According to the Roman historian Livy, a Celtic village was first founded in this area in the 6th century BC. Conquered by Roman legions in 222 BC, “Mediolanum” (this was the Roman name for Milan) attempted to rebel, becoming an ally of Carthage, Rome’s enemy. But the Romans won and, towards the end of the 1st century BC, Milan became a part of the state of the Caesars.
Milan then went through several transitions over the years, beginning in 1535, when the city fell under Spanish rule, and then in 1713, the city was passed to Austria.
In 1802, Milan became the capital of Napoleon’s Italian Republic, and he was crowned King of Italy and Milan in 1805. Following a brief return of the Austrians, Vittorio Emmanuele II drove them out in 1859, thus incorporating Milan into the new Kingdom of Italy. To commemorate this king, the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II was built in the center of Milan. The key factor of the city’s success was credited to trade, which led the city to a great success in development.
Milan now is the fashion icon of the country of Italy and houses millions of residents in this Northern city in the Lombardy region. Located south of the Italian Alps, Milan is very close to several other cities and attractions such as Venice and Florence, great skiing and the seashore villages of Liguria and Cinque Terre. Each are just a few short hours away, which makes Milan a great place to live or tour.
The fashion quarter is full of the big names in the industry but also many small boutique stores and fashionable shops. However, everyone looking for fashion will be searching out the big designers and they are all here, Valentino, Gucci, Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent all have shops. This area is where you will find all the prestigious outlets, top line names with the prices to match.
Each region in Italy has its own culinary specialty, which may have been influenced by an area close to it, such as, the sea or the mountains or a bordering country. Noted below are five specialties of the Lombardy region. You will notice that the dishes in Milan are based on more high calorie ingredients such as butter and sausages, supposedly due to the fact that the winters are long.
Polenta– is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal and it is one of the staple foods in Northern Italy, especially in the region of Lombardy. Usually this dish is served with tomato sauce and sausages and ribs.
Risotto alla Milanese– is a typical dish of the city of Milan with rice, saffron and ox bone marrow. Even though there are a number of different varieties of this dish in Northern Italy, the original has these ingredients plus onion, wine, butter and beef broth.
Cotoletta alla Milanese- is actually the rib of calf with the bone, breaded and fried in butter, originally, the fried butter used was also poured on top of the meat, but in more modern times people tend to use lemon on top, and sometimes you will find it with tomato sauce and rucola (arugula) on the side, but this version is used during the cold months.
Panettone– is cake is used for Christmas in all parts of Italy and it literally means big bread. It is originally from Milan and was served only in the houses of noble people but later became popular for everyone. The shape of the Panettone is almost like a dome, and the ingredients are water, flour, butter, eggs and dried candied fruits.
La Barbajada-a sweet that is made with whipped cream, hot chocolate, coffee and milk. It is delicious drink but with a high caloric content, and it is served hot, which makes it a great winter dessert. The history behind this dessert is that the hot chocolate with whipped cream was invented by Domenico Barbaia, who operated a coffee shop in the La Scala Opera House in Milan and it became popular around the 1830’s.
Bring The Foods Of Milan To Your Table
You can make some of Milan’s culinary specialties without the unhealthy calories by using the recipes that I have adapted, as posted below:
Minestrone alla Milanese
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes
- 3/4 pound garden peas
- 1/2 pound lima beans or 1-10 oz. package frozen, defrosted
- 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes
- 2 zucchini
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- 1 garlic clove
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/4 cups small pasta or rice, whichever you prefer
- 1 bunch Parsley
- Handful of Basil and Sage
- Freshly grated Grana Padano (or Parmigiano)
Dice the celery, carrot, and zucchini; slice the tomatoes, discarding the seeds; peel the potatoes and dice, and mince the parsley, basil, sage and the garlic with the onion. Put the vegetables, except for the peas, in a pot and add 2 quarts of water; lightly salt the soup and simmer it over a gentle flame for about 2 1/2 hours.
When the time is up stir in the peas, and the short pasta (e.g. ditalini or small shells) or rice. Adjust seasoning and cook, stirring gently, to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the pasta is cooked, ladle the soup into bowls and serve it with grated cheese.
Pappardelle with Mushrooms
This recipe calls for porcini mushrooms and they are necessary to do it justice. Ideally, fresh porcini, but if you cannot find them you will have to make do by purchasing cultivated mushrooms and a 1-ounce packet of dried porcini (this will be about a half cup, packed. Steep the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then mince them and add them to the cultivated mushrooms. Strain the steeping liquid, since it may contain sand, and add it to the sauce as well. The other option, in the absence of fresh porcini, is to use the wild mushrooms available where you live, combining them with some cultured mushrooms, if need be, and some steeped dried porcini.
A last thing: This recipe calls for pappardelle, which are broad (1-inch) strips of pasta. You can, if you want, use fettuccine (half-inch strips) instead.
- 1 pound pappardelle, ideally freshly made
- 3/4 pound fresh porcini, or follow directions above
- 2 shallots
- 12 oz. low sodium diced canned tomatoes
- A small bunch of parsley
- 1 clove of garlic
- The leaves of a sprig of rosemary
- A few sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup dry white wine
- Salt & pepper
- Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
- Chopped parsley for a garnish
Clean the mushrooms, brushing the dirt away from the stems, and separate the caps from the stems; dice the stems and cube the caps, keeping them separate.
Mince the shallots and the herbs and sauté them for a few minutes in the oil in a deep pot. Add the diced stems, cook another minute, and then add the wine and the tomatoes. Season with a little pepper and simmer the mixture over a very gentle flame for 30 minutes. Depending upon how much moisture the mushrooms contain you may need to add more liquid: a little more wine or water (or the liquid the mushrooms steeped in if you are using dried mushrooms), and the cubed caps. Continue simmering the sauce over a gentle flame.
In the meantime bring pasta water to a boil, salt it, and cook the pappardelle. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce; garnish with herbs and serve with grated cheese.
Milanese Chicken Stuffed with Walnuts
- 1 chicken weighing 3 ½ to 4 pounds
- 10 walnut halves, chopped
- 1 egg
- 4 white cabbage leaves, shredded
- 2 leaves sage
- 1/2 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
- 1 tablespoon dry plain breadcrumbs
- 2 ounces pancetta, diced
- A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 onion, cut in quarters
- 2 celery ribs, cut in quarters
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water large enough to contain the whole chicken to boiling and add the celery and onion.
In a bowl combine the shredded cabbage, sage, garlic, cheese, pancetta, breadcrumbs, egg, nutmeg, and walnuts. Mix well and season the mixture with salt and pepper.
Fill the cavity of the chicken with the stuffing and close it tightly with the twine (don’t forget to include the neck opening). See directions below.
Salt the boiling water and submerge the chicken. As soon as the water comes back to boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the chicken, partially covered, for about 2 hours.
Carefully remove the chicken with 2 large spoons to a platter. Cut up the chicken into 8 pieces, without breaking up the stuffing. Arrange the pieces on a heated platter, slice the stuffing into half-inch thick slices, and serve.
Save the broth for making risotto, or for serving meat based tortellini, or for making soup.
Milanese Meat and Vegetable Stew
Milanese Stew, or Stufato Milanese: Almost every region of Italy has a stew or pot roast, it calls its own. This variation is Milanese, and it will also work well with lamb or pork; the important thing is that the pieces of meat not be too small, because if they’re small then the dish is a spezzatino as opposed to a stufato. The quality of the red wine is important; don’t use something you wouldn’t want to drink — and also, be careful not to overcook it.
- 2 pounds beef (chuck or a similar cut suited for pot roasting)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot, chopped
- A bay leaf
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped
- Canned beef broth
- Dry red wine (For example, Valcalepio Rosso, or Valpolicella), enough to cover the meat
- 2 cloves garlic
- Freshly ground nutmeg ( a pinch)
- Salt and pepper
Dust the meat with some freshly ground pepper, a little salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. Put it in a bowl and add wine to cover; let it sit in the refrigerator for at least six hours, turning it occasionally.
Slice the onion and sauté it in the butter in a Dutch Oven until golden. Remove the onion from the pan. Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and pat the meat dry. Flour it and brown it in the pan drippings. Then return the onions to the pan, add the remaining ingredients and the reserved marinade, cover, and cook at the barest simmer for about 4 hours. Check on it occasionally, and, to keep the meat covered with liquid, add a little beef broth to the pot, as needed.
Served with Polenta.
Charlotte alla Milanese
Charlottes fall into the category of dolci semifreddi, in other words chilled desserts. They are also generally much more elaborate than this version, generally calling for liqueur, whipped cream, candied fruit, and all sorts of other things. In short, they’re desserts for when company is expected. So is this Milanese Charlotte, though not so much for the ingredients as for the presentation.
- 2 1/4 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith
- 3/4 cup sugar or 6 tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend
- 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 jigger Rum
- The grated zest of a lemon
- Thinly sliced Italian bread, about 16 slices
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place apples, 1/2 cup sugar (or a 1/4 cup of Truvia), lemon zest and wine in a heavy saucepan. Pour in water to cover completely. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered 15 minutes.
Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak 10 minutes, then drain and reserve.
In a small bowl, cream together butter and 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon of Truvia until well combined. Coat the bottom and sides of a 2-quart round baking dish (or a Charlotte Mold) with this butter-sugar mixture.
Line bottom and sides of the baking dish with bread slices, overlapping slightly. Drain the apples and combine them with the drained raisins. Spoon the fruit mixture into the lined dish. Cover the top with the remaining bread. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon of Truvia.
Bake in the preheated oven 1 hour.
To serve, pour rum over the warm charlotte and light it with a long match or kitchen torch to brown the top.
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