Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts

Castel del Monte (AQ).

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta and Lentils)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Arrosticini

Ingredients

  • 4 cups lean lamb, cut into ½ inch cubes  
  • Extra virgin olive oil  
  • Salt and pepper  
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

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.

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Ferratelle

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course

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Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.

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Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps

.Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Sourdough Cheese Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course

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Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.

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Italian Style Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce

Cheesecake

  • 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

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted

Directions

For the cake:

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 fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.

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Looking forward to fall? One of the nice things about early fall is that the weather is still warm but not too hot and there are plenty of fruits and vegetables to choose from at the markets. This dinner menu I planned for you takes advantage of the season’s delicious offerings, like mushrooms, squash, spinach. pears and pork. This dinner serves four but can easily be doubled for a company dinner.

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Pork Tenderloin in Mushroom Wine Sauce

Pork

  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb)
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup porcini dried mushrooms
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wine Sauce

  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • Porcini broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

Combine the porcini and boiling water in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet. Add the chopped onion and saute until the onion is soft.

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Add the garlic and fresh mushrooms and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.

Strain the porcini in a fine mesh colander and reserve the drained mushroom water. Add the porcini to the skillet with the fresh mushrooms.

Season with salt and pepper and stir in the oregano and thyme. Set aside.

Butterfly the pork, by cutting the pork down the center, without completely cutting through, so when the two halves are opened they resemble a butterfly.

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Use a meat mallet to flatten the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread the mushroom filling down the center of the pork and bring the 2 sides up. Use butcher string to tie around the roll at 1 inch intervals.

Season the stuffed pork with salt and pepper and in the same ovenproof skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Sear the pork on all sides and place the skillet in the preheated oven.

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Roast uncovered for about 20 minutes or until done to your preference.

Remove the skillet from the oven and place the pork on a platter.

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Place the skillet back on the stovetop. Add the red wine and the strained porcini water and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce until it is reduced by half.

Remove the pan from the from the heat and stir in the butter.

Cut the strings off the pork and slice into thin rounds. Arrange the pork on a serving platter and pour the wine sauce over the slices.

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Italian Style Spaghetti Squash

Cook the squash a few hours earlier, so it will be cool enough to handle.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Panko  breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pierce the squash in several places with a sharp knife. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the squash on top.

Bake for one hour or until the squash is soft and easy to cut with a knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it.

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Cut in half lengthwise and allow to cool some more. Remove the seeds and discard. Scoop out the flesh from the squash and place in a bowl.

Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghetti like strands.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and breadcrumbs.

When the breadcrumbs begin to sizzle and turn crisp, stir in the squash strands and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Toss all together over medium heat until the squash is infused with the breadcrumbs, garlic and oil and heated through, about 5 minutes.

Remove to a warm serving dish, top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.

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Sautéed Spinach and Garlic

Ingredients

  • Two 10 oz packages of fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a skillet. Add the spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Cook just until the spinach is wilted. Stir in the lemon juice. Serve immediately.

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Pear Turnovers

4 turnovers

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet of frozen prepared puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped peeled pears (about 3 medium pears)
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Combine the honey, cornstarch, ginger and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Stir in the chopped pears.

Roll the pastry into a 12 inch square on a floured board. Cut the pastry sheet into four equal squares. 

Spoon 1/3 cup of the pear mixture into the center of each square and brush the edges with beaten egg. Fold diagonally in half and press the edges with a fork  to seal.

With a wide spatula, place the turnovers on a parchment covered baking pan. Brush the turnovers with beaten egg.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the turnovers are puffy and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


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Grosseto is considered to be the most beautiful of all the Tuscan provinces. Located at the southern tip of Tuscany, the province is often referred to as the heart of Tuscany and its beauty is well known throughout Italy. The area is home to picturesque towns, natural parks, beaches and excellent, award-winning wines. 

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“Le Biancane” is a Nature Park with in the Colline Metallifere located in the province. The Park represents one of the many sites where geothermal activity has modified the landscape. Here energy lies in the earth and vapour emissions rise from the ground. Because of these geological and climatic characteristics, an atypical flora has developed in this area. The name biancane comes from the white color of the rocks that characterizes the entire landscape. The hydrogen sulphide emissions, in fact, erupt from geysers in the ground and turn the limestone into gypsum. The steam that comes out of the rocks is responsible for the characteristic smell of rotten eggs.

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The province is also rich with culinary traditions, such the Slow Food Movement and, although it is prevalent all over the world today, the movement was actually born in Italy. Slow Food began with the founding of its forerunner organization, Arcigola, in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. At its heart is the aim to promote local foods and traditional cuisine and food production.

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The Slow Food Movement was not, and still is not, only about food, but about life choices. Since its inception, the group has been embracing the values and the lifestyle many Italians associate with their grandparents and their way of life, which is the ultimate goal of “promoting the idea of food as a source of pleasure, culture, history, identity and of a true lifestyle, as well as a way of eating, which is respectful of the land and of local traditions”. (http://www.slowfood.com)

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Italian Slow Food Recipes

http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/tuscanycious/slow-food-in-tuscany/

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Traditional Schiacciata

Ingredients

  • 25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 310 ml (1 1/4 cups) of water
  • 500 g (1 lb, 2 oz) bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of salt

Directions

Put the yeast into a bowl with a pinch of sugar. Stir in the water* and leave it to ferment.

Put the flour in a large, wide bowl, or onto a flat surface where you can work with it. Add the yeast, a pinch of salt, and the oil, and mix in to incorporate them well.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, compact elastic ball. Add a little more flour or water if necessary.

Put the dough into a lightly floured bowl, cover with a cloth, and leave it to rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Put some oil onto a wide baking pan and spread out the dough with your fingers.

Bake for 20 minutes and while the flatbread is still warm, brush over it with as much olive oil as you prefer and a bit of kosher salt.

Tip* The water must be tepid. To make schiacciata successfully, you should never use extreme temperatures.

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Bean Minestrone

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Onion (1)
  • Celery  (about 2 stalks)
  • Carrots (about 2)
  • Parsley (one bunch)
  • Zucchini (2 medium)
  • Potatoes (2 medium)
  • Beets (one bunch)
  • Kale (about 1 pound/ 400 g)
  • Head cabbage (1 ½ pounds/ 700 g)
  • Cannellini beans (about 1 pound/ 400 g)
  • Tomato puree (a glass)
  • Wild herbs: such as borage leaves, nettles and plantain (few leaves)
  • Aromatic herbs (a bunch): fennel, thyme, marjoram, oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Boil the beans in abundant water until tender. Drain them (keeping the water), blend half the beans in a food processor and keep 1/2 of the beans whole.

Chop the vegetables into small chunks.

Sauté the onions, celery, parsley and carrots in a pot with extra virgin olive oil.

Add the herbs whole and remove after a few minutes.

Add the potatoes and the rest of the vegetables and sauté for a few minutes.

Add the tomato puree, salt and pepper.

Add the reserved bean liquid and the purèed beans and let the soup cook at a low temperature for an 2 hours. Add the whole beans and heat. Serve or cool and refrigerate.

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Wild Boar Stew (Cinghiale in Umido)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ pounds/1 kg wild boar
  • ½ pound/200 g onions
  • ¼ pound/100 g celery
  • Bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berry
  • A half glass of wine
  • Vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, chili
  • Meat stock
  • 2/3 pound/ 300 g of peeled tomatoes

Directions

Soak the wild boar overnight in water and vinegar with the juniper, bay leaves, celery and rosemary.

Finely chop the onion and celery and sauté in a pan with extra virgin olive oil.

Drain the wild boar and add to the pan and sauté for a few minutes.

Add salt, pepper and chili and sprinkle with wine and let evaporate.

Add the tomato, cover with the meat stock and cook for about one hour and a half.

Wild Boar Sauce Over Pappardelle Pasta

Once the meat is cooked, chop it fine and return it to the sauce. The sauce is traditionally served over wide egg-based pasta, such as Pappardelle.

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Arista: Roast Pork

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb lean pork loin
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh rosemary finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

Mix the rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper together and rub the pork loin with this mixture. Make short incisions in six places in the meat (use a knife) and stuff a little of the mixture into each opening.

Tie the meat tightly using kitchen twine.

Put the pork loin into a baking pan with some extra virgin olive oil.

Place in the oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours turning the meat every so often.

Cut the roast into thin slices and serve it with its pan sauce.

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Frittelle di Riso

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups short grain rice
  • 6 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • Peel of one lemon (wide strips)
  • 1 ounce liqueur (sherry, brandy, or amaretto)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • Olive oil for frying

Directions

Bring the rice, sugar, lemon peel and milk to a slow boil. The rice is cooked when all the milk is absorbed.

Place the rice in large bowl, add the liqueur, egg yolks, flour, baking powder and salt.

Mix well and let cool. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the rice mixture.

In a heavy pan, heat 3 inches of oil for frying. Drop teaspoons of dough into the hot oil.

Fry quickly and remove when they are golden. Do not brown. Drain on paper towels and serve sprinkled with granulated sugar.

They are best hot, but can also be served cold or reheated.

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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

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Ingredients

  • Stuffed Peppers
  • Roasted Tomatoes
  • Prosciutto
  • Salami
  • Olives
  • Cheese

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

Directions

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:

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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

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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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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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.

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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.

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IMG_0013 (2)

The desserts below are perfect for summer. They are refreshing and keep well in the freezer. I like to make these types of desserts to have on hand in the freezer for family and company. They can be made on cooler days and they taste so good on a hot day. Of course, what could be better than a cookies and ice cream combination.

Watermelon Basil Sorbet

IMG_0012 (2)

3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups yellow watermelon cut into small cubes (outer skin and seeds removed)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large sprig of fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons meringue powder plus 2 tablespoons water

Directions

Cut up the melon and place in a big ziplock bag. Freeze overnight.

Whisk together the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium/high heat until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat, add the basil and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove the basil and chill the syrup.

In a small bowl, whisk together the meringue powder and water. Whisk until you create a lot of foam.

This is an egg white substitute. You could use egg whites if you prefer, but since they are not cooked in this recipe, it is safer to use the substitute. This adds a creamy texture to the sorbet.

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In a food processor, combine the frozen fruit, chilled syrup and egg white mixture. Blend just until smooth.

Sorbet is ready to serve right out of the food processor. If you don’t plan to consume it right away, be sure to store it in the freezer.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Rounds

IMG_0013

32 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup finely ground pecans (pecan meal)

Directions

Heat to oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar.

Add the remaining ingredients. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the kitchen counter. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap. Form the mixture into a log on the plastic wrap.

Wrap the dough in plastic and roll the dough a few times to make an even log. Refrigerate for an hour.

Cut the log into ¼ inch slices and place on the prepared baking pans an inch apart.

Bake the cookies 20 minutes, switching the pans on the racks after 10 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the pans ten minutes and then remove them to a cooling rack.

Easy Oatmeal Cookies

IMG_0012

Makes 18 large cookies

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries)

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour through fruit) in a large bowl.

Combine the wet ingredients (butter through egg) in a measuring cup.

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Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined using a wooden spoon or spatula.

Using a small muffin scoop or 3 tablespoons for each cookie, form into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly.

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Bake 10 minutes, switch the pans on the racks and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Peach Almond Sundae

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vanilla frozen yogurt, softened
  • 2 cups chopped peaches, peeled 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 8 amaretti cookies, crushed
  • 1 cup whipped cream

Directions

 Cut the peaches into 1/2-inch-thick slices and cut the slices in half.

In a mixing bowl, combine the peaches, brown sugar and amaretto. Cover and chill until serving time.

In each of four dessert dishes, layer the ingredients in the following way: 1 cup frozen yogurt, ¼ of the peach mixture and 1/4 cup whipped cream. Sprinkle a crushed amaretti cookie on top. 

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anconaport

Ancona is a province in the Marche region of central Italy. The province is bordered by the Adriatic Sea in the north and the Apennine Mountains on the west. Ancona’s sandy beaches are popular with Italians but not well-known to tourists.

anconabeach

The hills of the region are littered with Medieval buildings and walls, and unlike many other often-invaded areas, historical architecture has been preserved and adapted  for modern uses.

The Ancona port, one of the main ports on the Adriatic Sea, is located in the city of Ancona and is a busy passenger port with ferries running to Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Albania and Montenegro.

The city was founded in 387 BC by Greek settlers and the name Ancona comes from the Greek for elbow, due to its elbow-shaped harbor.

Artistic work of my own in retro style - Postcard from Italy. - Beautiful staircase Corinaldo, Italy

Many of the small craft workshops of the past scattered throughout the rural settlements have modernised and become small businesses, some of which have become major brands known all over the world (Indesit, Tod’s, Guzzini, Teuco). This evolution led to the emergence of ‘specialised’ industries: footwear, leather goods, furniture, household appliances and textiles, all made in the region.

ancona3

The demand for Italian textiles and clothing is strong in the United States and Japan, as well as China, Hong Kong, Turkey and Russia. Italy is also a pioneer in the export of yarn, woolen fabrics, silk fabrics, clothing and hosiery.

Ancona Port

A large area of the province’s land is farmland and much of it is used for wine production; as the production of Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Verdicchio grapes. Traditional feasts are held in the province during the harvesting period.

The mountainous regions and the Conero Regional Park, which contain dense forests, are where black truffles are found and they are sold throughout the province and neighboring provinces.

The main products grown are cereals, vegetables, animal products and grapes. Olives are also produced and managed by various harvesters. The sea has always furnished a plentiful supply of fish,

anconaolives

The influence of the neighboring regions, particularly Emilia-Romagna, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in the province. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite and is a type of baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

In and around Ancona, you will find a variety of soups. Minestra di lumachelle is a local favorite containing lumachelle, a type of pasta made with egg, cheese and bread crumbs, similar to passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestrone di trippa, is also a regional specialty that is served with a battuto, lard pounded together with herbs.

Along the coast, fish soups are typical. Brodetto is prepared with a variety of fish. There are also a number of special, regional preparations for local seafood: cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, stewed in tomato sauce; al forno or oven-broiled.

Meat is also popular. Pilotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is Porchetta, a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs.

Some of the best cheeses made in the area are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slaatto and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, olive ascolane are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried.

Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, baked in the oven and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Migliaccio is a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel.

Broad Beans with Anchovies

anconabeans

Serve with crusty Italian bread as an appetizer.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lb broad beans, fresh and shells removed
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pinch marjoram
  • 4 anchovies
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • White wine vinegar to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Boil the broad beans in a small quantity of salted water until they are fairly “al dente”.

Prepare the topping with a chopped mixture of anchovies, garlic, marjoram, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the topping over the broad beans as soon as they have been drained. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Brodetto (Fish Stew) Ancona-Style

anconastew

You can use any type of fish–swordfish, squid, red snapper, shrimp, clams, mussels and lobster for this recipe with a total weight of 3 lbs.. Clean the clams and mussels well and put them into the stew whole. Some versions of brodetto use saffron instead of red pepper flakes and white wine instead of vinegar. You can substitute rice for the bread, as well.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Red pepper flakes (chili) to taste
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 1/2 pounds red snapper fillets, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar or wine
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups fish stock
  • 1 pound clams in the shell, scrubbed
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, with shells
  • 6 (3/4 inch thick) slices Italian bread, toasted

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, Dutch oven, or a clay pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaves, parsley and red pepper.

Cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the mashed tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. Pour in the vinegar or wine and cook 10 minutes. Pour in the fish stock and add the snapper.

Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Gently mix in the clams and cook until the clams open (discard any that don’t) about 2 minutes, and then stir in the shrimp.

Cook until the shrimp are pink, about 3 minutes.

Place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle the brodetto over the bread and serve immediately.

Pollo in Potacchio

anconachicken

Ingredients

  • 1 small chicken cut into 5 pieces (wing, drumstick, thigh and breast cut in half)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped imported Italian tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Hot water
  • 10 small Yukon gold potatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Line a dish with paper towels and lay out the chicken, skin side up. Let air dry uncovered in the refrigerator for 2 days. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the potatoes into wedges. Place in a pot, cover with cold water, and add a pinch of salt. Over high heat, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.

The potatoes will not be completely cooked. Drain in colander.

Add the potatoes to a mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Add the leaves from two of the rosemary sprigs. Add a good pinch of salt and toss.

Pour the potatoes out onto a sheet pan and shake to separate. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning the potatoes once with a stainless steel spatula.

In a large skillet add a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about ten minutes. Remove the chicken to a bowl.  

Discard the rendered chicken fat and oil.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the large skillet, still over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic cloves; sauté until soft but not brown.

Add the white wine and rosemary sprigs; cook until the wine evaporates.

Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes. Season with salt and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and a splash of hot water. Turn the chicken over to coat. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve the chicken topped with a little sauce and the potatoes.

Orange Cake – Ancona-Style

anconacake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting the pan
  • 3 eggs
  • Grated peel of 3 oranges
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened to room temperature, plus butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, with 3 tablespoons sugar dissolved in it.

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thickly smear a Bundt pan with butter and dust with flour.

Put the flour, eggs, orange peel, 4 tablespoons softened butter, sugar and liqueur in a food processor and run until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.

Add the milk and baking powder and process again to incorporate into the mixture. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it won’t fill it up all the way) and place the pan in the preheated oven.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester placed in the center of the cake comes out clean..

Invert the cake while still warm and place it on a rimmed plate. Poke many holes into the cake with a thin handle from a wooden spoon.

Pour the orange juice over the cake slowly. At first, the holes fill to the brim with juice, but this will be absorbed by the cake. Repeat until all the juice is used.

Whatever juice ends up at the bottom of the cake, leave it there; it will eventually be absorbed.

Serve at room temperature. The cake keeps in the refrigerator, covered, for a week.

anconamap



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