Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: mushrooms

torinocover

Turin (Torino in Italian) is an important business and cultural center in northern Italy and the capital of the Piedmont region. The city has a rich culture and history, and is known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theaters, libraries, museums and other venues. The city currently hosts some of Italy’s best universities, colleges, academies, lycea and gymnasia, such as the six-century-old University of Turin and the Turin Polytechnic. It is often referred to as the Automobile Capital of Italy and the Detroit of Italy, as it is the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo.

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Alfa Romeo Automobiles, an Italian car manufacturer, has been involved with car racing since 1911. The company was owned by Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986. It became a part of the Fiat group In 2007 and the Alfa Romeo brand was transformed into the current Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.

Originally, the company was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. In 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Merosi. A.L.F.A.who  ventured into motor racing with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models.

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The firm’s initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be more suitable and a tract of land was purchased in Lombardy where a new factory was erected.

In 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo. In 1921, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, a backer for Nicola Romeo & Co, went bankrupt and the government stepped in to support industrial companies affected by the failed bank, among which was Alfa Romeo.

Touring Spider (1937)

Touring Spider (1937)

In 1933, the state ownership was reorganized under the name of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) by Benito Mussolini’s government. The company struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954, it developed the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1994. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars but struggled to make a profit and so it was sold to the Fiat Group in 1986.

torinoracingcar

Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motor sport, including the Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing and rallies. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The company gained a good name in motor sport, along with a sporty image. Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It holds the world’s title of the most wins in the world.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.

Once motor sports resumed after the Second World War, Alfa Romeo proved to be the car to beat in Grand Prix events. The introduction of the new Formula One for single-seat racing cars provided an ideal setting for Alfa Romeo’s Tipo 158 Alfetta and Giuseppe Farina won the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. Juan Manuel Fangio secured Alfa’s second consecutive championship in 1951.

torinorooftoptrack

The track in the photo above was built on the roof of the factory that opened in Turin’s Ligotto district in 1923. The factory’s assembly line began at the ground floor and ended on the top-level, where cars were taken for a test run around the track. Spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms. The factory closed in 1982, after which Fiat held a competition for its redevelopment. Architect Renzo Piano, whose work includes the New York Times building and London’s “vertical city,” the Shard, secured the commission. His workshop transformed the old factory into a public space complete with shopping center, theater, hotel, convention center and art gallery. A helipad and bubble-shaped, blue glass meeting room were added to the roof to cater to interested business travelers. You can still visit the rooftop test track, but the days of cars looping around the course are gone.

Alfa Romeo Giulia The new generation Giulia was unveiled to the press at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese, on 24 June 2015. This coincided with the company's 105th anniversary and saw the introduction of a revised logo.

Alfa Romeo Giulia
The new generation Giulia was unveiled to the press at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese, on 24 June 2015. This coincided with the company’s 105th anniversary and saw the introduction of a revised logo.

Turin cuisine shows the influence of its closeness to France in its use of butter and complex sauces. This area is also the home of solid chocolate, bread sticks (called grissini) , risotto and some of Italy’s most renowned wines, including Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera d’Asti. Italian vermouth, in Italy an aperitif, is another product of Turin and Turin is still the headquarters of many vermouth manufacturers, the most famous of which is Martini and Rossi.

Turin Chocolate Shop

Turin Chocolate Shop

Anchovies are used in many dishes. Bagna Caôda is a sauce made of garlic, olive oil, butter, anchovies and occasionally truffles. The sauce is served in a small earthenware pot that is kept hot while it is served. Vegetables are then dipped in the sauce.

A typical beef stew, bollito misto is usually made with four or more meats. Beef and chicken are staples of the dish, as is some type of sausage. These ingredients are often mixed with other meats that are available. The stew is served with a green sauce made from parsley, garlic, anchovies, olive oil and other ingredients according to the preference of the cook.

Turin, Italy is perhaps best known for the white truffle, a rare food that is sought by cooks around the world. Rare is the person who can afford white truffles as they generally sell for between $2,500 and $3,500 per pound. The white truffle season runs from September through December. During the season many towns around Turin have truffle fairs and auctions where you can often get tastes of regional dishes made with truffles.

torinoanchovies
Anchovies with Salsa Verde

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 10 anchovies in salt
  • 1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • Two handfuls of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 peperoncino (small hot chilli)
  • 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup of good virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic

Directions:

Wash the anchovies very well under cold running water to remove the salt. Remove the bones and allow the anchovies to dry.

Cook the garlic cloves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.

Put the garlic into a food processor with all the other ingredients except the anchovies and puree until smooth.

Put a little of the sauce onto a serving dish and layer the anchovies over it. Put some more sauce on top.

Let rest at room temperature for at least 1 or 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.

spaghetti with creamy sauce with chanterelle, bacon and parsley

Pasta with Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 oz pancetta, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 lb assorted mushrooms (Portobello, Crimini, Common White, etc.), thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
  • 4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped

Directions

Combine the dried porcini and the wine in a small bowl and soak for thirty minutes.

Fill a large pot with four to six quarts of water and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt to the water and stir. When the pasta is al dente, drain and pour onto a serving bowl.

Heat a large saute pan to medium high heat and add the pancetta. Cook until slightly crisp.

Add the butter and allow it to melt. When the bubbles have subsided, add the fresh mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until the juices have all but evaporated.

Raise the heat to high and add the porcini and wine. Add in the shallots and the thyme. Saute, stirring frequently until the wine has nearly evaporated. Add salt & pepper to taste and the cream.

Allow the sauce to boil until it has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.

Pour all of the mushroom sauce over the pasta and toss well. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

torinochicken

Chicken Torino Style

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking dish.

Sauté the garlic in a medium ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until light brown.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cut a slit in each chicken breast and fill the pocket with 1 slice of mozzarella, 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola cheese and half of the sautéed garlic.

Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each chicken breast.

In the same skillet used for the garlic, brown the chicken in the butter and remaining oil for about 2 minutes on each side.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

torinodessert

Gianduja Budino

Makes eight 6-ounce servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 sheets (12 grams) gelatin
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) gianduja chocolate*, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1 cup lightly sweetened whipped cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts

Directions

Heat the milk, cream and half of the sugar in a saucepan.

Whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture lightens in color.  Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water.

Once the milk mixture is hot, temper the yolk mixture by adding a little of the milk mixture at a time and whisking together until both mixtures are combined.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly. Heat the mixture to 175° F or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat.

Ring all of the excess water out of the gelatin and immediately add to the heated mixture. Stir until it is incorporated.

Strain half the heated mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and slowly whisk together until the mixture combines. Strain the remaining half of the heated mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk together.

Add the vanilla extract and combine.

Pour into serving dishes. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.  Garnish with whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts.

*Cooking Notes: Gianduja chocolate is  available at most gourmet food stores. If you are unable to find gelatin sheets, you can substitute 1 package (a scant 1 tablespoon) of the powdered gelatin.  Follow the manufacturer’s directions for softening the gelatin in water, then add to the heated mixture before straining over the gianduja.

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Tuscan Vineyard and Abbey painted by Marilyn Dunlap

Tuscan Vineyard and Abbey painted by Marilyn Dunlap

Chianti, Italy, is the Classico wine region in the province of Tuscany, Italy. Chianti” is the name of the wine region but the wine from Chianti is known as Chianti Classico, to distinguish it from other Chianti wines that come from areas of Tuscany outside the Chianti region. Stretching between Florence and Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is highly romanticized  area with its terracotta-roofed towns and vineyards stretching across sun-draped hillsides. However, you no longer will find the straw-wrapped wine bottles readily available. Today, Chianti vintners produce excellent, nuanced wines that are worthy of elegant surroundings.

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Chianti Vineyards

The Chianti DOCG covers all the Chianti wine region and includes a large stretch of land encompassing the western areas of Pisa near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Florentine hills to the north, the province of Arezzo in the east and the Siena hills to the south. These vineyards overlap the DOCG regions of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.  Any Sangiovese-based wine made according to the Chianti guidelines from these vineyards can be labelled and marked under the Chianti DOCG should the producer wish to use the designation.

The first definition of a wine-area called Chianti was made in 1716. In 1932 the Chianti area was completely re-drawn and divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina. Wines labelled “Chianti Classico” come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that includes the original Chianti heartland. Only Chianti from this zone may boast the black rooster seal (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the local association of producers.

chaintigrape

Sangiovese grapes

During the 1970s producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti. In 1995, it became legal to produce a Chianti made completely from Sangiovese grapes. For a wine to retain the name of Chianti, it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4–7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the “Classico” sub-area is not allowed to be labelled as “Superiore”.

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Antinori Winery

The Antinori family has been producing wine in the region since the 1300s.  The family company, Marchesi Antinori, is planting for the future. In the fall of 2012, a new, architecturally stunning winemaking facility, called Antinori nel Chianti Classico, was inaugurated. And in March of the following year, the glass-and-steel complex opened to the public for tours of its elegant cantina and grounds. “The idea was to bring the heart of the company back to the countryside where the wine is produced,” says Antinori, who represents the family wine business’s 25th generation. “We wanted to have a winery which was not a monument, but integrated in the landscape.”

Tasting Room

Antinori Tasting Room

The facility includes a 129,000-square-foot, multilevel winery, with an energy-efficient gravity-flow system and naturally cool underground barrel rooms that have yet to need air-conditioning. In addition, the new location houses the company’s headquarters, an auditorium, boutique, restaurant, museum, olive oil mill and a facility for producing sweet Vin Santo. Its most dramatic features are the glass-walled tasting rooms that rise above the cathedral-like barrel cellars and the exterior onion-peel staircase that climbs to a terrace built on a swooping 70-foot roof overhang.

chiantihow-to-read-an-italian-wine-label

Wine Type

Is identified in one of three ways (see below):

Region

The region or sub-region will always be located next to the classification level

Classification (DOCG, DOC, IGT, Vino da Tavola)

Wine Name

This is never next to the classification and often indicates that the wine is a blend of grapes, as in the case of a Super Tuscan wine.

Producer Name

Italian wineries will often use words like Tenuta, Azienda, Castello or Cascina in their name.

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What makes Chianti the perfect food wine?

Chianti, a red blend from Tuscany, is as essential to Italian cuisine as extra virgin olive oil.

When you think of pairing Chianti with food, most people think of pasta and it is a perfect combination, but there is so much more that you can pair with Chianti.

It’s a great compliment to strong-tasting poultry dishes, spiced lamb or even beef (as long as it’s not overly fatty). If you are looking for a good wine with pizza, Chianti is a good choice.

Lasagna

Chianti’s is a perfect accompaniment for lasagna. It’s higher acid level stands up well to Lasagna’s rich tomato sauce and it has enough flavor to stand up to sausage or meat that is often part of the dish.

Spaghetti Bolognese

A rich meat sauce made with a tomato and wine base pairs with Chianti.

Roasted Leg of Lamb

The herbs used to flavor the meat pair perfectly with the slightly acidic nature of Chianti.

Cioppino

It was first created in San Francisco by the fishermen whose diet was pretty much limited to whatever they caught at sea and didn’t sell. Trading with other fisherman for different types of seafood brought variety and, in the process, created one of the world’s favorite seafood stews. The brininess brought by the seafood along the tomato flavor are the ideal compliment for Chianti.

Pizza Margherita

Pair pizza with Chianti. Chianti is light enough to not overwhelm pizza Margherita’s simple flavors of basil, tomatoes and cheese.

Main Dish Recipes to Serve with Chianti Wine

chantimarket

Tuscan Market

Pork and Mushroom Ragu 

chiantiragu

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, minced
  • 2 lbs boneless pork ribs, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • One 16 oz can peeled tomatoes, in their juice and chopped
  • 1/4 flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 lb package pappardelle pasta

Directions

In a small saucepan, bring the beef broth to a boil. Soak porcini mushrooms in the boiled broth for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the porcini, chop them and set them aside. Reserve the broth.

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Add a layer of pork ribs and brown the meat on all sides, about 3 – 5 minutes per side. Remove the browned pork, set aside and repeat with the remaining pork until all the pieces are well browned.

Pour off any remaining fat from the pan. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms and cook until they are softened and most of the released juices evaporate. Add the garlic, onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the wine, meat, reserved porcini beef broth, chopped porcini mushrooms and tomatoes to the pot. Mix well and bring it to a brisk simmer.

Cover and adjust heat to a low simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Stir frequently, add 1/4 cup of water as needed to keep it moist.

Cook the pappardelle pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain. Mix the pasta with the ragu and top with the parsley.

Chicken and Sausage Skewers

chiantituscan-chicken-sausage-skewers

Ingredients

  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves chopped
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 2″ pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. thin sliced prosciutto, cut each slice in half
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh Italian sausage cut into 2″ pieces
  • Sage leaves
  • 12 skewers

Directions:

Over low heat in a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and the chopped rosemary leaves.  Once the oil and rosemary start to sizzle, remove from the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature (can be done 4 days in advance).

Whisk 1/4 cup of the rosemary oil with the white wine vinegar; add the chicken pieces and marinate for 30-60 minutes. Reserve the remaining oil.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and lightly season with salt and pepper. Wrap each piece of chicken with a piece of prosciutto.

Alternate the chicken and sausage on the skewers, placing a sage leaf between them. Each skewer should have about 2 pieces of chicken and 2 pieces of sausage to make 12 skewers.

Refrigerate the kebabs until ready to cook. When ready to grill, brush the chicken and sausage with some of the remaining rosemary oil.

Heat a grill and create a low heat section. Cook the skewers over low heat and turn frequently to avoid burning, about 5 minutes on each side. Brush with more rosemary oil if the meat appears dry during cooking.

Alternatively, the skewers can be cooked in the broiler until they are browned.

Classic San Francisco Cioppino

chantifishstew

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 large cooked Dungeness crab (about 2 pounds), cracked and cleaned, still in the shell.
  • 2 pounds fresh halibut fillet or other firm-fleshed white fish, cubed
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 dozen mussels OR clams OR oysters OR a combination of those, depending on what is available

Directions

In a large pot, melt the butter with the olive oil over low heat.

Sauté the celery, onions and garlic until soft (about 5 minutes). Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the seafood and simmer on low heat, uncovered, for one hour. Add a little water if the sauce becomes too thick. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Add the white fish and shrimp. Simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes. Add mussels and simmer for 3-5 minutes more, until the shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Add the crab last and just heat through. Ladle the stew into large bowls and serve with crusty sourdough bread and lots of napkins.

Sunday Braciole

chiantibeef

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds, pounded to 1/8 inch thickness
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the filling over the flank steak covering it evenly.  Starting at the shorter end, roll up the flank steak into a tight cylinder. Tie the roll with butcher’s twine (kitchen string).

Heat a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the braciole. Brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total.

Carefully remove the braciole to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes to incorporate all the ingredients.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the braciole back into the pan.  Cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven. Bake turning the braciole every 30 minutes and basting with the tomato sauce.

After one hour uncover the pan and bake until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add more wine or water to the sauce if needed as it cooks.

Remove the braciole from the sauce and let rest for ten minutes. Remove the twine.

Slice the braciole into 1 inch thick slices.  Transfer to a warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over. Sprinkle with the basil and parsley.

chiantimap


aostafontina

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

aostamountains

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

Roman Theater Remains

Roman Theater Remains

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

hydroelectric dam

Hydroelectric Dam

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

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

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

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aostacheesemaking

aostacheesemaking3

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

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

aostacheesemaking4

aostafontinacave

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

aostavineyard

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

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

aostawine

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

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

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

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

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

Grolla Coffee

aostacoffee

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

Ingredients

For 4 people:

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Pasticcio di Penne alla Valdostana (Baked Penne Aosta Style)

aostapasta

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

aostameat

Serves 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions

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

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

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

Twisted Cookies from Val d’Aosta

aostacookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aostamap


IMG_0013

Pining for a great steak dinner or celebrating a special occasion? A trip to s premium steakhouse will cost you the following:

Morton’s 3 course steak dinner for one is $150-160.

Ruth’s Chris price for just the cowboy rib eye is $50.

Gibson’s Steakhouse in Chicago – premium steaks average $40 to $60 per steak.

Dinner at less prestigious steak restaurants will be at least $90 per person.

If you make this special dinner at home, and I did, this is what it cost me:

Cost of a quality steakhouse dinner at home for 2 is less than $30 plus whatever your wine cost. These are prices for my area and the vegetables are in season and often on sale here

1 1/2 lb organic, grass fed French cut rib eye steak cost $22.50

Prices at the market this week:

$1.99 per lb for asparagus = $2.98 for 1 ½ lbs

5 lb bag of red potatoes on sale for $3.49 = $1.40 for 2 lbs needed for the recipe.

1 lb mushrooms were $2.49

IMG_0010

Grilled French Cut Rib Eye Steak

This steak has several names, such as cowboy or tomahawk. The steak can be grilled over indirect heat or it can be baked in the oven,

It is a large steak and we will only eat part of it. However, I like having leftovers that I can use for a salad or a quesadilla later in the week.

Ingredients

  • One 22 – 24 oz French Cut Rib Eye Steak
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

One hour before grilling, remove the steak from the refrigerator. Season it liberally with the salt and pepper. Let it rest at room temperature until it is time to grill.

Set the grill up for direct and indirect heat.

Put the steak on the grill over indirect heat. Close the lid, and cook the steak, turning a few times during cooking. The steak is ready for searing when it reaches 115°F  in the thickest part of the steak, about 25 – 30 minutes.

Brush the steak with some of the melted butter, then slide it to the direct heat side of the grill. Sear the steak until a brown crust forms on the steak. This should take about two minutes on each side, at which point the steak should reach 125°F for medium rare.

Remove the steak to a platter and baste i,t one last time, with the butter. Let the steak rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Oven Baked Method

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the steak to the skillet. Cook until seared and golden brown, 2 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven..

Roast steak in the oven, turning halfway through cooking and basting frequently with the butter in the pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into steak registers 125° for medium-rare, about 15 minutes, or to your desired temperature.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

IMG_0012

Balsamic Sautéed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • Pinch Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Combine the vinegar and the brown sugar in a small cup and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a medium skillet and saute the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt and black pepper.

Turn the heat to low and add the vinegar mixture. Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glaze consistency that coats the mushrooms, 15 to 20 seconds.

IMG_0015

Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus spears, ends trimmed
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Heavy duty foil

Directions

Lay the asparagus on a large sheet of heavy duty foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then with the garlic and lemon zest. Pour the melted butter over the asparagus.

Enclose the asparagus in the foil and seal the edges tightly. Place the package on the direct heat side of the grill while the steak is cooking.

Cook the asparagus for 8 minutes, turn the package over and cook another 8 minutes. Be careful opening the package because the steam will be very hot.

IMG_0008

Warm Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, ppelled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Place potatoes in a medium-sized saucepan covered 2 inches by salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.

In the same saucepan, combine the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, vinegar and red onion. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat.

Add the drained potatoes and toss with the warm dressing, celery and parsley. Salt to taste and serve warm.


comfortfoodcover

This time of year the weather can be quite unpredictable. A few days of nice, warm, sunny weather and them the cold comes roaring back. Those are the days when you want some warming comfort food again. Here are a few recipes to keep you comfy.

comfortfood1

Chicken Osso Bucco

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 lb)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 8-oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 3 teaspoons lemon peel
  • 28 oz can Italian crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 16 oz dried linguine pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

In shallow bowl, mix flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Coat chicken in the flour mixture and shake off the excess flour.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the coated chicken and cook 12 to 15 minutes, turning once, until golden brown.

Place chicken in an ungreased 13 x 9 inch (3-quart) baking dish; set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, celery, mushrooms and garlic; cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Stir in 3 tablespoons of the Italian parsley, 2 teaspoons of the lemon peel, the tomatoes and chicken broth; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Pour tomato mixture over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake 45 to 50 minutes or a meat thermometer inserted in the chicken registers 165°F.

Cook pasta al dente and drain.

In a small skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add bread crumbs; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown; remove from the heat.

Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon peel. Serve chicken over pasta and sprinkle with bread crumb mixture.

comfortfood3

Mushroom Broccoli Flatbread

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 oz package frozen broccoli florets, defrosted
  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1 ½ cups (6 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Coat a large (15 inch) cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

Dry broccoli on paper towels.

Press pizza dough to the edges of the pan. Bake about 8 minutes or until light golden brown.

In a small bowl, mix the oil and garlic. Brush on the baked pizza crust. Top with mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, cheese and pepper flakes.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until the crust is deep golden brown and the cheese is melted. Cut into squares to serve.

comfortfood5

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Bake

8 servings

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 oz penne pasta
  • ¼ cup butter plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups chopped fresh Tuscan kale (lacinato)
  • 28 oz can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (2 cups)
  • ½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan with foil; lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir bell pepper, mushrooms, onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the olive oil until well blended. Spread on the prepared pan in a single layer.

comfortfood4

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the vegetables are tender and golden brown.

In a 4 to 5 quart Dutch oven, cook pasta al dente and drain. Return pasta to the pan.

In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt the 1/4 cup of the butter over medium heat. Add flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper flakes; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy. Gradually stir in milk; cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Coat a 13 x 9 inch (3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.

Stir roasted vegetables, sauce, kale, tomatoes and chickpeas into the cooked pasta in the Dutch oven until well blended.

Spoon half of the pasta mixture into the baking dish; sprinkle evenly with 1 cup of the cheese. Repeat with remaining pasta mixture and remaining 1 cup cheese.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter uncovered on High about 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir in the bread crumbs until well blended.

Uncover the baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly onto the pasta mixture Bake 8-10 minutes or until the bread crumbs are light golden brown.

comfortfood6

Steak with Italian Mushroom Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz baby portabellas, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 (1-inch thick) boneless steaks, such as NY strip or ribeye (1 1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato (marinara) sauce
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Season steaks with salt. Place oil in the pan, then add the steaks and cook 3 minutes without turning.

Turn steaks and cook 5–6 minutes or until the steaks register 145°F (for medium rare) on a meat thermometer.

Remove the steaks from the pan; cover to keep warm. Add mushrooms, onions and pepper flakes to the pan; cook and stir 5 minutes.

Add stock and tomato sauce to the mushroom mixture. Reduce heat to low; simmer 4–5 minutes, stirring occasionally or until reduced by about one-half. Stir in parsley.

Slice steak; top with sauce and Parmesan cheese. Serve.

comfortfood2

Quick Bean and Italian Kale Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion,
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery,
  • 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
  • ¾ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-½ cups water
  • 14.5 oz can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 15 oz can low sodium Great Northern beans, drained
  • 1 ½ cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chopped Italian kale, stems removed
  • ½ cup dry small pasta shells, uncooked
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and garlic and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.

Add water, undrained tomatoes, beans and tomato sauce; stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil.

Add kale and pasta; stir. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the kale and pasta are tender, stirring occasionally. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

'I reduce my stress with comfort food. Now none of my clothes are comfortable.'

‘I reduce my stress with comfort food. Now none of my clothes are comfortable.’


slowcookercover

Using a slow cooker is a great way to save time and still prepare a nutritious meal. Assemble the meal in the morning, put it in the slow cooker and at the end of the day, dinner is ready — without much mess or many dishes to clean. The device requires only a small amount of electricity to do its work — compared with a standard oven — and a slow cooker uses a lot less energy, so it won’t heat up an entire kitchen the way an oven does.

Cooking with a slow cooker can also be an economically smart choice, because you can use cheaper cuts of meat. Condensation acts as a self-baster, so tougher cuts of meat become tender in a slow cooker. Just because you’re saving time and money doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing taste. Vegetables cooked in a slow cooker can absorb stocks and spices, giving them fuller flavors.

The high and low settings on the device allow you to adjust the temperature for the length of time you want the meal to cook. Today, slow cookers come in all shapes and sizes. There are manual cookers, programmable cookers with digital timers and small cookers designed solely for heating dips. Slow cookers can be either round or oval to accommodate different types of food and they can range in size from one to seven quarts.

It is common knowledge that a slow cooker is good for making soups and stews, but did you know you can make lasagna in a slow cooker?

slowcooker2

Mushroom Spinach Lasagna

LOW 5 hours 20 minutes

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 6 oz baby spinach leaves
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups tomato or marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 oz) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 dried lasagna noodles, uncooked
  • 1-½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Directions

Spray the inside of a 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add spinach; cook 3 minutes more or until the mushrooms are tender and the spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally.

Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and pepper in small bowl; set aside.

Spread 3/4 cup sauce mixture over the bottom of the slow cooker pan. Layer 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce mixture, breaking noodles to fit.

Top with 3/4 cup sauce mixture, ricotta cheese mixture and 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

Add 3/4 cup sauce mixture and the remaining 3 lasagna noodles, breaking to fit. Spoon remaining sauce mixture over the noodles.

Cover; cook on LOW 5 hours until the noodles are tender. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

slowcooker1

Pork Shoulder Sugo

Called sugo, bolognese or ragu, depending on the region — or gravy among some Italian Americans — Italy’s long-simmering meat sauces are legendary. There is a practical side to a ragu, as well, because they get better a day or two after cooking, so they are ideal for dinner parties. They also freeze well for instant pasta meals during the week. Reheat the sauce, cook the pasta and make a salad. You have dinner all set.

LOW 8 hours or HIGH 4 hours

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (3 cups)
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, peeled
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • 3 to 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed of fat
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 28 oz container Italian crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 32 oz low sodium chicken stock
  • 6 oil-packed anchovies

Directions

In large bowl, mix onions, carrots, celery, garlic, salt, oregano and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown pork shoulder 4 minutes on the fattest side, then turn and cook 3 minutes each on the other 3 sides. Transfer to 6-quart slow cooker.

Add onion mixture to the skillet with the pork juices; cook 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown. Add red wine; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until all the liquid is absorbed.

Stir in tomatoes; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Pour mixture over the pork in the slow cooker. Add chicken stock and anchovies; stir liquid.

Cook on Low heat setting 8 hours or High heat setting 4 hours.

Transfer pork to a cutting board; cool slightly. Cool liquid 10 minutes, then carefully puree in a blender in batches (or use an immersion blender), and return the mixture to the slow cooker.

Set the slow cooker to the Warm heat setting. Shred pork, discarding any pieces of fat. Add pork to the liquid in the slow cooker and stir to combine.

Leave on warm until you cook the pasta. Dress the pasta with some of the sauce.

slowcooker4

Tuscan Chicken and Beans

6 servings

HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted oil cured Italian olives
  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 3 cups cooked orzo pasta
  • Lemon slices, for garnish

Directions

Coat the bowl of a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place onion and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Season chicken on both sides with Italian seasoning, thyme and black pepper and arrange the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Drizzle lemon juice over the chicken and evenly spoon tomatoes and olives on top.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking time, stir in the beans and oregano.

Serve chicken and sauce over cooked orzo. Garnish with lemon slices.

slowcooker3

Italian Steak and Peppers

4 servings

HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless round steak, cut into 4 equal pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Cubanelle peppers (Italian long peppers), seeds removed, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, sliced
  • 1 sweet (Vidalia/Walla Walla) onion, sliced
  • 8-10 oz white mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Purchased polenta that comes in a tube shape, sliced into rounds and grilled or broiled
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Coat bowl of slow cooker with cooking spray.

Season both sides of the steaks with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Place in the slow cooker. Scatter Cubanelle peppers, red pepper, onion and mushrooms over the top of the meat.

In a small bowl, combine broth, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Pour over peppers, onions and mushrooms.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours.

Place grilled polenta rounds on the dinner plates. Add the steaks and some of the peppers, onions, mushrooms and spoon some of the sauce over the top of each steak. Garnish with basil leaves.

slowcooker5

Italian Sausage and Farro Stuffed Peppers

4 servings

LOW for 4 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 large red, orange or yellow bell peppers (7 to 8 oz each)
  • 12 oz sweet Italian pork or turkey sausage links, casings removed 
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small zucchini, grated (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • ¾ cup uncooked pearled farro
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut a 1/2 inch off the top stem end of each bell pepper. Remove the seeds and membranes; rinse the peppers. Remove the stems from the pepper tops and chop the pepper tops; set aside.

Combine the two cheeses and set aside.

In a 10-inch skillet, cook sausage and crushed red pepper over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink; drain. Remove to large bowl; set aside.

In same skillet over medium heat, add onion and garlic; cook and stir about 3 minutes. Add chopped bell pepper tops; cook 2 minutes. Add zucchini; cook and stir 2 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, pepper and salt. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from the heat.

Add farro to the sausage in the bowl and mix to combine. Add onion mixture; mix well. Gently stir in 2 tablespoons of the basil, the oregano and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Divide this  mixture evenly among the peppers.

Pour 1/3 cup water into a 5- to 6-quart oval slow cooker. Place stuffed peppers upright in the slow cooker, leaning against each other and the slow cooker sides to prevent them from falling over.

Cover; cook on Low heat setting 4 to 5 hours or until the peppers and farro are tender. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over the tops of the peppers.

Cover; let stand 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Using tongs and a slotted spoon, remove the peppers to serving plates and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil.

'Whatever's the most durable. This is the fifth year it's been regifted.'


Gardens of Palazzo Vicentini.

Gardens of Palazzo Vicentini.

The Province of Rieti  is located in the northeast section of the Lazio region in the heart of Italy and was established in 1927. The territory is mostly mountainous and there are two artificial lakes created during the Fascist period. There are several protected areas in the province. To the south lies the Parco regionale naturale dei Monti Lucretili and to the southeast is the Riserva regionale Montagne della Duchessa. Between the two areas is the Riserva naturale Monte Navegna e Monte Cervia. These areas support a diversity of wildlife, particularly birds such as herons and grebes. Numerous castles, fortresses and Franciscan sanctuaries can be found throughout the Rieti Province.

Mount Terminillo in summer.

Mount Terminillo in summer.

Remains of the Roman Bridge (3rd century BC)

Remains of the Roman Bridge (3rd century BC)

During the Roman Empire the province was a strategic point in the early Italian road network, that was known as the “salt” track and it linked Rome to the Adriatic Sea through the Apennine Mountains. According to Roman tradition, a stone bridge was laid across the Velino river and a large viaduct was built to bring goods from the road directly to the cities. After the fall of the Roman Empire the province suffered destruction by invaders. The area was rebuilt during the 12th century and for a time it was a favorite Papal seat.

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Bell Tower of St. Mary Cathedral

Palazzo Comunale.

Palazzo Comunale.

Feasts and festivals are also among the province’s highlights. A festival dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua has taken place for 600 years in the old town of Rieti, with a procession through the streets. In Antrodoco, the Sagra degli Stracci (Festival of Rags) is an occasion to taste local culinary specialties. The Festa della Madonna della Neve e del Toro Ossequioso (Festival of Our Lady of the Snow and of the Fulsome Bull) is held in Posta, in which a man rides a harnessed bull and brings it before the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, where it will be made to kneel three times. The Festa Dolce Primavera (Sweet Spring Festival) in Castel Sant’Angelo is a competition between the 10 municipalities in preparing the most delicious desserts. There are many any are carnival festivities, with floats parading through the towns of Amatrice and Magliano Sabina during the celebrations.

Fontana dei delfini. fountain in Vittorio Emanuele II square

Fontana dei delfini. fountain in Vittorio Emanuele II square

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Farmers’ Market Vegetables

The presence of forests means that local produce includes chestnuts, mushrooms, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, juniper and white and black truffles. The farms produce fresh, salted or seasoned cheese, such as ricotta made with goat’s milk; the Fiore Molle from Leonessa, flavored with saffron and pecorino from Amatrice. Growing conditions for vegetables is ideal, especially for garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, artichokes, olives and grapes. Sausages come from Leonessa and Amatrice and dry sausages are made in the city of Rieti.

Fried pizzas in the Rieti area are usually eaten with cold meats like ham, sausage or pork loin and they are sometimes stuffed with vegetables and cheese.

Fried pizzas in the Rieti area are usually eaten with cold meats like ham, sausage or pork loin and they are sometimes stuffed with vegetables and cheese.

Amatriciana is one of the best known pasta sauces in Roman and Italian cuisine.

Amatriciana is one of the best known pasta sauces in Roman and Italian cuisine.

La Copeta

La Copeta

Local favorite dishes include stracciatelle in brodo (similar to egg-drop soup); spaghetti all’amatriciana; pollo (chicken) alla diavola; stracci di Antrodoco – thin pancakes filled with meat sauce and cheese; stufatino garofolo and spezzatino di pollo (chicken stews), agnello in guazzetto (lamb stew) and porchetta di Poggio Bustone (pork).
Sweets include: terzetti alla reatina, soft cookies made with honey and nuts; copeta are  made with honey and nuts between layers of bay leaves and pizza di Pasqua (Easter pizza).

A well-known local wine is Colli della Sabina D.O.C. and it is available in white, red and rosé.

rietimushrooms

Bruschetta with Porcini Mushrooms

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 slices ciabatta bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic
  • 8 oz fresh porcini mushrooms
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper

Directions

In a hot grill pan, toast the bread on each side; then lightly rub one side with a clove of garlic and drizzle each with olive oil. Set aside.

Slice the mushrooms thickly taking care to keep the stalk and the cap intact.

Smash the garlic cloves with the flat blade of a knife.

In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and butter and fry the smashed garlic for a few seconds before adding the mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat until they are browned and just cooked. Remove the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the bruschetta on warm plates and top with the mushrooms and parsley leaves. Serve immediately.

rietieggplant

Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 (1 pound or smaller) round dark purple eggplants
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil for the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 pound ground veal or pork or beef
  • 3 cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a box in the center of each eggplant half, coming about half an inch from the sides and cutting down to within half an inch of the bottom.

Using a large spoon, pry the center free. It should come out fairly easily and use the spoon to scrape any excess eggplant from the inside of the box.

Place the eggplant shells cut side down on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Cover the excess eggplant flesh with plastic wrap and set aside. Repeat, cleaning all the eggplants.

Chop the onion and combine it with one-fourth cup of the olive oil in a large skillet. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Add the minced garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the meat to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is lightly brown, about 5 minutes.

Finely dice the reserved eggplant flesh and add it to the skillet and cook until the eggplant has softened completely, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and parsley and remove from the heat.

Oil a large baking dish with the remaining olive oil and pour the remaining crushed tomatoes into the dish. Arrange the eggplant halves in the baking dish. They should fit tightly.

Spoon the meat mixture into the eggplant halves, dividing evenly.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes, then remove the foil and spoon some of the tomatoes from the bottom of the baking dish over the eggplant.

Re-cover with aluminum foil and bake, spooning the tomato mixture over the eggplants once after another 15-minutes.

After 45 minutes total cooking time, scatter the grated cheese generously over the top of each eggplant. Bake uncovered until the cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

rietipotato

Boiled Potatoes with Celery

Ingredients

  • 2 tender inner celery stalks, sliced diagonally 1/8″ thick
  • 2 lbs boiling potatoes (about 6 medium potatoes)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Oil-cured black olives, for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil.

When the water comes to a rolling boil, add salt and, then, add the celery. Blanch until it is still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.

Remove the celery using a slotted spoon and scatter it on a baking sheet to cool.

Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain them and place on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, peel them using a paring knife. Carefully cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices.

In a large bowl, season the warm potatoes with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes and mix well. Add the parsley and celery and mix well.

Let it sit for an hour. Garnish with the olives and serve at room temperature.

rieticookiess

Roman Honey Sesame Cookies

Makes about 40 small cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature; extra melted butter for dipping the baked cookies
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds

Directions

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine butter, honey and eggs with an electric mixer until well combined. Gradually beat in the flour mixture.  Cover and chill the dough about 1 hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease two baking sheets. Form chilled dough into logs and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure not to overcook or they will be dry.

While warm, dip in a bowl of melted butter and then into a bowl of sesame seeds. Cool on a wire rack.

rietimap



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