will keep the dough from sticking. If you don’t have a peel, use a flat cookie sheet instead, lightly flouring it, to transfer the pizza from the work surface to the stone.
If you’re using metal baking pans you should bake the pizza towards the bottom of the oven.