How many folks still hold with tradition and have “Sunday Dinner”? Growing up in my house, a big dinner with family members occurred every week. Family time and lots of good food are Italian American traditions. Once I was married and had children, we didn’t always live near family members. I think this is a common factor today. As a small family we always had dinner together, weeknights and weekends, but they were not the typical big feasts of old. Sunday meals were not much different from weeknight meals, usually. I thought this week I would make a traditional Sunday dinner featuring seasonal ingredients and a roast – a pork roast. The only thing missing from this dinner is the first course pasta dish that we always had in the old days.
Herb-Crusted Pork Roast
One 3 pound top loin, bone-in pork roast, fat trimmed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt
¼ cup minced herbs (I used sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels. Place the roast on a platter or in a baking dish. Rub the roast with the olive oil and press the herbs and salt onto all the sides of the roast.
Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Place the roast on a rack that has been placed inside a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the roast over and baste with 1/4 cup of the wine.
Return the roast to the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Cook for 60-75 minutes longer, turning the roast and basting it with wine every 20 minutes; reserve 1/4 cup of wine for the sauce.
Check the roast after it has been cooking for 60 minutes. Place a meat thermometer in the roast to determine if it has reached 150 -155 degrees F.
If not, continue cooking until the temperature is reached.
Transfer the roast to a platter and pour the pan juices into a measuring cup.
Place the roasting pan over moderate heat on the stove-top; when it starts to sizzle, add the reserved 1/4 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the drippings from the bottom of the pan.
Add to the pan juices in the measuring cup; let the fat rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Skim off the fat and season the sauce with black pepper.
Carve the roast into thin slices and arrange the meat on a platter. Serve the pan juices on the side.
Roasted Butternut Squash Puree
I prefer to cook the squash whole. Uncooked butternut squash is a difficult to cut through, however, after baking, it is very easy.
This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash a 2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for about 90 minutes or until soft all over, turning the squash halfway through the baking time.
Cool slightly and cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. With a spoon, scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash the squash.
Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste.
You can make this early in the day or the day before. Reheat before serving.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 celery stalk including the leaves at the top, finely chopped
10 ounce package of frozen peas (or 2 cups fresh peas)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onions and cook until tender. Add celery and peas.
Cook until peas are heated through (about 6 minutes). Stir in salt and pepper and serve.
Apple Rosemary Tart
One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried) or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar; reserve.
Peel and core the apples. Slice them into ¼ inch-thick slices. (You should have about 3 cups.)
Place the apples in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar and the rosemary or cinnamon.
Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle the reserved flour/sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered.
Arrange the apples evenly over the flour mixture. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases so that they hold together.
Dot the apples with the butter.
Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the apples are tender and the juices syrupy.
Cover the tart with foil halfway through the cooking time, if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving platter.
Just before serving, sift the confectioners’ sugar evenly over the crust.
Here are some suggestions on how to use July’s bounty to create delicious, seasonal meals. You may have noticed that in a few recent salad recipes, I have not cooked the corn before adding it to the salad. Corn, this year, has been plentiful and sweet and I found the salads taste better if the corn is uncooked. The dressing permeates the corn and it tastes quite fresh. Figs and Pecans are also in season here where I live, in fact, the figs are from a friend’s tree. If figs are not available in your area now, you can save this recipe until they are. Peppers and tomatoes are plentiful now and melons are at their peak.
Cold Salad Plate For 2
Cantaloupe Rounds Filled with Tuna Salad
Cut 2 rounds from a the center of a ripe, peeled cantaloupe and remove the seeds. Center the rounds on 2 dinner plates.
Mix the tuna salad:
Combine one 6.4 oz package of tuna, ¼ cup diced onion, ¼ cup diced celery, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and ½ cup mayonnaise.. Place half the tuna salad in each cantaloupe round.
Make the deviled eggs:
Cut 3 hard-boiled eggs in half. Remove the yolks to a small bowl and mash them. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery.
Add a little sprinkle of salt, ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.
Mix well and use the fillings to stuff the egg whites. Arrange on the salad plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Add sliced fresh tomatoes to the salad plate and serve with warmed cornbread or rolls.
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Chopped parsley
- Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips, see recipe below
Mix the corn, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato and red onion in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, the lime juice, honey and salt. Mix well.
Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to marinate. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with tortilla chips.
Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips
Bake at 400 degrees F until crispy, about 15 minutes. Once they come out of the oven, squeeze more lime juice over them. Serve with the corn salsa.
Summer Chicken Salad
- 8-9 oz boneless chicken breasts
- ½ sweet onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 cup red grapes, halved
- 1 tablespoon lemon Juice
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted
- Parsley for garnish
I like to poach chicken in broth for salads. Place 2 cups of water with a salt free chicken bouillon packet in a medium saucepan. Add a little salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook the chicken about 15-20 minutes or until they are white through the center.
Cool in the broth. Drain the chicken and dice. Save the broth for when you need chicken broth for a recipe.
Place the diced chicken in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients, except the pecans. Chill.
By hand, break half of the pecans into pieces and stir into the salad. Arrange the salad on a serving plate and decorate with the remaining pecans and garnish with parsley.
Makes 9-10 cakes
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Roasted tomato salsa, recipe below
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, honey and cooled melted butter.
Whisk together the wet ingredients, then incorporate the dry ingredients (do not over mix). Mix in the corn and cheese.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop heaping ¼-cup portions of the batter into the skillet and cook until golden brown and the cakes are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Serve the corn cakes topped with Roasted Tomato Salsa.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
- 8 oven roasted tomatoes, finely chopped, see recipe
- 1 jalapeño chili, finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Mix the ingredients together and allow to rest at room temperature until serving time for the flavors to blend.
Fresh Fig Tart
- One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- 1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup apple jelly, heated
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan.
Place the figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.
Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.
Arrange the figs in a circular pattern on the jam covered pastry. Sprinkle with pecans.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit juices bubble and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.
At this time of year the farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets are bursting at the seams with fresh grown produce. Take advantage of all these good things and create some seasonal recipes around fresh July produce. Here are a few ideas.
These little bites are delicious for lunch or for a summer appetizer.
- 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
- 1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese
- 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
- 1/4 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 small banana pepper or other spicy pepper, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons relish
- Sweet paprika for garnish
Cut cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds to form a hollow center.
Combine the carrots, green pepper, spicy banana peppers, relish and cream cheese.
Spread the mixture into the center of the cucumbers. Sprinkle the top with paprika.
Cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
- 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
- Olive oil
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dried herbs in a shallow dish. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.
Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet.
Cook until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and let cool until room temperature.
Mix together the filling ingredients and distribute evenly over the sautéed eggplant slices.
Roll up the slices from the short end and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour the Marinara sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.
Big Batch Summer Vegetable Chowder
Makes plenty to freeze for future dinners and lunches.
- 12 ears fresh corn
- 2 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cups southern field peas
- 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 9 oz pkg fresh spinach tortellini
- Chopped fresh herbs for garnish
Slice the kernels from each corn cob into a large bowl. Set aside.
Break each corn cob in half and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover the cobs with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low.
Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
When the corn cobs have finished simmering, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.
Add the onions and cook until soft, approximately 2 minutes, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, reserved corn and remaining vegetables.
Cook for several minutes until the corn is soft, stirring frequently.
Once the corn cobs have finished simmering, remove the cobs from the broth. Add the corn broth to the soup pot. If the corn broth has reduced to less than 4 cups, add more water to equal 4 cups.
Add the chicken broth and tortellini. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients together over medium heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, covered.
- One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- 3 small to medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1⁄4″ thick
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.
Heat the oven to 425°F.
Place the dough in a greased 10 inch pie dish or tart pan. You can also place the dough on a baking sheet on parchment and form the tart like a galette.
Spread the cream cheese over the crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the cheddar over the cream cheese.
Top with tomato and shallot slices, overlapping each slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edge of the filling.
Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Regular or Gluten-Free Strawberry Peach Sponge Cake
The recipe for this cake can be made as a gluten-free cake or as a regular sponge cake. Any fruit filling works in this recipe – just use what is in season.
Simple Sponge Cake Mixture
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
Gluten-Free Cake Mixture
- 8 oz butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon light rum
- 1 ½ cups King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (not gluten-free flour)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons milk
Regular or Gluten Free Cake Filling
2 tablespoons light rum for sprinkling on the cake layers
1/2 cup strawberry syrup or jam (recipe for strawberry syrup)
6 strawberries, cut into thin slices
1 medium peach, peeled and sliced thin
12 whole small strawberries, stems removed
Whipped Cream Topping
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon light rum
Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9 inch round cake pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment circles in the pans. Spray the paper. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Directions for making the simple sponge cake:
Separate the eggs, putting whites in the large mixer bowl and the yolks in a small mixer bowl.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites and beat until very stiff.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.
Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.
Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed. Do not over mix.
Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.
Directions for making the gluten-free sponge cake:
Cream the butter and sugar together in the large electric mixer bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the rum.
Fold in the baking flour and baking soda, a little at a time. When completely mixed, add the milk slowly until the batter is fluid.
Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.
Directions for making the whipped cream topping:
Combine the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and with the whisk attachment beat the mixture until stiff.
Directions for assembling the cakes:
Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with the strawberry syrup. Arrange the sliced fruit on top of the strawberry syrup layer. Spread half of the whipped cream over the fruit.
Place the second cake layer on top of the whipped cream. Spread the cake layer with the remaining whipped cream. Place the whole strawberries evenly in a circle around the cake.
Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
Fermo is a province in the Marche region of central Italy. The province stretches from the Sibillini Mountains to the Adriatic Sea and its main geographic features are the valley of the River Tenna and the River Aso that form the southern border of the province. The coastline consists of beach areas interlaced with shady pine trees that offer visitors a perfect combination of natural landscapes.
The town of Fermo, the capital of the province, is an old town perched on a hill. It has a historic center, a large piazza and a cathedral with a Gothic facade dating from 1227. There are also traces of a Roman amphitheatre nearby. Underneath the town is an intricate system of well-preserved Roman cisterns dating back to around 40 AD. They were built to conserve and purify the water for the people of the town and are considered to be one of the finest examples of their kind in Italy.
An 1861 report by Minister Minghetti justified merging the small and fragmented provinces of southern Marche into a single large province, a move to remove the historical border between the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Papal States. The residents of Abruzzo were opposed to this. Despite the opposition, 58% of the population of Fermo voted in favor of merging some smaller provinces. In 2000, supporters of forming a new province of Fermo were able to pass a law changing the boundaries and the province of Fermo was re-established in 2004.
Footwear and leather goods produced in the area, are a specialty of the region. The production of women’s shoes is a tedious, time-consuming craft. After the initial stages of leather cutting, stitching and fitting the body of the shoe, the next steps vary according to the shoe style. Each artisan is trained to specialize in one task. The leather must be stretched taut over the toe of every shoe. Another craftsman delicately brushes special glue onto the bottom of the shoe structure, allowing it to dry completely before heating it up again and applying the sole by hand, lining it up exactly and using a special machine to press it tight. At the end of the assembly line, another craftsman places each stiletto heel in just the right spot before securing it with a press machine and sending it on for the finishing touches. Then the shoes are polished, buffed, boxed and shipped. It’s an example of the care and handcrafting that give Italian shoes their reputation for durability and quality. With over 54 components needed for every pair of women’s shoes, shoemaking can be laborious work.
Dino Bigioni manufactures 700 pairs of shoes a day. All employees come from shoemaking families that have educated their children in the craft. While many of the younger generation attend an area trade school to learn the craft, family tradition is the preferred training method. This factory is just one of hundreds of small yet established family shoe businesses in this area. The families say they are friends rather than foes and that they help one another in times of hardship. The Italian shoe industry is not just about footwear – it’s about preserving a tradition, a culture and a family name. Each family specializes in one part of the shoe – one family may make only stiletto heels; others only the soles for men’s loafers. With the exception of the leather (which comes from Tuscany and the Veneto), all shoe components are produced locally.
The province’s main agricultural products are cereals, vegetables, grapes, olives and livestock. The pecorino grape takes its name from the sheep (pecore) who originated in the area. It is an early ripening variety and produces fine white wine. The red wine Offida Rosso DOCG and the white wine Offida Bianco DOCG are also produced in this province as well.
Cereals, olives and mustard are grown and produced and the fish and seafood along the coast of this province are excellent. Maccheroncini di Campofilone, a variety of pasta that has received the PGI, is made exclusively here. The pasta is very thin and only fresh eggs and flour are allowed to be used. No other liquid can be added to make this pasta dough.
The Roveja bean is an ancient legume also known as a wild pea. Flour is made from the bean and used to prepare a kind of porridge, called “Farecchiata”. The bean grows wild in the area of Sibillini. The Greeks, Romans, shepherds and farmers considered it a delicious legume. Today, it is produced in small quantities in Umbria and in the Sibillini mountains. The roveja bean is the size of a pea and varies in color from orange to brown. The flavor is similar to chickpeas and lentils.
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 250 g of dry roveja beans
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 large potato
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 3 leaves of sage
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil
After soaking the roveja beans in water to cover for 10-12 hours, boil them for about an hour until soft.
Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the garlic, onion, celery, carrot and potato Add the roveja beans with its cooking water.
Season with salt and pepper, add the rosemary, sage and bay leaf and simmer until thick and creamy.
Maccheroncini di Campofilone al ragù
di La Cucina Italiana
- ½ pound maccheroncini (very thin egg pasta)
- ¼ pound beef stew bones (optional)
- ¼ pound chopped veal
- ½ pound chopped sirloin
- ¼ pound chicken giblets (optional)
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- ½ cup of white wine
- 2 cups peeled tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the pan
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- 3 sprigs of fresh basil
Salt and pepper all the meat. Heat a large sauce pan and add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom. Add the stew bones and brown them; then add the veal and sirloin and saute until brown.
Remove the bones and chopped meat to a plate and place to the side. Lower the heat and place the giblets in the saucepan with the diced celery, onion and carrots and allow them to gently cook.
After the vegetables soften, add the wine to deglaze pan, stirring to bring the juices from the bottom of the pan into the mixture.
Return the meat and bones to the mixture and add the tomatoes and olive oil and cover the pot. Simmer over very low heat for two hours, stirring often.
Boil maccheroncini in a generous amount of salted water for 1-2 minutes (pasta should be firm to the bite) and drain. Place in a serving bowl and add a large spoonful of sauce.
Garnish with cheese and fresh basil leaf and serve.
Peposo (Peppered Lamb Stew)
From La Tavola Marche Cooking School
- 2 kg/4.5 lb leg of lamb, cut into thick steaks with bone-in
- 20 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 heaping tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- Sea salt
- 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 juniper berries, crushed
- Drizzle of olive oil
Preheat the oven to 225 F/105 C degrees.
In a heavy pot (just big enough to hold all the ingredients), drizzle with olive oil and place a layer of the sliced meat at the bottom of the pan.
Cover with a few cloves of garlic, sprinkle with pepper, salt and rosemary. Repeat, starting with the meat, and keep layering until all the ingredients are used and the pot is almost full.
Pour the wine over the top and add the bay leaves and juniper berries. Add water, if necessary, so that all the ingredients are covered with liquid.
Slowly bring to a boil, cover tightly with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about 8 hours or until tender and falling apart.
([If you want to cook the stew faster, raise the temp to about 300 degrees and cook for 4-6 hours. However it will be richer, the slower you cook it.)
Once the stew is done, skim off the fat from the surface and remove the bones, the bay leaves and rosemary twigs. The meat should be very soft and juicy with a rich flavor.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. Break up the pieces of meat. Serve a ladle of stew on toasted bruschetta with a drizzle of olive oil or serve with polenta or mashed potatoes.
Rustic Tart with Strawberries (Crostata di Fragole)
From La Tavola Marche Cooking School
- 1 1/3 cups, 250g butter
- 4 cups, 500 g of flour
- 1 1/4 cups + extra for dusting, 250g sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon, 5g baking powder
- 2 full eggs + 3 yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon grappa, rum or brandy
- 1 pint of fresh strawberries per tart, sliced
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla and liqueur and beat until combined.
Sift together all the dry ingredients.
Incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter and egg mixture with a few strokes of a wooden spoon to form a dough.
Roll 2/3 of the dough out slightly larger than your tart pan. Crimp the edges of the dough to create the crust.
Arrange the strawberries slightly overlapping to cover the pastry. Sprinkle a little sugar over the strawberries.
To make the latticework top:
Pull off a pinch of dough and roll into a long snake. If it breaks, just pinch it back together. This is a rustic tart. Moist hands will help if the dough is sticky.
Continue until you have enough strips to make a lattice top.
Bake in a preheated 350 F/175 C degree oven for about an hour or until the top is brown and the bottom is cooked. The dough should shrink away from the pan a bit. Cool.
Turin is in the northwest section of the Piedmont region between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. The city is famous for the Shroud of Turin, Fiat auto plants, Baroque cafes and architecture and its shopping arcades, promenades and museums. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics because the nearby mountains and valleys are ideal for winter sports.
The Piedmont region has some of the best food in Italy. Over 160 types of cheese and famous wines like Barolo and Barbaresco come from here as do truffles. The hilly region bordering France and Switzerland is perfect for growing grapes. Turin has some outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones. Chocolate bars originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty of Turin. In addition, an enormous array of artisanal cheeses, the white truffle of Alba, cured meats and a vast assortment of herb products are all part of the Piedmont table.
The cuisine of Turin is unlike the food you expect to find in Italy. Local dishes incorporate a much larger variety of savory sauces which are more traditional in French cuisine than in Italian. Chefs tend to cook with butter and lard rather than olive oil, which is also more French than Italian. Another difference is that appetizers play a much larger role on the menu in Turin than in other parts of Italy. The city’s signature dish is bollito misto, a mix of boiled meats served with three sauces: bagnet verd, a green sauce made from parsley, anchovies, garlic and olive oil; bagnet ross, a red sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic and hot peppers and sausa d’avije, a yellow mustard sauce sweetened with honey and crushed nuts. Other classic dishes include brasato al Barolo, locally raised beef slowly braised in Barolo wine and finanziera, a stew of cock’s crests, chicken livers, veal, peas and porcini mushrooms. In the fall and winter you’ll find slices of reindeer meat, on some menus along with beef and veal, free range poultry and freshly caught fish.
The dinner menu below serves 4-6 and is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Turin, Italy.
Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. The dish is eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoons, carrots, peppers, fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes and onions in the hot sauce. It is traditionally eaten during the autumn and winter months and must be served hot, as the name suggests. Originally, the Bagna Càuda was placed in a big pan (peila) in the center of the table for communal sharing. Now, it is usually served in individual pots, called a fojòt, a type of fondue pot traditionally made of terra-cotta.
It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
- 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
- Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
- Italian bread – sliced
Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, an electric skillet or a wok.
To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.
Brasato Al Barolo
“Braised in Barolo”, a classic Italian beef dish from this region uses a simple slow cooking technique to tenderize the meat. In Italy, Piedmontese is a dual-purpose breed of cattle that are raised for their milk, which is used in the production of several traditional cheeses of the region, including Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Toma Piemontese; and are also raised for meat. Beef from Piedmontese cattle is seen as a premium product. The unique genetics of the breed combine to create cattle that is more muscled than conventional cattle, so the yield of lean meat is greater than with other breeds. All cuts of beef are lean because as they grow, the cattle add more muscle but less fat. In addition, Piedmontese cattle produce shorter muscle fibers and less connective tissue, so the meat remains tender in spite of its minimal fat.
Serve this dish the traditional way, with polenta, or if you prefer, mashed potatoes.
- 3 lb Piedmontese brisket flat
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 to 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 to 5 juniper berries
- 1 bottle Barolo red wine
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- ½ cup dry Marsala wine
- 2 tablespoons flour
Put all the vegetables and spices in a bowl, add the beef and cover with the wine. Refrigerate overnight, or a minimum of 10 hours.
Heat a heavy-bottom pot, large enough to hold the beef and wine, over medium-high heat. Melt half of the butter with all of the oil. Take the beef out of the marinade, season it with salt and pepper, and brown it in the hot-pot on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, take out all the vegetables from the wine and add them to the beef, stirring until they color a bit.
Add the wine to the pan, turn the heat down and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and turning the beef.
Pour the Marsala into the stew and let cook a few more minutes. Take the beef out of the pan and set it on a carving board.
Remove and discard the bay leaves and juniper berries.
To make the sauce:
Put the wine and vegetables in a food mill or pour through a fine mesh sieve, applying pressure to the vegetables to extract all the juice. Reserve the juice and the vegetable puree.
In a saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to brown the mixture. Add the wine and vegetable puree and cook for a bit longer, until the sauce thickens slightly.
Slice the meat against the grain, arrange it on a serving plate and pour the very hot wine sauce on top.
Cardoons are closely related to the artichoke. They look like very large hearts of celery and have thorns in the stalks. The stalks are not solid like celery, but are semi-hollow and stringy.
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 lb. cardoons
- 1 cup grated Italian fontina cheese
Place cream, stock and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Wash cardoons, then remove and discard tough outer stalks. Cut away thorns and pull off stringy fibers. Cut cardoons into 1½”–2″ pieces, placing them immediately into the cream mixture as you go, to prevent them from discoloring.
Bring cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cardoons are tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cardoon pieces to a 1-quart baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Reduce cream mixture to about ¾ cup over medium heat, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and pour the sauce over the cardoons in the baking dish, sprinkle cheese on top and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from the heat and add sugar and vanilla, stirring until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add flour and mix together using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Press the dough into an ungreased, 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes. Set crust aside to cool.
- ½ cup hazelnuts (also called filberts)
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
Boil 2 cups water; add baking soda. The water will foam up a bit. Add the nuts to the boiling soda water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the nuts and rinse with cold water. Peel the skins away from the nuts and place on a kitchen towel to dry.
When the nuts are dry, toast them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes.
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 7 1/2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella
Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
In a saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate pieces, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the chocolate-hazelnut spread and whisk until smooth.
Pour filling into the cooled crust and sprinkle toasted hazelnuts on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When ready to serve, cut into small wedges and garnish with fresh fruit.
The Province of Perugia is the larger of the two provinces in the Umbria region of Italy. The eastern part of the province is a hilly region while the rest is covered by forests. Perugia is home to the largest lake in central Italy, Lake Trasimeno. The southern regions are less hilly. Silk, corn and grass are some of the most important agricultural products of the province.
Over the centuries, Perugia has been ruled by numerous different peoples, evidence of which can be found in the many archaeological remains. Artifacts from the Roman period include paved roads, the forum, the cisterns, a Roman amphitheatre and the thermal baths.
The Province of Perugia hosts events, such as Eurochocolate where chocolate in all its varied forms is on display and Umbria Jazz, a music festival that every year gathers together important artists of the jazz world.
The cuisine consists of rustic cooking traditions with many recipes still influenced by ancient rituals and rules. Black truffles, a local product, are used in many dishes. Easter Pizza and a salted panettone (Christmas cake) flavored with pecorino (made from sheep’s milk cheese) are regional classics. The lentils from Castelluccio are known for their tiny size and their soft hull. Salami and cold cuts from Norcia are well-known throughout the world.
Strangozzi, or Strozzapreti pasta made with water and flour is served with meat sauce. The types of meat that are used for second courses are pork made from nut-fed black pigs, boar and lamb.
Fish from Lake Trasimeno are the basis for many dishes, such as Tegamaccio, a seafood soup, made with different types of lake fish such as perch, trout, carp and pike.
Another local favorite is Parmigiana di Gobbi, a dish that dates back to ancient times made with cardoons (the gobbi), served with sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano.
Popular desserts include pinacate, a pine nut-based sweet, torciglione made with raisins, walnuts and dried figs and torcolo, essentially a large donut with raisins and candied fruit.
And of course, Italy’s version of the chocolate kiss, Baci Perugina, chocolate and hazelnut truffles in their famous silver and blue wrapping, with a romantic message tucked inside, were invented here. Also Stacchetti (a mix of almond, cacao and sugar covered with meringue) and Struffoli (small balls of dough fried and sweetened with honey) are additional well-known desserts.
Torta Umbra al Formaggio
(Easter Cheese Bread from Umbria)
In the past, Torta Umbra al Formaggio, a savory cheese bread from the Umbrian region, was traditionally enjoyed on Pasqua (Easter) morning with boiled eggs, prosciutto and other cold cuts. Today, it can usually be found as an accompaniment to any meal.
- 2 tablespoons dried yeast (2 packages)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 5 eggs
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 6 ounces Pecorino Romano, cut into ½ inch dice
- 5 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, cut into ½ inch dice
Grease a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil. Using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the pan to add an additional 2 to 3 inches of height.
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (110°F) in a large stand mixer bowl; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes). Add sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour without stirring. Let it rest (covered with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, the eggs, butter and oil. With the paddle attachment mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the salt and continue mixing at medium speed until the dough is soft, shiny and elastic (7-10 minutes). Add the pepper and cheeses and knead the dough until thoroughly combined. Let it rest in an oiled bowl, covered, until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).
Punch down the dough. Form the dough into a round loaf. Place into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).
Bake for 45 minutes at 400° F. Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
Crostini with Garlic and Black Truffles
Ingredients for each serving
- 2 slices bread (Torta Umbra al Formaggio would be excellent for this appetizer)
- 1 winter black truffle
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 lemon
- 2 ¼ tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Salt – to taste
- Pepper – to taste
Shave half the truffle and set aside. Pound the remaining truffle in a mortar together with the garlic, adding the lemon juice and olive oil until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Tear the bread slices into smaller pieces, toast and spread the truffle and garlic paste on top. Garnish with the shaved truffle slices and serve.
Minestra Di Ceci (Umbrian Chickpea Soup)
- 1 lb (500g) dry chickpeas
- 1 twig fresh rosemary
- 10 leaves fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
Soak chickpeas overnight in a bowl of cold water. Drain.
Place chickpeas in large soup pot. Cover with water to 1 inch above the chickpeas. Add rosemary and half the sage leaves. Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
In a skillet placed over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender. Set aside.
Remove and discard the sage leaves and rosemary from the cooked chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid.
In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, purée half the chickpeas, along with 2 cups of the chickpea cooking liquid.
Return puréed chickpeas and sautéed vegetables to the soup pot.
Cover and cook 60 minutes.
Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a drizzle of oil, remaining sage leaves, black pepper and grated cheese.
Pasta alla Norcina
Ingredients for 4 people
- 14 oz (400g) Penne pasta
- 4 sausages of Norcia
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ onion
- 1 cup heavy (cooking) cream
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ cup white wine
- Grated parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese of Norcia.
Finely chop the onion and saute in extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet. Remove the casings from the sausages and add it to the onion and cook until brown and crumbled. Lower the heat and add the white wine. Cook until it evaporates. Add the cream and as soon as it’s hot remove the pan from the heat.
Cook the penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and mix the pasta with the sauce. Add black pepper and grated cheese. Serve immediately.
Porchetta (Roast Pork Loin)
by CHEF BIKESKI (Culinary Director and Owner of Italia Outdoors Food and Wine)
This is best started the day before you wish to serve it.
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound piece fresh pork belly, skin on
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound boneless pork loin roast
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 bulb fresh fennel, tough outer layer and inner core removed, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Place the pork belly skin side up. Using a sharp knife, score the skin on the diagonal making a diamond-shaped pattern. Try to cut only the skin itself.
Turn the belly so the skin side is down. Score the belly flesh in the same diagonal diamond-shaped pattern.
Salt both sides of the belly, as well as the pork loin roast. Set aside while you make the seasoning mixture.
Place the fennel seeds in a hot sauté pan and toast just until they start to brown. Add the olive oil, chopped fresh fennel, garlic and rosemary and saute until the fennel is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel fronds and remove from the heat.
Cover the entire loin and the flesh side of the pork belly with the seasoning mixture. Roll the belly around the loin so the short ends of the belly meet or come as close to meeting as possible. If there is a bit of loin still exposed along the bottom, put this side down in the pan. If the loin is longer than the pork belly or the belly longer than the loin and one sticks out, trim the longer piece so the ends are flush.
Tie the roast with kitchen twine at about 1/2” intervals. Place the roast on a wire rack set in a sheet pan, with any gap where the pork belly may not cover the loin at the bottom. Place the roast, uncovered, in your refrigerator for 1-2 days to allow the seasonings to penetrate the roast and the skin to air-dry.
When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Roast for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and continue to roast until the porchetta reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. If the skin is not as brown and crispy as you’d like, turn on the broiler and finish browning the skin, keeping a careful eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Slice into 1/2 inch rounds for serving as a roast or into very thin slices for porchetta sandwiches.
by Baci Perugina
10” tart pan
For the crust:
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick softened butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 pound (5 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish
For the filling:
- 1 bar Perugina Dark (51%) chocolate
- 8 Baci candies
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs
Combine the sugar, salt, butter,egg yolk and vanilla in the mixer bowl and start on medium.
Sift the flour and cocoa together. Pour the flour and cocoa into the mixer bowl. Turn up the speed until the mixture comes together into crumbs. Press into a ball, wrap tightly and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Roughly chop the chocolate bar and the Baci and melt them in a double boiler. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling and pour over the melted chocolate.
Stir until the color is uniform and mix in the sugar until it dissolves completely. Let cool slightly.
Lightly beat the eggs and set aside.
Line the bottom of the tart mold with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven at 350°F.
Roll out the crust to about 1/2” thick and place in the mold. Press it down gently and eliminate any overhanging pieces.
Quickly whisk the beaten eggs into the chocolate cream and pour the filling into the tart shell. The filling will appear quite liquid.
Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft but set and not jiggly and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly damp but otherwise clean.
Let cool and dust lightly with cocoa powder before serving.
The only landlocked region in Italy, Umbria is located in the center of the country. Wheat and spelt, pearl barley, grapes, olives, lentils, red potatoes, sunflowers and fruits and vegetables of all kinds grow well in the fertile lands of Umbria and provide the basis for hearty Umbrian cooking. Abundant, as well, are forest animals like deer, wild pigs and venison that provide hearty proteins for the Umbrian table.
Some of the best lentils come from Umbria, in particular from Castelluccio, therefore a hearty lentil soup is a typical regional dish served as a first course or for lunch. With such a strong meaty tradition where meats are often cooked whole on a spit, Umbrian second courses appeal to meat lovers. Late summer is fig season in Umbria and they are often baked into sweet breads and pastries.
The wines of Umbria include: Sagrantino di Montefalco (DOCG) and Montefalco Rosso (DOC), but the most prestigious Umbrian wine is Torgiano Rosso “riserva” (DOCG). Orvieto produces one of Italy’s best-selling DOC whites.
The dinner menu below is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Umbria, Italy
Umbrian Vegetable and Sausage Lentil Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Italian sausage links, sliced thin and each slice cut in half
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large red potato, peeled and cubed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 28 oz. container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
- 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot. Add the sausage and brown; remove to a plate.
Add all the vegetables and garlic to the pot and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the broth, water, tomato and seasonings. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook the vegetables for 15 minutes.
Stir in the lentils and bring back to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf. Serve with crusty Italian bread
Pork Scaloppine with Peppers and Onions
- 3 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 lb.
- 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
- 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 an onion, sliced
- 3-4 Italian frying peppers, depending on their size
- 1/2 cup pureed Italian tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Salt & pepper to taste
Trim and cut the pork chops in half lengthwise to make 6 pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the countertop. Put one pork piece on top of the plastic and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap.
With a meat mallet (or heavy skillet), pound the meat into 1/4-inch thick scaloppine.
Repeat with the other 5 pieces.
Dip the scaloppini in the egg and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place breaded meat on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add the 3 scaloppini slices and brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and breaded cutlets.
Add the garlic, peppers and onions to the skillet and cook until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through.
Serve the scaloppini with the pepper and onion sauce.
Roasted Cauliflower Parmesan
- 1 whole cauliflower, broken into large florets
- 3 eggs or 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the flour and seasonings in a large plastic bag. add the cauliflower florets, close the bag and shake until the cauliflower pieces are covered in flour.
In a deep bowl beat the eggs with a fork and add the Parmesan cheese.
Dip each piece of floured cauliflower into the egg and cheese mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.
Put them on the greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve.
Fresh Fig and Almond Tart
- 1 refrigerated single 9 inch pie crust dough, at room temperature
- 15 Mission figs, tips cut off and halved
- 1/2 cup fig jam (or another jam)
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla granulated sugar or regular granulated sugar
Unroll pastry and place in a buttered 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Flute edges.
Spread the fig jam over the bottom of the crust. Arrange the figs in a decorative pattern on top.
Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.
Place the tart pan on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack until serving time.