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.
Turin (Torino in Italian) is an interesting and often overlooked city in the Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian) region of Italy. It is in the northwest section of the 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 arcaded shopping promenades and museums. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics because the nearby mountains and valleys are a huge attraction for winter sports. This hilly region bordering France and Switzerland is, also, ideal for dry farming grapes which are deep-rooted enough to withstand periods of dry weather.
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 very expensive mushroom. Turin has some outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones. Chocolate for eating, as we know it today, (bars and pieces) originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty of Turin.
Turin derives its name from the Celtic word tau, meaning mountain, and was founded almost 2400 years ago by a Celtic tribe, the Taurini. The Taurini conquered much of France and part of Spain before heading into what is known today as Italy. In Italian torino means “little bull”. The bull is still part of the city standard (flag) to this day.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Turin, which was always prized for its fertile land and access to the Po River, was conquered by various barbarian tribes including the Goths, Lombards and Franks, who established the city as an earldom in the 8th century A.D.
However, when the Savoy family dynasty conquered the city in the year 1280, the city would finally begin its rise to prominence. The history of Turin for the next 600 years is tied to that of the House of Savoy. The Savoys are also credited with bringing art, culture and architecture to Turin. The Savoys certainly spared no expense to make Turin beautiful. However, despite their best efforts to ‘Italianize’ the city, Turin’s layout is often compared to Paris more than any other Italian city.
The Savoys would reign over Italy until Benito Mussolini’s Fascists took over the country at the beginning of the 20th. century. By this time, Turin had turned its attention to industry and is, still, one of the world’s greatest automobile centers.
Turin has been producing chocolate for over three centuries. The origins of the city’s chocolate-making art can be traced back to the year 1678, when Madame Reale, who was then the Queen of the Savoy state, granted the first ever “license” to Turinese chocolate maker Giò Antonio Ari to make chocolate. Thus began the city’s closest relationship with chocolate, which continues until this day. The chocolate varieties created by Turinese chocolatiers are truly special and include several specialties, like the traditional Gianduiotto, which is shaped like an upturned boat and crafted out of sugar, cocoa and hazelnut paste; the Baci di Cherasco (Cherasco Kisses) which are made with dark chocolate and hazelnuts; the Alpino which contains a liqueur cream and is named after the hat worn by the Italian military regiments; and the Bicerin, which is a truly decadent layered hot chocolate coffee drink.
The chocolate most associated with Turin is gianduia. However, long before they started putting hazelnuts in chocolate, Turin was a major player in the world of European chocolate. Turin chocolatiers began selling chocolate in 1678, almost 200 years before the first Gianduia candy bar entered the chocolate scene in Turin. Gianduia, a blend of milk chocolate and ground hazelnuts, was invented due to the high cacao prices and problems with supply. In order to extend their supply of cacao, chocolatiers added hazelnuts that were, and still are, in abundance from the local Langhe area. One of the most popular combinations of chocolate and hazelnuts, worldwide, is Nutella. Ferrero-Rocher, located in the nearby city of Alba, began producing the popular spread in 1945. First is was called Giandujot, then Supercrema, then Cremalba. In 1964 it became Nutella.
Almost every chocolatier and sweet shop in Turin has a local version of the spread, using just as many variations as its numerous names. These artisanal versions are more likely to actually use Piedmont hazelnuts and less likely to have palm oil or preservatives that come with the mass produced spread in the rest of the world.
Here are just a few types of chocolate candies made in Turin:
Nocciolati – Nocciolati are gianduia chocolate bars with whole roasted hazelnuts throughout. These, along with other chocolate variations, decorate many chocolate storefront windows in Turin. They are sold by weight, usually the etto (100 grams). Nocciolato fondente is a dark chocolate bar with hazelnuts; nocciolato latte is milk chocolate with hazelnuts, and nocciolato bianco is white chocolate. Little bite-size versions are nocciolatini.
Cremino – In 1911 to launch its Fiat 4, the Turin-based auto manufacturer held a contest for Italian chocolatiers to create a chocolate in honor of the new car. “Il Cremino” made by Aldo Majani in Bologna won. For many years it was known as the Cremino Fiat. A square shape, it is layers of chocolate, initially four layers, but now made with three-layer. Two of the layers are gianduia chocolate. The middle layer varies in flavor and can be hazelnut cream, dark chocolate or coffee cream, to name just a few.
Tris di Nocciole – A classic in chocolate shops in Turin, they are simply three roasted hazelnuts covered in chocolate. You can find them in all three chocolate variations; dark, milk and white.
Tartufi (truffles) – Although they are a specialty of Turin, you can find truffles all over the world. Named after the expensive fungus they resemble, these balls of ganache, sometimes with a little liquor added to the ganache, are traditionally rolled in cocoa powder.
Rochers – Ferrero-Rocher (the company that also makes Nutella) introduced these “rocks” to the world in 1982. Many chocolatiers in the city make them. If you love chocolate and hazelnuts, this is a dream combination. Generally, they start with a chocolate-covered hazelnut at the center; gianduia cream encases it. A very thin wafer is wrapped around the gianduia cream, separating it from the final coating of milk chocolate and chopped hazelnuts.
Healthy Chocolate Inspired Recipes From Turin, Italy
Italian Mocha (Bicerin)
Bicerin derives from an older drink, called Bavaresia, which was popular in the XVII century; unlike bicerin, it was stirred. Bicerin made its appearance in the 1840s, and enjoying a bicerin at the caffé in the morning soon became a ritual in Turin. Bicerin, a sinful drink, is prepared from coffee, cocoa, and whipped cream. A little goes a long way — the word bicerin means little glass — and, if you like it, you’ll be joining august company: Alexandre Dumas, Italo Calvino, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso were all bicerin fans. The caffés of Turin keep their versions secret, but you might try it with this recipe, if you can afford the calories, if not use the second recipe, which is a healthy, tasty adaption:
Ingredients for Hot Chocolate
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup good quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
- 2 cups very strong coffee
- 1 tablespoon powdered coffee creamer (optional)
1 Heat the milk to boiling.
2 Reduce heat and whisk in chocolate and sugar.
3 Heat mixture to boiling while stirring continuously.
4 Remove from heat and whisk in coffee and creamer (if using, it thickens the drink a bit).
5 Add topping, see below
Ingredients for Bicerin Topping
- 1 part freshly made espresso
- 1 part freshly made hot chocolate, see above
- 1 part heavy cream
Place a cocktail shaker in the freezer until well chilled, at least 10 minutes. Fill a large heatproof glass with very hot tap water and set aside.
To serve: empty glass and dry. Layer ingredients in the glass by placing shot of espresso in the bottom and then, while slightly tilting the glass, slowly pouring in hot chocolate.
Remove shaker from freezer, add cream, and shake vigorously until frothy, at least 20 times. Spoon shaken cream on top of hot chocolate and serve immediately.
Tip: For an alcoholic bicerin, add 1 part coffee-flavored liqueur to the hot chocolate before layering it.
Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate Italian-Style) – Healthy Version
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 cups milk plus 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons frozen fat-free, whipped topping, thawed
1. Mix the cocoa powder and sugar together in a small saucepan. Stir the 1 1/2 cups milk into the saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Place over low heat; slowly bring the mixture to a low simmer.
2. Whisk the 2 tablespoons of milk together with the cornstarch in a small cup; slowly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the cocoa mixture. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the hot chocolate reaches a pudding-like thickness, 2 to 3 minutes. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of whipped topping.
- 2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Pound cake, toasted and diced for dipping
- Assorted fruit, for dipping
In a large microwavable bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Microwave on medium (50 percent power) 2 minutes; whisk until smooth.
Meanwhile in a small saucepan, heat water, milk, and honey over medium-high heat just until small bubbles appear around edge of pan. Whisk milk mixture into chocolate mixture until smooth. Serve fondue with cake and fruit.
- 1/4 cup sugar (or 2 tablespoons sugar alternative, such as Truvia)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
- 1/4 cup Frangelico (hazelnut-flavored liqueur)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
- 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Combine the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
Heat milk over medium-high heat in a small, heavy saucepan until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.
Place the milk mixture back in the saucepan and cook over medium heat until very thick and bubbly (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly.
Spoon mixture into a medium bowl, and add liqueur, vanilla, and chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts.
Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until mixture is cool, stirring occasionally.
Remove bowl from ice. Gently fold in one-third of the whipped topping. Fold in remaining topping. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 2/3 cup mousse and 1 teaspoon hazelnuts)
Chocolate Chip Biscotti
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large egg whites and 1 large egg or 3/4 cups egg substitute
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (such as Hershey’s)
- 3/4 cup unsalted sliced almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, flaxseed, soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside.
Combine sugars, egg in an electric mixer bowl; beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Add vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture to egg mixture; stir on low speed until combined. Fold in chocolate and almonds with a spatula.
Turn dough out onto a floured board and divide dough into 3 equal portions. (I use a scale to weigh the dough.) Roll each portion into a 6-inch-long roll. Arrange the roll, 3 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Shape each into a 6 by 1-inch log. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until firm. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
3. Remove rolls from the baking sheet; cool 20 minutes on a wire rack. Cut rolls diagonally into 30 (1/2-inch) slices. Return slices, cut sides down, to the baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°; bake 10 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen (serving size: 1 biscotti)
Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake
- 1 cup amaretti or chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (See brands below.)
- 2 tablespoons butter or trans-free margarine, melted, such as Smart Balance
- 2/3 cups sugar (or 1/3 cup sugar alternative for baking)
- 3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, divided
- 2 packages (8 ounces each) fat-free cream cheese
- 1 cup light sour cream
- 3 eggs or 3/4 cups egg substitute
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
- 2 tablespoons fat free half-and-half
- 1 cups fresh raspberries + 1 tablespoon sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Combine the cookie crumbs and margarine in a bowl and mix together. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Melt 2 cups of the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler, taking care to keep the water from touching the bottom of the pan containing the chips. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Meanwhile, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, and remaining 2/3 cup sugar or 1/3 cup sugar alternative with an electric mixer until smooth. Slowly beat in the flour, almond extract, and coffee granules. Add the melted chocolate and beat on high speed until well incorporated.
5. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and run a knife or thin metal spatula around the edge of the sides to loosen the sides but do not remove the cake from the pan. Place pan on a rack and let cool for 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
6. When the cake is chilled, melt the remaining 1 cup chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler and stir in the half-and-half. Cool slightly and pour onto the top of the cake. Spread with a spatula to the edge so that some of the chocolate runs down the side of the cake. Chill until ready to serve.
Toss the raspberries with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Serve with cake.
- Grand Tour, Turin – a taster (alangent.wordpress.com)
- Wine Regions, Festivals and Interesting Sites in Piedmont Italy (vinoconvistablog.me)
- DIY Nutella [Nutella] (lifehacker.com)