Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: March 2013

 

The Port of Erie, PA

Many of the Italians who came to Erie worked for the railroad. Little Italy’s boundaries at that time were along the New York Central and the Nickel Plate tracks. Others worked in the factories that grew up near the railroads and they built their homes in the same area. They worked many hours and labored hard. Some of the factories they worked in were Erie Forge and Steel, Griffin Manufacturing Company, Superior Bronze and Continental Rubber.

By 1911 there were about 3,000 Italians living in Erie. Little Italy had grown to include nine city blocks, from Huron Street south to West 17th Street and from Chestnut to Poplar. In 1920 the population was estimated at about 8,000 Italians and, from 1920 to 1940, the population expanded and spread southward. Prominent among the family names of the old Italian settlers in Erie were Fatica, Yacobozzi, Palmisano, Scolio and Minadeo.

Much of the social life of Italian-Americans in Erie centered around St. Paul’s Church. It served the immigrants and their children from baptism to death, while meeting their religious needs. The church also functioned as the social center of the Italian community, a function it still maintains. Because of the cultural and language barriers, the immigrants established their own social organizations within their neighborhoods. In 1907 the first social organization was La Nuova Aurora Club. Here the Italians met with their friends, played bocce and morra (a hand game) and drank a few beers. Eventually, these activities expanded into social and civic clubs for Italian-Americans.

After World War II, the first and second generation Italian-Americans returned home after serving their country and gave thought to their future. They went to the nearby colleges and universities to become eligible for professional positions. Others went on to trade schools with the same ambitions for better job opportunities. By 1960 a large Italian settlement was established outside of the city in Millcreek, however, by 1970 many of the second and third generation Italians were gone from Erie’s Little Italy.

This past January the doors were locked and the shelves were bare at Arnone’s Bakery and Italian Deli, an institution in the Little Italy section of Erie since the mid-50’s. 

Pittsburgh

Almost every large city in North America has one. In western Pennsylvania there are enclaves of Italians in every community from New Castle in Lawrence County; Monaca, Aliquippa and Ambridge in Beaver County; Coraopolis, McKees Rocks, Oakland and Morningside in Allegheny County; New Kensington and Vandergrift in Westmorland County; and Canonsburg and Cecil in Washington County. In the Pittsburgh district, the official “Little Italy” is located in Bloomfield !

Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is located three miles from the Golden Triangle, which is the city’s center. Pittsburgh architectural historian, Franklin Toker, has said that Bloomfield “is a feast, as rich to the eyes as the homemade tortellini and cannoli in its shop windows are to the stomach”. In the early 1900s, Italian immigrants settled in Bloomfield, drawn to the area by jobs in the steel mills and on the railroads. As the Italian population increased, businesses providing Italian products and services began to line the streets. A church, along with restaurants, bakeries, markets and other shops added to the culture of the neighborhood creating its Italian atmosphere. While the area is more culturally diversified today, it still has a large Italian American population.

Various Italian and Italian American associations help keep the culture alive and the Heinz History Center includes an extensive collection of Italian American artifacts representing Western Pennsylvania’s Italian Americans. Little Italy Days, held each September, adds to the neighborhood’s character, drawing crowds of more than 20,000 with Italian food, merchandise, music, entertainment, games and a Madonna della Civita procession. In October, the Columbus Day Parade is one of the country’s largest.

Red, white and green parking meters attest to the fact that Bloomfield is “Pittsburgh’s Little Italy.” In fact the neighborhood’s Italian roots reach back more than five generations. Its colorful mix of shops and restaurants attracts thousands of visitors from throughout the Pittsburgh region. The business district along Liberty Avenue puts most of life’s necessities and several luxuries within an easy walk for Bloomfield residents.

Strolling down Liberty Avenue and meandering off on side streets, there is a distinctly European ambiance coupled with small-town America friendliness. Groceria Italiana (237 Cedarville St.) opened almost 50 years ago and continues to draw crowds with its 14 varieties of handmade ravioli and rich ricotta-stuffed pastries.

Fresh Tuscan bread at Groceria Italiana.

Donatelli’s Italian Food Center (4711 Liberty Ave.) is another neighborhood favorite founded by Frank Donatelli in 1932 and now run by his son who continues the tradition of passionately providing the freshest Italian prepared foods and imports in town, including bottles of Grandma Donatelli’s sauce.

Meats, cheeses, bread and olives are on display at Donatelli’s Italian Foods in Bloomfield.

Down the road, a second generation of brothers, Alex and John, run their father’s (and uncle’s) Sanchioli Brother’s Bakery (4731 Juniper St.), which provides many of the restaurants in the area with their famous onion bread. Sanchioli’s has been in this location since 1922. “I started bagging bread here when I was little,” says Alex Sanchioli, part owner of the shop for a quarter century, who has seen changes over the years. “ Yet some things remain the same,” he says. “We’ve always gotten the old Italians from the neighborhood. Now, their kids come in.” Sanchioli’s makes bread, buns and pizza shells for most of the eateries in the area. Many of them have been around almost as long as the bakery.

Picture

Del’s Liberty Ave Bloomfield-1970

Del’s Bar and Ristorante Del Pizzo (4428 Liberty Ave.) was founded by Grandpa and Grandma Del Pizzo, who came to Bloomfield in 1908 and opened a small grocery store and, a few years later, they changed the business into a small restaurant they called the Meadow Grill. For more than two decades, it was a Pittsburgh landmark. Customers came from all over for the delicious housemade food, including sandwiches, pasta dishes, and Pittsburgh’s first wood-fired oven pizza. When they sold the Meadow Grill in 1949, Dino and Bob, their sons, carried the family tradition and opened Del’s,on Liberty Ave, in the heart of Bloomfield. They continue to supply Bloomfield with Italian American classics, like veal scaloppini and they have also begun a historical renovation. So far, the exterior has been rebuilt to reflect Bloomfield’s architectural history, and they have expanded and remodeled the bar in a style that recaptures the feel of the original Meadow Grill. The restoration project will continue for the next several years.

Newcomers

Since its opening in November, Stagioni has been the talk of the town or in this case, critics and foodies alike. The menu is described as “elegantly conceived” with dishes like beef short ribs braised in Chianti and balsamic vinegar and a vegetarian dish of acorn squash risotto with walnuts, sage and chestnut honey, that was described by the reviewers as “a masterful combination of flavors and textures — sweet, earthy and herbal”.

Domenico Aliberto’s, Café Roma, could easily be the first place you think of for a plate of linguine with New Zealand mussels sauteed in tomatoes, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. Specials often include: gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil; chicken with spicy lemon sauce; rigatoni with artichokes in a light-red sauce and eggplant parmesan. “I cook when you order,” stresses chef/owner Domenico Aliberto. “It’s like buying the groceries and eating in your own house, only I make the pasta fresh,” he says. Even the soups – including Tuscan-style white bean and cream of butternut squash – are made in small quantities intended for one night’s consumption only. The chef’s special, Sicilian lasagna, is made with soft noodles from semolina instead of flour “already al dente because I make them myself,” Aliberto notes.

Lidia’s Pittsburgh opened in March of 2001, only two years after Lidia Bastianich and her son Joseph Bastianich opened the popular Lidia’s Kansas City, their first venture outside of Manhattan. Well known architect, David Rockwell, designed the interior to reflect an open-warehouse atmosphere and the restaurant is located in the heart of the Bloomfield strip district. The menu features a daily pasta tasting with homemade pastas that incorporate seasonal ingredients in addition to hearty Italian favorites, such as a braised Heritage Pork Shank with barley risotto.

Bloomfield’s Little Italy Inspired Cuisine

The Primanti Brothers opened their restaurant in Pittsburgh in the 1920s. Their idea was to create an eating place that offered simple but tasty food. The Primanti Sandwich was the result — it’s a whole meal in each bite. Ham, french fries, tomato, provolone cheese and coleslaw are stuffed between two slices of Italian bread and served on wax paper. 

FYI: The Washington Post did a nuitritional analysis of the sandwich and here it is: 775 calories, 33g fat, 10g saturated fat, 48mg cholesterol, 1729mg sodium, 87g carbohydrates, 6g dietary fiber, 17g sugar, 34g protein.

Primanti Brothers Sandwiches

 8 servings

Ingredients:

For the slaw

  • 1 pound (about half of a medium-size head) green cabbage, shredded or finely chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the twice-fried potatoes

  • 6 to 8 large (4 to 5 pounds) russet potatoes, washed well
  • 8 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • Kosher salt

For the meat and cheese

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds spicy, thinly sliced capicola ham
  • 8 thin slices provolone cheese (about 5 ounces)

For assembly

  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 16 thin slices
  • 16 large slices of soft Italian bread (18 ounces total)

Directions:

For the slaw: Combine the cabbage, sugar, salt and celery seed in a colander set over a medium bowl. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours; the cabbage will be wilted (about 4 cups total).

Discard the draining liquid in the bowl; rinse and dry the bowl, then transfer the wilted cabbage to the bowl. Add the oil and vinegar; toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the twice-fried potatoes: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a few large baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Fill a large bowl with cold water.

Cut the (unpeeled) potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Submerge in the cold water. Rinse in subsequent changes of cold water to remove all visible starch, then drain in a colander and spread the potatoes on the paper towels, patting the potatoes dry.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, until the oil temperature reaches 320 degrees F.

Fry the potatoes in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally as they cook, until the fries are soft and cooked through but still pale. Allow enough time for the oil to return to 320 degrees F. between batches; use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the oil. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the potatoes to the lined baking sheets.

Increase the heat to high (or as needed) so that the temperature of the oil reaches 375 degrees. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Refresh the paper towels on the baking sheets as needed.

Cook the fries a second time, working in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 3 miinutes, until the fries are crisp and golden brown. Transfer to the lined baking sheets. Immediately season lightly with salt, then place in the oven to keep the fries warm.

For the meat and cheese: Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Have ready a large baking sheet.

Separate the ham slices and add to the skillet, turning them as needed until the slices are warmed through. Transfer the slices to the baking sheet, creating 8 equal portions. Top each with a slice of provolone cheese. Place in the oven (along with the fries) just until the cheese has melted.

For assembly: Place the portions of cheese-topped ham on 8 bread slices. Top with a large handful of the warm fries, then pile about 1/2 cup of the slaw on each portion. Garnish with 2 tomato slices for each portion; use the remaining 8 pieces of bread to finish each sandwich. Serve warm.

Fettuccine with Mafalda Sauce

Serves: 6

This dish is served at Del’s Bar & Ristorante DelPizzo, on Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh. This tomato and cream sauce is served on a variety of pasta shapes.

 Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 3 cups Marinara sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • ½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

 Directions:

To make the marinara sauce, see post https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Bring the marinara to a simmer in a large skillet. Stir in the heavy cream, bring back to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the fettuccine to the boiling water. When the pasta is al dente and the sauce is ready, drain the pasta and place it directly into the sauce. Add the shredded basil, then toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Remove from heat, stir in the grated cheese and serve immediately.

Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs short ribs of beef, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups finely chopped red onions
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup Chianti red wine
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups chopped plum tomatoes 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Over medium-high temperature, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven.

Season the ribs with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Brown half the ribs in the heated pan, about 8 minutes, until browned; remove from pan.

Repeat with the remaining oil and ribs.

Add the finely chopped onion to the pan and saute until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.

Add the browned ribs back into the pan, then add the broth, wine, vinegar, brown sugar and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Cover pan, transfer to the oven and bake at 300°F for 90 minutes or until tender.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then transfer pan to refrigerator and let chill for 8 hours or overnight.

After chilling, skim the solidified fat from the surface of the broth mixture and discard fat.

Over medium heat on the stove, cook the ribs in the Dutch oven for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and serve with potato gnocchi.

Seafood Risotto

For the seafood

  • 2 lbs calamari cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 12 large sea scallop, cut in half
  • 12 shrimp, cut in half
  • 3 chopped plum tomatoes

For the risotto

  • 1 small sweet onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 oz carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • chopped parsley
  • 1/2 gallon of vegetable stock or chicken stock or clam juice

Directions:

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add the onions.

Cook, stirring continuously, on medium until they become translucent.

Add the rice and keep stirring on low until the rice is toasted and also becomes translucent.

Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep it simmering while you prepare the risotto.

Add stock to the rice, 8 liquid ounces at a time (depending on the rice, the process should be repeated as the rice absorbs the liquid, 4 to 5 times). total time about 18 minutes.

When the rice reaches the al dente stage, add 4 oz of stock, the seafood, chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 minutes  more or until seafood is cooked.

Remove from heat, add butter, half & half, cheese and parsley.

Place in serving dishes and drizzle with a good extra virgin olive oil

Number of servings: 6

Italian Cream Puffs

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour

Filling

  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta (drained)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • Chopped candied orange peel
  • Chopped chocolate pieces or mini chips

Pastry:

Bring water to a boil. Add the oil and salt. Add the flour all at once and stir until it forms a ball. Remove from the heat.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated before adding the next.

Drop dough by teaspoon or tablespoon (depending on desired size) onto a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

Lower heat to 350 degrees F. and cook until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and cut a slit into the side of each puff to release steam.

Filling:

Drain the ricotta in a fine strainer overnight in the refrigerator. Beat the ricotta with the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and rum until creamy. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more. Add the chopped candied orange peel and chocolate pieces just beforw assembly.

Assembly:

When the puffs are completely cool, fill with cream and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

 


This time of year is perfect for lighter soups that showcase the flavors of seasonal vegetables. Taste isn’t the only reason for cooking up a big pot of spring soup. It can save you money, too. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Cornell University scientists found that the cost per serving is usually lower for in season fresh food than for processed food. Further, a recent USDA Economic Research Service analysis found that fresh seasonal produce costs 12 to 18 cents per serving on average. Eating in-season fruits and vegetables will also provide you countless health benefits, thanks to an almost endless variety of nutrients.

Italians enjoy food in its most straightforward state—no fuss, just real ingredients in their purest form, allowing for the integrity the of the ingredients to shine. They also use the time of year as their guide and work with products available, visiting their local grocers or farmer’s markets to see what is fresh. The delicate flavors in these soups are a direct reflection of the new beginnings taking place around us in our environment. Sometimes the most effortless dish makes for the most appetizing meal.

These soups provide the perfect way to incorporate spring’s most green ingredients: peas, asparagus and artichokes, to name a few. All great soups start with the basics- carrots, onions and celery- with variations like shallots, leeks, garlic and even fennel. The goal of a great soup is to build upon the basics to create a wonderful and balanced set of flavors, which can take hours or just 30 minutes. When making Italian soups, it’s best to start with traditional ingredients and then add your own personal flair to achieve something new and unique. Soups are a great way to showcase your individuality and taste.

The first two soup recipes below are two of my favorites for this time of year and I make them on a regular basis. The last group of soups are ones that I adapted from the cookbook,The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy by Domenica Marchetti, Chronicle Books, 2006. They are great examples of the kinds of soups made in Italy and in Italian American homes, that utilize all the wonderful springtime produce that are found in markets this time of year. I have changed some of the ingredients and some of the techniques to suit my family’s palate.

Broccoli Leek Soup                                                      

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2-pounds fresh broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives

Directions:

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Using a vegetable peeler, peel stems to remove tough outer layer, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick “coins.” Break or cut the florets into small pieces. Reserve stems and florets separately.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add broccoli stems, potato and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 cups broth, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer until broccoli and potato are tender, about 12 minutes.

Puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Return soup to the heat; add florets; bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add half-and-half and chives and reheat on low briefly.

4 servings

Spring Chicken & Barley Soup

Yield: 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 2 quarts low-sodium organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Directions:

Place barley in a bowl with just enough water to cover it.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in an 8-quart stockpot.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the olive oil, cooking for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken to stockpot, along with the salt and black pepper. Brown for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, vegetables and spices to the pot.

Drain the water from the barley. Add the barley to the soup.

Bring to a boil and turn the heat to medium. Cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.

Pour into serving bowls and garnish with parsley.

Rice And Lettuce Soup

Rice And Lettuce Soup

Use a variety of lettuces for a mix of colors and textures, especially radicchio. The greens lose their bright hue when you cook them, taking on muted, earthy tones. If you want to perk up the color, gently stir in another handful or two of spinach during the last few minutes of cooking. Adding a small rind of Parmigiano while the soup is simmering boosts the flavor of the broth.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 rib celery, trimmed and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 small head butter lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 small head radicchio or escarole, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 6 cups homemade chicken broth or low-sodium commercial chicken broth
  • 1 small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
  • 1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup thinly shaved or freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the carrot, celery, onion and parsley, and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to soften and the onion is translucent. Season with salt and then stir in the butter and romaine lettuces, radicchio and spinach, tossing the greens so that they are well-coated with the other ingredients. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes or so, just until the greens have wilted.

Pour in the broth and add the Parmigiano rind. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer. Stir in the rice, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary and a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup of the shaved or grated Parmigiano cheese.

Ladle the soup into a serving tureen or into individual bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and the remaining cheese.

Shepherd's Soup

Shepherd’s Soup

This recipe is Sardinian based and uses tender vegetables and broken spaghetti in a simmered milk-based broth. In Italy, this soup is made with fresh sheep’s milk or goat’s milk.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups cut-up thin green beans (1-inch pieces)
  • 7 baby carrots (3 to 4 inches long), halved lengthwise
  • 1 pound baby yellow or new potatoes, scrubbed clean and halved or quartered (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups broken spaghetti (1-inch pieces)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, combine the milk and water and bring almost to a boil over medium-high heat (do not let the liquid boil over). Stir in the salt, green beans and carrots, reduce the heat to medium, and cook at a bare simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to turn tender. Add the potatoes and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until they are just starting to soften. Stir in the pasta and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes if using frozen, or slightly longer if using fresh, or until they are tender but still bright green.

While the peas are cooking, put the cheese in a small bowl and add a few spoonfuls of the milky broth. Stir the cheese and hot broth together to make a thin paste and stir this paste into the soup until fully incorporated. Add a generous grinding of pepper and stir gently but thoroughly.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with an additional sprinkle of cheese.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Tender green asparagus, spring onions and fennel combine in this for a typical spring. Adding pearled barley to the mix gives it a little more substance. Accompany the soup with country bread for a one-dish supper.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 spring onions, bulbs and tender white part of stalks sliced crosswise, about 1 cup
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and quarters thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth or low-sodium commercial broth, heated to a simmer
  • 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Put the barley on to cook before you start the soup: In a large saucepan, combine the water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly pour in the barley. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the barley is tender but still a bit chewy. It should not be mushy. Reduce the heat, if necessary, so that the barley cooks at a gentle, steady simmer. Drain the barley in a colander placed in the sink and let it sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

While the barley is cooking, trim off the tough ends from the asparagus and discard them (or add them to the pot in which you are heating the broth to enhance its flavor; remove them before adding the broth to the soup).

Cut the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Set aside the tips. You should have about 4 1/2 cups asparagus pieces, not including the tips.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the spring onions and fennel, reduce the heat to medium-low and saute, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir vigorously to combine. Pour in 1 cup of the heated broth and stir for a minute or so to incorporate thoroughly.

Slowly pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and add the asparagus pieces — except for the reserved tips — and the parsley sprigs. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let the soup cool for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion or standard blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Stir in the cooked barley and asparagus tips and heat gently over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve the soup, stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese. Ladle the soup into a large serving bowl or tureen and top the remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Sweet Pea Soup With Radish

Makes 4 servings

For the radish topping:

  • 3 to 4 radishes, cut into thin slivers or small dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin slivers or small dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 small spring onion (bulb only), thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Mix together the radish and cucumber with the coarse salt. Place the radish and cucumber in a small colander set over a bowl and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and pat vegetables dry with paper towels.

Transfer the radishes and cucumbers to a bowl and stir in the spring onion, oil, sugar and a grinding of pepper. Gently toss to combine. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until serving time.

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced spring onions or leeks (bulbs and tender parts of stalk)
  • 1 small sprig fresh marjoram
  • 1 small sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 to 4 cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth, or low-sodium commercial broth
  • 4 cups shelled peas (about 4 pounds in the pod) or 4 cups good quality frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Mascarpone or ricotta cheese, for serving

Directions:

In a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the spring onions and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they have softened but are not browned. Add the marjoram and thyme and cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Pour in the broth, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Carefully tip in the peas and cook for 6 to 8 minutes for fresh peas; 3 to 4 minutes for frozen, or until they are just tender but still bright green. Take off the heat and remove and discard the sprigs of marjoram and thyme. Using an immersion blender or a standard blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Return the soup to medium heat and stir in the milk, salt and pepper to taste. Heat until just warmed through.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of mascarpone or ricotta cheese and top with a spoonful of radish mixture.

 


The Italian Easter table is an array of symbolic dishes of the season. Every province has its own unique specialties that represent resurrection, fertility and rebirth. The spectrum covers earthy foods, both savory and sweet. An ancient Italian saying, “Natale con i tuoi, la Pasqua con chi vuoi”, means “Christmas at home and Easter with whomever you wish.” But for the most part, Italians return to the family home to celebrate the holiday.

A traditional meal is usually roasted leg of lamb with fresh rosemary and crushed garlic. It is served with asparagus, homemade pasta and a large salad. Vegetables typically play an important part in Italian meals, especially spring vegetables because they are tender and delicate. These include early peas, baby artichokes, asparagus, spinach and Swiss chard side dishes. They are also an important ingredient in egg-rich savory tortes that are combined with hard-boiled eggs and different kinds of cured meats. These tortes are served as appetizers or main dishes throughout the holiday.

Torta Pasqualina (Easter Cheese and Spinach Pie)

You may substitute 2 sheets of puff pastry for the homemade dough. See directions below.

For the dough:

  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Water

For the filling:

  • 2 pounds fresh spinach or Swiss chard
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of finely chopped onion
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese, drained in a sieve for 30 minutes
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Egg Wash For Puff Pastry:

1 Large Egg

Directions:

For the dough:

Mix the flour, oil and salt and gradually add enough water (about 1 cup) to make a stiff dough that leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly. (The dough will become sticky if too much water is used.) Knead the dough thoroughly and divide it into 10 equal-sized balls. Put on a lightly floured pastry board and cover with a damp cloth for 15 minutes.

For the filling:

Wash the spinach or chard well, drain thoroughly and cook in as little water as possible until soft. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the onion until soft but not brown. Drain the greens and chop finely. Add to the onions and cook for a few moments. Set it aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta with milk, add a pinch of salt and put aside.

Brush a large deep pie dish or 9 inch springform pan with olive oil.

Roll one ball of pastry into a wafer-thin sheet larege enough to fit in the pan, keeping the rest of the pastry balls under the damp cloth. Place the dough in the prepared pie dish, brush lightly with oil and trim off excess pastry. Repeat this with five more balls of pastry, brushing each layer with oil and layering one on top of the other.

Spread the cooked onion and greens on top of the sixth layer of pastry, and spread the ricotta mixture on top. Hollow 4 wells in the filling and crack an egg into each one. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Parmesan.

Roll out the remaining balls of pastry in precisely the same manner as teh bottom layers and place them, one by one, on top of the filling brushing each layer with oil.

Prick the top layer with a fork, brush it generously with oil and trim off any overlapping pastry.

If using puff pastry:

  • Allow the pastry to come to room temperature.
  • Roll out the two layers until fairly thin, making them large enough to cover the springform pan with a enough overhang to cover the filling.
  • Lay one layer over the other to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • Put the filling into the pan, smoothing it evenly.
  • Make four hollows evenly spaced around the filling and carefully crack the eggs into the hollows.
  • Fold the overhanging edges of pastry over the top of the pie, folding to fit.
  • Beat the egg with a teaspoon of water and brush over the top of the puff pastry.

Bake either pie in a 400-degree oven for about 40-50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown. It may be served hot or cold.

Torta Pasqualina

Eggs, the symbol of life, are an essential component of Easter foods. In nature, hens lay fewer eggs during the long winter and more in spring, as the days grow longer and temperatures get warmer. Aside from dyed and decorated eggs, Easter treats include egg-shaped cookies and marzipan and chocolate eggs.

Easter bread and pastry are found on every table. On the sweet side are round breads from Sicily and Abruzzo with colored hard-boiled eggs baked into the loaf. Also popular for Easter is Colomba, a sweet bread baked in the shape of a dove. The dough contains candied citrus and is topped with toasted almonds and sugar crystals.The dove is a universal symbol of peace.

PASQUA: FIRST COURSE

Easter feasts encourage an adventurous spirit in the kitchen. At Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Italians are likely to stick to traditional dishes, but at Easter, there is much more diversity. There is no typical antipasto or even primo piatto (first course) for Easter, but young cured meats and cheeses are usually served in some form.

Some popular first course dishes include: Fried Artichokes, Insalata di Polpo (Octopus Salad), swordfish or tuna seasoned with grapefruit and generous platters of young pecorino, fava beans and salumi.

Popular pasta dishes for Easter are Lasagna, in all its varieties and Baked Pasta, for which every household in Italy has a different recipe. Those who have the time and skill to prepare homemade pasta, might make their own local specialty (such as, orecchiette, cavatelli or pici), or stuffed pastas such as ravioli or tortelloni. An alternative to pasta is risotto made with fresh seafood and baby peas or asparagus.

PASQUA: THE MAIN COURSE

For secondo (the main course), roasted or grilled meat is usually served. For centuries, the most popular choice for Easter has been lamb—not just in Italy, but in many other Mediterranean and European countries too. In Rome lamb is marinated with lemon and rosemary and then roasted.

Another typical Roman recipe is Grilled Lamb Chops served with roasted potatoes and artichokes. In Tuscany, lamb is slowly braised with onions and carrots, then served with seasoned cannellini beans. In the Puglia region, boiled lamb is served with fresh herbs and vegetables. In Trentino, polpettine (little meatballs) are made with ground lamb, scallions, parsley and rosemary and served with tomato sauce as an entree.

PASQUA: DESSERT COURSE

Dolci (dessert) is an important part of the Easter feast. Chocolate eggs are among the favorite. In Italy and they contain a surprise inside for the children.

The Pastiera Napoletana is another authentic Easter tradition, originating in Naples, this cake is made with ricotta cheese, candied fruit and orange-blossom water.

The Pizza Pasqualina, a dessert made with cinnamon and chocolate, is a specialty of northern Lazio.

In Sicily, cassata and cannoli are the traditional desserts; and in Sardinia, Casadina, a puff pastry dessert stuffed with ricotta and raisins, is usually served.

Pane di Pasqua (Easter Bread) is a famous Easter treat made all over Italy. Sometimes it is prepared as a dessert and other times as a savory pastry. 

In vegetarian households, the symbolism of the “sacrificial lamb” can be represented by small lamb-shaped cakes and pastries that are eaten for dessert.

EASTER MENU:

Lemon Gnocchi with Peas and Spinach

Potato gnocchi are flavored with fresh citrus, sweet peas and baby spinach

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 8 ounces fat free half & half
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • Fine Sea Salt
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (1-pound) package Potato Gnocchi
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Directions:

In a large skillet, combine peas, half & half, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until tender. Stir in spinach and cook uncovered until leaves are wilted. Remove pan from heat and mix in lemon zest and juice.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they float to the top, about 4 minutes. Drain gnocchi, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water, if needed.

Mix hot gnocchi with the vegetable sauce in the saucepan. Add some of the reserved pasta water, if needed. Stir to coat. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

Serves 4 

Roman Grilled Lamb Chops

Though this classic Easter recipe for lamb originated in Rome, it has long since become a national favorite. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 12 lamb chops
  • 3 fresh bay leaves, finely ground
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • A few juniper berries
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges

Directions:

Layer the lamb chops in a large container.

With a mortar, a knife or an electric grinder, finely grind all of the herbs and spices—including the salt and pepper. (If you use a knife, use the flat side to first crush the juniper berries, peppercorns and salt.) Place them in a bowl, then mix with the wine and the olive oil, stirring with a fork. Pour this marinade into the container with the layered lamb chops. Marinate overnight.

Ideally, lamb chops are best grilled on an open coal fire or barbecue, but you can also cook them on the stove in a cast-iron grill or a heavy pan. They will be ready very quickly—lamb chops (unlike pork chops) can be served rare or medium-rare, according to your preference. Serve them hot with a couple of lemon wedges.

Roasted potatoes are usually served with this dish.

Serves 4

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Coarse sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; spread them evenly on the sheet pan, and bake, turning occasionally with a spatula, until golden brown on the outside and creamy inside, about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting, finely chop the rosemary and garlic together. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on top of the stove.

Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil over the potatoes, sprinkle with sea salt and 2 tablespoons of the rosemary-garlic mixture. Mix well.

Return the pan to the oven to heat the seasonings through.

Serve as a side dish.

 

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli rabe, thick stems removed and discarded, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

Directions:

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 5-6 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and 1/2 cup water; season to taste with salt and pepper and toss gently.

Cover and cook until the broccoli rabe is softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated and the broccoli rabe is completely tender, 2 minutes longer. Stir 1/4 cup of the pecorino into the broccoli rabe. Sprinkle with remaining pecorino over the broccoli rabe and serve.

 

Springtime Lemon Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Frosting:

  • 12 ounces chilled mascarpone cheese
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons lemon zest, plus extra for ganish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine milk, olive oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Set them both aside.

Beat butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well until mixture turns pale yellow. Turn the speed down to low and add the flour mixture and milk mixture, alternating both. Continue to beat until combined.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds of the way full with batter. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 17 minutes. Check with a toothpick to be sure. Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.

Frosting: In a bowl, beat the mascarpone, vanilla, lemon zest and sugar at a medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle the top of each cupcake with a little lemon zest.

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

 


People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, probably because Rome has hosted the seat of the Catholic Church for close to 2000 years. Jews arrived long before the Christians, however. Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues in Ostia Antica (an area just outside of present day Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and swelled and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD), there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout the Roman territory.

Like their fellow countrymen, Italian Jews suffered through thousands of years of invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, but they managed to live fairly peacefully almost everywhere — from Venice, where the Isola della Giudecca (across the canal from Piazza San Marco) is so named because it was the home of many Jews, to the Arab lands of south Italy. At least until 1492, when the Spaniards drove the Arabs back across the Mediterranean Sea into Africa and turned the liberated territories of Sicily and Southern Italy over to the Inquisition. Southern Italian Jews fled north to more tolerant regions, where they were joined by Jews from other parts of Europe as well. Florence, Torino, Mantova and Bologna all had strong Jewish communities during the renaissance.

Edda Servi Machlin, whose father was the Rabbi in the Tuscan town of Pitigliano, joined the partisans in the hills when Italy surrendered to the Nazis in 1943. After the war, she settled in the United States and raised a family. However, she didn’t forget her homeland, nor the foods her family ate. Through the years, she has lectured widely on Italian Jewish life and gathered her recollections of life and cuisine into a book titled, The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews.

The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago from slavery in ancient Egypt. When the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise. For the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten and that is why Passover is also called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is a symbol of the holiday. Other scholars teach that in the time of the Exodus, matzo was commonly baked for the purpose of traveling because it did not spo[l and was light to carry, suggesting that matzo was baked intentionally for the long journey ahead.

The Passover Meal By Dora Artist

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a seder. The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. The Passover seder is one of the great traditions of the Jewish faith, but it can also be a test of endurance. As the premeal chants and readings stretch on, empty stomachs growl and attention wanes until the moment when the charoset is passed around. “With unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it,” is recited while biting into the Passover matzoh, horseradish and charoset. One of the most revered of Jewish dishes, it closes the ceremony and begins the feast.

Passover Seder Plate

Charoset comes from the Hebrew word cheres, which means “clay.” Charoset is a dense fruit paste that represents the mortar used by the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt to make bricks.

Because Passover celebrates freedom, a small amount of charoset is placed on the seder plate as a reminder to Jews that they were once slaves and they should not take their freedom for granted.

Recipes for charoset are as many as there are Jewish people. Italian varieties vary from family to family, including everything from almonds, apples and pears to chestnuts, oranges and even hard-boiled eggs.

Italian Charoset                                                             

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound apple slices, peeled
  • 3/4 pound boiled chestnuts, peeled
  • 1/2 pound walnuts, shelled
  • 1/2 pound pitted dates
  • 1/2 pound dried apricots
  • 1/2 pound raisins
  • 2 small bananas
  • 1 small seedless orange, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Sweet wine

Directions:

Put everything in the blender and process until combined, but it shouldn’t be too smooth.

Cook on a low flame for 15 minutes, stirring. Add some sweet wine or grape juice right before serving.

Matzo Gnocchi Soup

8 servings

Ingredients:

Broth

  • 1 large kosher chicken
  • 3 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 head of celery, stalks cut into 1-inch pieces, leaves set aside
  • 3 large leeks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Gnocchi

  • 1 large (11–12-ounce) russet potato
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
  • Celery leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Broth

Place first 8 ingredients and 5 quarts water in a large soup pot; season with salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Skim foam from surface; reduce heat to low and cook, keeping at a low simmer and skimming occasionally, for 3 hours.

Using tongs, remove chicken from broth and reserve for another use. Strain broth into a large bowl through a fine-mesh sieve (if desired, line sieve with cheesecloth for clearer broth); set aside. Discard solids. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold. Cover; keep chilled.

Gnocchi

Preheat oven to 400°. Bake potato until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly. Peel potato and pass through a ricer or food mill, or press through the holes in a colander into a medium bowl. Add matzo meal, herbs and nutmeg; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add yolks; stir to form a dough.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping the others covered with a kitchen towel, roll dough into a 12-inch-long rope. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Transfer gnocchi to a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover with towel.

Bring broth to a simmer in a large pot over medium heat. Add gnocchi; simmer until tender, 4–5 minutes. Divide mixture among bowls. Drizzle with oil; garnish with celery leaves.

Baked Snapper — Spigola Arrosto

This baked snapper is an Italian Passover tradition. It’s also an interesting variation on the standard roasted fish one generally encounters in Italy, which simply has rosemary and lemon in the cavity and a little more rosemary and lemon outside. In this recipe there are anchovy fillets added and the dish will work with any kind of fish.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 four-pound red snapper, or 2 fish totaling five pounds
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 anchovy filets
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 lemon cut into 6 wedges

Directions

Clean the fish, wash the cavity and pat it dry inside and out. Lightly season it inside and out with salt and pepper, set the fish in an oiled baking dish and place the rosemary into the cavity, distributing them evenly. Measure the thickness of the fish at its thickest point.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F .

Heat the anchovies in a quarter cup of olive oil, stirring them around until they dissolve into a paste. Remove the pot from the fire and stir in the matzo meal and the parsley. Spread the mixture over the top of the fish.

Figuring ten minutes per inch of thickness, bake the fish until done. This will be between 20 and 30 minutes for smaller fish and up to about 45 for a large one.

Serve with the lemon wedges as garnish.

Pan-Sauteed Spinach (Spinaci Rifatti)

Ingredients:

  • Two pounds fresh spinach, washed well
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, halved and crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions:

Pick over the spinach, removing and discarding tough ribs and coarsely chop the leaves.

Place in a large pot and heat until it has wilted.

Drain it well, squeezing it to remove most of the water.

Add the oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the pan. When hot, add the spinach and stir vigorously. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If you’re pressed for time, you can use frozen spinach, though you should thaw it before sauteeing it.

Yield: 4 servings 

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (kosher approved brand)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a large casserole dish.

Place the olive oil and garlic in a large resealable bag. Add cauliflower and shake to mix.

Pour into the prepared casserole dish and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Top with Parmesan cheese and parsley and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown.

Passover Carrot Cake

Did you think carrot cake was an American dessert? In the Veneto region, Italian Jews have had many versions of this dessert for centuries, minus the cheese frosting.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2.5 cups of ground almonds
  • 9 ounces carrots, grated
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • A pinch of salt
  • Amaretto liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Parve margarine (non-dairy) and matzo meal for the pan

Directions:

Beat the yolks with the sugar, add the grated carrots, the almonds, salt, cinnamon and Amaretto. In a separate clean bowl beat the egg whites until thick.

Gradually fold the whites into the carrot mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 9 inch tart pan and dust with matzo meal

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes.


Philadelphia’s Italian American community is the second-largest in the United States.

Named after its view of the Center City skyline, Bella Vista, Italian for “Beautiful View,” is one of Philadelphia’s oldest and authentic Italian neighborhoods. Protestant Italian immigrants from Sicily, known as Waldensians who were seeking freedom from religious persecution, settled the area originally during the colonial era. During that time, a distinct Italian community emerged in Bella Vista, but the number of Italian Philadelphians remained relatively low until the Great Migration at the end of the 19th century. 

In the late 1880s, a new wave of Italian immigrants in search of employment, poured into the Bella Vista neighborhood. By 1970, the Italian immigrant population had grown to about 600,000 and was largely concentrated in South Philadelphia. Bella Vista has remained a hub of Italian life and culture since its beginning and is now known as Philadelphia’s “Little Italy.”

The Italian Market in 1937

The Italian Market Today.

Bella Vista is home to many Italian-American treasures, such as the city’s first Italian American bathhouse, the Fante-Leone Pool, built in 1905 and the Philadelphia Ninth Street Italian Market, claimed to be the oldest open-air market still in operation in the country. More than 100 years old, the Italian Market was originally a business association of local vendors who banded together to compete with larger stores that were moving into the area.

Today, the market houses an assortment of shops, bakeries and restaurants and, though it has maintained a predominantly Italian influence, the market has begun to encompass other immigrant cultures. The “outdoor” market features colorful metal awnings that cover the sidewalks where vendors of fruit, vegetables, fish and housewares conduct business year round. Ground floor shops in traditional Philadelphia row houses line the street. Owners would have originally lived above their shops and many still do.

Another major landmark in Bella Vista was the Palumbo nightclub and restaurant. Originally built by the Antonio Palumbo family in 1884 as a boarding house for immigrant workers, it was expanded by Frank Palumbo, Antonio’s grandson, into a well-known entertainment complex for local residents. At the peak of its popularity, the club attracted residents and politicians from all over the city and featured musical guests like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The club no longer exists, having been destroyed by a series of fires in the 1990s.

Cheese Shop in the Italian Market

The market has also played a role in the culture of Philadelphia and is often included in cultural depictions of the city. For example, the Italian Market was featured in the movie, Rocky. The television series, Hack, also filmed several episodes at the Italian Market. The Italian Market was also used in a season 5 episode of the television show, “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”  South Philadelphia has produced many well-known Italian American popular singers and musicians, including Frankie Avalon, Jim Croce, Joey DeFrancesco, Buddy DeFranco, Fred Diodati (lead singer of The Four Aces), Fabian, Buddy Greco, Mario Lanza, Al Martino, Bobby Rydell, Charlie Ventura and Joe Venuti. If you visit South Philadelphia in May, you can celebrate with the locals at the Annual Italian Market festival and the Procession of the Saints.

Culinary Tour of South Philly

While the neighborhood is home to several Italian- American attractions, it also has a variety of local restaurants and grills. It was the Genoese and Ligurian blue-collar workers and restaurateurs who came in the 19th century and created an Italian American cooking legacy that includes cheese steaks, veal parmesan dinners, Italian ices, hoagies and tomato pies.

Cheesesteak Corner

As you read, you will see why, Philadelphia is often called the “Sandwich City”. 

Pat Oliveri invented the Philly Cheese Steak in 1930, when he switched from hotdogs to steak sandwiches after he was caught making himself one for lunch and his cabbie customers wanted the same. Just down the street is Geno’s Steaks. This relative newcomer burst on the scene in 1966 and, ever since, has been engaged in a battle with Pat’s for the best cheese steak sandwich. There are fierce loyalties on both sides and with locations so close together, you can decide.

The steak, debatably sliced or chopped, is smothered in melted cheese and served on a chewy, long roll. With locals and tourists alike lining up for the hearty sandwich, you need to do your homework and know how to order. First, you choose the type of cheese you’d like, which can be “prove” for provolone, American or “whiz” as in the processed, Cheese Whiz. If you want onions say “wit,” no onions is “wit out.” Then dig in with plenty of napkins.

Pizza Philly Style

Philadelphia Tomato Pie is stretched and baked into sheet pans. The thick, bready crust is as thick as a Sicilian pizza—about 1 inch tall. The tomatoes for this sauce are cooked down with lots of seasoning into a thick, heavy, sweet sauce. No toppings and no cheese, save for a scant shake of Romano or Parmesan cheese. For many who grew up in the area, this simple bakery style pie says “Philly” more than any other style of pizza.

Walk off your lunch back at the market exploring the many Italian specialty stores, then head west on Christian street two blocks and pick up a box of fresh cannoli at Isgro Paticceria (1009 Christian Street) established in 1904. Wrap up the day at the country’s second oldest Italian restaurant and the oldest family run restaurant in the country, Ralph’s Italian Restaurant (760 S. 9th St). Established in 1900 by Neapolitan immigrants, Francesco and Catherine Dispigno, Ralph’s has been a favorite of many Italian Americans over the years, including Frank Sinatra, as well as non-Italians like President Franklin Roosevelt.

Make Some Philly Inspired Sandwiches At Home

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 of a green bell pepper
  • 1/8 of a medium yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 oz leftover steak
  • 1/3 cup shredded Provolone cheese
  • 1 small Italian  baguette or hoagie roll (6-7 inches long)

Directions:

Slice pepper into 1/4″ wide by 3″ long julienne strips. Cut the onion into 1/4″ by 3″ julienne pieces. Place 1 tablespoon of oil in a saute pan and heat on high heat. Once hot, cook the pepper and onions just until soft, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Place the saute pan back on the stove, set on high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Slice the cold leftover steak very thin, then sear very quickly in the pan on each side for 30 seconds. Stack the steak in the pan, then top with the shredded cheese. Cover the pan for about 45 seconds to melt the cheese.

Slice the baguette in half horizontally. Place on a plate, then stack the meat with the melted cheese on top of the bottom piece of baguette. Add peppers and onions on top.

Pulled Pork Italiano

DiNic’s, in Philadelphia, serves this sandwich of wine-and herb-braised pulled pork, sharp provolone and roasted long hot peppers.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1½ tablespoon dried thyme
  • 3½ teaspoons crushed red chile flakes
  • 1- 6 lb pork shoulder, butterflied
  • 3 sprigs rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 head garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 lb broccoli rabe
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 32 slices sharp provolone
  • 8-12″ crusty Italian rolls, split
  • 24 roasted long hot peppers

Directions:

Heat oven to 450°F. Combine fennel, parsley , thyme,and 3 teaspoons chili flakes in a small bowl; set aside.

Open pork shoulder on a work surface and spread with half of herb mixture, rosemary , 1/4 of the chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Roll up the shoulder, tie with kitchen twine at 1″ intervals to secure and season out-side with remaining herb mixture, salt and pepper.

Transfer to a roasting pan and roast until browned, about 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven and heat broiler. Add remaining garlic to pan, along with stock, wine, onion and bay leaf; pour tomatoes over top and sides of pork shoulder. Broil until tomatoes are caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.  Cover pork with parchment paper and, then, cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil. Cook until the internal temperature of pork reaches 165°, about 2 hours. Set aside to cool.

Transfer pork to cutting board and remove bay leaf from pan. Transfer juices to a blender and purée; transfer to a 4-qt. saucepan and keep warm. Pull pork apart into large pieces and add to pan juices.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add broccoli rabe. Cook, stirring, until just tender, 2–3 minutes. Drain and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet. Working in batches if necessary , add remaining chili flakes and broccoli rabe and cook, stirring, until crisp and warmed through, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Place 4 slices provolone on bottom half of each roll, and top with pork. Add broccoli rabe and peppers.

Real Italian Hoagie

The Hoagie sandwich was originally created in Philadelphia. There are a number of different versions to how the Hoagie got its name, but no matter what version is right, all agree that it started in Philadelphia.

The most widely accepted story centers on an area of Philadelphia known as Hog Island, which was home to a shipyard during World War I (1914-1918). The Italian immigrants working there would bring giant sandwiches made with cold cuts, spices, oil, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and peppers for their lunches. These workers were nicknamed “hoggies.” Over the years, the name was attached to the sandwiches, but under a different spelling.

Another version: The word Hoagie came from the sandwiches that used to get eaten by workers over on a place that was nicknamed “hog island”. The workers there would bring crusty rolls with Italian meats and some olive oil and these sandwiches became known as “hoggies”, which eventually morphed into hoagie. By the way – It has to be a fresh, crusty Italian long roll!

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 hoagie rolls
  • 1/4 lb prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 lb capicola, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 lb genoa salami or 1/4 lb sopressata salami, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 lb provolone cheese
  • 1 large tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 cup shredded lettuce

Directions:

Slice the rolls, but not all the way through.

Place the vinegar and oregano in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified.

Remove some of the bread from the center of each half of roll.

Drizzle a little of the olive oil mixture on the bread.

Place first the meats, then the cheese in layers.

Top with the tomatoes, onions and the lettuce. Drizzle with more of the dressing, as desired.

Chicken or Veal Cutlet Hoagies

The luncheonette, Shank’s & Evelyn’s, which has become an Italian Market staple over the past 48 years, is known far and wide for their breakfast, lunch and most notably their sandwiches. In recent years, The sandwich Shank’s is most famous for, and has solidified their name in publications across the nation, is the Chicken Cutlet Italiano with greens.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Chicken

  • 4 (4-6 ounces) chicken or veal cutlets (about ½-inch thickness)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups plain bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Broccoli Rabe

  • 1 medium bunch broccoli rabe, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 hoagie rolls or ciabatta rolls
  • 4 slices sharp provolone cheese

Directions:

In a wide, shallow bowl whisk eggs, milk, crushed red pepper and salt.

Place flour in a separate wide, shallow bowl. Do the same with the breadcrumbs.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Dip one chicken cutlet at a time in the flour, then in the egg mixture, allowing excess to drip into the bowl. Dredge in the bread crumbs, ensuring that the entire cutlet is evenly coated. Add to the skillet and cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown and crisp. Place on a paper-towel lined dish. Repeat with remaining cutlets.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Boil broccoli rabe for 2 minutes; drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water. “Shocking” the rabe will maintain its vivid green color.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic. Sauté until garlic starts to turn golden. Add broccoli rabe, crushed red pepper and salt. Saute 1-2 minutes more until just tender.

Place one split roll on a clean work surface. Place chicken cutlet on the bottom half of the roll. Top with 1/4 of the broccoli rabe and 2 slices of cheese. Place under a broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Philadelphia Tomato Pie

For the Dough

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
  • 2 1/4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling pan
  • 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons water

For the Sauce

  • 6 fresh Roma tomatoes
  • 1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1½ tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 2½ tablespoons sugar

Directions:

Combine flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook attachment. Whisk to combine. Add olive oil and water. Knead on low speed just until dough comes together, about 3 minutes.

Let dough rest for 10 minutes, then knead once more on low speed for 10 minutes. Dough should pull away from sides of bowl, but stick to bottom.

Remove dough hook, cover top of mixing bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 24.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Preheat oven to 365 degrees F. Slice tomatoes in half, season with salt & pepper, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in a non-aluminum, heavy bottom pan and simmer until thickened.

When roasted tomatoes are done add them into sauce, continue to cook down and mix them in until there are no large chunks.

Two hours before baking, remove dough from the refrigerator. Generously grease the inside of a 13 by 18-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil (about 3 tablespoons).

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Form into flat ball and transfer to the oiled baking sheet. Using your hands, coat the ball on all sides with olive oil.

Loosely cover the baking sheet with plastic and let dough rise in a warm spot for 1 hour. The dough should spread out .

Carefully stretch and push the dough into the corners and edges of the pan. Cover loosely and let rise for 1 hour longer.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. When the dough has risen, gently use your hands to create a risen ridge about 1-inch wide around the edge.

Spread sauce generously over dough, leaving the raised 1-inch edge un-sauced. Bake until edges are light golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes total, rotating pan once halfway through baking.

Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Sprinkle with Romano cheese, cut into slices and serve.


Italian Easter dessert recipes are a mixture of tradition, symbolism, light textures and rich tastes. Each region in Italy has its own specialty desserts so you would have to travel the country to understand the entire array of Easter desserts available in Italy.

Italian Easter Cookies

At Easter-time in Italy, cookies made of light and airy meringues are very popular. For an added after dinner touch, try a chocolate-espresso. Almond biscotti, a twice baked cookie, for dipping in after-dinner-drinks are also popular.

Italian Easter Pastries

Pastries abound in Italian desserts–for Easter, too! — including the well-known cannoli and the layered chocolate, liquor and cake pastry known as tiramisu. For most Italians though, Italian sponge cake is preferred for a light finish to a large meal, especially when topped with fruit and flavored syrup.

Italian Easter Fruits, Nuts, and Grains

Fresh fruit is a popular dessert any time of year in Italy. But it can also be found in tarts, fried pies or served whole with Italian cheeses.

Rice even makes an appearance in Italian Easter dessert recipes. Black Easter Rice is made by mixing rice with milk, dark chocolate, cocoa, candied fruit, orange zest and spices.

Italian cooking uses almonds and nuts as additions to cake batters, pastry toppings, and fillings.

Neapolitan Easter Pie (Pastiera)

No Easter celebration in southern Italy would be complete without a slice of sweet ricotta pie. Each region has its own version.

In Naples, the ricotta pie is called “pastiera” and it is thickened with softened wheat berries.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups wheat berries
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 large eggs, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup candied citrus
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

Cover wheat berries with 2 cups water in a bowl; soak, changing water daily, for 3 days. Drain and boil in a pot of fresh water for 15 minutes; drain.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and the 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add 1 whole egg and stir with a fork until just combined. Turn out dough onto a work surface.

Knead just until well combined, then form into a disk.

Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

While dough is chilling, cut a 1-inch-wide strip of zest from the lemon, avoiding the white pith.

In a large saucepan, combine milk and zest; bring to boil. Add wheat berries, reduce heat to low and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Spread wheat berries on a plate and cool; discard zest.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Separate the remaining 4 eggs.

In a large bowl stir together wheat berries, ricotta, remaining cup sugar, candied citrus, egg yolks, orange extract, finely grated zest from the orange, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and cinnamon.

Beat egg whites in another bowl to soft peaks and fold into ricotta mixture.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan; dust with flour.

Divide dough into 2 pieces, one larger than the other (three-quarters and one-quarter).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger piece into a 15-inch round with a floured rolling pin.

Fit dough into prepared pan, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang. Chill for 10 minutes.

Roll out remaining dough into a 9-inch round. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut 3/4-inch-wide strips.

Spoon filling into crust. Arrange strips over filling to form a diagonal lattice.

Crimp edges of crust. Bake until filling is set and crust is golden about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Run a thin knife around edge of the pie and remove the side of the pan. Chill cake at least 2 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Italian Easter CookiesItalian Lemon Ring Cookies

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract

Icing

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • Sugar Sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and lemon extract on low speed until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture until dough is formed. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes.

Break off small pieces of the dough and roll into pencil-thin strips 4 inches long. Twist dough pieces to make circles or braids. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and allow to cool on wire racks.

Icing: Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and lemon extract until smooth. Add more milk, if necessary. Using a metal spatula, frost the tops of the cookies. The frosting will drip down the sides and coat the cookies. Return to wire racks for the frosting to set. Sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired, before frosting is set. Store in an airtight container. Makes 36.

Pinza Goriziana (Traditional Easter Cake)

A soft and light dessert from Italy’s Friuli region.

Ingredients

  • 7 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 oz butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 9 egg yolks, divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Powdered Sugar, optional

Mix together 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and 1/3 cup milk in an electric mixer bowl. Knead until the dough is smooth and uniform, then let it rise for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, knead it again, adding half of the remaining flour (1 ¾ cups), all of the remaining sugar, half (2 ½ oz.) of the butter (melted and allowed to cool), 1 egg, 6 egg yolks, half of the remaining milk (1/3 cup) and a pinch of salt. Mix together until you have a soft dough and let rise for another hour.

After the dough has risen a second time, add the remaining flour, 3 egg yolks, the remaining milk, the other half of the melted butter, the lemon oil and rum. Mix together until smooth and uniform, then shape the dough into a ball. Let rise for another hour.

Place the dough in a round baking dish lined with parchment paper. Whisk the remaining egg and brush it onto the dough. Bake the “Pinza Goriziana” in a 320° F oven for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, when cool.

Easter Knot Cookies

These are traditional cookies from Italy flavored with vanilla and almond extracts. They are tied in loose knots and baked, then frosted.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder

Icing

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/4 cup milk, and oil.

Combine the flour and baking powder and stir into the sugar mixture.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls out into ropes about 5 inches long.

Tie into loose knots and place cookies 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 5 minutes on the bottom shelf and 5 minutes on the top shelf of the preheated oven, until the bottoms of the cookies are light golden brown.

When cookies are cool, dip them into the icing and sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

To make the icing: cream together the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Beat in 3 tablespoons milk, one tablespoon at a time.

 

Italian Easter Egg Basket (Pupa Cu L’ova)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 16 tablespoons butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 6 cups flour
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 eggs, uncooked and dyed in Easter egg colors

Directions

Combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy in an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly after each. Add the anise extract, mix thoroughly.

Combine flour and baking powder and add to bowl. Mix until a dough forms.

Take a small amount of dough, roll into a ball, flatten it to make a 4-inch round and place on a baking sheet. Place a colored egg in the center.

Pinch another piece of dough, roll into a “rope” 1/4 inch in diameter and cut into 2 pieces, each long enough to crisscross over the egg. (See photo above.)

Seal the edges to the round by pressing firmly. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Italian Ring Cake

A traditional cake that is easy to make. It’s usually eaten for breakfast, dipped into warm milk or caffè latte. It’s also served at the end of a meal, either with a glass of dessert wine or with the slices drizzled with zabaione or fruit sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted over a double boiler or in the microwave and allowed to cool
  • 4 1/8 cups unbleached flour
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup milk, plus a little more at the end
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse sugar, optional

Directions:

Put the sugar in the electric mixer bowl and crack the eggs into it. Beat with the mixer set to low/medium for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is a creamy yellow.

Add about a third of the flour to the egg and sugar mixture and beat the batter for about a minute. Add another third of the flour and beat for a minute more.

Add the melted butter and beat for another 30-40 seconds. Next, add the lemon zest.

Beat in half of the milk and half of the remaining flour. Then beat in the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour.

Add the baking powder and beat until creamy.

Butter a 10-inch tube pan and then flour it, tapping it upside down to remove excess flour.

Pour the batter into the pan. Give the filled pan a couple of quick shakes and tap it once or twice against your countertop to level the batter.

Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar, if desired.

Bake the cake on a low rack for 40-45 minutes. Cool before removing from the pan.


The Italians love to celebrate holidays with food and Easter is one of those special holidays. Easter is preceded by Lent, a time of fasting for many Christians. Come Easter Sunday, it is time to celebrate, splurge and indulge.

Eggs are often associated with Easter and are considered a symbol of birth and life. The tradition of giving eggs as gifts can be traced back to the Persians, who used to exchange eggs at the beginning of Spring, while the custom of decorating eggs was popular in ancient Egypt. The tradition of exchanging eggs for Easter, however, dates back to the Middle Ages, beginning in 837 AC, when it was prohibited to eat animal products during Lent. During the forty days prior to Easter, eggs were conserved and decorated.

Beginning in the 12th century, the eggs were blessed and given to servants and children as part of a ritual called “Benedictio ovorum.” This is where the tradition of exchanging Easter eggs all began, well before the arrival of chocolate in Europe. Originally, eggs were painted in various colors and given to children in the streets of Europe as an Easter present. The tradition of chocolate Easter eggs, probably, did not began until the 19th century.

Bread is also an important part of any Easter celebration. Italian Easter Bread is rich with symbolism, baked in the shape of a wreath to symbolize the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ at the crucifixion. The three pieces of dough braided together represent the three elements of the Holy Trinity. The bread is either baked with colored eggs directly in the dough or with white eggs that can be decorated after baking.

Several other Easter breads are shaped or decorated in ways that recall the Easter story. In northern Italy they make the Colomba Pasquale, a dove-shaped loaf, symbolizing hope. Likewise the cheese-enriched Italian Easter bread called, Crescia al Formaggio, forms a dome because it is baked in tall narrow pans that force the bread to rise in a dramatic dome shape. In Sicily, they make small Easter breads, called “pupi cu l’uova”, that are shaped like dolls and have an egg in the center.

Italian Easter Bread

Easter bread with colored eggs embedded in the dough.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup warm milk (120 to 130 degrees F.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 5 hard boiled eggs
  • vegetable oil

Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating

 Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add milk and butter; beat 2 minutes on medium.

Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat 2 minutes on high. Stir in fruit, nuts and aniseed; mix well.

Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Dye the hard boiled eggs in Easter colors and lightly rub with oil.

Punch dough down. Divide in half; roll each piece into a 24-in. rope. Loosely twist ropes together to form a circle and tuck eggs into openings. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.

Decorate with a glaze and sprinkles, if desired.

Colomba Pasquale– Easter Dove Cake

While Italy offers many traditional Easter breads, the best-known by far is Colomba Pasquale, Easter dove bread, a native of Lombardy in the north, but available everywhere at Easter time. Even in America one can find these panettone-like breads in the “dove” shape around the Easter holidays. Studded with citrus peel or dried fruits, spread with a coating of sugar-nut syrup and sprinkled with almonds and sugar, the Easter Dove Bread is a special treat.

Sponge:

  • 1/2 cup warm milk, 105 -115 degrees F.
  • 1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast, divided
  • 3/4 cup flour

Dough:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk, save egg white for icing
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 orange or lemon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup dried fruit (combination of dark and golden raisins and candied orange peel)

Almond Topping:

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, divided
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg white
  • Confectioners’ sugar

To make the sponge:

In a small bowl, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of yeast into the warm milk.

Stir the yeast into the milk and allow to sit for 5 minutes to dissolve.

Stir in the 3/4 cup flour to form a smooth paste.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Let sit 12 hours or overnight, unrefrigerated.

To make the dough:

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and egg yolk together.

Beat in the sugar, remaining yeast, salt, orange zest and vanilla extract.

Add the sponge and softened butter; beat to combine.

Add 2 cups of flour and beat just enough to blend in the flour.

If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook.

Otherwise, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface.

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.

By hand you will knead for about 10 minutes.

If you are using a dough hook, knead about 5 minutes.

Add the dried fruit and knead just enough to incorporate.

Place the dough in a large buttered bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.

Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

To shape the dove:

Punch down the dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface.

Divide the dough into 2 equal size pieces.

Form each piece into a log about 12-inches long.

Place the first piece into the dove mold in what would be the dove’s wings..

The second piece is placed from head to tail on top of the first piece.

Pat the dough down around the edges of the mold to fill in any gaps.

Cover with a kitchen towel.

Let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

In the meantime, make the icing and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the topping and bake the bread:

In a food processor, combine 1/4 cup of almonds, granulated sugar, 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch and egg white. Process to a smooth paste.

Carefully spread the topping on the risen bread.

Spread the remaining sliced almonds on top.

Dust with a heavy coat of confectioners’ sugar.

Place the mold on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake an additional 20-30 minutes.

If the top is getting too brown, cover the bread with a piece of foil during the last 10 minutes of baking.

The internal temperature of the bread should be about 190 degrees F. Remove from the oven and transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool

The Dove Mold Can Be Ordered From Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001AS04H0/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001AS04H0&linkCode=as2&tag=mangiabenepas-20

Easter Bread Wreath 

Starter:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cool water
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast, for best rise; or regular instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed, optional
  • grated peel of 1 large orange

Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating

Directions:

To make the bread: Mix together the starter ingredients, cover the bowl and set it on the counter at room temperature overnight.

Next day, combine the starter with all the remaining dough ingredients. Mix and knead, using an electric mixer until the dough is elastic and satiny.

Grease a large bowl, add the dough and let rise for 1 to 2 hours, until doubled and puffy. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface, divide it into three pieces, and shape each piece into an 18″-long rope. Braid the ropes together and connect the two ends to form a wreath.

Cover the wreath and allow it to rise until puffy, about 1 to 2 hours.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Bake the wreath for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes, tenting it for the final 10 minutes of baking.

The finished loaf will be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register at least 190°F.

Remove the wreath from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool.

To make the glaze: Stir together the sugar and 2 tablespoons of orange juice. Add more liquid 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is thin and pourable.

Drizzle the glaze onto the cooled braid, then decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Yield: one loaf.

 

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

This bread is traditionally eaten on Easter morning for breakfast or lunch and served with Italian sausage or salami, boiled eggs and a glass of red wine.

Italian Easter cheese bread is excellent for making ham sandwiches.

This version is baked in a loaf pan, instead of a dome shaped pan.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper 
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano or Asiago cheese

Glaze:

  • reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Combine all of the dough ingredients, except the cheese, in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. 

Stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

Add the cheese and beat until well combined. This is a sticky dough, so don’t be tempted to add more flour.

Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour; it won’t rise very much.

Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl and allow it to rise for an additional hour; again, it may not  rise too much.

Oil or flour your hands.

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log; and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Cover the pan with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should become puffy, though it won’t have doubled in size.

To bake the bread: Put your oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. 

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage.

Yield: 1 loaf.

 


Jack’s magic beans that grew overnight into a beanstalk were very probably fava beans or, as the English call them, broad beans. Americans, however, have been slow to appreciate this great tasting vegetable, even though, their flavor is smoother, sweeter and richer than most other beans.

But we may be undergoing a spring awakening.The pale green beans in the big floppy pods have been an early spring food in many countries for centuries. Favas — also known as Windsor beans, English beans, horse beans and pigeon beans — have long been a diet staple in Asia, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and Europe.

These ancient beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants and among the easiest to grow. They were the only beans Europeans ate before they discovered America and all its legumes. Explorers took American beans back to Europe and introduced the fava to America, which never really caught on.

After preparing them, you begin to understand why. This is a labor-intensive process. First, you string and shuck the beans, then parboil them so that the waxy coating can be removed. It is an afternoon event and, for Americans, not a great use of their time.

Unshelled, fresh favas look like giant, bumpy string beans. They are 5 to 7 inches long and lined with padding that looks like cotton batting. You don’t want to buy beans that are bulging out of the pod — which means they are probably old.

The beans have a buttery texture, a slight bitterness and a nutty flavor. Their fresh green color is a welcome sign of spring.

Fresh fava beans are purchased in the shell, so you’ll have to buy a lot more beans than you might think. One pound of un-peeled beans will give you roughly 1/3 cup of favas.

How to get to the bean:

  1. First, remove the beans from the pods (much like you would when shelling peas) by running a finger up the seam of the pod, splitting it open and removing the beans. There are about 4 to 5 beans per pod.
  2. At this point you’ll notice that the bean has a thick white skin around it which also needs to be peeled off. 
  3. To remove the second skin, there are two different methods. The first is to make a small slit with a knife along the edge of the bean to pop the bean out of its skin.
  4. The alternate, and more popular, method is to put the fava beans in boiling salted water to blanch for 30 seconds. Remove the beans from the boiling water and submerge them in ice cold water to stop the cooking process. This step softens the second skin, making it easier to remove.
  5. With your fingers, squeeze the bean out from its skin.
  6. Now, you can use the beans as directed in any recipe of your choice.

Fava beans have been a staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines for centuries and they are used in appetizers, omelets, salads, soups, dips, pasta dishes and casseroles. Many home cooks like to add favas to minestrone soup and favas can sometimes substitute for garbanzos in falafel patties.

I am most familiar with dried favas, which are greenish-brown and large compared to most beans and flat with a distinctive slim black eye. I often use these because fresh fava beans are not easy to find.

Dried Fava Beans

When You Can’t Find Fresh

Fresh fava beans have a short season, but they’re available in other forms to enjoy all year long.

Peeled frozen beans can be used in place of fresh, with slightly increased cooking times (follow the directions on the label).

Many people are familiar with dried favas and they are often imported from Italy. These are excellent for soup.

Canned or bottled favas are available in most supermarkets, but these tend to be the least favorable way to enjoy these beans. Often, the tough outer skin has not been removed and the beans can be high in sodium. If you use canned or bottled beans, be sure to rinse, drain and peel them, if necessary.

Favas are nutrition superheroes. They are high in fiber and iron and low in sodium and fat. They have no cholesterol but are high in protein.

Fava beans are popular in Italy.

They are often served as a first course spring salad with young sheep’s cheese tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and a little hot pepper. Next on the menu: could be fresh favas quickly sauteed with seafood and herbs or cooked fava beans pureed with cream and butter. Fava beans can be served simply boiled, mashed and spread on crostini, or added to spring stews and soups. They are often paired with artichokes or other spring vegetables such as peas and morels (mushrooms).

Italians credit the fava bean as a factor in saving Sicilians from starvation. Since then, the fava has been considered good luck. The myth of the fava bean began during the famine in Sicily, where the beans were used as fodder for cattle. To survive, the farmers prepared them for the table. Hence, they considered themselves lucky to have them.

Fava beans play a large role in the Sicilian tradition of the St. Joseph Table. which is held in March to honor the saint. They may be served in a frittata or in garlic sauce during this celebration. When dried, roasted and blessed, they become the very popular “lucky bean.” Legend has it that you will never be broke as long as you carry one. Some people believe that if you keep one in the pantry, there will always be food in the kitchen. The bean is also a symbol of fertility, since it grows well even in poor, rocky soil. Italians would carry a bean from a good crop to ensure a good crop the following year.

 Fava Bean Recipes:

Fresh Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad

Fava beans are a spring favorite in southern and central Italy. This salad, adapted from Patricia Wells’, Trattoria, (William Morrow 1993) is popular as a starter or as part of an antipasto spread. If you can only find a hard grating pecorino, use a soft goat cheese. If there are leftovers, saute the beans and cheese with a little oil in a small skillet. They are fragrant and delicious as a warm appetizer.
Makes 8 to 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fresh unshelled fava beans (about 2 cups shelled beans)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, snipped with scissors
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red peppers (hot red pepper flakes), or to taste
  • 8 ounces soft sheep’s milk cheese such as a pecorino or a soft fresh goat’s milk cheese, cut in small cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Shell and parboil the beans as directed above in how to get at the bean.
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and toss to blend. Taste for seasoning.

Arugula and Fava-Bean Crostini

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shelled fresh fava beans (1 1/4 pounds in pods) or shelled fresh or frozen edamame (soybeans; 3/4 pounds in pods)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 cups packed baby arugula (1 1/2 ounces), divided
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
  • 16 mint leaves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook fava beans in boiling water, uncovered, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain and transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking. Gently peel off skins.

Pulse fava beans in a food processor until very coarsely chopped, then transfer half of mixture to a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 cup arugula, cheese, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to favas in processor and purée until smooth. Add to bowl. Coarsely chop remaining cup arugula and gently fold into fava-bean mixture.

Cut 16 diagonal slices (1/3 inch thick) from baguette and put on a 4-sided sheet pan. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil. Bake until pale golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Rub with cut side of garlic.

Spoon fava-bean mixture onto baguette toasts, then drizzle with oil and top with mint.

Shrimp and Fava Beans with Thyme

Makes 2 entree servings or 4 appetizer servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • About 2 ounces firm, salty ham such as prosciutto, cut into tiny dice (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 pound fresh, unshelled fava beans
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Shell fava beans according to instructions above.

Heat oil and butter in skillet over moderate heat. Add ham and garlic and toss for a minute. Add shrimp, favas and thyme and toss just until shrimp turn pink.

Sprinkle with pepper and salt. Serve immediately.

Fava Bean and Pasta Soup from Sicily

Serves 4 to 5

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh, young fava beans
  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1/4 pound linguine or spaghetti, broken into 1½-inch lengths
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Remove the beans from the pods, shell and pick off the little buds that appear on the side of the beans. (See photo above.)

Place the oil and onion in a large saucepan over low heat, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion sweats.

Add the pancetta and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, until it begins to color. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the beans and partially cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are tender. The timing depends on the freshness of the beans.

When the favas are tender, stir in the pasta and cook until the texture is al dente, about 6-8 minutes or so, stirring now and then, to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

Remove from the heat, add basil, mint, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Variation: If fresh fava beans are not to be found, you can use 5 ounces (3/4 cup) dried fava beans instead. Dried fava beans have to be soaked overnight.

To make this soup using dried fava beans, bring the drained, soaked beans and 8 cups water to a boil in a soup kettle; simmer until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, reserving the bean cooking liquid; cool the beans. Remove and discard the tough outer skin from the fava beans. Follow the recipe instructions, adding the cooked fava beans and 6 cups of the bean cooking liquid just after adding the pancetta. Bring to a boil, add the pasta and proceed with the recipe instructions.

 

Poached Chicken Breast with Spring Fava Beans

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fava beans, shelled
  • 4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 medium leeks, washed well, trimmed and cut into long strips
  • 4 fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 4 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano for garnish

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Immerse the fava beans in the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and plunge the beans into the ice water for 30 seconds to stop the cooking process. Drain. To remove the fibrous shells from the blanched fava beans, make an incision on one end of the shell with your fingernail, pop the bean out, and discard the shells. Set aside.

Place the chicken breasts, leeks and potatoes into a medium-size pot; add the stock, set over medium heat and bring to a simmer; cook, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the fava beans, parsley and oregano; continue to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the broth and cut into thin slices. Place equal portions of chicken, beans, leeks and potatoes into 4 serving bowls, pour a little broth over all and drizzle 1 teaspoon lemon juice on each bowl. Garnish with oregano sprigs. Serve immediately.


1922

Although Italian immigration to the United States peaked between 1900 and 1914, Italians could be found in New Jersey as early as 1800. These early immigrants were mostly from the northern part of Italy. One of the first Italian immigrants to settle in New Jersey, Giovanni Battista Sartori, settled in Trenton and founded the first spaghetti factory in America and the first Catholic Church in New Jersey. The mass immigration of Italians to America began in the 1870s. Most of the Italians who settled in New Jersey during this time were from the southern regions of Italy.

Italians leaving Italy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries did so to escape diseases, droughts, poor soil and oppressive landlords. The unification of the Italian states in 1861 failed to bring economic peace to the land, prompting many Italians to look for opportunities elsewhere. In New Jersey, Italians worked in agriculture, as skilled and unskilled laborers, bakers and tailors and in many other fields. Some were recruited to work in agriculture because of a labor shortage in New Jersey. Italian agricultural workers formed settlements in Vineland and Atlantic City. Italian immigrants became an important part of New Jersey society and served as an example of the difficulties that were indicative to immigrants who spoke a different language or had different beliefs.

The story of my heritage is the story of so many Americans of Italian descent.

I grew up in New Jersey because both sets of grandparents came to the United States during the great wave of Italian immigration and eventually moved to Elizabeth, NJ.  New Jersey had and has many cities with large Italian populations, but Elizabeth was not one of them. It is an old city that has a history dating back to colonial times. It is a port city, highly industrialized at one time, and the factories that were there, such as The Singer Sewing Machine Company and Phelps Dodge Copper Refining Corporation, attracted workers to the area. My father was one of those skilled laborers, who worked in the copper plant for many years. 

The Singer Plant, Elizabeth, NJ

My paternal grandparents came from Cosenza in southern Italy and, after a short stay in New York, moved to a section of Elizabeth called Peterstown. Peterstown is a middle-class neighborhood in the southeastern part of the city that is ethnically diverse. It was once predominantly occupied by newly immigrated Italians and their descendants, but is less so today. Peterstown has a “village” feel and the area contains the historic Union Square that is home to produce stands, meat markets, fresh fish and poultry stores. Unfortunately, I never met my paternal grandfather because he died, young, a year before I was born.  However, my paternal grandmother lived in Peterstown for the rest of her life. I can remember visiting her and my many aunts and uncles, who all lived in Peterstown, when I was young. They all spoke Italian, so I never knew what they were talking about. I just smiled a lot.

My maternal grandparents grew up in Monteverde, Italy, married there, but came to the United States separately. My grandfather came in September, 1913 and my grandmother came in July, 1914 with their two-year old daughter. At first, they lived in Pennsylvania, because my grandfather was working in a coal mine. He told us that he did not like that type of work and, in his spare time, he learned how to cut cloth, which eventually led to a tailoring career. My grandfather had relatives who lived in Elizabeth and he was told about the Singer Sewing Machine Company. They moved to Elizabeth and he was able to find work with Singer, where he learned the garment business.

My grandfather’s story is the “American Dream” story that so many Italian immigrants hoped to achieve. My grandfather became successful in his career and evetually owned his own clothing factory in Elizabeth. He employed many workers from the area and he was considered a great boss. I can remember, every fall, he would tell my mother, bring the children to the factory to pick out a winter coat. We used to have great fun running all around this huge building with hundreds of sewing machines. 

Unfortunately, my grandmother died when I was 16, but my grandfather was a part of our lives for many years after. He always came for Sunday dinner, where he enlightened us, in English, about life in Italy as it compared to the United States, stories about his youth and his “philosophy” on all things. I don’t think my siblings and I realized, at the time, what a great thing our grandparents did for us by leaving their homeland and creating a new life in America. I sure do now !

Hammonton

As I was doing research for this post, the following statistic surprised me. According to the 2010 census and the latest American Community Survey figures, 44.6 percent of Hammonton’s 14,791 residents are of Italian ancestry, the highest percentage in New Jersey and the second highest percentage in the U.S.  Passaic County and Essex County follow in size. I grew up in NJ and never knew that the area in and around Hammonton had so many Americans of Italian descent in the state.

Hammonton’s annual Italian Festival, the longest-running in the country.

The Italians came to southern New Jersey for the same reasons that settlers came from other areas of the U.S. They were looking for homes not too far from the seashore, where the climate was congenial and the land cheap. Southern New Jersey was new territory. Up to 1850 the pine barrens were looked upon as waste land. The climate and the forest did not attract settlers prior to 1860, when the land was first offered for sale. However, the Civil War stimulated a demand for fruits and vegetables and New Jersey’s sandy soil was perfect for farming. After 1865 the opening of wholesale markets in the large cities made fruit growing a profitable industry. Despite the need, the development of southern New Jersey was slow because a great deal of labor and expense was required to clear the land and immigrants who were attracted to farming preferred the more fertile western lands. If it had not been for the Italian settlers, the vicinity of Hammonton might still be a wilderness. What they did, when they arrived, was pick the berries for market; clear the land, save their earnings from their labor and buy the farms of retiring owners whose sons had gone to the city or farther west.

How this Italian community developed can best be told by of the stories of the Italians who came to Hammonton. The first family were the La Grassos, a family of musicians, who settled in a section now largely built up by Italians. Soon after Salvatore Calabrase, who was born in Sicily and was a gardener by trade, came to Hammonton after working in a nursery in Flushing, N.Y. He and La Grasso worked together on the farms, and later bought land to start their own farms. Calabrase wrote to his relatives in Sicily and soon many of them joined him in Hammonton.

Italian specialties fill the refrigerated case at Bagliani’s Market on Bellevue Avenue in Hammonton.

Other groups soon followed. Dominico Tonsola. a Neapolitan, settled in a different part of the town. He came from a small town, Casalvelino, near Naples. Finding no work in Philadelphia when he first arrived, he journeyed to Hammonton to work on a farm he later owned. He was also a successful ice dealer. He had been instrumental in bringing the Neapolitan element to Hammonton.

In fact, the Italians cleared all the southwestern part of the town of pine growth and erected many houses in that section. They came at a time when the Americans were leaving the farms, when labor was growing scarce and when the development of the pine lands was critical.

Newark

Once upon a time, Seventh Avenue in Newark was one of the largest Little Italies in the U.S. with a population of 30,000, in an area of less than a square mile. The center of life in the neighborhood was St. Lucy’s Church, founded by Italian immigrants in 1891. Throughout the year, St. Lucy’s and other churches sponsored processions in honor of saints that became community events. The most famous procession was the Feast of St. Gerard, but there were also feasts for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Our Lady of Snow, the Assumption and St. Rocco.

St. Lucy’s Church in Newark.

Joe DiMaggio loved the restaurants of Seventh Avenue so much that he would take the New York Yankees to Newark to show them “real Italian food”. Frank Sinatra had bread from Giordano’s Bakery sent to him every week until his death, no matter where in the world he was. New York Yankees catcher Rick Cerone also grew up in the First Ward. One of the nation’s largest Italian newspapers, The Italian Tribune, was founded on Seventh Avenue.

Giordano’s Italian Bakery on 33 Seventh Avenue

Seventh Avenue produced stars such as Joe Pesci and Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. Congressman Peter Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon was a native of the First Ward as well. However, Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue were disrupted by urban renewal efforts during the 1950s and the Italian American residents were scattered. Most of its businesses never recovered. The construction of Interstate 280 also served to cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. After the devastating urban renewal, some of the First Ward’s Italians stayed in the neighborhood, while others migrated to other Newark neighborhoods like Broadway, Roseville and the Ironbound sections.

Frank Biondi’s butcher shop on the corner of Cutler Street and Sixth Avenue, circa 1917.

Typical Jersey Italian Recipes:

Italian Sausage Heroes with Peppers and Onions

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2 large bell peppers (1 red and 1 green), cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 sweet or hot Italian sausages
  • 4 hoagie or other Italian rolls

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Prick the sausages all over, add them to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning frequently, until browned all over, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the sausages to a cutting board and halve lengthwise. Return the halves to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until no trace of pink remains within, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onions and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until golden, 10 minutes. Stir in the paprika and red and green bell peppers. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are softened, about 12 minutes. Stir in the water and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, cover and keep warm.

Halve each roll (keep it hinged). Pull out some of the bread within. Toast the rolls.

Drizzle the cut sides of the rolls with the remaining olive oil and set 2 sausage halves on each roll. Top with the sautéed onions and peppers, close the sandwiches and serve immediately.

Mussels Marinara

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 (26.4 oz.) containers Pomi chopped plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley leaves
  • 4 pounds fresh mussels, debearded, scrubbed and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil leaves
  • Italian bread for dipping
  • Crushed red pepper, optional

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until cooked. Add the wine and reduce it by half, then add the plum tomatoes, oregano and parsley. Add the mussels to the pan and allow to cook for about 10 minutes until all the mussels are open. Transfer mussels to a platter. (Discard any mussels that do not open.)

Adjust the seasoning for the sauce with salt and pepper, as necessary. Coat the mussels with the sauce and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and crushed red pepper just before serving.

Stuffed Calamari

Serves 6–8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons red wine
  • 14 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 cleaned calamari
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup finely grated pecorino
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano

Directions:

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add dried oregano, garlic and onions; cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons wine, tomatoes and bay leaf, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in remaining wine and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.

2. Heat oven to 350°F. Heat remaining oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Chop tentacles and add to skillet;cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in breadcrumbs, pecorino, parsley and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff each calamari body half full with bread crumb mixture; place in a 9″ × 13″ baking dish. Pour sauce over calamari; bake until warmed through, about 30 minutes.

Cavatelli With Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-size onion cut into small dice
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces coarsely ground fennel sausage, casing removed.
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, tender tops and tender stems only, cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces,
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili pepper flakes
  • 1 pound fresh cavatelli
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

Place extra virgin olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes but do not brown. Remove onion and garlic from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan, add ground sausage meat and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes or until sausage has rendered its fat and is lightly brown.

Add broccoli rabe and saute until soft but still green and firm. Next, add in onion, garlic and chili pepper flakes and simmer sauce for 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, then add pasta. Cook fresh or frozen cavatelli according to directions.

Drain pasta and add to the sauce in the skillet. Mix well and add Parmesan.

Lemon Blueberry Tiramisu Trifles

Ingredients:

  • 2 fresh lemons, juiced and zested
  • 2 tablespoons Limoncello liqueur
  • 1 17.6 oz container plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup prepared lemon curd
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 30 ladyfingers
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions:

Combine lemon juice and Limoncello, then set aside. Reserve the lemon zest to add later.

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, blend together yogurt, lemon curd and sugar, beating until well blended. Cut each ladyfinger crosswise into 3 pieces.

Arrange 5 ladyfinger pieces into each of 9 wine glasses or small bowls, then drizzle each serving with about 1 teaspoon Limoncello mixture.

Spoon on 1 tablespoon of blueberries, then top with 2 tablespoons of yogurt mixture in each glass. Repeat layers, then sprinkle evenly with reserved lemon zest and a few fresh blueberries. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Number of Servings: 9


There was a time when strawberries were a rare treat – just the wild ones you occasionally came across as you hiked in the woods or the ones sold in the supermarket only during the month of June. Not any more!

Strawberries originally came from the Alpine regions where they have been growing wildly for thousands of years. They have a history that goes back over 2,200 years. The strawberry, a member of the rose family, is unique in that it is the only fruit with seeds on the outside rather than the inside.

There are many explanations about how strawberries got their name. Some believe that the name came from the practice of placing straw around the growing plants for protection and others believe the name originated over 1000 years ago because of the runners which spread outward from the plant. The name may have been derived from the Anglo-Saxon verb to strew (spread) and the fruit came to be known as streabergen, straberry, streberie, straibery, straubery and finally, “STRAWBERRY’ to the English.

Most likely due to the fact that their shape vaguely recalls that of a heart, strawberries have always been considered a symbol of love. According to an ancient legend, strawberries were created out of the tragic love the goddess Venus had for Adonis. There is another famous story about strawberries that occurred during the time of Louis XIV, King of France. At that time, the ladies of the court used strawberries as a symbol of their affection. If a woman wanted to let a man know that she was interested in him, all she had to do was eat strawberries in his presence.

Perhaps this is the reason the French court was the first to try to cultivate strawberries. Until the middle of the XVII century, in fact, strawberries grew exclusively in the wild. The botanists of the Sun King  variety were the first to cultivate them. They transplanted wild plants into the royal garden and then crossed the European varieties with South American varieties. The new strawberries were larger, less delicate and easier to grow.

Strawberries were discovered in Virginia by the first Europeans when their ships landed there in 1588. Early settlers in Massachusetts enjoyed eating strawberries grown by local Native Americans who cultivated strawberries as early as 1643. Strawberries have been grown in California since the early 1900’s. Today, over 25,000 acres of strawberries are planted each year in California and the state produces over 80% of the strawberries grown in the United States. On average, each acre produces about 21 tons of strawberries and the state produces one billion pounds of strawberries a year.

Strawberry Jar

Strawberry varieties are one of three types: the June-bearing, the everbearing or the day-neutral. The difference among the types is the time during the growing season that the plants produce fruit. The June-bearing varieties flourish in the spring and produce one crop. Everbearing plants yield fruit several times, usually at the beginning and the end of the growing season. The day-neutral varieties produce an ongoing crop throughout the summer months as long as the weather is not too hot.

Packed with vitamins, fiber and high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Just one serving — about eight strawberries — provides more vitamin C than an orange.

Purchasing and Storing Strawberries

The berries should be a shiny scarlet and blemish free. If the tips are paler, or green, the berries are probably not ripe and could be tasteless. The berries should also look firm. If their color is dull, or if they look dry or soft, they may well be old.

If you’re buying a plastic container of strawberries turn it over to check the berries underneath, as well, because they easily become moldy. As a final check, sniff the strawberries: a strong strawberry aroma should greet you. If it does not, the chances are that the strawberries won’t have much taste.

When you get them home store, them in the refrigerator; they’ll keep a couple of days. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Store fresh strawberries in a colander in the refrigerator. This allows the cold air to circulate around them. Do not cover them.

Remove caps (stems/leaves) from strawberries only after washing because the caps keep the water from breaking down the texture and flavor inside the strawberries.

Prepare strawberries for serving by rinsing under a gentle spray of cool water; pat dry with a paper towel.

Remove the green caps (stems) with a light twisting motion or with the point of a paring knife. It’s as easy as a twist of the wrist.

You can also purchase a strawberry de-stemmer/huller at your local kitchen store or online (see photo).

Strawberry Huller

When you have more strawberries than you can eat or when strawberries can be obtained at a reasonable cost, freeze them to eat later or for use in pies and other baked goods.

Fresh Strawberry Measurements:

1 tray or flat of strawberries = 12 baskets or pints.

1 small basket = 1 pint strawberries = 12 large strawberries = 24 medium strawberries = 36 small strawberries.

1 pint = 2 to 2.5 cups sliced (1/4-inch thick slices) strawberries.

1 pint = 1.25 to 1.5 cups pureed (mashed) strawberries.

Frozen Strawberries

20-ounce bag frozen whole strawberries = 4 cups whole strawberries = 2.5 cup sliced strawberries = 2.25 cups pureed (mashed) strawberries.

10-ounce package frozen sliced sweetened strawberries = 1.25 cups frozen strawberries in syrup.

Wild Italian Strawberries

Strawberries grew wild in Italy as long ago as 234 B.C. and in Ancient Rome, these red fruits were considered valuable. They believed that the berries alleviated symptoms of melancholy, fainting, all inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, halitosis, attacks of gout and diseases of the blood, liver and spleen.

In Italy one of the most famous places for strawberries is Lago di Nemi, a crater lake in the Alban Hills overlooking Rome; the crater walls capture the warmth of the sun and because the crater rim is unbroken the basin is shielded from cool winds. Italians celebrate the season with a festival in June and Nemi’s strawberries do not last long, since they are scooped up by the Romans.

In Italy, fresh strawberries are often served as dessert, not usually with cream but more often sprinkled with sugar, or splashed with lemon juice or sometimes dipped in wine. While we think of strawberries as a sweet course, they can be turned into a savory dish by including them in salads made with an extra virgin olive oil and  balsamic vinegar dressing.

The traditional Italian method for serving strawberries is with wine: fragole al vino. Hull the strawberries, quarter them lengthwise, sprinkle them with wine, dust them with a little sugar and put them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The wine of choice for this recipe is usually a red Chianti or an Asti or Prosecco sparkling wine.

Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 12 slices Italian bread
  • Olive oil for brushing on bread
  • 1 pound strawberries, washed and diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup goat cheese, room temperature
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat vinegar in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Simmer until reduced by about half, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Prepare an indoor or outdoor grill for high heat. Place bread slices on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil.

Combine strawberries and basil in a small bowl and set aside.

Grill bread on the preheated grill until browned, about 3 minutes per side.

Spread goat cheese on toasted bread. Add black pepper, salt,and reduced vinegar to the strawberry mixture. Spoon over the goat cheese topped bruschetta. Garnish with additional basil.

Strawberry Italian Ice

5 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup thawed unsweetened apple juice concentrate
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • Fresh mint

Directions:

In a blender, combine the apple juice concentrate, lemon juice and strawberries; cover and process until blended. Pour into an ungreased 8-inch square dish. Cover and freeze for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until partially set.

Spoon into a large bowl; beat on medium speed for 1-1/2 minutes.

Return to dish; freeze for 2-3 hours or until firm.

Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with mint if desired.

Strawberry Cannoli

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint (12 oz) strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved
  • 2 tablespoons)granulated sugar
  • 15 oz. skim-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered (confectioners’) sugar, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chocolate mini chips
  • 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 box (8) cannoli shells
  • Garnish: sliced strawberries

Directions:

At least 1 day before serving; Line a colander and a medium-size strainer with a sturdy paper towel; set each in a bowl.

Pulse strawberries and granulated sugar in food processor until coarsely chopped. Scrape into colander, top with a paper towel and refrigerate overnight to drain well (this is important).

Clean processor.

Put ricotta, cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in processor; pulse until smooth. Transfer to strainer, cover with a paper towel and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving: Fold drained berries, mini chocolate chips and almond extract into ricotta mixture. Spoon into a gallon-size ziptop bag. Cut 1⁄2 inch off a corner; pipe filling into cannoli shells and garnish with powdered sugar and extra sliced strawberries.. 

Italian Strawberry Shortcakes

Ingredients:

For the Shortcakes

  • 2 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting board or counter
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour, or whole-wheat pastry flour 
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, (Neufchâtel)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk

For the Berry Mixture:

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint

For the Ricotta Cream:

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

For the Shortcakes

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Whisk cake flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in butter using two knives or a pastry cutter until the pieces are about the size of peas. Cut in cream cheese until it’s the size of peas. Drizzle oil over the mixture; stir with a fork until just combined (the mixture will be crumbly). Make a well in the center and add egg and buttermilk. Gradually stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a fork until the mixture is evenly moist. Knead the mixture in the bowl two or three times until it holds together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust with flour and roll into an 8-by-10-inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the edges square using a butter knife. Cut the dough into 12 equal shortcakes. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake the shortcakes until puffed and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.

For the Ricotta Cream

Combine the ricotta cheese, sour cream, honey and lemon juice in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve shortcakes.

For the Berries

While the shortcakes bake, wash and hull (remove the stem) from the strawberries. Slice them lengthwise. Remove the mint leaves from their stem and thinly slice. Add the sugar, balsamic vinegar and mint to the strawberries. Let the mixture stand for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.

To serve: split the shortcakes horizontally. Spoon the berries and juice onto the bottoms, top with the ricotta mixture and replace the shortcake tops. Garnish with more strawberries.

Italian Strawberry Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut in half
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs and milk. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir by hand until just moistened. Do not overmix.

Spread the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Press strawberry halves deeply into the dough in a circular pattern of 2 or 3 rings.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and dust with powdered sugar.

Strawberry Fields

 



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