Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pasta

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The Piedmont region stretches across the great Alpine arc: that includes the Pennine Alps and a portion of the Lepontine Alps. It includes two large hilly areas, the Langhe and the Monferrato. The Po River has its source in Piedmont and the region is crossed by several Alpine streams flowing into the Po. Many Alpine lakes dot the region. In the eastern section one can find two larger lakes: Lago Maggiore and Lago d’Orta. The regional capital is Turin. Other important cities are: Asti, Alessandria, Cuneo, Novara, Vercelli, Biella and Verbania.

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In Turin and in Susa interesting traces of the Roman era can be found. The religious Romanesque-Gothic architecture is remarkable: examples are the Abbey of Vezzolano, the Sacra di San Michele, the Abbey of Staffarda, St. Antonio di Ranverso, St. Andrea in Vercelli and other churches in Saluzzo, Chieri and Ciriè. The Baroque style has greatly influenced the appearance of most Piedmontese cities, especially in Turin.

Some of the major sites in Turin, include the Royal Armory, the Egyptian Museum, the second most important in the world after the one in Cairo, with historical remains of the ancient civilization. The Sabauda Gallery houses pictorial works of the Piedmontese, Dutch and Flemish schools, as well as some valuable Tuscan works, such as the Beato Angelico and the Pollaiolo. The Borgogna Museum houses the works of the local Renaissance painters and the Civic Museum is dedicated to local history and art.

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This northwestern region of Italy, is famous for egg pastas, vitello tonnato, the boiled-meat dish, bollito misto—plus well known red wines like Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco. Torino (Turin) is a city of interesting contrasts between old the world and the new. The name of Torino is widely recognized as home to the famous Shroud of Torino, housed in the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista (“Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist”), but it is also the center of operations for the automobile manufacturers, Lancia and Fiat. Torino’s appeal is heightened even more by the city’s excellent artisan chocolates, no doubt influenced heavily by their proximity to Switzerland.

The valleys and pasture lands, protected in large part by the Alps, offer the ideal locations for growing grains like wheat, corn and rice. The terraced hills lend themselves well to growing grapes and, subsequently, wine production. Freshwater fish and eels are popular in Piedmontese cooking. Pork and pork products are on the table, as is good beef. Cattle thrive in Piedmont, and the dairy industry is strong, creating a love of cheeses, cream, milk and butter. Locals also have a fondness for game meats hunted in the forests. White truffles grow wild there and their distinctive flavor adds earthiness to many recipes.

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The preferred pasta is a narrow handmade noodle called tajarin. They are often simmered in beef broth and topped with butter, grated Grana Padano cheese and shaved truffles. Agnolotti Piemontesi, similar to ravioli, are also popular. These meat and herb filled dumplings are generally served with fresh sage fried in butter and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano.

The flatlands of Piemonte are Europe’s prominent supplier of Carnaroli rice and they are known for their creamy risotto dishes. It is cooked with butter and shaved truffles or made into panissa, a risotto flavored with red borlotti beans, Salam d’la Duja and pork rind. Frogs, meat or vegetables may also be used in rice dishes.

Piemonte produces large numbers of hazelnuts and they are put to good use in cakes and pastries, as well as torrone nougat and chocolates. Candied chestnuts, known as marron glacés, are famous worldwide. Other outstanding desserts include bonèt, a custard cake flavored with coffee or chocolate, panna cotta, a silky custard made with cream and caramel thickened with gelatin and torta gianduia, a decadent hazelnut and chocolate cake made with ground nuts instead of flour. Zabaione is a light custard made with Marsala wine and sweetened egg yolks.

Take a trip through the Piedmont region via the video below.

Piedmont Recipes To Make At Home

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Zuppa di Cipolla al Vino Rosso

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 16 thin slices baguette
  • 1 cup freshly grated Fontina cheese

Directions

Melt the butter in a heavy, wide pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 25 minutes, or until they are very soft and caramelized; stirring every few minutes to ensure they cook evenly.

Season with the salt and pepper, deglaze with the wine and cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the liquid into the onions.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, uncovered. Cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring once in a while.

Preheat the broiler.

Place 4 slices of baguette in each of 4 oven-proof soup bowls (preferably the sort with a handle). Scatter the Fontina over the bread.

Ladle the soup over the bread and place the dishes under the broiler. Broil the soup for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot. Serves 4.

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Maltagliati with Leek Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 6 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup light cream (half & half)
  • ½ cup or more of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Mix the flour and eggs in a mixing bowl or a food processor.

Roll the dough thin by hand or with a pasta machine. Cut the pasta into medium-size diamonds.

In a deep skillet, brown the leeks in the butter.

Cook the pasta in abundant boiling salted water. Fresh pasta cooks quickly in about 2-3 minutes.

Drain and add it to the pan with the  browned leeks.

Add the cream, mix well and finish with a handful of grated Parmesan cheese.

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Pan Roasted Meat with Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • Pork or veal tenderloin about 2 lbs.(800 grams)
  • 3 ½ oz (100 grams) hazelnuts, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
  • 2 cups (1 pint) milk
  • Half an onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • Salt
  • 5 tablespoons (80 grams) Flour
  • Water

Directions

In a large pot, brown the onion in the butter. Push the onions aside and add the meat and let it brown on all sides.

Add the Marsala wine and let it completely evaporate. Season the meat with salt and add the milk and chopped hazelnuts .

Cover the pan and cook the tenderloin for at least 120 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

Prepare a roux by mixing the flour with enough water to make a paste, mix well.

Bring the sauce in the pan to a boil, then whisk in the roux and cook until the sauce thickens, whisking the entire time.

Cut the meat into slices and serve coated with the sauce. Garnish with hazelnuts.

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Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives and Fontina

Ingredients

  • 3 large yellow bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, Italian green olives
  • ¼ pound fontina, cut into long strip

Directions

Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, on wire racks positioned over the burners of a gas or electric stove, 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F. Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly, about 30 minutes in the oven, but less time by the other methods. Set aside to cool.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the delicious taste.) Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.

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Baci di Dama (Lady Kisses) Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnut flour (finely ground hazelnuts)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Nutella (or any chocolate hazelnut spread)

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the flours and the sugar. Cut the butter into small chunks and incorporate it into the flour mixture. It is best to use a wooden spoon or your fingers to completely mix the butter with the flour mixture to make the dough.

Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then take it out and form small balls the size of a quarter. When placing them on the cookie sheet, press down slightly so that they are flattened on one side. They will form a dome shape: flat on one side, rounded on the other.

Bake at 350 degrees F, for about 20 minutes, or until they just start to brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

After the cookies have cooled spread a thin layer of Nutella on the flat side of the cookie and place another cookie on top, making a sandwich.

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colddinner

BEGINNING OF WINTER — By Leonid Afremov

The best winter recipes will warm you up inside and out, will warm your home and make your house smell fantastic.

Soups, stews, casseroles and chili are very versatile dishes. Not really in the mood to cook after a long day at work? Let your crock pot do the work for you. There are lots of crock pot recipes out there for stews, roasts, chicken, chili and more.

Even if your recipe doesn’t call for it, it’s easy to add or substitute any veggie or lean meat that you have in the refrigerator. These types of recipes usually make a lot of servings. You can always freeze leftovers in individual containers, so you’ll have a quick, pre-portioned meal for another day.

Below are five dinners guaranteed to help you warm up.

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Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Polenta

This dish is perfect for a cold winter night and is a complete meal all in one bowl.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds hot or mild Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from a 14-ounce can)
  • 1 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups polenta or coarse/ medium cornmeal
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccoli rabe for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Cut into 2-inch lengths.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the sausage links and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. When cool enough to handle, cut into slices.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine; bring to a simmer. Add the sausage slices, tomatoes, broth, thyme and 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, parsley and pepper to the sauce; bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the water and the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow stream, whisking. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until very thick, about 20 minutes. Serve in individual pasta bowls and pour the sausage/broccoli sauce over the top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

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Winter Fish Chowder

Serve with some delicious crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 slices of bacon, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 6 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add half of the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over moderately high heat until they open, 3 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Add the clams to the saucepan, cover and cook. As the clams open, transfer them to the bowl. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels and clams from their shells and coarsely chop them.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the bacon to the pan and cook over moderate heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Add the celery and the remaining onion and garlic. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until softened, 7 minutes. Stir in the flour, then gradually whisk in the potato cooking water. Bring to a boil, whisking, and cook until thickened slightly.

Add the potatoes and the half and half and bring to a simmer. Add the salmon and fish and simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the fish is just cooked, 3 minutes. Add the mussels and clams and pour in their reserved cooking liquid, stopping before you reach the grit at the bottom; stir until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Serve the chowder in bowls.

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Gnocchi-Meatball Bake

A salad is all that is needed to complete this meal.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 16 – ounce package shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned  bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in marinara sauce; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine ground beef, ¼ cup chopped onion, egg, bread crumbs, oregano, basil, garlic powder and fennel seeds. Shape meat mixture into 24 equal balls, about 1 inch round.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, bell pepper and the remaining onion; cook about 7 minutes or until tender. Add vegetables to the bowl with the gnocchi.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Cook meatballs, half at a time, about 6 minutes or until cooked through (160 degrees F), turning occasionally. Transfer meatballs to the bowl with the gnocchi and vegetables. Gently stir to combine.

Pour gnocchi mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

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Tuscan Kale and White Bean Stew

A meatless option.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered (2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)
  • 1 15.5-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan and the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter in large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add mushrooms; increase heat to medium-high. Stir, cover pan, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until mushrooms are lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pan, add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes, or until wilted.

Add beans, broth and 3/4 cup water. Cover, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by about three-quarters. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Heat broiler to high. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over stew and broil 3 minutes, or until topping is golden.

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Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Serve with a vegetable side dish for a complete meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4 inch
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices prosciutto, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Add spinach to the skillet and stir until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer wilted spinach to the bowl with the prosciutto. Add cream cheese, Parmesan and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir until thoroughly combined..

Divide spinach mixture evenly among the chicken breasts and spread over the surface. Roll up chicken, dip in egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Place chicken rolls seam side down in the prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon on marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella. Turn on the broiler and broil the chicken rolls 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese melts.


pastasauces

In Italian cuisine, a ragù is a meat-based sauce, which is commonly served over pasta. The Italian gastronomic society, l’Accademia Italiana Della Cucina, has documented 14 different ragùs. The commonalities among the recipes are that they are all meat-based and all are used as sauces for pasta. Typical Italian ragùs include ragù alla bolognese (Bolognese sauce), ragù alla napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and ragù alla Barese (sometimes made with horse meat).

In the northern Italian regions, a ragù is typically a sauce of meat, chopped or ground, and cooked with sautéed vegetables in a liquid. The meats are varied and may include beef, chicken, pork, duck, goose, lamb, mutton, veal or game, as well as offal from any of the same. The liquids can be broth, stock, water, wine, milk, cream or tomatoes and often include a combination of these. If tomatoes are included, it is usually a small amount. Characteristically, a ragù is a sauce of braised or stewed meat that may be flavored with tomato, to distinguish it from a tomato sauce that is flavored with the addition of meat.

In southern Italian regions, especially Campania, ragùs are often prepared with whole cuts of beef, pork and regional sausages, cooked with vegetables and tomatoes. After a long braise (or simmer), the meats are then removed and may be served as a separate course. Examples of these styles of ragùs are the well-known ragù alla Napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and carne a ragù.

Sometimes a thick meatless, vegetable based sauce is referred to as a ragu, such as mushroom ragu.

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Pork Ragu

This sauce is excellent served over potato gnocchi.

Ingredients

  • 2 pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (about cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Trim the fat from the exterior of the pork. Cut it into bite-sized pieces, about 3/4-inch cubes, trimming more fat and bits of cartilage as you divide the meat. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels.

Pour the olive oil into a large pan, set it over medium heat and add the pork. Spread out the pieces in the pan and season with the salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning to brown the pieces on all sides.

When the pork is brown, add the chopped garlic and chili flakes. Raise the heat and pour in the white wine, stir and bring to a boil. Add the crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of water; grate the fresh nutmeg over all and stir.

Cover the pan and bring the sauce to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid is still thin toward the end of the cooking time, set the cover ajar and raise the heat a bit to reduce it. Use immediately or cool and refrigerate until needed.

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Mushroom Shallot Sauce

This sauce is excellent for pasta, baked in a lasagna or poured over polenta, cooked into risotto or as a condiment for grilled steak or fish.

Makes 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
  • 1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry Marsala
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups hot meat or vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside.

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine.

Put the oil and butter in the large skillet or saucepan and place over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Cook slowly for 6 minutes-stirring often-until they’re soft, wilted and shiny, without any brown color.

Add the fresh mushrooms and porcini to the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the herb bouquet, raise the heat a little and cover the pan. Cook, covered for about 3 minutes, so the mushrooms release their liquid.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more. When the pan is dry and the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot, add the tomato paste and stirring,cook for a minute or so, then stir it into the mushrooms.

Pour in the Marsala and stir constantly until the wine evaporates. Add the porcini mushroom water and 2 cups of the hot stock. Bring to a boil, stirring up any caramelization in the pan. Lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and adding stock to keep the mushrooms covered in liquid; expect to add at least a 1/2 cup, if not more.

Uncover the pan and cook for another 20 minutes, maintaining a simmer and adding stock as needed. Remove the herb bouquet and discard it. Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Neapolitan Ragu

Ingredients

  • 2 pound boneless pork butt or shoulder, in 1 piece
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided, more to taste
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
  • 1 pound onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup chopped pancetta
  • 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, crumbled

Directions

Season the pork all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

In a food processor, chop together the parsley, onions, garlic, pancetta and prosciutto to make a very coarse paste.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the seasoning paste and another teaspoon of salt and cook until no more liquid appears when the paste is stirred, about 7 minutes.

Add the pork roast, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, turning every 15 minutes, until the meat is lightly browned and the onions have begun to color, about 1 hour.

Add the red wine, place the cover back but leave ajar and continue cooking until the wine reduces to a thick sauce, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

If, after 1 hour and 15 minutes, the wine has not reduced sufficiently, remove the roast to a plate, increase the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce until it thickens.

Reduce to low heat, stir in the tomato paste, 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time, stirring in each addition until it mixes into the sauce and darkens to a brick color. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, return the roast to the pan if previously removed and cover. Continue to cook, turning the meat every 30 minutes and stirring the sauce until the meat is tender enough to be easily pierced with a meat fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. If the sauce dries out too much and the meat begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, stir in a tablespoon or two of water.

Remove the roast to refrigerate and reheat when dinner is served, if desired. Crumble the Italian sausage into the sauce and cook until the sauce is a deep red color and thickened, stirring occasionally, about another hour. (The dish can be prepared to this point and refrigerated overnight.)

pastasauce1

Winter Squash and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes, or to taste
  • 2 cups chopped canned Italian tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (about 5 cups) winter squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature, optional
  • 8 ounces ziti or penne cut pasta
  • Freshly chopped parsley or Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Directions

Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute; add the white wine and cook for a few minutes.

Add the tomatoes and squash and season with salt and pepper.

When the squash is tender, about 20 minutes or so for small cubes. Remove the pot from the heat and mash the sauce with a potato masher.

Stir in the mascarpone cheese, if using. Keep warm while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente.

Mix the sauce and pasta together and serve garnished with parsley or Parmesan cheese.

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Sicilian Pesto

If fresh basil is not available in your market this time of year, substitute with fresh flat leafed parsley and 1 tablespoon dried basil.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, (see substitute above)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pepperoncini (Italian pickled pepper), stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Short pasta, such as corkscrew or penne

Directions

Place the cherry tomatoes in a food processor and process until finely chopped; pour tomatoes into a fine strainer and drain off excess juices. Return the pulp to the processor.

Process the tomato pulp along with the almonds, basil, Parmesan, olive oil, raisins, capers, chili flakes, anchovies, garlic and pepperoncini in a food processor until finely ground.

Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, add pasta and cook, stirring, until al dente. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking water, and transfer pasta to a large bowl along with the pesto; toss to combine, adding a couple of spoonfuls of pasta cooking water, if needed, to create a smooth sauce.

Transfer to a large serving platter or individual bowls and serve with more Parmesan cheese.

 


region1valle_daosta

Valle d’Aosta is the most mountainous region of Italy, entirely surrounded by the peaks of the Alps: Monte Bianco, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. The latter is at the center of a magnificent National Park. Numerous glaciers feed a rich web of streams and the distinctly Alpine character of this region can be seen in the pine forests, up to rather high altitudes, where they give way to large pasture lands. Numerous small Alpine lakes sit in between the majestic mountain landscapes.

region Aosta map

Aosta is the capital of the region, where a special statute is in place that recognizes the Italian and the French languages as official languages. Important traces of the Roman Age can be found on the Aosta city walls, theaters, Augustus’s Arch and the Praetorian Gate. Visitors can admire the Romanesque Cathedral, which dates back to the eleventh century. The Sant’Orso Church is a good example of medieval architecture. There are many fortified castles in the Aosta Valley; most of them are in perfect condition and open to visitors; many have become historical museums. The most famous are the castles of Fénis, Aymavilles, Issogne and Verrés.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley's section of the Italian Alps.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley’s section of the Italian Alps.

Valle d’Aosta’s unique location and long history of invasion from neighboring lands have combined to make for an interesting and diverse mix of languages and cooking influences that include pockets of Italian, French and German. This diversity makes the numerous local festivals a must-see for any traveler interested in distinctive food and entertainment.

region1park

The best-loved dishes in the area cover as much cultural ground as the languages. Unlike much of Italy, pasta is not a staple food here. Valle dAosta cooking is based on warming soups, bread, rice, potatoes and gnocchi. Polentas hold a place right alongside Swiss-like fondues and creamy butter sauces. Dairy products are important in the region. Overall, food is relatively simple but hearty: stews thickened with bread, game meats or beef braised with chestnuts in wine sauces, smoked pork and sausages, fresh rye breads with local dark and slightly bitter honey, rich and nutty fontina cheeses, strong grappa and creamy panna cottas. Herds of free range pigs are used for the famous prosciutto known as Jambon de Bosses and for making salt pork. Boudins, spicy sausages made from pork blood, and salami are preserved in rendered pork fat.

Mountain streams provide trout and recipes include stuffing the trout fillets with ham and fontina and poaching them in white wine.

The valleys offer a wealth of crops like cabbage, grapes, apples and garlic and, while vintages are small, the wines produced in the area are of excellent quality. The area is most famous for fontina cheese and it is used in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Fruit from the Alps is very sweet and many desserts are prepared with the locally grown apples and pears. These fruits are often cooked with red wine. Sweets include tegole, a cookie named after the roof tiles that they resemble. Torcetti, or ring-shaped cookies, are also flavored with honey before being dusted with powdered sugar.

Take a tour of the area with the video below.

Recipes of the Valle d’Aosta Region

One of the favorite and most representative dishes of the Valle d’Aosta is zuppa di valpelline, a thick fall soup made from fresh cabbage, rye bread and fontina cheese.

region1soup

Zuppa di Valpelline (Valpelline Soup)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • A litre and a half (6 ¼ cups) meat stock
  • 1 savoy cabbage, sliced
  • 400 g (14 oz) fontina cheese
  • 500 g (1 lb.) rye bread cut into slices
  • Cinnamon
  • 150g (5 ¼ oz.) butter, melted

Directions

Layer an oven dish with the bread slices and, then, the fontina cheese.

Boil the savoy cabbage in the meat stock.

Pour the mixture over the bread and wait until it all softens, then pour the melted butter over the top.

Sprinkle on some cinnamon and place in a pre-heated 425 degree F (220°C) oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until a golden crust forms on top. Serve hot.

region1pork

Pork Chops Stuffed with Fontina Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 thick pork chops on the bone
  • Fontina cheese, from Valle d’Aosta
  • 3 ½ oz butter
  • 7 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the chops in two, horizontally, leaving them attached along the bone side.

Cut the Fontina cheese into thin slices and insert into the meat and then tap gently with a meat pounder.

Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste and dip the chops first in the flour, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs.

Saute in butter until the chops become golden and crunchy. They are traditionally served with sautéed cabbage.

region1Gnocchi

Gnocchi with Fontina

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. baking potatoes
  • 8 oz. Fontina, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. flour
  • 4 oz. butter
  • Salt

Directions

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water (without peeling). It is best to start with cold water. The potatoes should all be about the same size. Cooking time depends on the type and size.

A rule of thumb for testing if the potatoes are cooked is to stick a fork into one or two potatoes and, if it goes easily, the potatoes are done. When ready, drain, peel and mash them through a potato ricer, (do not use a food mill, as it would make the puree sticky and thus impossible to work with) and place the riced potatoes on a floured pastry board or marble surface. Should the potatoes be too watery, put them back on the stove over moderate heat and let them dry well, stirring constantly.

Add a small amount of salt and as much white flour as necessary to make the dough soft enough not to stick to your fingers. You don’t have to knead the dough for too long, just long enough to bind all the ingredients.

Cut a piece of the dough off, coating your hands with flour and roll the dough into a long cylinder about the thickness of your index finger. Then cut the cylinder into pieces about l-inch long. Press the dough lengthwise toward you and against the board with your fingertips. This will make each piece curl up, taking the shape of a little shell. You may also use other utensils, such as the back of a cheese grater or a fork and, In this case, gnocchi will be ridged and curled. It is not necessary to give them a particular shape, though. They may be simply cut into nuggets of any desired size.

Repeat until all the dough is used, trying to handle the dumplings as little as possible. Finally, place the gnocchi on a flat surface sprinkled with flour without overcrowding. Cook as soon as possible.

Cook gnocchi in boiling salted water. They are cooked when they rise to the top of the water. Drain. Place alternate layers of gnocchi and Fontina in a buttered baking dish, making sure you have at least 3 layers. The top layer should be of cheese. Dot with butter and bake for 5 minutes. Let the gnocchi rest 5 more minutes and serve.

region1cookies3

Valdostana Tegole Dolci

These are delicious cookies that are part of the traditional cuisine of Valle d’Aosta. Their name is due to its shape, which is reminiscent of the typical curved roof tiles. To achieve this effect the hot cookies are pressed over a rolling-pin. The tiles are enjoyed with a cup of coffee at breakfast or as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 200g (7 oz) granulated sugar
  • 80g (2.8 oz) toasted and ground hazelnuts
  • 80g (2.8 oz)  toasted and ground almonds  
  • 60g (2.1 oz) butter,at room temperature
  • 60g (2.1 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature.

Directions

Toast the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in preheated oven at 150 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let them cool thoroughly and then transfer them in a blender or processor along with half of the granulated sugar. Process until thoroughly ground.

Transfer the ground nut mixture in a large bowl and add the flour, melted butter and vanilla. Stir with a spatula until the butter is incorporated and set the bowl aside.

Place the egg whites in the electric mixer bowl and, with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites until they begin to thicken. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and beat until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture with the spatula.

Cover a baking pan with baking paper and place a small amount of dough (about a scant tablespoon) on the baking pan about 2 inches (3-4 cm) apart. Spread the dough with the back of a spoon to form circles with a diameter of about 7 cm (2 ¾ inches). Wet the back of a spoon to simplify the process.

Bake the tray in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 8 minutes. When they are crisp and lightly browned, remove each cookie from the baking pan and lay them over a rolling-pin to acquire their characteristic curved shape. Repeat the process with the remaining cookie dough.

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 A Forest of Greens by  Carl Warner

A Forest of Greens by Carl Warner

For decades, Italian country cooks have simmered greens and buttery white beans together.

When we eat greens—such as escarole, Tuscan cabbage, spinach and chard—we are eating the leaves of a plant. Leafy greens are miracle vegetables—not only are they are low in calories, rich in amino acids, vitamins A and C, minerals and fiber, they also help with digestion and boost the metabolism. In addition, they are believed to provide a host of health benefits—from building up the immune system to balancing hormones.

Some of the most common types of leafy greens and lettuces (called lattughe in Italian) are found in most good Italian fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable stores) and in a vast portion of the United States as well. The leafy green vegetables described below make wonderful contorni (side dishes) when cooked for just a few minutes:

Spinaci (Spinach)

Spinach

For salads, baby spinach is preferable because the leaves are more tender, but mature spinach is used in Italian cuisine in a myriad of ways—from the classic sautéed spinach to the fillings for a variety of pasta ripiena (filled pastas). Also, many pasta dishes, rolled meat preparations and crespelle (filled crêpes) use spinach as a main ingredient.

The best way to prepare spinach is by following this simple procedure:

Trim off the reddish roots from each bundle and eliminate any yellowish leaves Then wash the leaves three times in a clean sink filled with water. Fresh spinach often comes with a good deal of sand and dirt—so you want to be sure to thoroughly wash the spinach before cooking. Let the leaves dry out a bit in a big colander. In a large sauce pan, heat extra virgin olive oil on a low-medium flame; add one clove of peeled garlic (flattened with a knife) and then add the spinach, a little salt (very important because this will help release the spinach juices) and cover with a lid for a couple of minutes, until the leaves cook (they will shrink substantially). Then, remove the lid and allow the excess liquid to evaporate. Grate some nutmeg over the cooked spinach and serve.

Note: This basic method can be used with any greens and other vegetables with a high water content. None of the leafy greens’ nutritious juices are wasted when you cook and steam them in this way—it’s one of the quickest and healthiest ways to prepare them.

Bieta or bietola (chard)

coloredchard

This vegetable is used a great deal in Italian cuisine in all its forms—as verdure cotto (cooked vegetables) or biete saltate in padella (sautéed in a pan).

Because the stems take longer to cook than the leaves, it’s best to cut out the stems and cut them in half-inch pieces. Boil these pieces first in a small amount of salted water and then two minutes later add the leaves, cut in slices. After cooking another two minutes or less, drain and sauté the chard right away on a high flame in olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic. After just a couple of stirs, they’re ready to serve as a delicious contorno (side dish). Just drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil on top before serving.

For other more complex preparations, the following method for cooking chard can be used: Drain the chard from the boiling water with a strainer and immerse them right away in ice and water. Then press the leaves firmly to remove the water or spin in a salad spinner to remove the water. Next, sauté the chard in a pan as described above. Cooked chard can be used in pasta dishes or as a filling for a focaccia, in frittatas or as part of the filling for involtini (stuffed, rolled meat). Chard can be prepared with other vegetables, such as endive, and baked in the oven with a béchamel sauce, for example.

Escarole

greens escarole 1

Escarole is a form of endive that is both versatile and tasty. It is high in folic acid, fiber and vitamins A and K. Sometimes referred to as chicory and characterized by broad, dark outer leaves, this member of the chicory family does have a slightly bitter taste, but much less so than many other forms of endive. With a crinkled shape to the leaves, escarole is an example of greens that provide various degrees of flavor as the outer leaves are removed. While the outer leaves are a dark green, peeling back a layer will reveal a lighter shade of green. As more layers are peeled back, the leaves continue to lighten in shade. As the shade of the leaves lightens, the degree of bitter taste also lessens. The inner leaves are good in a salad and the darker, outer leaves can be sautéed.

Try serving some escarole quickly wilted with lemon juice or stir chopped escarole into soup. A medium head of escarole usually yields about seven cups of torn leaves.

Italian/Tuscan Cabbage

greens cabbage

Cabbage grows very well in the winter months and is therefore one of the most popular Italian winter vegetables. Common Italian cabbage varieties include:

Cavolo Verza: Savoy cabbage, also known as curly cabbage. A head cabbage with bright green, characteristically crinkly leaves. Very popular in northern Italy.

Cavolo Cappuccio: Red or green smooth-leaved head cabbage. Common in Northern Italy, especially the Northeast.

Cavolo Nero: Black leaf kale, a leafy cabbage with dark blackish-green leaves. It’s popular in central Italy, especially Tuscany.

Cime di Rapa or Rapini: Broccoli raab, one of the more rustic flowering cabbages; both the tiny florets and the leaves are edible. Popular in central and to a greater degree in Southern Italy.

greens escarole

Sauteed Escarole Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of escarole (or 2 small heads)
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 long italian hot peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Clean and rinse escarole twice; chop into large pieces.

Boil in salted water for 5 minutes until wilted. Drain

Add olive oil to the pan and heat.

Add the chopped garlic and prosciutto and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Do not burn the garlic.

Add peppers and cook another minute or so.

Add the drained escarole and broth.

Gradually add the grated cheese, tossing gently until blended.

Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to taste.

Place in a casserole dish; sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and place under a broiler for 3-4 minutes until the breadcrumbs brown. Serve hot.

greensSwisschard

Swiss Chard with Pancetta & Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 large bunches of fresh Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled and diced
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest bottom third of the stalk. Roughly chop the leaves and remaining stalks into inch-wide strips.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the Swiss chard by boiling it just long enough to soften the leaves and stalks, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add the olive oil, garlic and the crushed red pepper to the pan. Sauté for about 1 minute. Add the diced pancetta, lower the heat and allow the pancetta to cook until lightly browned.

Add the cooked diced potatoes and sauté with the pancetta briefly. Then add the blanched Swiss chard; toss together and cover and cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat. Add salt to taste and a small drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with rustic bread. Serves 4 to 6

greenszuppa-di-cavolo-

Zuppa di Cavolo Nero

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches Tuscan cabbage, about 2 1/2 pounds (1 k)
  • A medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A medium carrot, minced
  • A stalk of celery, minced
  • A sprig of fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 4 canned plum tomatoes, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) simmering vegetable or meat broth
  • Slices of Italian bread
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Wash the cabbage, stripping the ribs from the leaves and slicing the leaves into strips. Next, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a soup  pot; add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent and begins to color. Add the thyme and cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few more minutes.

Add the tomatoes and broth, mix well, check seasoning, and simmer the soup for an hour.

In the meantime, slice and toast the bread and use it to line the soup bowls.

Ladle the soup over the bread and serve it with freshly grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil and black or red pepper for those who want it.

baked greens

Baked Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 8 ounces medium shell or penne pasta
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown, about 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).

Add garlic and sausage. Cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with the wooden spoon. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than the package instructions. Add broccoli rabe to the pot and cook 15 seconds. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to the pot. Stir in sausage mixture.

Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish or divide among four 16-ounce gratin dishes. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until cheese has melted and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

*A note to my readers who do not use US measurements – there is a recipe measurement/temperature converter tool in the side bar under Blogroll. Just click on the title and a new page will open with the converter tool.


Northern italy

Northern italy

Central italy

Central italy

Southern Italy

Southern Italy

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.

Po Valley

Po Valley

Lake Como

Lake Como

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.

Italian Olive Trees

Italian Olive Trees

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

regional carbonade

Carbonade

A classic northern Italian stew.

Ingredients

  • 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
  • Flour
  • Beef broth
  • 2 cups full-bodied dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Directions

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

regional pasta

Spaghetti Aio Oio

A central Italian traditional dish.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

4-6 servings

regionalpizza

Pizza Margherita

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.

Directions

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.


salmon1

Salmon is one of the healthiest fish you can eat. It is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for the immune and circulatory systems. Salmon is also good for the heart and is low in calories and fat compared to other protein sources.

Salmon purchased at a grocery store or fish market should still have the skin on to maintain its freshness and moisture. Try to buy a whole salmon side or a fillet that is cut from the thickest part of the fish. Request a center cut piece of salmon. Purchase 6 oz. of salmon (170 grams) per person. Avoid salmon with a strong fishy odor. Look for moist, clean-cut fillets.

There are several different kinds of salmon.

  • King Salmon (Chinook) is known for its buttery flavor and texture. It is the largest salmon species and has the highest Omega-3 and oil concentrations of any salmon. It is generally the most expensive salmon you can buy.
  • Sockeye Salmon or Red Salmon is more abundant than King Salmon. It has a bright red-orange color and a very rich flavor. It has a high fat and Omega-3 content. Sockeye is the most common salmon you will find in your local grocery store.
  • Coho Salmon usually appears in grocery stores around August and September. It has a milder flavor that King and Sockeye salmon and is sometimes referred to as silver salmon.
  • Chum Salmon is most often used for canned salmon. It varies greatly in quality and is generally lower in oil than other types of salmon.
  • Pink Humpback Salmon is the most abundant salmon of the species. This salmon is generally canned or smoked. It has a mild flavor and lighter colored flesh.

Salmon fillets adapt well to all cooking methods: baking, broiling, grilling, pan-searing or poaching. Adding a marinade is a common way to infuse the fish with extra flavor. Whether you’re a novice in the kitchen or an experienced cook, there’s no reason to fear salmon. Use the marinade and then choose one of the cooking methods below.

All purpose marinade for salmon:

4 salmon fillets, 6-oz (170 g) each
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) garlic salt
3 tablespoons (45 ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

Combine the garlic salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Whisk the three ingredients together in a small bowl and transfer to a 1-gallon (4-liter) resealable plastic bag.

You can also use a glass dish covered with plastic wrap instead of the bag.

Place the salmon in the marinade and seal the bag. Turn the bag several times to coat all sides of the salmon. If using a glass dish, turn the fillets in the marinade several times to coat all sides, then cover the dish.

Place the bag with the marinade and salmon fillets in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Salmon, like all fish, is not as dense as red meat and poultry. As a result, it does not need to be marinated for long in order to absorb flavor. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator at least 10 minutes prior to cooking. Doing so raises the temperature, allowing it to cook more evenly throughout.

bakedSalmonFilet

Baking

Preheat the oven to 400℉ (200℃) Prepare a baking sheet with shallow sides by covering it with nonstick aluminum foil and coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Transfer the salmon to the prepared baking sheet. If the salmon fillets have skin on them, lay them skin-side down on the sheet. Position the fillets in a single layer, spaced evenly.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 15 minutes..

When done, you should be able to easily flake the salmon apart with a fork. The middle should also be opaque

broil-salmon

Broiling

Allow the broiler to heat up for 5 to 10 minutes.

Many broilers only have an “on” setting, but if yours has a separate “high” and “low” setting, set the broiler to high.

Coat the rack with nonstick cooking spray before putting the salmon on it. Using cooking spray can drastically reduce the amount of salmon that gets stuck to the broiler pan rack. You can also cover the broiler rack with foil and poke a few holes in it to make clean up easier.

Transfer the fillets to a broiler pan. Place the fillets on the interior rack inside the pan with the skin-side facing down. Arrange the fillets in a single layer and space them apart evenly.

Place the broiler pan 5 1/2 inches (14 cm) away from the top heating element and cook the salmon for 10-12 minutes.The salmon is done when you can flake the fillets with a fork. The center should be opaque.

You can turn the salmon once during cooking to ensure even browning, but it is not necessary. Turning salmon fillets over can be difficult and may cause the salmon to fall apart.

grilled salmon

Grilling

Preheat the grill. You can use both gas and charcoal grills to prepare salmon fillets.

If using a gas grill, preheat the grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius).

If using a charcoal grill, spread a layer of charcoal on the bottom of the grill and light. Allow the coals to burn to a gray color, about 30 minutes.

Place each fillet in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. (You can add herbs, seasoning and lemon slices if you like.) Bring the sides up and fold them together, sealing the packet. Press any raised aluminum foil flat.

Transfer the packets to the grill and cook for 14 to 16 minutes. Turn the packets over once, at the 7 or 8 minute mark, using grill tongs or a heatproof spatula.

Checking the fillets for doneness may be difficult since the foil will be hot to the touch. You may need to wait until after you pull the fish from the grill. If the fillets do not flake easily with a fork or if the center is not opaque, seal the foil again and return to the grill.

Allow the salmon to sit off the grill and in their foil packets at room temperature for 5 minutes, then serve.

Pan-Seared-Salmon-600x400

Pan-Searing

Preheat a skillet or saute pan over high heat. The pan should get hot, but it should not begin to smoke. Coat the pan with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil.

Place the fish in the preheated pan. Cook for 4 minutes before turning each fillet over and cooking for an additional 4 minutes.

Use a fish spatula to turn the salmon. Do not use tongs, since the salmon will likely break apart if handled with tongs during the cooking process.

The salmon is done when you can flake the center apart with a fork and when the entire fillet is no longer translucent. After removing them from the heat, you should let the fillets rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before you serve them.

poaching salmon

Poaching

Place 1-2 inches of water in a saucepan with tall sides. Heat over medium heat until the water starts to gently simmer.

If desired, you can salt the water as it heats up. You can also add one chopped shallot or green onion and several sprigs of fresh dill, rosemary or other herbs.

Add the salmon fillets to the pan, skin-side down. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on its thickness.

If the salmon flakes apart easily with a fork and is no longer translucent inside, it has finished cooking.

Remove the pan from the heat and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the fillets with a slotted spatula to a serving platter.

Variations

Experiment with the marinade ingredients by using different combinations of oil, acid and seasoning. Acids usually include vinegars and citrus juices and seasonings can be dry or wet. For instance, you could create a marinade using soy sauce, rice vinegar, olive oil and brown sugar. You could also use a vinaigrette dressing, which already combines vinegar, oil and seasonings.

If baking or pan-searing the salmon fillets, you could coat the fish with a layer of fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or dill and bread crumbs.

You can prepare a second, separate batch of the marinade and use it as a sauce or glaze. To use it as a glaze, coat grilled, pan-seared or broiled salmon halfway through the cooking process with the mixture using a pastry brush. To use it as a sauce, thicken it on the stove top by cooking the marinade over medium-high heat until it reduces. Pour over the cooked fish.

Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare salmon.

salmon and pasta

Linguine With Roasted Salmon and Lemon

This is a great recipe to make when you have leftover salmon. In fact, cook extra the first night you serve salmon and save some for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb linguine pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed, cooked salmon (see recipes above)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaf

Directions

Cook linguine to the al dente stage.

While the linguine is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Add onion and garlic and cook 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the thyme and cook about 1 minute. Add wine and cook 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, olives, lemon juice, capers and lemon zest and bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

When the linguine is cooked, drain and add it to the pan with the olive-caper mixture. Add the salmon and toss to mix well.

Cook 1 minute just to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and stir in basil.

parmesan salmon

Parmesan Crusted Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Large zip-top bag
  • 1 1/2 lbs salmon fillets (skin removed)
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions

Combine seasoned salt and flour in zip-top bag. Cut salmon into 4 portions. Place in the bag; seal tightly and shake to coat.

Preheat a large sauté pan on medium 2-3 minutes. Place fish on a cutting board; spread 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise over all 4 portions, to coat. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the mayonnaise and press lightly until cheese sticks.

Place salmon in the saute pan with the cheese side down. Lightly coat fish with remaining 1 tablespoon mayonnaise and 1/4 cup cheese, pressing lightly until cheese sticks.

Cover and cook 5-6 minutes on each side or until internal temperature reaches 145°F (or fish is opaque and separates easily with a fork).

sweet-and-smoky-salmon-kabobs-xl

Sweet and Spicy Salmon Kabobs

Ingredients

  • 12 (10-inch) metal or bamboo skewers
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 1/4 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 medium (8-ounce) zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Directions

If using bamboo skewers, soak skewers in hot water at least 30 minutes.

Prepare outdoor grill for direct grilling on medium heat and oil grates.

In large bowl, combine sugar, paprika, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Rub mixture between fingers to break up any lumps of sugar.

Add salmon and zucchini and toss to evenly coat with spice mixture.

Thread zucchini slices 2 at a time, alternating with salmon, onto the skewers. Place on hot grill grate and cook 9 to 11 minutes or until salmon turns opaque throughout, turning occasionally.

salmon-blts-lemon-dill-0607-xlg

Salmon BLT

Makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
  • 4 pieces (1-inch thick, about 6 ounces each) salmon fillet with the skin
  • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 8 slices (1⁄2-inch thick) country-style bread
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 6 slices fully cooked bacon, each broken in half

Directions

Lightly grease grill rack on an outdoor grill. Prepare outdoor grill for covered direct grilling over medium heat.

In a small bowl, stir mayonnaise, dill and lemon peel until mixed; set aside.

Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Place salmon, skin-side down, on hot grill rack and cook, covered, 10 to 12 minutes or until salmon is opaque throughout, without turning over.

Slide a  thin metal spatula between the salmon flesh and skin. Lift salmon from skin and transfer to plate; discard the skin.

Place bread on the grill rack and cook about 1 minute on each side or until lightly toasted.

Spread lemon-dill mayonnaise on 1 side of the toasted bread slices.

Place 1 lettuce leaf, folding to fit, on each of 4 bread slices.

Top each with 2 or 3 tomato slices, 1 salmon fillet, 3 pieces of bacon and another bread slice.



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