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Category Archives: Italian Regions

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Cosenza is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. The province, one of the very few in Italy with coastlines along two different seas, includes the beautiful Sila mountains with their 3 lakes, Cecita-Mucone, Arvo and Ampollino and the Pollino National Park, founded in 1993.

Cosenza’s roots go back to early man. The province was conquered by the Normans, Saracens, Byzantines and the Spanish. The rich history is reflected in their architecture and their culture. Roman ruins, ancient castles, Norman towers and festivals, like the Montalto Uffugo’s Saracen Festival, mesh the past with the present.

Heinrich Leutemann (1824-1904) "The burial of Alaric in the bed of the Busentinus"

Heinrich Leutemann (1824-1904) “The burial of Alaric in the bed of the Busentinus”

An ancient legend exists in the province dating back to 410 AD about King Alaric, King of the conquering Visigoths. The legend states that once the King conquered Rome, he headed south, conquering and collecting treasures. Once he reached where the Crati river and the Bucenta river met, he died suddenly. These rivers meet in the heart of Cosenza. It is said that his soldiers, along with the help of slaves, buried the King under the river, along with his horse and the treasures, by redirecting the river long enough to build the tomb. His troops then killed all the slaves so no one would know where the treasure was buried.

Cosenza

Cosenza

In the centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, several towns in the Cosenza province refused to acknowledge the new government of the Visigoths. Instead, they built strong city walls and small garrisons to hold out for centuries as semi-independent enclaves until the invasion of the Germanic Lombards in the 560s. In 1500, in spite of resistance, Cosenza was occupied by the Spanish army. In 1707 the Austrians succeeded the Spanish in the Kingdom of Naples, followed by occupation by the Bourbons. From 1806 to 1815, Cosenza fought hard against French domination. In 1860, Calabria became part of the new Kingdom of Italy.

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The province contains the Cosentian Academy, the second academy of philosophical and literary studies to be founded in the Kingdom of Naples (1511) and one of the oldest in Europe. To this day, the area remains a cultural hub with several museums, theaters, libraries and the University of Calabria.

The cuisine has been greatly influenced by past conquerors. The Arabs brought oranges, lemons, raisins, artichokes and eggplant and the Cistercian monks introduced new agricultural practices and dairy products.

Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and eggplant are packed into jars of oil and vinegar.

The south Italy, Calabria, locale food - soft sausage nduja, peper, tomato, cheese

Soft sausage nduja, chili peppers, tomato, cheese

The chili pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chili was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.

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The cuisine is a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish. Pasta (as in Central Italy and the rest of Southern Italy) is also very important.

Some specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice, Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Sheep’s milk cheese) and Pignolata (a soft pastry covered in chocolate and lemon flavored icing).

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Recipes To Make From Cosenza

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Pickled Eggplant

Serve with Calabrian Bread

Ingredients

2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
1/8 cup of salt
2 roasted oil-packed Calabrian chilies, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Salt the cut eggplant and let it set for 1 hour.

Rinse the eggplant thoroughly under cold water.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes until tender.

Lay the slices out on a towel to dry.

In a medium size bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.

Place one layer of the eggplant on a plate and drizzle some of the oil mixture on top.

Place another layer on top and repeat until all the eggplant is used up.

Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hour and serve chilled.

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Pane Calabrese

Ingredients

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil
Cornmeal
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast with a quarter cup of the lukewarm water. Pour into a large bowl.

Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until a dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Turn out onto a flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide in half and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. The bread can also be shaped into a ring.

Put the loaves on cookie sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will double in width.

In a small dish, beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water. Make 3 slits in the top of the risen bread, a quarter of an inch deep. Brush with the egg wash and put the cookie sheets in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower the heat to 400  degrees F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through.

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Lagane E Cicciari

Lagane is a flat, wide, fettuccine-like fresh pasta

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup of water

Directions

Add the salt to the flour and mix well.

Slowly add the water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough on a floured surface, using a rolling-pin to form a circle about 1/4 inch thick.

Continue to roll and thin the pasta. (Cutting the circle in half will make it easier to handle.)

Roll the dough to form a long log

With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/4 inch strips.

Unroll the strips and lay them on a clean, flat surface.

Cook as directed below.

Chickpea Sauce

Ingredients

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
One 15 ounce can chickpeas, undrained
One 14 oz can chopped Italian tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces lagane (recipe above) or broken lasagna noodles

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the garlic, oil, red pepper flakes and rosemary.

Over low heat, cook the garlic until it begins to brown.

Add the chickpeas with all of their liquid and the tomatoes.

Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Boil the pasta in at least 3 quarts of water with 1 heaping tablespoon of salt for 2-3 minutes if fresh pasta or longer for dried.

Just before the pasta is done, remove about half the chickpeas to a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or with an immersion blender. Return the mashed chickpeas to the sauce

When the pasta is done. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Combine the pasta with the chickpea sauce in a large serving bowl. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if the pasta is too dry. (It should not be soupy, however.)

Serve very hot with either olio santo (hot pepper oil) or extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top.

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Galletto alla Diavola (Devil’s Chicken)

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, cut up
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mustard
Olive oil
Breadcrumbs
1 carrot, minced
1 red onion, minced
1 3/4 oz uncooked ham (capocollo), finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup dry Marsala wine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the eggs with the salt and pepper and mustard.

Dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs.

Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil and then add the chicken pieces.

Pour a little bit of olive oil over the chicken pieces and bake for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest piece reaches 165 degrees.

In a skillet cook the carrot in oil with the onion and ham.

Season with salt and pepper, then add the white wine and Marsala.

Reduce the heat and let simmer until thickened.

Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then pour the sauce over and serve.

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The Province of L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy.  The outstanding feature of the Abruzzo region, one that distinguishes it from Tuscany, is its three national parks and 30 nature reserves. It is why the area is known as the “green heart of Italy”. However, the province has been badly affected over the years by earthquakes, particularly the capital city of L’Aquila and its surrounding areas.

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The province is also 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 growth in the areas of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and the computer industry.

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Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s 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 and begun to reverse its decline.

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The province of L’Aquila is dotted with ruins of ancient pagan temples and Roman settlements. A well-known city landmark (below) is the Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, that was built in the 1930s.

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L’Aquila is a good base for skiing in the Apennines. The two most popular resorts are Campo Felice and Campo Imperator. Both resorts offer routes for downhill skiing, as well as for cross country. Ski season usually lasts from December to April.

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The Province of L’Aquila often organizes open-air celebrations and folk festivals that recall the old traditions and offer the chance to taste traditional local products. Abruzzi’s cuisine is rich in local specialties, such as red garlic, sugar-coated almonds, goat cheese, lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, mortadella from Campotosto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines.

Abruzzo Food Map

Abruzzo Food Map

The famous “Maccheroni all chitarra” is amongst the best known in the Abruzzi cuisine. The pasta dough, made of eggs and durum wheat, is cut into strips using a “chitarra” (translated literally as “guitar”). This equipment is made up of a wooden frame, strung with parallel steel strands, and by pushing the sheets of pasta dough through with a rolling-pin, the characteristic shape of chitarra is obtained. Chitarra is served with various Abruzzo sauces that include: pork, goose or lamb ragout.

Abruzzo side dishes include, “sagne e faggioli”, bean soup with traditional thin pasta noodles made from flour and water, flavored with a thin sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spicy peppers. Other well-known Abruzzo dishes, include “gnocchi carrati”, flavored with bacon, egg and ewes-milk cheese. “Scripelli” crepes are served in a soup or used to form a soufflé dish and are served with a little ragout or stuffed with chicken liver, meat balls, hard-boiled eggs or a fresh ewe’s-milk cheese.

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Ravioli can also be stuffed with sugar and cinnamon and served with a thick pork ragout. The “Pastuccia” is a stew of polenta that is served with sausage, egg and grated ewe’s-milk cheese and “pappicci” are thin pasta noodles in a tomato sauce.

Roast lamb has several variations, such as “arrosticini”, thin wooden skewers with pieces of lamb, cooked over an open fire and often served with bruschetta – which is roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil. Pecora al cotturo is lamb stuffed with herbs and cooked in a copper pot and “agnello cacio e oro” is a rustic fricassee.

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Pizzas, from the Easter Pizza, above, (a cake with cheese and pepper) to “fiadoni” that is often enriched by a casing of pastry and filled with everything imaginable: eggs, fresh cheeses, ricotta and vegetables with all the flavorings and spices that the mind can only imagine.

The spreadable sausage from Teramano flavored with nutmeg, liver sausage from the mountains, ewe’s-milk cheeses and mozzarella cheese are all local favorites.

Traditional homemade desserts include “Ferrarelle”, aniseed wafers, “cicerchiata”, balls of fried dough joined into ring shapes with heated honey, “croccante” a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar, flavored with lemon, “mostaccioli” biscuits sweetened with cooked must; “pepatelli” biscuits of ground almonds and honey; macarons and the airy “Sise delle monache”, triangular pieces of sponge cake filled with confectioners cream; almonds and chocolate.

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Prosciutto and Fichi

The prosciutto from near L’Aquila is a bit saltier and less sweet than the prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele.

Ingredients

Slices of prosciutto crudo
Fresh, ripe figs
Large basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Slice the figs in half (if they are the smaller ones or in quarters if they are the larger variety). Wrap the ham and basil around the figs. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar..

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Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)

6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
7 lbs Swiss chard, trimmed, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon. crushed red chili flakes
12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
2 cups chicken stock

Directions

Boil beans and 6 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain beans; set aside.

Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook until wilted and the stems are tender, 4–6 minutes; drain and squeeze dry.

Add 1⁄4 cup oil and the chili flakes to the same saucepan and heat over medium. Cook garlic, celery, carrots and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes.

Add the reserved beans and chard, the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the stock is slightly reduced, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil.

 

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Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (about 7 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped

Directions

Warm the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.

Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.

Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids. Set the tomatoes aside.

Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.

Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.

Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.

Add a splash or two of water, if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot, shred it and return it to the sauce.

Note: The ragu may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

This sauce is traditionally served over pappardelle or chitarra pasta.

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Dolci: Pizzelle

Italian waffle cookies, or pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. You can add cocoa with the sugar and make a chocolate version, or spread some hazelnut cream on one and top with another.

Makes about 36 pizzelle

Ingredients

1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)

Directions

Preheat the pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version).

Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the hot pizzelle iron and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

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Florence is in the Tuscany region of Italy. Much of its area lies in the plain of the Arno River and it has become a suburban sprawl around the city of Florence. The northeastern part of the city, located in the Apennines, remains less developed.

Florence is a well-known cultural and tourist center and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Major tourist attractions include the Piazza del Duomo, Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Loggia del Bigallo and Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Ponte Vecchio and many others.

Sights in Barberino di Mugello include Cattani Castle and Palazzo Pretorio. The Certosa del Galluzzo houses artworks by Pontormo. Giovanni Boccaccio’s hometown, Certaldo, is home to the Palazzo Pretorio and Boccaccio’s House, while Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, houses a museum dedicated to his work.

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Florence’s cobblestone streets are best navigated in relation to two landmarks: the Arno River, which splits the city in half from west to east and the old city doors, or porte, the remains of which mark the center of Florence, or centro storico. North of the Arno is where you’ll find the majority of famous sites and most of the tourists. The south side of the Arno is called the Oltrarno. It is similar to Paris’s Left Bank and is Florence’s bohemian quarter that is made up of art schools, artists’ studios and casual cafes. Florence is also a great base from which to take day trips into surrounding Tuscany or even nearby Emilia-Romagna, Liguria and Umbria. The best time to visit is late spring, early summer or early fall, when the streets are filled with locals and the weather is pleasant.

Corn, wine and silk are the chief products in the valley regions. Silk manufacturing was an important industry in the medieval times. Industrial complexes in the suburbs produce goods from furniture, to rubber goods, to chemicals and food. However, traditional and local products, such as antiques, handicrafts, glassware, leather work, art reproductions, jewelry, souvenirs, elaborate metal and iron-work, shoes, accessories and high fashion clothes also dominate a fair sector of Florence’s economy. The city’s income relies partially on services and cultural interests, such as annual fairs, theatrical and lyrical productions, art exhibitions, festivals and fashion shows.

Food and wine have long been an important staple of the economy. The Chianti region is just south of the city and its Sangiovese grapes figure prominently, not only in its Chianti Classico wines but also in many of the more recently developed Tuscan blends. The celebrated Chianti Rufina district, geographically and historically separated from the main Chianti region, is also a few kilometers east of Florence.

Florentine food grows out of a tradition of peasant eating. The majority of dishes are based on meat. The whole animal was traditionally eaten; tripe (trippa) and stomach (lampredotto) were once regularly on the menu and still are sold at the food carts stationed throughout the city.

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Antipasti include crostini toscani (sliced bread rounds topped with a chicken liver spread) and sliced meats (mainly prosciutto and salami) that are often served with melon when in season. The typically saltless Tuscan bread, made with natural leavening, is frequently featured in Florentine courses, especially in its soups: ribollita and pappa al pomodoro or in a salad of bread and fresh vegetables called panzanella that is served in summer.

While meat is a staple of Florentine cuisine, pasta is important in the cuisine. For example, pappardelle sulla lepre. which is pappardelle (a long, wide and flat pasta) served with a sauce made from hare or other meats, such as goose.

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Bistecca alla fiorentina is a large, 1.2 to 1.5 kg [40 to 50 oz] Chianina beef steak that is cooked over hot charcoal and served very rare over a bed of arugula with slices of Parmesan cheese on top. Most of these courses are served with local olive oil, also a local product that enjoys a worldwide reputation.

It Is Almost Carnival Time In Florence

The first day of Carnival is called “berlingaccio” in Florence and it comes from an old word describing a day spent around the table eating, drinking and being happy.
The parades draw thousands of visitors of all ages, who come to see both the spectacular floats and the parade, as well as participate in the festive masquerade processions.

The following photos were taken by friends and depict their favorite costumes:

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The “Carnevale di Viareggio” actually takes place over an entire month with 5 days of processions each year. These are held on 4 Sundays and on Fat Tuesday. The parades take in the fours weeks that precede Lent (which is the forty day period before Easter).

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The Burlamacco is the character shown above and is the official symbol for the Carnival in Viareggio. It is inspired by characters of Italian “commedia dell’arte” including Harlequin, Balanzone, Pierrot and Rugantino. Burlamacco is dressed in a long red and white checkered suit with a cocked hat and a long black cape at his shoulders.

In each of the parades, the Burlamacco is accompanied by a float composed of female participants called the “Ondina” in honor of Viareggio’s association with the sea (onda means wave in Italian).

Recipes For Carnival Time

The three most common, must-eat foods in Florence during Carnival are:

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Cenci

Cenci or Chiacchiere – Cenci meaning “rugs” are slices of fried dough that are drenched in powdered sugar and sometimes dark chocolate.

Ingredients

240 gr or 2 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs, large
20 gr or 1 oz butter, softened
20 gr or 1 oz sugar, granulated
1 espresso cup of Vin Santo, Marsala or milk
Pinch of salt
Zest of one lemon
Oil for frying ( I use extra virgin olive oil, but corn oil is fine)
Powdered sugar (icing sugar) for dusting.

Directions

Beat the softened butter with the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until incorporated. Add the lemon zest and the liquid (Vin Santo). Add the flour. Mix well. The dough will be hard.

Knead and when smooth, cover and let rest for one hour. Heat oil for frying. Roll out the dough as thin as possible or use a pasta machine. Cut into 3 inch wide strips.

Then cut a slit in the middle of the strip, leaving the ends attached. Deep fry in hot oil until lightly golden. Remove to a paper towel, let drain and serve dusted with powdered sugar.
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Frittelle di riso (Rice Fritters)

Frittelle di Riso – Imagine rice pudding that is rolled up, fried and immersed in sugar. That is what a frittelle di riso is. Sometimes, the bakers inject custard cream or chocolate nutella into the center of the pastries. These sweets are also bite-size, so they are easy to pop in your mouth.

Ingredients

400 gr or 2 cups short grain rice, Arborio
1 litre or 4 cups milk
4 tablespoons sugar
Peel of one lemon, grated (zest, only the yellow part)
1 ounce liqueur (sherry, brandy or amaretto)
80 gr or 3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (lievito in polvere)
Pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated

Directions

Bring the rice to a slow boil in the milk with sugar and lemon zest. Stir occasionally to avoid the rice sticking. When the rice is cooked, it will have absorbed all the milk.

Place the rice in large bowl, add the liqueur, egg yolks, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well and let cool. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the rice mixture.

In a heavy pan, heat 3 inches of oil for frying. Drop the fritters by teaspoons into the hot oil. Fry quickly and remove them when they are golden. Do not brown.

Drain on paper towels and serve sprinkled with granulated sugar. They are best hot but can also be served cold or reheated.

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Schiacciata alla Fiorentina

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a sweet flatcake, traditional to Florence, made with citrus flavors and sometimes spread with chantilly cream in the middle. It is also coated in powdered sugar and in Florence, you find the fleur de lis “giglio” crest of Florence etched in with powdered cacao.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups (300 grams) plain flour
3/4 ounce (20 grams) fresh yeast dissolved in some warm water
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) lard (or, less traditional, butter)
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar and powdered bittersweet cocoa for dusting (optional)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour and fresh yeast (along with the water) until a dough forms. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm, dry spot to rise for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.

Beat in the lard, sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla and salt until well combined. Place the dough in a buttered rectangular tin. It should be about 2 cm or 2/3 inch in height.

Cover with a tea towel and let the schiacciata rise for 2 more hours. Bake at 350 ºF (180ºC) for 30 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Turn onto a wire rack to cool and when cooled completely, dust liberally with powdered sugar. If you like, cut out a mask of the Florentine lily and dust with cocoa powder.

If desired, cut through the middle of the cake and fill with some slightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream or pastry cream before dusting with powdered sugar.

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Ribollita

This very simple Tuscan peasant soup is commonly called ribollita because it is served the day after its preparation when it is warmed up in a pot with extra-virgin olive oil and reboiled. Ribollita is simple, inexpensive and its base is made with stale unsalted Tuscan bread and a variety of winter vegetables including Tuscan kale.

It is good to have on hand to make a quick supper on Carnival days.

10 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 celery stalks, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1- 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound cavolo nero (lacinato kale, Tuscan kale), stems trimmed off and leaves well chopped
4 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini
1/2 pound Italian bread (such as ciabatta), crusts removed
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Zest of one lemon
Parmesan Cheese

Directions

In a thick-bottomed soup pot over medium heat combine the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and onion. Cook for 10-15 minutes sweating the vegetables, but avoid browning them.

Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and simmer for another 10 minutes or so, long enough for the tomatoes to thicken up a bit. Stir in the kale, 3 cups of the beans, and 8 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, mash or puree the remaining beans with a small amount of water until smooth. Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks. Stir both the beans and bread into the soup.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 20 – 30 minutes. Stir in the salt, taste and add more if needed. Stir in the lemon zest.

Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate overnight. Serve reheated the next day and finish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

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Panini di Lampredotto

The lampredotto sandwich is real Italian street food! The Florentines eat it at any time: breakfast, lunch with a glass of wine or dinner with friends.

The tradition of eating tripe and entrails in Florence is very old and probably arises from the need to combine simple bread with something inexpensive but nourishing.
Typically, tripe wagons offer a couple of options for their sandwiches: salt and pepper, salsa verde (a green sauce commonly made with parsley, capers, garlic and anchovies, among other ingredients); and salsa piccante (basically, chili oil). Also, you can opt to have the roll briefly dipped ( bagnato ) in the cooking broth.

1 – 1.5 kg will make about 8 hearty panini or about 20 mini ones. You don’t often find lampredotto in small portions, as it is generally sold whole, so if you have leftovers, you can freeze it.

For the lampredotto:

1 kg lampredotto (abomasum tripe or stomach)
3 litres of water
1 stalk of celery
1 brown onion
1 carrot
1 tomato
5 whole black peppercorns
Salt

For the salsa verde:

2 anchovy fillets
¼ of an onion
1 garlic clove
Bunch of parsley
Handful of basil leaves
2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
Lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

For the lampredotto:

Prepare a broth by roughly chopping the vegetables and adding them to the water in a large pot with a generous amount of salt and the peppercorns. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the lampredotto, whole, and cook until soft, covered with a lid. The cooking time is really a case of checking and testing, it may take about one hour.

Make sure the lampredotto is always submerged under the broth, you can add more water as necessary. Keep the lampredotto warm, in the broth, until you are ready to use it.

For the salsa verde:

Chop the anchovies, onion, garlic, capers and herbs together finely (with a knife or a food processor) and add olive oil and lemon juice to bind it into a paste-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the panini:

Roughly slice the tripe and chop enough to generously heap onto the panino roll. The bread rolls are normally, split open in half and a bit of the bread in the middle is taken out to have more space for the filling.

Add a heaping spoonful of salsa verde on top and season with extra salt and pepper. Dip the top half of the roll into the broth if desired.

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According to the food historian, Clifford Wright, the origin of pasta carbonara is not really known. There are several competing theories, but all are anecdotal.

The first theory is said to come from a dish made in the Apennine mountains of Abruzzo by woodcutters who made charcoal for fuel. They would cook the dish over a hardwood charcoal fire and use penne rather than spaghetti because it was easier to toss with the eggs and cheese.

The second theory is the one that gives the meaning to the dish’s name – alla carbonara or coal worker’s style. This name implies that the dish was eaten by coal workers or that because of the abundant use of coarsely ground black pepper the dish resembled coal flakes.

Another story is that due to the food shortages after the liberation of Rome in 1944, the Allied troops distributed military rations consisting of powdered egg and bacon which the locals used with water to season the easily stored dried pasta.

There is also a theory that in the province of Ciociaria, in the region of Lazio near Rome, pasta was seasoned with eggs, lard and Pecorino cheese. During the World War II German occupation of Rome, many middle class families escaped the occupation and fled to Ciociaria, where they learned about this dish. After the war, Roman cuisine became very popular throughout Italy and this dish became a prime example.

Another story suggests that the famous restaurant in the Campo de Fiori in Rome, La Carbonara, was named after its speciality. Although the restaurant has been open since the early part of the twentieth century and does have carbonara on its menu, the restaurant denies any such connection.

The simplest story, and therefore the most likely, is that the dish had always existed at the family level and in local trattorias. Cheese, pork, olive oil, salt, pepper and pasta were all kept fresh without refrigeration and eggs were readily available at local farms. All that was needed was a pot and a fire. An eyewitness account supporting this theory can be found in a cookbook titled, Sophia Loren’s Recipes & Memories. The actress described how during the filming of Two Women in the late 1950s, in the mountains near Rome, the crew came upon a group of carbonai who offered to prepare food for them. They prepared carbonara. The director, Vittorio De Sica, and Loren had second helpings.  Loren returned the next day to learn how to make the dish. (An accomplished home cook, Loren claimed the recipe was exactly as the carbonai made it but her rendition calls for cream—an addition most carbonara connoisseurs would not agree with. The dish was also popular among the American troops stationed in Italy; and when they returned home, they made “spaghetti alla carbonara” popular in Italian cuisine.

And, the debate goes on….

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Pasta Carbonara

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced guanciale, pancetta or bacon (about 1/4 pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine or other long, thin pasta
4 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, or more to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.

In a medium skillet, combine the olive oil and pork/bacon and turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.

Add salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of water before the draining pasta.

Beat eggs in a large warmed pasta serving bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan and the bacon and its juices. When the pasta is done, drain and toss with egg mixture.

Add a little of the pasta cooking water to moisten. Season with plenty of black pepper, and serve.

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venezia_veduta_aerea
Venice (Italian: Venezia) is a metropolitan city in the Veneto region of Italy. It is situated across a group of 117 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by bridges. These are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. Parts of Venice are renowned for the beauty of their settings, their architecture and artwork. The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a World Heritage Site

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The name, Venezia, is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region in 10th century BC. The Republic of Venice was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance and a staging area for the Crusades, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially for silk, grain and spices) and art. Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial center and this made it a wealthy city throughout most of its history.

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In the 14th century, many young Venetian men began wearing tight-fitting multicolored hose, the designs indicated the Compagnie della Calza (“Trouser Club”) to which they belonged. The Venetian Senate passed laws banning colorful clothing, but this merely resulted in changes in fashion in order to circumvent the law. Dull garments were worn over colorful ones, which then were cut to show the hidden colors that resulted in the wide-spread use of men’s “slashed” fashions in the 15th century.

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Today, Venice is a major fashion and shopping center, not as important as Milan, Florence, and Rome, but on a par with other fashion centers. Roberta di Camerino is a major Italian fashion brand to be based in Venice. Founded in 1945, it is renowned for its innovative handbags featuring adornments by Venetian artisans. Many of the fashion boutiques and jewelry shops in the city are located on or near the Rialto Bridge and in the Piazza San Marco. There are Louis Vuitton and Ermenegildo Zegna flagship stores in the city.

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Venice is known for its ornate glass-work, known as Venetian glass. It is world-renowned for being colorful, elaborate and skilfully made. However, by the 14th century, the center of the Venetian glass industry moved to Murano, an offshore island in Venice. The glass made there is known as Murano glass. Despite efforts to keep Venetian glass-making techniques within Venice, they became known elsewhere and Venetian-style glassware is produced in other Italian cities and other countries of Europe. Some of the most important brands of glass in the world are still produced in the historical glass factories on Murano. They are: Venini, Barovier & Toso, Pauly, Millemetri, Seguso. Barovier & Toso is considered one of the 100 oldest companies in the world, formed in 1295.

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Festivals

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The Carnival of Venice is held annually in the city and It lasts for around two weeks and ends on Shrove Tuesday. Venetian masks are popular during the festival.

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The Venice Biennale is one of the most important events in the arts calendar. In 1895 an Esposizione biennale artistica nazionale (biennial exhibition of Italian art) was inaugurated.

The Festa del Redentore that is held in mid July began as a feast to give thanks for the end of the plague of 1576. A bridge of barges is built connecting Giudecca to the rest of Venice and fireworks play an important role.

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The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world founded by Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata in 1932 as the Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica. The festival takes place every year in late August or early September on the island of the Lido. Screenings take place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi. It is one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals and is part of the Venice Biennale.

Cuisine

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Venice cuisine has a centuries-long history and it is significantly different from the other cuisines of northern Italy. Venetian cuisine is characterized by seafood, but also includes vegetables from the islands of the lagoon, rice from the mainland, game and polenta. Venice combines local traditions with influences stemming from age-old practices. These include: sardines marinated to preserve them for long voyages; bacalà mantecato (a recipe based on Norwegian stockfish and extra-virgin olive oil); bisàto (marinated eel); risi e bisi,( rice, peas and pancetta); fegato alla veneziana, Venetian-style veal liver; risòto col néro de sépe (risotto with cuttlefish, blackened by their ink); cicchétti (tapas); antipasti (appetizers); and Prosecco, an effervescent, mildly sweet wine.

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The most common dish is polenta, which is cooked in various ways within the local cuisines of Veneto. It is very popular to serve grilled meat (often by a barbecue that includes a mix of pork, beef and chicken meat) together with grilled polenta, potatoes or vegetables. Other popular dishes include risotto, rice cooked with many different kinds of food, from vegetables, mushrooms, pumpkin or radicchio to seafood, pork meat or chicken livers. Bigoli (a typical Venetian fresh pasta, similar to Udon), fettuccine (hand-made noodles), ravioli and the similar tortelli (filled with meat, cheese, vegetables or pumpkin) and gnocchi (potatoes-made fresh pasta), are fresh and often hand-made pasta dishes (made of eggs and wheat flour), served together with a meat sauce (ragù) often made with duck meat, sometimes together with mushrooms or peas, or simply with melted butter.

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In addition, Venice is known for the golden, oval-shaped cookies called baìcoli, and for other types of sweets, such as: pan del pescatore (bread of the fisherman); cookies with almonds and pistachio nuts; cookies with fried Venetian cream, or the bussolài (butter biscuits and shortbread made in the shape of a ring or of an “S”) from the island of Burano; the galàni or cróstoli (angel wings); the frìtole (spherical doughnuts); the fregolòtta (a crumbly cake with almonds); a milk pudding called rosada; and cookies called zaléti, whose ingredients include yellow maize flour.
The dessert tiramisù is thought to have been invented in Treviso in the late 1960s and is popular in the Veneto area.

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Venetian-style Capesante

Scallops are popular as a hot fish appetizer.

Ingredients

4 servings

8 sea scallops
⅛ oz garlic
½ oz parsley
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Large scallop shells for serving

Directions

Heat the oil in a pan, add the finely chopped garlic and the scallops. On high heat, add parsley and dill. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes.

Rearrange each shell by placing two scallops inside and pouring a little of the cooking liquid over each one. This dish can also be served with hot croutons brushed with garlic.

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Bigoli With Duck Sauce

This is a typical first course. The “bigolo” is a hard wheat pasta, which had made its appearance in the area in the eighteenth century. It was produced using the special “bigolaro”, a press featuring a brass drawplate which permitted the pasta to be formed into a rough-textured “bigolo” shape. In the Veneto region, the name “bigoli” is also given to large spaghetti or “bucatini” because of their slender elongated shape, also a kind of “bigolo”.

Ingredients

4 servings
1 lb bigoli-a hard wheat pasta
3 ½ oz liver
3 ½ oz duck meat
1 oz butter
¾ oz extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
2 oz ripe tomatoes
2 oz onion
3 ½ oz red wine
Thyme to taste
Marjoram to taste
1 bay leaf
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to taste
Parsley to taste

Directions

In a pan combine the oil and butter and brown the onions, add the liver and duck meat and brown that also. Mix thoroughly.

Pour the red wine over the mixture, allow to evaporate, and then salt to taste. Add the broth and cook until the broth has reduced to only a few tablespoons. Add the herbs, the bay leaf and the tomato.

Cook the pasta in abundant boiling and salted water. When the pasta is cooked, when it is still “al dente”, drain it, put it in the pan with the sauce and toss it. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese, finely chopped parsley and arrange on a serving dish.

torresani

Torresani allo Spiedo (pigeons on the spit)

Ingredients

Serves 4

4 terraioli pigeons (also known as toresani)
120 g bacon, in large slices
Extra virgin olive oil
10 Juniper berries
2 Bay leaves
Rosemary – a large sprig
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preparation for plucking pigeons: flame it to remove the hair, clean the entrails, wash well and dry them.

Grind in a mortar the juniper berries and two bay leaves, put the mixture into a shallow dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add plenty of extra virgin olive oil.

Dip the sprig of rosemary into the mixture and use the rosemary to brush the seasoning on the pigeons.Then wrap them in slices of bacon, with a kitchen string to tie them, putting them on the spit and after ½ hour of cooking brush with the remaining mixture prepared with oil.

After 40 total minutes of cooking, remove the pigeons, remove the string and served with grilled polenta.

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Zaleti

This is a traditional cookie from the Venice area. They are often enjoyed together with a glass of sparkling wine like Prosecco.

Ingredients

¾ lb cornmeal
3 ½ oz sugar
½ lb all-purpose flour
5 oz butter
3 oz raisins
2 ½ oz pine nuts
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup milk, fresh
1 pinch vanilla
Lemon zest, grated

Directions

Mix the flours with the baking powder in a separate bowl. Combine the butter and sugar. Add the flour mixture, raisins, previously soaked in warm water, the pine nuts, milk, grated lemon zest and vanilla, to form a dough mixture.

With your hands, shape the mixture into small oval cakes about 3.2 inches long. Place them onto a lightly buttered baking sheet and bake in a hot oven. Cooking time is generally 20-25 minutes, but it can vary according to the size of the “zaleti”.


genoaharbor

Genoa is located in the region of Liguria and it is a historical port city in northern Italy. Today, it is often overshadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade center. The birthplace of the explorer Christopher Columbus with its multitude of architectural gems, excellent cuisine, renovated old port, beautiful sights and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 have made this an interesting area to visit.

The main features of central Genoa include the Piazza De Ferrari, the Opera House and the Palace of the Doges. There is also a house where Christopher Columbus is said to have been born. Much of the city’s art is found in its churches and palaces, where there are numerous Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo frescoes. The Palazzo di San Giorgio was once the headquarters of the Bank of Saint George and it is in this area that Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa composed, The Travels of Marco Polo.

Piazza de Ferrari

Piazza de Ferrari

The city is spread out geographically along a section of the Liguria coast, which makes trading by ship possible. Before the invention of the car, train and airplane, the main outside access for the city was the sea, as the surrounding mountains made trade north by land more difficult than coastal trade. Trade routes have always connected Genoa on an international scale and the harbor was important to the merchants for their own economic success. The port of Genoa also contains an ancient Lighthouse called “La Lanterna”.

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Recently, Renzo Piano redeveloped the port for public access, restoring the historical buildings and creating new landmarks like the Aquarium, the Bigo and the “Bolla” (the Sphere). The main touristic attractions of this area are the famous Aquarium and the Museum of the Sea (MuMA). In 2007 these attracted almost 1.7 million visitors.The Aquarium of Genoa is the largest aquarium in Italy and amongst the largest in Europe. Built for the Genoa Expo ’92, it is an educational, scientific and cultural center. Its mission is to educate and raise public awareness as about conservation, management and responsible use of aquatic environments.

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Popular foods in the Genoese cuisine include Pesto sauce, garlic sauce called “Agliata” and walnut sauce called “Salsa di Noci”. There are many varieties of pasta, such as Trenette, Corzetti, Trofie, Pansotti, Croxetti and Testaroli.

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Fresh pasta (usually trofie) or trenette with pesto sauce is probably the most well-known among Genoese dishes. Pesto sauce is prepared with fresh basil, pine nuts, grated parmesan, garlic and olive oil pounded together.

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Typical pizzas include pizza with potatoes or onions, “Farinata” and Focaccia with cheese also called “Focaccia di Recco”.

Fish is a key ingredients in the Genoese cuisine and the many varieties include, Sardines, Anchovies, Garfish, Swordfish, Tuna, Octopus, Squid, Mussels and stoccafisso (Stockfish).

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Other popular dishes of Genoese tradition are tripe cooked in various sauces and Minestrone alla Genovese, a thick soup made out of several vegetables and legumes, such as potatoes, beans, green beans, cabbages, pumpkins and zucchini. Important and popular soup dishes which are common to the area include: Bagnun – anchovy soup, Ciuppin (the precursor to San Francisco’s Cioppino, Buridda – another tomato based fish soup, Zemin (a soup with garbanzo beans), Sbira, tripe soup and Preboggion, rice soup. Other specialties are “Ravioli al sugo”, Gianchetti that is sardine and anchovy based, “Tomaxelle” or stuffed veal rolls, Cappon magro – a seafood and vegetable salad, the famous “Cima alla Genovese” a pork roll, “Torta Pasqualina” a spinach torte very similar to Spanakopita, “Pandolce” a Christmas sweet bread and “Sacripantina” a Genovese Butter Cake.

Genoa Butter Cake

Genoa Butter Cake

Genoa Recipes To Make At Home

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Minestrone alla Genovese

Ingredients

1/4 pound cannellini or borlotti (cranberry) beans, soaked overnight
3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 leeks, washed and chopped, white part only
1 medium eggplant (1 pound), peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups hot chicken broth
4 cups hot water, plus extra if needed
1 cup chopped raw spinach
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1/4 pound vermicelli or stelline pasta
3 tablespoons Basil Pesto
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Drain the beans from the overnight soaking water, place them in a pot, cover with water, cook about 30 minutes or until still quite al dente, and set aside.
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, leeks, eggplant, carrots, celery and potatoes and sauté for about 8 minutes, or until the vegetables just begin to exude their juices.
Add the tomatoes, hot broth, hot water, beans and additional hot water to just cover the mixture. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook covered for about 30 minutes.
Add the spinach, zucchini, cabbage and pasta and cook another 20 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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Walnut Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubes day-old rustic bread plus milk to cover
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove,
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
A generous  handful of fresh Marjoram
1/4 cup of heavy cream (or Greek Yogurt)
1 lb Pansotti or store-bought vegetable and cheese ravioli or dried pasta

Directions

Soak the bread in milk to cover until soft, then drain.
In a kitchen blender, combine nuts, the soaked bread, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and the fresh marjoram. Add garlic and process until the mixture is smooth and almost becoming a paste but not too fine. Working with 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, drizzle in all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil, processing and mixing to incorporate as you go. Once the mixture is smooth, transfer to a bowl and add the ricotta cheese mixing well. Then add the cream and remaining oil. Mix well until the sauce is combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Bring a large wide pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pansotti, ravioli or pasta until al dente. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander to drain, then transfer to a large bowl; reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Once all of the pansotti are cooked, add the walnut sauce and pasta cooking liquid; gently toss to combine. Serve immediately with a generous serving of Parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Sea Bass Genoa Style

Ingredients

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 pound tomatoes, cut into large chunks
3/4 cup pitted green 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 whole sea bass or red snapper, or cut into fillets
1/2 cup pine nuts

Directions

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.
Rub each fish or the fillets with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the fish in the roasting pan with the vegetables. Roast for about 30 minutes for the fillets or 40 minutes for the whole fish, until the vegetables are tender and the fish are cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts 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.

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Pandolce

Ingredients

½ teaspoon active dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
½ cup butter, softened, plus additional for greasing
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons orange flower water
3½ cups flour
1/2 cup dried currants
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup finely chopped candied orange rind
1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the milk in a small bowl. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the butter in an electric mixer and gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the fennel seeds and coriander, then add the egg, vanilla and orange flower water; mix thoroughly. Add milk and dissolved yeast and mix. (Mixture may appear slightly curdled.)
Gradually add flour, mixing thoroughly. When the dough is smooth, mix in the currants, raisins, orange rind and pine nuts (dough will be moist). Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 3–4 hours. (Dough may only rise a little; this is a dense bread.)
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Wet hands (dough will be sticky) and transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Shape into a 6″ round and bake until golden, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely. To serve, cut or break into small pieces and serve with sweet wine, if desired. (Store in an airtight container.)

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grossetocover

Grosseto is considered to be the most beautiful of all the Tuscan provinces. Located at the southern tip of Tuscany, the province is often referred to as the heart of Tuscany and its beauty is well known throughout Italy. The area is home to picturesque towns, natural parks, beaches and excellent, award-winning wines. 

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“Le Biancane” is a Nature Park with in the Colline Metallifere located in the province. The Park represents one of the many sites where geothermal activity has modified the landscape. Here energy lies in the earth and vapour emissions rise from the ground. Because of these geological and climatic characteristics, an atypical flora has developed in this area. The name biancane comes from the white color of the rocks that characterizes the entire landscape. The hydrogen sulphide emissions, in fact, erupt from geysers in the ground and turn the limestone into gypsum. The steam that comes out of the rocks is responsible for the characteristic smell of rotten eggs.

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The province is also rich with culinary traditions, such the Slow Food Movement and, although it is prevalent all over the world today, the movement was actually born in Italy. Slow Food began with the founding of its forerunner organization, Arcigola, in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. At its heart is the aim to promote local foods and traditional cuisine and food production.

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The Slow Food Movement was not, and still is not, only about food, but about life choices. Since its inception, the group has been embracing the values and the lifestyle many Italians associate with their grandparents and their way of life, which is the ultimate goal of “promoting the idea of food as a source of pleasure, culture, history, identity and of a true lifestyle, as well as a way of eating, which is respectful of the land and of local traditions”. (http://www.slowfood.com)

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Italian Slow Food Recipes

http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/tuscanycious/slow-food-in-tuscany/

grossetobread

Traditional Schiacciata

Ingredients

  • 25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 310 ml (1 1/4 cups) of water
  • 500 g (1 lb, 2 oz) bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of salt

Directions

Put the yeast into a bowl with a pinch of sugar. Stir in the water* and leave it to ferment.

Put the flour in a large, wide bowl, or onto a flat surface where you can work with it. Add the yeast, a pinch of salt, and the oil, and mix in to incorporate them well.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, compact elastic ball. Add a little more flour or water if necessary.

Put the dough into a lightly floured bowl, cover with a cloth, and leave it to rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Put some oil onto a wide baking pan and spread out the dough with your fingers.

Bake for 20 minutes and while the flatbread is still warm, brush over it with as much olive oil as you prefer and a bit of kosher salt.

Tip* The water must be tepid. To make schiacciata successfully, you should never use extreme temperatures.

grossetosoup

Bean Minestrone

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Onion (1)
  • Celery  (about 2 stalks)
  • Carrots (about 2)
  • Parsley (one bunch)
  • Zucchini (2 medium)
  • Potatoes (2 medium)
  • Beets (one bunch)
  • Kale (about 1 pound/ 400 g)
  • Head cabbage (1 ½ pounds/ 700 g)
  • Cannellini beans (about 1 pound/ 400 g)
  • Tomato puree (a glass)
  • Wild herbs: such as borage leaves, nettles and plantain (few leaves)
  • Aromatic herbs (a bunch): fennel, thyme, marjoram, oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Boil the beans in abundant water until tender. Drain them (keeping the water), blend half the beans in a food processor and keep 1/2 of the beans whole.

Chop the vegetables into small chunks.

Sauté the onions, celery, parsley and carrots in a pot with extra virgin olive oil.

Add the herbs whole and remove after a few minutes.

Add the potatoes and the rest of the vegetables and sauté for a few minutes.

Add the tomato puree, salt and pepper.

Add the reserved bean liquid and the purèed beans and let the soup cook at a low temperature for an 2 hours. Add the whole beans and heat. Serve or cool and refrigerate.

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Wild Boar Stew (Cinghiale in Umido)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ pounds/1 kg wild boar
  • ½ pound/200 g onions
  • ¼ pound/100 g celery
  • Bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berry
  • A half glass of wine
  • Vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, chili
  • Meat stock
  • 2/3 pound/ 300 g of peeled tomatoes

Directions

Soak the wild boar overnight in water and vinegar with the juniper, bay leaves, celery and rosemary.

Finely chop the onion and celery and sauté in a pan with extra virgin olive oil.

Drain the wild boar and add to the pan and sauté for a few minutes.

Add salt, pepper and chili and sprinkle with wine and let evaporate.

Add the tomato, cover with the meat stock and cook for about one hour and a half.

Wild Boar Sauce Over Pappardelle Pasta

Once the meat is cooked, chop it fine and return it to the sauce. The sauce is traditionally served over wide egg-based pasta, such as Pappardelle.

grossetopork

Arista: Roast Pork

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb lean pork loin
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh rosemary finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

Mix the rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper together and rub the pork loin with this mixture. Make short incisions in six places in the meat (use a knife) and stuff a little of the mixture into each opening.

Tie the meat tightly using kitchen twine.

Put the pork loin into a baking pan with some extra virgin olive oil.

Place in the oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours turning the meat every so often.

Cut the roast into thin slices and serve it with its pan sauce.

grossetodessert

Frittelle di Riso

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups short grain rice
  • 6 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • Peel of one lemon (wide strips)
  • 1 ounce liqueur (sherry, brandy, or amaretto)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • Olive oil for frying

Directions

Bring the rice, sugar, lemon peel and milk to a slow boil. The rice is cooked when all the milk is absorbed.

Place the rice in large bowl, add the liqueur, egg yolks, flour, baking powder and salt.

Mix well and let cool. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the rice mixture.

In a heavy pan, heat 3 inches of oil for frying. Drop teaspoons of dough into the hot oil.

Fry quickly and remove when they are golden. Do not brown. Drain on paper towels and serve sprinkled with granulated sugar.

They are best hot, but can also be served cold or reheated.

grossetomap


aostafontina

The Aosta Valley is a mountainous area in northwestern Italy. It is bordered by the Rhône-Alpes in France to the west and Switzerland to the north. it is the smallest, least populous and least densely populated region of Italy. It is the only Italian region that no longer has any provinces. The province of Aosta was dissolved in 1945. However, the region is divided into 74 comuni (communes) and Italian and French are the official languages. The population density of Aosta Valley is by far the lowest of all the Italian regions.

aostamountains

The region is very cold in the winter, especially when compared with other places in the Western Alps. This is probably due to the mountains blocking the mild winds from the Atlantic Ocean. Places on the same altitude in France or western Switzerland are not as cold as the Aosta Valley. In this climate the snow season is very long, as long as 8 or 9 months at the highest points. During the summer, mist occurs almost every day. These areas are the wettest in the western Alps. Temperatures are low, between −7 °C (19 °F) and −3 °C (27 °F) in January and in July between 10 °C (50 °F) and 13 °C (55 °F).

Roman Theater Remains

Roman Theater Remains

The first inhabitants of the Aosta Valley were Celts. Rome conquered the area around 25 BC to secure the strategic mountain passes, and they went on to build bridges and roads through the mountains.

hydroelectric dam

Hydroelectric Dam

The Aosta Valley remained agricultural until the construction of hydroelectric dams that brought the metalworking industry to the region. Agriculture has become increasingly specialized, retaining only a small output of cereals, potatoes and fruit. Animal feed crops supply the region’s dairy herds which are pastured in the high Alps during the summer period.

The region’s cheeses are renowned throughout the world. Fontina cheese has been made in the Aosta Valley, in the Alps since the 12th century. It has a milk fat content around 45% and can be identified by a Consorzio (Consortium) stamp of the Matterhorn including the label, “FONTINA”.

As with many other varieties, the name “Fontina” is also known as “Fontinella”, “Fontal” and “Fontella”. Although the version from Aosta Valley is the only original and the most famous, a derivative production occurs in other parts of Italy, as well as Denmark, Sweden, Quebec, France, Argentina and the United States. The original Fontina cheese from Aosta Valley is fairly pungent and has an intense flavor. The Swedish and Danish versions are often found in US grocery stores and can be distinguished from Aostan Fontina by their red wax rind (also prevalent in Argentine Fontina).

aostachessemaking2

aostacheesemaking

aostacheesemaking3

Aostan Fontina has a natural rind due to aging, which is usually tan to orange-brown. It is noted for its earthy and woody taste and it pairs well with roast meats and truffles. Its rich and creamy flavor gets nuttier with aging. The interior of the cheese is pale cream in color and riddled with holes known as “eyes”.  Fontina produced in the Aosta Valley must be made from unpasteurized milk from a single milking, with two batches being made per day. Young Fontina has a softer texture (and can be suitable for fondue or for a table cheese board). Fonduta alla valdostana (in Italian) or Fondue à la valdôtaine (in French) is a traditional dish of Fontina whipped with milk, eggs and truffles. Mature Fontina is a hard cheese used for grating.

To make Fontina Cheese, cow’s milk is heated to 36 C (97 F.) Calf’s rennet is then added to curdle the milk. The milk is left to sit for 1 hour as is, then it is heated to 47 to 48 C (116 to 118 F) and left to sit for another two hours held at that temperature. This is why you’ll sometimes see this cheese called “semi-cooked” (or “semi-cotta”, drawing on the Italian phrase.)

aostacheesemaking4

aostafontinacave

The curd that forms is cut and drained in nets, then put into round molds for 12 hours. When the cheese is taken out of the molds, it is salted and, then, rested for two months in a cool place. At the end of two months, the cheese is taken to caves where it is aged for a further 3 months (The aging apparently still happens in caves or grottoes, on pine shelves.) During this period in the caves, the rind is washed with brine every other day and, on the alternating days, it is brushed to take away any mold that forms on it.

aostavineyard

Wines of high quality are produced in small quantities in the Aosta Valley. All are entitled to the Denominazione di origine controllata (Valle d’Aosta DOC / Vallée d’Aoste DOC) label. The wine making region is generally divided into three areas. In the northwest, the Valdigne area south of the commune of Courmayeur is home to the highest elevated vineyards in Europe at 3,937 feet above sea level. The white grape Prié Blanc (also known as Blanc de Morgex) is the main production grape in the area and is used to produce the wine, Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle in both a still and sparkling wine style.

The Central Valley is the region’s most productive area and is further sub-divided into four areas: Enfer d’Arvier, Torrette, Nus and Chambave. The Enfer d’Arvier is a red wine producing area around the village of Arvier. The wines from this area are blends made primarily from the Petit Rouge grape with lesser amounts of Dolcetto, Gamay, Neyret, Pinot noir, and/or Vien de Nus. Previously Enfer d’Arvier had its own DOC designation but was subsequently incorporated into the Valle d’Aosta DOC.

aostawine

White wines are made in this area from a Pinot Gris clone known as Malvoisie including a sweet passito straw wine.The red wines made here are composed of at least 60% Petit Rouge with some Dolcetto, Gamay and/or Pinot Noir. The white wines made here are from the Moscato Bianco grape. The Lower Valley is known primarily for two styles of wine: a medium-bodied dry red wine made from at least 70% Nebbiolo with some Dolcetto, Freisa, Neyret, Pinot Noir, and/or Vien de Nus and a wine made from at least 85% Nebbiolo with some Freisa, Neyret, Pinot Noir and Vien de Nus.

aostacover

Church in the village of Saint-Jacques. Aosta Valley, Italy.

Church in the village of Saint-Jacques. Aosta Valley, Italy.

The cuisine of Aosta Valley is characterized by simplicity that includes “robust” ingredients, such as potatoes, polenta; cheese, meat and rye bread. Many of the dishes are made with Fontina cheese. It is found in dishes, such as the soup à la vâpeuleunèntse (Valpelline Soup). Other cheeses made in the region are Toma, Seras and Fromadzo (which  have been produced locally since the 15th century and also have PDO statu).

Regional specialities are Motzetta (dried chamois meat, prepared like prosciutto), Vallée d’Aoste Lard d’Arnad (a cured and brined fatback product with PDO designation), Vallée d’Aoste Jambon de Bosses (a type of ham, likewise with the PDO designation) and a black bread. Notable dishes include Carbonnade, salt-cured beef cooked with onions and red wine and served with polenta; breaded veal cutlets called costolette; teuteuns, salt-cured cow’s udder that is cooked and sliced; and steak à la valdôtaine, a steak with croûtons, ham and melted cheese.

Grolla Coffee

aostacoffee

Grappa is an Italian brandy distilled from the fermented residue of grapes after they have been pressed in wine making.

Ingredients

For 4 people:

  • 4 cups Italian brewed coffee
  • 2 small glasses grappa
  • Zest of one lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons sugar plus extra for the pot

Directions

Pour the coffee into a small saucepan. Add the grappa, half of the lemon peel and the 4 teaspoons of sugar.

Stir the mixture over the heat and bring to a low boil. Turn the heat off and remove the lemon zest.

Pour the coffee into the grolla pot or friendship cup having sweetened the openings or mouths of the cup with extra sugar. Then light the mixture with a match or lighter and you will see a blue flame. After a short time, put out the flame and add the remaining lemon zest. Drink from the grolla, together with the other diners passing the cup around.

If you don’t have a grolla or friendship cup, use a fondue set. Place the coffee ingredients in the fondue pot and bring it to a boil. Boil and light the liquid with a flame. Serve the coffee in individual cups sweetened with sugar.

Pasticcio di Penne alla Valdostana (Baked Penne Aosta Style)

aostapasta

Ingredients

  • 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 whole garlic clove, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for the baking dish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 oz penne (about 2 1/2 cups dry pasta)
  • 3 oz Italian Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream or half and half

Directions

Saute’ the mushrooms with the whole garlic clove in 2 tablespoons of the butter over a high heat. Add salt and pepper, lower the heat and cook for 3 minutes. Discard the garlic.

Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and dress with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Butter an ovenproof dish and cover the bottom with a layer of penne. Distribute about a quarter of the mushrooms and the sliced cheese evenly over the pasta and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Add another layer of pasta and cover with mushrooms and cheese as before.

Repeat until you have used all the ingredients, finishing with a layer of sliced cheese. Pour the cream over the pasta layers, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake, covered with foil, in a preheated oven at 400° F for 10 minutes.

Bake uncovered for a further 10 minutes, or until a light crust has formed on the top. Remove the pasta from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Fontina-Stuffed Breaded Veal or Pork Chops (Costolette alla Valdostana)

aostameat

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 veal or pork chops, bone in (1/2 inch thick)
  • 1/4 pound Fontina from Val d’Aosta, rind removed, cut into 4 slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Cut a horizontal slit in each chop, leaving the meat attached at the bone end. Open the two flaps of each chop and place 1 slice of Fontina over the bottom flap; lay the top flap over the cheese to close. Using a meat mallet, pound each chop gently to seal the pocket. Season both sides with the salt and pepper.

Place the flour on one plate, the beaten egg in another and the breadcrumbs on a third. Dredge the veal chops in the flour and shake off the excess; dip into the beaten egg, coating both sides well; finally, dip into the breadcrumbs, pressing on both sides to help them adhere.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add the chops and cook until golden on both sides, turning once; it should take about 5 minutes per side. Serve hot.

Twisted Cookies from Val d’Aosta

aostacookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water, about 110 F
  • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into tablespoons
  • About 2/3 cup granulated sugar for rolling out the cookies

Directions

Combine the water and yeast in a small bowl, stir to dissolve the yeast. Cover and set aside while you get the other ingredients ready..

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the flour and salt a couple of times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely mixed in but the mixture is still powdery.

Add the yeast mixture all at once, and pulse until the ingredients form a ball.

Put the dough into a greased bowl, turning the dough over so that the top is greased as well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is doubled in bulk, about an hour.

After the dough has risen, press it down to deflate it. Chill for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Cover two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.

When you are ready to form the cookies, remove the dough from the refrigerator and press it into 8-inch square. Scatter some of the 2/3 cup of sugar on the work surface.

Cut the square of dough into eight 1-inch stripes, adding more sugar as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Cut each strip into 6 equal pieces, to make 48 pieces total.

Roll a piece of the dough on the sugared surface under the palms of your hands to make a pencil-thick strand about 5 inches long. Form a loop by crossing over the ends about 1 inch up from the ends of the dough.

As the cookies are formed, place them on the prepared pans, leaving about 1 ½ inches space around the cookies. Let the cookies stand at room temperature until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 325 F. Bake the cookies, in batches, until they are light and the sugar has caramelized to a light golden crust, about 25 minutes.

Turn the cookies from back to front after the first 15 minutes of baking. Cool the cookies on a rack. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

aostamap


Palermo by Alexey Petrovich Bogolyubov, 1850

Palermo by Alexey Petrovich Bogolyubov, 1850

Palermo’s history has been anything but stable as the area passed from one dominating power to another with frequency. Its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean brought invaders including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Saracen Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the French and the Spanish Bourbons, just to name a few. The result of this history is evident in the vast range of architectural styles, the names of places in the region that are obviously not Italian and the fusion of ingredients used in many local dishes.

Palermo,_Sicily

Human settlement in the Palermo area goes back to prehistoric times. It is one of the most ancient sites in Sicily. Interesting graffiti and prehistoric paintings were discovered in the Addaura grottoes in 1953 by archaeologist Jole Bovio Marconi. They portray dancing figures performing a rite with shamans. In 734 BC Phoenicians from Tyre (Lebanon) established a flourishing merchant colony in the Palermo area. The relationship of the new colony with the Siculi, the people living in the Eastern part of the Island, involved both commerce and war.

Piazza-Pretoria-Palermo-Sicily-Italy-720x538

Piazza Pretoria

Between the 8th and the 7th centuries BC, the Greeks colonized Sicily. They called the area Panormus (“All port”) and traded with the Carthaginians, Phoenician descendants who were from what is now Tunisia. The two civilizations lived together in Sicily until the Roman conquest.

Streets-of-Palermo-Sicily-Italy

Situated on one of the most beautiful promontories of the Mediterranean, Palermo is an important trading and business center and the seat of a university. Palermo is connected to the mainland by an international airport and an increasing number of maritime links. The city of Palermo is vibrant and modern and its large harbor and international airport makes it a popular tourist destination. There are many events and festivals that take place throughout the year in Palermo, the most important of which is the feast day of the city’s patron saint, Saint Rosalia. There is a sanctuary dedicated to her at the top of Monte Pellegrino, just outside the city, and the mountain dominates the backdrop to the city. The surrounding area is a green and pleasant nature park and is a favorite picnic area for locals. Also in Palermo are the Catacombs of the Capuchins, a tourist attraction.

palermo-ballard sicily-8

Palermo Cuisine

In the Sicilian food culture there is no such thing as a “main course”, but rather a series of courses of varying number, depending on the occasion, usually a (primo) first course of pasta, soup, rice, etc. and a (secondo) second course of meat, fish or vegetable, often served with a (contorno) side dish of vegetables. Fresh fruit is usually served as dessert. For a more formal occasion an (antipasto) appetizer comes before the primo.

A number of popular foods are typically served as side dishes or “starters.” Arancini are rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese encrusted in a crispy coating. Caponata is a mixture made with eggplant, olives, capers and celery, and served as an appetizer. Sfincione is a thick form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies, usually made in bakeries rather than pizzerias. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and served fried. Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same bean, usually served in winter. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Fritedda is a springtime vegetable dish or pasta sauce made with fresh green fava beans, peas and artichoke hearts.

Ricotta is a soft cheese made from sheep’s milk and Ricotta Salata is an aged, salty version. Caciocavallo is aged cow’s cheese used for cooking. Canestrato is similar but made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Tuma and Primo Sale are sweeter and softer, aged only briefly. Gattò is similar to quiche and made with potatoes, ham and cheese.

Sicily is renowned for its seafood. Grilled swordfish (pesce spada) is popular. Smaller fish, especially triglie (red snapper), are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finocchio con sarde (fennel with herring). Ricci (urchins) are popular in spring. Beccafico are stuffed roasted sardines.

Meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat.  Chicken is usually served on skewers and spiedini are small meat rolls (involtini), also, on a skewer similar to shish kebab. Salsiccia alla pizzaiola is a port sausage filled with onions, tomatoes and other vegetables. Couscous is usually served with meat or seafood.

palermobakery

Sicilian desserts are outstanding and popular. Cannoli are tubular crusts filled with creamy sheep’s milk ricotta. Cassata is a rich cake filled with the same ricotta filling. Frutta di Martorana are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit. Sicilian gelato (ice cream) is popular with flavors ranging from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese).

palermocake

Not many people outside of Sicily are familiar with Torta Setteveli. The cake of the seven veils, named after the dance of Salome. The Torta Setteveli is the typical birthday cake in Palermo. It’s a combination of alternating chocolate and hazelnut layers, with a crunchy layer that combines both those flavors. There are many stories about who actually created the cake. You can find the cake throughout Sicily, but it is in every pasticceria in Palermo. The Palermitani see it as the ultimate dessert to enjoy on special occasions, especially for birthdays.

Primo Course

ANEL-4T

Baked Anelletti

This dish is a popular “pasta bake” in Palermo and it is made with a very specific pasta shape called anelletti (little rings). In Sicily it is often sold in cafés as timbaletti, which are single portions that are shaped like a cone. When eaten at home, however, it is often made like a “pasta cake” to be portioned and shared by the whole family.

palermopasta

Ingredients

  • 1 lb anelletti pasta
  • 2 large, long eggplants
  • 1/2 lb mortadella, cubed
  • 1 lb mozzarella, cubed
  • Grated pecorino cheese

For the Ragu

  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb peas
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the eggplant, peel and slice them lengthwise about 1/4″ thick.

Coat each slice with olive oil, put them on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Set them aside. Turn the oven to 375 degrees F.

Make the ragu:

In a saucepan, add a 1 tablespoon of olive oil and brown the ground pork and beef.  Discard any fat that is produced. Set aside in a separate bowl.

In the saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Once the onion is translucent add the browned ground meat.

Saute the meat and onion for a few minutes and add the peas followed by the crushed tomatoes and the basil. Add salt to taste.

Cover and let the ragu cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente and drain well. Place in a mixing bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the pasta so that it does not stick together and set aside.

In a 10″ x 5″ bundt, tube or springform pan line the bottom and sides with the slices of baked eggplant so that part of the slices hang outside the top of the pan. Add a layer of pasta followed by a layer of the meat sauce, some grated cheese, a layer of mortadella and then a layer of mozzarella.

Repeat the layering process again.

Once finished, turn the eggplant slices hanging from the pan onto the top of the pasta.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let rest before cutting. Garnish with grated cheese and parsley or basil.

Second Course

palermocod

Merluzzo alla Siciliana (Cod Sicilian Style)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs (800 g) cod fillets
  • 2 ½ cups (500 g) chopped fresh tomato pulp (seeds removed)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoon capers
  • 15 pitted green olives
  • 2 pinches of dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Heat a skillet and add the olive oil and crushed garlic.

When the garlic is browned, add the tomato, salt and pepper.

Add the wine and bring the sauce to boil, add the cod fillets and cook for 6-7 minutes, turning them over once.

Add some more salt and pepper (if needed), the olives and capers.

Sprinkle with oregano and continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top.

palermofennel

Pisci di Terra – Sicilian Fried Fennel

Ingredients

  • 6 fennel bulbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour
  • 1/2 cup fine, dry homemade breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean the fennel bulbs and cut them in half. Boil them until al dente (fork tender) in lightly salted water. Drain them well and quarter the halves.

Mix the breadcrumbs together with the cheese. Lightly beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Dredge the fennel slices in the flour to coat well, then dip the slices in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

Fry them in abundant hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

palermocassata-siciliana

Cassata alla Siciliana

This is a classic Sicilian cake. The word Cassata derives from the Latin Caseus, which means cheese. Cassata is one of the world’s first cheesecakes. It comes as no surprise that there are a great many variations throughout Sicily.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 1/3 cups (280 g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Half a lemon, zested
  • Butter and flour for the cake pan
  • Marsala wine
  • 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) fresh sheep’s milk ricotta (you can use cow’s milk ricotta)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces (50 g) finely diced candied fruit
  • 2 ounces (50 g) bitter chocolate, shaved
  • 9 ounces (250 g) blanched peeled almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract diluted in ¼ cup of water
  • Green food coloring
  • Potato starch
  • 5 cups (500 g) powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 egg whites
  • Strips of candied fruit

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

Whip 6 egg whites to firm peaks with a pinch of salt. In another bowl, beat the 6 yolks with 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar until the mixture is frothy and pale yellow.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and slowly add it to the beaten yolks, together with a couple of tablespoons of whipped egg whites and the lemon zest and then fold in the remaining beaten egg whites

Turn the batter into a buttered and floured pan (9 inch square) and bake it for a half hour; remove the cake from the oven and let it cool before removing it from the pan.

To make the almond paste:

Grind the almonds in a food processor, using short bursts until finely ground. Add 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and the almond water; blend until the mixture is homogenous.

Dust a work surface with the potato starch before turning the paste out onto it (you can also turn it out onto a sheet of wax paper) and incorporate a few drops of green food coloring diluted in a few drops of water. Work the paste until the color is uniform and then wrap the paste in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator.

Press the ricotta through a fairly fine wire mesh strainer and combine it with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, the vanilla, the shaved chocolate and the diced candied fruit.

To make the cassata:

Line a 10-inch (25 cm) diameter springform pan with plastic wrap,

Roll the almond paste out to 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick and wide enough to cover the cake pan bottom and sides. Fit the almond paste into the pan.

Next, line the bottom and sides of the pan with half-inch thick pieces of the baked cake.

Make a syrup by diluting some Marsala with a little water and a little sugar, and sprinkle it over the cake. Fill the empty space with the ricotta mixture and cover it with more of the cake, sprinkling again with the Marsala syrup.

Lay a dish on the cassata, press down gently, and chill the cassata for several hours in the refrigerator. Turn the cassata over onto the serving dish and remove the pan and the plastic wrap.

Beat the remaining two egg whites and sift the remaining powdered sugar into them, beating continuously until thick. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and spread it over the cassata. Let the glaze set for a few minutes, then decorate the cassata with candied fruit. Chill the cake for several more hours before serving.

palermomap


oristanocover

oristanocover1

Oristano is a province on the island region of Sardinia in Italy. It is the smallest province in Sardinia. A large area of the province’s western coastline is part of the Gulf of Oristano and the land is mainly flat with some marshland. Oristano Province contains many protected areas: Monte Arci Regional Park, the Sinis Peninsula – Mal di Ventre Island Marine and the S’Archittu a Santa Caterina Natural Monument near Cuglieri. The Stagno di Mistras is a protected  breeding ground for gulls and flamingos.

oristanobeach

The province was founded in the 11th century BC by the people of Tharros. There is a monument to Eleonora d’Arborea, who was an important figure in Sardinian history and ruled the area from 1383 to 1404. The Tower of St. Christopher dates from 1291 and the cathedral, rebuilt in the 18th century, dates from 1288. Oristano is now an agricultural and fish-canning center.

oristano1

oristano2

A series of folkloric events and festivals are hosted here throughout the year. The most popular is the Sartiglia, a horse race of Medieval origins, held in Oristano on the last Sunday and Tuesday before Lent. San Salvatore hosts the traditional Corsa degli Scalzi (the Barefoot Race) that gathers hundreds of people on the first Saturday of September. They dress only in a white and carry a wooden statue of Jesus Christ from the village of Cabris to the Church of Cristo Salvatore. Sedillo, on July 6-7 hosts the Ardia, a horse race to honor Constantine I, the Roman Emperor. In Marrubiu, the honey, cheese, sausage and wine festival (sagra) takes place on the first Sunday of September.

pane carasau

pane carasau

This traditional, yet unique Sardinian cuisine combines food from the sea and the farms. The local specialities include pane carasau, thin sheets of flatbread that stay super crispy for days and go perfectly with Sardinian cheeses or with the local honey. All the cheeses and ricotta are made from ewes’ milk and range from very spicy to sweet.

bottarga (salted, pressed and dried mullet eggs)

bottarga (salted, pressed and dried mullet eggs)

Most popular is bottarga (salted, pressed and dried mullet eggs) that are either sliced or grated over pasta and other foods. Fregola, small balls of handmade pasta similar to couscous, are served with seafood. Lorighittas are a special pasta made out of two thin pasta ropes wound together and usually served with sausage and tomato sauce. Panadas are oven baked pies with meat, fish or vegetables.

 fiore sardo cheese

fiore sardo cheese

Other specialties include malloreddus alla oristanese (gnocchi made from durum wheat and served with spinach, beets, eggs and heavy cream, myrtle hen (a hen boiled with aromatic herbs and myrtle branches) and su ghisa is a stew prepared with different types of meat.

Vernaccia di Oristano

Vernaccia di Oristano Grapes

Noteworthy wines include the Arborea, Vernaccia di Oristano (a world-famous wine), Nuragus, Vermentin, Sangiovese, Semidano, Moscato and Bovale.

Lorighittas

oristanopasta

Small rings of double twisted fresh pasta called lorighittas are typical in the province of Oristano. Traditionally, lorighittas are seasoned with a sauce made from tomatoes and free range rooster, or a meat ragu or a sauce made with beans, ricotta and saffron. At the beginning of August, a festival takes place where you can watch the local women making this pasta. If you calculate that 16 lorighittas make a serving then it will take at least 3 hours to prepare the dough for 4/5 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 lbs (600 grams) bread flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 grams) warm water
  • 2 tablespoons (10 grams) table salt
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons (10 grams) extra virgin olive oil

Directions

On a board or counter mix all the ingredients: flour, water, oil and salt until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and pinch off a piece of dough. Roll it into a long string about ⅛ inch thick (0.2 cm diameter).

Roll the string up with a double turn of the strand on three fingers (index finger, middle and ring) and make a double ring. Cut off the excess dough.

Twist the two “strands” of dough between your fingers to form a braid.

oristano7

Spicy Tomato Sauce for Lorighitta Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Two garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 cups oven roasted tomatoes
  • 1 small red chili pepper, seeds removed and diced
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly grated fiore sardo cheese, to taste

Directions

In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil, then add the smashed garlic and chili pepper.

Cook gently for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7-8 minutes. Remove garlic and add salt, to taste.

Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil, then add the Lorighittas. The time needed is a bit variable, depending on the size of Lorighittas, how dry they are, etc.

Stop the cooking process when the Lorighittas are ready by pouring a glass of cold water into the pot, stir and, then, drain the Lorighittas.

Place the drained pasta in a bowl and toss with some tomato sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top and serve immediately.

oristano8

Sea Bass in Vernaccia di Oristano Wine

Vernaccia di Oristano is a white Italian wine grape variety grown on the island of Sardinia that is designated Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) of Vernaccia di Oristano based in the province of Oristano.  Vernaccia di Oristano is a distinct variety that is not related to the Tuscan wine grape Vernaccia used to make Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sea bass
  • 1 small onion. finely chopped
  • 1 bunch flat-leafed parsley
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup black olives
  • 1 cup Vernaccia di Oristano wine

Directions

Clean, scale and wash the bass.

In a large skillet with a cover, sauté the onion chopped, some finely chopped parsley and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. As soon as the onion becomes golden, add the sea bass and the remaining olive oil. Cook over low heat for ten minutes, turning the bass over after 5 minutes. Add the olives and Vernaccia, cover the pan and cook until the fish is done. Divide each fish in half and serve with the sauce.

oristano6

 

Winter Vegetables with Bottarga

Sardinian caviar is found in mullet. The mullet is greatly appreciated in Sardinia for its eggs. These eggs are washed, placed in a wooden box and covered with salt, then pressed to make them flat. It is a favorite garnish in Sardinia called Bottarga and it is used to top a wide variety of dishes. The first people to salt and season the egg sacks of mullet were the Phoenicians.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 small fresh carrots with tops
  • 2 heads of fennel
  • 4 chard leaves
  • 40g mullet bottarga
  • Large pinch of dried chili flakes
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3 ½ fl oz (100 ml) good, delicate olive oil

Directions

Prepare the vegetables:

Peel the carrots, leaving a little bit of the green top on them — if large, split in half lengthways. Remove the outer layer of fennel and cut the fennel into six or eight wedges depending on its size. Cut the chard leaves in half.

Boil a large pot of salted water.

Grate the bottarga finely into a mixing bowl and add the chili, lemon juice and a few tablespoons of the boiling pasta water. Let rest for a few minutes, then mix with a whisk to make a smooth paste. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk to make a light emulsion.

Boil the vegetables — they should all take roughly the same time, but you may have to scoop out the chard leaves early, if the stalks are thin. You want the vegetables to be soft enough to cut with a fork, but not mushy. Drain the vegetables and mix them with the bottarga sauce. Serve warm.

oristano5

Sardinian Amaretti Cookies

Traditionally these cookies are mixed by hand.

Makes about 13-14 amaretti.

Ingredients

  • 9 oz (250 g) finely ground almonds
  • 2 drops of almond extract
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 small lemon, zested
  • 5 large egg whites
  • Extra sugar for coating your hands

Directions

Preheat the oven to 160 °C (330 °F)

Place almonds, sugar and lemon zest in a mixing bowl

Add egg whites a little at a time.

Place extra granulated sugar on a plate.

Dampen the palms of your hands with a little cold water and press them into sugar on the plate. This helps to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands.

Roll a small quantity of mixture into a ball (roughly the size of a ping-pong ball).

Roll the ball in the dish of extra sugar.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Oristanomap



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