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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: ravioli

With company coming for the holidays, I like to make some traditional Italian dishes. My children always ask for Italian and have ever since they were little. A favorite is ravioli and homemade ravioli is so delicious. Store-bought doesn’t compare. Since I am making it, I thought I would share the “how to” with you.

How To Make Homemade Ravioli

Combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 large eggs, beaten, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Process until the dough comes together; shape into a ball.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. Cut dough into 4 pieces. Wrap 3 dough pieces in plastic wrap; set aside.

Knead dough with a pasta machine. Set the rollers of the pasta machine at the widest setting (position 1). Feed one unwrapped dough piece through the flat rollers by turning the handle. (Dough may crumble slightly at first but will hold together after two to three rollings.)

Lightly flour the dough strip; fold strip into thirds. Feed through rollers again. Continue this process 5-6 times more, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Roll the dough out with the machine keeping the sheets as wide as the pasta maker roller. Reduce the setting to position 3. Feed the dough strip through the rollers. Without folding strip into thirds, repeat on positions 5 and 6.

Place the rolled out dough on a floured kitchen towel. Repeat kneading and rolling with the reserved dough pieces.

Ravioli Filling

1 cup ricotta cheese, well-drained
6 ounces shredded mozzarella
1 cup fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, marjoram), chopped
1 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine all the filling ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator to firm up the filling.

To Shape Ravioli

In a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Place the rolled dough on a cutting board and brush strips lightly with the egg mixture.

Leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges, place about 1 teaspoon of filling at 1-inch intervals on one strip of dough.

Lay a second strip of dough, brushed side down, over the first.

Using your fingers, press the dough around each mound of filling so that the two moistened strips stick together.

Cut into squares or rounds. Place cut out ravioli on cookie sheets sprinkled with semolina flour.

I usually cook some and freeze the rest for a quick dinner at a later date.

To Cook Ravioli

Bring a large amount of salted water to boiling in a large pot. Gently drop about one-fourth of the ravioli, one at a time, into the boiling water and stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. They will float to the top of the water when cooked. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to a serving dish and add the sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.

Braciole

Ingredients

6-8 thin slices top-round or sirloin steak
Extra-virgin olive
Kitchen string
Pasta Sauce, recipe below

Filling

2 large cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl combine the filling ingredients.

Between pieces of plastic wrap, pound the meat thin, scaloppine style.

Lay the meat slices out side by side on a clean workspace. Divide the filling equally on the meat slices, leaving a 1/4-inch border.

Drizzle with olive oil and roll each piece up jelly roll style. Tie each piece in three places with the string.

Brown in olive oil and add to the sauce.

Cover the pan, reduce the heat so that the sauce just simmers, and cook the braciole in the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Pasta Sauce

Makes about 2 quarts of sauce.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (26-ounce) Italian chopped tomatoes (I use Pomi brand tomatoes)
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, and crushed red pepper, reduce the heat to a simmer, and place the cover on the pan but leave it ajar so the sauce can reduce.

Cook for 2-3 hours until reduced and thickened and then add meatballs, sausage or braciole. Cook for 30 minutes more.

Add the basil at the end of the cooking time.

 

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milanovalentino

Valentino Collection

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Valentino Collection

Milan is a metropolitan city in the Lombardy region of Italy and it replaced the Province of Milan. It includes the city of Milan and other municipalities (comuni) and was first created by the reform of local authorities (Law 142/1990). It has been operative since January 1, 2015.

Italy’s fashion houses are legendary, from Dolce Vita to Prada and Versace to Valentino. The country has always been known for its meticulous craftsmanship and luxury materials, but it was only after Word War II that Italy emerged as a fashion destination. After the war Italy’s fashion industry got the confidence and the economic support to come into its own. In an effort to restore and stabilize the Italian economy after World War II, the Marshall Plan provided American aid for Italy’s textile businesses, which were mostly small, family owned operations. This investment spurred the production of leather, fur, silk and wool— the country’s most prized luxury materials to this day.

In 2009, this Italian city was named the fashion capital of the world. Every year, several major runway shows are held in Milan that showcase international fashion icons, buyers and models. The fashion industry in Italy is known for providing fashionable clothing and accessories that boast comfort, elegance, quality and fantasy. The purpose of Italian fashion is somehow different from the ones in New York, Paris and Tokyo. Italians prefer to buy clothes that will remain stylish longer, comfortable to wear and of good quality rather than fading trends.

Prada

Prada

Laura Biagiotti

Laura Biagiotti

During the ’50s and ’60s, while French labels like Christian Dior and Jacques Fath turned their focus fully on couture, only Italian fashion designers truly understood the need for women to have comfortable, versatile clothing that was also tailored and refined. Italian day wear took off in America and paved the way for the ready-to-wear collections coming out of Italy’s fashion houses today. Part of the reason Italy was the first market for day wear was a coterie of women designers who understood the needs of women. Germana Marucelli, Mila Schön, Simonetta and Galitzine: These women all came from Italian aristocracy and they found themselves without jobs and without any money after the war. What they knew were clothes and they had the technical know-how to create new designs.

Armani

Armani

Zegna

Zegna

In Italy, designers have shown excellence when it comes to creating clothes and accessories that are functional and practical. In terms of design, designers make sure that the fabrics and other materials used in producing clothes are of equal quality. The country’s fashion industry has remained competitive in the international fashion industry and the industry is playing a significant role in the recovery of the Italian economy from the recession that recently hit the country. Any improvement in the condition of the fashion industry will also be beneficial to other industries in Italy. This is because most of the regions and small factories in the country are involved in the production of fashion accessories, textiles, shoes and apparel.

Spring Fashion Week 2016

Laura Biagiotti

milano designs

Some of the largest fashion companies in the world are also headquartered in Italy. Many of the major Italian fashion brands, such as Valentino, Versace, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Marni, Iceberg, Missoni, Trussardi, Moschino, Dirk Bikkembergs, Etro, and Zegna are currently headquartered in the city. Among the newest labels are young designers, such as Sara Battaglia, Angelos Bratis and Aquilano.Rimondi.

Via Monte Napoleone, the leading thoroughfare in Milan's "golden quadrilateral". In 2010, it was ranked as the sixth most expensive shopping street in the world.

Via Monte Napoleone, the leading thoroughfare in Milan’s “golden quadrilateral”. In 2010, it was ranked as the sixth most expensive shopping street in the world.

Milan also hosts a fashion week twice a year in Milan’s main upscale fashion district, where the city’s most prestigious shopping streets (Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Manzoni and Corso Venezia) are found. Italy also is home to many fashion magazines, such as Vogue Italia, Vanity Fair, Elle, Glamour, Grazia, Amica, Flair and Gioia.

milanocuisine

In Milan not even the onslaught of the fall collections can prevent some of the city’s most stylish from preparing delicious, fresh food.

Want to feel like you are in Milan – make some of the recipes from their well-known cuisine.

Milanese Tripe Soup

milanotripe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) boiled veal tripe
  • 12 ounces (300 g) cranberry beans, soaked overnight
  • 2/3 pound (300 g) carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) canned tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Sage
  • 2 onions, minced
  • A small stick celery, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A sprig of sage

Directions

If you haven’t bought the tripe already boiled, wash it very well, then cut it into fairly large pieces and boil it in a large pot for 30 minutes. Drain and discard the liquid.

Cover the tripe again with water and add a carrot, a celery stalk, an onion and salt. Bring to a boil. Skim the surface often and simmer for 4 hours, adding water if needed.

Drain it well and cut it into the traditional thin strips. Fill a pot with water and simmer the sliced tripe for another hour.

When the hour is almost up heat the butter and the oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onions. When they are golden, add the tripe with its liquid, and, a few minutes later, the beans, celery, carrots, tomatoes and sage.

Season the pot with salt and pepper and add a little boiling water (just enough to cover). Cover and simmer on low for about three hours. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese.

Milanese Ravioli

milanoravioli

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups (400 g) flour
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 10 ounces (250 g) ground beef
  • 3 cups (150 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) softened unsalted butter, plus additional for the sauce
  • A few tablespoons of beef broth
  • Salt
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

Work the flour with a pinch of salt, two of the eggs and just enough water to obtain a smooth elastic dough. Knead it well, for 10-15 minutes, cover it with a damp cloth and set it aside.

Combine the ground beef with the butter and the grated Parmigiano. Add a pinch of nutmeg, the remaining 2 eggs, a few tablespoons of broth to moisten and mix well.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll them out into two very thin rectangles.

Lay one of the sheets on the work surface and dot it with tablespoons of filling, separating them by a couple of inches (5 cm).

Lay the second sheet over the first, press down between the filling, so the sheets stick together and then cut each ravioli free with a serrated pasta wheel.

Bring a pot of water to boil, salt it and cook the ravioli for a few minutes, remove them with a strainer to a serving bowl. Serve them with melted butter and grated cheese.

Involtini di Vitello alla Milanese

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Ingredients

  • 12 thin slices veal, about one and one-half pounds, cut for scaloppine
  • 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
  • 1/3 pound chicken livers, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 3 tablespoons,butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fresh or canned chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped sage or parsley

Directions

Put the slices of veal between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a flat mallet until even without breaking the tissues. Set aside.

Combine the prosciutto and chicken livers in a mixing bowl.

Heat one teaspoon of the butter in a small skillet and cook the onion, stirring, until it is wilted. Add this to the mixing bowl. Add the garlic, bread crumbs, nutmeg, pepper, lemon rind, egg and cheese. Blend well.

Lay out the pieces of veal in one layer on a flat surface. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon an equal portion of the filling on each slice.

Wrap the meat around the filling, folding and tucking the ends in envelope fashion. Tie each bundle neatly in two pieces of kitchen string. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Dredge the bundles all over in flour and shake off the excess.

In a heavy skillet large enough to hold the rolls, without crowding, in one layer, heat the remaining three tablespoons of butter and add the veal bundles.

Cook, turning the bundles occasionally, until they are browned all over, about three or four minutes. Reduce the heat and continue cooking over moderately low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the veal rolls to a serving plate.

Add the wine to the skillet and stir to dissolve the brown particles that cling to the bottom and sides of the pan. Add the chicken broth and herbs. Bring to the boil and let cook over high heat about five minutes.

Remove the strings from the veal rolls and pour the sauce over the rolls. Serve immediately.

Torta Paradiso

milanocake

From La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy by Academia Italina Della Cucina, 2009.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks room temperature butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups potato starch

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 9 inch circular cake pan.

Beat the butter in an electric mixer until soft.  Mix the egg yolks into the butter one at a time.  Slowly add in the sugar.  Add the zest, flour and potato starch.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes and insert a toothpick into the center of the cake to check if it is cooked.  If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, cook for a few minutes more until the toothpick is clean.

Remove the cake from the pan and set on a wire rack to cool.  Top with Mascarpone Cream.

Mascarpone Cream

From La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy by Academia Italina Della Cucina, 2009.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur

Directions

In an electric mixer, combine the 2 egg yolks with the sugar.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg white until still.  Fold the egg white into the egg yolk and sugar mixture.

Mix the egg and sugar mixture with the mascarpone cheese.  Add the Amaretto and stir to combine.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set.  Spread over the cooled Torta Paradiso.

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The Upper Midwest

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

Detroit

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The growth of the automobile industry resulted in the increase of the Italian population in Detroit during the 20th Century. By 1925 the number of Italians in the city had increased to 42,000. The historical center of Detroit’s Italian-American community was in an area along Gratiot Avenue, east of Downtown Detroit. There were larger numbers of southern Italians than those from the north. However, Armando Delicato, author of Italians in Detroit, wrote that “Unlike many other American cities, no region of Italy was totally dominant in this area”.

The Roma Cafe In downtown Detroit’s historic Eastern Market, is the oldest Italian restaurant in Detroit, dating back to 1890. The restaurant offers a classic Italian-American menu with hearty pastas, seafood, steak and vegetable options.

The Marazza family operated a boarding house with a warm meal included for Eastern Market vendors and farmers. Mrs. Marazza’s reputation as a fine cook spread quickly throughout the Eastern Market area.  At the urging of her diners, she opened her restaurant in February of 1890, called the Roma Café.

In 1918, the business was sold to John Battaglia and Morris Sossi.  During their partnership, an addition was put on the building and the same building is still standing there today. The following year, John Battaglia died and Morris Sossi bought out his widow to become the sole owner of Roma Café.

Morris Sossi’s nephew, Hector Sossi, began working as a busboy for his uncle in 1940. Hector Sossi carried on the family tradition and bought out Morris in 1965 to become the next  owner of the Roma Café. Mr. Sossi remains the owner with a third generation family member at the helm.  His daughter, Janet Sossi Belcoure, currently manages this historic Italian eatery.

A specialty of the house, the tomato meat sauce is excellent — a little sweet, but without any acidity. And its recipe is a closely guarded secret. The recipe below is a classic version of this favorite Italian American dish.

part4ravioli

Cheese Ravioli with Old-Fashioned Meat Sauce

Ingredients

Meat Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3/4 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 16-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Ravioli

  • 3/4 pound purchased fresh cheese ravioli
  • Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Directions
Heat the olive oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add ground beef and garlic and sauté until meat is no longer pink, breaking it up with a fork, about 5 minutes.

Puree tomatoes with juices in a processor. Add to the saucepan. Add canned tomato puree, herbs and dried crushed red pepper. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook ravioli in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to the bite. Drain well. Arrange ravioli on a large platter or in a large pasta bowl. Add just enough sauce to coat the ravioli;. Serve, passing cheese separately.

 

Milwaukee

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Italians first came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 19th century. In the early part of the 20th century, large numbers of Italian immigrants came from Sicily and southern Italy. Brady Street, the historic Third Ward, is considered the heart of Italian immigration in the city, where as many as 20 Italian grocery stores once existed on the street.

Most  of the Italian immigrants found jobs working along the railroad, in factory positions and doing general municipal work for the city. Thanks to the city’s close proximity to Chicago and Lake Michigan, Milwaukee’s economy grew and decent paying jobs were available to the immigrants. The city also has an Italian newspaper called The Italian Times printed by the Italian Community Center (ICC).

Every year the largest Italian American festival in the United States, Festa Italiana, takes place in Milwaukee. Italian Americans still number at around 16,992 in the city, but in Milwaukee County they number at 38,286. Festa Italiana is held annually at the Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is the largest Italian-American festival in America and features Italian music, food and entertainment. Sponsored by the Italian Community Center, the festival is also known for its large fireworks show and a cannoli eating contest.

part4capellini

Capellini alla Caprese

by Milwaukee Italian chef/owner, Gino Fazzari

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces capellini or angel hair pasta
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, small dice
  • 2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon onion, small dice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic, small dice
  • ½ tablespoon Italian parsley, rough chop
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of red pepper
  • 2 ounces Roma tomatoes, small dice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces chardonnay
  • 4 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Put a large pot with plenty of water on the stove to boil. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add 2 tablespoons of salt.

In a medium sauté pan, heat extra virgin olive oil 2 minutes over medium heat. Add prosciutto, onion, bay leaf, red pepper flakes and parsley. Sauté until onion is translucent and prosciutto softens but is not crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute.

Deglaze the pan with the chardonnay and cook out the alcohol for about 1 minute. Add tomato, heavy cream and basil and cook for 2-3 minutes.

When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the sauce. Lower heat to low, add half of the Parmigiano cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well. Serve immediately garnished with remaining Parmigiano cheese.

Elmwood Park

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Elmwood Park, a village on the northwest side of Chicago, Illinois, has long maintained a large Italian-American population. The population was 24,883 at the 2010 census. One of Elmwood Park’s most notable establishments is Johnnie’s Beef, which is known for its Italian-style beef sandwiches.

In 1977 George Randazzo created the Italian American Boxing Hall of Fame as a way to raise money for local youth programs. After a successful year and a dinner honoring 23 former Italian American boxing champions, Randazzo created the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. The original location was in Elmwood Park, Illinois. The first induction ceremony honored Lou Ambers, Eddie Arcaro, Charley Trippi, Gino Marchetti, Dom DiMaggio, Joe DiMaggio and Vince Lombardi. Since its founding in 1978, over 230 Italian Americans have been inducted into this hall of fame. It is now located in Chicago.

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Johnnie’s Beef Recipe

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Yield: Makes about 10 sandwiches with about 1/4 pounds of meat each.

In Johnnie’s words:

Allow about 2 hours to cook and another 3 hours to firm the meat for slicing in the refrigerator, if you don’t have a meat slicer. You need 90 minutes to cook a 3 pound roast, or about 30 minutes per pound. You can cook this well in advance and refrigerate the meat and juice and heat it up as needed. You can even freeze it. This is a great Sunday dish because the smell of the roasting beef and herbs fills the house. After you cook it, you need another 30 minutes to chill it before slicing.

Ingredients

The beef

1 boneless beef sirloin butt roast, about 3 pounds with most of the fat trimmed off

The rub

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

The juice

  • 6 cups of hot water
  • 4 cubes of beef bouillon

The sandwich

  • 10 soft, fluffy, high gluten rolls, sliced lengthwise but hinged on one side or Italian bread loaves cut width-wise into 10 portions
  • 3 medium sized green bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, approximately
  • 1 cup hot giardiniera

Directions

About the beef.

Top sirloin, top round or bottom round are preferred in that order for tenderness.

About the garlic. If you wish, omit the garlic powder and stud the roast with fresh garlic.

About the bouillon.

I have encountered lively debate on the makeup of the juice as I developed this recipe. Some insist you must use bouillon to be authentic, while others use beef stock, veal stock, or a soup base, and simmer real onions and garlic in it. The bouillon advocates have won me over on the authenticity argument, although I must confess, soup base is my favorite.

Do this

1) If you wish, you can cut small slits in the surface of the meat every inch or so and stick slivers of fresh garlic into the meat. If you do this, leave the garlic out of the rub. Otherwise, mix the rub in a bowl. Sprinkle it generously on the meat and massage it in. There will be some left over. Do not discard it, we will use it in the juice. Let the meat sit at room temp for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the grill or oven to 400° F. If you are cooking indoors, put a rack just below the center of the oven.

2) Pour the water into a 9 x 13″ baking pan and heat it to a boil on the stovetop. Dissolve the bouillon in the water. It may look thin, but it will cook down and concentrate during the roasting. Pour the remaining rub into the pan. Place a rack on top of the pan. Place the roast on top of the rack above the juice. Roast at 400°F until interior temperature is 140°F for medium rare, about 30 minutes per pound. This may seem long, but you are cooking over water and that slows things down. The temp will rise about 5°F more as it rests. Don’t worry if there are people who won’t eat medium-rare meat. The meat will cook further in step 5, and you can just leave theirs in the juice until it turns to leather if that’s what they want. If you use a rotisserie on your grill, you can cut the cooking time in half because the spear and the forks holding it in place will conduct heat into the interior.

Be aware.

This recipe is designed for a 9 x 13″ baking pan. If you use a larger pan, the water may evaporate and the juice will burn. If you have to use a larger pan, add more water. Regardless of pan size, keep an eye on the pan to make sure it doesn’t dry out during cooking. Add more water if necessary.

3) While the meat is roasting (mmmmm, smells sooooo good), cut the bell peppers in half and remove the stems and seeds. Rinse, and cut into 1/4″ strips. Cook the peppers in a frying pan over a medium high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom, about 1 tablespoon. When they are getting limp and the skins begin to brown, about 15 minutes, they are done. Set aside at room temp.

4) Remove the roast and the juice pan. Let the meat sit for about 30 minutes for the juices to be reabsorbed into the meat fibers, and then place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Let it cool for about a few hours, long enough for the meat to firm up. This will make slicing easier. Slice the meat against the grain as thin as humanly possible, preferably with a meat slicer. My wife remembers that her family would cook the roast and take it to the butcher to slice on his machine. That’s a good strategy if you don’t have a meat slicer. This, of course, is against health codes today. If you don’t have a slicer, use a thin blade and draw it along the red part of the meat. If you try to cut down through the crust you will be cutting it too thick.

5) Taste the juice. If you want you can thin it with more water, or make it richer by cooking it down on top of the stove. In Chicago beef stands it is rich, but not too concentrated. Then turn the heat to a gentle simmer. Soak the meat in the juice for about 1 minute at a low simmer. That’s all. That warms the meat and makes it very wet. You can’t leave the meat in the juice for more than 10 minutes or else it starts to curl up, squeezes out its natural moisture, and toughens. If you go to a beef stand and the meat is really curly, they have committed a mortal sin. At Mr. Beef, for example, I watched them take a handful of cooked beef and dump it into the juice every time they took out enough for a sandwich. This also enriches the juice with meat protein and seasoning from the crust.

6) To assemble the sandwich, start by spooning some juice directly onto the bun. Get it wet. Then lay on the beef generously. Spoon on more juice (don’t burn your hand). Top it with bell pepper and, if you wish, giardiniera. If you want it “wet”, dip the whole shootin’ match in juice. Be sure to have plenty of napkins on hand.

Des Moines

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part4graziano2

Anthony “Tony” L.  Sarcone once joked that when he came to Des Moines in 1905, the only English he knew was “522 Elm Street” – his brother’s address. The feeling he experienced being a stranger in a new land led him to a life dedicated to organizing and encouraging the Americanization of the Italian immigrants in Iowa. Tony Sarcone was born in Crucoli, Italy on March 1, 1884.  He worked on the railroad when he first came to Des Moines.  From 1910 – 1914, he managed a shoe store.  He then went to work for the city’s health department, where he served through World War I and until 1928.

Sarcone is best known as the founder of the Sarcone Publishing Company.  He published the weekly Italian language newspaper, Il Risveglio (The Awakening). in 1922.  In 1925, he changed the name of newspaper to the American Citizen.  During the late 1920’s the newspaper gradually converted from Italian to English, reflecting the Italian immigrants’ own language transition.

Though extremely proud of his Italian heritage, Sarcone was also very passionate about the ideals of his adopted country.  He dedicated a significant portion of his newspaper to encouraging his readers to pursue American citizenship.  He published preparatory materials for those studying for their citizenship, provided information on naturalization classes and reported on those who recently became Americans.  Source: The Italians in Iowa · A documentary about the history of Italians in Iowa.

Graziano Brothers makes only about 3,000 pounds of sausage a week and most of it remains in the greater Des Moines area, says Frances Graziano, president of the company. It was her grandfather, Francis, and his brother, Louis, who opened Graziano Brothers in 1912 at the current location on Des Moines’ South Side. For decades, their sausage was made using a meat grinder with a hand crank. Today, the grinding and mixing is done on a larger scale, but it’s nowhere near the point of being mass-produced. Whenever Frances Graziano allows herself to toy with the notion of making more sausage, she comes back to one thing: To sell more, some production would have to be moved off-premise.

The hot sausage recipe dates back to a time when Italian was spoken regularly on the South Side of Des Moines and sausage was made at home. Hot Italian sausages “were usually made in Italian homes during the winter time and hung up to dry. Pieces were cut from the sausages, cooked and eaten,” newspaper writer Kenneth Land observed in 1962 on the occasion of Graziano Brothers’ 50th anniversary. Mike Graziano, the father of Frances, spoke with pride in that newspaper article about pure pork used in the sausage. The same is true today. “We even use real hog casings,” Frances says. “That makes a big difference. We don’t use anything synthetic or fillers.” Source: Des Moines Register.

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Graziano’s on the Grill

In a large skillet, place sausage links and water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove sausage and transfer to prepared grill. Grill 6 inches from the heat source for 10 to 13 minutes, turning occasionally, until no pink color remains. To grill bulk sausage, pat sausage meat as you would a hamburger and grill.

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Bologna's Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore

This Italian region comprises the historical areas of Emilia and Romagna. Half the territory is formed by the Apennines and the other half is a large plain, which reaches east to the Adriatic Sea. The coastline is flat and sandy with lagoons and marshy areas.

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Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life standards. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist center, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Its cuisine is renowned and it is home to the automotive companies of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati.

 Lamborghini Gallardo

Lamborghini Gallardo

Popular coastal resorts such as Rimini and Riccione are located in this region. Other important cities include Parma, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Forlì and Reggio Emilia.

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Despite being an industrial power, Emilia-Romagna is also a leading region in agriculture, with farming contributing 5.8% of the region’s agricultural products. Cereals, potatoes, corn, tomatoes and onions are the most important products, along with fruit and grapes for the production of wine (of which the best known are Emilia’s Lambrusco, Bologna’s Pignoletto, Romagna’s Sangiovese and white Albana). Cattle and hog breeding are also highly developed.

Castell’Arquato

Castell’Arquato

Tourism is increasingly important, especially along the Adriatic coastline and the art museum cities. Since 187 B.C., when the Romans built the 125-Mile Roman Road/Via Emilia, this thoroughfare has taken travelers throughout the region and connected them with the major trading centers of Venice, Genoa and central/northern Europe. This main roadway crosses the region from north-west (Piacenza) to the south-east (Adriatic coast), connecting the main cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and the Adriatic coast.

Emilia-Romagna gave birth to two great musicians, one of the most important composers of music, Giuseppe Verdi and Toscanini, the famous conductor. Marcella Hazan, one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine, was born in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara.  Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She moved to New York City following her marriage to Victor Hazan and published her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, in 1973.

 Verdi Theater in Busseto


Verdi Theater in Busseto

Cesena

Cesena

The most popular sport in Emilia-Romagna is football. Several famous clubs from Emilia-Romagna compete at a high level on the national stage: Cesena, Parma and Sassuolo. With 13 professional clubs in 2013, the region is only bettered in terms of a number of professional clubs by Lombardy. It also has 747 amateur clubs, 1,522 football pitches and 75,328 registered players. Another sport which is very popular in this region is basketball and teams from Emilia-Romagna compete in the Lega Basket Serie A. Zebre rugby club competes professionally in the Guinness Pro 12 league. The club’s home ground is located in Parma.

Take a tour of Emilia-Romagna with the video below.

The Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna

The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna, while Grana Padano is produced in the rest of the region. Prosciutto di Parma is Italy’s most popular ham, especially beyond Italy where it’s widely exported. With its roots going back to 100 BC, when a salt-cured ham was mentioned in the writings of Cato, Prosciutto has a long and hallowed history in the Parma province.

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar to pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. Pasta is often the first course and Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pastas, such as tortellini, lasagna and tagliatelle. In some areas of Romagna rice is eaten, with risotto taking the place of pasta. Polenta, a cornmeal-based dish, is common both in Emilia and Romagna.

Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Although the Adriatic coast is a major fishing area (well-known for its eels and clams), the region is more famous for its meat products, especially pork-based, that include: Parma’s prosciutto, culatello and Felino salami, Piacenza’s pancetta, coppa and salami, Bologna’s mortadella and salame rosa, Modena’s zampone, cotechino and cappello del prete and Ferrara’s salama da sugo. Reggio Emilia is famous for erbazzone, a spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano pie and Gnocco Fritto, flour strips fried in boiling oil and eaten in combination with ham or salami.

GNOCCO FRITTO WITH PARMA HAM

Gnocco Fritto with Parma Ham

From grilled asparagus with Parma ham to basil/onion mashed potatoes or roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a cornucopia of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.

Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries & red wine often find their way to the table. Regional desserts include zuppa inglese (custard-based dessert made with sponge cake and Alchermes liqueur) and panpepato (Christmas cake made with pepper, chocolate, spices, and almonds).

Barrels of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Barrels of traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Some differences do exist in the cuisines of Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia has lush plains, gentle hills and a cuisine that demonstrates more Northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s ample supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of the Ferrara province and the rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes, plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.

TRADITIONAL RECIPES OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA

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PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (CAPPELLACCI)

4 servings

FOR THE PASTA

  • 10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

FOR THE FILLING

  • 2 lbs pumpkin, baked and the flesh scooped out
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 2 oz butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 egg

For the pasta:

Mix the eggs, flour and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.

Roll out into thin sheets on a pasta machine and cut into squares, about 2.5 inches a side.

For the filling:

Mix the baked pumpkin pulp with the egg, the grated cheese and the nutmeg.

Put the filling on half the squares of pasta and top with another square. Press the edges with a fork to seal.

Cook them in abundant salted water and season with melted butter, sage and grated cheese.

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BEEF FILLET WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lb beef fillet
  • 1 ½ ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating the meat
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the fillet into four equal slices and flatten slightly with a meat pounder. Coat the meat in flour and shake to remove any excess. Put the fillets on a greased plate, then salt them.

Heat a large skillet and cook the fillets on both sides over very high heat, sprinkling each with some of the balsamic vinegar.

In a separate saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar, the beef broth and the flour. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

When the fillets are cooked, cover them with the sauce and garnish with parsley.

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ERBAZZONE (SAVORY GREENS PIE)

This pie is often served with slices of prosciutto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs spinach
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 oz pancetta, chopped fine
  • 1 ¾ oz butter
  • 3 ½ oz lard
  •  1/2 onion, about 2/3 cup
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cook the spinach in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and chop the spinach. Squeeze well to dry.

Sauté butter, lard and onion in a skillet. Add the spinach and garlic and cook for five minutes. Cool. Then, mix with some grated Parmesan, the olive oil, pepper and salt.

Lay one sheet of pastry in a rectangular oven-dish (about the size of the pastry sheet; cut to fit, if needed). Spread the filling over the dough. Dot the top of the filling with the pancetta. Cover with the second pastry sheet. Press down lightly.

Bake at 350°F until the pastry is golden, about 30 minutes.

Serve hot or warm.

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CIAMBELLA (RING CAKE)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a medium orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch ring mold or a springform pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.

The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


wine

Italy is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and Italian wines are known worldwide for their broad variety. Italy, closely followed by France, is the world’s largest wine producer by volume. Italian wine is exported around the world and is also extremely popular in Italy: Italians rank fifth on the world wine consumption list by volume with 42 litres per capita consumption. Grapes are grown in almost every region of the country and there are more than one million vineyards under cultivation. Italy’s twenty wine regions correspond to the twenty administrative regions. Understanding of Italian wine becomes clearer with an understanding of the differences between each region and their cuisines.

The Italian Wine Regions

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In 1963, the first official Italian system of classification of wines was launched. Since then, several modifications and additions to the legislation were made (a major one in 1992), the last of which, in 2010, established four basic categories, which are consistent with the last EU regulation in the matter of wine (2008–09). The categories, from the bottom level to the top one, are:

  • Vini (Wines – informally called ‘generic wines’): These are wines that can be produced anywhere in the territory of the EU; no indication of geographical origin, of the grape varieties used, or of the vintage is allowed on the label. (The label only reports the color of the wine.)
  • Vini Varietali (Varietal Wines): These are generic wines that are made either mostly (at least 85%) from one kind of authorized ‘international’ grapes (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah) or entirely from two or more of them. The grape(s) and the vintage can be indicated on the label. These wines can be produced anywhere in the territory of the EU.)
  • Vini IGP (Wines with Protected Geographical Indication): This category (also traditionally implemented in Italy as IGT – Typical Geographical Indication) is reserved to wines produced in a specific territory within Italy and following a series of specific and precise regulations on authorized varieties, viticultural and vinification practices, organoleptic and chemico-physical characteristics, labeling instructions, etc. Currently (2014) there exist 118 IGPs/IGTs.
  • Vini DOP (Wines with Protected Designation of Origin): This category includes two sub-categories, i.e. Vini DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) and Vini DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin). DOC wines must have been IGP wines for at least 5 years. They generally come from smaller regions, within a certain IGP territory, that are particularly known for their climatic and geological characteristics and for the quality and originality of the local winemaking traditions. They also must follow stricter production regulations than IGP wines. A DOC wine can be promoted to DOCG, if it has been a DOC for at least 10 years. In addition to fulfilling the requisites for DOC wines (since that’s the category they come from), before commercialization DOCG wines must pass stricter analyses, including a tasting by a specifically appointed committee. DOCG wines have also demonstrated a superior commercial success. Currently (2014) there exist 332 DOCs and 73 DOCGs for a total of 405 DOPs.

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1 Abruzzo
Abruzzo produces one DOCG – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane – and three DOC wines: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Controguerra and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.

The region vineyards cover 33,252 hectares or 82,166 acres.; yearly wine production is 4,184,000 hectoliters or 110,541,611 gallons of which 17.6% isDOC.

2 Aosta Valley
In this small region in the Western Alps along the French border, the grapes are grown up 800 meters above sea level. The Valle d’Aosta DOC zone includes seven sub-zones.

Vineyards cover 635 hectares, or 1,569 acres; yearly wine production is 22,000 hectoliters, or 581,241 gallons; 10% white, 90% red; 22.8% is DOC.

3 Apulia
Apulia economy is based mainly on wine production and counts 25 DOCs, including Aleatico di Puglia, Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera, Primitivo di Manduria, Salice Salentino and Rosso di Cerignola among others.

Vineyards cover 107,715 hectares or 263,693 acres; yearly wine production is 7,236,000 hectoliters or 191,175,693 gallons30% white, 70% red; 3.8% isDOC.

4 Basilicata
Basilicata produces only one DOC wine, the Aglianico del Vulture.

The region is 9,992 Km2 or 6,205 square miles, vineyards cover 10,848 hectares or 26,825 acres; yearly wine production is 481,000 hectoliters or 12,708,058 gallons; 27% white, 73%red; 2.4% isDOC.

5 Calabria
Calabria produces 12 DOCs including Bivongi, Ciró,Greco di Bianco, Pollino and Verbicaro among others.

The region vineyards cover 24,339 hectares or 60,142 acres; yearly wine production is 753,000 hectoliters or 19,894,319 gallons; 9% white, 91% red or sosé; 2.4% is DOC.

6 Campania
Campania produces one DOCG wine – Taurasi – and 19 DOCs including Aglianico del Taburno or Taburno, Campi Flegrei, Cilento, Fiano di Avellino and Vesuvio among others.

The region vineyards cover 41,129 hectares or 101,630 acres; yearly wine production is 1.971,000 hectoliters or 52,073,976 gallons; 36% white, 64% red; 2.8% is DOC.

7 Emilia – Romagna
Emilia–Romagna produces one DOCG wine – Albana di Romagna – and 18 DOCs, including three kind of Lambrusco – di Sorbara, Grasparossa di Castelvetroand Salamino di Santa Croce – in addition to Sangiovese di Romagna, Colli Bolognesi Pignolettoand Bosco Eliceo among others.

The region vineyards cover 58,237 hectares or 143,904 acres; yearly wine production is 4,733,000 hectoliters or 125,046,235 gallons; 43% white, 57% red; 21.4% is DOC.

8 Friuli – Venezia Giulia
Friuli–Venezia Giulia produces one DOCG wine –Ramandolo – and 9 DOCs including Colli Orientali del Friuli, Friuli Aquileia, Collio Goriziano or Collio andLison – Pramaggiore among others.

The region vineyards cover 18,704 hectares or 46,218 acres; yearly wine production is 1,018,000 hectoliters or 26,895,640 gallons; 52% white, 48% red; 60.5% is DOC.

9 Latium
Lazio produces 25 DOCs including Castelli Romani, Colli Albani, Montecompatri-Colonna, Est! Est! Est! di Montefiascone and Velletri among others.

The region vineyards cover 47.884 hectares or 118,321 acres; yearly wine production is 2,940,000 hectoliters or 77,675,033 gallons; 84% white, 16% red; 6.5% is DOC.

10 Liguria
Liguria produces 7 DOCs: Cinque Terre or Cinque Terre Schiacchetrà, Colli di Luni, Colline di Levanto, Golfo del Tigullio, Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Rossese di Dolceacqua or Dolceacqua and Val Polcevera.

The region vineyards cover 4,837 hectares or 11,952 acres; yearly wine production is 165,000 hectoliters or 4,359,313 gallons; 66% white, 34% red; 13.9% is DOC.

Wine-Map-wine-folly

11 Lombardy
Lombardy produces two DOCGs wines – Franciacortaand Valtellina Superiore – and 15 DOCs includingGarda Classico, Oltrepó Pavese, Cellatica and Botticino among others.

The region vineyards cover 26,951 hectares or 66,593 acres; yearly wine production is 1,665,000 hectoliters or 43,989,432 gallons; 38% white, 62% red; 47.3% is DOC.

12 Marches
Marche produces 12 DOCs including Bianchello del Metauro, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Rosso Cònero, Lacrima di Morro or Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and Falerio dei Colli Ascolani among others.

The region is 9,694 Km2 or 4,330 square miles, vineyards cover 24,590 hectares or 60,762 acres; yearly wine production is 1,815,000 hectoliters or 47,957,443 gallons; 62% white, 38% red; 19.6% isDOC.

13 Molise
Molise produces only three DOC wines: Biferno, Molise or del Molise and Pentro di Isernia.

The region is 4,438 Km2 or 2,756 square miles, vineyards cover 7,650 hectares or 18,903 acres; yearly wine production is 360,000 hectoliters or 9,511,228 gallons of which 3.9% is DOC.

14 Piedmont
Piedmont produces seven DOCGs wines – Asti, Barbaresco, Barolo, Brachetto d’Acqui or Acqui, Gavi o Cortese di Gavi, Gattinara and Ghemme – and 44DOCs including three Barbera – d’Alba, d’Asti and del Monferrato – two Freisa – d’Asti and di Chieri, seven Dolcetto, Erbaluce di Caluso o Caluso and Roero among many others.

The region vineyards cover 57,487 hectares or 142,050 acres; yearly wine production is 3,405,000 hectoliters or 89,960,369 gallons; 30% white, 70% red; 55.8% is DOC.

15 Sardinia 
Sardinia produces one DOCG – Vermentino di Gallura– and 19 DOC wines including two Malvasia – di Bosa and di Cagliari – three Moscato – di Sorso-Sennori, di Cagliari and di Sardegna – Vernaccia di Oristano, Cannonau di Sardegna, Nuragus di Cagliariand , Carignano del Sulcis and Mandrolisai among others.

The region vineyards cover 43,331 hectares or 107,070 acres; yearly wine production is 1,062,000 hectoliters or 28,058.124 gallons; 43% white, 57% red; 15.6% is DOC.

16 Sicily 
Sicily produces 19 DOCs including four Moscato – di Noto Naturale or di Noto, di Pantelleria Naturale or di Pantelleria, di Passito di Pantelleria or Passito di Pantelleria and di Siracusa – Marsala, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Malvasia delle Lipari and Sambuca di Sicilia among others.

The region vineyards cover 133,518 hectares or 329,923 acres; yearly wine production is 8,073,000 hectoliters or 213,000,000 gallons of which 2.1% is DOC.

17 Trentino – Alto Adige
Trentino-Alto Adige produces 8 DOCs including Alto Adige or Südtirol which has six subzones, Valdadige or Etschtaler, Teroldego Rotaliano, Casteller and Lago di Caldaro o Caldaro among others.

The region vineyards cover 12,810 hectares or 31,653 acres; yearly wine production is 953,000 hectoliters or 25,178,335 gallons; 45% white, 55% red; 79.1% is DOC.

18 Tuscany
Here they say that grapes preceded mankind …

Tuscany produces seven DOCGs wines – Chianti which includes seven subzones, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – and 44 DOCs including Bolgheri or Bolgheri Sassicaia, Valdichiana, Bianco della Valdinievole and Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario among many others.

The region vineyards cover 63,633 hectares or 157,237 acres; yearly wine production is 2,156,000 hectoliters or 56,961,690 gallons; 30% white, 70% red; 55.5% is DOC.

19 Umbria
Umbria produces two DOCGs wines – Montefalco Sagrantino and Torgiano Rosso Riserva – and 11DOCs including Rosso Orvietano or Orvietano Rosso, Colli del Trasimeno or Trasimeno, Assisi, and Colli Altotiberini among others.

The region vineyards cover 16,503 hectares or 40,779 acres; yearly wine production is 740,000 hectoliters or 19,550,858 gallons; 58% white, 42% red; 30.5% is DOC.

20 Veneto
Veneto produces two DOCGs wines – Recioto di Soave and Bardolino – and 11 DOCs including Soave, Valpolicella o Recioto della Valpolicella, Lessini Durello, Bianco di Custoza and Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene among others.

The region vineyards cover 73,314 hectares or 186,101 acres; yearly wine production is 6,785,000 hectoliters or 179,260,237 gallons; 55.4% white, 44.6% red; 29.1% is DOC.

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Vendemmia

While the majority of tourists prefer to visit Italy during the summer months, for wine lovers September and October is the time the magic happens. The vendemmia – Italian for grape harvest – takes place every year during these months (the exact dates vary between vineyards, depending on the weather and the grapes reaching their peak of ripeness). During the vendemmia, wine festivals take place across Italy, though Tuscany remains the home of winemaking. The Festa dell’uva in Impruneta is the oldest and most revered festival in Italy. Featuring local wine tasting, fresh local produce, music, dancing and parades, it is their biggest event of the year. The Italian grape harvest is underway as you read this, with grower organizations promising less quantity but more quality from the 2014 vintage.

The first grapes were picked in Franciacorta in Lombardy last week, 10 days earlier than in 2013, despite variable weather in the lead-up to harvest. Sicily also started picking around the same time. The total Italian harvest is expected to be smaller than last year’s bumper crop, which yielded 49 million liters of wine, according to Wine-Searcher.

What To Serve With Italian Wine?

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Homemade Ricotta & Spinach Filled Ravioli

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • A pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 4 ounces lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces lean ground pork
  • 4 ounces sweet Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup beef  broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian crushed tomatoes
  • A pinch of fresh sage, rosemary and 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Dough:

  • 2 cups All-Purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

The filling:

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, one egg, half of the Parmigiano, some grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well. Refrigerate until reading to make the ravioli.

The sauce:

Heat a skillet over low heat; add the olive oil and then the shallot. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the herbs, meat and sausage—breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon. Raise the flame to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes or until the meat is cooked through. Add the wine and season with salt and pepper. Cover and continue to cook on a low flame. Add broth to keep the mixture moist. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring often. Add the crushed tomatoes and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

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The dough:

Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Or you can mix the ingredients in the food processor.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Cut the ball of dough in 1/2, cover and reserve the piece you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with a little flour. Press the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at the widest setting. Pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue tightening until the machine is at the second narrowest setting; the dough should be almost paper-thin.

Cut two long rectangular strips of equal size, a little more than 3 inches wide. (Keep the rest of the dough covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.) Spoon a generous amount of filling every 2 to 3 inches along the dough. Place the other sheet on top and press it lightly all along the edges. Using the wheel cutter, first trim off the four sides of the rectangle; then cut out each square. Seal each one well with your fingers or a fork. Lay them on a tray with some semolina flour on the bottom to avoid sticking.

Continue this procedure, preparing as many ravioli as you can, balancing the amount of filling with the remaining dough.

To cook:

In a large pot, bring a gallon of water to boil; add a half handful of salt and then add the ravioli one by one. Stir them very gently and cook for 8 minutes. Drain them with a colander or a sieve and then place them in a warm pasta bowl, alternating them with the hot meat sauce and Parmigiano cheese.


Cécile Kyenge

Cécile Kyenge Kashetu, born in Kambove, Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), is a Congolese-born Italian politician and ophthalmologist. She is the Minister for Integration in the current Italian government. Dr. Kyenge is married and the mother of two daughters, Maïsha and Giulia. After moving to Italy in 1983, she became a qualified ophthalmologist in Modena, Emilia-Romagna.

She founded an intercultural Association (DAWA) to promote mutual awareness, integration and cooperation between Italy and Africa, particularly in her country of birth, the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is also the spokesperson of the association “March First”, which works to promote the rights of migrants in Italy. She collaborates with many Italian magazines, including Combonifem and Corriere Immmigrazione, an online newspaper and a weekly journal on the culture of Italy of the present and future.

In February 2013 she was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the Democratic Party in Emilia-Romagna. Two months later she was appointed Minister for Integration in the coalition government formed by Enrico Letta, becoming Italy’s first black cabinet minister. She supports the introduction of a “Jus soli” law to grant citizenship to children of immigrants born on Italian soil. Under the current legislation, Italian nationality is passed on most commonly by blood, meaning the grandchild of an Italian, who has never set foot in the country, has more rights to citizenship than someone who was born in Rome to foreign parents.

But even if Dr. Kyenge is unable to push a single piece of legislation through Parliament, she will have secured an important legacy. Her April 27 appointment as Minister for Integration in Italy’s newly formed government has kicked off a much-needed discussion on race and immigration in a country that still struggles to come to terms with its rapid transformation.

That discussion has taken some brutal turns. “Kyenge wants to impose her tribal traditions from the Congo,” said Mario Borghezio, a member of the European Parliament for Italy’s anti-immigration Northern League in an April 30 radio interview. “She seems like a great housekeeper,” he added. “But not a government minister.” Even in Italy, a country all too often permeated by casual bigotry, Borghezio’s words went way too far. An online petition calling for him to be sanctioned or evicted from his post has gathered more than 75,000 signatures and the Northern League’s leader, Roberto Maroni, a former Interior Minister, has come under pressure to denounce him.

While Italians don’t like to think of their country as racist, the experience of non-white Italians and resident immigrants illustrates a culture that has found it hard to welcome increasing diversity. Dr. Kyenge’s appointment gives cause for hope that things will get better for Italy’s immigrant population. Appearing on an Italian talk show in May, Dr. Kyenge said her proposal will be ready “in the coming weeks.” She’ll soon get a chance to discover what her fellow parliamentarians are made of.

On September 23 representatives of 17 European Union countries gathered in Rome to condemn the “unacceptable” stream of racist insults directed at Cécile Kyenge and called for a new pact to stamp out discrimination across the European bloc. (The Rome Declaration-Pact 2014-2020 for a Europe of diversity and fight against racism.) “The reality is, Europe is made up of people with different skin colors, who belong to different religions or were born elsewhere but have chosen to live here,” said Dr. Kyenge.

Pollo di Modena

Italian Balsamic-Marinated Chicken –  A classic dish from Dr. Kyenge’s home region in Italy.

This simple recipe for balsamic chicken puts the rich flavor of balsamic vinegar to good use. The marinade not only flavors the chicken but tenderizes it as well. Balsamic vinegar was first made in the city of Modena. The region of Emilia-Romagna has a rich and diversified cuisine, often including meats, stuffed pastas and salamis.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces 
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

In a large, non-reactive bowl, mix together the chicken, vinegar, garlic and sage. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high. Saute the chicken in batches until browned on all sides.

Reduce heat to medium-low and return all the chicken to the pot. Pour in the reserved marinade and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally. Add a little water if necessary to keep the marinade from drying out.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce and pour it over the chicken. Serve with crusty Italian bread and a salad.

Pollo di Modena Variations:

  • Substitute rosemary for the sage.
  • Add sliced mushrooms to simmer with the chicken.
  • Topped with sauteed pancetta before serving.

Elisabetta Missoni

Elisabetta Missoni is a member of the national association, Le Donne del Vino (The Women of Wine), launched in April 1988 and is made up of wine producers, restaurateurs, sommeliers, owners of wine shops and trade journalists. The association aims to promote the ever-increasing role of women, in what was once a male-dominated environment, and to play a major contribution in the development of women working with wine.

Not surprisingly, for someone who has a strong connection with the fashion industry, wine was never Elisabetta’s first interest. “Before I met Giovanni, I was very much focused on fashion,” explains Elisabetta, who is the niece of fashion designer, Ottavio Missoni. “But Giovanni was passionate about his wines and he knew how to instil that passion in me. The fine quality of our wines reflects our continuous search for distinction and simplicity. That is the part of our lifestyle that we most like to share with our clients and friends.” Elisabetta is behind the Foffani wine label that she produces with her husband, Giovanni Foffani. While Giovanni concentrates on the actual wine production, Elisabetta deals with public relations and customer service. She is also responsible for organising annual events and demonstrations.

The Azienda Agricola Foffani winery is located in Clauiano (Friuli region) which is east of Venice. It was built in the 16th century and is now protected by the Italian Ministry of Fine Arts. Wine production dates back to 1789 and the name, Clauiano, comes from Claudiano, meaning Claudian because the property was given to the emperor Claudius by the Patriarch of Aquileia around 1 AD. The winery produces a selected range of aged red wines and classical Friuli white wines made in steel barrels to preserve their original fragrances. The result is wine that is mentioned in the acclaimed guide “Gambero Rosso” year after year. Every year Elisabetta and her husband take part in the trade fair Colori dei Vini, the ‘Colours of Wine’ show. Emphasising the family fashion ties, the tablecloths are exclusive knitwear designs by Luca Missoni and match the colors of the wines available.

Agnolotti di Pontebba

(Ravioli with Sweet Filling)

The varied landscape and strong Austrian and Central European influences are evident in the Friuli Venezia Giulia regional cuisine that is based heavily on polenta, soups and salumi. The Friulian people aptly merge humble, local ingredients with exotic spices from foreign lands, resulting in a cuisine that, while often surprising in its blend of sweet and savory flavors, please the palate.

Ingredients for 4 people

For the dough

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water

For the filling

  • 9 ounces ricotta
  • 3 1/2 ounces prunes
  • 1 dried fig
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt to taste

Dressing

  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter

Directions

Place flour on a smooth surface and make a well in the flour, add eggs, water and salt and knead until smooth. (You can also do this in a processor or electric mixer.

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.

In a pot with boiling water, cook prunes and dried fig for a few minutes until soft. Drain, chop and combine with ricotta and sugar.

With a rolling pin or a pasta machine, roll out dough in 1/8-inch thick sheets. Cut out 2-inch circles with a biscuit or ravioli cutter.

Place one spoonful of ricotta filling in the middle of each circle and close to form crescents.

Seal edges with your fingers. Cook in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Carefully drain with a slotted spoon to avoid breaking the agnolotti.

Arrange in pasta bowls and serve with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Catherine DeAngelis 

Last November Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., M.P.H., received the Special Recognition Award of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that is given to leaders in academic medicine for extraordinary achievements in the field. The award honors DeAngelis’ numerous lifetime accomplishments, her long-standing commitment to academic medicine and her decade-long tenure as editor-in-chief of “The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)”, one of the oldest and most revered medical journals in the world. DeAngelis became that publication’s first female editor-in-chief and the first pediatrician to hold that title.

In her role as the first woman editor, Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., has made a special effort to publish substantive scientific articles on women’s health issues. The journal plays an important role in bringing new research to light and featured articles can lead to fundamental changes in treatment. Under her editorship, the journal published a landmark study questioning the benefits of hormone replacement therapy in 2002. She also served as editor of the”Archive of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine”, from 1993 to 2000.

The granddaughter of Italian immigrants, Catherine DeAngelis was born and raised in a coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania. She grew up in Old Forge, the middle child of three in a poor family. Her mother, the late Mary DeAngelis, worked as a waitress and her father, the late Sandy DeAngelis, worked in a silk mill. Both her parents only had an eighth-grade education.”We were poor, but we were happy,” Dr. DeAngelis said during a recent telephone interview. “We had a big garden and my parents canned what was in the garden. My dad hunted and fished.”

At first medical school was not financially possible, so she went into a three-year program to become a registered nurse. Following her graduation in 1960, she was accepted into Wilkes University. During her undergraduate years she worked as a nurse and set up an infirmary at Wilkes. She also worked in a laboratory, gaining valuable experience in immunology research. She went on to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, again doing lab work, teaching student nurses and working in the V.A. hospital medical library to help cover her expenses.

After medical school, DeAngelis began a pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Working four hours a week at a free clinic in Baltimore, she began thinking about scientific ways to address the general problems she saw there. She had heard about Harvard University’s program in health law and economics and realized that she could apply for a master’s degree in public health fellowship with a stipend from the National Institute of Health.

After DeAngelis earned herdegree, she worked at the Roxbury, Massachusetts Comprehensive Community Clinic. While there, she noticed that many patients were not receiving basic care, primarily because of access and financial problems. With a little more training for nurses, she thought, some of these problems could be addressed. To solve the problem, she wrote a textbook for nurse practitioner-medical resident teams, Basic Pediatrics for Primary Care Providers, published in 1973.

From 1973 to 1975 she worked as a faculty member at the Columbia College of Physicians on improving health care systems in Harlem and upper Manhattan in New York, using physician-nurse practitioner teams. She then took a position at the University of Wisconsin organizing a system for children’s health care for the next three years.

In 1978 DeAngelis decided to move back East, where she became chief of the new Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Hopkins Medical Center. She went on to become deputy chair of the department and was appointed vice-dean for academic affairs in 1994.

When she was made a full professor in 1984, Dr. DeAngelis was only the twelfth woman in Hopkins’s 94-year history to receive that rank. 68 percent of all women, who have been made professor since the founding of Hopkins, received their promotions while DeAngelis was vice-dean. Her success there is especially ironic, as her application to attend Hopkins’ medical school was rejected years earlier.

Old-Fashioned Italian-American Lasagna

Italian American food is based heavily on the traditional food of southern Italian immigrants, most of whom arrived in the United States from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many Italian Americans, who identify their food with their locale and the home areas of their ancestors, the food is based on staples such as dry pasta, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce and olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • Three 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 18 sheets lasagna, each about 10 inches by 2 inches, parboiled
  • 1 pound mozzarella, grated (about 3 cups)

Directions:

Heat olive oil over moderate heat in large saucepan. Add onions, stir and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Using a food mill, purée plum tomatoes directly into the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of the coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is reduced to about 41/2 cups.

In a small bowl mix ricotta, egg, 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, remaining salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.

Butter generously the bottom and sides of a baking pan, 11 inches by 9 inches by 1 1/2 inches. Take 3/4 cup of tomato sauce and spread on the bottom of the pan.

Place 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them slightly. Spread a heaping 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture evenly over noodles. Spread 3/4 cup of tomato sauce on top of this layer. Sprinkle with a heaping 1/3 cup of mozzarella. Repeat this 4 times.

Then place the last 3 noodles on top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. (The lasagna may be assembled up to this point 2 days in advance and stored in refrigerator, covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Afua Preston

Afua works as Assistant Director for Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting Programs at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies and she has a unique ancestry. She was born in Ghana, West Africa, to an Akan mother and an African-American father. She came to America when she was less than 1 year old and her Father re-married. Her stepmother is Italian-American whose family is Abruzzese from Sulmona and Roccacasale. Afua calls her stepmother, Mother, because she was raised by her, but Afua also keeps in contact with her birth Mother’s family.

The Italian side of her personality comes out, she says, “in my cooking, sense of style, love of art and devotion to my family. I’m fiercely protective. People say that I have a sort of casual reserve called “cool orsprezzatura” — depending on which side of my family is speaking. When I cook, I’m always mixing in more garlic in my paternal Grandmother’s recipes or taking an Italian dish and making it more southern. The music in my life also has cultural collisions. I am a big fan of Italian singer, Lorenzo Cherubini Jovanotti, who mixes sounds of Italy, black America and Africa.”

Afua can speak Italian. Listening to her Great-Grandmother Mamma Adele speak to her Grandmother Mamma Dina made Afua want to learn Italian and, eventually, she earned a B.A. in Italian Language and Culture. She studied in Florence and learned to speak Italian. “The sounds of the language are beautiful. Not to mention, it helps to know Italian when ordering Italian food”, she said in a recent interview.

Afua said she retains her Italian side, “through food, art and music. I cook Italian food often. My Nonna says that I am the best pizzelle maker in the family. I read “Cucina Italiana Magazine” all the time. Both my parents are art historians, so I was always a lover of art. But it was especially after my semester in Firenze, that I came back to New York and had a new appreciation of the beautiful architecture and the stone and marble work in buildings in Harlem and Washington Heights.”

She feels lucky to have grown up with two well-educated parents and two grandmothers who worked very hard in life to raise themselves up from their poor origins through education. Her paternal Grandmother Millie, especially, raised her to believe she could be anything she wanted to be. Afua said, “I never looked at color as an obstacle for me to do what I wanted in life. But many children of color do have real obstacles and, therefore, feel that they could “never” be what they want to be. I’m kind of a zuppa mista. I don’t identify with any one group. Although my skin is black, I can’t really define myself totally. I would like to explore my African roots more though. My face and name are Ghanaian, my voice is very NY American and my soul is black-Italian American.”

Zuppa Mista di Legumi

A dish Afua likes to prepare – bean soup. Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used

Ingredients

  • 8 oz mixed dried legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas)
  • 7 oz spelt
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, heated
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

As a first step to prepare this soup you need to soak the dried beans in warm water overnight, then drain them and use them in the preparation according to the recipe.

Chop celery, carrot, garlic and onion and put them to fry in a pan with a little olive oil.

When the garlic is golden, add the dried beans and the farro, stir with a wooden spoon and start cooking the soup slowly adding the hot broth.

Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally. The time required for cooking and to thicken the soup varies from 30 to 40 minutes depending on the quality of the beans.

Season with salt and add a little olive oil.

Article Sources: 

Italy Magazine

Johns Hopkins Medicine

i-Italy Digital Magazine


When the fire hydrants begin to look like Italian flags with green, red and white stripes, you know you’re on “The Hill”.  With an Italian American style all their own, featuring Provel cheese and fried ravioli, there’s an unmistakable St. Louis flair in this town’s Italian flavor.

Settlement of what’s now called “the Hill” began in the 1830’s, but the area boomed later that century with the discovery of rich clay mines. The expansion of clay pits and plant production brought Italian immigrants from northern Italy and Sicily to St. Louis and they settled north of the city on the Hill, named for being close to the highest point in the area. Able to find work within the neighborhood, the immigrants, first, bought houses and, then, started businesses — grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, barber shops and tailor shops, to name a few.

With the growth of Italian immigration came the growth in the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. The Parish of Our Lady Help of Christians, was founded in the downtown area of St. Louis in 1900 to serve primarily Sicilian immigrants and the Parish of St. Ambrose was founded to serve the northern Italian immigrants. By the time the new church of St. Ambrose was built in 1926, the parish had already been an influence in the area for over 20 years. The structure is modeled after Sant Ambrogio Church in Milan, in the Lombard-Romanesque style of brick and terra-cotta. It became a parish church for the area in 1955, after 30 years of focusing on those of Italian heritage. When Our Lady Help of Christians Parish closed in 1975, St. Ambrose became the center of Catholic life among many Italian-Americans in the St. Louis area.

The neighborhood is still predominantly Italian, about 75 percent of the population, and St. Ambrose Catholic Church is still the center of the community. A statue of “The Italian Immigrants” at the entrance of the church demonstrates the bond between the immigrants and their religion. The Hill is also one of the city’s most tight-knit communities. Just as they did a century ago, families on the Hill greet each other warmly at church, local bakeries or while working on their front lawns. 

The Hill has flourished over the last century and somehow managed to repel the decay, neglect and suburban flight that have wracked other neighborhoods. Of all the ethnic-immigrant settlements in St. Louis in the late 19th century and early 20th century (including German, Irish, Czech and Polish), The Hill is the only one that remains intact. The Hill’s streets are virtually free of litter and crime. Its homes are modest but impeccably maintained, and these homes recall an era that predates the three-car garage and bedroom for every child. Some homes, according to Rosolino Roland DeGregorio, a local historian, are framed with free lumber that immigrants hauled in wagons from the disassembled 1904 World’s Fair exhibits.

Yards are lovingly embellished with small flower and herb gardens, fountains, brightly painted flower pots, strings of lights and statues of the Virgin Mary. Across from the Missouri Baking Co., Salvador Palmeri, an immigrant from Sicily, hoses the alley behind his home every day because, he said, “I like to keep it clean.” His wife, Josephine, paints ceramic flower pots and animal figures for a patio menagerie. “I love the area,” said Frank DiGregorio, 49, who arrived from Italy as an 8-month-old baby and helps run family-owned DiGregorio’s Imported Foods. “I can walk up and down the streets and talk to Italian people. It’s a community. We’re a small town in a big city.” Bill Holland, who married into the family that runs the 101-year-old John Volpi Co. Inc., an Italian meat company, said, The Hill is St. Louis’s only 24-hour neighborhood, a fragile ecosystem that has been immune to urban blight and whose anchor is St. Ambrose Catholic Church.” He said the neighborhood has a healthy balance of homes, businesses and entertainment that spins positive energy around the clock. “When the restaurants shut down at midnight, the bakers all come in at 2 a.m.,” Holland said. “We start our business at 6 a.m. There’s always something positive in the neighborhood.”  http://www.thehillstl.com/history.html

The Hill is located south of Manchester Avenue, between Hampton Avenue on the west and Kingshighway Avenue on the east. Its southern border runs along Columbia and Southwest Avenues. One city block of the neighborhood is famous for hosting the boyhood homes of Baseball Hall of Fame members and producing approximately half of the 1950 U.S. soccer team that upset top-ranked England in the World Cup.

The best way to visit the area is with a walking tour of the neighborhood which includes an Italian grocery in business for more than 50 years, a gift shop with a variety of Italian products, a ravioli store and an Italian meat market founded in 1902. Take a stroll down Baseball Hall of Fame Place, a renamed section of Elizabeth Avenue, (between Macklind Ave and Marconi Avenue) where Yogi Berra, Joe Garagiola and broadcaster Jack Buck grew up. You can find their homes, marked by granite plaques listing the names and dates of their inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The streets are loaded with specialty shops, including Volpi Foods (5250 Daggett Ave.), opened by Giovanni Volpi in 1902, which continues to produce cured meats for the city (some argue they’re the best in the country). Viviano and Sons (5139 Shaw Ave.), opened by a macaroni factory worker, John Viviano to supplement his income, has blossomed into a neighborhood go-to shop, selling an array of Italian wines, olive oils and cheeses.

Lunch options are limitless, but will probably include an item made with Provel, the signature shelf stable cheese of the St. Louis Italian community. Amighetti’s (5141 Wilson Ave.), has been offering its namesake sandwich, a classic featuring Provel cheese, since 1921.

Two St. Louis restaurants are credited with the toasted ravioli appetizer’s invention in the 1940s: Charlie Gitto‘s (now a popular chain) and Oldani’s (now Mama’s) in The Hill neighborhood.

Dinner at Mama’s On the Hill (2132 Edwards Ave.), is a must. Opened under the name Oldani’s in 1940, Mama’s claims to be the birthplace of toasted ravioli and Mama will tell you all about it over dinner. Start with the two-pound meatball resting atop a mount of spaghetti soaking up Mama’s marinara sauce. Take Mama’s ultimate meatball challenge and, if you manage to finish the dish, Mama’s will pick up your tab and throw in a t-shirt. 

Charlie Gitto’s “On the Hill”   While there are other claimants, Charlie Gitto’s is generally recognized as the birthplace of the ‘toasted ravioli” when the restaurant was called Angelo’s. Toasted ravioli was invented here in 1947,” says Charlie Junior. “Louis Townsend was the guy who accidentally dropped ravioli in the breadcrumbs. He decided to fry them and brought them to Angelo, who thought it was a great idea, because he could quickly get them out to the bar. In the post-war era, the bars were really busy and Angelo served ravioli as bar food.”  Apparantly, this was much quicker than serving ravioli the traditional way.

Restaurants:

The Hill is known nationally for its great Italian restaurants. It’s often the dining destination of visiting celebrities, as well as, for out-of-town guests. Great places to try include:

Zia’s – A favorite of locals, Zia serves classic Italian dishes. Portions are generous, the atmosphere is simple but warm and prices are fairly moderate.

Lorenzo’s Trattoria – As a relatively new restaurant on the Hill, Lorenzo’s can’t rest on tradition. Actually, it does just the opposite, bringing modern twists to classic Italian dishes.

Rigazzi’s – Best known for its “fishbowls” of beer, Rigazzi’s offers everyday Italian dishes and pizza.

Adriana’s – The Hill’s own Yogi Berra’s famous quote “no one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded,” could easily be applied to Adriana’s. Its classic Italian sandwiches bring in a full lunch crowd.

Mama’s Two Pound Meatball

Shopping:

The Hill also has quite a few independent shops selling everything from cutlery to ceramics. Here are just three of the shops on the Hill:

Girasole – Girasole sells a wide variety of Italian products, including ceramics, jewelry, handbags, beauty products and books. Located at 2103 Marconi Avenue.

Bertarelli Cutlery – Although geared toward serving the restaurant business, Bertarelli can be exciting for anyone that loves to cook. Shop for new knives and other quality kitchen supplies or take your current knives in for sharpening. Located at 1927 Marconi Avenue.

Atomic Neon – Glassworks studio selling everything from simple glass bead necklaces to elaborate neon signs and art glass. All crafted on site. Located at 4140 Manchester Road.

Italian Recipes of St. Louis

St. Louis-Style Pizza

With its cracker-thin baking powder crust and square slices, there are those who’d claim this dish isn’t pizza. But to residents of St. Louis, it’s one of their city’s culinary icons. There are many “authentic” St. Louis Pizza recipes, but all seem to stem from one particular St. Louis chain: Imo’s, a “mom and pop” business with over 90 stores in and around St. Louis.

Crust

  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons water

*No self-rising flour? Substitute 2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour; add 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and increase the water to 1/2 cup.

Topping

  • 2/3 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup grated or shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated or shredded smoked provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated or shredded Swiss cheese
  • Pizza Seasoning or dried Italian herbs

*To add smoky flavor without using smoked provolone, add 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke flavoring.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two 12″ round pizza pans, or a couple of baking sheets.

To make the crust: Combine the flour, oil and water, mixing until cohesive. Gather the dough into a ball, divide it in half and shape each half into a flat disk, the rounder the better.

If you have time, let the dough rest, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes; it’ll be easier to roll out once it’s rested.

Grease a piece of parchment paper about 12″ square or a piece of waxed paper. Place one of the dough pieces on the paper and top with another piece of lightly greased parchment or waxed paper.

Roll the dough very thin, 1/8″ thick or less. Place the dough on the prepared pans.

Top each pizza with 1/3 cup sauce. Mix the cheeses together and spread half over each pizza. Sprinkle lightly with Pizza Seasoning or dried Italian herbs.

Bake the pizzas for 9 to 11 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown, and the edges and bottom of the crust are golden brown.

Remove the pizzas from the oven, transfer to a rack to cool very briefly, cut in squares, and serve hot.

Yield: two pizzas, about 4 servings total.

The Original Toasted Ravioli

Makes 12 to 14 appetizers.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 2 pounds ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut up
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 slightly beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 -16 to 20 ounce package frozen meat-filled ravioli, thawed
  • 2/3 to 1 cup seasoned fine dry bread crumbs
  • Cooking oil for deep-fat frying
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

For sauce: In a medium saucepan, cook onion and garlic in hot olive oil or butter until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, dried basil, salt and pepper. Cover; cook over medium heat about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Uncover and stir in tomato paste. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until mixture reaches desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Stir in fresh basil Cover sauce; keep warm.

In a small bowl, beat together egg and milk. Dip each ravioli in egg mixture; then dip in bread crumbs to coat.

In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, heat 2 inches of cooking oil to 350 degrees F. Fry ravioli, a few at a time, in hot oil about 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 300 degree F.  oven while frying the rest.

To serve: Sprinkle ravioli with Parmesan cheese, if you like. Serve with warm sauce for dipping.

Chicken Spiedini

Zia’s restaurant on the Hill uses provel in this grilled chicken dish. It’s a cheese made in the neighborhood that tastes like a blend of cheddar, Swiss and provolone.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds chicken breast tenderloins
  • 2/3 cup Italian salad dressing 
  • 3/4 cups seasoned fine dry bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup halved fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped prosciutto
  • 3/4 cup shredded provel cheese or mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Directions:

Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Pour salad dressing over chicken. Seal bag; turn to coat chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Drain chicken, discarding marinade. Place bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in bread crumbs to coat. On five to six long metal skewers, thread chicken, accordion-style, leaving 1/4-inch space between each piece.

For a charcoal grill: Grill skewers on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (170 degree F), turning once halfway through grilling.

For a gas grill: Preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place skewers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as directed above.

For oven directions: Arrange skewers in a 15 x 10x 1-inch baking pan. Bake in a 375 degree F.  oven about 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degree F.)

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook mushrooms and garlic in hot butter until mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add prosciutto; cook and stir 2 minutes more.

Remove chicken from skewers; arrange on a serving plate. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the cheese. Spoon the mushroom mixture over chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Squeeze a lemon wedge over each serving.

Salsiccia Bread

Salsiccia is Italian for sausage and it’s a tasty part of the filling in this recipe from Di Gregorio Imported Foods, which also sells the salsiccia. 

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces bulk Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled potato
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
  • 8 ounces canned or homemade pizza sauce
  • 2 tablespoons drained, snipped oil-packed sundried tomatoes
  • 1- 16 – ounce loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions:

For filling: In a large skillet, cook sausage, potato and garlic until sausage is brown and potato is tender. Drain off fat. Stir in spinach, 1/3 cup of the pizza sauce and sundried tomatoes. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12×9-inch rectangle, stopping occasionally to let dough relax a few minutes for easier rolling. Spread sausage mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Starting from a short side, roll up dough into a spiral. Moisten edge and ends; pinch seams to seal. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double (30 to 45 minutes).

Lightly brush loaf with oil. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until loaf is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack; cool about 30 minutes before cutting. Serve with remaining pizza sauce for dipping. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note – Store leftovers, wrapped in foil, in the refrigerator up to 2 days. To reheat, bake wrapped loaf in 350 degree F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated.

Tiramisu

This recipe from Gian-Tony’s on the Hill.

Makes: 16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 2 -8 ounce cartons mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dried egg white powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 3 – ounce packages ladyfingers, split
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

For syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the 1/2 cup water and coffee powder. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Boil gently, uncovered, for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in amaretto and hazelnut liqueur. Cool.

For filling: In a medium bowl, stir together mascarpone cheese, the 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla. In a chilled medium mixing bowl, combine whipping cream and the 3 tablespoons sugar. Beat with chilled beaters in an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold 1/2 cup of the beaten whipped cream mixture into the mascarpone mixture to lighten; set both mixtures aside. In another medium mixing bowl, beat dried egg whites and 1/2 cup water to stiff peaks according to package directions, adding the 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating.

To assemble: Arrange half of the ladyfinger halves in the bottom of a 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Brush with half of the syrup mixture. Spread with half of the mascarpone mixture, half of the whipped cream and half of the egg white mixture. Sprinkle with half of the cocoa powder. Arrange the remaining ladyfingers on top of the layers in the pan. Brush with the remaining syrup mixture. Spread with the remaining mascarpone mixture, the remaining whipped cream and the remaining egg white mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cocoa powder. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours before serving. Makes 16 servings.

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