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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italy

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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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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.

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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”.


italia

Cagliari is a province on the island of Sardinia in Italy. An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has been ruled several civilizations. Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy). Today the area is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic center, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments.

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For a spectacular view, the best way to arrive in Cagliari is by sea. According to the author, DH Lawrence upon his arrival in the 1920s, he said the Sardinian capital reminded him of Jerusalem: ‘…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’ Yet, Cagliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities. Tree-fringed roads and locals hanging out at cafes are typical. Sunset is prime-time viewing in the piazzas and everywhere you stroll, Cagliari’s rich history is spelled out in Roman ruins, museums, churches and galleries.

cagliariciviccenterFollowing the unification of Italy, the area experienced a century of rapid growth. Numerous buildings combined influences from Art Nouveau together with the traditional Sardinian taste for floral decoration; an example is the white marble City Hall near the port. During the Second World War Cagliari was heavily bombed by the Allies. In order to escape from the danger of bombardments and difficult living conditions, many people were evacuated from the city into the countryside.

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After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the German Army took control of Cagliari and the island, but soon retreated peacefully in order to reinforce their positions in mainland Italy. The American Army then took control of Cagliari. Airports near the city (Elmas, Monserrato, Decimomannu, currently a NATO airbase) were used by Allied aircraft to fly to North Africa or mainland Italy and Sicily. After the war, the population of Cagliari grew again and many apartment blocks and recreational areas were erected in new residential districts, often with poor planning.

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Cagliari is one of the “greenest” Italian cities and its mild climate allows the growth of numerous subtropical plants. The province has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and very mild winters. The city of Cagliari boasts a long coastline of eight miles and the Poetto, is the most popular beach.

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Excellent wines can be found in the province, such as Cannonau, Nuragus, Nasco, Monica, Moscau, Girò and Malvasia, which are produced in the nearby vineyards of the Campidano plain.

Pane Carasau - Sardinian Bread

Pane Carasau – Sardinian Bread

Cagliari has some unique culinary traditions. Unlike the rest of the island, its cuisine is mostly based on the wide variety of locally available seafood. Although it is possible to trace culinary influences from Catalan, Sicily and Genoa, Cagliaritan food has a distinctive and unique character. Sardinians prefer barbecued fish (gilt-heads, striped bream, sea bass, red mullet, grey mullet and eels), while spiny lobsters, crayfish, small squid and clams are used in making pasta sauces and risottos.

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Cagliari cuisine has numerous recipes for “pesce in carpaccio” or “pesce in burrida”. “Burrida” is fish and it is cooked in tomato sauce and vinegar or in a green sauce with walnuts. There are also numerous recipes for “gnocchetti” known as “malloreddus”, a type of passta which are different in size, color and taste because of the use of saffron and vegetables but they are all served “alla campidanese” with lots of tomato sauce, chopped sausage and grated Pecorino cheese.

Cagliari Style Lobster Salad

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Lobster, which is called aragosta in Cagliari, is smaller, clawless and sweeter than New England lobster.

2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cooked lobster tail meat
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, stemmed, washed and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced Italian parsley
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Whole arugula leaves, washed and dried, optional

Directions

Cut the lobster meat up into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl. Gently mix in the tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest.

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the lobster mixture and toss gently with two spoons.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, allow enough time for the lobster mixture to come to room temperature.

Line serving plates with arugula leaves, if using. Divide the lobster mixture evenly and spoon into the center of each plate.

Cagliari Style Pasta with Sardines

Linguine with sunblush tomatoes, parsley, sardines and fried bread crumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb (1 1/4 lb) and fronds, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (3 3/4- to 4 3/8-ounce) cans sardines in oil, drained
  • 1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti pasta
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, toasted and tossed with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste

Directions

Finely chop the fennel bulb and fronds.

Combine the saffron, raisins and wine in a mixing bowl.

Cook the onion, fennel bulb and seeds in oil with salt to taste in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the wine mixture and half of the sardines, breaking sardines up with a fork; simmer 1 minute.

While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

Toss the hot pasta in a serving bowl with the fennel sauce, remaining sardines, fennel fronds, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumbs and toss again.

Cagliari Style Clams with Fregola

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Fregola is a pebble-shaped pasta that is formed by hand and then lightly toasted until golden. Fregola comes in small, medium and large grains and is available at specialty markets. This is a very popular dish in Sardinia.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fregola
  • 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
  • Slices of Italian bread, toasted

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.

Stir in the fregola, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 17 minutes.

Add the clams to the skillet in a single layer. Cover the pan and cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 4 minutes.

Discard any clams that do not open. Season the fregola with salt and pepper.

Spoon the fregola, clams and broth into shallow serving bowls.

Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread.

Pizza Sarda

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb dough
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Sliced mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Sliced Sardinian sausage
  • Thinly sliced onion and artichoke hearts, optional
  • Italian green and black olives and a few capers
  • Oregano and fresh basil

Directions

Spread the dough in a pan.

Add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.

Add slices of sausage, olives, capers, onion and artichokes, if using.

Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese and top with chopped tomato.

Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F until the edges are golden.

Remove the pizza from the oven and add a few leaves of fresh basil and oregano. Cut into serving pieces.

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This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course

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Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.

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Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps

.Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Sourdough Cheese Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course

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Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.

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Italian Style Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce

Cheesecake

  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.

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pavia hats

Pavia is a province in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. The province is mostly flat with some hills in the south. The northwestern area of the province is ideal for agricultural land. Pavia has a major position in northern Italy’s textile industry and is renowned for hatmaking. It also plays its part in the country’s engineering and metallurgical industries. This is an important winemaking district that produces sparkling wines.and it is the largest area in Italy for the production of Pinot Noir. Also, the province of Pavia was the birthplace of Peroni, a well-known Italian beer.

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The Peroni company was established under the founding family name in the town of Vigevano, Italy, in 1846. The company moved to Rome 1864, six years prior to Rome becoming the Italian capital in 1870. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the company became one of the most prominent brewing companies in the newly unified Italian nation.

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By the 1990s, both the Peroni brand name and product line were distributed and known worldwide. The London-based brewing giant SABMiller bought the company in 2003, making it one of the few international brands in its portfolio.

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Beers under the Peroni brand include: Crystall, a 5.6% alcohol pale lager; Peroni Gran Riserva, a 6.6% alcohol strong lager; Peroncino, a 5% alcohol pale lager and Peroni Leggera, a 3.5% alcohol pale lager. The company also produces the Wuhrer brand – a 4.7% alcohol pale lager launched in Brescia in 1829. The main brands are Peroni and Nastro Azzurro.

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Peroni is the Peroni company’s original brand. According to Assobirra (Italian Brewers and Malsters Trade Association), it is the best selling beer in Italy. It is 4.7% alcohol and made with barley malt, maize, hop pellets and hop extract. By the 1950s and 1960s, Peroni was the most recognized brand of beer throughout the Italian peninsula.

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Nastro Azzurro, a 5.1% alcohol pale lager, launched in 1963, is the Peroni Brewery’s premium lager brand. The name means “Blue Ribbon” in Italian, in honor of the Blue Riband award won by the Italian ocean liner SS Rex in 1933. Nastro Azzurro has also sponsored teams in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 1997, they sponsored a 125cc Aprilia team with rider Valentino Rossi, who won the championship in that season. In 2000 and 2001 they sponsored a 500cc Honda team, again with Rossi as the rider.

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When you think of Italian food pairing, wine may be the first thing that comes to mind; however, beer can complement the flavors of Italian food just as well. The tradition of Aperitivo, a pre-dinner social hour featuring drinks and small plates, is the perfect time to enjoy Italian lager. Here are some appetizers that go well with beer.

• Affettati Misti: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa or bresaola, all of which have a saltiness and complex texture that will contrast with the lager. Serve with cured olives, quartered figs or melon slices.
• Crostini are thin Italian bread slices toasted with olive oil and then topped with a number of different kinds of pastes or sauces. Try an olive tapenade, a red bell pepper spread or a chicken liver pate.
• Fiori di Zucca are zucchini blossoms that make an elegant salad. Mix the blossoms, available at farmers’ markets or specialty groceries, with arugula, shaved pecorino cheese and a lemony vinaigrette.
• Carciofi alla Romana is a traditional roman dish of artichokes and mint. Artichokes are steamed in white wine with garlic, mint and parsley and sliced into small sections to eat by hand.
• Bagna Cauda is a warm dipping sauce made from olive oil, garlic, anchovies and butter. Fresh vegetables are then dipped into this salty, creamy sauce.
• Cocktail di Gamberi. Steam shrimp in a broth of melted butter, olive oil, garlic, chopped parsley, lemon juice and some Italian lager and serve warm or cold.

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Serves 1

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 large slice crusty Italian bread
1 ¾ cups beef stock
Enough Parmesan cheese (grated) for a generous sprinkle
A generous tablespoon of butter
An oven proof dish to contain the soup
Coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Put the oven proof dish in a moderate hot oven to heat while the other ingredients are prepared.

Bring the beef stock to boiling in a saucepan.

In a medium skillet, heat the butter and fry the bread on both sides.

Once the bread is ready, take the oven proof dish out of the oven.

Put the bread inside the dish, pressing it down so that it stays on the bottom of the dish.

Place the eggs over the bread, carefully, so the yolks do not break.

Top with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

The dish is now ready for the stock. The stock must be boiling hot (not simmering) so raise the heat before adding it to the dish.

The heat of the stock will partially cook the eggs. You can cover the dish with a plate and leave the soup alone for one minute or two, then you can serve the dish.

Sprinkle with black pepper before serving.

Note: With this soup the eggs will never be thoroughly cooked, but this is the tradition. However, if you are serving the soup to children or older people, you may consider poaching the eggs before laying them on the bread; then you add the stock. Alternatively, before adding the stock, you can pass the dish under a broiler, in order to cook the eggs, but you need to be careful not to burn the bread.

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Asparagus Risotto

From Ristorante Da Mino, Pavia Province, Italy

Ingredients

1 1/4 lbs asparagus, trimmed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring 5 cups salted water to boil in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water; cool. Drain (reserving 3 1/2 cups cooking liquid in a saucepan).

Cut off the asparagus tips and reserve. Finely diced the stalks.

In the saucepan with the  reserved cooking liquid add the broth. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup hot liquid. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Add the diced asparagus.

Cook until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, adding liquid 3/4 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, about 20 minutes.

Mix reserved asparagus tips, grated cheese and butter into the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.

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Cassoeula (Pork Rib and Sausage Stew)

Cassoeula is a dish with several versions. Sometimes, after the meats have been browned, a spoonful of tomato paste is added. Other cooks prefer to cook the cabbage in a separate pot, steaming it in the water remaining on the leaves after washing, and then adding it to the meat. The quality of the meat added to the cassoeula varies. The simplest version requires only ribs and sausages, while the most complicated includes the ears and tail.

Recipe courtesy of The Italian Trade Commission.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 pig’s foot
1 lb. pork sausage
1 lb. pork ribs
1/2 lb. pork rind
2 tablespoons oil
2 oz. butter
1 diced onion
1/2 lb. carrots, diced
1/2 lb. celery, diced
½ lb tomatoes, diced
3 lbs. Savoy cabbage
Salt and pepper

Directions

Boil the pig’s foot and cut in half, lengthwise.

Make a soffritto with the oil, butter and chopped onion. Add the pork rind, sausage and ribs, cut into pieces, and the pig’s foot.

When the meat is golden brown, add all diced carrots, celery, tomatoes. Cook over medium heat.

After 30 minutes, add the cabbage, cut into strips. add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 45 minutes.

The cooking juice should be rather thick. If you wish to remove some of the fat from the cassoeula, do so before adding the cabbage.

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Paradise Cake

Paradise cake is one of the most traditional Italian desserts. Light and airy, this cake is considered a cornerstone of Italian pastry.

Legend has it that the paradise cake was invented by a monk at a monastery in Pavia in Lombardy. There are different versions of this story, but almost all of them suggest that a monk learned to make the cake from a young bride who lived near the monastery. Since the cake was so good, she suggested to the monks that they name it paradise cake. The origin of the cake dates back further in history. There were already multiple versions of the recipe in existence in 1878, when pastry chef Enrico Vigoni, the owner of a pastry shop in Pavia that is still in business today, codified the recipe, making it famous throughout Italy.

Ingredients

1 lb butter
1 lb confectioners sugar
4 eggs
10 egg yolks
Vanilla extract to taste
5/8 lb all-purpose flour
5/8 lb potato starch
3/8 oz baking powder
Lemon zest to taste

Directions

Remove the butter from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes prior to baking. Once the butter is soft, whisk the butter in a bowl with the confectioner’s sugar by hand or with an electric mixer whisk attachment.

Once the mixture is light and creamy, add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, and continue whisking. Then add the grated lemon peel and mix well. Mix in the vanilla and potato starch.

Mix together the flour and baking powder and sift into a bowl or on wax paper. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together well, using a wooden spoon.

Grease a round cake pan with butter. Flour lightly, then pour in the cake batter, filling the pan to 2/3rds full.

Bake in a 350° F oven for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Once cool, remove the cake from the pan by turning it out onto a serving dish or cake stand. Finish by dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

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Veduta del Golfo di Napoli

The Province of Naples is a mixture of colors, culture and history. The beautiful islands that dot the blue waters of the Mediterranean are like jewels in a necklace. In a sea so blue that it blends with the sky, three islands can be found: Capri, Ischia and Procida. Mt. Vesuvius  overlooks the city and the beautiful bay. The sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are of great archaeological value and are famous worldwide. The entire area is interspersed with finds from a long-ago past, especially those that saw the presence of the Roman emperors that first recognized the beauty of this terrain.

Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the area in the second millennium BC and Naples played a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Later, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

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Naples has the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan, Rome and Turin. It is the world’s 103rd richest city by purchasing power and the port of Naples is one of the most important in Europe with the world’s second-highest level of passenger flow, after the port of Hong Kong. Numerous major Italian companies are headquartered in Naples. The city also hosts NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, the SRM Institution for Economic Research and the OPE Company and Study Center.

Neapolitan cuisine took much from the culinary traditions of the Campania region, reaching a balance between dishes based on rural ingredients and seafood. A vast variety of recipes are influenced by a local, more affluent cuisine, like timballi and the sartù di riso, pasta or rice dishes with very elaborate preparation, while some dishes come from the traditions of the poor, like pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans) and other pasta dishes with vegetables. Neapolitan cuisine emerged as a distinct cuisine in the 18th century with ingredients that are typically rich in taste, but remain affordable.

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Parmigiana di Melanzane

The majority of Italian immigrants who went to the United States during the great migration were from southern Italy. They brought with them their culinary traditions and much of what Americans call Italian food originated in Naples and Sicily.

Naples is traditionally credited as the home of pizza. Pizza was originally a meal of the poor, but under Ferdinand IV it became popular among the upper classes. The famous Margherita pizza was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy after her visit to the city.  Cooked traditionally in a wood-burning oven, the ingredients of Neapolitan pizza have been strictly regulated by law since 2004, and must include wheat flour type “00” with the addition of flour type “0” yeast, natural mineral water, peeled tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

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Pasta with Meat Ragu

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Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti is also associated with the city and is commonly eaten with a sauce called ragù. There are a great variety of Neapolitan pastas. The most popular variety of pasta, besides the classic spaghetti and linguine, are paccheri and ziti, long pipe-shaped pasta usually topped with Neapolitan ragù. Pasta with vegetables is also characteristic of the cuisine. Hand-made gnocchi, prepared with flour and potatoes are also popular.

Other dishes popular in Naples include Parmigiana di melanzane, spaghetti alle vongole and casatiello. As a coastal city, Naples is also known for its numerous seafood dishes, including impepata di cozze (peppered mussels), purpetiello affogato (octopus poached in broth), alici marinate (marinated anchovies), baccalà alla napoletana (salt cod) and baccalà fritto (fried cod), a dish commonly eaten during the Christmas period.

Popular Neapolitan pastries include zeppole, babà, sfogliatelle and pastiera, the latter of which is prepared for Easter celebrations. Another seasonal dessert is struffoli, a sweet-tasting honey dough decorated and eaten around Christmas.

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Sfogliatella.

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Zeppole

The traditional Neapolitan flip coffee pot, known as the cuccuma or cuccumella, was the basis for the invention of the espresso machine and also inspired the Moka pot.

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Naples is also the home of limoncello, a popular lemon liqueur. Limoncello is produced in southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi, and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri. Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons. The lemon liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity, viscosity and flavor.

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Making Limoncello

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Tomatoes entered Neapolitan cuisine during the 18th century. The industry of preserving tomatoes originated in 19th century Naples, resulting in the export to all parts of the world of the famous “pelati”(peeled tomatoes) and the “concentrato” (tomato paste). There are traditionally several ways of preparing tomato preserves, bottled tomato juice and chopped tomatoes. The famous “conserva” (sun-dried concentrated juice) tomato is cooked for a long time and becomes a dark red cream with a velvety texture.

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Mozzarella di Bufala.

Buffalo mozzarella is mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic Italian water buffalo. It is a product traditionally produced in the region. The term mozzarella derives from the procedure called mozzare which means “cutting by hand”,  that is, the process of the separation of the curd into small balls. It is appreciated for its versatility and elastic texture. The buffalo mozzarella sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana has been granted the status of Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC – “Controlled designation of origin”) since 1993. Since 1996 it is also protected under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication labels.

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Neapolitan Ragu

Neapolitan ragù is one of the two most famous varieties of Italian meat sauces called ragù. It is a specialty of Naples, as its name indicates. The other variety originated in Bologna. The Neapolitan type is made with onions, meat and tomato sauce. A major difference is how the meat is used, as well as the amount of tomato in the sauce. Bolognese versions use very finely chopped meat, while the Neapolitan versions use large pieces of meat, taking it from the pot when cooked and served it as a second course. Ingredients also differ. In Naples, white wine is replaced by red wine, butter is replaced with olive oil and lots of basil leaves are added. Bolognese ragù has no herbs. Milk or cream are not used in Naples. Neapolitan ragù is very similar to and may be ancestral to the Italian-American “Sunday Gravy”; the primary difference being the addition of a greater variety of meat in the American version, including meatballs, sausage and pork chops.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rump roast
  • 1 large slice of brisket (not too thick)
  • 1 pound veal stew meat
  • 1 pound pork ribs
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, pureed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves

Directions

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Tie the large pieces with cooking twine to help them keep their shape. In a large pot heat the oil and butter. Add the sliced onions and the meat at the same time.

On medium heat let the meat brown and the onion soften. During this first step you must be vigilant, don’t let the onion dry, stir with a wooden spoon and start adding wine if necessary to keep them moist.

Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and a little wine to dissolve it. Stir and combine the ingredients. Let cook slowly for 10 minutes.

Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper and stir. Cover the pot but leave the lid ajar. (You can place a wooden spoon under the lid.)

The sauce must cook very slowly for at least 3-4 hours. After 2 hours add few leaves of basil and continue cooking.

During these 3-4 hours you must keep tending to the ragú, stirring once in a while and making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Serve with your favorite pasta.

naplespizza

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Dough Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (350 cc) warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups (500 g) flour (Italian OO flour)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Topping for 1 pizza

  • 1 cup (250 g) tomatoes, puréed  in a blender
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 oz (60 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions

For the pizza dough:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Form the flour in a mound shape with a hole in the center. Pour the yeast mix in the center, then the olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Using a spatula, draw the ingredients together. Then mix with your hands to form a dough. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the pizza dough on the floured surface.

Knead the pizza dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour and until it no longer sticks to your hands.

With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl.

On the top of the pizza dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.

When the dough is about double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles.

On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces. On the work surface, using a rolling-pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin 12 inch round layer.

Transfer the dough to a pizza pan. Using your fingertips, push from the center to the sides to cover the entire surface of the pan.

For the pizza

Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). In a mixing bowl place the tomatoes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the pizza.

With your hands, break the basil leaves into small pieces. Distribute the basil uniformly over the pizza. Spread the rest of the olive oil on the pizza. Add salt to taste.

Bake the pizza for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 10 more minutes. Lift one side to check for readiness. Pizza is ready when the bottom surface is light brown. Top with few more fresh basil leaves, if desired, and serve immediately.

naplescalamari

Pasta con i Calamari

Small clams and other fish are sometimes added with the calamari.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 whole fresh squid
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 peperoncino
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 8 oz paccheri pasta

Directions

Cut the squid body into slices and halve the tentacles if they are large.

Clean, remove the seeds and finely chop the tomatoes. Rinse and chop the parsley. Peel and slice the garlic.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the peperoncino. Stir in the calamari and cook 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

Add the tomatoes and parsley and stir through. Salt to taste.

Cover and cook on medium for 15 minutes.

While the calamari is cooking, cook the pasta al dente. Remove some of the pasta cooking water.

Stir a bit of the pasta water into the sauce and cook a few minutes longer.

Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and stir through.

Garnish with a few basil leaves.

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