People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, however, Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues outside of the Middle East in Ostia Antica (near Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew 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 Italy.
There are differences in what is considered Kosher in various Jewish traditions. For example, the Ashkenazim consider rice to be chametz, or leavened, and therefore forbid it, while allowing chocolate, cheese and other dairy products. The Italkim and Sephardim instead allow rice, but consider chocolate and dairy products to be chametz, and thus forbidden.
Jewish cuisine through the centuries influenced modern-day Italian cuisine. Wild radicchio flavored with garlic, herb salads, omelettes, pies made with chard, spinach, leeks, marinated cabbage, turnips, eggplant, artichokes, fava beans, polenta chestnuts and raisins are just some of the ingredients contributed by the Jewish immigrants.
Here are some recipes suitable for Passover with Italian Jewish influences.
Tomato Soup with Rice
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 medium carrot, slice
1 tablespoon olive oil
26 oz container Italian chopped tomatoes (such as Pomi- no salt or sugar added)
8 cups chicken broth, divided
3 tablespoons uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
In a Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onion, celery and carrots in oil until softened but not browned.
Add the chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of the chicken broth. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the remaining chicken broth and rice. Season with salt, thyme and pepper.
Simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.
Honey Lemon Artichokes
1 large lemon, cut in quarters, plus the freshly squeezed juice from 2 or 3 lemons to equal 1/2 cup
4 large globe artichokes (12 to 14 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 medium roasted red bell pepper, cut into small dice
Fill a very large bowl with cold water; squeeze a few of the lemon quarters into the water, then place them in the bowl.
Rinse the artichokes. Snap off or use kitchen shears to trim all the pointed outer leaves and then slice off the center leaves at the top.
Leave 1 to 2 inches of stem attached to each artichoke; cut off the rest and discard.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove a thin layer from the remaining stems.
Working quickly so the artichokes don’t discolor, use a grapefruit spoon or a melon-ball scoop to remove the choke, or thistle part, in the center of each artichoke, making sure to remove all fibers.
Quickly transfer each trimmed artichoke to the bowl of lemon water.
Once all the artichokes are trimmed, work with them one at a time, cutting them in half and then again, so each artichoke is quartered.
Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
Add the artichokes cut side down, fitting them snugly into the pan.
Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, re-positioning the artichokes in the pan as needed so each one picks up golden color.
Season lightly with salt.
Stir in the lemon juice, honey and water; cover partially, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
The liquid should thicken slightly and the artichokes will be tender.
Transfer to a platter. Spoon some of the sauce over the artichokes.
Garnish with the parsley and red bell pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Braised Chicken and Eggplant
3 lbs chicken pieces; skinned/fat removed
Salt and pepper; to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion; halved, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1½ lbs eggplant; unpeeled, cubed
½ lb. fresh Roma tomatoes; cored, cubed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
In a large deep skillet, heat the oil and brown the chicken on each side.
Remove the chicken from the skillet to a bowl or platter. Don’t clean the skillet.
Add the onion, garlic and eggplant. Cook the vegetables and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
Add bay leaf and hot pepper flakes. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet. Baste with the sauce.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until cooked. Discard the bay leaf before serving and sprinkle with basil.
Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic
2 pounds fingerling or small potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash and pat dry the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.
Add the olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.
Toss the potatoes making sure to coat them well with the herbs and oil.
Put them onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, gently moving them around on the pan halfway through cooking.
Serve at once garnished with more fresh rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil.
Almond Cake with Lemon Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons matzo meal
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ground almonds (4 ounces)
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped (2 3/4 ounces)
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
8 large eggs, separated
In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest with 1/2 cup of water.
Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over moderately low heat for 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat; let steep.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-by-3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; oil the paper.
Evenly coat the bottom and sides with the matzo meal, tapping out any excess. Refrigerate the pan.
In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the granulated sugar, almonds, lemon zest and egg yolks.
Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir one-quarter of the egg whites into the almond mixture to lighten it.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites in 3 additions.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for about 1 hour, or until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry.
Let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake.
Remove the pan sides and invert the cake onto a wire rack.
Peel off the parchment and let the cake cool to room temperature.
Reheat and strain the syrup. Transfer the cake to a plate and prick all over with a fork.
Pour the syrup evenly over the cake and set aside at room temperature for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake and serve.
April 7, 2017 at 7:37 am
Always interesting, information, Jovina, it seems like I always learn something new. The braised chicken and eggplant looks particularly delicious. Thanks!
April 7, 2017 at 7:41 am
Thanks so very much Anne. I really appreciate your comment.
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
April 7, 2017 at 10:58 am
Very informative!! I really hadn’t thought about the Jewish influence on It until I started the blog. When we stayed in Rome we stayed in the section called the Jewish Ghetto. And that word was not meant as a pejorative. We’ve had potatoes made like your recipe above for Easter every year. Great recipes, Jovina!
April 7, 2017 at 11:01 am
So very true Marisa. Thanks so much for the information from when you visited Rome. Have a great weekend.
April 7, 2017 at 8:58 pm
Enjoy reading the history associated with your recipes. Thank you for sharing
April 7, 2017 at 9:04 pm
Thank you so much. Food history can be very interesting.
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August 29, 2017 at 7:09 am
May I please reblog the aubergine and chicken recipe in diabetesdietblog?
August 29, 2017 at 7:15 am
Yes and thank you for asking.