The Province of La Spezia is located in the Liguria region of Italy. Beaches that overlook the sea, spectacular views and small villages that dot the green valleys are all characteristic of La Spezia. The capital city of the province also called La Spezia, has a major naval base that is located at the head of the Golfo della Spezia, southeast of Genoa. The site was inhabited in Roman times, but little is known of its history before 1276, when it was sold to Genoa by the Fieschi family. The province became a maritime office during the French Empire era and also in the Duchy of Genoa era in the Kingdom of Sardinia. The province became an Italian naval headquarters after the transfer of the military fleet from Genoa in 1857 and, in 1923, it became the provincial capital. The province was severely damaged by bombing during World War II.
Notable landmarks include the medieval Castel S. Giorgio, a 15th-century cathedral (rebuilt after 1945) and the naval arsenal (1861–69, also rebuilt after 1945) adjacent to the naval museum. The archaeological museum has a collection of prehistoric monoliths cut in the form of human figures and Roman artifacts from the nearby ancient city of Luni. La Spezia’s industries include shipbuilding, iron foundries, oil refineries and mechanical engineering. It is also a terminus for natural gas shipments from Libya.
The warm Mediterranean air helps create good conditions for growing olives (producing exceptionally light flavored oil), wine grapes, corn, herbs (particularly basil), garlic, chickpeas, zucchini (especially the blossoms), potatoes, onions and artichokes.
The vineyards that cover the province’s sunny terraces are evidence of La Spezia’s ancient tradition of making wine. The Luni Hills, Levanto Hills and Cinque Terre wines are perfect with the local cuisine. Sciacchetrà, the famous D.O.C. wine, with hints of apricot, dried fruit and acacia honey, goes very well with the local sharp cheeses.
La Spezia also has vast expanses of olive groves on the coast and further inland. The oil produced in this area between the Alps and the Tyrrhenian Sea is protected by the Riviera Ligure D.O.P. label. The area’s oil is used in the preparation of most of the local dishes, especially the fish caught in the waters of the Ligurian Sea. Among such specialties are mussels stuffed with eggs, bread, mortadella, parmigiano, parsley and olive oil. The Monterosso anchovies, either sauteed with lemon juice, fried, stuffed or pickled are all popular in the province.
Mesciùa, a soup mixture of chickpeas, wheat, white beans, broad beans and lentils that are all boiled in olive oil, is a local favorite. Pizza, flatbread made with chickpeas, focaccias and handmade pasta are made in abundance, as well as, the trofie al pesto, now widespread throughout the province.
Culinary Specialties of La Spezia
Pasta With Chickpea Sauce
Chef Daniel Gritzer, says: “Using dried beans that are boiled with aromatics produces a more deeply flavored final sauce. The beans blend into a creamy sauce that coats the noodles, but doesn’t require dairy of any sort.”
- 12 ounces dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
- 1 large onion, cut in half
- 1 head garlic, 3 cloves thinly sliced, the rest left unpeeled
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 cups cooked chickpeas, divided
- 1 1/2 cups chickpea-cooking liquid or vegetable broth, plus more as needed
- 1 pound short ruffled pasta
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
Place chickpeas in a large pot and cover with lightly salted water by at least 2 inches. Add unpeeled garlic, onion and rosemary. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook, adding water as necessary to keep beans submerged, until beans are very tender and creamy with no graininess left, about 2 hours. Discard onions, garlic and rosemary. Drain beans, reserving beans and liquid separately.
In a medium saucepan, combine oil, sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic is lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups of the cooked chickpeas and most of the chickpea-cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, blend to a smooth puree, adding more chickpea-cooking liquid if too thick. Stir in remaining 1 cup chickpeas, crushing some lightly with a wooden spoon or potato masher but leaving them mostly whole. Season with salt and pepper.
In a pot of salted, boiling water, cook pasta until just short of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta-cooking water, then drain the pasta. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and add the chickpea sauce along with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta-cooking water. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until pasta is al dente and the sauce has thickened just enough to coat the pasta, about 3 minutes; add more reserved pasta-cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the sauce becomes too thick. Remove from the heat, stir in chopped parsley and drizzle in some fresh olive oil, stirring to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon pasta and sauce into bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.
La Spezia Style Sea Bass
Chef Maurizio Quaranta roasts sea bass with olives and tomatoes until the fish is crisp. He then spoons toasted warm pine nuts over the fish before serving.
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 1 pound tomatoes, cut into large chunks
- 3/4 cup pitted and chopped green or black olives
- 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Two 3-pound sea bass, cleaned
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a very large roasting pan, toss the potatoes, tomatoes, olives and basil with 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Make 3 shallow slashes in both sides of each fish. Rub each fish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the fish in the roasting pan, tucking them into the vegetables. Roast for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the fish are cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts in the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Spoon the pine nuts over the fish and vegetables in the roasting pan and serve right away.
Castagnaccio is a chestnut flour cake (castagna in Italian means chestnut) with raisins, pine nuts, walnuts and rosemary. The recipe does not use yeast, baking powder or sugar. According to food historians, the origin of this recipe goes back to the Ancient Romans, when a chestnut bread was made out of coarsely ground chestnuts and travelers’ and workers’ could pack the bread into their bags. Good chestnut flour is very sweet when you taste it raw (and this is why you do not need to add sugar to the castagnaccio). Taste your flour before using it. If you find it sour, this can be the result of two things: the flour is of poor quality or the flour is too old and has gone stale (chestnut flour doesn’t keep well. Purists only make castagnaccio in November-December, as the flour is prepared in October/November when chestnuts are available. In both cases, you can add some sugar to the mix to reduce the bitterness, but the final result may be inferior. Castagnaccio is best served with a cup of espresso or sweet wine like vin santo.
- 250g (1/2 pound) chestnut flour
- 2-3 cups water (500-700ml) – depending on the quality of the flour
- 1/3 cup (75g) raisins
- 1/4 cup (50g) pine nuts
- 5 whole walnuts (shelled and coarsely ground)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 20 rosemary leaves
Pass the flour through a sieve and put it in a mixing bowl.
Add water to the mix slowly, while stirring. You want the batter to be soft enough to fall from the spoon, but not too liquid. Normally 2 1/2 cups (600ml) is the perfect amount of water, but you may need more or less.
Add the olive oil, the pine nuts, the walnuts, the raisin and mix them together thoroughly.
Oil a 9 inch round cake pan Pour the batter in.
Sprinkle the rosemary leaves on top of the batter. Do not stir: you want them to be visible.
Bake the castagnaccio at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) for 30-40 minutes.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.
You can eat plain or with a tablespoon of ricotta cheese on top, which is how Italian families traditionally eat it.
Wrapped in plastic or foil, the cake will last 4-5 days, but it will dry out a bit.
Valtellina or the Valtelline (occasionally spelled as two words in English: Val Telline) is a valley in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland. Today, it is known for its ski center, hot spring spas, bresaola, cheeses and wines. In past centuries, it was a key alpine pass between northern Italy and Germany and control of the Valtelline was much sought after, particularly during the Thirty Years’ War.
The earliest settlements date back to prehistoric times: prior to the Roman conquest, the area was inhabited by Rhaetians and Celts.Thanks to its strategic position at a crossroads on one of the main routes connecting northern Italy with the trans alpine regions (the Via Imperiale d’Alemagna), it was already being fought over in the 10th century by various potentates, passing from one ruling power to the next (the bishops of Cosmo and Chur, the Visconti and Sforza families, France and Spain), although it maintained its municipal independence thanks to a 14th – century statute that gave its residents special rights and privileges and helped it become a commercial center.
Valtellina is also an area of great natural beauty. Nature lovers and sports enthusiasts come here to enjoy a whole range of outdoor pursuits all year round, in a valley dominated by some of the most beautiful and best-known mountains in the Alps. Its internationally renowned tourist resorts have been attracting skiers and mountaineers from Italy and abroad since the 19th century. The best skiing resorts are Bormio, Santa Caterina Valfurva, Livigno, Aprica and Madesimo, the venue of such international events as the 1985 and 2005 World Alpine Skiing Championships.
The Stelvio National Park, one of Europe’s largest protected areas covering 134.620 hectares of central Alpine territory, straddles two italian regions: Lombardy and Trentino Alto Adige. The idea to protect this area in the Italian alps was first proposed at the beginning of the 20th century, although the law creating the park was not approved until 1935, and only as recently as 1977 were its present borders defined. The scenery of the park, which ranges in altitude from 650 to 3905 meters (over 12,000 feet), includes glaciers, alpine pasture, extensive woodland, agricultural holdings with farmsteads inhabited all year round, glacial lakes and mountain streams.
Other areas of natural interest include: the Valtellina Orobian Alps Regional Park, the Acqua Fraggia Waterfalls and several nature reserves (Marmitte dei Giganti, Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola, the Postalesio Pyramids, the Bordighi Forest, Pian di Gembro and Paluaccio di Oga.
Valtellina’s grapes are grown on the mountain slopes in an east-west direction, which means maximum light exposure:, so the vineyards enjoy similar sunshine hours to those in Sicily. Vines are almost all planted on terraces carved into the granite and slate rock. All grape picking is by hand, as is the heavy work of hauling grapes up and down the slopes – around three-times more man-hours are required to work these vines than the gentler slopes of Piedmont. A few growers have invested in funicular transporters and even helicopters to aid in this back-breaking work. Nebbiolo has always been the only grape variety bottled in the region’s red wines, though recently some experimental plantings of Merlot and Pinot Noir are being watched with interest.
A number of ingredients make up pizzocheri; a local pasta made with a grain known as grano saraceno. This is a medium-width pasta much like fettuccine that is cooked with casera, a local cow’s milk cheese and a cabbage known as verza, which has a blend of sweet and slightly bitter flavors.
Other famous foods of Valtellina include bresaola, a cured meat served in an antipasti. This is usually made from beef, but sometimes a restaurant will serve bresaola made from deer, written on the menu as cerva. The most famous food from here is Bitto, a D.O.P. cheese that is aged for various periods ranging from 70 days to 10 years. Primarily a cow’s milk cheese (up to 10 percent goat’s milk may be added) and is made only during the summer in the area’s mountain dairies.
Original recipe of the Pizzocchero Teglio ®
Coded and registered by the Academy of Pizzocchero Teglio
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 400 g of buckwheat flour
- 100 g white flour
- 200 g of butter
- 250 g of cheese Valtellina Casera DOP (protected origin den.ne)
- 150 g of grated parmesan cheese in
- 200 g of cabbage
- 250 g of potatoes
- a clove of garlic, pepper
Mix the two flours, mix with water and work for about 5 minutes.
With a rolling-pin roll the dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm which are derived from the bands 7 -8 cm. Overlap the strips and cut widthwise, tagliatelle getting about 5 millimeters wide. Bake the vegetables in salted water, the cabbage into small pieces and potatoes into chunks, add the pizzocheri after 5 minutes ( the potatoes are always present, while cabbage can be replaced, according to the seasons, with ribbed or green beans.)After about ten minutes to collect pizzocheri with a slotted spoon and pour a part in a very hot pan, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and Valtellina Casera dop flakes Continue alternating pizzocheri and cheese. Fry the butter with the garlic color leaving for good, before pouring it on pizzocheri. pizzocheri. Without stirring serve hot with a sprinkling of pepper.
The Cuisine of Valtellina
Insalata Della Valtellina (Bresaola salad)
Bresaola is cured, air-dried beef typically made in the Valtellina area of Lombardy. Lean and tender with a little added salt, it is perfect in salads. It is readily available in Italian delis and larger supermarkets.
- 3 slices bread
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 Romaine lettuce leaves, separated
- A small handful arugula
- 4 oz radishes, sliced
- 20 black olives
- 2 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered
- 3 oz bresaola, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons finely shaved fresh
- Parmesan, shaved
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, left whole
Remove the crusts from the bread and slice into small triangles. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the bread and fry on both sides until golden. Remove and place on a plate.
Combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk together until the dressing is creamy. Remove the garlic clove from the dressing.
Arrange the lettuce leaves, arugula, radishes and olives on a serving dish, drizzle with the dressing and toss well. Arrange the eggs, bresaola and fried bread on top and scatter the Parmesan shavings over all.
Polenta Taragna alla Valtellinese
It is generally served with salami and pickles.
- 2 cups polenta mixed with 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup butter plus 3 tablespoons
- 1/4 pound casera cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter an oven proof dish with 3 tablespoons butter and set aside. In a 6 quart sauce pan, heat 8 cups water to a boil. Whisking furiously, slowly drizzle in mixed flours until all are incorporated. Switch to a wooden spoon.and cook until the texture is thickened. Add the butter and cheese. Stir through and pour into baking dish. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, remove and serve immediately.
Italian Pork and Vegetable Saute
- 1 pound boneless sirloin pork chops, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet and heat. Add pork and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and meat is slightly pink when pierced in the center with the tip of a sharp knife, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the pork.
Add wine and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits in pan with wooden spoon. Return the vegetables to the pan and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.
Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup Grappa, Port or Marsala (dessert wine)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of whole milk
- 2 ¼ teaspoons or 1 packet (¼-ounce) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup spelt, rye or whole wheat flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- A pinch of kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (about 15) dried figs, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, pistachios or hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon water, for brushing dough top
Combine raisins and grappa or dessert wine in a bowl. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium until just warm. Transfer to a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
While yeast is foaming, put flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. With mixer at medium-low, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture.
Mix until well blended, then add the remaining flour mixture along with the butter and egg yolk. Mix for five minutes on low.
Drain raisins, discarding the liquid. Add raisins, figs and all the nuts to the dough. Mix on low until just incorporated.
Remove the bowl from mixer and knead dough with your hands to finish incorporating ingredients and forming a stiff, wet dough.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out on the prepared pan and form the dough into an 8-inch oval loaf. Cover with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened towel.
Let rest at room temperature until double in size, about 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle of oven.
In a small bowl, beat 1 egg yolk with a teaspoon of water. Brush dough with the egg mixture then bake, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove and cool on wire rack. Will last 4 to 5 days wrapped in plastic.
Except for a Halloween display and its use in Thanksgiving pies, pumpkin is rarely served in the US. On the other hand, Italians, who grow a great deal of pumpkins, serve it in a number of ways. Cucurbitaceae, the genus that includes pumpkins, squashes and edible gourds, has nourished people for centuries.
Of all of Italy’s gastronomically diverse 20 regions, none utilizes the pumpkin the way the city of Venice does. Pumpkin, what the Venetians call zucca or”suca”, lasts through the cold weather and keeps until spring.
Marina di Chioggia (pronounced kee-oh’-jah), is Italy’s best known pumpkin. Dense, flavorful and silky, this pumpkin weighs about 4 lbs. Called “suca baruca” (warty pumpkin) in Venetian dialect, this slightly squashed sphere with gnarled, dark green skin and vibrant orange flesh is rich and sweet after cooking. Once, vendors walked around the streets of Venice balancing wooden planks piled high with roasted pumpkin on their shoulders, hawking, “suca baruc”, to eager schoolchildren or anyone else wanting a sugary snack.
The “suca” criers are gone, replaced by souvenir peddlers, but Chioggia pumpkins have become universally loved in Italy and beyond, and vendors with their big golden wedges of pumpkin still sell in the markets from the Rialto to Sicily. There are other types of pumpkins that are long, such as the Violina from Ferrara (a variety of Butternut squash) with rugged skin. Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. This is the reason why Butternut squash is called “pumpkin” in Italy.
The Chioggia’s ancient signature dish, suca in saor, is sweet-and-sour pumpkin. Slices of pumpkin are salted in a colander, as for eggplant, to remove excess moisture. Next they are dredged in flour and fried in olive oil until crisp. Then they are layered with sautéed onions, raisins, toasted pine nuts and white wine vinegar. The dish is chilled for several days before serving it as an appetizer.
The US could grow Marina di Chioggia pumpkin, if there was a demand for it, though its sheer size would discourage shipping it to different markets. Widely available, however, are pie pumpkins, butternut squash and Calabaza that can be used in for Italian sweet and savory dishes or pies.
Overall, the Cucurbitaceae family’s bland and its compact flesh makes these squash an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet recipes the Italians cook. The blossoms are prepared in a variety of unusual ways, while the pulp is made into soup, risotto, pasta and gnocchi, to name just a few dishes.
They can also be used for savory pumpkin tarts with prosciutto and sweet versions made with pumpkin-honey-orange filling in a walnut-flour crust.
Italian Squash Stew
The combination of fresh pumpkin, black dry-cured olives, garlic and tomatoes may sound unusual, but it is a very aromatic dish. Pumpkin or squash alone is bland, but the dry-cured olives and garlic give it great flavor.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 cup canned tomato purée, or ½ cup tomato paste mixed with ½ cup water
- 1 medium-sized butternut or Hubbard squash or 1 small pumpkin (about 1½ pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
- 20 black dry-cured olives, pitted and halved
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil and garlic together until the garlic is fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, stir and bring slowly to a simmer, about 4 minutes. Add the squash, olives, thyme and 3/4 cup water. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.
Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill and reheat gently before serving.
This dish can be made up to 3 days in advance.
Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Soup
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 leek, washed and sliced into half rounds
- 1 29-ounce can of pumpkin or 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into half-inch pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 bay leaves
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1 sprig sage
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- Pinch of cayenne to taste
- 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks. Cook and stir until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
Add pumpkin, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Mix well. If using fresh pumpkin, cook until it softens slightly.
Add chicken broth , sage and thyme. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and the broth thickens.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
Brown the sausage in a medium sauté pan. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Stir the sausage into the soup and heat.
Serve the soup with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese on top.
- 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
- 1 small onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for pasta water
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup half & half or whole milk
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a simmer. Add salt and the rigatoni and boil until al dente.
Dice the onion and garlic.
Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat; add the onions and garlic and sauté for about five minutes, until the onion and garlic are translucent and just starting to brown.
Combine the salt, Italian seasoning and flour. Add to the onions and garlic and carefully stir to incorporate. Next, add the pumpkin puree to the pan, stirring it together. Add the half & half or milk to the mixture. Give it a gentle stir until incorporated and remove the pan from the heat.
Drain the pasta and place it in a large baking dish. Add the pumpkin sauce and stir until the pasta is coated. Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan cheese over the pasta and place the dish in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the pasta is hot in the center of the baking dish and the cheese has melted.
Pumpkin Bread Stuffing for Roast Chicken or Pork
- 1 cup diced pumpkin (from 1 whole small pumpkin)
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 1/2 cups diced sweet onions
- 1 1/2 cups diced celery
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 cup finely chopped sage leaves
- Salt and cracked black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups day old country bread
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- Parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F
Cut pumpkin in half and then cut each half into several pieces. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin and dice. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, thyme and sage, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper.
Meanwhile, crumble the bread into a large bowl and add the sautéed vegetables. Stir in the beaten egg and roasted pumpkin and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and mix well.
Transfer stuffing into a medium-sized casserole dish and dot with the remaining butter. Bake for 45 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.
To serve, cut stuffing into squares and serve with roasted meat.
Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1/3 cup of honey
- 1 cup of pumpkin
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
- 2 whole graham crackers, enough to make a scant 1/3 cup crumbs
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup almonds, pecans or hazelnuts
- Pinch of salt
For the crust:
Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery:
Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one. If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.
Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.
For the filling
Beat together with a mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice. Continue to beat until creamy.
Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch. Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving
- Zesty Ginger Butternut Squash Soup (triplecordcsaorganicproduce.wordpress.com)
- Butternut Squash and Ricotta Pizza (cookingwithanne.com)
The Jewish New Year is one of the most important occasions on the Jewish calendar. A central part of its observance is the Rosh Hashanah dinner, which emphasizes sweet foods in hopeful anticipation of a sweet year. These special foods are incorporated into menus in different ways. Frequently, each is prepared on its own as a cold appetizer. Leeks are often braised with a touch of tomato. Chard is sautéed with garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Italian Jews might include beets among the sweet vegetables and make them into a salad or combine them with potatoes and green beans. Some Moroccan Jews poach the vegetables with raisins or other dried fruit and serve them sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar as a sweet topping for the hearty holiday entrée known as, Couscous with Seven Vegetables. Rosh Hashanah is about traditional symbolic foods.
Italy is one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe. Jews have been living in Rome, for more than 2,000 years. Italian Jewish cuisine has been inspired by traditional Italian cooking but modified to conform to kosher rules. Italian cuisine has been influenced by Jewish cuisine. Every region in Italy has its own traditions. For example, in Venice, they eat Sarde in Saor, a sweet and sour sardine dish with pine nuts and raisins.
Roman Jews say the blessing over 10 foods and each blessing is a symbol for something or a wish. These include pomegranate (fulfilment), pumpkin (to remove bad judgement), fish (fertility), figs (wish for a sweet New Year), dates (to banish enemies and bring sweetness) and a few others.
It is customary to wish people a sweet New Year on Rosh Hashanah. At the dinner table, these friendly wishes translate into the custom of dipping apple slices into golden honey. It is also customary to eat foods that feature one or both of these foods, including apple cake, honey cake, tzimmes,a root vegetable and dried fruit stew sweetened with honey, and teiglach, a sticky, Old World confection made from bits of dough boiled in honey.
As the Jewish calendar’s New Year’s equivalent, Rosh Hashanah is a great time to hope for a full, round year ahead. That is why one tends to see round or spiral-shaped challahs, instead of the typical braided bread loaves on the Rosh Hashanah dinner table. As an added bonus, challah often comes studded with raisins for an extra dose of sweetness. Pomegranates, the globe shaped fruits packed with overlapping layers of ruby-colored seeds, are commonly incorporated into Rosh Hashanah menus. In addition to being one of the fruits mentioned in the Old Testament, the pomegranate’s many seeds are said to represent both the 613 commandments the Jewish people received from God and their wish to do many good deeds in the coming year.
On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, the custom of eating a “new fruit,” is common. A new fruit is a fruit that one has not been eaten in the last year, or that has recently come into season. This custom offers a way to physically taste the newness of the year and is accompanied by a blessing of thanks for reaching the New Year. Pomegranates are often used for this purpose, as are star fruits, ugli fruits, lychees and other less common fruits.
Slowly braised dishes embrace the meditative nature of the holiday. Jewish-style brisket is simple, familiar and always braised. It is Jewish comfort food at its finest. Jewish home cooks tend to keep a tried and true brisket recipe in their back pocket. Some people prefer it flavored with tomato sauce, while others like it sweetened with brown sugar or a cranberry sauce glaze. Still others prefer to take a minimalist approach, using little more than garlic, onion and bay leaves to perfume the meat.
Risotto with Raisins
The combination of sweet and savory one encounters in many Italian Jewish recipes is quite old and suggests it originated from the first Jewish communities to arrive in Italy — well before the birth of Christ.
- 2 1/2 cups (500 g) rice
- 1/4 pound (100 g) raisins
- 5 cups (1 1/4 liters) steaming low sodium chicken broth
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- Minced parsley
- 1 whole clove garlic, smashed
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Sauté the garlic and the parsley in a deep pot in the oil, until the garlic begins to color, then remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard it. Return the pot to the fire.
Sauté the raisins for about a minute, then add the rice and continue sautéing, stirring briskly, for about 5 minutes more.
Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. Continue adding broth and stirring over medium low heat until all the broth has been added.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is done, about 20-25 minutes.
Italian Beef Brisket
Use a leaner, flat-cut, or first-cut brisket with a layer of fat that’s about 1/8 inch thick. If you can’t find a 6-pound piece, buy 2 smaller pieces. Like most braised dishes, this brisket is best made a day or two ahead.
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon chopped oregano
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- One 6-pound flat-cut brisket
- 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (1/2 ounce)
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
- 2 cups chopped canned Italian tomatoes
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper with the thyme, oregano and paprika. Rub the seasonings all over the brisket.
In a medium heatproof bowl, cover the porcini with the hot water and set aside until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid; rinse and coarsely chop them. Reserve the soaking liquid.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Heat the oil in a large oven proof pan until shimmering. Add the brisket, fat side down, and cook over moderately high heat until well-browned on both sides, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a platter and pour off any excess fat from the pan.
Add the wine and chicken stock, then pour in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and stir in the tomatoes, porcini and bay leaves.
Return the brisket to the pan, fat side up. Scatter the onions and garlic over the meat and into the liquid and bring to a boil. Cover, place the pan in the oven and cook for 1 hour.
Uncover and cook for 30 minutes. Spoon the onions on top of the brisket and cook for about 30 minutes longer to brown the onions. Push some of the onions back into the liquid, cover and braise for another 2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.
Transfer the brisket to a carving board and cover loosely with foil.
Simmer the sauce for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves.
Carve the brisket across the grain into thin slices and arrange on a large, warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve.
MAKE AHEAD: The seasoned brisket can be refrigerated overnight before cooking.
If cooking the brisket a day ahead, let the meat cool in the sauce before refrigerating. When ready to serve, skim the fat from the surface and slice the brisket; then rewarm the meat in the sauce.
Basil and Balsamic Beets
- 2 pounds beets
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
In 13″ by 9″ roasting pan, toss beets with olive oil. Roast in a preheated 450 degree F. oven 1 hour or until tender. Cool beets; peel and discard the skins.
Dice beets; toss with basil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and salt. This dish may be served at room temperature.
Mashed Pumpkin (Zucca Disfatta)
- 2 pounds butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, very finely minced
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley, for ganish
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onion in it. Add the diced pumpkin, parsley, salt and cook over low heat, covered, stirring often, until it’s so soft that it can be mashed easily. Mash the squash with a fork or potato masher and turn into a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley..
Italian-Jewish Pastries (Precipizi)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white rum or other clear spirits
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- Powdered sugar (optional)
Mix together the eggs, flour, sugar, olive oil and rum and lightly knead until a smooth, soft dough forms.
Shape the dough into one inch balls.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over high heat.
Add the dough balls and fry until golden on all sides, working in batches. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
When the dough balls have all finished cooking, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and add the honey.
When the honey is hot, add the dough balls back into the pan and stir to coat.
Pour onto a greased baking sheet and allow to cool.
Place in a round serving bowl and top with powdered sugar, if you wish.
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