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 spoil and was light to carry, suggesting that matzo was baked intentionally for the long journey ahead.
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. Following the pre-meal chants, the charoset is passed around. “With unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it,” is recited while biting into the Passover matzo, horseradish and charoset. One of the most revered of Jewish dishes, it closes the ceremony and begins the feast. Charoset is a dense fruit paste that represents the mortar used by the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt to make bricks.
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 in Italy 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 southern 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.
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.
(adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden)
In Italy there are various regional versions of haroset. The haroset of Padua has prunes, raisins, dates, walnuts, apples and chestnuts. In Milan they make it with apples, pears, dates, almonds, bananas and orange juice. Other possible additions include: chopped lemon or candied orange peel, walnuts, pistachios, dried figs, orange or lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
- 3 apples, sweet or tart
- 2 pears
- 2 cups sweet wine
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2/3 cups ground almonds
- 1/2 lb. dates, pitted and chopped
- 3/4 cup yellow raisins or sultanas
- 4 oz. prunes, pitted and chopped
- 1/2 cup honey or to taste
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Peel and core the apple and pears and cut them in small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pan together and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until the fruits are very soft, adding a little water, if it becomes too thick.
Sweet-And-Sour Celery (Sephardic Passover Apio)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons mild honey
- 4 lbs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces, reserving about 1 cup of celery leaves (2 to 3 bunches)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Cut a round of parchment paper to fit just inside a wide heavy 6-to 8-quart pan, then set the paper round aside.
Simmer water, lemon juice, oil, honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the pan, stirring, until the honey has dissolved.
Stir in celery (but not leaves) and cover with the parchment round. Simmer until tender and liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 35 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop reserved leaves. Serve celery sprinkled with celery leaves and parsley.
Chicken with Lemon and Olives
- 2 chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin removed
- 4 thighs (about 1 pound), skin removed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 3/4 cup pitted whole green olives
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Add onion and garlic to the pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add browned chicken, broth, olives, cinnamon, ginger and coriander; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
Turn chicken over; cook, uncovered for 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon; place 1 chicken piece on each of 4 plates. Add lemon zest, juice, and parsley to the pan; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Spoon sauce over chicken.
Vegetable Farfel Kugel
Farfel is small pellet or flake shaped pasta used in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It is made from an egg noodle dough and is frequently toasted before being cooked. It can be served in soups or as a side dish. In the United States, it can also be found pre-packaged as egg barley. During the Jewish holiday of Passover, when dietary laws pertaining to grains are observed, “matzah farfel” takes the place of the egg noodle version. Matzah farfel is simply matzah broken into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
- 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
- 10 ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 4 cups boiling water
- 6 ounces matzah farfel
- 7 large eggs, whites only
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- Dash pepper
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- Dash paprika
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9 x 13 inch oven proof dish.
In a large, nonstick skillet, sauté the fresh vegetables in oil 3-5 minutes. Add drained spinach. Pour boiling water over farfel (in a strainer) to moisten. Add farfel, vegetables, salt, pepper and nuts. Cool.
Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the farfel mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake 45 minutes or longer until browned.
Passover Honey Nut Cake
(adapted from A TREASURY OF JEWISH HOLIDAY BAKING By Marcy Goldman)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup matzoh cake meal
- 1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 7-inch round layer cake pan. (If you do not have one that size, you can use a round foil pan of the same or similar size available in the supermarket baking aisle).
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, beat the granulated and brown sugars with the oil and eggs until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in the remaining batter ingredients. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is light brown and set. Cool for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the Soaking Syrup.
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool well.
Pour the cooled syrup over the cooled cake, poking holes in the cake with a fork, to permit the syrup to penetrate. Allow it to stand for 2 to 4 hours to absorb the syrup.
Refrigerating this cake while it is absorbing the liquid helps the cake to firm up, which makes it easier to cut.
Savor the peak of asparagus season by roasting fresh, green spears to enhance their flavor and provide for a more tender texture.
Step away from the strong flavors of winter, like garlic and onions, and explore some milder flavoring ingredients, such as shallots and green onions (spring onions).
Leafy herbs become widely available in spring and are great on everything.
Radishes are root vegetables with a distinctive flavor that range from mild to sharp, depending on the variety. To choose the best, pick radishes that are deep in color with solid roots.
All types of leafy greens and lettuces begin to bloom in the spring. With temperatures warming, it is time to replace stews and casseroles with salads at the dinner table.
Although rhubarb is often used as a fruit in sweet pies and jams, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. You can find rhubarb in a range of colors, from green to bright pink and everything in between (color doesn’t indicate ripeness) in the market until June.
Strawberries are at their peak in the spring. Be sure to purchase firm red berries with no soft or mushy spots. Store in the refrigerator, but keep them dry. Don’t wash until ready to eat and serve at room temperature.
Grilled Artichokes with Dipping Sauce
- 4 medium artichokes
- 1 lemon
- Olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce or chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each in half vertically and, using scissors, trim the pointy ends off the leaves. Carefully cut out the fuzzy choke in the center and discard.
Rub the artichokes all over with lemon. Fill a large pot with water and fit with a steaming rack. Place the artichokes on a rack and steam until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Preheat an outdoor or indoor grill to high heat.
For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, hot sauce and honey. Sir well. Set aside.
Brush the cut side of each artichoke with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill artichokes, cut side down, until evenly charred, 4 to 5 minutes.
Serve hot with the dipping sauce.
Vegetable and Fruit Spring Salad
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh tarragon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed
- 8 ounces fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed
- 4 ounces radishes, sliced in thin rounds (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup sliced or quartered strawberries
For the dressing: Combine vinegar, oil, chopped strawberries, sugar, tarragon, salt and pepper in a screw top jar. Cover; shake until combined. Set aside.
In a large pot cook green beans and peas in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. In a large bowl toss cooked beans and peas with dressing. Cover; chill for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Stir in radishes and sliced strawberries before serving.
Roasted Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, chanterelles, morels, stemmed shiitakes), sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
- 1 1/2 pounds medium thick asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 475°F.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic, sauté until mushrooms are brown and just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add lemon juice and parsley, toss to coat. Set aside.
Arrange asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast asparagus until just tender, about 10 minutes. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter and top with mushrooms.
Penne Primavera with Salmon
- 8 ounces salmon, cut into 2 portions
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 12 ounces whole wheat penne
- 1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
- 3/4 cup crème fraîche
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush both sides of the salmon with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on a small baking sheet and roast until salmon is just lightly pink in the center, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook until al dente, about 13 minutes, adding asparagus and peas in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot. Place over low heat and stir in tomatoes, crème fraîche, Parmesan and shallot. Remove and discard salmon skin; flake salmon into chunks with a fork and toss into pasta along with dill.
Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
Serve with whipped cream, if desired.
For the filling:
- 6 to 8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 3 cups sliced strawberries
For the topping:
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons salted butter, chilled
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
To make filling:
In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the rhubarb, sugar and orange zest until the rhubarb begins to soften and exude juices, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and flour and bring to a boil while stirring. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the sliced strawberries. Remove from heat and pour the fruit mixture into a deep 10-inch pie dish.
To make topping:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces. With a fork or pastry cutter, cut the chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and blend. Slowly add the half-and-half with a fork. Spoon the dough over the fruit mixture in the pie dish. Mix together the 2 tablespoons sugar and the orange zest, and sprinkle it over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly and serve with or without whipped cream. Serves 6.
Puglia is a little more rustic than other parts of Italy. Its major cities are a lot smaller and less well-known by tourists than Florence or Rome. For the Italians, Puglia is where they go for sunny beaches, good seafood fished from nearby waters, vegetables grown in local pastures and to sample the region’s local wines: negroamaro, primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino.
Puglia is a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. It is bordered by the Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west and Basilicata to the southwest. Puglia’s neighbors are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Montenegro. Its capital city is Bari.
The southernmost portion of Puglia forms a high heel on the “boot” of Italy and its population is about 4.1 million. Foggia is by far the least densely populated province, whereas Bari is the most densely populated province. Emigration from the region’s depressed areas to northern Italy and the rest of Europe was very intense in the years between 1956 and 1971. Later the trend declined as economic conditions improved after 1982.
As with the other regions of Italy, the national language (since 1861) is Italian. However, as a consequence of its long and varied history, other historical languages have been spoken in this region for centuries. In the northern and central sections, some dialects of the Neapolitan language are spoken. In the southern part of the region, the Tarantino and Salentino dialects of Sicily are spoken. In isolated pockets of the southern part of Salento, a dialect of modern Greek, called Griko, is spoken by just a few thousand people. A rare dialect of the Franco-Provençal language called Faetar is spoken in two isolated towns, Faeto and Celle Di San Vito. In a couple of villages, the Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken by a very small community since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century.
In the last 20 years the industrial base of the region’s economy has changed radically. Alongside large-scale plants, such as ILVA (steel-making) in Taranto and Eni (petrochemicals) in Brindisi and Manfredonia, a network of small and medium-sized firms has gradually expanded and they provide approximately 70% of the jobs in the region. The majority of such firms are financed by local capital. As a result, highly specialized areas have developed in food processing, vehicle production, footwear, textiles, clothing, wood and furniture, rubber and computer software. A major contribution to the competitiveness of the region’s economy stems from the existence of important research and development centers such as Tecnopolis-CSATA near Bari, the Cittadella della ricerca (Center for research and new materials) near Brindisi and the new software development centers, also near Bari.
The region has a good network of roads but the railway network is somewhat inadequate, particularly in the south. Puglia’s long coastline, more than 500 miles of coast on two seas, is dotted with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.
No other image says Puglia better than the trulli, a rural home that’s essentially a whitewashed teepee of small limestone slabs stacked without mortar, with a cone surmounted by ancient symbols. They are scattered among olive groves and prickly pear cacti in the Valle d’Itria, inland in a triangle between Bari, Taranto and Brindisi. Of unknown origin and unique to Puglia, the trulli date at least back to the Middle Ages.
Puglian cuisine is balanced by equal use the land and the sea. A typical local antipasti will often contain a number of seafood dishes, such as mussels, oysters, octopus, red mullet and swordfish. Popular vegetables are fava beans, artichokes, chicory and various greens including rucola (“rocket”). Eggplant, peppers, lampasciuoli (a bitter type of onion), cauliflower, olives and olive oil are all Puglian staples.
The region produces half of all Italian olive oils and olive oil is used almost exclusively in local cooking. The most famous pasta is orecchiette, but bucatini is also popular and both are usually served with tomato sauce or with olive oil, garlic and cauliflower. Regional cheeses include Canestrato Puglisi, Caciocavallo Silano (both PDO), Ricotta and Mozzarella. The meat of choice is either lamb or kid that may be roasted, baked or grilled on skewers. Pork is popular for local salami with rabbit and beef also being available. Breads and sweets include focaccia and pizza to fritters filled with sweetened ricotta, sweet ravioli, honey covered dates and Zeppole di San Giuseppe, served on the saint’s day in March.
Puglia is now producing wines of quality over quantity, yet they are reasonably priced. Castel del Monte (DOC) is well-known as a full-bodied red wine, Primitivo di Manduria is now more refined and. Salice Salentino (DOC) is used to make sweeter reds and dessert wines. White wines are undergoing modernization and international grape varieties are being introduced, however there are some traditional varietals. Locorotondo (DOC) is straw yellow and fruity. Martina Franca (DOC) is a dry white. Besides the dessert wines and Grappa, Puglia also is home to a number of herbal and citrus infused spirits making use of local walnuts, flowers, rhubarb, myrtle, anise, lemons and oranges.
Like most bean soups in the Puglia region, this one may be served over slices of stale country-style bread, lightly toasted and brushed with a little garlic.
- 8 oz (1 cup) dried chickpeas
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
- 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes
- 1 stalk celery, including the top green leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small dried hot red chili pepper
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Finely minced flat-leaf parsley
Put the chick-peas in a bowl, cover with cool water and set aside to soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Then drain and place in a soup pot with fresh cold water to cover to a depth of one inch.
Put the pot on medium-low heat and when the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the chickpeas are partially cooked-about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the beans. Add simmering water from time to time to keep the beans covered, if needed.
Add the garlic, onion halves, tomatoes and celery to the pot, along with the bay leaf, chili pepper, salt and pepper.
Continue cooking, adding boiling water as necessary, until the chickpeas are tender. Remove the bay leaf and chili pepper.
Serve garnished with olive oil and parsley.
Orecchiette with Turnip Tops
- 1.8 lbs (800 g) young and tender leaves from turnips
- 6 fillets of anchovy in oil
- 1 fresh chili pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 14 oz (400 g) of orecchiette pasta
Once you’ve collected the most tender leaves, wash them several times in cold water and boil them in plenty salted water in a large pot for at least 7-8 minutes.
Drain the turnip tops into a large bowl saving all the cooking water, since you’ll need it to boil the pasta.
Return the salted cooking water to the pot, bring to a boil and add the orecchiette.
In a saucepan heat the oil, the garlic, the anchovies and the chopped chili pepper. Once the garlic is golden brown, add the turnip tops and sauté them for a few minutes to coat in the oil.
When the orecchiette are cooked to the al dente stage, drain, return them to the pasta pot and add the turnip tops and sauce. Sauté everything together for a few moments, season with salt, if needed, and serve.
Pizza di Patate Pugliese (Tomato-and-Cheese-Topped Potato Pizza)
A classic Puglian pizza recipe adapted from RUSTICO COOKING.
Serves 2 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer
- 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender about 30 minutes over medium heat.
Drain, pass through a ricer and cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F.
Mix the potatoes, flour and ¼ teaspoon salt together on a floured board until a smooth dough forms.
Add a little water, if needed, to help the dough come together or add a little flour, if the dough is sticky,. The dough should be soft but not sticky.
Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle.
Generously grease a 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough.
Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with oregano, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.
Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes or until golden around the edges.
Remove the pan from the oven, top with the Mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses and return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Serve hot.
Stuffed Eggplant Puglian Style
- 4 Italian eggplants (about 1 pound), preferably short and plumb
- Coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon (20) small capers, rinsed and drained
- 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
- 1/4 packed cup (1 ounce) finely grated Pecorino cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled just before using
- 2 teaspoons dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Halve the eggplants lengthwise and make two or three deep slits in the eggplant flesh but do not pierce the skin on the bottom. Sprinkle with salt and place cut side down in a colander. Put a heavy plate on top and let stand at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
In a mixing bowl, combine the capers, anchovies, cheese and pepper and crush to make a paste. You should have about 3 tablespoons. Divide mixture into 8 equal parts and fill the slits in the eggplant halves with garlic slivers and a portion of the paste. Reshape the eggplant.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil to hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant, cut side down, and reduce the heat to moderate. Cover and cook until the eggplant flesh turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn each eggplant and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Place eggplant, flesh side up, on a serving plate; sprinkle with the crumbled oregano, white wine and vinegar and let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are versatile, easy to prepare and naturally lower in fat and calories than many other meat options. By itself, though, chicken can be quite boring. Baked, grilled or roasted chicken is probably a regular part of your dinner rotation. So you’ll need some great side dishes for that chicken to bring some excitement to your plate.
Chicken Breasts with Herbs
Using a variety of herbs brings great flavor to chicken breasts.
- 2/3 cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- 3 tablespoons finely shredded lemon peel
- 3 large cloves finely chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
In small bowl stir together parsley, oregano, lemon peel and garlic. Set aside. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
In a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat cook chicken in butter for 6 minutes or until browned, turning once. Transfer to plate.
Remove skillet from the heat; stir in half the herb mixture. Return to the heat. Add broth; bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up browned bits.
Return chicken to the skillet; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
Pour the pan sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the remaining herb mixture.
Make a new dish by changing the sauce:
In place of the chicken broth above add 1/2 cup white wine and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Continue with the recipe above.
Mushrooms and Sage
Brown 8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms in the pan after the chicken is removed. Add the chicken broth and 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage instead of the oregano. Continue with the recipe above.
Turn the heat up after removing the chicken and add 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12 oz.). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to burst, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Crush the tomatoes slightly to release their juices and continue with the recipe above.
Baked Onions with Fennel Crumbs
- 3 medium red or sweet onions, peeled and cut in half, root ends left intact but trimmed so they lay flat
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 6 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 cup panko crumbs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced sage
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush the onion halves with olive oil, season with salt and arrange cut side down in an ovenproof medium skillet. Add the chicken stock and scatter the bay leaves around the onions. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until the onions are very tender.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool, then coarsely crush the seeds. Transfer to a small bowl, add the panko crumbs, sage and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss and season with salt.
Carefully turn the onions cut side up in the skillet. Spoon the bread crumb mixture on top and bake for about 15 minutes longer, until the crumbs are lightly browned and crisp. Discard the bay leaves and serve the onions hot or warm.
Fresh Corn and Squash Saute
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 small white onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 small zucchini, diced
- 3 ears corn, husks and silk removed
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Shredded fresh basil leaves, for garnish
- Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and onion and stir onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Cut kernels from the ears of corn. Add zucchini and corn; cook and stir until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add shredded basil and grated cheese to taste.
Green Bean and Vegetable Medley
- 1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 2 carrots, cut into thick strips
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Place green beans and carrots in 1 inch of boiling water. Cover and cook until tender but still firm. Drain.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic, onions and mushrooms until almost tender.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in green beans, carrots, salt, herbs and white pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.
Au Gratin Potatoes
- 4 large russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups good quality shredded white or yellow cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a 2 quart casserole dish.
Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the onion and add the remaining potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk very slowly. Cook until the mixture has thickened.
Stir in cheese all at once and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese sauce over the potatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil with the side facing the potatoes sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes more.
Penne with Broccoli and Ricotta
- 8 oz penne or other short pasta
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup ricotta cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook 2 minutes less than the package instructions for al dente; add broccoli. Cook 2 minutes or until penne is al dente and broccoli is bright green.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain pasta and broccoli; set aside.
In the same pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until onion is tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water to help loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add penne and broccoli and cook until warmed through; season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta mixture to a serving dish and mix in the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.
As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.
Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is referred to as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy. In the decades following 1868, Bloomfield was settled by German Catholic immigrants. Beginning around 1900, they were joined by Italians from five towns in the Abruzzi region. Descendants from both groups, with the Italians outnumbering the Germans, still give the neighborhood its character today.
The residents are diverse, as the neighborhood has a combination of working class Italian-Americans, various other European populations, African-Americans and a substantial population of college students. It is a decidedly urban neighborhood, with narrow streets and alleys packed with row houses. Liberty Avenue is the neighborhood’s main business thoroughfare.
Ciao Pittsburgh is western Pennsylvania’s longest-running online magazine covering all things Italian. They write about Italian cuisine, culture and traditions that have been passed from generation to generation. The magazine advocates for Italian-Americans and provides readers a platform to connect and unite with other Italian-Americans. Each month, they highlight the people, places, traditions and events among the Italian community with in-depth features and articles. Visit the magazine site. Here is a local recipe from a recent edition.
Nicky D Cooks: Pesci Pizzaiola
Copyright 2011 Check out Nancy’s blog.
“White Fish in herbed tomato sauce – a simple peasant dish that goes perfectly over rice pilaf, couscous or lightly dressed orzo in olive oil.”
- 1 ½ lbs cod fillets or white fish fillets
- 1 -2 cans small tomato sauce
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 cup (about) olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the pan, then put fish on top of the onions. Pour a thin coat of the tomato sauce over the fish. Sprinkle oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and cheese over the fish. Cover and bake fish in the oven about ½ hr (approximately) or until the fish is done. The fish will become white and flaky – this is when it is done.
Marion County West Virginia
Italian heritage is especially strong in Mountaineer Country, where at least 11% of the population of the Mountaineer Country has Italian ancestry. Many Italians originally immigrated to West Virginia in the early twentieth century to work in the coal mines throughout the state. Specialty glass factories in this region were largely an Italian immigrant industry with factories in Fairmont, Mannington and Clarksburg. Italian stonemasons were also common in the early communities.
Today Fairmont, Clarksburg and Morgantown form a tri-city area with a strong Italian American network, where community members maintain strong family ties which often include distant relatives, godparents and family friends. Families keep in contact by gathering at significant life events, such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals.
Local organizations, like the Sons of Italy in Morgantown, provide an important meeting place for the Italian American community. These organizations promote various cultural programs. The Sons of Italy, for example, organizes an Italian language course at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Morgantown. Morgantown is also home to the recently formed Committee for the Preservation of Italian History and Culture. This group raises money for local cultural events and sponsors historical programs of special interest to the Italian community.
One important event of the year in the region is the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg. Held in September each year, this event features traditional and contemporary Italian music and dance, bocce tournaments, homemade wine contests and plenty of Italian food. The event is a focal point statewide for the Italian American community.
Writer, filmmaker, Robert Tinnell, grew up in the small town of Rivesville, (Marion County) West Virginia, in an extended, Italian-American family. His comic strips are based on his experiences. Robert Tinnell’s Feast of the Seven Fishes has taken on a life of its own. It began as his family’s story of Christmas Eve and became a ‘graphic novel’ or strip, telling an engaging story. Check out Robert’s blog.
Here’s a recipe for one of Robert’s favorite Feast of the Seven Fishes dishes as described on his blog.
You Will Need: 2-4 pounds of calamari (squid), bread crumbs, salt, pepper, fresh grated Parmesan and/or romano cheese, eggs, garlic, basil, water, milk and additional chopped up portions of various seafood. He recommends serving them in Tomato Sauce.
How You Do It:
Remove the tentacles from the calamari, leaving only the body cavity.
Prepare a homemade tomato sauce and allow it to simmer while preparing the stuffing.
The Stuffing – In a large bowl, combine two 15 oz. cans of bread crumbs (or four cups fresh bread crumbs), one head of minced garlic, cup of milk and an egg. Add cheese to preference and chopped seafood. Mix by hand until you get a thick moist mixture; add more milk if necessary.
Now, take the stuffing and fill each calamari tube (tight but not too tight) and place in an olive oiled casserole dish. Lay the stuffed calamari in rows.
Drizzle the stuffed calamari with olive oil and cheese, then pour your sauce over top the entire dish.
Cover with foil and place in an oven that’s been pre-heated to 450 degrees F for about an hour.
Brier Hill is a neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio, that was once viewed as the city’s “Little Italy” district. The neighborhood, which was the site of the city’s first Italian settlement, stretches along the western edge of Youngstown’s lower north side and encircles St. Anthony’s Church, an Italian-American Roman Catholic parish. Each year, at the end of August, the Brier Hill Fest attracts thousands of visitors from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
The neighborhood was the birthplace of “Brier Hill pizza”, a home-style recipe with origins in the Basilicata region of Italy. Brier Hill pizza is prepared with a generous amount of thick “Sunday sauce”, bell peppers and romano cheese, as opposed to the more typical mozzarella topping. It is one of several dishes the Youngstown area prides itself upon, in much the same way New Yorkers value their distinctive thin-crusted New York-style pizza.
According to Tony Trolio, the organizer of the Brier Hill Memorial Tribute Plaque project, most of the Italians that lived in Brier Hill all came from the same area in Italy; Colobraro, Provincia, Matera and Basilicata. “My parents, Antonio and Nicolette Trolio, came to America in 1922,” said Trolio, who added that they lived on Pershing Street, near St. Anthony’s. Sharing that his father, who was a plumber, continued all of the traditional Italian customs, including having a huge garden and making homemade wine and sausage. Trolio added, “My mother, like all the mothers, made pizza.” He added however, that his mother made and sold about 300 pizzas every week. “We bought boxes for her and called it Mama Mia’s Pizza.”
“I wrote two books about Brier Hill and, in fact, I claimed to be the first one to come up with the name Brier Hill Pizza,” said Trolio, adding that he also led the move to have four road signs installed claiming Brier Hill as the first Italian settlement in Youngstown. “This exciting event brings our tribute to our parents and neighborhood full cycle with two books written, four historic road signs installed honoring Youngstown’s first Italian immigrants and, finally, the memorial plaque,” said Trolio. The plaque is installed next to the parish’s cornerstone on the outside of the church where Trolio said he received his first communion, was confirmed, married and from where many of his family members funeral masses were held. (http://www.towncrieronline.com/)
St. Anthony’s Church still sells its Brier Hill pizza by the pie on most Friday mornings. It is a simple recipe consisting of red sauce, red/green peppers and romano cheese. It was a pizza that many early southern Italian immigrants could make from ingredients grown in their own backyards. Many years later, it has become a source of pride for a city that takes food very seriously. There are lots of great places in Youngstown that sell their own version of this style of pizza. However, for the real deal, you need to get a pie at St. Anthony’s church.
Modarelli Baking Company posted a recipe for the Brier Hill sauce on their Facebook page and writes:
“For those of you who aren’t familiar with Brier Hill Pizza… It’s a ‘style’ of pizza that originated in a Youngstown, Ohio neighborhood called Brier Hill just uphill from Youngstown Sheet and Tube. It was a neighborhood of Italian immigrants including my grandparents. From this neighborhood emerged a unique style of pizza that is Now called Brierhill. It was made from their gardens with tomatoes, peppers and garlic and had only pecorino romano cheese on top.”
This will make 2 – 12” or 4 – 6” pizzas
- 2 large cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 large can tomato puree
- Dried Basil, .about 1-2 teaspoons
- Dried Oregano, about 1/4 teaspoon
- Dried Parsley, about 1/2 teaspoon
- 4 Bell peppers (2 red & 2 green) chopped 1/2”- 1” chunks
- 2- 4 large cloves garlic
- Olive Oil
- Romano cheese
- …and MY secret ingredient 2-3 in. chunk pepperoni
- Favorite pizza dough crust/shell, see recipe below
Slowly brown garlic in olive oil in a saucepan…when it starts getting soft and slightly yellow-i crush it with the back of a spoon and let it get a darker yellow.
Add peppers and let it cool slightly before putting sauce in or it will ”sizzles” at you.
Add tomatoes, herbs and pepperoni chunk and bring to boil then simmer on low heat for at least 45 min. You can pull out garlic when done.
“Sometimes I add 1 hot pepper sliced in half or put in hot pepper seeds while cooking. Sometimes I will add some onion powder and garlic powder (1 teaspoon each and some seasoned salt ¼ teaspoon).”
Spread sauce/peppers on pizza dough, sprinkle on a generous amount of grated pecorino romano cheese and bake.
- 1-1/2 cup warm water (100* to 105* F)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1-1/4 oz Active Dry Yeast Packet
- 1-1/2 teaspoons Salt
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 4 Cups of bread flour
(BY HAND) Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl, Add the sugar and packet of yeast. Stir the mixture slowly until yeast and sugar are dissolved. Let sit to allow the mixture to “mature” about 10 minutes or so, The mixture will begin to react: clouding and forming a foamy froth on the surface of the mixture.
Add the salt and olive oil and stir again to combine and dissolve the ingredients. Add one cup of flour and whisk in until dissolved. Add the second cup of flour and whisk it in. Add the third cup of flour and combine. The dough mixture should be fairly thick. Add the last cup of floor and with your hands begin to combine and knead the dough.
Remove the dough ball to the tabletop to knead it. You may need to add a dusting of flour from time to time to reduce the stickiness of the dough. Be patient, folding the dough ball in half, then quarters over and over again for about 8 minutes. You’ll know you’ve done well when the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Coat the dough ball with a thin layer of olive oil and place at the bottom of a large mixing bowl which has been coated on the inside with some olive oil and cover with a stretched piece of kitchen film or kitchen towel.
MIXER OR FOOD PROCESSOR: put all dry ingredients in as listed above and run the machine for about a minute on low-speed to mix the ingredients dry. Add the water slowly and mix/knead until a ball is formed (not usually more than a couple of minutes of machine running time).
Set in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise undisturbed for an hour or so until the dough ball grows at least twice its original size. Punch down lightly and let sit for another hour of rising before spreading in a pizza pan.
The Hill is a neighborhood within St. Louis, Missouri, located south of Forest Park. Its name is due to its proximity to the highest point of the city, formerly named St. Louis Hill. The first Italians to move to St. Louis were Lombard villagers from the region around Milan. Fleeing poverty and overpopulation, they arrived in the 1880s to work in St. Louis’s clay mines and brick factories. At the turn of the century, Sicilians came to work in the same factories and were soon sharing the Hill with their northern cousins.
The first restaurants on the Hill began as taverns catering to workers and evolved over the years into Italian American restaurants. On their menus you’ll find the standards: spaghetti carbonara, cannelloni, scampi, plenty of veal dishes and, usually, ”toasted” ravioli—a definitive St. Louis Italian specialty, said to have been born by accident about fifty years ago at a restaurant on the Hill when a piece of the stuffed pasta fell into a pot of hot fat.
Tony Catarinicchia, who left Palermo more than 25 years ago, says, ”Good Italian food doesn’t need too many ingredients and should never be over sauced,”. Catarinicchia draws crowds of locals to his restaurant with his long list of dishes including fried artichokes, pennette all’arrabbiata and seafood ravioli. His eggplant parmesan is made in the summertime with ingredients picked from the restaurant’s garden.
The Hill is one of St. Louis’s least changed and most stable neighborhoods. Currently, about three-quarters of the residents are Italian-Americans. The neighborhood is home to a large number of locally renowned Italian-American restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, salons and two bocce gardens.
Tony’s Eggplant Parmesan
This southern Italian classic might be named after the cheese that tops it—but some Sicilians think the title comes from palmigiana , meaning ”shutter”, describing the way the eggplant slices are often overlapped.
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 28-oz. can crushed Italian tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups dried plain bread crumbs, sifted
- 1 large eggplant
- 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
- 3/4 cup grated provolone cheese
Preheat oven to 375°f. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring, until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow dish. Beat eggs together in another shallow dish. Mix bread crumbs with a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a third shallow dish. Set dishes aside.
Peel and trim eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2” pieces. Dredge each slice first in the flour, then in the egg, then in the seasoned bread crumbs.
Heat remaining ⅛ cup oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Add breaded eggplant slices to the hot oil (working in batches, if needed) and cook until golden on both sides and dark brown on the edges, 2-3 minutes per side.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large shallow ovenproof dish. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on top of tomato sauce. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Scatter basil on top of sauce and sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano, then provolone. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.
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Molise is a region of Southern Italy. Until 1963, it formed part of the region of Abruzzi. The split, which did not become effective until 1970, makes Molise the newest region in Italy. The region covers 4,438 square kilometres/1,714 sq mi making it the second smallest region in Italy with a population of about 300,000. The region is split into two provinces, named after their respective capitals, Isernia and Campobasso. Campobasso also serves as the regional capital.
Molise is also one of Italy’s less developed and poorest areas. In Molise, one can see two different centuries existing side by side when, on one side of the street grandmothers all in black are purchasing produce in the market and on the other side of the street there are young girls dressed in Benetton carrying mobile phones. Outside the cities are underdeveloped villages that seem to have been forgotten in time, while in the big cities progress is pushing ahead. However, one does not travel to Molise to explore the big cities but to enjoy the region’s natural beauty, the unspoiled beaches and the archaeological excavations.
More than 40% of Molise is covered by mountains. In the Matese area, located on the border of Campania, you will find magnificent mountain ranges. The region is also home to eagles, bears and wolves in the deep forests and it is one of the best locations to harvest mushrooms.
Though there is a large Fiat plant in Termoli, the industrial sector is dominated by the construction industry. With small and medium-sized farms spread widely throughout the region, food processing is another important industry. Pasta, meat, milk products, oil and wine are the traditional regional products. In the service sector the most important industries are distribution, hotels, catering, transport, communications, banking and insurance.
After the earthquake of 2002, some of the communities in Molise adopted a policy which contributed state money to individuals willing to make their homes more resistant to seismic activity. Larino, near Termoli, was a particular beneficiary of this policy and the town, already one of the most beautiful in the province, was transformed. The policy included returning the houses to their historical colors and, based on careful research, the structures were painted in a range of soft pastel tones. As a result, Larino has become an important center for tourism and scores of expatriates from all over the world are returning to live in the revived center. Larino is also famous for the Festa di San Pardo (Larino’s patron saint) and you will witness more than one hundred cattle drawn carts completely covered in flowers made by local families during the three days of festivities.
International tourism is becoming more prevalent as a result of the international flights from other European countries, Great Britain and North America which enter Pescara, not far to the north in Abruzzo. The tourists are attracted by large expanses of natural beaches, a relative lack of congestion and a gentle pace of life.
The cuisine of Molise is similar to the cuisine of Abruzzo, though there are a few differences in the dishes and ingredients. The flavors of Molise are dominated by the many herbs that grow there. Some of Molise’s typical foods include spicy salami, locally produced cheeses, lamb or goat, pasta dishes with hearty sauces and regional vegetables. In addition to bruschetta, a typical antipasto will consist of several meat dishes, such as sausage, ham and smoked prosciutto.
Main dishes of the region include:
- Calcioni di ricotta, a specialty of Campobasso, made of fried pasta stuffed with ricotta, provolone, prosciutto and parsley and usually served with fried artichokes, cauliflower, brains, sweetbreads, potato croquette and scamorza cheese
- Cavatiegl e Patane, gnocchi served in a meat sauce of rabbit and pork
- Pasta e fagioli, pasta-and-white-bean soup cooked with pig’s feet and pork rinds
- Polenta d’iragn, a polenta-like dish made of wheat and potatoes, sauced with tomatoes and pecorino
- Risotto alla marinara, a risotto with seafood
- Spaghetti with diavolillo, a chili pepper sauce
- Zuppa di cardi, a soup of cardoons, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil
- Zuppa di ortiche, a soup of nettle stems, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil
Typical vegetable dishes may include:
- Carciofi ripieni, artichokes stuffed with anchovies and capers
- Peeled sweet peppers stuffed with bread crumbs, anchovies, parsley, basil and peperoncino, sautéed in a frying pan and cooked with chopped tomatoes
- Cipollacci con pecorino, fried onions and pecorino cheese
- Frittata con basilico e cipolle, omelette with basil and onions
Fish dishes include red mullet soup and spaghetti with cuttlefish. Trout from the Biferno river is notable for its flavor and is cooked with a simple sauce of aromatic herbs and olive oil. Zuppa di pesce, a fish stew,is a specialty of Termoli.
The cheeses produced in Molise are not very different from those produced in Abruzzo. The more common ones are Burrino and Manteca – soft, buttery cow’s-milk cheeses, Pecorino – sheep’s-milk cheese, served young and soft or aged and hard, Scamorza – a bland cow’s-milk cheese, often served grilled and Caciocavallo – a sheep’s-milk cheese.
Sweets and desserts have an ancient tradition here and are linked to the history of the territory and to religious and family festivities. Most common are:
- Calciumi (also called Caucioni or cauciuni), sweet ravioli filled with chestnuts, almonds, chocolate, vanilla, cooked wine musts and cinnamon and then fried
- Ciambelline, ring-shaped cakes made with olive oil and red wine
- Ferratelle all’anice, anise cakes made in metal molds and stamped with special patterns
- Ricotta pizza, a cake pan filled with a blend of ricotta cheese, sugar, flour, butter, maraschino liqueur and chocolate chips
Traditional Molise Recipes
Polpi in Purgatorio
Spicy Octopus, Molise Style
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 10 sprigs Italian parsley, minced
- 2 teaspoons peperoncini, or more to taste
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds young octopus
Clean the octopus in salted water and rinse well.
Heat half the oil in a medium skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, parsley and peperoncini and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the octopus to the onion mixture with the remaining oil. Season lightly with salt.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook over very low heat for 2 hours, stirring the octopus from time to time with a wooden spoon. Serve as an appetizer.
Baked Fettuccine with Tomato and Mozzarella
Fettucine con salsa d’aromi
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 8 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1-15 oz can Italian tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 peperoncino or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, more or less to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or other pecorino)
- 1/4 lb scamorza (you can substitute mozzarella)
- 1 lb fettuccine
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic until golden.
Add basil, parsley, mint and peperoncino. Sauté a minute or two more.
Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat (a fast bubble) stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile bring pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Do not overcook.
Preheat oven (while pasta cooks) to 425 degrees F.
Drain the pasta very well and mix with the sauce in the pan.
Transfer all to a greased ovenproof dish.
Sprinkle on the cheese and lay the slices of scamorza or mozzarella on top.
Bake for a few minutes until the cheese melts and bubbles. Serve hot.
Molise Style Stuffed Peppers
- 6 medium green bell peppers
- 5 cups day old bread, cut into small cubes
- 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small can anchovies, chopped
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the filling
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash the peppers. Cut a hole around the stem. Remove the stem. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and ribs.
In a bowl, combine the bread, parsley, garlic and anchovies. Mix together. Sprinkle with olive oil and toss to coat; do not saturate the bread with oil. Fill the peppers evenly with the stuffing.
Put 1/2 cup of olive oil in a baking pan. Lay the peppers on their sides in the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, turning occasionally to cook evenly.
Sprinkle each pepper fresh Parmigiano Reggiano at the end of the cooking time and allow it to melt over the pepper.
Calzoni d’Isernia are named after the town of Isernia in Molise
Makes 12 Calzones
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/4-1/2 cup water
- 4 ounces pancetta
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup mozzarella, grated or diced into small cubes
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of pepper
Oil for frying
Marinara sauce for serving
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the whole eggs and mix into the flour. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water slowly until all the flour is incorporated. Don’t add too much water or the dough will become sticky. Once the dough is formed, knead for about 5 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the dough into squares that are 4 inches by 4 inches. You should be able to get about 12 squares.
For the filling:
Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until well browned. Cool.
Combine the ricotta, egg yolks, mozzarella, pancetta, parsley, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl.
Place some of the filling in the center of each square of dough. Fold the dough over to form a triangle. Use the tines of a fork to pinch together the seams of the dough. Be careful not to over-stuff the dough or the filling will come out during frying.
Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with about 3 inches of oil. Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Once the oil is hot, drop the calzones in (1 at a time if using a smaller pot, or just a few at a time using a larger pot).
Remove the calzones with a slotted spoon or spider when they have gotten a golden brown color on both sides. Let them drain on a paper towel.
Serve warm with marinara sauce, if desired.
Calciuni del Molise
Adapted from Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni, published 1969, Dutton (New York) (Note: this was the first cookbook I owned.)
Makes 15 fritters
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine
- 1/4 pound fresh chestnuts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 1/4 teaspoons semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for garnish
Cinnamon for garnish
Put the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, water, wine and olive oil. Mix the components slowly until a dough has formed. Once the dough is formed, put it on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover the dough and set aside. (You can also do this in an electric mixer.)
Using a paring knife make an X on one side of each chestnut. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the chestnuts and let boil for about 10 minutes. Drain the chestnuts and remove the shell and the skin from the chestnuts.
In a food processor, chop the toasted almonds until finely ground. Add the chestnuts and continue to grind until no large pieces remain.
Put the ground chestnuts and almonds in a bowl. Grind the chocolate in the food processor until no large pieces remain. Add to the chestnuts and almonds.
Add the honey, Amaretto, cinnamon and vanilla to the nut/chocolate mixture. Stir well.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-4 inch circle cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out circles from the dough. You should be able to get 15 rounds.
Place about 1 tablespoon in the center of each circle. Do not overfill the pastries. Fold one end over and pinch tightly around the edges to close. Seal edges completely so the filling does not come out while frying.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the fritters, a few at a time, until golden brown on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and place on a paper towels to drain.
Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.