Palermo’s history has been anything but stable as the area passed from one dominating power to another with frequency. Its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean brought invaders including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Saracen Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the French and the Spanish Bourbons, just to name a few. The result of this history is evident in the vast range of architectural styles, the names of places in the region that are obviously not Italian and the fusion of ingredients used in many local dishes.
Human settlement in the Palermo area goes back to prehistoric times. It is one of the most ancient sites in Sicily. Interesting graffiti and prehistoric paintings were discovered in the Addaura grottoes in 1953 by archaeologist Jole Bovio Marconi. They portray dancing figures performing a rite with shamans. In 734 BC Phoenicians from Tyre (Lebanon) established a flourishing merchant colony in the Palermo area. The relationship of the new colony with the Siculi, the people living in the Eastern part of the Island, involved both commerce and war.
Between the 8th and the 7th centuries BC, the Greeks colonized Sicily. They called the area Panormus (“All port”) and traded with the Carthaginians, Phoenician descendants who were from what is now Tunisia. The two civilizations lived together in Sicily until the Roman conquest.
Situated on one of the most beautiful promontories of the Mediterranean, Palermo is an important trading and business center and the seat of a university. Palermo is connected to the mainland by an international airport and an increasing number of maritime links. The city of Palermo is vibrant and modern and its large harbor and international airport makes it a popular tourist destination. There are many events and festivals that take place throughout the year in Palermo, the most important of which is the feast day of the city’s patron saint, Saint Rosalia. There is a sanctuary dedicated to her at the top of Monte Pellegrino, just outside the city, and the mountain dominates the backdrop to the city. The surrounding area is a green and pleasant nature park and is a favorite picnic area for locals. Also in Palermo are the Catacombs of the Capuchins, a tourist attraction.
In the Sicilian food culture there is no such thing as a “main course”, but rather a series of courses of varying number, depending on the occasion, usually a (primo) first course of pasta, soup, rice, etc. and a (secondo) second course of meat, fish or vegetable, often served with a (contorno) side dish of vegetables. Fresh fruit is usually served as dessert. For a more formal occasion an (antipasto) appetizer comes before the primo.
A number of popular foods are typically served as side dishes or “starters.” Arancini are rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese encrusted in a crispy coating. Caponata is a mixture made with eggplant, olives, capers and celery, and served as an appetizer. Sfincione is a thick form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies, usually made in bakeries rather than pizzerias. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and served fried. Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same bean, usually served in winter. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Fritedda is a springtime vegetable dish or pasta sauce made with fresh green fava beans, peas and artichoke hearts.
Ricotta is a soft cheese made from sheep’s milk and Ricotta Salata is an aged, salty version. Caciocavallo is aged cow’s cheese used for cooking. Canestrato is similar but made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Tuma and Primo Sale are sweeter and softer, aged only briefly. Gattò is similar to quiche and made with potatoes, ham and cheese.
Sicily is renowned for its seafood. Grilled swordfish (pesce spada) is popular. Smaller fish, especially triglie (red snapper), are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finocchio con sarde (fennel with herring). Ricci (urchins) are popular in spring. Beccafico are stuffed roasted sardines.
Meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Chicken is usually served on skewers and spiedini are small meat rolls (involtini), also, on a skewer similar to shish kebab. Salsiccia alla pizzaiola is a port sausage filled with onions, tomatoes and other vegetables. Couscous is usually served with meat or seafood.
Sicilian desserts are outstanding and popular. Cannoli are tubular crusts filled with creamy sheep’s milk ricotta. Cassata is a rich cake filled with the same ricotta filling. Frutta di Martorana are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit. Sicilian gelato (ice cream) is popular with flavors ranging from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese).
Not many people outside of Sicily are familiar with Torta Setteveli. The cake of the seven veils, named after the dance of Salome. The Torta Setteveli is the typical birthday cake in Palermo. It’s a combination of alternating chocolate and hazelnut layers, with a crunchy layer that combines both those flavors. There are many stories about who actually created the cake. You can find the cake throughout Sicily, but it is in every pasticceria in Palermo. The Palermitani see it as the ultimate dessert to enjoy on special occasions, especially for birthdays.
This dish is a popular “pasta bake” in Palermo and it is made with a very specific pasta shape called anelletti (little rings). In Sicily it is often sold in cafés as timbaletti, which are single portions that are shaped like a cone. When eaten at home, however, it is often made like a “pasta cake” to be portioned and shared by the whole family.
- 1 lb anelletti pasta
- 2 large, long eggplants
- 1/2 lb mortadella, cubed
- 1 lb mozzarella, cubed
- Grated pecorino cheese
For the Ragu
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 lb peas
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 2 basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Wash the eggplant, peel and slice them lengthwise about 1/4″ thick.
Coat each slice with olive oil, put them on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. Set them aside. Turn the oven to 375 degrees F.
Make the ragu:
In a saucepan, add a 1 tablespoon of olive oil and brown the ground pork and beef. Discard any fat that is produced. Set aside in a separate bowl.
In the saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Once the onion is translucent add the browned ground meat.
Saute the meat and onion for a few minutes and add the peas followed by the crushed tomatoes and the basil. Add salt to taste.
Cover and let the ragu cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente and drain well. Place in a mixing bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the pasta so that it does not stick together and set aside.
In a 10″ x 5″ bundt, tube or springform pan line the bottom and sides with the slices of baked eggplant so that part of the slices hang outside the top of the pan. Add a layer of pasta followed by a layer of the meat sauce, some grated cheese, a layer of mortadella and then a layer of mozzarella.
Repeat the layering process again.
Once finished, turn the eggplant slices hanging from the pan onto the top of the pasta.
Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let rest before cutting. Garnish with grated cheese and parsley or basil.
Merluzzo alla Siciliana (Cod Sicilian Style)
- 1 ½ lbs (800 g) cod fillets
- 2 ½ cups (500 g) chopped fresh tomato pulp (seeds removed)
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoon capers
- 15 pitted green olives
- 2 pinches of dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup of white wine
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
Heat a skillet and add the olive oil and crushed garlic.
When the garlic is browned, add the tomato, salt and pepper.
Add the wine and bring the sauce to boil, add the cod fillets and cook for 6-7 minutes, turning them over once.
Add some more salt and pepper (if needed), the olives and capers.
Sprinkle with oregano and continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes.
Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top.
Pisci di Terra – Sicilian Fried Fennel
- 6 fennel bulbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour
- 1/2 cup fine, dry homemade breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Oil for frying
- Salt and pepper to taste
Clean the fennel bulbs and cut them in half. Boil them until al dente (fork tender) in lightly salted water. Drain them well and quarter the halves.
Mix the breadcrumbs together with the cheese. Lightly beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Dredge the fennel slices in the flour to coat well, then dip the slices in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.
Fry them in abundant hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Cassata alla Siciliana
This is a classic Sicilian cake. The word Cassata derives from the Latin Caseus, which means cheese. Cassata is one of the world’s first cheesecakes. It comes as no surprise that there are a great many variations throughout Sicily.
- 6 eggs, separated
- A pinch of salt
- 1 1/3 cups (280 g) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Half a lemon, zested
- Butter and flour for the cake pan
- Marsala wine
- 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) fresh sheep’s milk ricotta (you can use cow’s milk ricotta)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ounces (50 g) finely diced candied fruit
- 2 ounces (50 g) bitter chocolate, shaved
- 9 ounces (250 g) blanched peeled almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract diluted in ¼ cup of water
- Green food coloring
- Potato starch
- 5 cups (500 g) powdered sugar, divided
- 2 egg whites
- Strips of candied fruit
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
Whip 6 egg whites to firm peaks with a pinch of salt. In another bowl, beat the 6 yolks with 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar until the mixture is frothy and pale yellow.
Sift the flour with the baking powder and slowly add it to the beaten yolks, together with a couple of tablespoons of whipped egg whites and the lemon zest and then fold in the remaining beaten egg whites
Turn the batter into a buttered and floured pan (9 inch square) and bake it for a half hour; remove the cake from the oven and let it cool before removing it from the pan.
To make the almond paste:
Grind the almonds in a food processor, using short bursts until finely ground. Add 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and the almond water; blend until the mixture is homogenous.
Dust a work surface with the potato starch before turning the paste out onto it (you can also turn it out onto a sheet of wax paper) and incorporate a few drops of green food coloring diluted in a few drops of water. Work the paste until the color is uniform and then wrap the paste in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator.
Press the ricotta through a fairly fine wire mesh strainer and combine it with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, the vanilla, the shaved chocolate and the diced candied fruit.
To make the cassata:
Line a 10-inch (25 cm) diameter springform pan with plastic wrap,
Roll the almond paste out to 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick and wide enough to cover the cake pan bottom and sides. Fit the almond paste into the pan.
Next, line the bottom and sides of the pan with half-inch thick pieces of the baked cake.
Make a syrup by diluting some Marsala with a little water and a little sugar, and sprinkle it over the cake. Fill the empty space with the ricotta mixture and cover it with more of the cake, sprinkling again with the Marsala syrup.
Lay a dish on the cassata, press down gently, and chill the cassata for several hours in the refrigerator. Turn the cassata over onto the serving dish and remove the pan and the plastic wrap.
Beat the remaining two egg whites and sift the remaining powdered sugar into them, beating continuously until thick. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and spread it over the cassata. Let the glaze set for a few minutes, then decorate the cassata with candied fruit. Chill the cake for several more hours before serving.
Modena is a province in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and it has been inhabited since the prehistoric era by various ethnic groups, whose traces are in the archaeological finds. According to some Roman historians and to archaeological finds, the area was once occupied by the Etruscans and the Celts. It was the period of the great Roman expansion and in 187 BC, the route, via Emilia, from Rimini to Piacenza, was built. Four years later, in 183 BC, the Roman colony of Mutina was founded. Like all the Roman towns of the period, it was square, with two perpendicular main streets. In 78 BC, Modena was besieged during the civil wars and just six years later, in 72 BC, Spartacus won a battle against Cassio Longino there. However, the most important historical event that occurred in Roman Modena was the battle of Modena. After Caesar’s assassination, Brutus decided to take refuge in the city but he could do nothing against the army sent from Rome.
A really dark age began for Modena in the centuries after Christ’s birth, suffering like many other Italian cities after the fall of the Roman Empire. At the end of the IV century, the bishop and Patron Saint of Milan, Ambrogio, passing through the area near Modena, could not help noticing the decay of the previous thriving community. In the VIII century conditions improved by the foundation of Nonantola Abbey and the building of city walls around the cathedral.
The Renaissance was for Modena, as for the rest of Italy, a period of great cultural development. Modena became a European capital and the center for the Emilia region. For this reason, when after the French Revolution Napoleon conquered Italy, he chose Modena as his headquarters. It was also a period of great upheaval and the Congress of the Cispadane Republic was held in Modena, followed by the approval of the Constitution and by elections. Also, at this time, the Italian flag as we know it today (green, white and red) was raised.
When this Republic fell, in 1799, Modena was conquered by the Austrians and then re-occupied by the French. Napoleon returned in the city as Emperor in 1805. When the Napoleonic era ended, in 1814 the Austro Duke Francesco IV entered Modena to govern during the period called the Restoration. Those years were a good time for Modena, though the conservatism of the Duke repressed cultural life. During that era, many edifices were built that are still standing in Modena today.
Following the Unification of Italy, Modena was downgraded to a city and a less interesting period began for the area. Modena, Italy, is a study in contrasts. The inner city is a perfectly preserved medieval town with cobblestone streets and one of Italy’s most striking cathedrals, while the outer city is a modern industrial business park of factories and industry.
Modena is also one of northern Italy’s culinary capitals and is famous for not only its high quality balsamic vinegar, which is exported all over the world, but for its Vignola cherries, Modenese Ham and Nocino, a bitter liqueur made from the husks of walnuts.
Modena is known for its stuffed pastas, like cannelloni and tortellini, which are usually stuffed with pork and Parmesan cheese, and for its heavily spiced pork sausages. The local Lambrusco red wine is inexpensive and goes with most Modenese dishes.
Balsamic Vinegar has been made and used in Modena for centuries. While no one seems to know quite how many, the first documentation about this product can be found in 1046. It appears to have been used for just about everything, from a disinfectant to an aid for digestion. In the archives of Modena, on public view, is a wine list from a secret Ducal cellar dated 1747 and balsamic vinegar is listed alongside the wine. There are writings from 1508, recalling balsamic vinegar and talking about it in the court of the Duke of Modena, who was Lucrezia Borgia’s husband. Small casks were given to new brides in Modena and the tradition continues today.
Balsamic vinegar is not made from wine, like regular vinegar, but from the must (cooked liquid from grapes) of the Trebbiano or Lambrusco grapes. The grapes are slowly cooked to create a concentrate, which is then aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden barrels. The barrels vary in size and are made from different woods, from the largest to the smallest usually oak, cherry, chestnut, mulberry, ash and juniper. The newly reduced must is placed in the largest barrel and as the evaporation process each year reduces the content in the barrels, each is topped off with content from the next largest one. It is a long and laborious process that yields a syrupy product, whose taste is a perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. Only balsamic vinegar that has gone through this process can be labeled” tradizionale”.
To find the best product, look closely at the ingredient list. The first ingredient should be the must of grapes and not vinegar. Caramel should not be listed as an ingredient, nor should there be added flavorings either natural or artificial. Also, look for a bottle that says that it has been aged in wooden barrels, as sometimes “aged in wood” simply means that wooden chips were added as the vinegar ages. The price tag will be revealing: aceto balsamico tradizionale is sold for many hundred dollars per liter. Some traditional producers will put on the market a diluted version of balsamic for a much more reasonable price tag that will not carry the word tradizionale on the label.
Meat dishes are delicious with aceto balsamico, but one of the best pairings for it is with slices of Parmigiano Reggiano- as well as other aged cheeses. It is also good drizzled over strawberries or ice cream.
Cannelloni Modena Style
For the pasta
- 7 oz all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
For the sauce
- 3/4 lb lean ground pork
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion, small
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
- 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 oz all-purpose flour
- Nutmeg to taste
- 3 oz butter, plus extra for the baking dish
- ½ cup tomato (pasta) sauce
- 3 ½ oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl of warm water. Let soak for 20 minutes
To make the cannelloni pasta
Place the flour on a flat work surface and shape it into a well. Add the eggs in the center and incorporate the flour into the eggs by hand. Alternatively, you can use a food processor. Work the dough until it is smooth and even, then let it rest for 20 minutes covered with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.
Use a rolling-pin or pasta machine to roll out the dough into very thin sheets. Cut them into 4-inch squares. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add 2 or 3 pasta squares at a time and cook for about 30 seconds.
Once the squares have been cooked, remove them from the water and place them on a damp cloth to cool. Repeat with all the squares.
To make the sauce
Finely chop the carrot, onion and celery. Place a pan over medium heat and add the butter to the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the chopped vegetables and chopped parsley. Cook until the onion becomes translucent. Next add the ground pork to the pan. Stir and let brown for a couple of minutes, then add the chopped prosciutto and previously soaked mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the wine and cook for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Stir the sauce while adding the flour. Also add chopped tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Cook for over medium heat for an additional 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Place a tablespoon of the sauce in the center of each pasta square. Roll the squares (jelly roll style to make the cannelloni.
Place the cannelloni in a single layer in a baking dish greased with butter. Cover the cannelloni with the remaining sauce, top with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and small pieces of butter.
Bake the cannelloni in a 350°F for about 20 minutes or until they are brown and the filling is hot.
Pollo di Modena
4 to 6 servings
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken, cut into serving pieces
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, shredded
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
In a large, non-reactive bowl, mix together the chicken, vinegar, garlic and sage. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Pat the chicken dry and season with the salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken in batches until browned on all sides.
Reduce heat to medium-low and return all the chicken to the pot. Pour in the reserved marinade and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally. Add a little water if necessary to keep the marinade from drying out.
Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce and pour it over chicken. Serve with good crusty bread and a salad.
Asparagi alla Parmigiana
Asparagi alla parmigiana is a springtime favorite in northern Italy.
- Asparagus, trimmed — 2 pounds
- Butter, cut into pieces — 3 tablespoons
- Parmesan cheese, grated — 2/3 cup
- Salt and pepper — to taste
Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter a shallow gratin or baking dish that is just large enough to hold the asparagus. Place a layer of asparagus in the dish, with the tips all facing the same direction. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and some of the cheese. Keep adding layers until all asparagus and all cheese is used, finishing with the cheese.
Dot the top of the dish with the pieces of butter and place the dish on the top rack of the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the asparagus is cooked through and beginning to brown and the cheese is melted.
Serve with cherries, as they do in Modena.
Serves 8 to 10
- 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted on a cookie sheet for 4 minutes in a 350 degree F oven
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (not commercial balsamic vinegar used for salads, but the much more expensive, artisanal version.)
- 1/4 cup coffee
- 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Coat a 9 x 2-inch springform pan with butter, or cooking spray, dust with cocoa, tapping out the excess, and fit a sheet of parchment paper in the base of the pan. Butter the paper. Set the pan aside.
Grind the almonds to a powder in a food processor. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over hot water.
Beat the yolks and sugar until lemon colored and very fluffy; stir in the almonds, chocolate mixture, rum and coffee. Set aside.
Beat the whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center is slightly damp. Do not over bake the cake. It should remain moist.
Remove the pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Cool completely. Carefully run a butter knife along the inside edges of the pan and release the spring. Remove the pan sides.
Place the cake on a serving dish. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small sieve and dust the top of the cake.
Cut into thin wedges to serve.
Strawberries are prefect for entertaining and are also the perfect snack. When shopping for strawberries, select those that are firm, plump, have a bright, glossy-red appearance and are fragrant. Their fringed caps should be bright green and look fresh. Berries should be firm, but not crunchy. Avoid bruised or soft berries or those having a dull appearance.
Strawberries do not ripen after they are harvested, so select fruit that’s at the right state of maturity — when the berry surface is fully red. Cool berries as soon as possible and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use. It comes as no surprise that fresh strawberries are highly perishable. Use them as soon as possible after purchasing for the best flavor, appearance and nutrient content. Fresh strawberries should be eaten within three to four days of purchase. There are any number of recipes you can make with fresh strawberries. Below are just a few of them.
Easy Strawberry Parfaits
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
- 8 ounces whipped low-fat cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
- 6 amaretto cookies, crushed
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 4 sprigs fresh mint for garnish
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the whipped cream cheese, honey and lemon juice. Fold the yogurt into the cream cheese mixture.
In four wide-mouth glasses, evenly layer cream cheese mixture, strawberries and crushed amaretto cookies. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve chilled.
Light As Air Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce
Makes about 10 pancakes
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup low-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 2 egg whites
- 2 cups fresh strawberries
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a mixing bowl combine the flours, 1 tablespoon sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and oil.
In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into the flour mixture.
Grease a griddle and preheat it over medium heat.
For each pancake pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle. Cook over medium heat until pancakes are golden brown (1 to 2 minutes per side); turn the pancakes over when bubbly and the edges are slightly dry.
In a blender container or food processor bowl combine the strawberries, 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla. Cover and blend or process until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the sauce until warm. Serve over the pancakes.
Spring Strawberry Salad
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 16 oz fresh strawberries, halved
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 bag fresh baby arugula (4–5 oz)
- 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup pistachio nuts, shelled and toasted
Microwave water on HIGH 30 seconds or until hot. Stir honey and salt into the water until dissolved; let stand 5 minutes to cool slightly.
Place in a medium bowl: the strawberries, thyme leaves, cider vinegar and sweetened water; toss to coat. Cover and chill 20 minutes (or up to 1 hour), stirring occasionally.
Place arugula in a salad bowl; top with the strawberry mixture, toasted pistachios and cheese. Toss well. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 1 pound strawberries, top trimmed
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
- Fresh mint leaves for garnish
- Optional toppings: mini chocolate chips, blueberries or nuts
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon zest.
Use a small paring knife to quarter the strawberries from the pointed end almost to the flat top. Don’t cut all the way through
Use a small spoon to fill the space between the strawberry quarters with the mascarpone mixture.
Sprinkle with toppings, if desired. Refrigerate until serving time.
Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve cold.
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅓ cup cold butter
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 5 cups sliced fresh strawberries
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe below
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pan; set aside.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small bowl stir together the egg, sour cream and milk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture all at once, stirring with a fork just until moistened.
Using a small offset metal spatula, spread dough evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a small metal spatula, loosen the sides of the cake.
Place a wire rack on top of the pan; place one hand on top of rack and the other hand under the pan and carefully invert the pan with the rack. Lift the pan off shortcake. Cool on wire rack.
Combine 4 cups of the sliced strawberries and the 3 tablespoons sugar and, using a potato masher, mash the berries slightly; set aside.
Cut the shortcake in half horizontally. Spoon the sweetened strawberry mixture and the whipped cream over the shortcake bottom. Replace the shortcake top.
Spread the remaining 1 cup sliced strawberries over the top of the cake.
Sweetened Whipped Cream
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
In a chilled bowl combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.
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 Trieste is located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste and throughout history it has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin and Slavic cultures. Trieste enjoys a beautiful natural location, as it is surrounded by the Carsic hills and the Adriatic Sea.
The province is located in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy and was first established in 1920. It contained the current territory of the province, as well as, significant portions of the Kras plateau and the region of Inner Carniola in present-day Slovenia. After the end of World War II, the Free Territory of Trieste was established as a free state. In 1954, Italy and Yugoslavia came to an understanding and the territory was divided between the two states. Zone A of the free state became the new Province of Trieste and Zone B was administered by Yugoslavia. The Province of Trieste formally became a part of Italy on 11 October 1977, by the Treaty of Osimo.
Trieste is composed of several different climatic zones according to the distance from the sea and/or elevation. The average temperatures are 6 °C (43 °F) in January and 24 °C (75 °F) in July. The climate can be severely affected by the Bora, a northern to north-eastern wind that can reach speeds of up to 124 miles (200 kilometers) per hour.
The Italian language is spoken within the whole province. In the city of Trieste, many people speak Triestine, a dialect of Venetian. Besides standard Slovene, which is taught in Slovene-language schools, three different Slovene dialects are also spoken in the Province of Trieste.
Trieste was one of the oldest areas of the former Hapsburg Monarchy (1382-1918) and it was one of the most important ports in Europe. As a prosperous seaport in the Mediterranean region, Trieste became the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after Vienna, Budapest and Prague) and was also known as an important hub for literature and music.
Trieste, which probably dates back to the protohistoric period, was enclosed by walls built in 33–32 BC by the Roman Emperor Octavian. Roman influence continued during the 1st and 2nd centuries. A Roman theater lies at the foot of the San Giusto hill, facing the sea and much of the theater is made of stone. The statues that adorned the theater are now preserved at the Town Museum.
Along the coast, one can admire three ancient castles and the city center boasts Venetian influences, complete with calli (narrow streets) and campielli (small squares) and a majestic cathedral. The Castello Miramare, or Miramare Castle, was built between 1856 and 1860 from a project by Carl Junker working under Archduke Maximilian. The Castle gardens provide a setting of beauty with a variety of trees, chosen by Maximilian. Today, the gardens include: two ponds, one noted for its swans and the other for lotus flowers, a bronze statue of Maximilian and a small chapel.
Since the 1970s, Trieste has had a huge economic boom, thanks to a significant commercial shipping business. Trieste is also Italy’s and the Mediterranean’s (and one of Europe’s) greatest coffee ports, as the city supplies more than 40% of Italy’s coffee. Coffee brands, such as Illy, were founded here and are headquartered in the city. Currently, Trieste is one of Europe’s most important ports and centers for trade and transport.
The cuisine in Trieste Province is rich and varied, due to Austrian, Venetian and Friulian influences and quite distinct from the rest of Italy. After years under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, many parts of this region prepare hearty cabbage soups and delicate pastries. Bean soup with sauerkraut is typically served as an antipasto. Frico, another antipasto, consists of shredded cheese with a bit of flour that is baked or fried until crisp.
White fish soup (made with mullet, bream, flounder, etc) is cooked in a cast iron pot with a little oil, whole garlic cloves and fish flavored with white vinegar and black pepper. Pickled turnips are used to accompany roasted or boiled meats. They are made by cutting turnips into small slices and slow cooking them in a pan with olive oil, bay leaves and a piece of pork. Polenta is cooked with cheese and ravioli are made with a potato, cinnamon, raisins and a herbs. In Trieste, lasagna is kept simple and sprinkled with a special sauce made with butter, sugar and poppy seeds.
Desserts include strudel made from a thin layer of dough rolled around a sweet or savory filling and they are either baked or boiled. Gubana, “guba” meaning “piega” (to fold) in Italian, is a very traditional pastry that somewhat resembles strudel and usually comes with a minced apple and grappa filling. Presnitz is a dessert of puff pastry rolled up with walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, figs, prunes, apricots, raisins, grated chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and rum filling. Legend has it that a Trieste baker invented this cake in honor of Princess Sissi of Austria. The cake is popular during Christmas time.
Wines are mostly white and remarkable for the number of grape varieties that are used in their blends, like Refosco, Terrano, Malvasia, Tocai and Rebula. Italy’s popular grappa, distilled from the skins, seeds and stems of many types of grapes left over after wine making, is also produced here. Beer is popular here also. Many Italians, especially in the northeast, finish off their meal with a glass of distilled grappa.
Jota (Bean and Sauerkraut Soup)
- 10 ounces dried cranberry (borlotti) or kidney beans
- 1/2 pound pork shoulder, trimmed and cubed or 1 ham hock
- 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 3 quarts cold water
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 bay leaves
- Sea salt to taste
- 10 ounces sauerkraut, drained
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Place the cranberry beans in a large container and cover with several inches of cool water; let stand 8 hours to overnight. Drain.
In a large Dutch Oven or soup pot bring the cranberry beans, pork, bacon, onion, water, garlic, bay leaves and salt to a boil. Cover and simmer until the beans are just tender, about 1 hour.
Rinse sauerkraut thoroughly in a large bowl of cold water, then drain in a colander and rinse again. Add the drained sauerkraut and potatoes to the pot with the beans. Continue simmering, partially covered, until the potatoes are soft when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30-45 minutes. Discard bay leaves before serving. Garnish with parsley.
Goulash (Gulash) Trieste style
- 800 g (1 3/4 lb) stewing beef (chuck), cubed
- 800 g (1 3/4 lb) onions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) Italian diced tomatoes
- 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Saute the onions in oil in a large saucepan, over low heat. Add the meat with the herbs and simmer until the meat begins to brown.
Dissolve the paprika in a little warm water and add it with the tomatoes along with enough warm water to make enough liquid to just cover the meat.
Season with salt and simmer over very low heat, covered, for an hour or until the meat is very tender. Serve over polenta.
Brodetto alla Triestina (Trieste-style fish stew)
- 1 ½ pounds cleaned, whole sea bass, without the head, tail and fins, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 2 pounds cleaned, whole striped bass, without the head, tail and fins, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- ¾ pound cleaned squid, cut into 1 inch rings
- 2 eight-ounce lobster tails in the shell, each cut into four pieces
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 4 cups fish stock
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- Salt, if desired
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 medium-size shrimp, shelled and deveined,
- 12 littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 14 mussels, scrubbed
Heat the oil in a very large pot with a heavy bottom and, when it is hot and almost smoking, add the onions. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Arrange the pieces of sea bass, striped bass and lobster tails in the pot. Cook, turning the pieces occasionally, over high heat for three minutes. Add the vinegar and stir. Cover and cook about one minute.
Add the fish stock and bring to a simmer. Cover. Cook five minutes.
Add the tomato sauce and cover. Cook three minutes.
Add the squid, salt and pepper to taste and partly cover the pan. Let cook eight minutes.
Add the shrimp, clams and mussels and cook five minutes longer or until the mussels and clams open. Serve immediately.
Trieste Chocolate Mousse Cake
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- 4 eggs, separated
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 tablespoons dark rum
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the cake:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a jelly roll (baking) pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add cooled melted chocolate and beat in egg yolks one at a time.
In a separate medium bowl, beat egg whites and a pinch of salt until the whites cling to the beater. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Fold 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate mixture. Then, carefully, fold in the remaining whites. Sprinkle the flour over the batter and, carefully, fold it in without decreasing the volume.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake 12-15 minutes, or until cake starts to pull away from the sides. Do not overbake. This makes a thin cake layer.
Cool a few minutes on a wire rack and then invert onto the rack. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely.
For the filling:
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in the microwave or in a saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes.
Add rum and vanilla and stir until smooth. Refrigerate 1 hour. When cold, whip the filling until its volume has doubled.
Cut the cake in half and place one half on a rack. Spread the filling over the cake and top with the remaining cake half. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the glaze:
Place the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a microwaveable bowl. Heat on full power 1 minute. Add vanilla and stir until completely melted and smooth. Let cool 10 minutes.
Set the rack holding the cake over a pan or wax paper to catch the drips. Holding the glaze 2 inches above the cake, pour the glaze evenly, using a spatula to cover the sides, if necessary.
Refrigerate 20 minutes or until the glaze is set. This cake is very rich. Cut it into small squares. Refrigerate leftovers.
Cuneo (Italian) or Coni (French) is a province in the southwest section of the Piedmont region of Italy. The province has an interesting history. Nicknamed the town of seven sieges, it still retains the organization plan of a military town. It was once surrounded by massive walls, had large squares and contained magnificent palaces for wealthy aristocrats.
Originating in the 12th century, it was first built as a fortified town. Its location, in a naturally strategic position protecting the roads to France through the Tenda and Maddalena passes, made it a natural choice to be used as a military location. The French eventually demolished the walls and you can tell where the old walls were, as they are now the main streets in the province. During World War II, Cuneo was one of the main sites in the country of partisan resistance against the German occupation of Italy.
Sections of this province were part of France until 1947. Cuneo borders the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur on the west, the province of Turin on the north, the province of Asti to the east and Liguria to the south. It is also known as the Provincia Granda (the big province) because it is the third largest province in Italy and the largest one in the Piedmont region. It is also the capital of the province. This has created problems in the past for inhabitants in the eastern sections of the province, who are frustrated by the long trip to Cuneo every time they have business with the provincial government. The issue of dividing the province into two has been brought up several times.
The province’s beautiful landscapes offer great variety that include valleys, hills and wildlife reserves. Some 75% of the area is mountainous. The Maritime Alps Natural Park with its high-altitude lakes and the Rio Martino Cave with its spectacular waterfall are distinctive sites in the province. Italy’s first forestry commission was established by the local government of Cuneo.
The economy is primarily based on the agricultural produce of the area, especially the wine industry. Engineering, paper products, metallurgy, rubber and cattle also play an integral role in its local financial system.
The Tour de France travels through here, as well. The Italian leg of the Tour often goes from Digne-les-Bains in France to Prato Nevoso in Piedmont, followed by a rest day in Cuneo. From there, bikers head on to Jausiers in France.
The majority of the region’s winemaking (about 90%) takes place in the southern part of the Piedmont region in Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria. The best-known wines from the area include Barolo and Barbaresco. They are made from the Nebbiolo grape. The Piedmont region is located in the foothills of the Alps forming its border with France and Switzerland. In addition to the vast mountainous terrain, the Po Valley consumes a large area of the region. The valley and the mountains contribute to the area’s noted fog cover which aides in the ripening of the Nebbiolo grape (which gets it name from the word nebbia meaning “fog”).
Although the winemaking regions of Piedmont and Bordeaux (France) are very close in latitude, only the summertime temperatures are similar: the Piedmont wine region has a colder, continental winter climate and significantly lower rainfall due to the rain shadow effect of the Alps. Vineyards are typically planted on hillsides with warmer south-facing slopes.
One of the most commonly used meat in the local cuisine is veal. It is the main feature of festivals, such as the Fiera del Bue Grasso, which attracts thousands of visitors in December each year. The province of Cuneo also produces Italy’s only pork-free sausage. Pig farming, however, provides the ingredient for the famous Cuneo raw ham, which also has a well-known cooked variety.
Il Grande Fritto Misto” (the Great Mixed Fry), one of the most characteristic dishes of the Cuneo region, is made with veal and pork, to which vegetables, semolina and fruit are added. Provincial meat products also include: Morozzo capon, Sambuco lamb and Langa lamb; Piedmontese blond chicken and Saluzzo white chicken. Famous products include the Alba White Truffle, Castelmagno, Raschera, Bra and Murazzano, Toma Piemontese, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola Are cheeses, which are all produced in the province.
The cultivation and processing of chestnuts, both brown and white varieties, is a heritage of the area’s mountain tradition. They are used in pastry making and as an ingredient in other dishes. Hazelnuts are grown in the hills and form the main ingredient of Torrone di Alba and the region’s very famous glacè chestnuts and hazelnut cakes. “Alba torrone” (nougat); “paste di meliga” (cornflour cookies), which are also known as “Batiaje” because they are often made for baptisms and “baci di Cherasco” (hazelnut chocolates) are well-known desserts.
If you have a sweet tooth, Cuneo can help satisfy your cravings. The town’s specialty is Cuneesi al rhum, chocolates with a rum-based filling. The most widely known brand is Arione, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway.
Risotto with Hazelnuts and Castelmagno Cheese
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 14 oz (400g) risotto rice (carnaroli)
- 3 ½ oz (100g) hazelnuts
- 3 ⅛ oz (90g) Castelmagno cheese, diced
- 1 ¾ oz (50g) butter
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 ¼ cups (1 liter) hot broth (vegetable or meat)
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- Salt and pepper
Toast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree F oven for about ten minutes. Cool and rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a deep saucepan and cook the onion until tender.
Add the rice and rosemary. Toast the rice for a minute then add the white wine.
When the wine has evaporated completely add a ladle of hot broth and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the broth is absorbed.
Continue adding the broth until it is all absorbed. Halfway through cooking add half of Castelmagno cheese and half of the hazelnuts.
When the rice is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste and the remaining the remaining cheese.
Garnish the dish with the remaining hazelnuts and serve.
Meatballs Cuneo Style
- 1 pound ground veal
- 1 apple, peeled and grated
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine
In a bowl combine the veal, grated apple, egg and salt. With wet hands form small meatballs. Coat each one in flour and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and brown the meatballs evenly, then add the wine. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve hot.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 cup chopped canned Italian tomatoes
- 6 bell peppers (3 red and 3 yellow) seeded and cut into ½ inch size strips
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno and bell peppers and cook briefly. Add the red wine and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, another 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently toward the end of the cooking time, so the peppers do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the herbs and taste for salt and heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve warm as a side dish.
Bunet di Cuneo (Baked Chocolate Pudding)
- 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup (250 g) sugar
- 2/3 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup (100 g) Amaretti cookie crumbs
- 3 cups (750 ml) milk
Put the 1/3 cup sugar and water in a heavy skillet over a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook until the mixture is a syrup and the color of honey.
Remove from the heat and pour the syrup into a 9 inch loaf pan. Swirl the liquid in the pan around to coat all the edges.
Beat together the eggs and 1 cup sugar.
Add the cocoa and Amaretti cookie crumbs. Stir well.
Add the milk, stirring gently but thoroughly.
Pour into the loaf pan and set in a larger baking pan with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water.
Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 1 hour.
Cool to room temperature before chilling overnight.
To serve, slide a knife around the outer edges and invert onto a platter. Cut into thick slices to serve.