Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Marinara

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.

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Meatloaf does not enjoy the very best reputation in the food world. Why? because it can be dry or lack flavor. A well made meatloaf is delicious and makes wonderful sandwiches.

Some important tips to help you make a good meatloaf:

Don’t handle the mixture too much. If you over mix the ground meat it will compact, squeezing liquid out during cooking, resulting in a tougher, drier loaf.

Meatloaf consists of three basic ingredients: ground meat, a binder like bread crumbs or oatmeal and a liquid. Soak the binder in the liquid before adding it to the meat. Then you won’t end up with dry chunks of bread in your meatloaf – one of the most common complaints about meatloaf.

When you’re making meatloaf from ground turkey or chicken, you must add lots of binder or the loaf will be too compact and heavy. For traditional meatloaf recipes, you can use all ground beef or add ground pork to the mixture for a little lighter texture and a more interesting loaf. Make sure your meat mixture is not too lean. Aim for about 15 percent fat.

Adding other ingredients to a meatloaf will help add moisture and flavor and make the texture lighter. Plus you’ll get more vitamins and minerals in each serving! You can add mashed or grated carrots or potatoes, diced and cooked onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, cooked spinach and cheese. The meatloaf might not hold together as perfectly with these add-ins, but it will taste fabulous. And seasonings are so important.

After the meatloaf is cooked (when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees), let the meatloaf sit for 15 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute so the texture is moist and tender.

Here is what you need for basic meatloaf:

2 pounds of ground meat: any combination of beef, pork, lamb, ham, sausage, turkey, chicken

Baking dish, loaf pan or broiler pan and a saute pan for the vegetables

Flavoring ingredients: herbs, spices, sautéed vegetables

Binder: dried bread crumbs, fresh bread slices, oats,

Liquid ingredients: eggs, milk, tomato sauce, ketchup, broth

Brush a glaze across the top of your meatloaf to make the meat more moist

An instant-read thermometer for testing the temperature of the cooked meatloaf

Classic Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil; more for the baking pan
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 lb. ground beef, 85-percent lean
  • 1/2 lb. ground veal or turkey
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from firm country white bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 slices uncooked bacon

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a small skillet, heat the oil; add the onions and cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 min. Add the garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes to soften. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the bacon and add the cooled onion-garlic mixture. Mix with your hands just until the ingredients are combined. Don’t overwork the meat.

Oil a rimmed baking pan or jelly roll pan, turn the meat mixture out onto the pan and shape it into a large oval loaf. Place strips of bacon across the shaped loaf.

Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, 60-75 minutes. Before slicing, let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute. Slice and serve.

Variations

For a little extra color, sauté 1 cup diced red, green or yellow bell peppers along with the onions and garlic; when cool, fold them into the rest of the mixture.

The simple addition of 1/4 cup shredded basil and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese will offer another level of flavor or you could add a tablespoon of a favorite fresh herb, such as thyme or rosemary.

Here are some additional ways to make a meatloaf:

turkey_meatloaf

Mushroom Turkey Loaf

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 small leeks or 1 large, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced, washed and dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1 slice day-old bread, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook mushrooms, stirring once or twice, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Return skillet to medium and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with the mushrooms and let cool.

Add fontina cheese, bread, egg, and sage to the bowl with the mushrooms and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in turkey, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn out mixture onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and use your hands to form turkey mixture into a 10-inch loaf.

Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center reads at least 160°F. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra sage leaves, if desired.

mediterranean-meat-loaf

Italian Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1- 8 ounce jar sliced roasted red peppers, drained, finely chopped and 2 tablespoons reserved for the top
  • 1/4 cup chopped black or green olives
  • 1/2 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cups dried seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds lean ground grass-fed beef
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the finely chopped roasted red peppers, olives, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Add ground beef; mix well.

Shape into a loaf in a glass baking dish (8”x4”). Bake, uncovered, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat loaf registers 160 degrees F.

Let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Drain off any fat from meat loaf; loosen meat loaf from sides of pan and turn out onto a serving platter. Sprinkle reserved chopped peppers and chopped parsley on top, slice and serve.

Old-fashioned-Glazed-Meatloaf

Vegetable Filled Meatloaf with BBQ Glaze

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with a little coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup ketchup

BBQ Glaze

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

For the Glaze: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic paste, the crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, the 1/2 cup of ketchup and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.

Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush half the glaze over the entire loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F.

Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

sausage meatloaf

Rolled Italian Sausage Meat Loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 1/4 lb Italian sausage, mixed hot and sweet, casings removed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, mix ground beef, sausage, egg, 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, the bread crumbs and pepper together.

On a large piece of foil, pat mixture to a 12×8 inch rectangle.

Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese; gently press into meat. Top with spinach leaves.

Starting at the short end, roll up tightly, using the foil to start the roll and tucking in spinach leaves; seal ends. Place seam side down in an ungreased 12×8 inch (2 quart) glass baking dish.

Bake 1 hour. Spread remaining sauce over the top. Bake 15 minutes longer or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


valle-della-luna-slim

The Valley of the Moon is a small beach area in Santa Teresa Gallura (SS), that resembles a lunar landscape, located near Capo Testa in the southern part of the narrow isthmus formed by the beaches of Santa Reparata and Rina di Ponente and the granite cliffs that are typical for this area. It is accessed by a path along the coast, which winds through small natural caves, tafoni, a source of fresh water, and a primary forest of oaks, juniper, arbutus, myrtle and heather. The southern coast of Corsica can be seen from the beach.

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During the 1970s, this area was a favorite for hippies who set up camps within the valley to enable themselves to connect with nature. The landscape is breathtaking; enormous granite formations that have been carved by the mountain winds into fantastic shapes, jut from the earth like giant men along with other rock formations that have been rendered smooth over the years. The real show comes at night, when the white boulders glow under the moonlight.

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The vegetation is mostly scrub; heather and wild myrtle stick out between the rocks and tall thin grasses blow in the wind, adding their own influence on the unusual landscape. The valley leads down to the sea where the waves batter the cliffs but, despite this turbulence, the feeling is always of calm. The beaches are narrow with white sand. Visually they are a stark contrast to the rugged landscape of the valley. It is also an area where you can relax on a hot day in one of the secluded coves.

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The island’s geography gives some visual clues as to how influential other cultures have been in helping to shape Sardinia’s fascinating food culture over the course of the its invasion-riddled history. Considered a Mediterranean island, Sardinia’s eastern coast touches the Tyrrhenian Sea. While unquestionably an Italian region, Sardinia’s closest neighbor is actually the French island of Corsica to its north. On Sardinia’s southern coast, the shores of Algeria and Tunisia are closer even than Sardinia’s sister island, Sicily. Add to its unusual geography, the island has a long history of living under the rule of the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs and Spanish (just to name a few). They are one of only two groups of Italian peoples recognized as poplo (or “distinct people”), who carefully preserved their own language – Sardinian – elements of which pre-date the Latin roots it shares with the Italian language.

Walk the valley in this video.

Wild boar, lamb, pork, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, lobsters, sea urchins, octopus, clams, mussels and squid are all part of the Sardinian cuisine. Salty, “acquired-taste” signature flavors have developed, like those of bottarga (pressed and salted mullet roe) and the globally recognizable island namesake and mainstay, sardines. Carta di musica (or “sheet of music,” a favorite paper-thin crisp bread baked to a relatively dry state) graces almost every table. Traditional hearty Italian pastas like culingiones (ravioli) share center stage with Arabic-inspired couscous dishes. Cheeses hold a special place in Sardinia, being the island’s most exported food product.

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Culurgiones (Sardinian Potato Ravioli)

Culurgiones are traditionally served on All Saints’ Day.

Pasta

  • 2 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons semolina flour
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Filling

  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 mint leaves, minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown Butter Sauce

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced mint leaves

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Directions

Make the pasta. Combine the semolina flour water and salt in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium until smooth. Add a little more water if necessary.

Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Make the filling by steaming the potatoes until fork tender. While still warm mash them or use a ricer to make them smooth. Add the cheese, olive oil, mint and egg. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt.

Cut the dough into 3 sections. Put one piece of dough through the pasta machine roller until you have a thin smooth layer of pasta (around level 5 or 6.

Sprinkle the work surface with a little semolina flour, place the pasta sheet down and cut 4 ” circles out. Place a scant tablespoon of the filling on each circle. Fold the pasta so it looks like a taco and pinch it closed; crimp the edges together with the tines of a fork. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.

Make the sauce by melting the butter over medium heat. Don’t let it burn. Lower the heat and keep warm.

Boil the pasta for 2 1/2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and arrange on a serving dish. Drizzle the brown butter sauce or marinara sauce over the culurgiones, sprinkle with some freshly grated cheese and top with minced mint leaves.

sardinianeggplant

Sardinian Stuffed Eggplant

This dish tastes better the next day. The baked stuffed eggplant can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature, then reheat in a 325° F oven.

Ingredients

  • Five 1-pound Italian eggplants,(2 whole; 3 halved lengthwise)
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 small bay leaves, crushed to a powder
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup freshly grated fresh pecorino cheese, preferably Fiore Sardo (4 ounces)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup plain, dried bread crumbs
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • One 35-ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped

Directions

Peel the whole eggplants; coarsely chop their flesh and transfer to a large colander.

Using a spoon, scoop the flesh from the 6 eggplant halves, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Set the shells aside.

Chop the scooped out eggplant flesh and add it to the colander with the other eggplant.

Mix the chopped eggplant with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and let drain for 30 minutes, then rinse well. Working in handfuls, squeeze out as much of the water as possible. You should have about 4 cups of chopped eggplant.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set a wire rack on a baking sheet.

Add the 6 eggplant shells to the pot and cook, gently poking them under to keep them submerged, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant shells to the wire rack to drain and cool.

Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and arrange the eggplant shells in it, cut sides up.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and bay leaves and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant and wine and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and just beginning to brown, 15 minutes. Add the pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up the meat, until cooked through and lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Transfer the eggplant filling to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the pecorino cheese, the eggs, bread crumbs, nutmeg, basil and mint. Season the filling with salt and pepper. Spoon the filling into the eggplant shells.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the sauce: in a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon half of the sauce over the eggplants and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated pecorino cheese. Bake the eggplant until browned and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve, passing the remaining tomato sauce on the side.

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Sardinian Almond Cookies

30 Cookies

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces almond paste
  • 1 cup chopped almonds (with skins; not slivered)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Position oven racks in the middle and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 300 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Break up the almond paste into large chunks and place them in a food processor. Process briefly until the paste is finely chopped. Add 2/3 cup of the almonds, the egg whites, sugar and process until the mixture forms a thick, smooth paste.

Drop 1 scant tablespoon of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Scatter the remaining chopped almonds over the top.

Bake for about 12 minutes, then rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown.

Let cool completely on the baking sheets before storing.


molise

Molise is the youngest and second smallest region in Italy and is located in central-southern Italy. The region has only been recognized since 1963. Before this, Molise was an isolated province of Abruzzo. It now borders Abruzzo to the north, Latium to the west and Campania to the south with Puglia (Apulia) to the south-east. Its capital is Campobasso and the city is famous for the exceptional skill of its knife craftsmen, as well as, its delicious pears and scamorza cheese. Molise is home to beautiful abbeys, churches and castles, as well as, impressive ancient ruins far off the tourist track. Though beautiful, many of the buildings in the Molise region have been rebuilt over time due to damage by invading forces, as well as, by significant earthquakes which shook the area in 1456, 1805 and again in 2002.

Campobasso

Campobasso

Rain is very frequent and it is heavy during the autumn and spring months. Molise is mostly mountainous with rocky and steep hills, so sheep farming is a major industry. Only the coastline has roads/railways. Because of its mountainous terrain, the economy of the region has for centuries been highly dependent on the transit of shepherds and their flocks from Abruzzo to Puglia.

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Living off the land is a vital aspect of Molisani tradition and much of its agriculture is on a small-scale, reflecting the region’s sparse population. Most people live in rural areas where subsistence farming is both traditional and necessary to keep families fed and healthy. Sheep, goats, pigs and cattle have been cultivated for centuries in Molise, but have historically been raised as a form of currency rather than food, giving rise to the tradition of traveling with one’s livestock to Abruzzo for sale at the markets. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, Molisani recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat just for flavoring. Most dishes are prepared simply and with few ingredients.

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Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region and the culinary tradition makes use of olive oil, chilies and garlic. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Of the few distinct dishes native to Molise is a polenta variation that is made from potatoes and wheat and is topped with a tomato sauce. Other traditional polenta dishes are common throughout the region and many recipes reflect the influence from surrounding regions. Even the flavors of nearby Croatia have made their way into the Molisani cuisine.

Typical desserts include a jam made with grapes grown in the Molise countryside, pastries filled with chickpeas, wafers made with walnuts and almonds and baked ravioli filled with sour black cherries.

Antipasto Course

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Baked Caciocavallo Cheese

Serves 8

  • 1 pound caciocavallo, wax removed, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs each fresh rosemary or oregano, sage, thyme, and parsley, chopped fine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour the olive oil into the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof baking dish. Arrange the cheese in an even layer in the dish and scatter the herbs on top.

Bake until the cheese is soft and gooey, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately from the oven with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

First Course

molise2

Spaghetti with Fresh Anchovies

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 7 ounces anchovies
  • 14 oz container diced Italian tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Hot pepper to taste
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Dice the anchovies. Peel garlic and chop together with the hot pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and pepper and sauté until the garlic is lightly browned.

Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add anchovies and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add torn basil leaves, mix well and remove pan from heat.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.

Drain, toss with prepared sauce, adding the rest of the oil and chopped parsley. Serve.

Second Course

molise6

Breaded  Rib Lamb Chops

Ingredients

  • 8 rib lamb chops
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 ½ oz Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup prepared marinara sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.

Dip the lamb chops in the beaten eggs and then in the bread crumbs.

Heat oil in a frying pan and brown the ribs on both sides.

Place the browned chops in a baking dish. Cover each chop with a one tablespoon of marinara sauce.

Sprinkle each chop with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and serve.

molise8

Braised Peas with Onion

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a heavy 1 to 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the onions for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft and golden brown.

Stir in the green peas and chicken stock, cover, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.

When the peas are tender, uncover and stir frequently, for 2 minutes more, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Taste for seasoning, Add the cheese and serve the peas in a heated bowl.

Dessert Course

molise7

Italian Almond Orange Cake 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, at  room temperature, whites and yolks separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 1/3 cups almond flour, packed
  • 1 orange, room temperature, zested and juiced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Measure all the ingredients and separate eggs.

In a bowl, combine the potato starch with the almond flour until thoroughly mixed.

Put the egg whites into a medium mixing bowl and the yolks into a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt with very clean and dry beaters.  Beat until they reach a firm peak.  Put aside.

Beat the sugar into the egg yolks. Beat on high until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy.  Slowly fold in the potato starch/almond flour in three additions, slowly adding in the orange juice in between additions.  Then carefully fold in the orange zest. Followed by folding in the whipped egg whites, again in three additions to ensure a fluffy batter.

Turn into a parchment lined and greased 9 inch cake pan or springform pan.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  Dust with sifted powdered/icing sugar before serving.


EarthDay

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Energy & Waste
The average American produces more than four pounds of garbage per day. Over the course of a year, that is more than 1,600 pounds of garbage per person. Almost half of the food in the U.S. goes to waste – approximately 3,000 pounds per second. The recycling rate has increased from less than 10% in 1980 to more than 34% in 2011. From 1990 to 2010, the total amount of garbage going into landfills dropped by almost 10 million tons.

Plastic
In 2012, the U.S. produced 32 million tons of plastic. Only 9% was recovered for recycling. It takes 100 to 400 years for plastics to break down in a landfill. The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 minutes. Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. About 1,500 bottles end up in landfills and the ocean every second.

Glass
It takes approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill. Recycling one glass bottle can power a computer for 30 minutes. Producing glass from new materials requires 30% more energy than using used glass.

Paper
Every year, Americans use more than 180,000 of paper and paperboard. That’s an average of 700 pounds of paper products per person each year. Recycling a stack of newspaper just 3 feet high saves one tree. By recycling 1 ton of paper, we save enough energy to heat a home for six months.

Water
Almost 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% is usable for agriculture, manufacturing and personal needs. The average American uses more than 750,000 gallons of water per year. Around the world, the average is less than half of that figure.

Today is Earth Day, but you can have a meaningful discussion with your loved ones about it at any time. Taking care of our environment is important and you can empower your loved ones by sharing with them some of the easy ways to make a difference in your home and neighborhood.

Go Vegetarian Once a Week
One less meat-based dinner a week can nourish the planet and your diet. The meat industry contributes nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions accelerating climate change, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. A report published by the Environmental Working Group last year found that if every American eliminated both meat and cheese from their diet for one day a week, it would be equivalent to removing 7.6 million cars from the road. The Meatless Monday website reports that up to 2,500 gallons of water may be needed to produce one pound of beef and “40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feedlot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein.”

Use Fewer Paper Napkins
This one’s real easy. During one year, the average American uses 2,200 paper napkins—approximately six per day. If everyone in the country eliminated just one paper napkin per day, more than a billion paper napkins could be saved from landfills each year. This goes for paper towels, too.

Buy local produce
According to the Institute of Food Research, the majority of produce in your grocery store loses nearly 45% of its nutritional value by the time you buy it. When you purchase produce from a nearby farm, chances are it was picked less than 24 hours earlier and had to travel less than 100 miles to get from the farm to you. This means you’re getting nearly all of the original nutrients and helping to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation, which contributes to climate change. While buying from a farm isn’t always possible, when you get the chance, doing so can make a big difference!

Reduce waste with composting
By composting kitchen scraps and yard trimmings, you cut down on the amount of food you waste and reduce your contribution to landfills. By composting regularly, you can reduce the volume of garbage you generate by as much as 25 percent!

Turn off the lights, and the faucets
Try to turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Experts recommend turning off Fluorescent bulbs which are sensitive to how many times you switch them on and off, when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. This helps save both energy and money. And when brushing your teeth, try to turn off the water for the two minutes or so it takes to brush; you can help save up to four gallons of water if you do this regularly.

Plant a tree
The simple act of planting a tree also reaps many benefits. Trees are good for the air and land and they can provide shade for your house, which can help you save on cooling costs. You can make the act meaningful for your family by starting an annual ritual of planting a tree in honor or in memory of someone. Or if you want to start smaller, just plant some herbs you can watch grow on the windowsill.

Discover more activities you can do together
There are plenty of other easy Earth-day inspired ways your family can contribute to a healthier planet beyond your backyard. Take walks or bike rides together instead of driving places. Volunteer together to help clean or preserve local parks. Learn about recycling together by calling your local recycling center and taking a tour, if they offer them. The best part about these activities is not only that they’re good for the planet, but by doing them together, they’re good for the family, too.

Source: http://www.50waystohelp.com/

Earth Day Menu

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Italian Leafy Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce – torn
  • 1 cup torn escarole
  • 1 cup torn radicchio
  • 1 cup torn red leaf lettuce
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into rings
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced in rings
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
In a large bowl, combine the romaine, escarole, radicchio, red-leaf, scallions, red pepper, green pepper and cherry tomatoes.

Whisk together the olive oil, basil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Pour over salad, toss and serve immediately.

 

picf4zvLK

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

1 pound eggplant, peeled
3/4 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)
1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian style bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe below
  • 1-8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • Breaded and baked eggplant 

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the package of cheese. Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped fine

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute vegetables. Add 1-6 oz. can tomato paste.
Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot. Add 4-28 oz. boxes Pomi tomatoes. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme. Simmer for another hour or until the sauce has thickened. Taste the sauce to see if it is very acidic. If it is, add a teaspoon of honey or agave syrup.

Measure out 2 ½ cups of sauce for the recipe above and freeze the remaining sauce.

picK4ROqh

Homemade Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 7 1/4-7 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages fast-rising active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups water ( 110 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • 1 slightly beaten egg white

Directions

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine 3 cups of flour and the yeast.
Combine the water and salt. Add to the dry mixture.
Beat at low-speed for 30 seconds, scrapping the sides constantly.
Beat at high for 3 minutes.
By hand, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a very stiff dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and very elastic (15-25 minutes).
Shape into a ball.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough.
Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 hour).

Punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide the dough in half.
Cover with the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each half into a 15×12 inch rectangle.
Beginning at the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up tightly, sealing as you roll.
Taper the ends of the loaf.

Grease 2 baking sheets and sprinkle them each with cornmeal.
Place each loaf, diagonally seam side down, on baking sheets.
Make diagonal cuts 2 ½ inches apart (1/8 to ¼ inch deep) on the tops of the loaves.
Add tablespoon of water to the beaten egg white and brush over the top and sides of the loaves.

Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 20-45 minutes).
When ready to bake, place a large shallow pan on the lower rack of the oven and fill with boiling water.

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes, brush with the egg white mixture again.
Bake 20 minutes longer. Cool on a rack.

2981

Yogurt Cake with Fresh Berries

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, plus more for oiling the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh berries or seasonal fruit for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Oil the paper, too; set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil, almond extract and vanilla extract. Gently whisk flour mixture into yogurt mixture just until blended and smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan and peel off parchment paper.

Continue cooling on a rack. Slice and serve with berries.

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Giuseppe_Verdi00

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest Italian composers of all time. Giuseppe Verdi was responsible for some of the best operas, which are still widely known and revered today: La Traviata, Aida and Rigoletto, to name just a few. Verdi dominated the Italian opera scene after the eras of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. His works are frequently performed in opera houses throughout the world and some of his themes have long since taken root in popular culture.

Verdi was born to Carlo Giuseppe Verdi and Luigia Uttini in Le Roncole, a village in the province of Parma (Emilia-Romagna region) in Northern Italy. When he was still a child, Verdi’s parents moved from Le Roncole to a nearby village, Busseto, where the future composer’s education was greatly facilitated by visits to the large library belonging to the local Jesuit school. It was in Busseto that he was given his first lessons in composition. Verdi went to Milan when he was twenty to continue his studies. He took private lessons in music and voice while attending operatic performances and concerts. Eventually, he decided to pursue a career in theater composition.

After his studies, Verdi returned to Busseto, where he became the town music master and gave his first public performance at the home of Antonio Barezzi, a local merchant and music lover who had long supported Verdi’s musical ambitions. Because he loved Verdi’s music, Barezzi invited Verdi to be his daughter Margherita’s music teacher and the two soon fell deeply in love. They were married in May 1836 and Margherita gave birth to two children. Unfortunately, both died in infancy while Verdi was working on his first opera and, shortly afterwards, Margherita died of encephalitis at the age of 26. Verdi adored his wife and children and was devastated by their deaths.

His first opera, Oberto, performed at La Scala in November 1839, was successful and La Scala’s impresario, Bartolomeo Merelli, offered Verdi a contract for three more works.
It was while he was working on his second opera, Un giorno di regno, that Verdi’s wife died. The opera was a failure and he fell into despair, vowing to give up musical composition forever. However, Merelli persuaded him to write Nabucco and its opening performance in March 1842 made Verdi famous. It follows the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered and subsequently exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco. The historical events are used as background for a romantic and political plot. The best-known piece from the opera is the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”.

A period of hard work – producing 14 operas – followed in the next fifteen years. These included I Lombardi in 1843, Ernani in 1844 and, for some, the most original and important opera that Verdi wrote, Macbeth (1847). It was Verdi’s first attempt to write an opera without a love story, breaking a basic convention of 19th-century Italian opera.

Nabucco

Nabucco

Sometime in the mid-1840s, Verdi “formed a lasting attachment to the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi who was to become his lifelong companion”. Their cohabitation before marriage was regarded as scandalous in some of the places they lived and eventually Verdi and Giuseppina married. In 1848, Verdi bought an estate two miles from Busseto. Initially, his parents lived there, but after his mother’s death in 1851, he made the Villa Verdi at Sant’Agata his home, which it remained until his death.

Rigoletto

Rigoletto

During this time, Verdi created one of his greatest masterpieces, Rigoletto, which premiered in Venice in 1851. Based on a play by Victor Hugo (Le roi s’amuse), the opera quickly became a great success. There followed the second and third of the three major operas of Verdi’s “middle period”: in 1853 Il trovatore was produced in Rome and La traviata in Venice. The latter was based on Alexandre Dumas’ play, The Lady of the Camellias, and became the most popular of all of Verdi’s operas worldwide. You can listen to the drinking song, “Brindisi” from La Traviata, in the video below performed by two of my favorite opera singers, Dame Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti.

In 1869, Verdi was asked to compose a section for a requiem mass in memory of Gioachino Rossini, as part of a collection of sections composed by other Italian contemporaries of Rossini. The requiem was compiled and completed, but was cancelled at the last minute. Five years later, Verdi reworked his “Libera Me” section of the Rossini Requiem and made it a part of his Requiem Mass, honoring the famous novelist and poet Alessandro Manzoni, who had died in 1873. The complete Requiem was first performed at the cathedral in Milan in May 1874.

Verdi’s grand opera, Aida, is sometimes thought to have been commissioned for the celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and there had been a plan to inaugurate an opera house as part of the canal opening festivities, but Verdi turned down an invitation to write an “ode” for the new opera house. In 1869, the organizers approached Verdi (this time with the idea of writing an opera), but he again turned them down. When they warned him that they would engage the services of Charles Gounod and Richard Wagner, Verdi began to show considerable interest and agreements were signed in June, 1870.

Aida

Aida

Teresa Stolz was associated with both Aida and the Requiem, as well as, a number of other Verdi roles. The role of Aida was written for her and she performed the opera at the European premiere in Milan in February 1872. She was also the soprano soloist in the first and in many later performances of the Requiem. After Giuseppina Strepponi’s death, Teresa Stolz became a close companion of Verdi until his death.

In 1879 the composer-poet Boito and the publisher Ricordi pleaded with Verdi to write another opera. He worked slowly on it, being occupied with revisions of earlier operas, and completed the opera seven years later. This opera, Othello, his most powerful and tragic work, a study in evil and jealousy, is notable for the increasing richness of detail in the orchestral writing. Verdi’s last opera, Falstaff, whose libretto was also by Boito, was based on Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, Part 1 with Victor Hugo’s translation. It was an international success and is famous for being one of the world’s best comic operas.

Othello

Othello

While staying at the Grand Hotel et de Milan, Verdi suffered a stroke on January 21, 1901. He gradually grew more feeble and died nearly a week later. Arturo Toscanini conducted a combined orchestra and choir composed of musicians from throughout Italy at Verdi’s funeral service in Milan. To date, it remains the largest public assembly of any event in the history of Italy.

Completing 25 operas throughout his career, Verdi continues to be regarded as one of the greatest composers in history. His works are noted for their emotional intensity, tuneful melodies and dramatic characterizations. He transformed the Italian opera, with its traditional staging, old-fashioned librettos and emphasis on vocal displays, into a unified musical and dramatic entity. As Verdi matured he played with the expectations of listeners, who expected scenes to unfold in familiar patterns. Instead, he would break off an aria and transition into a charged recitative or blur distinctions between forms and styles to make the music responsive to the dramatic moment and the text. The music of Verdi, one of Italy’s most outstanding composers, makes up some of classical music’s most timeless treasures and his operas are among those most frequently produced in the world today.

Busseto's Tribute to Verdi

Busseto’s Tribute to Verdi

Emilia Romagna

Verdi lived in Busetto in the heart of the Italian province of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna. When one thinks of luxurious Italian food, it is usually classic Emilia Romagna cuisine. The area is known for its flavorful produce dishes. Bright green asparagus is served with Parmigiano Reggiano and melted butter. The sweet chestnut, known as Marrone di Castel Rio, comes from Emilia Romagna, as do porcini mushrooms. Local shallots and olive oil pressed from local olives are prized for their quality. Pasta is a favorite food in the region. While polenta, rice and gnocchi were staples in Emilia Romagna cooking, fresh egg pasta is now more popular. Most areas consider tagliatelle their favorite shape and serve it with ragù. Recipes also include tortelli, or large pasta squares, filled with ricotta and greens and served with melted butter.

In addition to the Romagnola breed of cattle, rabbit, game birds and poultry are eaten. Wild duck and tomatoes are stewed with herbs, white wine and served with risotto. Cappone ripieno, or roasted capon, is stuffed with with a marsala flavored veal and ham filling. Other popular meats include pork, lamb and mutton. Proscuitto di Parma and fresh fruit are served together for a refreshing appetizer.

Emilia is well known for Parmigiano Reggiano, but the Grana Padano and Provonole Valpadana are also extremely high quality. Cheeses are used young, while sweet, or aged to develop a sharper flavor for grating. Ravaggiolo and squaquarone are also creamy piquant cheeses used in cooking. After so many rich dishes, it’s appropriate that many Emilia Romagna desserts are based on fresh fruit. Melons, stone fruits, berries and pears are most often served.

crostini di polenta with moules

Toasted Polenta with Mussels

You can use any seafood to top the polenta. The same combination may be successfully used in bruschetta or crostini recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups polenta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb mussels, steamed and removed from the shell
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Olive oil for brushing

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 – 26-28 can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

For the green sauce:

  • 1 cup green parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cook the polenta in salted water with the olive oil, in proportions according to package directions. You want a thick polenta, not thin. Pour the polenta into a loaf pan and leave it to set overnight; or for at least two hours.

The next day, cut the loaf into slices. Place the slices on a wooden board and brush with some olive oil. Next arrange the slices, oiled side down, on a greased oven rack. Brush the other side with olive oil.

Bake in 200°C/390°F oven until golden brown on top, for about 30 minutes. Then remove from the oven; let it cool.

Meanwhile prepare the mussels and sauces.

In a skillet heat the olive oil; add chopped garlic and the mussels. Then add the wine and let it cook until all liquids evaporate.

To cook the tomato sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan; add chopped onion and sauté until golden. Next add chopped garlic. Stir and sauté briefly, then add the canned tomatoes. Lower the heat and cook until the liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat and let the sauce cool slightly. Then place it in a food processor and blend with a small bunch of fresh basil, salt and pepper.

To make the green sauce:

Place all ingredients for the sauce in a food processor. Blend until fairly smooth.

Carefully remove the polenta slices from the rack and arrange on a serving platter. Top with the tomato sauce and green sauce. Then arrange the mussels on top. Serve warm.

tagliatelle

Tagliatelle with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces pancetta (Italian unsmoked cured bacon), chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 8 ounces bottled peeled roasted whole chestnuts, coarsely crumbled (1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 ounces dried flat egg pasta such as tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions
Cook pancetta in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, 1 tablespoon sage and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in chestnuts and remove from heat.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander and add to the pancetta mixture in the skillet. Add the reserved cooking water along withthe  cheese and butter and cook, tossing constantly, over high heat until pasta is well coated, about 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve sprinkled with parsley and remaining tablespoon sage.

parma pork

Pork Tenderloin Prosciutto Parma

Serve with broccoli rabe. Try to purchase authentic Italian Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano for this dish—even though it is more costly, the superior flavor is worth the expense.

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pork tenderloins, (1-1 1/4 pounds each), trimmed
  • 4 thin slices Italian Parma ham, (Prosciutto di Parma), divided
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

Combine sage, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 450°F.

Butterfly the tenderloins, so they can be flattened, stuffed and rolled. To do that, make two long horizontal cuts, one on each side, dividing the tenderloin in thirds without cutting all the way through. Working with one tenderloin at a time, lay it on a cutting board. Holding the knife blade flat, so it’s parallel to the board, make a lengthwise cut into the side of the tenderloin one-third of the way down from the top, stopping short of the opposite edge so that the flaps remain attached. Rotate the tenderloin 180°. Still holding the knife parallel to the cutting board, make a lengthwise cut into the side opposite the original cut, starting two-thirds of the way down from the top of the tenderloin and taking care not to cut all the way through. Open up the 2 cuts so you have a large rectangle of meat. Use the heel of your hand to gently flatten the meat to about 1/2 inch thick.

Cover each butterflied tenderloin with 2 of the prosciutto slices, then spread 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano over the ham, leaving a 1-inch border. Starting with a long side, roll up each tenderloin so the stuffing is in a spiral pattern; then tie the roasts at 2-inch intervals with kitchen string.

Lightly brush the roasts all over with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, then rub with the reserved herb mixture. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the roasts, bending to fit if necessary, and cook, turning often, until the outsides are browned, 3 to 5 minutes total.

Transfer the pan to the oven and roast, checking often, until the internal temperature reaches 145°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, remove the string and cut the pork into 1-inch-thick slices.

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pizza header

First offered at a few big-city Italian restaurants in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, pizza started to come into its own at Chicago’s Pizzeria Uno – the first restaurant built around this “foreign dish” – in 1943. Nationally franchised takeout pizza was born at Pizza Hut in 1958, Little Caesars in 1959 and Domino’s in 1960 and from then on, pizza was an established part of the American culinary landscape.

But what about homemade pizza? When did Americans start making their own pizza at home, from scratch, rather than driving down to the pizza parlor for takeout?

According to The Food Timeline, the first known American cookbook pizza recipe appeared in 1936, in Specialita Culinarie Italiane, 137 Tested Recipes of Famous Italian Foods. But it wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that pizza made it out of the Italian neighborhoods and into the American mainstream. In 1945. American GI’s were coming home from Europe and some of them returned with a new-found love for Italian food – such as pizza – at that time a treat available only at Italian restaurants. By 1954, the first yeast-crust pizzas were making an appearance, as evidenced in The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cookbook. See the recipe page below – hardly the “real thing”. Source: (http://www.foodtimeline.org/)

first cookbook

Have a pizza party. Make the dough, sauces and toppings ahead of time and let your guests have fun making their own pizzas.

Pizza Doughs

All-Purpose Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fast-rising or instant dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
  • Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients except the cooking spray. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with the spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead. Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in the bowl, turning once to coat the surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch surface of dough. Let dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate the dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in the bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from the refrigerator. Mist a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough into four portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough come to room temperature.

Multigrain Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup rye flour (or cornmeal or additional whole wheat flour)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast or fast-rising yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water, at room temperature

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead. Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in bowl, turning once to coat surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch the surface of dough. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from the refrigerator. Mist a baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough into four portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough come to room temperature.

Tips:

  • At this point, extra dough may be placed in freezer bags that have been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Seal, label and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
  • As a substitute for a baking stone, use an inverted baking sheet placed on an oven rack. For easy pizza assembly, invert another baking sheet on the counter and cover the underside with parchment paper (for baking). Mist the paper with cooking spray, then prepare the pizza on the paper.
  • Closely watch pizzas that are placed on parchment paper while baking. The high heat from the oven can cause some papers to ignite. Carefully read labels and instructions to avoid using papers in a hot oven that could cause fires.

 Pizza Sauces

All-Purpose No Cook Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk together all the ingredients. If necessary, add more water to thin. It should easily spread over the dough. For an 8 to 10 inch pizza, use 1/4 cup of the sauce.

Pesto alla Genovese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil; add garlic. Cook and stir for 10 seconds; remove pan from heat. Immediately add to remaining oil.

In a food processor combine the garlic oil, basil, cheese, lemon juice and half the nuts; cover and process 20 seconds or until mixture resembles a thick green sauce. (If the contents are very thick and pasty, drizzle in a little water and process for a few more seconds. If too thin, add more shredded cheese)

Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the pepper and the remaining nuts.

For pizza: top dough with mozzarella cheese slices, drizzle some pesto sauce over the cheese, top with sliced plum tomatoes and bake.

Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto sauce and refrigerate (the plastic wrap will help keep the pesto a bright green). Chill for up to 5 days; for longer storage, transfer to freezer containers. Seal, label and freeze up to 3 months.

Multipurpose Herb Oil

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic (or 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika, mild or hot
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together for about 15 seconds, long enough to evenly distribute the ingredients. Because most spices and herbs settle quickly, always whisk the oil mixture before drizzling or pouring. Let the herb oil stand at least 30 minutes at room temperature for flavors to meld.

Store, tightly covered, in a cool dark place up to 2 weeks.

Sauce Variations

  • Spicy Puttanesca Sauce: Add 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata or ripe olives, 1 tablespoon capers and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper to the all-Purpose Pizza Sauce.
  • Tomato Basil-Pesto Sauce: combine All-Purpose Pizza Sauce and Pesto alla Genovese
  • Garlic Sauce: Add 2 to 3 tablespoon of garlic oil (see Caramelized garlic recipe) and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper to any pizza sauce.
  • Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage: thinly slice 3 Roma tomatoes and drain on a paper towel; saute 1/2 bunch of chopped broccoli rabe with olive oil and garlic;  saute 1/4 lb diced Italian sausage and thinly slice 1/2 lb mozzarella cheese. Layer cheese, tomatoes, broccoli and sausage on a 14 inch round of All-Purpose pizza dough and bake until crust is brown.

Toppings

Cheese

To any one of the above pizzas add: 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella, provolone, Fontina cheese, Parmesan or 1/4 cup feta, chevre or blue cheese.

Meat

Add 1/4 cup sliced cooked chicken, salami, pepperoni, crisp-cooked bacon or pancetta, ham or any type of cooked sausage to each of the above pizzas.

Seafood

Marinate seafood in 1/2 cup of Multipurpose Herb Oil (see recipe). Place 1/4 cup cooked shelled clams, scallops, shelled mussels, shrimp, tuna, calamari or octopus strips to each of the above pizza.

 Some Of My Favorite Pizzas

artichoke

Marinated Artichoke Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe All-Purpose Pizza Dough or Multigrain Pizza Dough 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ounce marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced thin
  • 1 ounce fire-roasted red peppers, drained and sliced thin
  • 6 small Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick and marinated in 1/2 cup Multi Purpose Herb Oil (see recipe); drain before using.
  • 1 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before assembling pizzas. About 45 minutes before baking, place an oven rack one-third the distance from the bottom of oven. Place a pizza stone or invert a heavy baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Cook onions in hot oil about 10 minutes, until translucent. Stir in sugar and balsamic vinegar; cook until juices bubble. Transfer onions to a strainer set over a bowl. Drain for 3 minutes. Return drained juices to the skillet. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until the consistency of honey. Remove from heat. Return onions to the skillet. Stir to coat, then set aside.

For pizzas, stretch each dough portion into an 8-10 inch circle. One at a time, transfer to a pizza peel (pizza-size spatula) or rimless cookie sheet dusted with flour. Evenly divide onion mixture, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes and olives and spread on each circle. Sprinkle top with cheese.

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until toppings bubble and pizza edges are golden brown. Rotate pizzas halfway through baking time. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

mushroom

Mushroom-Garlic Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe All-Purpose Pizza Dough or Multigrain Pizza Dough
  • 1 recipe Caramelized Garlic, recipe below
  • 1 ½ cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 ½ cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded provolone cheese
  • 4 teaspoons Multipurpose Herb Oil, see recipe 
  • 1/4 cup of fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before assembling pizzas. About 45 minutes before baking, place an oven rack one-third the distance from bottom of oven. Place a pizza stone or invert a heavy baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil from the Caramelized Garlic recipe. Cook and stir mushrooms in hot oil for 4 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to glisten. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

For pizzas, stretch each dough portion into an 8-10 inch circle. One at a time, transfer to a pizza peel (pizza-size spatula) or rimless cookie sheet dusted with flour. Top each pizza with 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, one-fourth of the sautéed mushrooms (about 1/2 cup) and 6 to 8 cloves of garlic (from Caramelized Garlic).

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until toppings bubble and pizza edges are golden brown. Rotate pizzas halfway through baking time. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Just before serving, drizzle each pizza with 1 teaspoon Multipurpose Herb Oil and sprinkle with parsley.

Caramelized Garlic

Place 1 cup of peeled garlic cloves (3 to 4 bulbs) in a small saucepan with enough olive oil to cover the garlic (about 1 cup). Simmer over medium heat about 20 minutes, until garlic is a rich dark golden brown on the outside. They should develop what resembles a crust. Stir occasionally to prevent garlic from sticking to the pan and burning. Remove from heat. Let garlic stand in the oil for 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer garlic cloves to a plate lined with paper towels. Transfer remaining oil to a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Separately refrigerate garlic cloves and oil, tightly covered, up to 2 weeks.

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