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One of Italy’s largest regions, Lombardy lies in the north of the country, sharing a border with Switzerland. Lombardy’s northern borders are formed by the Lepontine, Rhaetian and Orobic Alps. It also includes the major Italian lakes: Varese, lseo, Como and the northern part of Lake Garda. The regional capital is Milano. Other important cities are: Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Lecco, Lodi, Varese, Sondrio, Pavia, Cremona and Mantova.

Take a tour of Lombardy through the video below.

The mountain peaks welcome ski and snowboard enthusiasts to internationally-famous ski destinations, like the Camonica Valley and Valtellina. In summertime, the area offers mountain climbing, as well as rafting, trekking and mountain biking, while the Stelvio Glacier offers skiers the challenge and adventure of its slopes, even in the warmest months. Visitors can tour the vineyard-covered terraces and hills, stopping off at wineries and local producers to taste the well-known local specialties.

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While the terrain of northern Lombardy can be harsh and sometimes unforgiving, water from snow on the mountains refreshes many of the streams and rivers branching out into other parts of the region, as well as other parts of Italy. Freshwater fish like trout, perch and whitefish are abundant. The mountains tend to shelter the southern parts of the region, which allows for milder and more ideal growing conditions further down into the Po River Basin.

Rice grows well here, so it’s no surprise that risotto dishes find their way onto almost every table. The cattle industry is healthy, providing shanks for the well-known dish, ossobuco. Agri d’ Valtorta, Bagoss, Bitto, Branzi, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Provolone Valpadana are just a few of the many excellent cheeses crafted in Lombardy. Peppers, greens, lettuce, pumpkins, potatoes, onions and tomatoes are all abundant harvests. Lombardy is also the home of the Christmas favorite, panettone (a rich bread made with candied fruits, citrus and raisins). Stews, soups, heavily sauced polenta, hearty filled ravioli and slow-braised meat dishes are all-around favorites.

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Recipes From Lombardy

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Milanese Risotto

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 5½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2½ cups carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt

Directions

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat until melted. Add sage and cook until fragrant. Remove and discard sage. Remove sage butter from heat and set aside.

Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until the rice becomes translucent. This process is known as tostatura or toasting.

Add wine, stirring, until it is mostly absorbed, then add 1 cup of broth and the saffron. Simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is almost absorbed. Continue adding broth in ½ cupfuls, stirring often, and allowing each addition to mostly evaporate before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still slightly firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy (you will have broth left over).

Stir in the remaining 3½ tablespoons butter, reserved sage butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt to taste.

Add an additional cup of broth, stir to combine, and serve “all’onda” (a “wavy” or wet-style risotto) immediately.

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Skillet Perch with Lemon and Capers

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups each: flour, fine cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 pounds lake perch fillets, skinned
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1 lemon sliced for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, cornmeal, paprika, salt and pepper in medium bowl.

Combine the eggs and milk in another medium bowl. Drench fillets in egg-milk mixture; shake off excess. Coat fillets evenly with seasoned flour; shake to remove excess flour.

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over high heat. Add enough oil to cover skillet bottom. Place perch, one by one, in the pan cooking until golden, about 3 minutes. Turn fillets and cook until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove to paper towel-lined cookie sheet to drain. Keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining fillets.

For sauce, discard oil from the skillet. Add lemon juice and capers to the skillet; cook about 1 minute or just until bubbles appear. Add chives, salt and pepper to taste. Place fillets on a serving plate. Top with the lemon sauce and lemon slices.

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Asparagi al Forno (Classic Roasted Asparagus)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 2 bunches asparagus (40 asparagus), woody ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Line an 11-inch x 17-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease lightly with olive oil.

Arrange the asparagus on the baking sheet in a single layer, with the tips facing in the same direction (this will make serving easier later).

Pour the water into the baking sheet.

Drizzle the asparagus with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano.

Roast the asparagus for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden on top and still slightly crisp. Serve hot. Serves 4 to 6

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The Traditional Recipe for Panettone

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast, divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 12 tablespoons softened butter, divided
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped fine

Icing (Optional)

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions

Make the sponge:

Place 1 1/2 cups flour, 2/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons apricot jam and 1 teaspoon yeast in a small bowl and whisk together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rest for 3 hours.

Make the dough:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the sponge, 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon yeast. Use the hook attachment to knead the dough until the mixture is smooth and stretchy, about 3-5 minutes.

Add 3 egg yolks, one at a time and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, shiny, and stretchy.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Return the dough to the mixer and add salt, vanilla, lemon and orange flavoring, honey and 1 teaspoon yeast. Knead for 1 minute.

Add 3 egg yolks and knead until incorporated. Add the 12 tablespoons of softened butter, one tablespoon at a time. Knead until dough is soft, shiny and very stretchy, about 5 minutes. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Combine the chopped raisins, cherries and pecans with 2 tablespoons of flour. Add them to the dough and knead briefly, until just mixed in.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Place dough inside of a 6 inch diameter panettone mold, or use a clean, buttered coffee can lined with parchment paper (you can also use a baking dish). Make a small cross in the top of the dough with scissors.

Let dough rise in a warm place until triple in size, which may take several hours since the dough is cold from the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Place the panettone in the oven and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Bake the panettone for about 1 hour, until it has risen high and springs back a little when pressed on top (like a muffin).

Let the panettone cool in the pan on a rack.

Make the icing (optional): Melt 2 tablespoons butter and whisk into 1 cup powdered sugar. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of salt and 1-2 tablespoons of milk until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle icing decoratively over the top of the panettone.

Store panettone wrapped in plastic for up to 1 week.

Note: Traditional Italian panettones are made with a special flavoring called “fiori de sicila”, which you can purchase at gourmet stores and online. Use in place of the lemon and orange extract.

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