This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.
Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps
- Parmesan crisps, recipe below
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 8 cups vegetable broth
Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.
Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.
Makes 6 crisps
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)
Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.
Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.
Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Sourdough Cheese Rolls
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
- 2 teaspoons salt
Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.
Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).
Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.
Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).
Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.
Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes
- 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
- 4 shallots sliced thin
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.
Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.
Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.
Quick Creamy Polenta
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup quick cooking polenta
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.
Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.
Italian Style Peas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 ounces frozen green peas
- 1 tablespoon chicken stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.
Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce
- Soft butter for the pan
- ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 6 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
- ¼ cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.
Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.
Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.
Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.
For the sauce:
Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.
Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.
One of the best ways to cut back on wasted food is to use it in a new recipe before it goes bad. You will notice in the recipes below that I cooked several dinners in the past few weeks and, of course, we had leftovers. I don’t mind meatloaf reheated once or twice, but not more than that. Certainly, I can freeze meatloaf but there are more interesting things I can do with it, as well as leftover pork and chicken. Do you have a leftover recipe makeover?
Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Wine Sauce
Becomes Pork Stroganoff
- 3 cups chopped leftover Pork Tenderloin in Mushroom Wine Sauce (see recipe link here)
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 8 oz wide noodles
Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and place the noodles on a medium serving platter.
Heat the leftover pork in a small skillet over medium low heat. Slowly stir in the sour cream.
Pour the meat mixture over the noodles. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
Italian Style Meatloaf
Becomes Meatloaf Panini
Serve these sandwiches with oven baked onion rings, pickles and a salad for dinner.
- 4 slices sandwich bread
- 2 slices leftover Italian Style Meatloaf (see recipe link here)
- 2 tablespoons spicy Italian peppers, chopped
- 4 slices Provolone cheese
- Olive oil
Layer 2 of the bread slices in the following way: a slice of cheese, a slice of meatloaf, 1 tablespoon of chopped peppers and a slice of cheese. on top of the each meatloaf slice.
Top with the remaining bread. Brush the bread with olive oil.
Warm up a large skillet over medium heat or heat a Panini maker. Place both sandwiches, oiled side down, in skillet or on the Panini press. Oil the bread on the top.
Close the Panini press and follow the directions for your machine.
If using a skillet, cook the sandwich for a few minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.
Turn the sandwiches over and press down firmly with a spatula on the top of the bread to compress the sandwiches. Cook until golden brown.
Grilled Chicken Breasts
Becomes Leftover Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Small Batch Chicken Broth
Being a frugal Italian cook, nothing gets wasted in my kitchen. The chicken breasts I grilled last week were large, so we did not eat all the chicken. I removed the chicken that was left from the bones and reserved it for the Caesar Salad recipe. I also find that some recipes call for a small amount of chicken broth. The breast bones that were left can solve that need.
Small Batch Chicken Broth
- 2 leftover chicken breast bones
- 1/4 of a medium onion
- Celery top
- Small carrot
- Small garlic clove
- 1 bay leaf
- Few peppercorns
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cover the ingredients with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for one hour.
Strain the broth and pour into half cup containers. Freeze for future use.
Leftover Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
- Leftover chicken cut into cubes
- 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and finely chopped
- 1 cup croutons
- Shaved Parmesan cheese
- Fresh Cracked Pepper
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Combine the anchovy paste, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce to a small bowl and stir together.
Gradually whisk in the olive oil, whisking until the dressing is emulsified.
Place the chopped lettuce in a bowl and toss it with the dressing, cubed chicken and croutons. Add shaved Parmesan and fresh black pepper. Toss and serve.
Grosseto is considered to be the most beautiful of all the Tuscan provinces. Located at the southern tip of Tuscany, the province is often referred to as the heart of Tuscany and its beauty is well known throughout Italy. The area is home to picturesque towns, natural parks, beaches and excellent, award-winning wines.
“Le Biancane” is a Nature Park with in the Colline Metallifere located in the province. The Park represents one of the many sites where geothermal activity has modified the landscape. Here energy lies in the earth and vapour emissions rise from the ground. Because of these geological and climatic characteristics, an atypical flora has developed in this area. The name biancane comes from the white color of the rocks that characterizes the entire landscape. The hydrogen sulphide emissions, in fact, erupt from geysers in the ground and turn the limestone into gypsum. The steam that comes out of the rocks is responsible for the characteristic smell of rotten eggs.
The province is also rich with culinary traditions, such the Slow Food Movement and, although it is prevalent all over the world today, the movement was actually born in Italy. Slow Food began with the founding of its forerunner organization, Arcigola, in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. At its heart is the aim to promote local foods and traditional cuisine and food production.
The Slow Food Movement was not, and still is not, only about food, but about life choices. Since its inception, the group has been embracing the values and the lifestyle many Italians associate with their grandparents and their way of life, which is the ultimate goal of “promoting the idea of food as a source of pleasure, culture, history, identity and of a true lifestyle, as well as a way of eating, which is respectful of the land and of local traditions”. (http://www.slowfood.com)
Italian Slow Food Recipes
- 25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast
- Pinch of sugar
- 310 ml (1 1/4 cups) of water
- 500 g (1 lb, 2 oz) bread flour
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of salt
Put the yeast into a bowl with a pinch of sugar. Stir in the water* and leave it to ferment.
Put the flour in a large, wide bowl, or onto a flat surface where you can work with it. Add the yeast, a pinch of salt, and the oil, and mix in to incorporate them well.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, compact elastic ball. Add a little more flour or water if necessary.
Put the dough into a lightly floured bowl, cover with a cloth, and leave it to rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Put some oil onto a wide baking pan and spread out the dough with your fingers.
Bake for 20 minutes and while the flatbread is still warm, brush over it with as much olive oil as you prefer and a bit of kosher salt.
Tip* The water must be tepid. To make schiacciata successfully, you should never use extreme temperatures.
- Onion (1)
- Celery (about 2 stalks)
- Carrots (about 2)
- Parsley (one bunch)
- Zucchini (2 medium)
- Potatoes (2 medium)
- Beets (one bunch)
- Kale (about 1 pound/ 400 g)
- Head cabbage (1 ½ pounds/ 700 g)
- Cannellini beans (about 1 pound/ 400 g)
- Tomato puree (a glass)
- Wild herbs: such as borage leaves, nettles and plantain (few leaves)
- Aromatic herbs (a bunch): fennel, thyme, marjoram, oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
Boil the beans in abundant water until tender. Drain them (keeping the water), blend half the beans in a food processor and keep 1/2 of the beans whole.
Chop the vegetables into small chunks.
Sauté the onions, celery, parsley and carrots in a pot with extra virgin olive oil.
Add the herbs whole and remove after a few minutes.
Add the potatoes and the rest of the vegetables and sauté for a few minutes.
Add the tomato puree, salt and pepper.
Add the reserved bean liquid and the purèed beans and let the soup cook at a low temperature for an 2 hours. Add the whole beans and heat. Serve or cool and refrigerate.
Wild Boar Stew (Cinghiale in Umido)
- 2 ¼ pounds/1 kg wild boar
- ½ pound/200 g onions
- ¼ pound/100 g celery
- Bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berry
- A half glass of wine
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt, pepper, chili
- Meat stock
- 2/3 pound/ 300 g of peeled tomatoes
Soak the wild boar overnight in water and vinegar with the juniper, bay leaves, celery and rosemary.
Finely chop the onion and celery and sauté in a pan with extra virgin olive oil.
Drain the wild boar and add to the pan and sauté for a few minutes.
Add salt, pepper and chili and sprinkle with wine and let evaporate.
Add the tomato, cover with the meat stock and cook for about one hour and a half.
Wild Boar Sauce Over Pappardelle Pasta
Once the meat is cooked, chop it fine and return it to the sauce. The sauce is traditionally served over wide egg-based pasta, such as Pappardelle.
Arista: Roast Pork
- 2-3 lb lean pork loin
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.
Mix the rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper together and rub the pork loin with this mixture. Make short incisions in six places in the meat (use a knife) and stuff a little of the mixture into each opening.
Tie the meat tightly using kitchen twine.
Put the pork loin into a baking pan with some extra virgin olive oil.
Place in the oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours turning the meat every so often.
Cut the roast into thin slices and serve it with its pan sauce.
Frittelle di Riso
- 2-1/2 cups short grain rice
- 6 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- Peel of one lemon (wide strips)
- 1 ounce liqueur (sherry, brandy, or amaretto)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon baking flour
- Pinch of salt
- 6 eggs, separated
- Olive oil for frying
Bring the rice, sugar, lemon peel and milk to a slow boil. The rice is cooked when all the milk is absorbed.
Place the rice in large bowl, add the liqueur, egg yolks, flour, baking powder and salt.
Mix well and let cool. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.
Whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the rice mixture.
In a heavy pan, heat 3 inches of oil for frying. Drop teaspoons of dough into the hot oil.
Fry quickly and remove when they are golden. Do not brown. Drain on paper towels and serve sprinkled with granulated sugar.
They are best hot, but can also be served cold or reheated.
The ingredients listed above are all at their best, so make the most of August’s seasonal foods by turning them into delicious summer recipes. Pair some of summer’s ripe tomatoes with some delicious crab. Create a salad with ripe peaches and Parma Ham. Cook up some pasta and add chopped August veggies and chill. Perfect for a weeknight dinner. Below are some ideas to inspire you to create some recipes from August’s bounty.
New York Deli Style Pickled Green Tomatoes
For each quart jar:
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 1/4 cups distilled water or purified tap water
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 pound firm full-sized green tomatoes
- 1 stalk celery, cut in pieces
- 1/2 Serrano chili, stem removed or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
- 2 tablespoons dill seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Notes on the ingredients:
The tomatoes must be all green and cut into quarters.
You can usually find distilled water in the grocery or drug store. Distilled water is best because it has impurities removed and impurities can impart off flavors. Purified tap water is perfectly fine to use also.
Use Kosher salt not table salt. Kosher salt has larger flake shaped grains and also has small amounts of anti-caking additives but no iodine.
The recipe needs a little heat. Half a serrano works perfectly. If fresh peppers are not available, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
You must use distilled vinegar. Any other vinegar imparts too many odd flavors.
Use really clean bottles and lids. Sterilize them by submerging them in a boiling water bath or on a setting for sanitizing in your dishwasher.
Add the garlic, dill seeds, celery, hot pepper or red pepper flakes and peppercorns to the jar.
Thoroughly wash the tomatoes, remove the stem and cut them into quarters. Cram them in the jar leaving about ½ inch of space at the top.
Make the brine by combining the vinegar, water and salt in a non-reactive sauce pan or pot. Bring to a boil and stir until all the salt is dissolved.
Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes to within 1/4″ of the top. Wipe the jar top, put the lids on and tighten. Turn the jars over and let sit for a couple of hours.
Return the jars to the upright position and leave on the kitchen counter overnight. Refrigerate the pickled tomatoes for two weeks before serving.
The pickled tomatoes will keep for months in the refrigerator.
Easy Chilled Summer Melon Soup
This soup makes a great summer appetizer or serve it for lunch.
Serves 4 – 6
- 4 cups Crenshaw or cantaloupe melon, skin and seeds removed
- 4 cups yellow watermelon, skin and seeds removed
- One 15 ounce can coconut milk
- Grated zest of one large lime
- 1 large scallion (green onion) light green section finely diced and the top chopped and reserved for garnish
- 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Basil or mint leaves for garnish
Dice the melon and set aside 4 cups of each kind of melon. Puree the melon in a food processor. You will probably need to do this in batches. Pour the processed melon into a storage bowl.
To the last batch of puree add the lime zest, jalapeno, ginger,1 teaspoon of basil, the 1 teaspoon mint, diced light green scallion and the salt to the melon puree in the processor.
Pulse a few times and pour in the storage bowl with the first batch of pureed melon. Pour in the coconut milk and stir well.
Chill the soup overnight. Garnish with scallion tops, fresh mint leaves or basil when serving.
Breaded Eggplant Salad
For the eggplant
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 cup dried Italian flavored bread crumbs
- Olive oil
For the salad
- Half a large yellow or red tomato, sliced thin
- 1/3 cup diced pickled peppers (spicy peppers are great here if you like them)
- 4 cups salad greens, chopped
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon each of sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil.
Combine the salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
Cut the eggplant into 1 x 2 inch pieces.
Combine the beaten egg and milk in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.
Dip the eggplant into the egg and then into the bread crumbs. Place the coated eggplant on the baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Bake the eggplant until crispy and brown, turning them over when one side is golden, about 20 minutes.
Place the chopped pickled peppers on a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.
While the eggplant bakes, arrange the salad ingredients on individual salad serving plates. Top with the cooked eggplant and drizzle with some of the dressing.
Mix well; serve immediately with additional dressing on the side.
Need a quick side dish, full of flavor and certainly seasonal, try these quick broiled tomatoes.
For each 2 person serving
- 1 large beefsteak tomato
- 2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
Heat the broiler to high.
Cut the tomato in half and place in a baking dish, cut sides up.
Spread 1 teaspoon of pesto over each tomato.
Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs and then the grated cheese.
Drizzle each with a little olive oil.
Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the topping is nicely browned.
Pavia is a province in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. The province is mostly flat with some hills in the south. The northwestern area of the province is ideal for agricultural land. Pavia has a major position in northern Italy’s textile industry and is renowned for hatmaking. It also plays its part in the country’s engineering and metallurgical industries. This is an important winemaking district that produces sparkling wines.and it is the largest area in Italy for the production of Pinot Noir. Also, the province of Pavia was the birthplace of Peroni, a well-known Italian beer.
The Peroni company was established under the founding family name in the town of Vigevano, Italy, in 1846. The company moved to Rome 1864, six years prior to Rome becoming the Italian capital in 1870. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the company became one of the most prominent brewing companies in the newly unified Italian nation.
By the 1990s, both the Peroni brand name and product line were distributed and known worldwide. The London-based brewing giant SABMiller bought the company in 2003, making it one of the few international brands in its portfolio.
Beers under the Peroni brand include: Crystall, a 5.6% alcohol pale lager; Peroni Gran Riserva, a 6.6% alcohol strong lager; Peroncino, a 5% alcohol pale lager and Peroni Leggera, a 3.5% alcohol pale lager. The company also produces the Wuhrer brand – a 4.7% alcohol pale lager launched in Brescia in 1829. The main brands are Peroni and Nastro Azzurro.
Peroni is the Peroni company’s original brand. According to Assobirra (Italian Brewers and Malsters Trade Association), it is the best selling beer in Italy. It is 4.7% alcohol and made with barley malt, maize, hop pellets and hop extract. By the 1950s and 1960s, Peroni was the most recognized brand of beer throughout the Italian peninsula.
Nastro Azzurro, a 5.1% alcohol pale lager, launched in 1963, is the Peroni Brewery’s premium lager brand. The name means “Blue Ribbon” in Italian, in honor of the Blue Riband award won by the Italian ocean liner SS Rex in 1933. Nastro Azzurro has also sponsored teams in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 1997, they sponsored a 125cc Aprilia team with rider Valentino Rossi, who won the championship in that season. In 2000 and 2001 they sponsored a 500cc Honda team, again with Rossi as the rider.
When you think of Italian food pairing, wine may be the first thing that comes to mind; however, beer can complement the flavors of Italian food just as well. The tradition of Aperitivo, a pre-dinner social hour featuring drinks and small plates, is the perfect time to enjoy Italian lager. Here are some appetizers that go well with beer.
• Affettati Misti: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa or bresaola, all of which have a saltiness and complex texture that will contrast with the lager. Serve with cured olives, quartered figs or melon slices.
• Crostini are thin Italian bread slices toasted with olive oil and then topped with a number of different kinds of pastes or sauces. Try an olive tapenade, a red bell pepper spread or a chicken liver pate.
• Fiori di Zucca are zucchini blossoms that make an elegant salad. Mix the blossoms, available at farmers’ markets or specialty groceries, with arugula, shaved pecorino cheese and a lemony vinaigrette.
• Carciofi alla Romana is a traditional roman dish of artichokes and mint. Artichokes are steamed in white wine with garlic, mint and parsley and sliced into small sections to eat by hand.
• Bagna Cauda is a warm dipping sauce made from olive oil, garlic, anchovies and butter. Fresh vegetables are then dipped into this salty, creamy sauce.
• Cocktail di Gamberi. Steam shrimp in a broth of melted butter, olive oil, garlic, chopped parsley, lemon juice and some Italian lager and serve warm or cold.
1 large slice crusty Italian bread
1 ¾ cups beef stock
Enough Parmesan cheese (grated) for a generous sprinkle
A generous tablespoon of butter
An oven proof dish to contain the soup
Coarse ground black pepper
Put the oven proof dish in a moderate hot oven to heat while the other ingredients are prepared.
Bring the beef stock to boiling in a saucepan.
In a medium skillet, heat the butter and fry the bread on both sides.
Once the bread is ready, take the oven proof dish out of the oven.
Put the bread inside the dish, pressing it down so that it stays on the bottom of the dish.
Place the eggs over the bread, carefully, so the yolks do not break.
Top with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
The dish is now ready for the stock. The stock must be boiling hot (not simmering) so raise the heat before adding it to the dish.
The heat of the stock will partially cook the eggs. You can cover the dish with a plate and leave the soup alone for one minute or two, then you can serve the dish.
Sprinkle with black pepper before serving.
Note: With this soup the eggs will never be thoroughly cooked, but this is the tradition. However, if you are serving the soup to children or older people, you may consider poaching the eggs before laying them on the bread; then you add the stock. Alternatively, before adding the stock, you can pass the dish under a broiler, in order to cook the eggs, but you need to be careful not to burn the bread.
From Ristorante Da Mino, Pavia Province, Italy
1 1/4 lbs asparagus, trimmed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
Bring 5 cups salted water to boil in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water; cool. Drain (reserving 3 1/2 cups cooking liquid in a saucepan).
Cut off the asparagus tips and reserve. Finely diced the stalks.
In the saucepan with the reserved cooking liquid add the broth. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes.
Add 3/4 cup hot liquid. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Add the diced asparagus.
Cook until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, adding liquid 3/4 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, about 20 minutes.
Mix reserved asparagus tips, grated cheese and butter into the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.
Cassoeula (Pork Rib and Sausage Stew)
Cassoeula is a dish with several versions. Sometimes, after the meats have been browned, a spoonful of tomato paste is added. Other cooks prefer to cook the cabbage in a separate pot, steaming it in the water remaining on the leaves after washing, and then adding it to the meat. The quality of the meat added to the cassoeula varies. The simplest version requires only ribs and sausages, while the most complicated includes the ears and tail.
Recipe courtesy of The Italian Trade Commission.
1 pig’s foot
1 lb. pork sausage
1 lb. pork ribs
1/2 lb. pork rind
2 tablespoons oil
2 oz. butter
1 diced onion
1/2 lb. carrots, diced
1/2 lb. celery, diced
½ lb tomatoes, diced
3 lbs. Savoy cabbage
Salt and pepper
Boil the pig’s foot and cut in half, lengthwise.
Make a soffritto with the oil, butter and chopped onion. Add the pork rind, sausage and ribs, cut into pieces, and the pig’s foot.
When the meat is golden brown, add all diced carrots, celery, tomatoes. Cook over medium heat.
After 30 minutes, add the cabbage, cut into strips. add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 45 minutes.
The cooking juice should be rather thick. If you wish to remove some of the fat from the cassoeula, do so before adding the cabbage.
Paradise cake is one of the most traditional Italian desserts. Light and airy, this cake is considered a cornerstone of Italian pastry.
Legend has it that the paradise cake was invented by a monk at a monastery in Pavia in Lombardy. There are different versions of this story, but almost all of them suggest that a monk learned to make the cake from a young bride who lived near the monastery. Since the cake was so good, she suggested to the monks that they name it paradise cake. The origin of the cake dates back further in history. There were already multiple versions of the recipe in existence in 1878, when pastry chef Enrico Vigoni, the owner of a pastry shop in Pavia that is still in business today, codified the recipe, making it famous throughout Italy.
1 lb butter
1 lb confectioners sugar
10 egg yolks
Vanilla extract to taste
5/8 lb all-purpose flour
5/8 lb potato starch
3/8 oz baking powder
Lemon zest to taste
Remove the butter from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes prior to baking. Once the butter is soft, whisk the butter in a bowl with the confectioner’s sugar by hand or with an electric mixer whisk attachment.
Once the mixture is light and creamy, add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, and continue whisking. Then add the grated lemon peel and mix well. Mix in the vanilla and potato starch.
Mix together the flour and baking powder and sift into a bowl or on wax paper. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together well, using a wooden spoon.
Grease a round cake pan with butter. Flour lightly, then pour in the cake batter, filling the pan to 2/3rds full.
Bake in a 350° F oven for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.
Once cool, remove the cake from the pan by turning it out onto a serving dish or cake stand. Finish by dusting with confectioner’s sugar.
Asti is a province in the Piedmont region of northern Italy and is an important area for the production of fine wines. Perhaps the wine most famously associated with Asti worldwide is the sparkling Asti (DOCG). The name is usually shortened to “Asti” in order to avoid associations with the many wines of dubious quality, which are labelled “Spumante”.
Asti is typically sweet and low in alcohol (often below 8%) and is made solely from the moscato bianco, a white muscat grape. A premium version known as Moscato d’Asti (DOCG) is sold outside Italy. Moscato d’Asti is a “Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita”, a sparkling white wine produced mainly in the province of Asti, is considered a dessert wine. Grown on Asti hilltops, Moscato d’Asti is made by small producers in small batches. Moscato is so named because of its earthy musk aroma. The petite berry grape ripens early and produces a wide range of wine styles: light and dry, slightly sweet and honey-like.
While technically a white grape, there are strains of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains vines that produce berries that are pink or reddish-brown. When the differing grape color is stable, the wines are typically classified as separate grape varieties: Muscat Rouge à Petit Grains for red skin color and Muscat Rose à Petit Grains for pink skin color.
While Asti province became famous around the world thanks to Martini and Rossi and Gancia and Riccadonnafor for their commercial Spumante wines, it is now becoming famous internationally for its classic red wines, such as Barbera d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, Grignolino d’Asti, Bonarda and Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato. These wines and many other local wines can be sampled during the week-long Douja d’Or wine exhibition which is held at the same time as the Palio and Sagre races.
Asti is also famous for its Asti’s Festival of Festivals, held in September, a week before the Palio race. During the festival, most of the towns in Asti’s province meet in a great square called “Campo del Palio”. Here, they offer local cuisine for which they are known and on the Sunday of the Sagre race all the towns involved stage a parade with floats with everyone in costume all along the Asti roads.
Asti province becomes a gourmet delight from October to December when the white truffle or “tartufo bianco” is in season. Some of the best truffles are found around Asti’s hills and every weekend there is a local truffle festival.
Among local vegetables, the cardo gobbo (artichoke)and the “square pepper” (bell pepper) of Asti stand out, and both are regarded as essential ingredients for bagna cauda (a garlic and anchovy dip).
The area around Asti is also renowned for its cheeses, such as robiola of Roccaverano and robiola di Cocconato.
Typical provincial dishes include agnolotti, potato gnocchi, ciotola di trifulau (cheese fondue with polenta and a sprinkling of truffles) and boiled meats.
Local desserts include amaretti (almond cookies), canestrelli (semolina biscuits), finocchini of Refrancore (fennel cookies) and hazelnut cakes.
Pearl Barley Soup with Moscato d’Asti
Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 oz. smoked cooked ham, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
2 small carrots, finely chopped
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
1 medium leek, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1 medium parsnip, finely chopped
1⁄2 small celery root, finely chopped
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups chicken stock
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Moscato d’Asti, for serving
Finely chopped chives, to garnish
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the ham and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 6 minutes.
Stir in the carrots, onions, leek, parsnip and celery root and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the stock and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley is half-cooked, about 35 minutes.
Add the potatoes to the soup and cook until tender, about 25 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the cream and ladle the soup into serving bowls. Add a splash of moscato to each bowl and sprinkle with chives before serving.
Braised Leg of Lamb with Polenta
Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy
12 oz. lamb bones
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves
For the Braise and Polenta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (4-lb.) bone-in leg of lamb
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
10 sprigs rosemary
1 bunch thyme
3 cups coarse-ground polenta
1 cup (4 oz.) grated robiola cheese
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Make the lamb stock:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the lamb bones on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the bones to a large saucepan along with half each of the celery, carrots, and onion; the juniper berries; bay leaves and 12 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook until the bones have released their flavor, about 3 hours. Pour the lamb stock through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard the solids.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. In a roasting pan over two burners, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper, add to the pan, and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a platter and add the remaining celery, carrots and onion to the pan along with the rosemary and thyme. Cook the vegetables, stirring, until browned and soft, about 6 minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the lamb stock and bring to a boil. Cover the roasting pan with foil and place the lamb in the oven. Braise the lamb until very tender, about 3 hours.
In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a boil. While whisking, slowly pour the polenta and the 2 tablespoons salt into the water and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring steadily, until the polenta is tender and smooth, about 1 hour. Remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the cheese and butter. Season with pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.
Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and pour the pan juices through a fine sieve into a bowl. Skim and discard the fat and pour the juices into a small saucepan. Bring the juices to a boil and cook until the sauce reduces to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Heat the broiler. Transfer the lamb to a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning, until browned and crisp on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a large dish and serve with the polenta and sauce.
Potato and Scallion Fritters
Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy
2 1⁄2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz.) rye flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large russet potato, peeled and boiled until tender
3/4 cup ricotta
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the rye and all-purpose flours with the butter, 1 teaspoon salt, the egg, and 3/4 cup lukewarm water. Knead on medium speed until the dough comes together and is smooth, about 6 minutes. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Halve the dough and shape each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Grate the cooked potato on the large holes of a box grater and reserve 1 cup; use any remaining potato for another recipe. Place the potato in a medium bowl, mix with the ricotta and scallions, and season with salt and pepper.
On a floured work surface, roll each dough disk into a 1⁄8-inch-thick circle. Drop 1-tablespoon-sized dollops of the ricotta-potato filling evenly spaced over 1 dough circle. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the dough with water around each dollop of filling. Drape the second dough circle over the first and gently press the dough between the mounds of filling to adhere. Position a 3-inch-round fluted cutter over 1 mound of filling and stamp out the round. Repeat, stamping out all the rounds.
Pour enough oil into a 6-quart saucepan to come 2 inches up the side, attach a deep-fry thermometer, and heat to 350°F. Working in batches, add the rounds to the oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the fritters from the oil and drain on paper towels. Season the fritters with salt and serve while hot.
Skillet Cake with Berry Compote
Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy
1 1⁄2 cups fresh or frozen lingonberries or cranberries
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white wine
2 teaspoons. fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 cup (4 oz.) “00” pasta flour
4 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 tablespoons. unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Toasted, flaked almonds, to garnish
1 sprig mint, to garnish
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup lingonberries, 3 tablespoons sugar, the white wine, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium and cook, stirring, until the berries burst and the sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Purée the sauce in a blender, scrape into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Stir in the remaining 1⁄2 cup lingonberries and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the milk, flour, egg yolks and vanilla seeds until just combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, pour in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and whisk until soft peaks form. Scrape the egg whites into the batter and fold until combined.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium and cook until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook, undisturbed, until set on the bottom, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the pancake and cook until set, about 5 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a cutting board and tear into large pieces. Transfer the pieces to a serving plate and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Sprinkle with almonds, garnish with the mint and serve warm with the lingonberry compote spooned over the top.
The province and metropolitan city of Messina are located in the northeast corner of Sicily on the Strait of Messina and sits on two different seas. It is also the 3rd largest city on the island of Sicily and the 13th largest city in Italy. Messina was originally founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC. In 1908, a devastating earthquake hit Messina, along with a tsunami, which destroyed much of the historical architecture of the city. One of the major landmarks lost to the earthquake was the 12th century Cathedral of the City, which was rebuilt in 1919. The city was also victim to significant damage from bombing raids during the Second World War.
Among the top attractions of Messina are the Cathedral of Messina, the Orologio Astronomico (the Bell Tower with an Astronomical Clock) and the Annunziata dei Catalani Church. The cathedral has largely been rebuilt following the earthquake damage and the bomb damage but some of the original building still remains, including a 15th century Gothic doorway and some 14th century mosaics. The attractive Bell Tower is home to one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks and its motorized figures emerge every day at noon to depict scenes of local history. Also, in the Piazza Duomo is the 16th century Fontaine de Orione.
The province’s main resources are its seaports (commercial and military shipyards), cruise tourism, commerce and agriculture (wine production and cultivating lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges and olives).
Just off the coast are the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and they are a popular tourist destination in the summer, attracting up to 200,000 visitors annually. There are beaches and coves with black sand, pumice stone and tiny pebbles, steaming craters, bubbling mud baths, sulfur springs, strange-shaped grottoes, crystal-clear turquoise waters, craggy cliffs, and archaeological sites on the coastline and the adjacent islands.
Fish: fried, baked or grilled, is the province’s most popular food. The preparation can vary, but what matters most is its freshness. Swordfish from the Messina Strait is cooked in multiple ways. Crustaceans and mussels make a popular soup and are often used as a topping for rice and spaghetti.
Vegetables and fruits are important components of Messinese cooking. Caponata, eggplant with cheese and potato fries are three of the best known local vegetable dishes.
Dairy products include canestrato cheese in sweet or spicy versions, sheep pecorino cheese and provola cheese, all made according to ancient traditions.
Olive oil, honey, hazelnuts and pistachios are all part of the cuisine.
Local pastries are well-known classics: cannoli, cassate, almond paste, martorana fruit and pignolata.
The D.O.C. wines of Etna, the Malvasia di Lipari and citrus liqueurs are all produced here.
Sciusceddu ( Meatball and Egg Soup)
“Sciusceddu” is a dish that comes from the city of Messina in Sicily, where it is traditionally served at Easter. There are two theories for where the name “sciusceddu” comes from. One suggests that it derives from the Latin word “juscelleum,” meaning soup, and the other is from the Sicilian verb “sciusciare,” meaning to blow.
4 cups meat broth
7 oz veal or beef meat, chopped
2 oz breadcrumbs
3 ½ oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
3 eggs, divided
3 ½ oz ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
Combine the minced meat, one egg, breadcrumbs, half of the grated Caciocavallo cheese (or Parmesan), chopped parsley and a little water; then form meatballs about the size of a small egg.
In another bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs with the ricotta cheese, the remaining Caciocavallo cheese and a dash of salt and pepper.
Bring the broth to the boil in a saucepan and drop the meatballs into the broth.
Cook for about twenty minutes, then add the egg/ricotta mixture, stirring vigorously for a few moments. Remove from the heat and serve the “sciusceddu” piping hot.
Pesce Spada alla Messinese (Swordfish Messina style)
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 lb (600 gr) swordfish cut into palm-sized pieces slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
20 capers (if salted, rinse well first)
10 black olives, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup white wine
2 cups tomato passata (sauce)
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
Brush the swordfish slices with olive oil and set aside.
In a skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the spring onions, garlic, capers, olives, chili pepper and anchovy fillets and cook until the anchovies melt into the oil and the onion is soft.
Put the slices of swordfish in the skillet and add the white wine. Burn off the alcohol and then add the tomatoes. Mix well, cover and cook for 30 minutes on very low heat.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley.
Pidoni, a popular dish from Messina. are pieces of pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and anchovy, similar to a calzone but fried.
For the dough:
400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
200 gr ( 2 cups) bread flour
300 ml (1 and 1/3 cups) water
2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
40 gr (6 tablespoons) olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
For the filling:
500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
600 gr /18 oz diced, canned tomato
400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
6-8 anchovy fillets
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough. Mix the dough ingredients, oil the dough, cover it and let it rise in a draft-free area.
About half way through the proofing time, knead the dough briefly and cover again.
Make the filling.
Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely or pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour.
It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture, so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.
Divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inches) in diameter.
Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge.
Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.
Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan, until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds.
Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork, drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden.
Drain on kitchen towssl and set aside. Continue until all are finished. Serves 6-8
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Pistachio Cream, recipe below
In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch, and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients to form a slurry so that all the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract.
Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 12 minutes to thicken, stirring constantly.
Another important tip is to stir slowly, (do not whisk) which will prevent too much air from being incorporated into the custard that will produce ice crystals.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.
Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.
Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
With Gelato, it is best to not process it until it is hard. Instead, stop the ice cream maker at soft serve consistency, then put it in a container in your freezer until stiff for a delicate flavor and texture that differentiates it from ice cream.
When the gelato is done, either serve (best if eaten and enjoyed immediately, as gelato has a shorter storage life than ice cream) or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firmer.
Makes approximately 1 quart of pistachio gelato.
1 cup hot water
8 ounces raw unsalted shelled and hulled pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until the pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that spreads freely in the blender (It usually takes about 9 tablespoons of hot water).
NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process. When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use in making the gelato.
Makes approximately 1 cup.