The Province of L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy. The outstanding feature of the Abruzzo region, one that distinguishes it from Tuscany, is its three national parks and 30 nature reserves. It is why the area is known as the “green heart of Italy”. However, the province has been badly affected over the years by earthquakes, particularly the capital city of L’Aquila and its surrounding areas.
The province is also known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with growth in the areas of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and the computer industry.
Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy and begun to reverse its decline.
The province of L’Aquila is dotted with ruins of ancient pagan temples and Roman settlements. A well-known city landmark (below) is the Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, that was built in the 1930s.
L’Aquila is a good base for skiing in the Apennines. The two most popular resorts are Campo Felice and Campo Imperator. Both resorts offer routes for downhill skiing, as well as for cross country. Ski season usually lasts from December to April.
The Province of L’Aquila often organizes open-air celebrations and folk festivals that recall the old traditions and offer the chance to taste traditional local products. Abruzzi’s cuisine is rich in local specialties, such as red garlic, sugar-coated almonds, goat cheese, lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, mortadella from Campotosto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines.
The famous “Maccheroni all chitarra” is amongst the best known in the Abruzzi cuisine. The pasta dough, made of eggs and durum wheat, is cut into strips using a “chitarra” (translated literally as “guitar”). This equipment is made up of a wooden frame, strung with parallel steel strands, and by pushing the sheets of pasta dough through with a rolling-pin, the characteristic shape of chitarra is obtained. Chitarra is served with various Abruzzo sauces that include: pork, goose or lamb ragout.
Abruzzo side dishes include, “sagne e faggioli”, bean soup with traditional thin pasta noodles made from flour and water, flavored with a thin sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spicy peppers. Other well-known Abruzzo dishes, include “gnocchi carrati”, flavored with bacon, egg and ewes-milk cheese. “Scripelli” crepes are served in a soup or used to form a soufflé dish and are served with a little ragout or stuffed with chicken liver, meat balls, hard-boiled eggs or a fresh ewe’s-milk cheese.
Ravioli can also be stuffed with sugar and cinnamon and served with a thick pork ragout. The “Pastuccia” is a stew of polenta that is served with sausage, egg and grated ewe’s-milk cheese and “pappicci” are thin pasta noodles in a tomato sauce.
Roast lamb has several variations, such as “arrosticini”, thin wooden skewers with pieces of lamb, cooked over an open fire and often served with bruschetta – which is roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil. Pecora al cotturo is lamb stuffed with herbs and cooked in a copper pot and “agnello cacio e oro” is a rustic fricassee.
Pizzas, from the Easter Pizza, above, (a cake with cheese and pepper) to “fiadoni” that is often enriched by a casing of pastry and filled with everything imaginable: eggs, fresh cheeses, ricotta and vegetables with all the flavorings and spices that the mind can only imagine.
The spreadable sausage from Teramano flavored with nutmeg, liver sausage from the mountains, ewe’s-milk cheeses and mozzarella cheese are all local favorites.
Traditional homemade desserts include “Ferrarelle”, aniseed wafers, “cicerchiata”, balls of fried dough joined into ring shapes with heated honey, “croccante” a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar, flavored with lemon, “mostaccioli” biscuits sweetened with cooked must; “pepatelli” biscuits of ground almonds and honey; macarons and the airy “Sise delle monache”, triangular pieces of sponge cake filled with confectioners cream; almonds and chocolate.
Prosciutto and Fichi
The prosciutto from near L’Aquila is a bit saltier and less sweet than the prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele.
Slices of prosciutto crudo
Fresh, ripe figs
Large basil leaves
Slice the figs in half (if they are the smaller ones or in quarters if they are the larger variety). Wrap the ham and basil around the figs. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar..
Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)
2 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
7 lbs Swiss chard, trimmed, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon. crushed red chili flakes
12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
2 cups chicken stock
Boil beans and 6 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain beans; set aside.
Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook until wilted and the stems are tender, 4–6 minutes; drain and squeeze dry.
Add 1⁄4 cup oil and the chili flakes to the same saucepan and heat over medium. Cook garlic, celery, carrots and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes.
Add the reserved beans and chard, the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the stock is slightly reduced, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil.
Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (about 7 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Warm the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.
Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.
Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids. Set the tomatoes aside.
Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.
Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.
Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.
Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.
Add a splash or two of water, if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot, shred it and return it to the sauce.
Note: The ragu may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.
This sauce is traditionally served over pappardelle or chitarra pasta.
Italian waffle cookies, or pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. You can add cocoa with the sugar and make a chocolate version, or spread some hazelnut cream on one and top with another.
Makes about 36 pizzelle
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)
Preheat the pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well.
Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version).
Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the hot pizzelle iron and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden.
Serve with your favorite toppings.
L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of Southern Italy. It comprises about half the landmass of Abruzzo and occupies the western part of the region. The Province of L’Aquila includes the highest mountains of the Apennines (Gran Sasso, Maiella and Velino-Sirente).
The province is known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with the growth of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and computer industries.
The province’s major rivers are the Aterno-Pescara, Sangro, Liri, Salto and the Turano; its major lakes are Lago Scanno and Lago Barrea. It once included the largest lake on the Italian peninsula, Lago Fucino, which was drained in one of the 19th century’s largest engineering projects. The lake basin is today a flourishing agricultural area and an important technological district.
The Romans knew the lake as Fusinus Lacus and founded settlements on its banks. While the lake provided fertile soil and a large quantity of fish, it was known to harbor malaria and, having no natural outflow, repeatedly flooded the surrounding land. The Emperor Claudius attempted to control the lake’s maximum level by digging a 5.6 km (3.5 mi) tunnel through Monte Salviano, requiring 30,000 workers and eleven years of work. They eventually dug 32 wells and 6 tunnels. The lake was drained but with the fall of the Roman Empire the tunnels were obstructed and the water returned to previous levels. Many centuries later, Prince Alessandro Torlonia completed the work of the final draining of Lake Fucino expanding the original project of the emperor Claudius, by turning the Fucino in a fertile plain. In 1977, the tunnels were inaugurated as an archaeological park.
Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s pastoral agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks, and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy of rural L’Aquila and begun to reverse its population decline.
Many of the small villages, locked away in the mountains for centuries, have always depended on local products for their cuisine, especially cheeses, pastas and spices. While many of the dishes bear similarities to recipes one might find throughout Italy, the locals usually provide a regional variation. For example, chili pepper and saffron can be found added to many dishes in L’Aquila. The best-known pasta for the area is “chitarra” (guitar) pasta, which derives its musical name not from its shape, but from the wire-stringed instrument on which it is made.
Much of the region’s cuisine revolves around fresh seasonal produce, roasted meats and cured pork. Santo Stefano di Sessanio Lentils are grown exclusively here. Typical Abruzzo main courses are broadly divided according to geography: lamb in the highlands and seafood on the coast.
Another local specialty is soppressata, which is pork salami whose typical flat section is obtained, after the initial curing period, by placing the sausage between two wooden planks or thick metal sheets. A product uniquely native to Abruzzo in Italy is saffron from the Navelli Plane in the Province of L’Aquila. Zafferano–its Italian name–are the dried stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower and it is the most expensive spice in the world. Why? Because the extraction process is labor-intensive. You can’t harvest the crocus flowers with machinery, only the human hand will do.
Lower costs and a longer shelf life made Pane con le Patate (bread made with potatoes) a staple. By adding potatoes to the bread dough, the leavening agents combined with the potato’s yeasts, yield a type of bread capable of keeping fresh for twice as long as any other type of bread.
Among Abruzzo’s sweet endings, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented the recipe, using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the golden color, typical of the ancient unrefined bread. He kept the dome shape,\ and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.
Involtini di Prosciutto con Arugula e Pecorino
(Prosciutto Rolled with Arugula and Pecorino Cheese)
A local prosciutto from Abruzzo is used and it differs from Parma ham because it is a little more salty.
- 8 to 10 thin slices of prosciutto
- 8 to 10 shavings of pecorino cheese
- 2 bunches of arugula (washed with hard stems removed)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml.) of olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (strained)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Cured black olives, pits removed
On parchment paper, arrange the prosciutto in a single layer.
Pour the strained lemon juice in a non-reactive bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly. Drop in the arugula, add salt and pepper and toss thoroughly.
Starting at one end of the slice of prosciutto place a small bunch of arugula. Add 1 shaving of cheese. Roll into a roulade, making sure it remains intact.
Continue with the remaining slices of prosciutto. Arrange on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper to taste. Garnish with the black olives.
Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta and Lentils)
- 11/2 cups dry lentils (or canned, drained, and rinsed)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta (cut in 1/4-inch pieces)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound spaghetti (or egg noodles)
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add the lentils, cover, and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
Drain and set aside. (If you are using canned lentils, you can add them directly to the frying pan after you sauté the pancetta.)
Using a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package instructions until it is al dente.
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, onions, and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is golden, about 7 minutes.
Combine with the lentils and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Toss the lentils and gradually add water until creamy.
Sprinkle with Parmigiano and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.
- 4 cups lean lamb, cut into ½ inch cubes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
Skewer the cubes neatly on well-oiled metal skewers or tiny disposable wooden kebab sticks (pre-soaked briefly in water, so the heat won’t burn the wood).
Marinate the arrosticini in olive oil, salt and pepper. Dribble the skewered meat with lemon juice and roast on the barbecue quickly, 2-3 minutes, turning a couple of times for even cooking.
Serve with slices of oiled bruschetta.
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- A pinch of anise
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Work together the eggs, flour, sugar and olive oil to obtain a firm dough. Add the vanilla and a pinch of anise for the aroma.
Heat the waffle pan thoroughly. Grease it with butter and spoon small dollops of dough onto the waffle pan. Close the waffle pan and cook for 20-30 seconds.
Lift the top and use a fork to work the waffle loose. As you bake the ferratelle, be sure to keep the pan heated and well-greased throughout the baking time. Serve with jam.
This has always been my family’s favorite meal. This is the most asked for menu for birthdays and special occasions, after homemade pizza.
Antipasto Platter and Italian Bread
- Stuffed Peppers
- Roasted Tomatoes
Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 1 lb to 2 lbs spaghetti (depending on how many you are serving)
- Parmesan cheese, grated
For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 53 oz (1500 g) imported chopped Italian tomatoes (Preferably without salt or sugar added)
- 6 oz can (170 g) tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 or 4 basil leaves
For the Meatballs
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To make the sauce:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.
Stir well and cook the paste a minute or two. Add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to low.
Place the lid on the pot but leave it ajar and cook the sauce until thick, about 2 hours. When the meatballs are browned, add them to the sauce after it has been cooking for 1 ½ hours.
Stir the meatballs carefully so they do not break.
To make the meatballs:
Combine the bread cubes with the milk in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the onion and garlic.Cook until the onion is soft. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the onion to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl combine the beef with the cooled onion, the bread and the soaking liquid with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and form the mixture into 12 meatballs.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake the meatballs until brown all over, about 20 minutes
Italian Mixed Green Salad
- Mixed baby lettuces
- Cucumber, peeled and sliced
- Red onion, sliced
- Italian vinaigrette
Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
This quick-and-easy dessert is lighter than traditional cheesecake, since it calls for ricotta instead of cream cheese and my children love it. They always ask for it.Serves 8-10.
- Soft butter for the pan
- ½ cup crushed Amaretti Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 6 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.
Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color. Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fresh fruit on the side.
Tradition is important in the Italian-American culture. Second only to Christmas Eve in the way of Italian-American traditions, Easter is a big holiday and, as such, it is centered around food—as most Italian-American celebrations are. From Easter breads and ricotta pies to roasted lamb and asparagus, there are numerous dishes on the Italian American table. Here are some recipes for just a few of them.
Also, called Easter Pie. There are as many recipes for this dish as there are Italians. Most pies contain ricotta cheese, eggs and some type of Italian meat. Italian Americans love to make this pie for their family members. I remember vividly, my father visiting his family at Easter time and coming home with pies made for him by his sisters and sisters-in-law. It twas a bit overwhelming.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 7 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
- 4 eggs
- 3 or 4 tablespoons icy water as needed
Put the flour and salt into a food processor bowl fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to mix the dry ingredients.
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and drop them onto the flour and pulse the machine in short bursts about 10 times. The mixture should be crumbly.
Put in the eggs and pulse a few times to mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water on top of the dough. Pulse 6 times for just a second or two. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. Pick up some dough and press it together. If it doesn’t hold together, add another teaspoon of water until it does.
Scrape the dough onto a floured board and knead together just to form a smooth, tight dough.
Form a flat disc and wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for a few hours before using.
- 32 oz. ricotta, drained
- 2 eggs
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino cheese
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut in a ½ inch dice
- 4 oz diced Prosciutto di Parma
- 4 oz sopressata cut into ½ inch dice
- 1 cooked sweet Italian sausage link (4 oz.) cut into ½ inch cubes
- Egg Wash (1 egg beaten with one tablespoon of water)
In a large bowl combine the ricotta, Pecorino, pepper and eggs.
Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, sopressata and sausage and mix well into the cheese mixture.
To Assemble the Pizza Rustica
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan or a 9 inch deep dish pie pan.
Cut off 1/3 of the dough and set aside.
With a rolling-pin, roll out the remaining pastry dough to about 15 inches in diameter. It should be about 1/8 inch thick.
Flour the board and top of the dough to avoid the dough from sticking.
Place the dough in the pan and pat the dough to cover the bottom and sides. If the dough breaks just patch it.
Pour in the ricotta mixture.
Tap the pan on the board to ensure the filling settles.
Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round. (You can also cut the dough for the top into lattice strips.)
Place the dough over the filling. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal, then crimp the dough edges decoratively.
Brush the egg wash over the entire pastry top. Bake on the bottom shelf until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour.
Let stand 15 minutes. Release the pan sides and transfer the pizza to a platter. Cut into wedges and serve.
- 12 ounces ground chicken
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 large egg, whisked
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 6 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 3/4 cup orzo or ditalini or other small pasta
- 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds of peeled carrots
- 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
- Chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.
Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (I uses a melon ball scoop). Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the remaining garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil.
Stir in pasta and carrots;turn heat to low and simmer about 8 minutes.
Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes.
Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley and additional Parmesan, if desired.
For the white sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups milk
- Salt & Pepper
In a medium saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook the roux, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream and bring mixture to a boil, whisking until thick and smooth.
Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce over low heat, whisking occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened. Transfer sauce to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap.
- 32 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1-10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb.mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
- White sauce, recipe above
- 12parboiled spinach lasagna noodles
Mix the ricotta with the spinach and the remaining filling ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.
Completing the Lasagna
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish.
Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of noodles on top.
Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce.
Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle the top with extra parsley for color.
Italian Baked Ham
- 3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 jar fig jam
- 1 large ham (8 to 10-pounds bone-in, spiral cut or 4- to 5-pound boneless)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on top.
In a small mixing bowl, mix together the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and juice and olive oil.
Set the ham on the rack and rub the ham with the rosemary mixture. Season with salt and pepper and cover with foil.
In a small pot, heat the fig jam with a couple of tablespoons of water.
Bake the ham for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and glaze the ham with the fig jam.
Continue brushing the ham with the glaze every 15-20 minutes with a pastry brush, for another hour or until heated through.
If the ham starts to get too brown, loosely cover it with foil. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.
Easter Lamb Cake
- 1 pkg store-bought pound cake mix
- 1 cup water (use 1/4 cup less than the package directions-my cake mix calls for 1 1/4 cups of water)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- Whipped Cream Frosting, recipe below
- 1 lamb mold
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Prepare the lamb mold by coating it with vegetable oil. Let sit for a few minutes then wipe clean with a paper towel.
Then grease (use a solid shortening) and flour the lamb mold, making sure to get all the creases.
Place the front of the mold on a baking sheet.
Prepare the cake batter according to the cake mix directions.
Fill the mold to the top for the front of the cake, do not fill the back side of the mold.
Place the back of the mold on the front and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the cake tests done. (Test with toothpick through a vent hole in the mold.)
Remove the mold from the oven, wait 10 minutes and remove the back of body mold.
Stand the cake up and gently remove the front of the mold. Have clean towels rolled up and ready to support the head of the cake, while placing a rolled up towel in back of the cake to support the that part also.
Place a dab of icing on a plate and stand the cake in an upright position. Frost and decorate with jelly beans, raisins, cherries, or chocolate chips for the eyes and nose.
(Best results cool cake in the refrigerator before frosting, this makes a firmer surface for the icing.) Place green tinted coconut around the base of the lamb; add jelly beans and a colorful bow at the neck, if desired.
Whipped Cream Frosting
This is a great whipped cream recipe because it does not weep after it sits on the cake.
- 1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy cream
Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a electric stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.
While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.
The Province of Rovigo is located in the Veneto region in the northwestern section of Italy. Rovigo lies in the southern part of the region in the Po Valley and is crossed by two major rivers: the Po and the Adige. It is a land where a dense network of canals, drainage units, reclaimed lands and plantations coexist with nature. A quiet world, where silence is only interrupted by the sound of birds and the flow of the Po River.
The Medieval influence can be seen in the towers that look over the cities in the province, such as the tower in via Pighin and the two leaning towers: Donà – one of the highest Italian towers – and the Mozza tower. The Cathedral dedicated to St. Stephen preserves many sculptures and paintings. The National Archaeological Museum contains Etruscan and Roman artifacts.
True to Italian tradition, many feasts and festivals are held throughout the Province of Rovigo, celebrating age-old customs that still flourish today. Strawberries, wheat and polenta are just some of the foodstuffs that are featured in these festivals in addition to the traditional Christmas and Easter celebrations. The Sagra degli Aquiloni (Kite Festival) is an event dedicated to children with prizes for the most beautiful and the highest-flying kite. The carnival celebration in Fratta Polesine might be one of the most beautiful events. The parade of carnival floats, games and events among the monuments of the old town on the last Sunday of carnival is very popular, as is the carnival cuisine.
Many crops grow well in the fertile Po Basin. Beans, radicchio, asparagus, pumpkins, squash, corn, celery, artichokes and cherries. All lend themselves perfectly to the region’s cooking. Excellent honey is produced here. Wine culture is strong in the region, with many types of whites and reds being produced here. Wine and grappa making are favorite hobbies because of the excellent quality of the region’s grapes. There are a great variety of excellent local wines, such as Refosco ai Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lambrusco and Raboso. White wines include Malvasia, Sauvignon, Riesling and Trebbiano.
Rice production has been honed to a fine art in the region, with countless creamy risotto recipes giving testament to the fact that rice is important. Cattle farming and the dairy industry are highly prized in this area (butter is often used instead of olive oil in cooking) and cheeses find their way into many dishes.
The typical cuisine of the region is based on local products that, of course, would include rice. Along the coastline, fish and shellfish are favorite additions and typical foods include platters of steamed shellfish, pasta with cannucce (mantis shrimp) and gnocchi with baby mullet and fried local fish. Risotto (cooked with eel, mullet and bass), rice in a fish broth, guinea fowl “in tecia” (cooked in an earthenware pot) or the fòlaga (bald coot stewed with beans) are all popular dishes.
A well-known appetizer is “sarde in saor” (sardines in sweet and sour sauce). Another great food tradition in the region is cicchetti, small snacks or side dishes that are usually eaten with a small glass of wine at the popular wine bars. These snacks are often tiny sandwiches, plates of olives or other vegetables, halved hard-boiled eggs, small servings of a combination of one or more of seafood, meat and vegetable ingredients laid on top of a slice of bread or polenta and very small servings of typical full-course plates. Like Spanish tapas, one can also make a meal of cicchetti by ordering multiple plates.
Once you go inland, away from the sea, the food of the hill and mountain towns becomes more hearty, with polenta, gnocchi, horsemeat and wildfowl, particularly duck, are the featured ingredients for main dishes. Bigoli are a rough, thick homemade spaghetti, usually made from wheat flour, that are laboriously extruded through a special tool used only for that purpose. Radicchio is popular with varieties all named after cities they are grown in or near: Treviso, Verona, etc.
Sweet and Sour Sardines (Sarde in Saor)
- 12 fresh sardines, cleaned
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) white wine vinegar
- 1 pinch of ground cinnamon
- 50 g (1/3 cup) raisins
- 2 thyme sprigs
- Toasted pine nuts and lemon wedges, to serve
Brush sardines with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large grill pan or frying pan over medium heat and cook the sardines, turning once, for 8 minutes or until just cooked. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a clean frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until softened. Add wine and vinegar and simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly reduced, then add cinnamon, raisins and thyme. Simmer for a further 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Pour onion mixture over the sardines, then cool completely. Drizzle with remaining oil and scatter the pine nuts on top. Serve with lemon.
Crostini with Radicchio
- 7-8 oz (200 g) radicchio leaves
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 2/3 fluid oz (50 ml) red wine
- Parsley, finely chopped
- 1 ½ oz Grated Parmesan cheese, grated
- 20 baguette slices
Cut the radicchio into thin strips. Sauté the onion and the radicchio in hot oil and deglaze the pan with the red wine.
Add salt and pepper and stir, making sure that the liquid doesn’t boil away completely. Mix the parsley into the dish and spread the mixture on the baguette slices.
Bake the baguettes in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F (220°C) for about 6 minutes, sprinkle them with cheese and serve.
Supa da ajo (Garlic soup)
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 4 thin slices of stale bread, cut into small cubes
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups of hot chicken stock
- 2 eggs
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
Crush the garlic cloves.
Pour the oil into a large saucepan.
Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes on very low heat.
Remove the garlic.
Add the bread cubes. Stir.
Pour in the hot chicken stock.
Season with salt.
Let it simmer for 30 minutes.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them.
Pour them slowly into the hot soup.
Cook for 3 minutes stirring continuously.
Serve garnished with parsley.
Italian Pumpkin Gnocchi
For the gnocchi:
- 1 ½ lbs (700 g) pumpkin
- 8 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 3 ½ oz (100 g) flour, plus extra for the forming the gnocchi
- 1 ¾ oz (50 g) grated Grana Padano cheese
- Salt & pepper
For the sauce:
- 3 oz (80 g) butter
- Sage leaves
- 1 ¾ oz (50 g) grated Grana Padano cheese
To cook the pumpkin.
There are two ways:
- Cut the pumpkin into pieces, leaving the skin on, and put it in the oven (350ºF/180°C) for 30 minutes. Then peel it and mash the pulp.
- Peel the skin, cut the pumpkin into pieces and put it in the microwave with a couple of tablespoons of water and microwave on high for 15 minutes.Cool to room temperature.
Mix the pumpkin with breadcrumbs, egg and salt. Add the flour gradually until a soft dough forms.
Flour the counter or a pastry board and form the dough into 1 inch thick long ropes. Cut each rope into 1 inch pieces and gently press each with the prongs of a fork on two sides.
Put the prepared gnocchi on a floured cutting board or baking sheet. When all the gnocchi are formed, you can cook them.
Cut the butter and sage into small pieces and place them on a baking sheet. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F., then turn it off. Place the baking sheet with the butter in the oven.
Boil a large pot of salted water and add the gnocchi, a dozen at a time. As soon as they rise to the surface, scoop them out with a skimmer and place them on the baking sheet in the oven.
As the gnocchi are cooked add them to the baking sheet.
When all the gnocchi are cooked, place them in a serving bowl with a generous amount of grated Grana Padano cheese.