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Abruzzi is located in the mountains along the Adriatic region of Italy and the cuisine is known for simple but hearty meals. A typical meal prepared in Abruzzi will feature diavolicchio, a combination of olive oil, tomatoes and chili peppers. Chili peppers are used often to spice up recipes, typical for much of Southern Italy. Rosemary, garlic and wine are also used extensively in Abruzzi cooking. Despite being more expensive per gram than truffles or caviar, saffron is used in many recipes and most of Italy’s saffron is produced in Abruzzi.

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Abruzz’si cuisine is famous for artichokes and cardoons, legumes and potatoes and they are often enjoyed in soups. Cacio e Uova is a soup made from vegetables and salt pork and sometimes lamb, in a chicken base that relies on grated pecorino and eggs for a thick, creamy texture. Zuppa di cardi combines cardoons, relatives of the artichoke, with tomatoes and salt pork. The tiny mountain lentils are cooked with fresh chestnuts, pork and tomatoes with herbs to make zuppla di lenticchie. The traditional Christmas lunch begins with chicken broth, cardoons, tiny lamb meatballs and raw egg scrambled into the broth or fried chopped organ meats added to the soup just prior to serving.

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Abruzzi recipes feature fresh seafood from the Adriatic, such as, Brodetto, a peppered seafood soup. Port cities also prepare fresh fish in a salty vinegar based dressing. Octopus is cooked in tomatoes and hot peppers and called “polpi in purgatorio”. Garlic, peppers and rosemary are used to season an anchovy and monkfish dish, called coda di rospo alla cacciatora. Fish and crayfish also come from inland freshwater ways.

The countryside of Abruzzi is dotted with herds of sheep and goats, making the preferred meats, lamb and kid. These meats are simmered slowly in sauces to serve over platters of polenta or pasta and served family style. Large pieces of spit roasted lamb are frequently eaten in Abruzzi, especially on special occasions. Another lamb dish of the region, agnello alle olive, is slowly cooked in a sealed clay casserole dish along with olives, lemons, hot peppers and oregano.

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While beef is not as popular as in other areas of Italy, many households have their own herds of free ranging pigs. This yields meat for curing. Mortadellina, ventricina and salsicce di fegato pazzo are locally made table ready sausages that are enjoyed with bread. Abruzzi recipes such as ‘Ndocca ‘ndocca make use of the ribs and other parts of the pig that might otherwise be wasted, such as skin, ears and feet. This stew is flavored with vinegar, rosemary, bay leaf and peppers. Pork sausage is also enjoyed baked into the savory pizza rustica along with cheese and eggs.

guitar pasta

Abruzzi cuisine begins many meals with a pasta course. Maccheroni alla chitarra, or guitar pasta, is a classic Abruzzi dish. This egg dough is cut into the classic quadrangular shape with an instrument resembling an acoustic guitar. This is traditionally served with a lamb and tomato sauce seasoned with tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic and bay leaves. Lasagne Abruzzese layers sheets of pasta with spicy meat and tomato sauce.

Abruzzi cooking often calls for a crepe called scrippelle. These crepes are filled with flavorful ingredients and then used in other dishes. With scrippelle ‘mbusse, the crepes are served in chicken stock with grated pecorino cheese. In timballo di crespe, the crepes are placed in elegant molds with vegetables, cheese and meat and baked.

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil and Hot Pepper

spaghetti with oil

Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino is a traditional recipe from the Abruzzi region of Italy.

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 14 oz (400 grams) spaghetti
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 peperoncino ( hot peppers)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water.
A few minutes before draining the pasta, heat 1/4 cup of oil, add the garlic and the peperoncino and cook slowly until the garlic turns golden. Add the sauce to the drained spaghetti, toss well and serve immediately.

Chicken and Peppers Abruzzi-Style

Chicken-cacciatore

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 lb chicken; cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh hot chili peppers; chopped
  • 4 whole cloves garlic; peeled
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves; chopped
  • Salt
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 12 small black olives

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a deep ovenproof skillet with a lid that is large enough to contain all the chicken pieces in one layer without crowding, add oil, garlic and rosemary to the pan – turn the heat to high. Add the chicken and arrange the pieces with the skin side facing down in one layer. When well browned, turn the pieces and brown on the other side. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and chili peppers and transfer the chicken to a large plate, skin side up.

Add the onion and the bell peppers to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the olives and cherry tomatoes and, once the tomatoes are hot, pour in the wine and simmer over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin side up. Cover the pan and braise in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer dish to a large warm platter and serve at once with crusty Italian bread.

Timballo di Patate

potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds potatoes 
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
  • Chopped parsley 
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Directions

Cook potatoes whole, in water, peel them. Mash potatoes mixing in mozzarella, eggs, grated cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.
Place mixture in a 12x9x2 inch (or 9 inch round) pan, of which the inside surfaces have been oiled (or buttered) and sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking. Heat at 425 degrees F. in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Serves 12.

Easter Ricotta Tarts with Saffron

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During Easter time the Abruzzi people celebrate the holiday with traditional sweets called soffioni or “big puffs”. The name refers to the look these mini tarts get while baking. Their filling is made with fresh ricotta and flavored with citrus zest and saffron. The expensive spice is a local ingredient from the fields around the small town of Navelli. It takes the inner part of 150 flowers (called crocus) to yield 1 gram of dry saffron and the brief harvest occurs once a year, when the flowers bloom around mid October.

12 pastries

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra for the work surface
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium eggs plus 1 egg yolk

For the filling:

  • 1 pinch of saffron threads
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of sheep’s milk ricotta or cow’s milk ricotta, well-drained
  • Zest of 1 small lemon, finely grated
  • Vegetable oil or butter for coating
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, olive oil, eggs plus the egg yolk and salt. Work the dough just until it comes together in a smooth and firm ball. Wrap it with plastic and let rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature while making the filling.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the filling:

If you have an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, use it to make the filling. Remember to clean the bowl and the beater before beating the egg whites.

In a small bowl, crush the saffron threads with the back of a teaspoon.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the yolks in an electric mixer with the sugar until light and pale colored. Add the saffron, ricotta and lemon zest. Continue to beat until the mixture is fluffy. Set aside.

In another bowl or in a clean electric mixer bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until light and fluffy. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk and ricotta mixture.

Take the dough out of the wrap and roll it on a lightly floured surface into a square, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a fluted pastry cutter (or a knife), slightly trim the edges and then cut the pastry evenly into 12 squares.

Coat a 12 cup muffin baking pan with vegetable oil or butter and lightly dust with flour. Press the pastry squares into the muffin cups, making sure to leave the four corners hanging over the edges. With a spoon divide the ricotta filling among the 12 pastry cups without overfilling and then fold the corners over the center of the filling. They should not seal but remain partially separated from each other.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 320 degrees F and continue baking for another 15 minutes until the tarts are golden.

Let cool at room temperature and then carefully remove the tarts from the muffin pan. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

 

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Carnevale, also known as Mardi Gras, is celebrated in Italy and many places around the world 40 days before Easter, a final party before Ash Wednesday and the restrictions of Lent.

The Carnival of Venice was for a long time the most famous celebration. From Italy, carnival traditions spread to the Catholic nations of Spain, Portugal and France. From France, they spread to the Rhineland of Germany and to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal, they spread with Catholic colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America.

The most widely known, most elaborate and most popular events are in New Orleans, Louisiana. Carnival celebrations, usually referred to as Mardi Gras, were first celebrated in the Gulf Coast area of the United States, but now occur in many other states. Customs originated in the onetime French colonial capitals of Mobile (now in Alabama), New Orleans (Louisiana) and Biloxi (Mississippi), all of which have been celebrated for many years with street parades and masked balls. Other major U.S. cities with celebrations include Miami, Florida; Tampa, Florida; St. Louis, Missouri; Pensacola, Florida; San Diego, California; Galveston, Texas and Orlando, Florida.

For information on how Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans read my post: Mardi Gras Time !

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/02/04/mardi-gras-time/

Carnevale in Italy is a huge winter festival celebrated with parades, masquerade balls, entertainment, music and parties. Children throw confetti at each other. Mischief and pranks are also common during Carnevale, hence the saying, “A Carnevale Ogni Scherzo Vale”, or anything goes at carnival.

Carnevale has roots in pagan festivals and traditions and, as is often the case with traditional festivals, was adapted to fit into Catholic rituals. Although Mardi Gras, sometimes called “Fat Tuesday” or “Shove Tuesday”,  is actually one date – the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – but in Venice and New Orleans and in some other places, the carnival celebrations and parties may begin a couple of weeks before.

Carnevale Di Venezia was first recorded in 1268 with mention of masks, parties and rich food. In the height of the masquerade, mascherari (maskmakers) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and guild. Masks made the Venetian carnival unique, as it took away social status and inhibition. In this way, the social order was temporarily non-existent. However, when Venice fell under Austrian rule after Napoleon’s Treaty of Campo Formio in 1798, the city and all its culture went into decline. This pre-Lent celebration didn’t enjoy a revival until almost 200 years later when, in the 1970’s, a group of Venetians decided to revive the tradition.

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Masks or maschere are an important part of the carnevale festival and Venice is the best city for traditional carnival masks. Carnival masks are sold year round and can be found in many Venetian shops, ranging from cheap to elaborate and expensive. Walking through the streets of Venice, one can view a variety of masks on display in shop windows. People also wear elaborate costumes for the festival and there are numerous costume or masquerade balls, both private and public.

What foods are popular in Italy during Carnevale?

Almost every Italian town and region has some specialty in recognition of Carnevale, though in Venice, the specialty is frittelle. These fritters are fried golden brown and filled or topped with a variety of treats, bursting with sweet or savory flavors, like chocolate, jelly, fruit or meat. The enticing smells drift through the city and can be found in the cichéti stalls along the streets, where it is easy to pick up these “small bites”.  In the other regions, similar fare can be found under different names, like the Lombard chiacchere, Tuscan cenci and Roman frappe. But under any name, they are all the highlight of the season for Italians and visitors alike. Other Venetian carnevale foods include “Pasticcio di Maccheroni” (a baked pasta, ricotta, meat pie), “Pizza Sfogliata con Salsiccia e Pancetta” (filled, rolled baked dough), “Migliaccio di Polenta” (polenta and sausage) and steaming plates of lasagnas and pastas, filled with pancetta, prosciutto, salami and sopressata.

Naples has the sumptuous Lasagne di Carnevale. In the past poorer families could only afford to make this dish once a year, therefore, it became very special and every family had their own secret recipe. There was a great deal of competiton in the local towns over whose lasagna was best. Throughout much of Italy, however, Carnevale is an occasion for eating pastries, fritters of one kind or another that are quick to make and fun to eat. During the weeks of Carnevale, it is a tradition to eat a lot of sweets because they will not be able to eat them during Lent.

Traditional Carnevale Recipes

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Grande Lasagna di Carnevale

Some versions of this recipe add sliced hard-boiled eggs to the layers along with the meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried Lasagna noodles
  • 1/4 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 12 oz. drained canned plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Flour
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/3 pound mozzarella
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto

Directions

Cook the lasagna noodles in abundant, slightly salted water until they’re al dente, run them under cold water and lay the sheets out on a kitchen cloth, covering them with a second cloth.

For the sauce:

Sauté the onion in the oil until soft. Add the Italian sausage and after it has browned add the tomatoes. Simmer over moderate heat for about an hour, adding the beef broth a little at a time. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

For the meatballs:

Combine the ground beef with the bread crumbs, egg, parsley, ricotta and half the grated Parmigiano cheese. Make 1-inch diameter meatballs from the mixture and dredge them in the flour. Heat a little oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon, place them on paper towels and keep them warm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Dice the prosciutto and mozzarella. Oil a baking pan about the length of the pasta noodles. Place a layer of pasta in the bottom of the pan, then a few meatballs, some of the sauce, some of the diced ingredients and a sprinkling of Parmigiano. Continue until all the ingredients are used; then bake the lasagna for 15-20 minutes until bubbling. Let the lasagna rest for ten minutes before serving.

carnavale pizza

Pizza Sfogliata con Salsiccia

Rolled up pizza with sausages and pancetta is a specialty for Carnevale.

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/5 cups (500 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 10 ounces (250 g) mild Italian sausage
  • 6 ounces (150 g) thinly sliced pancetta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of powdered cinnamon
  • Black pepper 

Directions

Make a mound of the flour on your work surface, form a well in the middle of it, crack the eggs into the well, add a pinch of salt and mix together with your hands; knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, then cover it and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet. Remove the sausages from their casings and crumble them into the skillet, together with the pancetta. Brown the meat for 4-5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

Roll the dough out about 1/8 of an inch thick (3 mm). Spread the remaining oil over the dough, then distribute the sausage and pancetta evenly over the dough as well.

Sprinkle the meat with black pepper to taste, dust very lightly with cinnamon and roll the dough up to make a snake.

Coil the snake, pressing gently in the center section of the snake to give the pizza a uniform width, put the snake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake it for 30-40 minutes, or until the pizza is evenly browned.

frittelle

Frittelle di Riso

There are many types of Carnival (Mardi Gras) pastries in Italy. Traditional rice fritters, frittelle di riso, are also popular on March 19th, to celebrate San Giuseppe.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup (350 g) rice — not parboiled
  • 1 quart (1 liter) milk
  • The zest of one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 jigger of rum or vinsanto
  • 3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (100 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Oil for frying
  • Confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Simmer the rice in the milk until it’s quite soft and begins to give off its starch, then stir in the sugar, lemon zest and butter. Let the mixture cool.

Separate the eggs and whip the whites to soft peaks. Combine the yolks and the rum or wine and stir into the rice mixture, then fold in the egg whites, flour and baking powder.

Heat about 3 inches of oil to 375° F in a 4 to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Drop the batter, a teaspoon at a time, into hot oil and fry the frittelle until they are golden brown.

Drain them on absorbent paper and, when they have cooled, dust them with confectioner’s sugar.

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Castagnole

In Umbria these little fried pastries are called castagnole and, in some places, zeppole. In Milan they are tortelli. They are called castagnole because their shape resembles a chestnut. They are best eaten while still warm.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon anise extract
  • 1-1/2 cups cake or italian flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 small eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 pkg yeast (lievito, in Italy)
  • Oil for frying
  • Powdered sugar to dust them

Directions

Mix flour, eggs, sugar, butter (cut into small cubes), vanilla, anise, salt, lemon zest and yeast. Combine the ingredients and transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until

soft and very smooth. Rest the dough for 20 minutes. Then form long and thick noodles of dough an inch thick, rolling the dough with your fingers.

Cut into pieces the size of a chestnut. Roll into balls.

Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a deep-frying pan and drop about six balls in at a time, frying over low heat and turning them as they brown. Use a spider or large slotted spoon to turn them until they are puffed up, golden and begin to float. Scoop them out and place them on layers of paper towels. Repeat with remaining balls and then sift powdered sugar over them.

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Carnival Chiacchiere

Depending on where you are in Italy, you might find these chiacchiere under the name of crostoli (or grostoli), sfrappole, galani, frappe or cenci with different regions substituting the white wine with marsala, acquavite or anisette.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 heaping tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 glass white wine
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • ¼ cup (50 g) powdered sugar

Directions

Place flour in a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. Slowly work in the butter and the eggs followed by the white wine. Knead until the dough becomes soft and pliable. If it feels too sticky to the touch add a little more flour. Dust a work surface with a little flour. Roll dough out thin and cut it into triangles about 4 inches (10cm) long.

Heat about 3 inches of oil to 375°F in a 4 to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat and when hot, fry the chiacchiere in small batches. When they are golden brown all over, remove them from the oil and drain well on paper towels. Before serving, dredge with powdered sugar.

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Penne

There are approximately 350 different dried pastas produced in Italy that are made from durum wheat and semolina flour. Penne is a tube-shaped pasta that originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy, and comes in two main varieties: penne lisce and penne rigate, with the rigate having ridges on each noodle. The name “penne” comes from the Italian word for “pen” (penna), a reference to the angled ends of the tube, which resemble the tip of a quill pen.

This pasta can be used in a wide assortment of dishes, from casseroles to soups. The tubes are relatively short, around the length and width of a pinkie finger. Cooks may also hear penne pasta referred to as mostaccioli, in a reference to an Italian dish that traditionally features this pasta.

ziti

Ziti

And, there is also ziti, which are hollow long wands, with a smooth texture and square-cut edges. When they are cut into shorter tubes, they are called cut ziti. Telling the difference between penne variants can be difficult, especially in countries outside of Italy, because there is a tendency to name ridged and smooth penne subtypes the same. Basically, the difference is penne is cut on the diagonal and is longer and thinner than ziti.

Penne is probably one of the more well-known pasta shapes, available in most markets and grocery stores that stock pasta. Dishes made with it are frequently on the menu at Italian restaurants, especially in the United States, where consumers have a fondness for this shape.

Whole wheat and multigrain versions are available, along with gluten-free pastas made from rice, corn or other ingredients. Many producers also make flavored varieties by adding ingredients, such as spinach or sun dried tomatoes. The best tasting penne is made with durum wheat because it will remain chewy and resilient throughout the cooking process.

baked penne

Ridged penne pasta pairs very well with many pasta sauces, because the ridges can be used to hold thin sauces or to support thick, chunky sauces. Its hollow nature also helps distribute the sauce, ensuring that pasta dishes are evenly and appealingly sauced.

Penne is traditionally cooked al dente and served with pasta sauces such as pesto, marinara or arrabbiata. In addition to being plated with sauce, penne holds up well when baked in a casserole. You will also find penne used cold in salads, added to soups or used as a side dish.

Dried pasta is essentially indestructible as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place. This makes it a useful staple to keep around the house, because as long as the pasta is not exposed to moisture, it will be perfectly usable.

Healthy Penne Dinners

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Whole-grain Penne with Onions and Walnuts

Ricotta salata (also called “hard ricotta”) is a firm white Italian cheese made by salting, pressing and drying sheep’s-milk ricotta. In flavor, it’s like a very mild, less tangy feta, which makes it a good addition to pastas and salads (it can be grated). Look for ricotta salata in specialty stores, Italian markets or any supermarket with a good cheese department.

Ingredients

  • 7 medium onions (about 4 lbs.), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups walnuts
  • 10 ounces whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1 pound ricotta salata, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large skillet over high heat, cook onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil with the sugar and 2 teaspoons salt, stirring and turning often, until onions begin to release their juices and turn golden, 10 to 13 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn a caramel color and become quite sweet, 35 to 40 minutes more. If onions begin to stick to the pan or char during cooking, reduce heat.

Meanwhile, in a dry small frying pan over medium-low heat, toast walnuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour walnuts into a zip-lock plastic bag and lightly crush with a rolling pin. Set aside.

When onions are nearly done, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 9 to 12 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Mix caramelized onions with pasta, walnuts, ricotta salata, parsley, reserved cooking water, lemon juice, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

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Sirloin Steak Over Penne and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked penne 
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3/4-pound boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free garlic-pepper blend
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese, optional

Directions

Preheat broiler.

While the broiler preheats, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add pasta; cook 5 1/2 minutes. Add beans and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain well.

Sprinkle steak with the garlic-pepper blend. Place on a broiler pan; broil 3 inches from heat for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Combine onion and next 8 ingredients (onion through black pepper) in a large bowl. Add pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Place steak slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

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Penne with Spinach and Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onions
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

While you make the pasta sauce, cook penne according to package directions. Drain well; return to pan. Stir in spinach; toss well until spinach wilts.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring often. Stir in broth, vermouth and lemon zest. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 8 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium. Add cream cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper; remove from heat. Stir in shrimp to rewarm. Add mixture to pasta and spinach; toss to combine.

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Penne with Sausage and Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups cubed, peeled eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 cups hot cooked penne (about 10 ounces uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook eggplant, sausage and garlic in olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and eggplant is tender. Be sure to stir often to keep eggplant from sticking to the pan.

Add tomato paste and the next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add tomato mixture, cheese and parsley; toss well.

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Penne with Greens, Almonds and Raisins

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, trimmed greens of choice (kale, swiss chard, escarole, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Retain 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain.

While pasta cooks, place raisins in a small bowl; cover with hot water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain.

While pasta cooks and raisins soak, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add greens and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until greens are tender.

Stir in pasta, raisins, almonds, salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; toss to combine. Moisten with pasta cooking water. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper according to taste.

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Calabria is at the toe of the boot, the extreme south of Italy – lapped by the crystal blue Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas and separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The warm climate, the beautiful colors of the sea, rocky coasts that alternate with sandy beaches, the classic flavors of local foods and the vestiges of its ancient origins make Calabria a unique place in both winter and summer. The provinces of Calabria are: Catanzaro (regional capital), Reggio Calabria, Cosenza, Crotone and Vibo Valentia.

With farmland sparse in Calabria, every viable plot is cultivated to its greatest advantage. Tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, artichokes, beans, onions, peppers, asparagus, melons, citrus fruits, grapes, olives, almonds, figs and mountain-loving herbs grow well in the area. Calabrians tend to focus on the high quality of their ingredients, so that virtually everything picked from a garden is useable and worthy of praise.

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Calabrians use the mountainous area covering most of the region to raise pigs, goats and sheep and comb the woods for chestnuts, acorns and wild mushrooms to add rustic flavors to their cooking.

Fishermen have little trouble finding swordfish, cod and sardines and shrimp and lobster are common on their tables. The inland freshwater lakes and streams offer trout in abundance.

Due to the humid climate and the high risk of rapid molding and spoilage, food preservation has become a fine art in Calabria. Oiling, salting, curing, smoking – almost all of the area’s food products can be found preserved in some form or another. Calabria’s many varieties of cured meats and sausages are served alongside fresh produce and the local pancetta pairs perfectly with plump melons in summer.

Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal, so the fact that the organ meats are so prized by locals comes as no great surprise. The spicy-hot tang of nduja (also known as ‘ndugghi) is both a complex and singularly unusual flavor. Made from pig’s fat and organ meats mixed with liberal local pepperoncinis, this salami-style delicacy is a testament to the Calabrian patience in waiting until foods have reached their perfection. In this case, waiting for the salami to cure for an entire year. Other salamis such as capicola calabrese and soppressata di calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads, cheeses and Calabrian wines.

Spelinga_Nduja

Nduja

Breads, cheeses and pastas are all important to Calabrian cooking. Cheeses lean toward the goat and/or sheep milk varieties, though cow’s milk cheeses are becoming more common. Pane del pescatore (“fisherman’s bread”) is a local specialty rich with eggs and dried fruits. Focaccia and pita breads are popular in the region, due to Greek and Arabic influences. Greek influence still pervades in eggplant, swordfish and sweets by incorporating figs, almonds and honey into the preparations. Similarly, special pastries and desserts take on a Greek flavor with many being fried and dipped in honey.

Calabrian pastas are hearty and varied, with the names of some of the more creative cuts, like ricci di donna (or “curls of the lady”) and capieddi ‘e prieviti (or “hairs of the priest”), belying a whimsical spirit of the region’s people. Fusilli is a common pasta component in Calabrian dishes, as are scilateddri, lagane, cavateddri and maccheroni.

Wine is not produced in huge quantities in the region, though the small batches are excellent in flavor and heavily influenced by Greek varieties. Ciró wines are produced using the same ancient varieties of grapes, as wines produced in antiquity for local heroes of the Olympic games. The grapes are still grown primarily in the Cosenza province of Calabria and Ciró wines often take up to four years to reach maturity. Calabria also turns out sweet whites, such as Greco di Bianco.

hot peppers

Calabrian hot pepper is found in many Calabrian dishes – toasted bread with n’duja sausage or sardines, pork sausages, pasta sauces and fish dishes will have hot pepper added.  A fondness for spicy food shows in the popularity of all types of peppers and, unusual for Italy, the use of ginger (zenzero), which is added to spice up sauces (along with hot pepper). Some Calabrian chicken and fish recipes also include ginger.

Antipasto

stuffedmush1

Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

  • One dozen mushroom caps
  • 1 cup well-drained skim milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fresh parsley or basil, chopped, for garnishing

Directions

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F.

Remove stems from mushrooms and set the caps side. Use the stems for soup or other recipes.

Thoroughly combine the next five ingredients -ricotta through pepper- in a mixing bowl.

Coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the 12 mushrooms with olive oil cooking spray.

Stuff each cap with ricotta filling. Sprinkle the tops lightly with breadcrumbs.

Place the stuffed mushroom caps in the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees F  20 minutes for large caps, 15 minutes for small caps. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

First Course

pasta_alla_calabrese

Calabrian Sugo – Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 ½ cups

This is a basic Calabrian sauce that is the foundation of many dishes. It can be served on its own with any pasta shape. It can also be the starting point for the addition of many other ingredients. You can use fresh tomatoes or canned.

Ingredients:

  • 28-ounce can of peeled tomatoes in their juice or 3 ½ cups of peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • Salt
  • 1 fresh or dried hot red pepper or a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound rigatoni

Directions:

If you are using canned tomatoes, break them up by hand. If you prefer a smoother sauce, puree them in a food processor or blender.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and hot pepper.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Combine pasta with sauce and serve.

Second Course

tuna

Trance di Tonno alla Calabrese (Tuna Steaks Calabrese Style)

Ingredients

  • 4 tuna steaks (about 2 pounds and 1 inch thick)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

Place the tuna in a large large dish in a single layer, sprinkle with three tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add bay leaves and garlic cloves and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the tuna to marinate in the refrigerator for at least six hours, occasionally turning the tuna.

Remove the tuna from the marinade.

Heat a large skillet until very hot and cook the tuna together with the lemon wedges, for approximately six minutes depending on thickness of the fillets or until the fish done to your likeness.

Sprinkle with black pepper and extra virgin olive oil before serving.

sauteed-escarole-with-raisins-pine-nuts-and-capers-104912-ss

Sautéed Escarole

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • One head of fresh escarole, washed thoroughly
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the escarole and cook until the stem pieces start to soften, about 2 minutes (the water needn’t return to a boil). Drain.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard.

Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute.

Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and season to taste with salt or more hot pepper.

Dessert

crostata light marmellata

Devil’s Tart (Crostata del Diavolo)

Sweet and hot are popular combinations in southern Italy, as evidenced by this tart. Chile jam is readily available from mail order sources. You can also roll the top crust out and fit it over the filling instead of making a lattice top.

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces soft butter
  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 11 ounces flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 5 ounces orange marmalade or apricot jam
  • 4 ounces red chile jam (Marmellata di Peperoncino)
  • 4 ounces almonds, blanched and chopped
  • Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix well. Add the egg yolks, egg and lemon peel.

In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and slowly add to the butter-sugar-egg-mixture.

Divide the dough in half. Roll one half of the dough on a floured surface to fit a tart or pie pan and fit the dough into the pan.

Spread the fruit jam evenly over the dough in the pie dish and, then, spread the chile jam evenly on top of the orange jam. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Roll the other half of the dough to the size of the top of the tart pan on a floured surface. Cut the dough into one inch strips and lay the strips on top of the filling in a lattice pattern.

Bake the tart for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

marmellata-di-peperoncino

Eggs poached with n’duja, peppers and tomatoes (frombootlewithlove.wordpress.com)
Mangia! Mangia! (mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com)
Calabria: An Ideal Holiday Spot (gateawayblog.wordpress.com)
A Sicilian Style Christmas Eve Dinner (jovinacooksitalian.com)
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/11/11/plan-a-venetian-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/09/23/a-fall-neapolitan-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/10/22/a-fall-bolognese-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2014/01/09/make-a-roman-inspired-winter-dinner/

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Italian cuisine prides itself on simple delicious combinations of the finest, freshest ingredients available. For example, fresh ricotta, mozzarella di bufala and prosciutto. Each Italian region and town is proud to have its trademark dishes and ingredients. It is important to be aware that the ingredients used by Italians are location specific. Everyone in Italy knows to get their balsamic vinegar from Modena, their mozzarella di bufala from Campania, their truffles from Piedmont or Umbria, their cannoli from Sicily, their artichokes from Rome, their pizza from Naples, their bolognese meat sauce from Bologna, their saffron risotto from Milan and their pecorino cheese from Pienza.

Italy has adopted strict country-of-origin labelling laws.

Italian food products are special. The Italian national government recognizes this, so, they’ve taken some steps to ensure that all traditional products are held to a strict standard for quality, excellence and originality. This means that only real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is labeled and sold as such and that no “imposter” cheeses can be labeled Parmigiano. This form of branding actually helps promote the product worldwide and ensures that each wheel of Parmigiano is as good and authentic as the rest.

The heart and soul of Italian cuisine are found in the quality of its ingredients and that quality has long been assured by tightly controlled and regulated production standards. These standards fall within the jurisdiction of European Union law under the auspices of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). In Italy, these terms translate to Denominazione di Origine Protetta or DOP and Indicazione Geografica Protetta or IGP. Another system, known as the Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC is Italy’s system for ensuring quality wines.

D.O.P – Denominazione di Origine Protetta

Literally translated “Protected Designation of Origin”, this label applies to various cheeses, meats, breads and pastas from the regions throughout Italy. Examples of such products are Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma, regional Extra-Virgin Olive Oils and the famous Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

In the case of IGP, at least one stage of production or processing of the product takes place within the designated area. In addition, the product has a certain reputation. IGP designates a native product of the region/country whose qualities/reputation/features can be attributed to its geographic origin and whose production and/or processing take place within that area.

D.O.C. and D.O.C.G

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (e Garantita)  means that the wine is from a “Controlled Designation of Origin” and officially guaranteed by the Italian government. These two labels are the highest quality certifications given to Italian wines. Each designation means that the wine is grown in select quantities that the government mandates and is produced under traditional or government-specified standards. D.O.C.G. is the ultimate Italian wine standard, being given currently to little over 30 wines from Italy. Each D.O.C.G. wine is produced in very small quantities and is given an official numbered government seal for each bottle.

Extra Virgin

While this title is reserved for olive oils, it is not exclusive to Italy (though, some Italian olive oils can also be given the D.O.P. designation, which is exclusive to Italy). Extra Virgin is a grade of olive oil that comes from the first pressing of olives and contains no more than 0.8% acidity – a key for determining quality and usability of olive oil.

Protecting these products is not easy. See the following news story:

ROME, Dec. 6, 2013 (UPI) — The counterfeit food business is doing well in Italy, with peddlers selling items from watered-down olive oil to imitation cheese, a report indicated.

The annual report, issued Thursday by the Citizen’s Defense Movement and environment non-profit Legambiente, documented 500,000 government inspections that led to the seizure of 28,000 tons of counterfeit or adulterated products worth more than a half-billion dollars in 2012, the ANSA news agency reported. The highest rate of seizures, about 47 percent, occurred within Italy’s wine sector.

Authorities also seized 4.6 tons of tomatoes — another mainstay of Italian cuisine — that were fraudulently sold as organic or falsely labeled as a “Protected Designation of Origin” product, an EU designation for products whose claim to quality depends on the territory in which they were produced.

ANSA reported that Chinese tomato sauce was repackaged with a “Made in Italy” label.

“Consumers are still the unwitting victims of food fraud,” Citizens’ Defense Movement President Antonio Longo said. “We need severe penalties to be a real deterrent.”

“Guaranteeing food safety is not just healthy, but also crucial to safeguarding our gastronomic heritage,” Legambiente President Vittorio Cogliati Dezza said.

The agriculture association, Coldiretti, said unfair competition from foreign produce branded to look as if it were from Italy contributed to the failure of 136,351 farms and agricultural companies since the global economic crisis began in 2007.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc.

Consumers need to look for the DOP or IGP seals on authentic Italian products. In use since 2006, the new regulations introduced in May, 2010 utilize a color scheme. A red and gold seal denotes a DOP product while a blue and gold seal is found on IGP products.

You can buy authentic Italian food products in the United States. Much more so than in the not too distant past, when you had to seek out an Italian specialty shop in an Italian neighborhood in order to buy a bottle of olive oil. Italian grocery stores and delis are still thriving and one can easily find authentic Italian ingredients in most high-end supermarkets these days. You just have to know what to look for.

First stop, the cheese section. How can you even consider Italian food without Parmesan cheese, right? What Americans refer to as “Parmesan cheese” is produced only in a specific area of Italy; the area around Parma. The word “Parmesan” is actually the French word for that area. It is also the generic term under which cheap imitation cheeses may legally be sold in the United States. This often means reaching for the grated stuff in the green cans.

The only true, authentic, Italian “Parmesan cheese” is Parmigiano-Reggiano and it comes in a wedge. It is a DOP designated product produced only in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and certain restricted areas of Bologna and Lombardia. It is made from raw, whole cow’s milk, not the “pasteurized part-skim” product found in cheap imitations. The only additive permitted in Parmigiano-Reggiano is salt. There are no chemical preservatives employed to protect flavor or prevent caking. It must be aged for a minimum of 12 months. The really good cheese is aged from 24 to 36 months. Look for the seals and, more importantly, since some stores hand cut wedges from whole wheels look for some part of the words “Parmigiano-Reggiano” on the rind. They have to be there in order for the cheese to be the real thing.

Besides Parmigiano-Reggiano, several other authentic Italian cheeses are available in supermarkets including Asiago, Gorgonzola, Pecorino Romano, Provolone, Fontina, Taleggio and Grana Padano. These are all DOP cheeses and should be identified as such. Many are domestically produced, so examine the labels carefully and remember that Pecorino cheese comes from sheep’s milk not cow’s milk.

The next best thing to Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.

All mozzarella cheese is not created equal. And it’s not all created Italian. If you want real, authentic Italian mozzarella, look for Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. Good luck. It’s not impossible to find, but since there are not a lot of herds of water buffalo grazing in American pastures, most of what passes for mozzarella in this country comes from cows. Technically, this makes it a fiore di latte, but it falls under the general category of mozzarella. There are some good fresh cow’s milk mozzarellas in supermarkets, but they are not authentic Italian. A good substitute for Americans is fresh cow’s milk mozzarella that comes packaged in moist balls.

Ricotta is literally the “recooked” by-product of mozzarella production, so what you’ll find on store shelves is closely related to mozzarella. There are DOP ricottas – i.e. Ricotta di Bufala Campana – but you will not find it in your supermarket.

Another staple of Italian cuisine is the tomato. If you want an authentic Italian taste from an authentic Italian product, look for canned tomatoes that are specifically labeled as “San Marzano” tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are a delicate, thin skinned variety of plum tomato grown in an area near the Italian village of San Marzano sul Sarno, which is located southeast of Naples in the fertile valley of Mt. Vesuvius. The DOP certification area actually involves 39,540 acres in three of the provinces of the Campania region, including a rough triangle formed by Salerno, Naples and a small part of Avellino. It is said that San Marzano tomatoes owe their unique flavor to the rich volcanic soil in which they are grown. They have a deep red color and an unmatchable sweet taste. They are sought after and preferred by cooks and chefs around the world as the absolute best tomato for use in a tomato sauce.

The brand I prefer- only tomatoes are in this product – no salt, no sugar.

There are dozens of brands of San Marzano tomatoes. The tomatoes packed by Cento are the ones mostly found in America. I’ve used several other brands as well, depending on availability. Authentic San Marzano tomatoes will bear the DOP seal on the label. Most will also carry authentication from the Consorzio di Tutela del Pomodoro San Marzano – Agro Nocerino Sarnese , a consortium dedicated to the protection of San Marzano tomatoes.

While in the tomato aisle take a look at the tomato paste. Some sound really Italian. Check the label ingredient list and many say: Tomato puree (tomato paste, water), high fructose corn syrup, salt, dried onions, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean and/or cottonseed), spices, hydrolyzed corn gluten, soy & wheat gluten proteins, grated Romano cheese made from cow’s milk (cultured milk, salt, enzymes), garlic, citric acid, yeast, soy flour.”

Instead choose tomato paste in a tube rather than a can. Easier to use and easier to store. Most common is Amore Italian Tomato Paste brand. Amore is not DOP or IGP and is labeled as a “product of Italy.” What this means is that some component of the overall product comes from Italy. It may be the cap on the tube but the company’s literature says the tube contains “fresh Italian ingredients,” and the ingredients listed are tomato paste and salt. So is it better than the can.

Next, is the pasta. Can you find authentic Italian pasta on American grocery store shelves? If you go to the Italian specialty stores, you can. Supermarkets, maybe. De Cecco and Barilla are both noted Italian pasta makers. Both are headquartered in Italy; De Cecco in San Martino, Barilla in Parma. Each has a corporate presence in the United States. The difference is that while Barilla bills itself as “Italy’s #1 Brand of Pasta,” its products are produced all over the world from local ingredients grown all over the world. In the US that means central Iowa or western New York. De Cecco, on the other hand, generates more than one-third of its total revenue through export. Pasta is not a DOP or IGP product. De Cecco is probably the closest to authentic Italian pasta available to the average supermarket shopper.

DOC protected olive oil

There are dozens of protected Italian olive oils. You won’t find many (if any) in your neighborhood supermarket, but they are available in specialty shops and online. Italy is the largest exporter of olive oil to the United States. So if you want real Italian olive oil, check the label for country of origin and the government seals.

Balsamic vinegar is a DOP product. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is DOP and consortium regulated and sealed. It is produced in either Modena or Reggio Emilia. Only balsamic vinegar from these regions may legally be described as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. The real vinegar comes in very small bottles and is portioned out by the drop because it is very expensive. The balsamic vinegar found on most supermarket shelves is condimento grade and is a blend of various commercially produced vinegars. There are no official production standards or labeling requirements to designate condimento balsamic vinegars, although many of them are produced in the same area as the tradizionale varieties. Unless you see the seal, you do not have the real balsamic vinegar.

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale

There are about 22 DOP meats and another 10 that are IGP. Here are a few of the protected Italian meat varieties you’ll want to look for at the supermarket: bresaola, sopressa and sopressata, capicola, cotechino and mortadella. You won’t have to look for real authentic Italian pepperoni; there is no such thing. Pepperoni is an entirely Italian-American creation.

prosciutto di San Daniele

In addition to the mentioned meats, the two you’ll probably encounter most frequently are pancetta and prosciutto. Pancetta is an Italian dry cured meat similar to bacon, except that it is not smoked. There are a few DOP pancetta products in America, but you are unlikely to find them outside of Italian specialty shops. Boar’s Head makes a decent pancetta. It’s not authentic, but it is good.

Prosciutto comes two ways, cotto and crudo, (cooked and uncooked). Prosciutto crudo is the most commonly used and there are two basic prosciutti of this type familiar to most Americans; prosciutto di Parma and prosciutto di San Daniele. Each reflects the specific area where it is produced. The pigs in Parma dine on the leftover whey from the processing of Parmigiano-Reggiano, so the meat produced there tends to have a little nuttier flavor than that which comes from San Daniele, where the meat is a little darker in color and sweeter in taste. Just look for the seal to guarantee authenticity when you purchase these products.

In general, your best source for authentic Italian meats is a salumeria but they are found in the big cities where there are large Italian populations. If you live in small town America, just try to find the freshest and best quality available.

Cooking with the D.O.P. Brands

Fettuccine with Prosciutto & Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh egg fettuccine
  • 1/2 lb asparagus
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 4 oz prosciutto, cut into thin strips from an ⅛ inch thick slice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Trim and peel the lower green portions of the asparagus. Cook whole in salted boiling water in a large skillet until tender. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Cut the asparagus, when cool enough to handle, into ¼ inch lengths.

Pour 4 quarts of water into a large saucepan and place over a high heat.

Melt the butter in the empty skillet over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens and turns a golden color. Stir in the prosciutto and saute’ until it has lost its raw color. Add the asparagus, raise the heat to medium-high and cook until it is lightly colored. Pour the reserved water in and cook until it has evaporated. Stir in the cream and cook, stirring frequently, until it has reduced by half. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

When the water for the pasta is boiling and the sauce is off the heat, add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and drop in the pasta all at once, stirring well. When the pasta is cooked “al dente”, drain it and toss it with the sauce in the skillet, adding the grated cheese.

Mozzarella, Celery and Fennel Salad

Ingredients for 6 people:

  • 10 ounces celery, use center stalks
  • 10 ounces mozzarella di bufala
  • 3 fennel bulbs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Thoroughly wash the celery and fennel, cut them in thin strips (julienne), place in a salad bowl and add the mozzarella which has been cut into strips about the size of the vegetables.

Prepare the lemon dressing by slowly adding the lemon juice to the olive oil in a small bowl, add salt to taste, add to the salad and toss lightly.

20130808-262265-sabatinos-spaghetti-with-meat-sauce.jpg

Italian-American Meat Sauce

Sugo di Carne

Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 35-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
  • 4 cups hot water

Directions

Pass the tomatoes and their liquid through a food mill fitted with the fine blade. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy 4 to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Make a little room in the center of the pot, add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Add the ground beef and pork and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the meat changes color and the water it gives off is boiled away, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking until the meat is browned about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves and oregano then pour in the wine. Bring to a boil and cook, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the pot, until the wine is almost completely evaporated.

Pour in the tomatoes, then stir in the tomato paste until it dissolves. Season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the sauce takes on a deep, brick-red color, 2 to 3 hours. Add the hot water, about 1/2 cup at a time, as necessary to maintain the level of liquid for the length of time the sauce cooks.

Skim off any fat floating on top and adjust the seasoning as necessary. The sauce can be prepared entirely in advance and refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

 

Strawberries in Balsamic Syrup with Zabaglione

Ingredients

Meringue:

  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zabaglione:

  • 5 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup dry sparkling white wine or champagne (Prosecco)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Fruit:

  • 1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites with the salt until foamy. Continue beating, adding confectioners’ sugar gradually, until stiff and shiny. Beat in vinegar and vanilla. Spread meringue about 1/2 inch thick on parchment. Bake 2 hours, then turn the oven off and allow to cool 1 hour until crisp. Break into pieces. Keep in a dry place.

While the meringue is baking, combine strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature.

Set up double boiler or a pot of simmering water. Have a bowl of ice water ready to cool the custard bowl. Away from the flame, add egg yolks to the double boiler top or bowl and whisk withthe  sugar to combine. Place back on the stove and whisk continuously over the simmering water, adding the sparkling wine gradually. Cook until the zabaglione is thick and the whisk leaves a trace on the bottom of the bowl. Place the double boiler top or custard bowl in ice water to cool, whisking twice for even cooling.

Beat the cream to the soft peak stage. Fold into the cooled custard. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Assemble the desserts by dividing the berries and syrup among 4 glasses or bowls. Add a layer of meringue pieces, then a dollop of zabaglione. Garnish with more meringue.

Serves 4.

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Sometimes it seems that there are as many types of coffee in Italy as there are pastas. And just like pasta, Italian coffee is an art form with many customs and traditions. Whether it’s a caffè corretto thrown back like a shot, a cappuccino and brioche for breakfast or a granita di caffè con panna to cool off from the hot midday sun, in Italy there is a coffee drink specific for every time and mood. It would be fair to say that Italians are passionate about coffee. So much so, you would think they had discovered it. They didn’t.

Around 600 CE Ethiopian goat herders noticed their hyperactive goats were eating leaves and berries from a strange tree with glossy green leaves. Coffee was discovered and cultivation soon spread to Yemen. Around 900, Arab physician, Rhazes, first mentions coffee in print but as a medicine. Around 1400 Ethiopians were roasting, grinding and brewing coffee beans. Coffee as we know it was born.

When coffee was first shipped from the Middle East to Venice, it caused a uproar and was almost banned from entering the port. Coffee houses were already established in Istanbul, but the fate of this drink was in the hands of Islamic preachers, who at first considered it on a par with alcohol. Eventually, it was accepted under Islamic law and trade began in the 16th century. Coffee houses in Venice sprung up and very quickly the black drink, which was until now solely consumed as medicine, achieved status and it became a luxury item, out of reach for most of Venetian society. However, as coffee plantations became established within the European colonies in South America and Asia, availability increased, the price decreased and, as it became more accessible to the poorer population, it’s popularity increased.

With over two hundred coffee houses along its canals, the reputation of this new drink soon spread to the neighboring cities of Verona, Milan and Turin. Coffee consumption soon spread to Rome, Naples, Bari and Sicily. The spread nationwide escalated and it wasn’t long before every household in Italy became familiar with the drink, eventually evolving in a culture that is still relevant today.

Perhaps one of the most recognizable images that depicts the importance of coffee in Italian society is the ‘macchinetta’. The famous aluminum stovetop percolator, designed and produced by Bialetti in 1933, can be found in most Italian kitchens. However, times change and now electric coffee machines stand on bar counters that force scalding water over ground coffee beans to create a rich, frothy drink.

In Trentino ask for a ‘Cappuccino Viennese’ and you’ll be served a creamy coffee with chocolate and cinnamon. In the Marche region, stop for a ‘Caffè Anisette’, an aniseed-flavored espresso, in Naples enjoy coffee flavored with hazelnut cream and in Sicily, a ‘caffè d’u parrinu’, is coffee flavored with cloves, cinnamon and cocoa powder.

The Italian Coffee

Like many hot coffee drinks, The Italian Coffee is defined by a single liqueur. In this case – Strega, an Italian digestif. Strega brings a distinct herbal blend to coffee with hints of juniper, saffron and mint. When made with dark roasted beans this drink makes an excellent after dinner cup of coffee.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Strega liqueur
  • Hot black espresso coffee
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Nutmeg for garnish

Directions

Pour the Strega into a glass coffee mug.

Fill with hot coffee.

Top with whipped cream

Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Handmade Cappuccino

Makes 1 large mug

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/4 cup espresso ground coffee
  • 8 ounces milk
  • Sugar (optional)

Directions

Pour the water into the bottom chamber of a stovetop espresso pot. Fill the filter basket that fits over the water with the coffee, tamping down gently. Place on the stovetop burner over medium-low heat. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as all the water has boiled through the filter into the top part of the pot.

Meanwhile place the milk in a 16-ounce coffee mug. Heat in the microwave until hot but not starting to bubble on the sides. (Alternatively, you may heat the milk on the stovetop in a small pan, then transfer to a mug.)

Hold the handle of a small 4-inch whisk between the palms of both hands. Put the whisk in the hot milk and twirl rapidly back and forth until foam appears on the top, about 20 seconds. Pour the coffee into the mug. Sweeten if desired and serve immediately.

Chocolate Espresso Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup brewed espresso coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Combine the first six ingredients (flour through salt) in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add buttermilk, eggs, coffee, oil and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes with the mixer at medium speed. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the baking pan on wire rack.

This plain chocolate cake is very moist.

Optional: Frost it with sweetened whipped cream with a teaspoon of cinnamon added to the cream or use your favorite chocolate frosting.

Coffee Granita

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 oz.) freshly brewed espresso coffee
  • ½ cup sugar

Directions

Put espresso and sugar into a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves completely. Let rest until room temperature.

Pour coffee mixture into a medium baking dish and transfer to the freezer. Using the tines of a fork, stir the mixture every 30 minutes, scraping edges and breaking up any chunks as the mixture freezes, until granita is slushy and frozen, about 4 hours.

Divide granita into individual serving glasses or transfer into a plastic container, cover, and freeze until ready to serve.

Espresso Souffle

If you want your soufflé to rise above the dish, you can make this in a 4-cup soufflé dish. Make a collar by wrapping a strip of buttered parchment paper around the outside of the dish and securing it with a string. Serve this soufflé with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Ingredients

  • Butter to coat baking dish
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons espresso brewed coffee
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 egg whites
  • 4 egg yolks

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Thoroughly butter a 2-quart soufflé dish or 6 (8-ounce) ramekins and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

Combine espresso and chocolate in a glass bowl. Microwave about 1 minute; stir until chocolate melts.

Whisk egg yolks into chocolate mixture.

Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl with a mixer until frothy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

Stir about 1 cup egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold remaining egg white mixture into chocolate mixture.

Spoon into the prepared souffle dish. Place on a baking sheet and bake 30 to 40 minutes (soufflé dish) or 20 to 25 minutes (ramekins), until soufflé rises. Serve immediately.

Espresso Pudding Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups hot brewed espresso coffee
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Coat a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Whisk all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a glass measuring cup. Add to the flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish.

Mix hot coffee and brown sugar in the measuring cup and pour over the batter. (It may look strange at this point, but during baking, cake forms on top with sauce underneath.)

Bake the pudding cake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm.


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This Parma Ham sponsored post is about helping you with some holiday entertaining ideas.

What does “entertaining” mean to you? Take a moment and think of what comes to mind.

The best advice I have is that, when it comes to holiday parties, nothing beats the power of planning.

Begin early:

  • Set the Date
  • Make a Guest List
  • Get the Word Out Early
  • Plan the Food and Drinks
  • Decide the Set Up for Beverages, Food and Decorations
  • Set Aside Time for Shopping, Preparing the Food, Cleaning and Decorating
  • Once the Doorbell Rings Have Fun

Holiday appetizer recipes are a must-have in your party plan book. They help tide over your guests until the main event or make for great eating on their own, along with a few cocktails and some desserts. Simple finger foods work the best. Instead of worrying about finding out whether anyone attending your party has a particular dietary restriction, prepare a variety of hors d’oeuvres that will suit any taste and diet. Make two or three meat-based dishes ( red meat and poultry), two fish dishes (one fish, one shellfish) and three vegetarian dishes (one with dairy, two without). You might consider gluten-free choices, as well.

Here is a tip – when Italians entertain guests, they are often greeted with a platter of prosciutto, crisp breadsticks and fruit. It’s an effortless but elegant crowd-pleaser that you can put together quickly. The famous Prosciutto di Parma brand is the one to use for this dish.

Prosciutto di Parma has been produced in Parma, Italy for at least two thousand years, gaining recognition in 100 BC when Cato the Censor remarked on the extraordinary flavor and sweetness of the ham. Its production follows the same traditions, today, as the ones used then. By law Prosciutto di Parma can only be made in the hills around Parma where the unique conditions of the Parma region have made it possible to produce ham of the highest quality. All Parma Ham authorized producers must be located within the geographical boundaries of the Parma region and meet the requirements set by the Consorzio, in order to receive the official certification mark – the Parma Crown. Through the long and carefully controlled curing process, the meat becomes tender and the distinctive aroma and flavor of Parma Ham emerges. This year the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Parma Ham is a naturally gluten free product, so are the recipes I developed for this post. If you’d like to try something more impressive for your guests, try one of these Parma party bites at your next party.

Stuffed Vegetables and Parma Ham

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You can double the recipe or use all mushrooms or use all mini bell peppers.

Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 12 mini bell peppers
  • 12 mushroom caps
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Prosciutto di Parma slices cut into 1 inch squares (about 5-6 slices)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Cut the bell peppers in half, lengthwise; remove the seeds and stems. Lightly oil the bell peppers by tossing them in a bowl with some olive oil. Place the peppers on a baking sheet skin-side down.

Remove mushroom stems (reserve for another use) and brush mushroom cavities lightly with olive oil. Place them on the baking sheet with the peppers. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges begin to show some color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

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While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the stuffing.

Place the cream cheese, ricotta, sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt and black pepper in a bowl or in a processor and mix until creamy. Refrigerate until ready to make the appetizers.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stuff the peppers and mushroom caps liberally with the filling and place them back on the baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes.

Change oven setting to high broil and bake an additional 2 minutes, until the top of the cheese stuffing begins to brown. (If they’re already brown at this point, you can skip the broiling).

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Top each pepper and mushroom with a square of prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Parma Ham-Wrapped Shrimp

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Makes 18 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 18 extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 18 thin slices prosciutto
  • 18 fresh basil leaves
  • 18 bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Directions

In a bowl, gently combine the shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice, honey and garlic and marinate for 5 minutes.

Place 1 prosciutto slice on your work surface, short end parallel to the edge. Place 1 basil leaf at the short end of the prosciutto slice. Place 1 shrimp on top of the basil leaf. Roll up shrimp in the prosciutto. Thread shrimp on a skewer.

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Repeat with remaining prosciutto, basil, shrimp and skewers. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate.)

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Prepare barbecue grill (medium-high heat) or preheat a broiler. Grill or broil wrapped shrimp until opaque in the center, turning frequently, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Herbed Frittatas with Prosciutto di Parma

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Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup chopped, seeded, drained tomato
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, basil, etc.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Prosciutto di Parma, about 12 slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

Dry the chopped tomatoes on a paper towel.

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Beat eggs and water with wire whisk in a medium bowl. Stir in tomato, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the herbs.

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Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool.

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Loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and gently turn it out onto a cutting board.

Cut the frittatas into 1-inch squares and top with a piece of prosciutto. Serve at room temperature.

MAKE AHEAD:  The frittatas can be baked up to 3 hours ahead.

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham.

Win Parma Ham


A favorite fall and winter fruit, pears are enjoyed for their juicy, sweet flavor and tender texture.

Pear Varieties:

Anjou pears come in a variety of fall colors, from light green to yellow-green to red. Anjou pears, with their squat shape, are firm and have a mealy texture. They are juicy with a sweet-spicy flavor. These pears do not change color upon ripening. Eat fresh or use in salads and desserts.

Asian pears have a less traditional pear shape and more of an apple shape. They are firm and juicy with an apple-pear flavor. These pears, also known as Chinese pears and apple pears, have a crunchy texture. Eat fresh or use in salads or for baking.

Bartlett pears are all-purpose pears with the classic pear shape. They are smooth with green skins that turn buttery yellow when ripe. Bartletts can also be red but they do not change color with ripening. When ripe, Bartlett pears have a juicy, sweet flavor and a pleasant aroma. Excellent for eating fresh and using in salads and desserts.

Bosc pears have a slender shape with a longer top and a long, thin stem. They have a mottled tan-gold color with a subtle nutty flavor and buttery texture. Use for baking and poaching, as well as for eating fresh.

Comice pears are short and squat with a greenish yellow color and red blush when ripe. Their sweet, juicy flesh and buttery texture make them best for eating fresh.

Forelle pears are small with a bell shape. Green before ripening, these pears turn a golden yellow with a red blush when ripe. Sweet and juicy, Forelle pears are great eaten fresh or for salads and desserts.

Seckel pears are petite red or red and green pears. Sometimes even small enough to be bite-size, these tiny pears have a sweet flavor that makes them ideal for snacking or using in appetizers and desserts.

All about pears:

Look for firm or hard unripe pears with no bruises or cuts and with stems that are in place. Pears are one of a handful of fruits that are actually better if ripened after picking and it’s better to ripen pears at home rather than purchasing them ripe.

Store hard, unripe pears in a paper bag or in a covered fruit bowl at room temperature. Check daily for ripeness. You can also refrigerate unripe pears until you are ready to ripen them; then keep at room temperature. You cannot test ripeness by color because some varieties will not change color after picking. To check for ripeness of a pear, gently press the stem end of the pear with your thumb, If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe. To keep ripe pears longer, refrigerate them 3 to 5 days after ripening.

To prepare pears for cooking, use a vegetable peeler to remove the thin skin. To halve pears, cut in half lengthwise and remove the core with a small knife or melon baller. If you want to poach pears or stuff whole pears, use a melon baller to remove the core from the bottom of the pear, leaving the pear intact. Brush sliced pears that will not be immediately eaten with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. A medium pear will give you about 1 cup sliced.

Pears are healthy with only 100 calories each and a low glycemic index (meaning the carbohydrates in pears convert slowly to sugar). A medium pear (about the size of an adult fist) is a good source of dietary fiber, providing 16% of the recommended daily allowance. Pears are a good source of Vitamin C. This antioxidant promotes healing and boosts the immune system. Pears are a good source of potassium, an important mineral in heart health, nerve and muscle function.

Pear Crostata

A crostata is an Italian baked tart. It has been known by various names throughout Italy, including coppi in Naples and sfogliate in Lombardy.

Servings: 12

If you don’t have a food processor, you can use the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the cold butter into the cornmeal-flour mixture. Make sure that you choose a fine grade of cornmeal or polenta (not a coarse brand) for best results. And, you can make the pastry ahead, store it in the refrigerator, sealed in a plastic bag, for up to a week. Let it warm up before rolling it out.

Pastry Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup fine cornmeal or polenta
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup water

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds ripe pears (any kind, or a mixture)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto Liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Dash of salt

To make the pastry:

Combine the walnuts, cornmeal, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the walnuts are ground into a coarse meal. Pour the olive oil on top of the dry ingredients in the food processor.

Run the machine in a few long pulses, until the oil is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and pulse once or twice—just until it is incorporated—then pulse in enough water to bring the dough together. Remove the dough from the food processor, gather it together and knead lightly into one ball.

Break the dough into two pieces, approximately 2/3 and 1/3. Form each piece into a ball and flatten each ball into a thick disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece of dough into a 13-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Ease it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and trim the edges.

Roll out the smaller disc into a 10 inch circle and cut into strips about 1/2-inch wide. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.

To make the filling:

Peel the fruit and cut it into thin slices Transfer the slices to a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice and amaretto. Sprinkle with the flour and salt and toss to coat.

Spread the fruit into the crust. Arrange the strips of dough on top in a criss-cross pattern, then push the ends of the strips into the edges of the bottom crust to hold them in place. (You might need to wet them a little to make them stick.)

Place the filled tart on a baking pan and bake in the lower half of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until golden on the top and around the edges.

Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the rim of the pan and serving the tart. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Italian Pear Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup thinly sliced peeled pear
  • 8 pecan halves
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place butter in a 9-inch round cake pan; place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. Remove pan from oven.

Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange pear slices and pecan halves in a decorative pattern over the sugar. Set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter, egg and extracts with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream and half of flour mixture; beat well. Add remaining flour mixture and milk; beat well. Pour batter over pear slices, spreading gently.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes.

Run a sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen cake. Place a serving plate upside-down over pan; invert cake onto serving plate. Serve warm or cool completely.

Coconut-Streusel Pear Pie

Refrigerated Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups sliced peeled fresh pears
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons cold butter
  • 1/3 cup flaked coconut

Directions

Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges. Heat oven to at 400° F.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Add pears and lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Pour into pastry.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine sugar and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in coconut; sprinkle over top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is lightly browned.

Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 8 servings.

Red Wine Oven Poached Pears

Ingredients

  • 4-6 peeled, cored pears (recommend Bosc or Anjou)
  • 2-3 cups of red wine (recommend Zinfandel or Merlot)
  • 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (can also add lemon zest, if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Directions

Combine 2 cups of the wine and all the remaining ingredients, except the pears, in an ovenproof deep pan that will hold the pears snugly and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel the pears but leave the stems on and remove the core from the bottom. Place the pears upright in the pan with the wine mixture. The pears should be covered by the liquid, if not add the remaining cup of wine.

Bring the wine mixture to a simmer on the stovetop and, then, place the pan in the oven.

Bake for 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes. The pears should darken to a rich mahogany color as they cook.

When the pears are done (still firm but easily pierced with a fork), remove them from the oven.

The liquid in the baking dish should be syrupy. If you would like the sauce thicker, remove the pears to a serving bowl and cook the wine mixture until it is reduced, slightly thick.

Place the pears in individual serving bowls and cover with syrup. Serve with either sweetened mascarpone cheese, crème fraiche or whipped cream.


Pumpkin Decorations in a Piazza in Rome.

Just a few decades ago Halloween in Italy was merely the name of an American holiday. Little by little Halloween’s popularity has grown, probably due to the influence of American movies and American fast food chains. It has become a real celebrated holiday, even though it doesn’t have any real connection to Italy. All Saints Day (November 1st) is celebrated there as a national holiday and November 2nd, a day dedicated to the remembrance of the dead, is a holy day during which people visit cemeteries and bring flowers and candles to remember relatives and friends who have passed away.

In some parts of Italy children find presents brought during the night by the dead. The general practice of leaving food out for spirits on Hallows’ Eve seems to have spawned the tradition of distributing candy or other food. For many Italians, the origin of Halloween matters less than the chance to celebrate another festa (party). Much like in America, children in Italy enjoy dressing up and walking from store to store through town asking, “Dolcetto o scherzetto?” (Trick or treat?)

In Italy, Halloween involves costume parties for young adults and shops are beginning to sell decorations and even a variety of Halloween costumes (although the selection is still mostly limited to bats, ghosts or witches). While many of Italy’s Halloween traditions are similar to America, there are some that are uniquely Italian. To experience a distinctly Italian Halloween, visit the small hill town of Corinaldo in the Marche region for La Notte delle Streghe – The Night of the Witches.

Throughout Italy you will often see carved pumpkins, children in costumes running through the piazza and signs for Halloween parties at local restaurants or clubs. Some areas offer Halloween tours of medieval towers, castles and catacombs that are lined with mummies and bones. Celebrations are now widespread enough that it’s safe to say Halloween has been adopted into the Italian culture. The concern of traditionalists is that it has replaced the more traditional religious practices.

Halloween in Verona

Halloween in Florence

The tradition of the pumpkin is not exclusively Anglo-Saxon, in fact, it can also be found in the Italian tradition. In Veneto, for example, pumpkins are emptied, painted and a candle symbolizing resurrection is placed inside them. In Friuli, especially in the area near Pordenone, the pumpkins, prepared in this way, are put along the roads to light the path for the dead. In Puglia every family adorns their own pumpkin and puts it on display in the window of their house. In Lombardia pumpkins are filled with wine, so that the dead can drink it during the night between the 31st October and the 1st of November, before returning to the kingdom of “afterlife”.

The traditions also include typical dishes prepared during this time and handed down from generation to generation. In Romagna, a region well known for its cuisine, the “piada dei morti”, a round flatbread filled with nuts, almonds, raisins and the red wine of Romagna, Sangiovese, is prepared. Another sweet prepared during this time is the “fava dei morti”, a little biscuit made of almonds. In Sicily the typical dishes for this time of year are the “pupi ‘i zuccuru”, a sweet bread shaped like little dolls, and the “dead bones” biscuits having the shape of bones that are particularly hard to bite.

Favorite Halloween Foods In Italy 

Pumpkin Soup

Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 4 lb pumpkin
  • 2 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 clove of garlic, left whole
  • Vegetable broth
  • 1 oz butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Directions

Cut off the top cap of the pumpkin, remove all the seeds and filaments keeping the pumpkin whole. You will form a sort of soup tureen complete with its lid.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add chopped celery, parsley, basil and thyme. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Fill the pumpkin 3/4th of the way up with vegetable broth, the sautéed vegetables, peeled garlic and the grated cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and cover the pumpkin with its top and place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 450° F for two hours. Remove the pumpkin from the oven, remove the top and let cool. Remove the garlic and, with a serving spoon scrape the pumpkin off the sides and bottom, mixing it slowly into the soup, to make a puree.

Should the puree be too thick, add some more hot stock to it. Serve in soup bowls with a couple of drops of balsamic vinegar and large pieces of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.

 

Veal and Pumpkin Rolls

You can use turkey or chicken scaloppine in place of the veal.

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 16 veal scaloppine, about 1.5 oz each, pounded thin
  • 1 lb pumpkin, peeled and sliced
  • 1 lb chicory
  • 1 ¼ oz almonds, sliced
  • ½ an onion
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • White wine to taste
  • Butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Gently saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until lightly golden and then add the pumpkin slices.

Salt and pepper the pumpkin and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, covered. Mash the pumpkin into a puree and add the grated Parmesan. Set aside.

Place the pounded slices of veal on a work surface and spread each one with pumpkin puree. Roll them up tightly and roll in flour.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and brown veal rolls, about 6 minutes. You may need more butter.

Add enough wine to cover the bottom of the pan and allow it to evaporate. Cover the pan and cook the veal rolls for 6-8 minutes more.

Finely chop the chicory and add it to a skillet containing 1 tablespoon of olive oil; add the almonds and salt and pepper. Cook until the chicory wilts.

Serve the veal rolls over the chicory mixture.

Bonz of the Dead

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 3/4 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and toast the hazelnuts on a sheet pan until lightly golden-brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool

Lightly toast the anise seeds either in the oven or on the stove in a saute pan over medium heat constantly shaking the pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the seeds from the pan, allow to cool, and set aside.

Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor pulsing until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Pour into a bowl and set aside. Grind the anise seeds in a small spice grinder until the seeds are half their size and place in the bowl with the nuts.

In the bowl of a electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar, butter and lemon zest until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg whites and vanilla and mix on low speed until incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

In the bowl with the ground hazelnuts and anise, add the flour, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and salt and mix with your hands until combined. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in the mixer on low speed until a smooth ball of dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten slightly and wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.

Divide the cold dough into 8 even pieces. Roll each piece into a rope approximately 18-inches long by about 1/2-inch thick. Cut the ropes into 5 cookies. For super long bonz, roll each log 8-inches long.

Place the bonz on parchment lined baking sheets and allow to sit uncovered in a dry place, 1 to 2 hours or up to overnight. This helps them become super dry and ready for baking.

Place the baking sheets in a preheated 350 degree F oven and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Pan Dei Morti

or Bread of the Dead

Said to be based on an ancient Etruscan recipe, this particular recipe is a specialty of the Lombardia region of Italy. These cookies are best eaten the day they are baked, although they keep well for several days. They are dense, chewy, moist cookies with the crackle of the ground cookies and the crunch of the pine nuts to remind us of dead men’s bones.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz (400 g) dry, sweet cookies, such as crunchy ladyfingers
  • 3 ½ oz (100 g) dry amaretti cookies
  • 4 ¼ oz (120 g) blanched whole almonds
  • 4 ¼ oz (120 g) dried figs
  • 2 cups (250 g) flour
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) sugar
  • ½ cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 4 ¼ oz (125 g) whole pine nuts
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 3/8 cup (100 ml) Vin Santo or other sweet dessert wine 
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

In a processor finely grind the cookies and amaretti and place in a very large mixing bowl. Finely grind both the almonds and the figs and add to the cookie crumbs in the bowl.

(The damp figs may clump together, just rub the clumps into the dry ingredients to break it up.)

Add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and whole pine nuts to the ground ingredients and toss until completely blended.

Pour the egg whites and the vin santo or dessert wine over the dry ingredients and blend until all of the dry ingredients are moistened.

Scrape out onto a floured work surface and knead quickly until it you have a smooth, well-blended ball of cookie dough.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper.

Slice the ball of dough in half and then each half into about a dozen even pieces, each weighing about 3-3 ½ oz (90-100 g).

Form each piece into an oblong shape –  long and flat, approximately 4 ½ – 5 ½ inches (12-14 cm) long and approximately 2 ½ inches (6 cm) wide, (wider in the middle and narrowing to a point at each end).

Place the cookies on the baking sheet leaving a little space between each. Bake for 35-30 minutes until slightly puffed, a dull brown color and set to the touch. Lift one up carefully and check that the bottom side looks cooked. Do not overbake or the cookies will be too hard.

Remove the cookies to cooling racks and allow the cookies to cool completely. Once cooled, sift powdered sugar generously to cover the cookies.

 

Fave dei Morti

Fave dei Morti, beans of the dead, are little bean-shaped cakes that Italians eat on Il Giorno dei Morti (All Souls’ Day) on November 2. These small cakes are traditionally eaten throughout Italy on the day that everyone decorates the graves with flowers and prays for departed souls.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds (unblanched)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

Directions

Combine sugar, butter and ground almonds. Beat egg and add to the butter ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Add flour and lemon rind.

Work dough until smooth and form into a roll about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate 2-3 hours.

Cut off bits of dough and mold into kidney-shaped pieces about as big as large lima beans.

Bake on greased cookie sheets in a moderate oven (350° F.) about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes before removing from the pan with spatula to a cooling rack.


Parmigiano Reggiano, Tortellini, Bolognese Sauce and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena are all famous foods of this region. A vast, wealthy region located in northern Italy, Emilia-Romagna is rich in meats and pastas. The craft of curing meat is held in high esteem here — Italy’s best known meat product, Prosciutto di Parma, is created in Emilia, as is the “king of cheeses,” Parmigiano Reggiano.

The richness and complexity of first and second courses served in this region balance each other out, with one being richer and having more complex flavors than the other. Emilia-Romagna meals layer flavors, with pastas that range from tagliatelle (golden egg pasta) to tortelli (stuffed pasta), to tortelloni (larger) and spinach pasta. Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar or pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar.

Pasta is often the first course, including lasagna and cannelloni. Risotto dishes or soups – such as tomato & cauliflower or fresh spinach are popular. Sauces based on prosciutto,  or fresh mushrooms may dress tagliatelle, however, tomato sauces are the favorite pasta topper in this region. The famous meat sauce typical of the Bologna area, known in Italy as Ragu, is usually referred to as, Bolognese Sauce. On restaurant menus, one can usually  this sauce served over spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine.

Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Chicken is the most popular meat: from pan–crispy chicken with rosemary, to chicken cacciatore over polenta or potatoes and capon at Christmas. Residents throughout the region eat rabbit and serve more pork than beef, such as pork tenderloin with marsala sauce. Along the Adriatic coast, in Romagna, seafood appears frequently in dishes, such as, clams with balsamic vinegar.

From grilled asparagus and Parma ham salad to basil and onion mashed potatoes to roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a variety of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.

Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich, decadent tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries in red wine, often find their way to the table. More contemporary offerings include semifreddos, with a texture somewhere between soft serve ice cream and frozen mousse and a sorbet made with Muscat wine. Fresh chestnuts also appear in many desserts, especially at Christmastime.

Some differences do exist in the cuisine between Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia’s cuisine demonstrates more northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of Ferrara province and rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, more closely, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes with plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.

First Course

Homemade Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce

10 Servings

Ingredients

Bolognese Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 1/4 cups finely chopped celery
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped carrot
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/2 pounds spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3/4 cups tomato paste (about 7 1/2 ounces)
  • Homemade Pappardelle (see recipe below)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for passing

Directions

Melt butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the next 4 ingredients. Sauté until vegetables are soft but not brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Add beef, sausage, pork and pancetta. Increase heat to high. Cook until meat is brown, breaking into small pieces with back of spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in milk, wine and tomato paste. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until sauce is thick and juices are reduced, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in very large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, but still firm to bite, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to the same pot. Add enough warm Bolognese sauce to coat pasta and 1 cup cheese. Toss over medium heat until heated through, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls, if dry. Adjust seasoning.

Homemade Pappardelle

Makes about 2 1/2 Pounds

Ingredients

  • 5 cups all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 6 large eggs, divided
  • 6 large egg yolks, divided
  • 6 tablespoons (or more) water, divided

Directions

Make pasta in two batches. Place 2 1/2 cups flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Whisk 3 eggs, 3 yolks and 3 tablespoons water in a bowl. With machine running, pour egg mixture through the feed tube. Blend until a sticky dough forms, adding additional water by teaspoonfuls, if dry.

Scrape dough out onto floured work surface. Knead dough until smooth and no longer sticky, sprinkling lightly with flour, as needed, if sticky, about 8 minutes. Shape into ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 45 minutes. Repeat with remaining flour, salt, eggs, yolks and water.

Divide each dough ball into 4 pieces. Cover dough with plastic wrap.

Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into a 3-inch-wide rectangle. Run through the pasta machine 5 times, dusting lightly with flour, if sticking. Continue to run dough piece through machine, adjusting to the next-narrower setting after every 5 passes, until dough is about 26 inches long. Cut crosswise into 3 equal pieces. Run each piece through the machine, adjusting to the next-narrower setting, until strip is a scant 1/16 inch thick and 14 to 16 inches long. Return machine to the original setting for each piece. Arrange strips in a single layer on sheets of parchment.

Repeat with remaining dough. Let strips stand until slightly dry to touch, 20 to 30 minutes. Fold strips in half so short ends meet, then fold in half again. Cut strips into 2/3-inch-wide pappardelle.

Celery Salad

Celery salad from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. (Maureen Zebian/The Epoch Times)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups thinly sliced celery
  • 2 tablespoons best-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
  • Lemon peel strips for garnish

Directions

Cut the ends off several stalks of celery and soak them in lightly salted cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and dry them thoroughly. Slice as thin as possible.

Immediately before serving, toss the celery with the olive oil, first, and then add the lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Add sea salt and ground pepper and toss again. Add more lemon juice or olive oil to taste.

Serve on individual plates and use a vegetable peeler to drop curls of the cheese atop each salad. Garnish plates with lemon peel strips.

Second Course

Pork Loin with Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound boneless pork loin
  • Butcher’s twine
  • A medium onion
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • A sprig of fresh marjoram
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • A small bunch of chives
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 1/2 cup beef broth or unsalted bouillon
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Tie the pork loin with butcher’s twine, so it will keep its shape as it cooks.

Peel the onion and chop it with the rosemary, marjoram, parsley, chives and thyme.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in an ovenproof pot and brown the meat on all sides. Turn the burner off.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the onion mixture, sauté for a minute or two and then let the mixture cool. Distribute it over the pork loin and add the broth..

Place the pork in the oven and roast the meat for an hour, spooning the pan drippings over it occasionally. Remove it to a cutting board and cover with foil.

Stir the cream and the vinegar into the roasting pan drippings and reduce the sauce briefly. Slice the meat, putting the slices on a warmed serving platter.

Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve.

Spinach Parmigiano

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, washed thoroughly, water still clinging to the leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Melt the butter in a deep 14-inch sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add the spinach by the handful to the hot pan and cook until it is wilted and there is no liquid left in the pan, about 5 minutes, stirring often. It may seem like all the spinach won’t fit at first, but as it wilts, it will shrink to fit.

Season the spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook 15 more minutes, stirring once in a while. Add the Parmigiano and stir until it is melted through. Cook 5 minutes more and serve hot.

Dessert

Chocolate Almond Torte

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. butter
  • 5 oz. sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 lb dark chocolate
  • 3 ½ oz. almonds, skinned and toasted
  • 3 tablespoons espresso coffee powder
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 2-inch springform pan with cooking spray, dust with cocoa, tapping out the excess and fit a sheet of parchment paper in the base of the pan. Butter the paper. Set the pan aside.

Melt the dark chocolate with the butter in a double boiler pan.

Whisk the egg yolks with sugar until creamy.

Finely chop the toasted almonds and add them to the egg mixture; add the coffee, rum, melted butter and chocolate. Mix well.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center is slightly damp.

Remove the pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Carefully run a butter knife along the inside edges of the pan and release the spring. Remove the pan sides.

Place the cake on a serving dish. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small sieve and dust the top of the cake.

Cut into thin wedges to serve.



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