Fermo is a province in the Marche region of central Italy. The province stretches from the Sibillini Mountains to the Adriatic Sea and its main geographic features are the valley of the River Tenna and the River Aso that form the southern border of the province. The coastline consists of beach areas interlaced with shady pine trees that offer visitors a perfect combination of natural landscapes.
The town of Fermo, the capital of the province, is an old town perched on a hill. It has a historic center, a large piazza and a cathedral with a Gothic facade dating from 1227. There are also traces of a Roman amphitheatre nearby. Underneath the town is an intricate system of well-preserved Roman cisterns dating back to around 40 AD. They were built to conserve and purify the water for the people of the town and are considered to be one of the finest examples of their kind in Italy.
An 1861 report by Minister Minghetti justified merging the small and fragmented provinces of southern Marche into a single large province, a move to remove the historical border between the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Papal States. The residents of Abruzzo were opposed to this. Despite the opposition, 58% of the population of Fermo voted in favor of merging some smaller provinces. In 2000, supporters of forming a new province of Fermo were able to pass a law changing the boundaries and the province of Fermo was re-established in 2004.
Footwear and leather goods produced in the area, are a specialty of the region. The production of women’s shoes is a tedious, time-consuming craft. After the initial stages of leather cutting, stitching and fitting the body of the shoe, the next steps vary according to the shoe style. Each artisan is trained to specialize in one task. The leather must be stretched taut over the toe of every shoe. Another craftsman delicately brushes special glue onto the bottom of the shoe structure, allowing it to dry completely before heating it up again and applying the sole by hand, lining it up exactly and using a special machine to press it tight. At the end of the assembly line, another craftsman places each stiletto heel in just the right spot before securing it with a press machine and sending it on for the finishing touches. Then the shoes are polished, buffed, boxed and shipped. It’s an example of the care and handcrafting that give Italian shoes their reputation for durability and quality. With over 54 components needed for every pair of women’s shoes, shoemaking can be laborious work.
Dino Bigioni manufactures 700 pairs of shoes a day. All employees come from shoemaking families that have educated their children in the craft. While many of the younger generation attend an area trade school to learn the craft, family tradition is the preferred training method. This factory is just one of hundreds of small yet established family shoe businesses in this area. The families say they are friends rather than foes and that they help one another in times of hardship. The Italian shoe industry is not just about footwear – it’s about preserving a tradition, a culture and a family name. Each family specializes in one part of the shoe – one family may make only stiletto heels; others only the soles for men’s loafers. With the exception of the leather (which comes from Tuscany and the Veneto), all shoe components are produced locally.
The province’s main agricultural products are cereals, vegetables, grapes, olives and livestock. The pecorino grape takes its name from the sheep (pecore) who originated in the area. It is an early ripening variety and produces fine white wine. The red wine Offida Rosso DOCG and the white wine Offida Bianco DOCG are also produced in this province as well.
Cereals, olives and mustard are grown and produced and the fish and seafood along the coast of this province are excellent. Maccheroncini di Campofilone, a variety of pasta that has received the PGI, is made exclusively here. The pasta is very thin and only fresh eggs and flour are allowed to be used. No other liquid can be added to make this pasta dough.
The Roveja bean is an ancient legume also known as a wild pea. Flour is made from the bean and used to prepare a kind of porridge, called “Farecchiata”. The bean grows wild in the area of Sibillini. The Greeks, Romans, shepherds and farmers considered it a delicious legume. Today, it is produced in small quantities in Umbria and in the Sibillini mountains. The roveja bean is the size of a pea and varies in color from orange to brown. The flavor is similar to chickpeas and lentils.
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 250 g of dry roveja beans
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 large potato
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 3 leaves of sage
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil
After soaking the roveja beans in water to cover for 10-12 hours, boil them for about an hour until soft.
Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the garlic, onion, celery, carrot and potato Add the roveja beans with its cooking water.
Season with salt and pepper, add the rosemary, sage and bay leaf and simmer until thick and creamy.
Maccheroncini di Campofilone al ragù
di La Cucina Italiana
- ½ pound maccheroncini (very thin egg pasta)
- ¼ pound beef stew bones (optional)
- ¼ pound chopped veal
- ½ pound chopped sirloin
- ¼ pound chicken giblets (optional)
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- ½ cup of white wine
- 2 cups peeled tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the pan
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- 3 sprigs of fresh basil
Salt and pepper all the meat. Heat a large sauce pan and add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom. Add the stew bones and brown them; then add the veal and sirloin and saute until brown.
Remove the bones and chopped meat to a plate and place to the side. Lower the heat and place the giblets in the saucepan with the diced celery, onion and carrots and allow them to gently cook.
After the vegetables soften, add the wine to deglaze pan, stirring to bring the juices from the bottom of the pan into the mixture.
Return the meat and bones to the mixture and add the tomatoes and olive oil and cover the pot. Simmer over very low heat for two hours, stirring often.
Boil maccheroncini in a generous amount of salted water for 1-2 minutes (pasta should be firm to the bite) and drain. Place in a serving bowl and add a large spoonful of sauce.
Garnish with cheese and fresh basil leaf and serve.
Peposo (Peppered Lamb Stew)
From La Tavola Marche Cooking School
- 2 kg/4.5 lb leg of lamb, cut into thick steaks with bone-in
- 20 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 heaping tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- Sea salt
- 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 juniper berries, crushed
- Drizzle of olive oil
Preheat the oven to 225 F/105 C degrees.
In a heavy pot (just big enough to hold all the ingredients), drizzle with olive oil and place a layer of the sliced meat at the bottom of the pan.
Cover with a few cloves of garlic, sprinkle with pepper, salt and rosemary. Repeat, starting with the meat, and keep layering until all the ingredients are used and the pot is almost full.
Pour the wine over the top and add the bay leaves and juniper berries. Add water, if necessary, so that all the ingredients are covered with liquid.
Slowly bring to a boil, cover tightly with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about 8 hours or until tender and falling apart.
([If you want to cook the stew faster, raise the temp to about 300 degrees and cook for 4-6 hours. However it will be richer, the slower you cook it.)
Once the stew is done, skim off the fat from the surface and remove the bones, the bay leaves and rosemary twigs. The meat should be very soft and juicy with a rich flavor.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. Break up the pieces of meat. Serve a ladle of stew on toasted bruschetta with a drizzle of olive oil or serve with polenta or mashed potatoes.
Rustic Tart with Strawberries (Crostata di Fragole)
From La Tavola Marche Cooking School
- 1 1/3 cups, 250g butter
- 4 cups, 500 g of flour
- 1 1/4 cups + extra for dusting, 250g sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon, 5g baking powder
- 2 full eggs + 3 yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon grappa, rum or brandy
- 1 pint of fresh strawberries per tart, sliced
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla and liqueur and beat until combined.
Sift together all the dry ingredients.
Incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter and egg mixture with a few strokes of a wooden spoon to form a dough.
Roll 2/3 of the dough out slightly larger than your tart pan. Crimp the edges of the dough to create the crust.
Arrange the strawberries slightly overlapping to cover the pastry. Sprinkle a little sugar over the strawberries.
To make the latticework top:
Pull off a pinch of dough and roll into a long snake. If it breaks, just pinch it back together. This is a rustic tart. Moist hands will help if the dough is sticky.
Continue until you have enough strips to make a lattice top.
Bake in a preheated 350 F/175 C degree oven for about an hour or until the top is brown and the bottom is cooked. The dough should shrink away from the pan a bit. Cool.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
- 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
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.
Merluzzo alla Siciliana (Cod Sicilian Style)
- 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
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.
Pisci di Terra – Sicilian Fried Fennel
- 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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
The Province of Vicenza is located in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The city of Vicenza is the capital of the province and it is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, rich in history and culture with many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi.
Founded in the 2nd century B.C., Vicenza came under Venetian rule from the early 15th to the end of the 18th century. The architectural work of Andrea Palladio (1508–80), gives the area its unique appearance. Palladio’s urban buildings, as well as his villas scattered throughout the Veneto region, had a decisive influence on the region’s development of architecture. His work inspired a distinct architectural style known as Palladian, which spread to England, other European countries and North America.
The region was once under Napoleonic rule and, later, became part of the Austrian Empire. In 1848, however, the populace of Veneto rose up against Austria and the area received the highest award for military valor for the courage it displayed in the uprising. Later, as a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy, the province was annexed to Italy after the 3rd war for Italian independence.
Vicenza was a location of major combat in both World War I and World War II and it was the most damaged city from Allied bombings in the Veneto region.
In the 1960s the region experienced a strong economic development caused by the emergence of small and medium family businesses. In the following years, the region’s economic development grew and huge industrial areas sprouted around the city.
Vicenza is home to the United States Army post Caserma Ederle (Camp Ederle), also known as the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza. In 1965, Caserma Ederle became the headquarters for the Southern European Task Force, which includes the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Behind the classical Palladian buildings, you will also find a more ancient Vicenza that goes back to the days of a less established social order. The daily strife and power struggles between rival families was well-known to Shakespeare’s audience. If you walk down some of the smaller streets, you may still come across tall bulky houses with defensive turrets, each bearing the family’s coat of arms, and built to defend their ancestral rights and families. The combination of such towers that still watch over the town, led to Vicenza being known as the “City of a Thousand Towers”.
Also, in the province of Vicenza and within easy reach, are the castles of two very renowned rival families. In the town of Montecchio Maggiore, one will find the remains of the hilltop fortresses that belonged to the Montecchi (Montagues) and Capuletti (Capulets), the legendary protagonists of the Romeo and Juliet saga. The elegant villas around Vicenza would make the area worth visiting even without the town. Several were designed by Andrea Palladio, but there are plenty of others to be visited. Among the most well-known is the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (‘of the dwarves’), so-called because of its decorative statues. Nearby is Palladio’s famous villa, La Rotonda, a charming and less formal house. The grand Basilica di Monte Berico, with its three Baroque facades, a painting by Veronese and the views from the hillside are impressive.
Here are some personal photos of the villa a dear friend lived in while working in Vicenza. She was kind enough to share these photos, so you may have a close up view of these magnificent structures and gardens. I am sure you will enjoy viewing them as much as I have.
Thank you to Dolly Alvarez Crooks for photos of my friend Barbara Ferg-Carter’s Vicenza Villa.
The Cuisine of Vicenza
The quality and variety of Vicenza’s local produce and cuisine, is on a par with the very best that Italy has to offer: white asparagus in Bassano, delicate black porcini mushrooms from the Berico hills, cherries of Marostica and the peas of Lumignano. These products have found their way into the traditional pasta, gnocchi and risotto dishes of the area.
The local specialty, Baccalà alla Vicentina, is made with salt-cured cod (stockfish) that is soaked for a couple of days and served with yellow or white polenta.
The most famous local cheese, is Asiago, which comes from Asiago, located in the Vicenza Alps.
The province has numerous wine producers, a third of which are DOC. The cabernet, merlot, tocai and pinot grape varieties are well established and traditional wines include: Durello, Torcolato, Recioto and Raboso.
Make dinner in the Vicenza style with the following recipes:
White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce
- 1 bundle white asparagus, cleaned & trimmed
- 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- Sea salt & pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 4 sprigs lemon thyme
- Lemon slices for garnish
Using a wide, deep pan bring enough salted water to cover the asparagus to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for 5 minutes.
Drain the asparagus and place in an ice bath. Drain the asparagus and place them on a serving platter.
Using a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high and add the minced shallot. Saute for 1 minute, shaking the pan. Be careful not to burn the shallot.
Remove the pan from the heat, turn away from the stove and add the wine. Place the pan back on the burner and add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue to cook until slightly reduced.
Add a pinch of sea salt and a couple twists from a pepper grinder. Add the butter and continue to saute until the butter is melted and the sauce is shiny.
Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus and garnish with lemon thyme and lemon slices to serve.
Risotto with Peas
- 6 to 8 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups peas
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup grated Asiago cheese (about 4 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh marjoram leaves, plus several sprigs for garnish
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; reduce heat and keep at a low simmer.
Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes.
Add rice; cook, stirring frequently, until it is thoroughly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it is completely absorbed.
Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to the rice mixture; stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is absorbed.
Continue adding stock, 3/4 cup at time, stirring constantly after each addition, until the rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center and the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream, a total of 18 to 20 minutes.
About 12 minutes into the cooking time, stir in the peas. The rice should be al dente but no longer crunchy and the peas tender and bright green. The mixture will continue to thicken slightly when removed from heat.
Remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the butter, cheese, chopped marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with marjoram sprigs.
Cutlets in Tomato Sauce
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 medium veal or pork cutlets or skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- Half of a small onion, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion softens. Add the cutlets and cook until golden on all sides, around 5-6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Serve the cutlets with the sauce spooned over the top.
- One 16 ounce package frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, thawed or 3 cups fresh pitted cherries
- 2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 3 1/4 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
In a blender or food processor combine the cherries and orange peel. Blend or process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard the pulp. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the cherry mixture and set aside.
In an electric mixer bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks. Beat on high-speed for 4 minutes. Set aside.
In a large saucepan the combine milk, cream and salt; heat just until simmering. Remove from the heat and let stand for 2 minutes.
Slowly stir 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Return all of the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and add the remaining milk mixture. Combine thoroughly.
Heat and stir for 5 to 6 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon (185 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Be careful not to let mixture boil.
Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water; stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes to cool.
In a large bowl combine cherry mixture and the egg yolk-milk mixture, stirring until well mixed. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.
Freeze the chilled mixture in a 2 to 4 quart ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the mixture to a covered freezer container and freeze in your regular freezer for 4 hours before serving.
The Province of Campobasso is a province in the Molise region of Italy and is situated in eastern Italy on the Adriatic coast. It is bordered in the north by Abruzzo, in the southeast by Apulia and in the south by Campania. The terrain is varied and extends from the mountainous Apennines, down through hills, lakes and inland rivers to the Adriatic coast.
The province’s mountains offer beautiful views and the forests are a natural habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including wolves and rare birds of prey. The province is also known as the perfect location for mountain climbing and for exploring a network of caves that have been carved into the limestone. Among the province’s most renowned places is Campitello Matese, part of the Municipality of San Massimo and a leading ski resort with outstanding courses and modern lifts.
Campobasso boasts two nature reserves, the LIPU Oasis in Casacalenda and the WWF Oasis of Guardiaregia-Campochiaro. Those who love the seaside will appreciate the 24 miles of Adriatic coastline with its host of resorts.
Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Polenta dishes are common throughout the region. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat. Most dishes are prepared simply and use few ingredients.
Appetizers include soups made with legumes grown in the area, such as lentils, pearl barley and beans, especially fava.
Caponata is the dish that best characterizes Campobasso’s cuisine. It is made with wheat (tarallo) dampened with water and vinegar and flavored with tomatoes, celery, peppers, anchovies, black olives and boiled eggs.
Crioli con le noci is another specialty, dried cod cooked with chopped nuts, as is tacozze e fagioli, homemade pasta sauce with beans and pork rind.
Campobasso is also home to delicious sausages and cured meats: capicola or seasoned pork, ciccioli pork rinds, ham, pork sausage, salami, torcinelli (roulade, essentially of the “rest of the pig”), and pork belly.
The area’s woodlands are ideal for producing a variety of mushrooms, among them porcini, field mushrooms, gallinaccio and, of course, the renowned truffle.
Cheeses include caciocavallo, burrino, mozzarella and pecorino. Among the province’s most famous wines are Biferno (white, red and rosé) and Moscato.
Bread with Broccoli Rabe
- 14 oz (400g) stale durum wheat bread
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ¼ lbs (1000 g) rapini or broccoli rabe
- Pinch salt
- Black pepper or chili pepper
Slice the bread into ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thick slices.
Wash and clean the broccoli rabe.
Boil for 3 minutes in water to cover, add the bread and drain immediately.
Arrange the bread in layers along with the broccoli rabe. Dress with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (or red chili flakes).
- 1 ham bone
- 1 cup bite-sized ham pieces
- 2 large onions, halved
- 1 whole large garlic, skinned and cloves smashed with the side of knife
- Fresh or dried basil or both (to taste)
- 5 large bay leaves
- 5 large carrots, sliced
- 2 whole celery stalks and 4 stalks sliced
- 3 medium potatoes, cubed
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 lb dried navy or great northern beans, soaked overnight
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Salt & Pepper
Simmer in large soup pot approximately 1 1/2 hours: the ham bone with enough water to cover, onions, garlic, basil, bay leaves, 2 whole celery stalks, salt & pepper to taste.
Drain beans and place in a large pot covered with water by three inches. Add the baking soda. Simmer for 45 minutes, then drain and change the water. Simmer for 45 minutes. Add more water if necessary. When the beans are almost cooked add 1 teaspoon of salt, drain and set aside.
Strain the ham broth and discard the bone and vegetables. Add the broth to the cooked beans, ham pieces and all the remaining ingredients. Simmer for approximately one hour.
Season with salt and pepper.
Pork is preferred in the mountains, while the coastal areas are mainly characterized by seafood dishes.
- 10 ½ oz (300g) fresh egg pasta, Tagliolini
- 3 oz (80g) ham, julienne or peeled medium shrimp
- 1 hot chili pepper, minced
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 ¾ oz (50g) olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
Cook the pasta al dente and reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Drain
In a skillet, heat the oil and fry the chili with the onion. Cook at moderate heat till soft, stirring often with a wooden spoon.
Add the ham or the shrimp and heat it quickly.
Add a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, the minced parsley and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Serve.
Old Style Ricotta Pie
- 12 eggs
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 pounds ricotta cheese
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup shortening plus 1 tablespoon shortening, chilled
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
For the filling:
Beat the 12 eggs, the 2 cups sugar and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Stir in the ricotta cheese. Set aside.
For the crust:
Combine the flour, baking powder and the 1 cup sugar together. Cut in the chilled shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Mix in the 4 beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Divide dough into 4 balls, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease two deep-dish 9 inch pie plates.
Roll out 2 of the balls to fit into the pie pans. Do not make the crust too thick, as it will expand during cooking. Do not flute the edges of the dough.
Roll out the other 2 balls of dough and cut each into 8 narrow strips for the top of the crust.
Pour the ricotta filling evenly into the two pie crusts. Top each pie with 8 narrow strips of dough. Brush the top of the pie with milk. Place foil on the edge of the crust.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes; remove foil. Rotate pies on the rack so they will bake evenly. Continue to bake until a knife inserted in the center of each pie comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes more.
Cool completely on wire racks. Refrigerate until serving.
The province of Catanzaro is one of the four provinces in the region of Calabria in southern Italy. Catanzaro occupies both sides of the Calabrian Apennines and in the central part of the province is the isthmus of Catanzaro, a long narrow valley connecting the north and south parts of the coastline that feature beautiful white sandy beaches. Other parts of the province are mostly mountainous with steep-sided valleys formed along short rivers. There are large numbers of lakes surrounded by dense coniferous forests. The province includes much of the Sila National Park, a wild area with rough grassland and forests of pine, oak, beech and fir. The area is a main route to Naples and is a major terminal for goods traffic.
Typical cuisine is similar to the Mediterranean diet, simple, local and healthy but also characterized by strong flavors. Extra virgin olive oil is the main condiment and is rarely replaced by lard. Hot pepper, introduced by the Saracens, is a basic ingredient in most dishes and in regional salamis.
Pasta is mostly homemade and usually served with a simple fresh basil tomato sauce or with a ragu sauce. A traditional dish prepared for religious holidays is “pasta chijna”, layers of homemade pasta (lasagne) topped with small fried meatballs, slices of hard-boiled eggs, slices of spicy salami, caciocavallo cheese and grated pecorino cheese. You will also find pasta or bread combined in minestrone along with vegetables and herbs. Legumes are also common and replace meat in many recipes. The most used are fava beans served as a puree with tripe or with peas, lentils or chickpeas and pasta.
Among the meats, the pig is undoubtedly the most used meat, especially in winter as a second course dish. However, most pork is used to make salami. The inland villages and towns utilize goat and sheep, of which every part of the animal is used, including the animal’s entrails, which are usually cooked with tomato, hot pepper and served inside pita bread, called “morzeddu” (the small bite).
Along the coast fresh fish is cooked in different ways. Swordfish is usually grilled and served with a sauce called “salmoriglio” made with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar or lemon, garlic and spices. Tuna is topped with “ la cipolla” (onions), the famous red sweet onions of Tropea. Dried codfish is soaked before cooking and baby fish called “neonata ” are used to make small fritters.
Calabria is a region that produces a great variety of cheeses made with cow, sheep and goat milk. Caciocavallo cheese produced in the Sila mountains and awarded the DOP quality brand (protected origin designation); scamorza cheese; provola cheese and the “butirro” which is a caciocavallo with butter inside are among the most well-known cheeses. Cheeses most often made with sheep milk are fresh ricotta cheese and pecorino cheese,
The vegetables that are commonly served are eggplant, parmigiana style or as balls; fried pumpkin and zucchini; pumpkin stem fritters; potatoes and green peppers; boiled wild vegetables (chicory, asparagus), mushrooms and dried tomatoes that can be stored in oil.
Clementines of Calabria IGP, chestnuts, figs covered with chocolate or spices are common fruits.
Typical regional sweets that are usually linked to specific days and holidays, are mostly made with ricotta sweetened with honey and flavored either by a figs or dried fruit or candied fruit. The best known are the multi-shaped “mostaccioli”, covered with honey.
Anchovies al Cetrarese
Cetraro, an important port in the Tirreno sea, where anchovies are caught in abundance.
Ingredients for 6
- 1 ¾ lbs. (720 gr) anchovies, bones removed
- 8 ½ oz (240 g.) stale bread
- 3 eggs
- 2 oz (60 gr) grated Pecorino cheese
- 1/3 cup white wine
- Chopped fresh wild fennel fronds
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Make a stuffing with the stale bread soaked in water and hand squeezed, wild fennel, eggs, salt, black pepper and grated Pecorino cheese.
Put anchovies in an oiled baking dish and stuff each with some of the bread mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.
Add wine and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve drizzled with the cooking juices and garnish with a handful of fennel fronds.
Bucatini Pasta with Anchovy and Bread Sauce
Ingredients for 4
- 12 ½ oz (350 gr) Bucatini pasta
- 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 8 salt cured anchovies
- 1 fresh chili pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Oven toasted bread crumbs
- 2 oz (60 gr) grated Pecorino cheese
- Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the garlic; add finely chopped chili pepper. Add the anchovies and breadcrumbs.
Cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted water. Drain when the pasta is al dente. Add the pasta to the pan with the anchovies, season with pecorino cheese and serve.
Arrotolata Pork with Citrus Fruit
Ingredients for 6
- 2 ¼ lbs (1 kg) boneless pork
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fennel seeds, rosemary, pistachio nuts, parsley and 2 garlic cloves
- Olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 1 cedro (citron/ugly looking Italian citrus fruit – use an orange in its place)
- 1 grapefruit
- Salt and pepper to taste, extra virgin olive oil and green onions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Butterfly the meat and season the inside with salt and pepper. Finely chop some parsley and the garlic. Spread on the meat and add fennel seeds and pistachios to cover. Moisten with olive oil.
Roll up the meat and close with cooking string. Season the outside with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish.
Cook for about an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and cool for a couple of hours.
For the salsa:
Squeeze the lemon and grapefruit and finely chop the cedro peel. Season with salt and mix with enough oil to make a sauce. Add finely chopped onions.
Slice the pork when cool and serve on a plate dressed with the salsa.
Sea Bream Stuffed with Ricotta
Sea Bream is a popular European fish that is a mild ocean fish similar to sea bass
Ingredients for 4
- 4 small sea beam
- 5 ½ oz (16og) ricotta cheese
- ¾ tablespoon (16g) honey
- 2 tablespoons chopped almonds
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 oz arugula
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Ground red chilli pepper to taste
- Mashed potatoes for serving
- Almonds and parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the center bone from the fish. Lightly salt the fish.
Mix the ricotta cheese with the pine nuts, almonds, chopped mint, parsley, garlic, arugula, honey and a pinch of salt. Add enough lemon juice and oil to make a smooth filling.
Stuff each fish with some of the filling, cover the filling with foil and put the fish in an oiled baking dish.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Serve each fish on a bed of mashed potatoes. Garnish with almonds, parsley and ground chili pepper.
Aubergine and Chocolate Mousse
This is a sweet but unusual dessert.
Ingredients for 6
- 10 ½ oz (300g) aubergine (eggplant)
- 10 ½ oz (300g) chocolate, plus extra for serving
- 1/1/2 oz (50g) citron
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) brandy
- 1 tablespoon sultanas (raisins)
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon (10g) candied fruit
- ¼ cup (30g) sugar
- 2 egg whites
Peel and boil the aubergine in water along with the brandy and citron. Drain.
Beat the egg whites until stiff.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler saucepan.
Mix the aubergine and melted chocolate together adding mint, pine nuts, candied fruit, sugar. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
Fill small pots or bowls with the mixture and cool. Serve drizzled with additional melted chocolate.
Como is a province in the northern part of the Lombardy region of Italy that borders Switzerland. Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a popular tourist destination and the area contains numerous works of art, churches, gardens, museums, theaters, parks and palaces. Como’s climate is humid and subtropical. Winters are not long, but foggy, damp and chilly with occasional periods of frost; spring and autumn are pleasant while summer can be quite oppressive and hot.
The most famous area within the province is Bellagio, a historic town surrounded by ancient city walls with narrow roads that run through the hills. The town’s ancient origins are visible in its Romanesque Cathedral dedicated to San Giacomo, the interior of which seems unchanged from the 12th Century. Another interesting town is Laglio that lies near the “Bear Cave” (buco dell’orso), where fossils of prehistoric bears and other remains found in the cave are displayed in the Town Hall. The annual Medieval Palio takes place at the beginning of September and is a knightly jousting contest between various province districts that is reenacted in the town of Cernobbio.
Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian) is located in this province and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. The lake is shaped like the letter “Y” and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. Many famous people have or have had homes on the lake’s shores. The lake’s deep-blue waters, set against the foothills of the Alps, makes for a stunning view.
The Cuisine of Como Province
Lake Como’s cuisine is shaped by the three geographic areas that make up the Como area – the lake, the mountains with their valleys and the hills of Brianza (the area between Milan and Como). The province’s cuisine is closely tied to its primary natural resource, the lake, that provides an abundance of freshwater fish. Lavarello , a popular local lake fish, is usually served fried with a squeeze of lemon. Misultitt (a type of Shad) is usually dried and preserved with bay leaves in special tin containers. Another traditional dish is Risotto al Pesce Persico (European Perch filet Risotto), a fish grown in Lake Como, that is prepared with white wine, onion and butter.
Polenta is popular especially in the mountain valleys. In this area, it is common to make polenta by mixing corn flour and buckwheat flour together. It is usually served with meat, game, cheese or fish.
South of Como, the food becomes more Milanese. Popular in this region are polenta e osei (polenta served with poultry), cassoela (a stew with pork ribs and cabbage), cotechino sausage with beans and many different kinds of salami and cheese.
As far as traditional sweets and cakes are concerned, in Lake Como, you can find fritters often filled with apple and, Resca de Comm, a panettone made with raisins, citron, pine nuts and anise, that is baked in a cylindrical tube.
Among the red and white wines produced in the province are Rosso di Bellagio and Vespertò di Canzo. The best liqueurs are made by the Piona friars using local herbs.
Pizzoccheri is one of Lake Como’s typical winter pasta dishes. It usually consists of flat short tagliatelle noodles, made from buckwheat flour that is common in the area of Valtellina in Northern Italy (on the east shore of Lake Como). The buckwheat flour gives the noodles a grayish color and they are easy to make at home. However, most supermarkets now sell boxes of dried pizzoccheri, which has helped to spread the word of this delicious recipe throughout the country and, of course, cuts down on preparation time.
The noodles are served with a mixture of greens and diced potatoes and dressed with butter, sautéed garlic, sage and Swiss Casera and Parmesan cheeses (or grana padano). There are several variations to the recipe, including substituting the cabbage with Swiss chard, spinach or green beans depending on what you have on hand. The amount of butter can also be altered to your own preference although the original recipe states that the pizzoccheri should be practically drowning in the sage and garlic-infused butter. Vatellina Casera cheese can be difficult to find outside of Lombardy, so a good alternative is Italian Fontina, which is more widely available.
For the pasta:
- 2 cups (200 grams) fine buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) plain flour
- About 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water
- Pinch salt
For the pizzoccheri:
- 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) savoy cabbage
- 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) potatoes (2 to 3 small potatoes)
- 1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter
- 8-10 sage leaves
- 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) Valtellina Casera DOP or Bitto (Gruyere or Fontina can be substituted), thinly sliced or shaved
- 2 ounces (about 60 grams) Grana Padano, grated
- 1 clove of garlic
- Freshly ground pepper
For the pasta:
Combine the two flours in a bowl and gradually add the water, mixing until well incorporated. Work the dough for a few minutes. It should be smooth and compact, but not dry or crumbly and it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s dry, add a little more water until it becomes smooth. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin to a thickness of 2-3 millimeters (1/10 of an inch). With a sharp knife, cut the dough into large strips about 7-8 cm (2.5 to 3 inches) wide then cut these into short pasta strips about ¼ inch thick. (If you have a pasta machine, I would use it)
For the pizzoccheri:
Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage and chop roughly.
Boil a large saucepan of salted water, cook the potatoes for 20 minutes and then add the cabbage and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Melt the butter in a separate pan and saute the garlic and sage.
Drain the potatoes, cabbage and pasta and layer in a dish with the melted butter, slices of cheese and black pepper.
Serve with Grana Padano cheese.
Risotto with Perch Fillets
This recipe is the national dish of Lake Como and one that is used in most of the area’s restaurants. Perch is one of the most valuable species of freshwater fish because of its tender and delicate meat and the fish can be found in all the lakes of Northern Italy.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups risotto rice
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Salt and black pepper for seasoning
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese
- 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
- 4 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
- Flour for coating
- Butter or oil for frying
In a heavy saucepan, heat the 4 tablespoons butter until it melts.
Add the chopped onion and cook until tender. Add the rice and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly until all the liquid is absorbed.
When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and Parmigiano cheese.
Dredge the fillets in the flour and cook in a hot skillet in butter or oil, turning them over once, until each side is golden brown.
Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets.
Parmesan Barley Soup
Barley is a healthy high-fiber, high-protein whole grain containing numerous health benefits. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. Although soup is the most popular way to eat barley, you can use it like any other grain, such as couscous or rice. Hulless barley is unprocessed and takes longer to cook than pearl or pearled barley, which is more common. Quick cooking barley is just as healthy and takes only 10 minutes to cook. Try adding a handful of quick cooking barley to a simmering pot of soup.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup minced onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced thin
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup barley
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 Parmesan rinds
- 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 2 tablespoons milk or cream
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Pre-soak the barley in water to cover for one hour. Drain well and set aside.
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, then add the diced carrots and celery. Reduce the heat and cook for another two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to coat the vegetables well.
Reduce heat to medium low and add the barley and vegetable broth, stirring to combine.
Heat for ten minutes, then add the Parmesan rinds and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until the barley is almost cooked.
Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, milk, white wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat another five minutes or until the barley is fully cooked.
Remove the Parmesan rinds and serve with additional Parmesan cheese.
Lake Como’s sweets are mainly cakes, tarts and pies that are eaten for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Among them you can find the cutizza, a homemade focaccia made of flour, milk, sugar and lemon peel. The cutizza is a sweet bread known as the poor man’s cake because it uses only a small amount of flour. This is a very old and rustic recipe.
- ½ lb white flour
- 6-7 oz whole milk
- Oil for frying
- 3 eggs
- Lemon rind
- Vanilla sugar
Break the eggs in a bowl, add the flour and mix well. Add the grated lemon and milk and mix until smooth. Add the smaller amount of milk at first and then more, if needed, to make a smooth dough.
Heat enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and pour in the mixture. Cook on one side and then turn over to cook the other side. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.
Variation: add some chopped apple to the mixture before cooking.
The cutizza can be eaten as a snack or as a dessert accompanied by a glass of Moscato.
Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its influence on culture, yet, simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made from Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Chianina used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced for the region’s many excellent cured meats. Tuscany’s climate provides the ideal soil for the grapes grown to create the region’s world-renowned Chianti wine.
A soffritto can be considered the Italian version of a mirepoix and is a combination of olive oil and minced browned vegetables (usually onion, carrot and celery) that are used to create a base for a variety of slow-cooked dishes. Herbs (sage and rosemary) are used in many Tuscan dishes and seasonings can be added to the soffritto, as needed, to bring out the unique flavors of each different recipe.
Stracotto (braised beef) is a well-known favorite of the area, as are finocchiona (a rustic salami with fennel seeds), cacciucco (a delicate fish stew), pollo al mattone (chicken roasted under heated bricks) and biscotti di prato (hard almond cookies made for dipping in the local dessert wine, vin santo). Borlotti beans provide a savory flavor to meatless dishes and cannellini beans form the basis for many a pot of slowly simmered soup. Breads are many and varied in the Tuscan cuisine, with varieties including, donzelle (a bread fried in olive oil), filone (an unsalted traditional Tuscan bread) and the sweet schiacciata con l’uva with grapes and sugar on top. Pastas are not heavily relied upon in Tuscan cooking but pappardelle (a wide egg noodle) is one of the region’s few traditional cuts.
Marinated Olives and Mushrooms
- 1 cup mixed Italian olives
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, (flat-leaf parsley basil, and oregano)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. whole cremini mushrooms, stemmed
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel stalk (with some chopped fronds)
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To prepare olives:
Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
To prepare mushrooms:
Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are just soft, 6–8 minutes.
Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Mushrooms will keep in refrigerator for 1 week. Serve at room temperature.
Tuscan White Bean Salad
- 1 pound cannellini beans
- 4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Soak the beans in water to cover overnight.
Drain the beans and simmer in water to cover until tender (about 45-60 minutes).
Combine the remaining ingredients and toss with the warm beans.
Correct seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature.
Stracotto translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in northern Italy. There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.
Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 lb chuck roast
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup beef stock
- One 26-28 oz. container Italian crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Polenta, recipe below
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides. Put the roast on a plate and set aside.
Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.
Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.
Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock. Put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours. If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.
When the meat is tender, remove it from the sauce and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, boil for a few minutes to reduce it. Remove the bay leaf.
Serve the sliced beef with the creamy polenta. An Italian red wine, like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Chianti, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.
Quick Creamy Polenta
- 3 cups beef broth or water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup quick cooking polenta
Bring the broth 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, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.
Fresh Fall Fruit
- 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 egg yolks and reserve one egg white
- 2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
- 1 tablespoon anise seed
- 6 cups whole almonds, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two heavy cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light, about 2 minutes; the mixture will look somewhat curdled.
Beat in the vanilla, amaretto and anise seed. Beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts.
Divide the dough into four portions. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a flat log, just about the length the cookie sheet. Place two rolls on each cookie sheet.
In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze each log with some egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.
Allow the logs to cool on the cookie sheet about 20 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F. With a serrated knife slice the biscotti on the bias into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheets in a single layer; Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, turning over halfway through the baking time or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp
Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep for 2-3 weeks.
The only landlocked region in Italy, Umbria is located in the center of the country. Wheat and spelt, pearl barley, grapes, olives, lentils, red potatoes, sunflowers and fruits and vegetables of all kinds grow well in the fertile lands of Umbria and provide the basis for hearty Umbrian cooking. Abundant, as well, are forest animals like deer, wild pigs and venison that provide hearty proteins for the Umbrian table.
Some of the best lentils come from Umbria, in particular from Castelluccio, therefore a hearty lentil soup is a typical regional dish served as a first course or for lunch. With such a strong meaty tradition where meats are often cooked whole on a spit, Umbrian second courses appeal to meat lovers. Late summer is fig season in Umbria and they are often baked into sweet breads and pastries.
The wines of Umbria include: Sagrantino di Montefalco (DOCG) and Montefalco Rosso (DOC), but the most prestigious Umbrian wine is Torgiano Rosso “riserva” (DOCG). Orvieto produces one of Italy’s best-selling DOC whites.
The dinner menu below is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Umbria, Italy
Umbrian Vegetable and Sausage Lentil Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Italian sausage links, sliced thin and each slice cut in half
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large red potato, peeled and cubed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 28 oz. container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
- 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot. Add the sausage and brown; remove to a plate.
Add all the vegetables and garlic to the pot and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the broth, water, tomato and seasonings. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook the vegetables for 15 minutes.
Stir in the lentils and bring back to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf. Serve with crusty Italian bread
Pork Scaloppine with Peppers and Onions
- 3 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 lb.
- 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
- 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 an onion, sliced
- 3-4 Italian frying peppers, depending on their size
- 1/2 cup pureed Italian tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Salt & pepper to taste
Trim and cut the pork chops in half lengthwise to make 6 pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the countertop. Put one pork piece on top of the plastic and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap.
With a meat mallet (or heavy skillet), pound the meat into 1/4-inch thick scaloppine.
Repeat with the other 5 pieces.
Dip the scaloppini in the egg and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place breaded meat on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add the 3 scaloppini slices and brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and breaded cutlets.
Add the garlic, peppers and onions to the skillet and cook until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through.
Serve the scaloppini with the pepper and onion sauce.
Roasted Cauliflower Parmesan
- 1 whole cauliflower, broken into large florets
- 3 eggs or 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the flour and seasonings in a large plastic bag. add the cauliflower florets, close the bag and shake until the cauliflower pieces are covered in flour.
In a deep bowl beat the eggs with a fork and add the Parmesan cheese.
Dip each piece of floured cauliflower into the egg and cheese mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.
Put them on the greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve.
Fresh Fig and Almond Tart
- 1 refrigerated single 9 inch pie crust dough, at room temperature
- 15 Mission figs, tips cut off and halved
- 1/2 cup fig jam (or another jam)
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla granulated sugar or regular granulated sugar
Unroll pastry and place in a buttered 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Flute edges.
Spread the fig jam over the bottom of the crust. Arrange the figs in a decorative pattern on top.
Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.
Place the tart pan on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack until serving time.