My blogger friend and artist, Wendie, asked me to consider creating some vegan dishes for my blog. I told her I would consider it, if I could come up with ideas that did not use processed vegan foods. To me a true vegan dish should be made from plants without the addition of meat substitutes or processed dairy substitutes and dressings.
Note: If you are making a vegan dessert then the sugar you use must not have been processed with animal products, as most regular sugar products are. Did you know that? Here is some information on how sugar is processed. Look for brands that say organic, fair trade or vegan on the label.
Of course, the recipes in my menu must be Italian and I did include some olive oil. I consider olive oil to be a healthy oil and part of the vegan diet, since it is a plant-based food.
If there are health issues, then leave it out and use vegetable broth for sautéing, but for most of us olive oil is needed to create a flavorful dish.
Here is my take on a great tasting vegan dinner using all natural, easy to find ingredients. Try it for your next Meatless Monday dinner.
Pureed Celery Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 leeks, light green and white sections, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds celery (stalks & leaves), diced
- 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled & diced
- 8 cups vegetable broth (for homemade vegetable stock see my recipe here)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Add the broth and potato and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potato is fork tender, about 20 minutes.
Add the parsley leaves and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.
Use a regular blender to puree the soup until smooth (a hand immersion blender or a food processor does not get the soup really smooth).
Stir in the lemon juice and taste to adjust the seasoning, if needed.
Crusty Italian Bread
- 3 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great.
Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of a round cloche baker or dutch oven with a lid and sprinkle with flour. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven has reached 450 degrees F, place the baker pan in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface and shape into a ball. Place the dough on the prepared parchment and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise while the baker is heating.
Remove the hot baker from the oven and transfer the dough with the parchment to the baker. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in the top of the dough. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Slice and serve with olive oil for dipping.
Eggplant Olive Pasta
Serve a mixed green salad with the pasta.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 8 ounces dried rigatoni pasta (Check the ingredient list to be sure the pasta is vegan. Good Italian dried pasta should never contain eggs.)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, olives, vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes more.
Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce, while the pasta cooks.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Place the cooked pasta and pasta cooking water in the skillet with the eggplant sauce and heat for about 2 minutes.
Pour into a pasta serving bowl and garnish with basil.
Vanilla Almond Biscotti
After experimenting with different ingredients to create a vegan biscotti, I decided this recipe had the right combination to form an authentic tasting biscotti.
They are more fragile than traditional biscotti, so handle gently. And, believe me when I say, this is a great tasting biscotti.
Makes about 15 biscotti
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 3/4 cup slivered almonds
- 3/4 cup almond flour/meal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the almond milk and sliced almonds. Once mixed, slowly add the milk and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the 1 cup sliced almonds.
Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough in the center. Form the dough into a log with wet hands, about 10 x 4 inches.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Using a sharp knife, slice the log on the diagonal into 1-inch thick cookies and place them back on the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and bake for 15 minutes more. Move to a wire rack to cool completely. These go very well with coffee for dessert.
Note: If you would like to decorate the biscotti with a drizzle of frosting for a better presentation, then mix together 1 cup of organic powdered sugar with 2-3 teaspoons of almond milk.
L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of Southern Italy. It comprises about half the landmass of Abruzzo and occupies the western part of the region. The Province of L’Aquila includes the highest mountains of the Apennines (Gran Sasso, Maiella and Velino-Sirente).
The province is known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with the growth of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and computer industries.
The province’s major rivers are the Aterno-Pescara, Sangro, Liri, Salto and the Turano; its major lakes are Lago Scanno and Lago Barrea. It once included the largest lake on the Italian peninsula, Lago Fucino, which was drained in one of the 19th century’s largest engineering projects. The lake basin is today a flourishing agricultural area and an important technological district.
The Romans knew the lake as Fusinus Lacus and founded settlements on its banks. While the lake provided fertile soil and a large quantity of fish, it was known to harbor malaria and, having no natural outflow, repeatedly flooded the surrounding land. The Emperor Claudius attempted to control the lake’s maximum level by digging a 5.6 km (3.5 mi) tunnel through Monte Salviano, requiring 30,000 workers and eleven years of work. They eventually dug 32 wells and 6 tunnels. The lake was drained but with the fall of the Roman Empire the tunnels were obstructed and the water returned to previous levels. Many centuries later, Prince Alessandro Torlonia completed the work of the final draining of Lake Fucino expanding the original project of the emperor Claudius, by turning the Fucino in a fertile plain. In 1977, the tunnels were inaugurated as an archaeological park.
Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s pastoral agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks, and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy of rural L’Aquila and begun to reverse its population decline.
Many of the small villages, locked away in the mountains for centuries, have always depended on local products for their cuisine, especially cheeses, pastas and spices. While many of the dishes bear similarities to recipes one might find throughout Italy, the locals usually provide a regional variation. For example, chili pepper and saffron can be found added to many dishes in L’Aquila. The best-known pasta for the area is “chitarra” (guitar) pasta, which derives its musical name not from its shape, but from the wire-stringed instrument on which it is made.
Much of the region’s cuisine revolves around fresh seasonal produce, roasted meats and cured pork. Santo Stefano di Sessanio Lentils are grown exclusively here. Typical Abruzzo main courses are broadly divided according to geography: lamb in the highlands and seafood on the coast.
Another local specialty is soppressata, which is pork salami whose typical flat section is obtained, after the initial curing period, by placing the sausage between two wooden planks or thick metal sheets. A product uniquely native to Abruzzo in Italy is saffron from the Navelli Plane in the Province of L’Aquila. Zafferano–its Italian name–are the dried stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower and it is the most expensive spice in the world. Why? Because the extraction process is labor-intensive. You can’t harvest the crocus flowers with machinery, only the human hand will do.
Lower costs and a longer shelf life made Pane con le Patate (bread made with potatoes) a staple. By adding potatoes to the bread dough, the leavening agents combined with the potato’s yeasts, yield a type of bread capable of keeping fresh for twice as long as any other type of bread.
Among Abruzzo’s sweet endings, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented the recipe, using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the golden color, typical of the ancient unrefined bread. He kept the dome shape,\ and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.
Involtini di Prosciutto con Arugula e Pecorino
(Prosciutto Rolled with Arugula and Pecorino Cheese)
A local prosciutto from Abruzzo is used and it differs from Parma ham because it is a little more salty.
- 8 to 10 thin slices of prosciutto
- 8 to 10 shavings of pecorino cheese
- 2 bunches of arugula (washed with hard stems removed)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml.) of olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (strained)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Cured black olives, pits removed
On parchment paper, arrange the prosciutto in a single layer.
Pour the strained lemon juice in a non-reactive bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly. Drop in the arugula, add salt and pepper and toss thoroughly.
Starting at one end of the slice of prosciutto place a small bunch of arugula. Add 1 shaving of cheese. Roll into a roulade, making sure it remains intact.
Continue with the remaining slices of prosciutto. Arrange on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper to taste. Garnish with the black olives.
Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta and Lentils)
- 11/2 cups dry lentils (or canned, drained, and rinsed)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta (cut in 1/4-inch pieces)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound spaghetti (or egg noodles)
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add the lentils, cover, and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
Drain and set aside. (If you are using canned lentils, you can add them directly to the frying pan after you sauté the pancetta.)
Using a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package instructions until it is al dente.
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, onions, and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is golden, about 7 minutes.
Combine with the lentils and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Toss the lentils and gradually add water until creamy.
Sprinkle with Parmigiano and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.
- 4 cups lean lamb, cut into ½ inch cubes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
Skewer the cubes neatly on well-oiled metal skewers or tiny disposable wooden kebab sticks (pre-soaked briefly in water, so the heat won’t burn the wood).
Marinate the arrosticini in olive oil, salt and pepper. Dribble the skewered meat with lemon juice and roast on the barbecue quickly, 2-3 minutes, turning a couple of times for even cooking.
Serve with slices of oiled bruschetta.
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- A pinch of anise
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Work together the eggs, flour, sugar and olive oil to obtain a firm dough. Add the vanilla and a pinch of anise for the aroma.
Heat the waffle pan thoroughly. Grease it with butter and spoon small dollops of dough onto the waffle pan. Close the waffle pan and cook for 20-30 seconds.
Lift the top and use a fork to work the waffle loose. As you bake the ferratelle, be sure to keep the pan heated and well-greased throughout the baking time. Serve with jam.
This has always been my family’s favorite meal. This is the most asked for menu for birthdays and special occasions, after homemade pizza.
Antipasto Platter and Italian Bread
- Stuffed Peppers
- Roasted Tomatoes
Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 1 lb to 2 lbs spaghetti (depending on how many you are serving)
- Parmesan cheese, grated
For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 53 oz (1500 g) imported chopped Italian tomatoes (Preferably without salt or sugar added)
- 6 oz can (170 g) tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 or 4 basil leaves
For the Meatballs
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To make the sauce:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.
Stir well and cook the paste a minute or two. Add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to low.
Place the lid on the pot but leave it ajar and cook the sauce until thick, about 2 hours. When the meatballs are browned, add them to the sauce after it has been cooking for 1 ½ hours.
Stir the meatballs carefully so they do not break.
To make the meatballs:
Combine the bread cubes with the milk in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the onion and garlic.Cook until the onion is soft. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the onion to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl combine the beef with the cooled onion, the bread and the soaking liquid with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and form the mixture into 12 meatballs.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake the meatballs until brown all over, about 20 minutes
Italian Mixed Green Salad
- Mixed baby lettuces
- Cucumber, peeled and sliced
- Red onion, sliced
- Italian vinaigrette
Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
This quick-and-easy dessert is lighter than traditional cheesecake, since it calls for ricotta instead of cream cheese and my children love it. They always ask for it.Serves 8-10.
- Soft butter for the pan
- ½ cup crushed Amaretti Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 6 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.
Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color. Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fresh fruit on the side.
The province and metropolitan city of Messina are located in the northeast corner of Sicily on the Strait of Messina and sits on two different seas. It is also the 3rd largest city on the island of Sicily and the 13th largest city in Italy. Messina was originally founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC. In 1908, a devastating earthquake hit Messina, along with a tsunami, which destroyed much of the historical architecture of the city. One of the major landmarks lost to the earthquake was the 12th century Cathedral of the City, which was rebuilt in 1919. The city was also victim to significant damage from bombing raids during the Second World War.
Among the top attractions of Messina are the Cathedral of Messina, the Orologio Astronomico (the Bell Tower with an Astronomical Clock) and the Annunziata dei Catalani Church. The cathedral has largely been rebuilt following the earthquake damage and the bomb damage but some of the original building still remains, including a 15th century Gothic doorway and some 14th century mosaics. The attractive Bell Tower is home to one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks and its motorized figures emerge every day at noon to depict scenes of local history. Also, in the Piazza Duomo is the 16th century Fontaine de Orione.
The province’s main resources are its seaports (commercial and military shipyards), cruise tourism, commerce and agriculture (wine production and cultivating lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges and olives).
Just off the coast are the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and they are a popular tourist destination in the summer, attracting up to 200,000 visitors annually. There are beaches and coves with black sand, pumice stone and tiny pebbles, steaming craters, bubbling mud baths, sulfur springs, strange-shaped grottoes, crystal-clear turquoise waters, craggy cliffs, and archaeological sites on the coastline and the adjacent islands.
Fish: fried, baked or grilled, is the province’s most popular food. The preparation can vary, but what matters most is its freshness. Swordfish from the Messina Strait is cooked in multiple ways. Crustaceans and mussels make a popular soup and are often used as a topping for rice and spaghetti.
Vegetables and fruits are important components of Messinese cooking. Caponata, eggplant with cheese and potato fries are three of the best known local vegetable dishes.
Dairy products include canestrato cheese in sweet or spicy versions, sheep pecorino cheese and provola cheese, all made according to ancient traditions.
Olive oil, honey, hazelnuts and pistachios are all part of the cuisine.
Local pastries are well-known classics: cannoli, cassate, almond paste, martorana fruit and pignolata.
The D.O.C. wines of Etna, the Malvasia di Lipari and citrus liqueurs are all produced here.
Sciusceddu ( Meatball and Egg Soup)
“Sciusceddu” is a dish that comes from the city of Messina in Sicily, where it is traditionally served at Easter. There are two theories for where the name “sciusceddu” comes from. One suggests that it derives from the Latin word “juscelleum,” meaning soup, and the other is from the Sicilian verb “sciusciare,” meaning to blow.
4 cups meat broth
7 oz veal or beef meat, chopped
2 oz breadcrumbs
3 ½ oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
3 eggs, divided
3 ½ oz ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
Combine the minced meat, one egg, breadcrumbs, half of the grated Caciocavallo cheese (or Parmesan), chopped parsley and a little water; then form meatballs about the size of a small egg.
In another bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs with the ricotta cheese, the remaining Caciocavallo cheese and a dash of salt and pepper.
Bring the broth to the boil in a saucepan and drop the meatballs into the broth.
Cook for about twenty minutes, then add the egg/ricotta mixture, stirring vigorously for a few moments. Remove from the heat and serve the “sciusceddu” piping hot.
Pesce Spada alla Messinese (Swordfish Messina style)
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 lb (600 gr) swordfish cut into palm-sized pieces slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
20 capers (if salted, rinse well first)
10 black olives, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup white wine
2 cups tomato passata (sauce)
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
Brush the swordfish slices with olive oil and set aside.
In a skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the spring onions, garlic, capers, olives, chili pepper and anchovy fillets and cook until the anchovies melt into the oil and the onion is soft.
Put the slices of swordfish in the skillet and add the white wine. Burn off the alcohol and then add the tomatoes. Mix well, cover and cook for 30 minutes on very low heat.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley.
Pidoni, a popular dish from Messina. are pieces of pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and anchovy, similar to a calzone but fried.
For the dough:
400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
200 gr ( 2 cups) bread flour
300 ml (1 and 1/3 cups) water
2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
40 gr (6 tablespoons) olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
For the filling:
500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
600 gr /18 oz diced, canned tomato
400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
6-8 anchovy fillets
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough. Mix the dough ingredients, oil the dough, cover it and let it rise in a draft-free area.
About half way through the proofing time, knead the dough briefly and cover again.
Make the filling.
Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely or pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour.
It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture, so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.
Divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inches) in diameter.
Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge.
Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.
Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan, until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds.
Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork, drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden.
Drain on kitchen towssl and set aside. Continue until all are finished. Serves 6-8
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Pistachio Cream, recipe below
In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch, and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients to form a slurry so that all the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract.
Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 12 minutes to thicken, stirring constantly.
Another important tip is to stir slowly, (do not whisk) which will prevent too much air from being incorporated into the custard that will produce ice crystals.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.
Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.
Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
With Gelato, it is best to not process it until it is hard. Instead, stop the ice cream maker at soft serve consistency, then put it in a container in your freezer until stiff for a delicate flavor and texture that differentiates it from ice cream.
When the gelato is done, either serve (best if eaten and enjoyed immediately, as gelato has a shorter storage life than ice cream) or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firmer.
Makes approximately 1 quart of pistachio gelato.
1 cup hot water
8 ounces raw unsalted shelled and hulled pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until the pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that spreads freely in the blender (It usually takes about 9 tablespoons of hot water).
NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process. When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use in making the gelato.
Makes approximately 1 cup.
Belluno is a province in the Veneto region of Italy and is almost entirely occupied by mountain areas. The climate is among the most severe in the Alps. The Belluno area is representative of a typical alpine environment and a people who are proud of their traditions passed down from generation to generation through experience and oral narrative.
Belluno is one of the most important industrial sectors of northern Italy. The production of eyeglasses (Luxottica), home appliances (Zanussi and others) and bathroom fixtures (Ceramica Dolomite, Ideal Standard) are major industries.
Luxottica Group S.p.A., an Italian company, is the world’s largest eye wear company and is a designer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer of eye wear. Leonardo Del Vecchio and two financial partners launched Luxottica in Agordo, Italy in 1961.
Luxottica is the owner of Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical. Its best known brands are Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley. Luxottica also makes sunglasses and prescription frames for designer brands such as Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Miu Miu, Donna Karan, Stella McCartney and Tory Burch. Luxottica produces more than 130,000 eyeglass frames each day from six factory sites.
The cultivation of beans in the Lamon highlands and the production of Piave cheese in the Dolomites are important to Belluno’s economy. Large scale dairy cattle breeding in Belluno, began centuries ago by small mountain owners and valley sharecroppers. In more recent times, the Belluno area, like many other mountain areas in Italy, was hit with a serious economic crisis. In order to deal with the socio-economic downfall, a local parish priest, suggested a new form of joint management and the first social cooperative dairy was organized.
Piave is an Italian cow’s milk cheese, that is named after the Piave river. As Piave has a Protected Designation of Origin (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or DOP), the only “official” Piave is produced in the Dolomites area in the province of Belluno.
Piave is a hard, cooked curd cheese, offered at 5 different ages:
Piave Fresco (20 to 60 days aging – blue label)
Piave Mezzano (61 to 180 days aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio (more than 6 months aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro (more than 12 months aging – red label)
Piave Vecchio Riserva (more than 18 months aging – black label).
Piave cheese has a dense texture, without holes, and is straw-yellow in hue. It has a slightly sweet flavor. Once fully aged, it becomes hard enough for grating and it develops an intense, full-bodied flavor.
Piave’s rind is impressed repeatedly in a vertical direction with the name of the cheese. Piave is sold throughout Europe and even in the US as a hard cheese. Its taste resembles that of a young Parmigiano Reggiano. The red label is aged at least 1 year and is called Vecchio (Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro), while the blue label is softer.
Piave Broiled Tomatoes
Makes 2 – 4 servings
- 3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” slices
- 3/4 cup | 175 mL panko breadcrumbs
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon | 15 mL fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup | 150 mL Piave cheese, finely grated
- 1/4 cup | 60 mL olive oil
- 1 teaspoon each | 5 mL each fresh herbs like sage, basil and parsley, finely chopped
Place tomato slices on paper towels to drain. In a medium bowl combine panko breadcrumbs, garlic, sage and Piave Cheese; stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to broil.
Arrange tomato slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Equally sprinkle breadcrumb mixture onto each tomato; drizzle with olive oil and place under broiler.
Broil for approximately 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from the oven, top with fresh herbs and serve.
Makes 2 rounds
- 1 pound Pizza Dough, divided in half
- 6 ounces Piave cheese, shaved, divided in half
- 12 very thin slices lemon, seeds removed, divided in half
- 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced, divided in half
- 2 tablespoons small sprigs fresh rosemary, divided in half
- Freshly ground pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Place a pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven (remove racks) or the bottom rack of electric oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 1 hour.
Stretch half the dough into a large round on a wooden pizza peel.
Arrange half the cheese evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with half the lemon and onion slices. Sprinkle with half the rosemary and season with pepper. Drizzle with oil.
Turn the oven to broil. Align the edge of the peel with the edge of the stone. Tilt the peel, jerking it gently to move pizza onto the stone. When the edge of the pizza touches the stone, quickly pull back the peel to transfer the pizza to the stone. (Do not move the pizza once it is on the stone.)
Broil until bubbles begin to form in the crust, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the oven temperature to 500 degrees F and bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes more. (If not using the broiler, bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes total.) Remove the pizza from the oven with the peel. Repeat with the second pizza. Slice and serve.
Piave Orzo with Peas and Asparagus
- ½ cup | 125 mL heavy cream
- 1 cup | 250 mL chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon | 5 mL lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon | 10 mL lemon zest, grated
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL Piave Cheese, shredded
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed into 2” lengths
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL fresh or frozen peas
- 2 cups | 500 mL orzo | rice shaped pasta
- ¼ cup | 50 mL Italian parsley, chopped
- Additional shredded Piave cheese for garnishing
In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring cream, chicken or vegetable broth to a slow boil. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and Piave cheese, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add orzo and cook for approximately 5 minutes; add asparagus and fresh peas (add frozen peas the last two minutes of cooking), continue cooking until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables are tender – approximately 4 additional minutes.
Drain pasta and vegetables and return to pasta pot; stir in cream cheese sauce and parsley. Garnish with additional Piave cheese and serve.
Figs, Piave Cheese & Honey
- Wedge of Piave cheese
- 4 large figs
- Honey to drizzle, about 4 teaspoons
- 1 sprig of fresh mint leaves, optional
- Fresh cracked pepper
Cut the cheese in half and slice off the rind on both sides. Cut into 12-15 thin triangle slices.
Cut the top of the figs off and then into quarters. Place the Piave slices on a plate with the figs.
Sprinkle the cheese and figs with cracked pepper. Then, drizzle with honey – about a teaspoon on each fig – and garnish with fresh mint leaves, if using.
Serve on individual plates with a dessert fork and knife.
Cremona is a province in the Lombardy region of Italy and occupies the central section of the Padana Plain, so the whole territory is flat, without mountains or hills, crossed by several rivers and artificial canals, most of which are used for irrigation. The river Po, which is the longest Italian river, is a natural boundary adjoining the Province of Piacenza. The area is about an hour south of Milan by train.
The city of Cremona has a strong musical tradition. The cathedral, built in the twelfth century, provided a focus for musical activity and, by the sixteenth century, the town was the musical center of the region. Even now it attracts people to hear performances by ensembles and attend the many musical festivals and concerts. The city of Cremona is the birthplace of Stradivarius. The town became renowned for the violins and other musical instruments that were made here by many members of the Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri and Bergonzi families of luthiers, who were all prominent citizens of Cremona.
The principal economic resources of the province are agricultural. Rice is grown with the help of water drawn from the canals. Other crops include maize (corn) and barley and to a lesser extent, soya and sugar beet. Grapes are cultivated, wine is produced and there is also a silk industry. The farms in the province are some of the most productive in the country. Beef and dairy cattle are raised here. Beef serves as a main ingredient for local dishes and the milk is used to create traditional cheeses, as well as butter and cream. The area is famous for its food specialities, such as nougat (Italian: torrone) and mustard, the famed Mostarda di Cremona, a sweet and spiced fruit preserve, served with the classic stew called bollito misto.
Cremona’s location at the border of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna brings influences from both: charcuterie like cotecchino and salame; grana padana cheese; stuffed pasta specialties like marubini and tortelli di zucca and the tramezzini sandwich, made on spongy, white bread stuffed with ham, tuna, eggs and artichokes and slathered with mayonnaise.
Rice became known in Europe, after being imported from Egypt and west Asia. It was known to Greece (where it is still cultivated) by returning soldiers from Alexander the Great’s military expedition to Asia. Large deposits of rice from the first century A.D. have been found in Roman camps in Germany and the Moors brought Asiatic rice to the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century. Records indicate it was grown in Valencia and Majorca. In Majorca, rice cultivation seems to have stopped after the Christian conquest, although historians are not certain.
Muslims brought rice to Sicily, where it was an important crop long before it is was grown in the plains of Pisa (1468) or in the Lombard plains (1475), where its cultivation was promoted by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, and demonstrated in his model farms. After the 15th century, rice spread throughout Italy and then to France, eventually reaching all the continents during the age of European exploration. Rice is a main component in Italian cuisine.
Veal and Rice Croquettes
- 2 cups (440g/14 oz) short-grain rice
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup (50 g/l⅔ oz) grated Parmesan
- All-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Dry breadcrumbs
- 1 dried porcini mushroom
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 125 g (4 oz) minced veal
- 2 slices prosciutto, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) white wine
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Cook the rice in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain, without rinsing and cool.
Put the rice in a large bowl and stir in the egg, egg yolk and Parmesan. Stir until the rice sticks together. Cover and set aside.
To make Meat Sauce: Soak the mushroom in hot water for 10 minutes to soften, squeeze dry and finely chop.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the mushroom and onion; cook for 2–3 minutes until soft. Add the meat and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes until browned.
Add the prosciutto, tomato paste, wine, thyme and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the parsley. Set aside to cool.
With wet hands, form the rice mixture into 10 balls. Wet your hands again, pull the balls apart and place 3 heaping teaspoons of the meat sauce in the center of each.
Remold to enclose the filling; roll in flour, beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. Chill for 1 hour.
Deep-fry the croquettes in oil, two at a time, for 3–4 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm while frying the remainder. Serve immediately.
Insalata di Riso
- 1/2 kilo / 1 pound of rice
- 1 jar Italian condiriso (or half cup of canned corn and some chopped green olives and cocktail onions), drained
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of lemon
- Salt & pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth
Bring chicken broth and enough water to fill a pot large enough to cook all the rice, to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Add the rice and cook until tender. Drain.
While the rice is cooking, put the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and lemon juice.
Add warm, drained rice to the vegetable mixture. Stir and let come to room temperature.
Taste and adjust for seasonings. Add as much pepper and lemon juice as you’d like.
Variations: You can add other herbs like basil and chives. Also add any other chopped raw vegetables, like zucchini or scallions, and/or tuna and feta cheese.
Risotto Ubriaco (Drunken Risotto)
Makes 4-6 servings
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons/30ml olive oil
- 1 cup/250ml smoked pork belly, diced into 1/2 inch (5mm) pieces
- 3 1/2 cups/875 ml carnaroli rice, unwashed
- 2 cups/500ml full-bodied red wine
- 6 cups/1.5L light chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons/30ml butter
- 4 tablespoons/60ml grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat the onion and garlic in the oil. Add the diced pork belly and stir to mix well.
Add the rice and toast it, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, for 2-3 minutes, until it is very hot but not browned.
Pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid is absorbed or evaporated.
Add the chicken stock, a ladleful at a time, letting the rice absorb most of the liquid before adding more stock until the rice is tender but firm.
Be careful toward the end not to add too much stock – the risotto should be creamy, not soupy. This process should take 16-18 minutes in total.
When the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano; stir vigorously to fluff. Serve at once in individual bowls.
Italian Rice and Bean Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped fine
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 3 cups cooked or 2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern or cannellini white beans, drained
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock
- 1 cup rice
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Cook rice according to package instructions.
While the rice is cooking, heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic, onion and celery and cook until soft, for about four minutes.
Add stock, tomatoes and seasoning and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer, stir in the beans and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the cooked rice and serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese,
Radicchio and Fennel Risotto
- 1 litre (1¾ pints) vegetable stock
- 90 g (3½ oz) butter
- 225 g (8 oz) fennel, finely sliced
- 6 shallots, finely chopped
- 350 g (12 oz) arborio or carnaroli risotto rice
- 120 ml (4 fl oz) dry white wine
- 175 g (6 oz) radicchio, shredded
- Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- 15 g ( ½ oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 15 g ( ½ oz) fresh basil leaves, torn
- 75 g (3 oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus extra to serve if liked
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan and keep hot.
Melt half the butter in a large, deep frying pan, add the fennel and shallots and cook gently for 5 minutes, until tender.
Add the rice and stir well until it is covered with butter. Add the wine and shredded radicchio and season with pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until the wine has evaporated.
Add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice and cook over a moderate heat, stirring, until it has been absorbed.
Continue adding the stock by ladle, stirring constantly, until it has all, or nearly all, been used and the rice is just tender. This should take about 18-20 minutes.
Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the lemon zest, parsley, basil, Parmesan and the remaining butter.
Cover and leave to rest for 1 minute, then stir again. Serve with more Parmesan if required.