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Tag Archives: Italian American recipes

 

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Italian American cuisine is a popular and delicious cuisine. It is a style of cooking adopted throughout the United States that was shaped by waves of Italian immigrants and their descendants. However, what is known in America as Italian food is often not found on the Italian table.

Pizza originated in Naples but Americans usually don’t like the original Neapolitan pizza with a crust that tends to be soggy in the middle — unlike the crisp New York Italian American version. Italian Americans continued to put new spins on the Neapolitan version. In Chicago, they created the deep-dish pizza. New Haven’s legendary Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is famous for its white clam topping. Corporations also got into the act, including Domino’s and California Pizza Kitchen. Few foods are more popular in American and pizza is now synonymous with American cuisine.

If you go to Naples and ask for a Pepperoni Pizza – what you’ll get is pizza with peppers, because the word pepperoni in Italian sounds almost the same and, in Italy, there is no type of salami called pepperoni. In Italy, you would need to ask for pizza with sausage or spicy salami.

It is traditional in Campania to make a soup with green vegetables and meat, especially pork, called Minestra Maritata, which is the translation for wedding soup or married soup. It is not what Americans call “Italian Wedding Soup”.

Garlic bread- no Italian restaurant will ever serve that to you. Instead bruschetta is served as an appetizer topped with fresh chopped tomatoes or rubbed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

In Italy, they make meatballs and sometimes small meatballs can be found in lasagna, but no Italian family serves spaghetti with meatballs for dinner.

No one in Italy knows what marinara sauce is. There may be different variants of such a sauce that depend on regional or family traditions (with or without garlic, with or without onions, with or without carrots, with or without a pinch of sugar to counter acidity, etc.) but tomato sauce is simply called “salsa” or “sugo” depending on whether you’re from northern or southern Italy. What’s commonly called marinara sauce in America is tomato sauce in Italy that is the base for pizza, pasta, etc., but without garlic or onion or herbs that are not fresh basil.

Parmigiana is made with eggplant, tomato, caciocavallo cheese and basil. No chicken or veal. At best, in some parts of Italy, they alternate the layers of eggplant with prosciutto or beaten eggs for added flavor.

Here are some classic Italian American recipes for you to try:

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New York Style Pizza

Authentic Italian pizza is far less cheesy than its American counterpart and definitely won’t have a cheese-filled crust.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir to dissolve. Mix in the flour, salt and olive oil. When the dough thickens, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Knead in a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

When the dough has risen, flatten it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll or stretch out into a 12 inch circle and place on a baking pan. If you are using a pizza stone, you may place it on a piece of parchment while preheating the stone in the oven.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with oregano, mozzarella cheese, basil, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bottom of the crust is browned when you lift up the edge a little and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Marinara Sauce

Pasta alla marinara (“mariner style” pasta) does exist in Italy, but it’s usually prepared with shellfish or olives—sometimes both. In the United States, the term “marinara” refers to the simple tomato-based “red” sauce that’s a standard in Italian-American cooking.

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 6 oz can tomato paste
  • Four 28 oz containers Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute the vegetables and garlic. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and the dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.

Simmer, uncovered, for another hour or until the sauce thickens.

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Chicken Parmigiana

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten lightly or egg whites or egg substitute
  • 2 chicken breasts, halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups Homemade Marinara, recipe above
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 8 slices of mozzarella cheese

Directions

Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour and eggs in three separate dishes.

First, dredge chicken breast halves in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, make sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in the breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Fry chicken until golden. Be sure to turn for even cooking, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from the hot oil and onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

To bake, preheat oven to 375˚F.  Spread about 1 cup of Marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Arrange the breaded cutlets on top of the sauce. Top with 1 cup of Marinara, covering each piece. Sprinkle with Parmigiano.  Cover the dish with foil and bake, 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbling.

Uncover and place a slice of mozzarella on each cutlet. Bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

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Shrimp Scampi

“Shrimp scampi” is a dish where large shrimp are sautéed with garlic, wine, butter, herbs and red pepper flakes, then served over pasta or rice. It is a staple in Italian-American restaurants, most likely the descendant of an Italian recipe that involves langoustines sautéed in wine, olive oil, onion and garlic. Langoustines are a type of tiny lobster, called scampi in Italy. Italian-American cooks adapted the recipe but kept the old name.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails attached
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 lb thin spaghetti, cooked
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped parsley

Directions

Heat 4 tablespoons butter and the olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook, turning once, until beginning to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate; set aside.

Add chili flakes, garlic and shallots to the skillet; cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add wine, lemon juice and zest; cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Add pasta, reserved shrimp and remaining butter; toss until evenly combined. Transfer to a serving platter with the cooked spaghetti; sprinkle with parsley.

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Mozzarella Sticks

This great appetizer comes to you from Little Italy. However, if you’re looking for mozzarella sticks in Italy, according to Fodor’s, there is only one place you’ll find them—McDonald’s.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 (16 ounce) package mozzarella cheese sticks or a 16 oz block cut into 4 by 1/4-inch sticks
  • Marinara Sauce

Directions

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs.

In another shallow bowl place the breadcrumbs.

One at a time, coat each mozzarella stick in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the procedure with all the coated cheese sticks (double coat), dip the sticks in the egg again and then in the breadcrumbs.

Return to the baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer until all the sticks are frozen. I usually leave them there overnight.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees F.  Fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Serve with warm marinara for dipping.

Variation

You can also bake the mozzarella sticks. Place the frozen sticks on an ungreased baking sheet; drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for about 8 minutes turning them over after 4 minutes. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.

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Rainbow Cookies

These famous cookies, also known as Tricolor Cookies, Neapolitans, Venetians or Seven Layer Cakes, can always be found in Little Italy. They were invented in New York by Italian immigrants who designed them to invoke the flag of their motherland.

Ingredients

  • 1- 8 ounce can almond paste
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 drops green food coloring
  • 8 drops red food coloring
  • 1- 12 ounce jar apricot preserves
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dishes; line with waxed paper; grease paper.

Break up paste in large mixer bowl with fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract and beat with the mixer until fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and salt.

Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the almond mixture with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

Remove 1-1/2 cups batter; spread evenly into one of prepared pans. Remove another 1-1/2 cups batter to small bowl; tint green with coloring and spread in the second pan. Tint remaining 1-1/2 cups of batter red. Spread in remaining pan.

Bake 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden; cake layers will each be about 1/4 inch thick. Immediately remove cakes from the pans onto large wire racks. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Cool.

Place red layer on an upturned jelly roll pan. Heat preserves; strain; spread half of the strained preserves over the red layer. Top with the white layer. Spread with remaining preserves. Cover with the green layer, top side up.

Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with large wooden cutting board, heavy flat tray or large book. Refrigerate overnight.

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Trim cake edges even. Cut cake crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Frost the layer side of one strip with chocolate. Turn strip on its side and frost the other (green) side. Let chocolate dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Repeat with remaining strips. Makes 6 dozen. Cookies freeze well.

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Rocky Mountain States

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

Wyoming

Wyoming Coal Camps

Wyoming Coal Camps

Classic Example of an American Entrepreneur:

Italian Immigrants came to Wyoming in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and most worked in Wyoming’s mining industry. The bulk of Italian immigration to Wyoming was between 1890 and 1910. By 1910, 7.7 percent of Wyoming’s foreign-born population was Italian. The Italian immigrants originated from the northern provinces of Lombardy, Tuscany, and Piedmont. By 1920 more than sixty percent of Wyoming’s Italians lived in Laramie, Sweetwater and Uinta counties.

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Domenico Roncaglio was born in Rock Springs, Wyoming, in 1916. The son of Italian immigrants, he was known as “Teno” to his friends and later changed his last name to Roncalio. Teno was one of a family of nine children. Teno obtained his first job, operating a push cart at the age of five years. The next year he took over a shoe shine stand in a local barber shop. By the time he was sixteen years old, Teno had passed the Wyoming Barber Board of Examiners and was the holder of a Journeyman Barber’s Union card. Teno worked in the barber shop throughout his high school years but after graduation went to work on the Rock Springs Rocket as a combination reporter and advertising salesman. For six years Teno worked for the newspaper, gaining much valuable experience.

In 1938 he entered the University of Wyoming as a Journalism and pre-law student. To help out with expenses, Teno and a Rock Springs buddy, Frank Larrabaster, made stencil duplicates of basketball schedules and sold advertising to go with them. During his years at the University, Teno ran a snack bar in his dormitory, waited tables and washed dishes at Annie Moore’s boarding house, tended the furnace, shoveled snow and scrubbed floors. Any job was a good job as long as it helped pay the college expenses. During his second year at the University, Teno was elected Student Body President and got his first taste of politics.

His service to the people of Wyoming had to wait, though, since America went to war. In 1942, Teno joined the Army and fought with the First Infantry Division, 18th Regiment, in North Africa. Teno later fought in Sicily, Italy and on D-Day on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Teno was also there as the Americans fought Germany and ended the War in Europe. Teno Roncalio would leave the Army a Captain with a Silver Star for gallantry and returned home a hero. That is when his long career as a public servant began. After returning to the University of Wyoming to complete his law degree, Teno would serve his community and state as a Representative in Congress for 5 terms.

Source: Teno Roncalio, U. S. CONGRESSMAN FROM WYOMING by Mabel E. Brown.

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Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna

By Deborah Johnson of Cody, Wyoming

9 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sweet red peppers
  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2-1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut each pepper into quarters; remove seeds. Place peppers, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 4 in. from the heat for 20-25 minutes or until skin is blistered and blackened. Immediately place peppers in a bowl; cover and let stand for 15-20 minutes. Peel off and discard skin. Cut peppers into 1/4-in. strips.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain. In a saucepan, cook red peppers and garlic in oil for 1 minute; add the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, basil and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and nutmeg until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Spread 1 cup pepper sauce in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three noodles, 1-1/2 cups pepper sauce, 1 cup white sauce and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, white sauce and pepper sauce. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

Colorado

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Italians first started coming to Colorado as early as the 1850s. They came for many reasons but the majority — particularly later immigrants — came to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

In the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s, the area in Denver between Broadway and Zuni Streets on the east and west and 46th and 32nd Avenues on the north and south was known as “Little Italy”. It was an area of Italian grocery stores and bakeries, community bread ovens, churches and schools; an area where a new wave of immigrants from all over Italy moved to and where they were comfortable and socially secure in a new country.

The area along the South Platte River sandwiched between Denver’s growing downtown and the hills to the west was known as “The Bottoms”. Here many of the first Italian immigrants settled. There was also farmland along the South Platte where they could grow cash crops of vegetables that were then sold in small, neighborhood shops and from push carts and horse-drawn wagons throughout the neighborhoods of Denver.

Although created by accident, these neighborhoods combined many elements of wise urban planning and organization — self-contained communities with their own institutions. They offered, first, a cloak of familiarity — the language, customs and foods of the homeland and they fostered valuable social and economic networks, helping the newest arrivals to get established quickly.

Denver's Italian American Bank

Denver’s Italian American Bank

The Denver Post reported that members of the Polidori family have been blending ground pork with just the right balance of salt and spices for more than 80 years.

Ensconced in an unpretentious building that includes what was once the carriage house behind the old Coors Mansion in north Denver, Steve Polidori and his sister, Melodie Polidori Harris, are continuing a tradition launched in 1925, when their great-grandfather, Rocco and his wife, Anna, opened Polidori’s Grocery and Meat Market. It was there that Anna first prepared the sausage recipe she brought with her from Abruzzi, her hometown in Italy.

Polidori

Polidori

Anna came through Ellis Island and ended up in Utah, where she met and married Rocco, who was then a miner. After he fell victim to black lung disease, they moved to Colorado for fresh air. Rocco’s brother owned a grocery store. In time Rocco and Anna bought the store. She became the butcher. From time to time, she would make sausage for her husband and herself. Customers would come in, smell the sausage cooking, ask for samples and, before long, they were asking to buy it.

When they could no longer run the store, their sons, Louis and Augie, took over and ran it for almost 40 years. The brother-sister team (the son and daughter of Gary, an attorney, and Ruth Ann Polidori, a retired district court judge) represents the fourth generation to sustain the family business.

Today, the Polidori twosome are behind the Polidori Meat Processors, a family business that has grown its product line to include chorizo, breakfast sausage, bratwurst and meatballs, in addition to hot and mild Italian sausage. Polidori sausages are now found throughout the metro area.

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Rigatoni with Polidori Sausage

4 appetizer servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound rigatoni
  • 1/4 pound spicy Polidori Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Cook rigatoni in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Cook sausage in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until no longer pink, stirring frequently and breaking up with back of wooden spoon. Add garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Drain off excess oil and return pot to medium-high heat. Stir in marinara sauce and crushed red pepper, then pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide pasta among four 1 1/4-cup soufflé dishes or custard cups. Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan over. Place in broiler until cheese melts and begins to brown, watching closely to prevent burning, about 1 1/2 minutes. Sprinkle rigatoni with parsley, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Utah

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Italian immigrants were one of the largest groups of Europeans to move into Utah. The bulk of Italians came to Utah during the period from the 1890s to the 1920s in response to demands for unskilled labor in the mining and railroad industries. Italians came primarily from the regions of Piemonte, Veneto, Abruzzi, Lazio, Calabria and Sicilia. Immigrants were attracted to four counties, Carbon, Salt Lake, Tooele and Weber. Coal mining, metal mining, work in the mills, smelters, refineries, railroading, farming, ranching and involvement in service-related industries and businesses provided livelihoods for these immigrants.

Italian coal miners played an important role in the Carbon County strike of 1903-04 with labor organizer, Carlo Demolli, assuming a leading role for the United Mine Workers of America. From the late 1910s through the 1930s, Frank Bonacci from Decollatura, Italy, led a tireless effort for UMWA recognition. After union recognition was achieved in the 1930s, Bonacci became the first Italian-American elected to the Utah House of Representatives.

As an early hub of the D&RGW Railroad, the town of Helper became an important Italian settlement. Joseph Barboglio became especially important as the founder of Helper State Bank, an institution that aided Italians with their economic needs.

Many immigrants resided in Salt Lake City and in the mining areas of Bingham Canyon, Magna, Midvale and Murray. The west side of Salt Lake housed a “Little Italy” around a cluster of shops and businesses that catered to Italian tastes. One such establishment was F. Anselmo and Company, located on Rio Grande Street.

In the south end of the city, immigrants had truck farms that supplied fruit and produce to the Farmer’s Market in Salt Lake City. Others, including Luigi Nicoletti, operated goat ranches that specialized in cheese and meat goods sold to Italian miners.

Those who lived in Tooele County found work in the mining town of Mercur, an early central location for Italians and the site of one of their first fraternal organizations. Photographs survive that show bocce (a form of bowling) being played by Italians in the streets. Work was found in the Tooele smelter (run by the International Smelting and Refining Company), where safety signs were printed in Italian and other languages.

Italian-language newspapers produced in Utah included Il Minatore, La Gazzetta Italiana, La Scintilla, and Il Corriere D’America.

Sunnyside had its own Italian band, complete with a music professor from Grimaldi, Italy. Salt Lake City Italians enjoyed the music of various individuals and bands who often played at dances and celebrations. Even the San Carlo Opera Company managed to give concerts in Utah. Accordion, guitar and mandolin music could be heard emanating from many of the mining camps.

Source: Philip F. Notarianni, Italianita in Utah: The Immigrant Experience.

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Cristiano and Silvia Creminelli have made Salt Lake City home for authentic Italian salumi. The Creminelli family has been producing artisan meat products in Italy as far back as the oldest aunt can remember and, legend has it, as far back as the 1600s. The Creminellis decided to bring their products to America, specifically Utah, because of the quality pork found there.The Cristianos also brought other authentic Italian flavors to the Beehive State. Cristiano’s wife, Silvia, is an excellent cook in her own right and teaches cooking classes in the city. “We come from the land of rice,” says Silvia. “Piemonte.” So instead of pasta or polenta, a risotto is the center of a meal. It’s not a side dish. It’s served on its own, so the creamy texture and rich flavors can be savored solo. For this dish, Silvia starts with arborio rice and takes it through the traditional steps: the soffrito, the tostatura and the mantecatura.”

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Risotto Alla Birra Mortadella E Mascarpone

Serves 4

“This is an extremely easy and flavorful risotto to prepare in colder weather. Beer in the rice gives the dish a full-bodied flavor balanced out with the unexpected additions of ginger, lemon zest, and rosemary – an echo of Italy’s fortunes built on the spice trade. It’s also a great way to use mortadella – the grandfather of the much-maligned bologna in a sophisticated way.”

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup beer such as a pale ale or lager (nothing hoppy or dark!)
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 3 ounces Creminelli Mortadella, julienned

Directions

Bring the broth to a low simmer in a large pot.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion over low heat, just to soften and release the flavors. Do not let brown. Add the rice and toast it for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the beer and let it evaporate, stirring the rice as it does.

Add one ladle of hot broth and bring the rice to a simmer over medium heat, stirring as you go. Add a ladleful of hot broth as the rice soaks it up, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until “al dente,” where the rice is soft but still has a slightly firm texture in the middle. Add the lemon zest, rosemary, and ginger.

Remove from the heat and stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheese. Serve immediately, garnished with julienned mortadella slices.

Source: Salt Lake City Magazine

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The Northern Great Plains

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

North Dakota

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ND Durum Wheat Fields

By 1910, 71 percent of North Dakota’s population was born in a foreign country or had one or both parents who had been born in a foreign country. North Dakota was truly a melting pot of nationalities. Although Norwegians and Germans were the largest immigrants groups, as reported in The North Star Dakotan, all of the European and some of the Middle Eastern ethnic groups came to North Dakota. The variety of immigrant groups was phenomenal. North Dakota became a popular destination for immigrant farmers and general laborers and their families.

North Dakota produces two-thirds of the nation’s durum wheat – and that makes a lot of pasta. The largest portion of North Dakota’s durum is sold to mills across the U.S. and around the world. Italy is consistently the largest buyer of U.S. durum wheat, followed by Algeria, Nigeria and Venezuela.

Wheat production in North Dakota started around 1812 near Pembina. Seed was broadcast, cultivated with a hoe and harvested with a sickle, at that time. After threshing, wheat seed was stored in woven baskets or bags and delivered to market in wagons. In the mid-19th century, wheat farming became easier with the invention of the McCormick reaper (1831), the steel plow (1837), the treadmill thresher (1840) and the gravity-feed grain drill and steam powered thresher (1860).

Durum wheat, often referred to as “macaroni wheat”, was first grown commercially in the U.S. in the early 1900s from seed that came from the Mediterranean area and south Russia, known as Red Durum. Production increased rapidly until the U.S. became a durum wheat exporter.

Pasta is made from a mixture of semolina and water. What is semolina? Semolina is coarse-ground flour obtained from the heart (endosperm) of durum wheat. Durum wheat is the hardest wheat of all the wheat classes and it has an amber-colored appearance. Semolina used in the production of pasta is typically enriched with B-vitamins and iron.

Cando Pasta LLC, Abbiamo Pasta Co., Philadelphia Macaroni Company, Dakota Growers Pasta Co Inc and La Rinascente Pasta LLC are just a few of the pasta manufactures located in North Dakota. Annually, North Dakota pasta manufacturing companies use almost 16 million bushels of durum – almost one-fourth of an average North Dakota crop – making it into approximately 600 million pounds of pasta.

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The Lost Italian

Tony Nasello is The Lost Italian and has become known throughout the region for his entertaining cooking classes, as well as his passion for food and wine. Tony and his wife, Sarah, write a weekly food and wine column called “Home with the Lost Italian” for The Forum, Fargo’s local newspaper. Here is one of their treasured recipes:

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Pasta Puttanesca

From Tony and Sarah Nasello’s blog: Home of the Lost Italian:

http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com/

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg linguini, cooked to al dente
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional: 12 to 18 jumbo shrimp (peeled & de-veined)

Directions

Bring a pot of water to boil and salt it generously (at least one tablespoon). Add pasta and cook according to directions on package. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking.

In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat with the onion, garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes (also add shrimp now). Use a spoon or spatula to break the anchovies up into little bits. Cook until onions soften and become translucent, about four to five minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.

Add white wine, tomatoes, olives and capers. Simmer for about 10 minutes over medium heat. During this time, drain the pasta and set aside until sauce is ready. Do not rinse with water.

If the sauce appears dry, add water to it in small amounts. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, toss to coat and cook together for one more minute. Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with freshly chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese; serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tip: The more you break apart the anchovies during the initial cooking phase, the more they will dissolve into the sauce. Anchovies are salty by nature, so be sure to taste the sauce before adding salt.

South Dakota

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Homestake Mining Company 1900

Although the early pioneer settlement of this region was by white, native-born Americans, many groups of European immigrants have had an influence in the development of the state.

William Bertolero of Lead, SD was born in the city of Borgiallo, province of Torino, Italy, in 1859 and his story is an excellent example of the successful immigrant. Bertolero attended school in his native land and at the age of thirteen years began working on the railroad in the famous tunnel between Como and Switzerland.

Then at the age of fourteen, he went to the island of Sardinia, where he was employed in the silver mines for four years. He, next, worked in the iron mines, silver mines and railroad in France and then in northern Africa. After four years he was recalled to Italy for military service. After his discharge from military service due to an injury, he sailed for America in 1881.

He went to Collinsville, Illinois, where he was employed in the coal mines for some time. He worked in various mines in southern Illinois until early 1883. He moved to the Black Hills and arrived in Deadwood in March 1883. Three days later he became an employee of the Homestake Mining Company and remained connected with the company for twenty-six years. Mr. Bertolero married Miss Rosa Caffaro, who was also born in Italy, and together with their two children made their home in Lead, South Dakota, on the western side of the state.

He became the director and vice president of the Miners & Merchants Bank of Lead and gave the greater part of his time to the supervision of his investments and his accumulated  fortune. Among his many community associations, Mr. Bertolero wan a member of The Italian Lodge and the Society of Christopher Columbus. For some time he was a volunteer fireman and he was ever willing to do anything within his power to increase the prosperity and prestige of his adopted city.

Source “History of Dakota Territory”  by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. IV (1915)

Artisan Italian

A homemade pasta store in Alcester, SD

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The secret to great a great pasta dish is in the pasta, not the sauce. Our pastas are made with old-fashioned brass dies, using tools that are imported from Italy. The brass dies create pastas with rougher surface textures which help hold the sauce to them. We use organic whole grain flour and then add organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices to make artisan pasta that brings a new level of flavor and flair to any pasta dish. (http://www.artisanitalian.com/)

Here is one of their delicious recipes.

part8-6

Fettuccine with Gorgonzola Cream

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 12 oz fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 ounces Gorgonzola cut into small pieces
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach leaves

Directions

Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat a large sauce pan with the butter and garlic, cook 2 minutes, then whisk in flour, cook 1 minute.

Whisk in stock, then cream, bring to a bubble and stir in Gorgonzola until melted. Stir in Herbes de Provence and cook 3 minutes more.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.

In a serving bowl toss the hot pasta with the sauce and fresh spinach (spinach should slightly wilt). Serve immediately.

Montana

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The first wave of migration and settlement into Montana began when gold was discovered in Bannack (1862) and Alder Gulch (1863), south of Butte. By 1883, the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed. From 1882 to 1883, the railroad sent out 2.5 million pieces of literature advertising land for sale. Immigrants from northern Europe were sought as they could adapt to the climate and conditions of Montana, though only a few came. An English colony was established in Helena and the Yellowstone Valley in 1882; a few French came to Missoula County; and a few Dutch families settled in the Gallatin Valley in 1893. The most notable settlement was that of the Finnish lumbermen east of Missoula in 1892, while the Italians and Germans settled in Fergus and Park counties. The smelters and mills of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company drew Scandinavian and Irish workers to the area. The Montana coal mines of Cascade, Carbon and Musselshell counties were worked by the Irish, Poles and Italians.

Bontempo, Martinelli, Castellano, Bertoglio, Ciabattari, Favero, Sconfienza, Ronchetto and Grosso — were just some of the Italian families who settled in the Meaderville section of Butte. The area would later come to be known as Montana’s “Little Italy,” where the majority of its residents could trace their lineage back to Northern and Central Italy. By the late 1920s, the Meaderville neighborhood, took on a life of its own, with its abundance of restaurants, taverns, night clubs and specialty grocery stores.

Pauline (Mencarelli) de Barathy, Tom Holter and Jim Troglia, all of Butte recently shared some of their Meaderville memories in The Montana Standard.

Holter’s grandfather, Mike Ciabatarri, ran M. Ciabatarri & Son Meaderville Grocery and Holter spent his Saturdays delivering groceries for his grandfather. He remembers Sundays, when dinner was served by his Aunt Neda. “She was a helluva cook,” he said.

Troglia’s childhood memories include building go-carts, skating on the neighborhood rink, riding bikes over the many hills behind Meaderville and stealing cigars from Guidi’s Grocery. Guidi’s, Holter noted, was also known throughout Butte for their sausage and salami. “When they died,” he said, “they took that recipe to the grave.”Pauline de Barathy was amazed at all the imported items the store carried, including the different types of cheese. “That was their specialty,” she said.

A number of restaurants flourished in Meaderville, including the Aro Cafe and the Rocky Mountain Cafe and de Barathy recalled how residents could smell the wonderful aromas drifting from the restaurants. “Your mouth would just water,” she said. “You wanted to taste it so bad.” Holter, on the other hand, remembers the Meaderville Bakery. “Best there ever was,” he said.

All three people talked about the neighborhood gardens. Whose house had the best garden was the number one concern and who could make the best wine or grappa ran a close second. Wine was a staple in Italian households and every fall the train would bring in an abundance of grapes and cherries for wine making.

Italian traditions were passed down through the generations, and for many, so was the language. Although de Barathy’s mother was born in Butte, it was not until she started school that she learned English. “That was not unusual,” she explained.

Even though, Meaderville has succumbed to “progress”, traditions continue. Every Christmas, Holter serves up a big Italian dinner, which includes “piatto forte,” a dessert recipe handed down by his mother. On New Year’s Eve, it’s “bagna cauda” at the Troglia home, a spicy dish with anchovies and garlic that originated in northern Italy.

What de Barathy cherished most about her neighborhood was that it was so close-knit. It was nearly a nightly occurrence to find people outside, visiting with their neighbors. “It was their chit-chat time” and “I miss that,” de Barathy, said.

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Grandma’s Oxtail Ravioli

Serves 6

Mario Batali, the famed chef, spent his childhood watching his grandmother make oxtail ravioli and other Italian specialties passed down in the family. The Batali family’s roots are almost entirely in the West. Mario’s great-great-grandfather left Italy for Butte, Montana in 1899 to work in the coal mines and eventually moved further west.

For the Ravioli:

Kosher Salt

  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Large Red Onions (sliced)
  • 1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage (crumbled)
  • 1 Bunch Red Swiss Chard (cut into 1/2″ ribbons)
  • 1 cup Fresh Ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
  • Fresh Pasta Sheets

For the Oxtail Ragu:

  • 5 pounds Oxtail (cut into 2″ thick pieces)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Flour (for dredging)
  • 2 Medium Onions (sliced 1/4″ thick)
  • 4 cups Red Wine
  • 2 cups Brown Chicken Stock
  • 2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • Pecorino Romano for Grating

Directions

For the Ravioli:

In a 12- to 14-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook slowly till softened. Add sausage and cook until pink is gone, about 8 minutes.  Add chard and stir to mix with sausage and then cover and cook 15 minutes till chard gives up its water.  Remove lid and cook until dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

Add sausage and onion mixture to the ricotta, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Divide the pasta dough into 4 equal portions and roll each out to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine.  Lay 1 sheet of pasta on a work surface and use a pastry cutter to make 12 2½- by 1-inch rectangles.  Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling on one rectangle and cover with another rectangle.  Press firmly around the edges to seal, brush with a little water if necessary.  Continue with the remaining pasta and filling.  These can be set aside on a baking tray, the layers separated by dish towels and refrigerated, for up to 6 hours.

For the Oxtail Ragu:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Trim the excess fat from the oxtails and season liberally with salt and pepper.

In a 6 to 8 quart, heavy-bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until it is just smoking. Quickly dredge the oxtails in the flour and sear them on all sides until browned, turning with long-handled tongs.  This should take 8 – 10 minutes.  Removed the browned oxtails to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions to the same pan and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook them until lightly browned, 5 – 7 minutes. Add the wine, stock, tomato sauce and thyme and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the oxtails to the pot, submerging them in the liquid and return the pot to a boil. Cover the casserole and cook in the oven for 1 – 1 ½ hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the oxtails with long-handled tongs.  When they are cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bones and shred into small pieces with a fork.  Discard the bones.

With a small ladle, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce.  Return the shredded meat to the casserole.  Place the casserole over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to reduce to a very thick ragú. Season with salt and pepper.

To The Prepare Dish:

Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.  Meanwhile, In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat about 3 cups of the ragú. Gently drop the ravioli into the boiling water and cook at a gentle simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain. Add the ravioli to the sauté pan with the ragu. Toss very gently over medium heat to coat the ravioli with the ragú, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide among six heated bowls and grate Pecorino over each bowl. Serve immediately.

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part61ncimmigrants

The Southeast

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

Residents of St. Helena, all from Northern Italy, about 1908. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Residents of St. Helena, all from Northern Italy, about 1908. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Saint Helena, North Carolina

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Saint Helena began as one of six immigrant colonies established by Wilmington developer, Hugh Mac Rae. He attracted Italian farmers to Saint Helena with promises of 10 acres and a three-room home for $240, payable over three years.

St. Helena was named for an Italian queen, Elena, the wife of King Victor Emmanuel III and the daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro. In the Spring of 1906, eight immigrants from, Rovig, Veneto in Northern Italy, arrived. Within the year, they were followed by about 75 more adventurous individuals.

Planting a vineyard at St. Helena. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Planting a vineyard at St. Helena. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

The first group of immigrants cleared the wooded land for vineyards. Most of the immigrants had lived in the Italian wine country and were experienced vineyard dressers. One of their first tasks was to plant fields of grapevines. They also planted crops, such as peas and strawberries. The Italian ladies made plans to open a bakery.

By 1909, about 150 immigrants lived in St. Helena. The surnames included Bertazza, Yarbo, Trevisano, Laghetto, Berto, Borin, Ferro, Marcomin, Rossi, Fornasiero, Codo, Tasmassia, Rossi, Malosti, Tamburin, Santato, Ghirardello, Liago, Bouincontri, Canbouncci, Lorenzini, Garrello, Antonio, Martinelli, Canavesio, Perino, Ronchetto, and Bartolera.  From this group, fifteen musicians emerged who served as the Italian Brass Band that welcomed all newcomers to the Mac Rae settlements.

The Church of St. Joseph. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

The Church of St. Joseph. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Most of the settlers were Roman Catholics and their first mass at St. Helena was held in a shed near the depot by the Rev. Joseph A. Gallagher in 1906. The newcomers, assisted by 2 or 3 carpenters from Wilmington, built the Church of St. Joseph. The church was held in great affection and served numerous waves of immigrants in St. Helena until it burned in 1934. Another Church of St. Joseph was constructed on Highway 17 in 1954 and it still exists today.

Prohibition put an end to their wine making venture. However, another great success story originated in St. Helena. James Pecora, a native of Calabria, Italy, brought the superior Calabria variety of broccoli and other vegetables to North Carolina to create a successful produce business.

part6cabbage

Italian Cabbage with Tomatoes and Pecorino Romano Cheese

This robust side dish is served as an accompaniment to meats.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound savoy cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut into very thin rings
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 canned Italian plum tomatoes or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup tomato liquid from the can, or chicken stock or beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pecorino Romano for serving

Directions

Remove the core of the cabbage and cut the remaining cabbage into 1/4-inch strips. You should have about 4 firmly packed cups of cabbage strips.

Place the olive oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until they start to soften and brown. Add the cabbage and garlic, stirring to blend well.

Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the cabbage and add them to the pan. Add the tomato liquid (or stock), vinegar and thyme.

Season well with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is softened.

Stir the butter into the cabbage. Serve with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Charleston, South Carolina

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Giovanni Baptista Sanguinetti was a native of Genoa, Italy and immigrated to the United States in 1879.  He entered the country through New York and settled in Charleston, SC. Sanguinetti, like most Italian immigrants during this period, was young.  He was 25-years old.  In order for Sanguinetti to fit into the Charleston community, he “Americanized” his name. Giovanni Sanguinetti became John Sanguinett. This change was reflected in the city directory and on his death certificate. Sanguinetti, a sailor by trade, worked for the Clyde Steamship Line as a longshoreman. Italian immigrants were very commonly employed as longshoremen because they were willing to work for lower wages and this created a great conflict with the locals.

Many employers exploited this conflict so that they could take advantage of the Italians’ working for a lower wage. Immigrants in Charleston faced difficulties in finding housing. They were relegated to live in specific areas of downtown Charleston. They, along with other immigrants, were expected to live east of King Street and north of Broad Street. This area encompasses the current historical district, including the “market.”  Giovanni lived his entire life in this area and spent most of his working life on the wharf loading and unloading ships.

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In Italy and the Northern US cities, Italian workers were recruited for Southern states by padroni. The padroni were Italians who were paid to recruit Italian workers. Many Italians were recruited to be tenant farmers and work the fields or work in the Southern mills.

Italians were not desirable as immigrants in South Carolina. Ben Tillman, one of South Carolina’s most fervent politicians and later Governor, spoke very strongly against recruiting Italians to his state. Tillman preferred to recruit immigrants from Northern Europe.  As a result, South Carolina created its own Bureau of Immigration in 1881.

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Vegetarian Lasagna with Artichoke Sauce

Nancy Noble’s vegetarian lasagna with artichoke sauce won the 2011 Lasagna Contest sponsored by the local chapter of the Sons of Italy. From the Post and Courier.

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 to 6 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 4 (28-ounce) cans crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

Directions

Heat olive oil in large pot. Saute onions with garlic, basil, oregano, parsley and pepper flakes for 5 minutes. Add black pepper.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste and season with salt.

Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Drain artichokes, reserving marinade and set aside. Add the artichoke marinade to sauce. Simmer another 30 minutes.

Cut artichoke heart pieces in half and add to the sauce. Simmer another 15 minutes.

Stir in grated cheese and adjust seasonings.

For the lasagna:

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 pounds shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 recipe of artichoke sauce
  • 2 boxes of no-cook lasagna noodles

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil two 9 x 13 inch baking dishes.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the ricotta cheese and eggs until smooth and creamy. Reserve a few handfuls of the mozzarella to sprinkle on top of the dish. Add the remaining mozzarella to the ricotta mixture along with the parsley, salt and pepper.

In a 9 x 13-inch pan, spread a thin layer of sauce. Cover with a layer of the lasagna noodles. Spread a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture. Continue layering until pan is full.

Repeat with a second 9 x 13-inch pan. Top both with sauce and sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top.

Bake about 30 minutes, making sure not to let the cheese brown. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Elberton, Georgia

part6georgiaimmigrants

Beginning in the early twentieth century, millions of immigrants entered the United States from Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and the Middle East and some of these new arrivals found their way to Georgia. In many cases, the immigrants moved into neighborhoods where friends and relatives from their home country had already settled, and established themselves as members of the community. For example, Jewish Russian immigrants became prominent citizens of Columbus, Italian immigrants pursued opportunities in Elberton’s granite industry and Lebanese immigrants contributed to the growth of Valdosta.

Elbert County sits on a subterranean bed of granite in the Piedmont geologic province. It was identified at the turn of the twentieth century as the Lexington-Oglesby Blue Granite Belt that measures about fifteen miles wide and twenty-five miles long and stretches into nearby counties. In the county’s early history, the granite was seen more as a nuisance rather than as an industry, especially for residents primarily engaged in agricultural activities. Early uses of granite included grave markers and foundation and chimney stone.

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After the Civil War (1861-65), however, new possibilities for Elberton’s granite began to emerge. In 1882, Elberton’s first quarry was opened to get construction stone for use by one of the local railroads. By 1885 a second quarry was also opened. During the 1890s, Elberton’s potential as a producer of granite solidified as more quarries in the city and county were opened. On July 6, 1889, the Elberton Star, the local newspaper, christened the town the “Granite City.”

In 1898 Arthur Beter, an Italian sculptor, executed the first statue carved out of Elberton granite. A small building constructed to house the statue during its completion became the town’s first granite shed.

During the immigration period from Italy, skilled laborers came to Elbert County to pursue a livelihood in the granite business. Among the many new arrivals were Charles C. Comolli, founder and owner of the Georgia Granite Corporation and Richard Cecchini, a highly skilled stone sculpturer. The industry flourished with the creation of new sheds and the opening of additional quarries in the years following.

part6georgiaeggplant

A little bit of Georgia folklore:

Labor-Inducing Eggplant Parmigiana

Nearly 300 baby pictures decorate Scalini’s old-fashioned Italian restaurant. All of the babies pictured on the Italian restaurant wall were born after their mothers ate the Scalini’s eggplant parmigiana. The breaded eggplant smothered in cheese and thick marinara sauce is “guaranteed” to induce labor, the restaurant claims. The eggplant legend began not long after the restaurant opened 23 years ago.

“Two or three years after we began, a few people had just mentioned to us they came in when they were pregnant, and ate this eggplant and had a baby a short time after that,” said John Bogino, who runs the restaurant with his son, Bobby Bogino. “One person told another, and it just grew by itself by leaps and bounds.”

To date, more than 300 of the pregnant women customers who ordered the eggplant have given birth within 48 hours, and the restaurant dubs them the “eggplant babies.” If it doesn’t work in two days, the moms-to-be get a gift certificate for another meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized eggplants
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups fine Italian bread crumbs (seasoned)
  • Olive oil
  • 8 cups marinara sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese (grated)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese

Scalini’s Marinara Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cups tomatoes (fresh or canned), chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sweet basil, chopped
  • Pinch thyme
  • Pinch rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices. You may choose to peel the eggplant before you slice it. Place the eggplant slices on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with a little salt, then cover with another layer of paper towels and hold it down with something heavy to drain the excess moisture. Let them sit for about an hour.

Working with one slice of eggplant at a time, dust with flour, dip in beaten eggs, then coat well with breadcrumbs. Saute in preheated olive oil on both sides until golden brown.

In a baking dish, alternate layers of marinara sauce, eggplant slices, ricotta, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, until you fill the baking dish, about 1/8 inch from the top. Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese, and bake for 25 minutes in a 375 degree F oven. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Scalini’s Marinara Sauce Directions

Lightly saute the onions in olive oil in large pot for a few minutes.

Add garlic and saute another minute. Add tomatoes and bring sauce to a boil, then turn heat to low. Add remaining ingredients, stir, cover and let simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Recipe courtesy of John Bogino, Scalini’s Italian Restaurant, Georgia (scalinis.com).

Miami, Florida

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Julia DeForest Tuttle (1849-1898), Henry Morrison Flagler (1830- 1913), James Deering, (1859-1925) and other American pioneers were busy displaying their understanding of Italian culture as they built railways, planned a city and erected palatial estates in Miami and Southeast Florida. The hotels and the villas built in Miami replicated the symbols of status of the early modern European courts.

The landscape and architecture of Villa Vizcaya were influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Italian Renaissance models and designed in the Mediterranean Revival architectural style with Baroque elements. Paul Chalfin was the design director.

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Vizcaya was created as James Deering’s winter home and, today, it is a National Historic Landmark and museum. The planning and construction of Vizcaya lasted over a decade, from 1910 to 1922. Deering modeled his estate after an old Italian country villa. This involved the large-scale purchase of European antiques and the design of buildings and landscapes to accommodate them. Deering began to purchase the land for Vizcaya in 1910 and, that same year, he made his first trip to Italy to acquire antiquities.

Deering purchased an additional 130 acres of land and construction on the site began in the following year. About a thousand individuals were employed at the height of construction in creating Vizcaya, including several hundred construction workers, stonecutters and craftsmen from the northeastern states, Italy and the Bahamas.

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James Deering died in September 1925 and the property was passed to his relatives. In 1952 Miami-Dade County acquired the villa and formal Italian gardens, which needed significant restoration, for $1 million. Deering’s heirs donated the villa’s furnishings and antiquities to the County-Museum. Vizcaya began operation in 1953 as the Dade County Art Museum.

The village and remaining property were acquired by the County during the mid-1950s. In 1994 the Vizcaya estate was designated as a National Historic Landmark. In 1998, in conjunction with Vizcaya’s accreditation process by the American Alliance of Museums, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust was formed to be the museum’s governing body.

part6miamipasta

Linguine Frutti di Mare

Serves 2 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 5 oz.fresh linguine pasta
  • 4 jumbo shrimp
  • 12 small scallops
  • 6 mussels
  • 6 clams
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1.5 oz. white wine
  • 1 tablespoon. garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon. lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon basil, chopped and a sprig for garnish
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a hot pan. Add garlic, then sauté for about two minutes. Add shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, tomatoes and kosher salt. Add the wine and cover the pan to steam another two minutes.Add tomato sauce to the pan of seafood and stir.

Put the fresh pasta into boiling salted water. When the pasta is al dente, drain, add to the seafood pan and mix well. Add the chopped basil, mix and divide between two pasta serving bowls. Garnish with a sprig of basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

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part5cover

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

The South

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Birmingham

Italians arriving in New Orleans often went to work first on Louisiana citrus farms or one of the state’s sugar cane plantations. But word got around that Birmingham offered a chance to earn wages in one of its factories. Attracted by the promise of better pay, many Italian immigrants left Louisiana for Birmingham. They were joined by fellow Italian immigrants who came directly from Sicily or other parts of Italy, or who may have spent some time in a northern city before deciding to head south to seek better paying jobs.

By 1910, Birmingham’s Italian population numbered almost 2,000 and was spread out over several neighborhoods. There was Little Italy in Ensley, a working class neighborhood associated with Tennessee Coal and Iron. There was the Italian community of Thomas, where Republic Steel was located. To the west lay another Little Italy, in West Blocton, where Italian immigrants mined coal and the town is known to this day for its Italian Catholic cemetery. Each community was anchored by a Catholic parish, supplying social and spiritual support and operating schools for Italian speaking children. Corner grocery stores, some of which grew into major supermarket chains, supplemented their owners’ income. Fig trees, small family gardens and even livestock kept Italian food traditions alive.

La Storia: Birmingham’s Italian Community exhibition at Vulcan Park and Museum

Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue and is considered one of the most memorable works of civic art in the United States. Both the Vulcan statue and the pedestal it stands upon, display the Italian heritage that is prevalent throughout Vulcan Park and the Birmingham community. Designed by Italian artist, Giuseppe Moretti, and cast from local iron in 1904, Vulcan has overlooked Alabama’s largest city from atop Red Mountain since the 1930s. Vulcan Park and Museum features spectacular views of Birmingham, an interactive history museum and Birmingham’s Italian immigrant story.

Italian Americans had a huge impact on not only Vulcan Park and the Museum, but also on the city itself. La Storia tells the story of Italian immigration to the city of Birmingham from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century.  While the exhibit showcases prosperity for Italian immigrants, it also documents the hardships these immigrant families endured as a community and how they relied on faith and family to hold them together.

Cassoeula

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A traditional dish that is popular in Northern Italy—particularly in Lombardy. Alabama Italian chef/owner, Marco Morosini shares his expertise in cooking this comforting recipe. B-Metro Magazine December 2013

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 Spare ribs
  • 8 Italian sausages
  • 8 pieces pork rind (optional)
  • 1 large head Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • Salt

Directions

Place the extra virgin olive oil, carrots, celery and onion in a large pan over low to medium heat. Brown for approximately five minutes. Add and brown the spare ribs. Add the pork rind. After five more minutes add the sausages. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Add the Savoy cabbage. Stir until all are well mixed. Sprinkle with salt and continue cooking for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Serve over polenta. Serves eight.

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Mississippi Delta

Few people associate the South with Italian immigration to America, assuming immigrants settled only in the urban Northeast. Yet, many communities throughout the United States have a significant proportion of Italian Americans. Immigrants gravitated to places where they could find work, whether it be in the garment industry, coal mines, farms, fisheries, canning factories or lumber mills. In the peak immigration years (1880–1910), the American South attracted its share of Italian immigrants.

The first immigrants to the Delta in the 1880s, were hired to repair levees or as farm laborers on the plantations. Some of these families became peddlers selling goods to farmers. In 1895, some Italians crossed the Mississippi River to work in the Arkansas Delta. They were mostly from central Italy and experienced in farm work.

The late 19th century saw the arrival of larger numbers of Italian immigrants, who left Italy seeking economic opportunities. Some Italians from Sicily settled as families along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Gulfport, preserving close ties with those from their homeland. They worked in the fishing and canning industries. Others were merchants, operating grocery stores, liquor stores and tobacco shops. The seafood (and small shipyard) industry of Biloxi was mainly owned by the family of Andrew H. Longino – Governor of Mississippi from 1900 to 1904, who was the first governor of a southern US State to be of Italian heritage.

Life was very challenging for the immigrants. They found the adjustment to the South’s climate especially difficult; Italian farmers did not have experience with cotton and sugarcane crops and many immigrants died as a result of  malaria. While some of the settlers remained in the Delta, bought land and became cotton farmers, others moved to Italian communities in northern Missouri, Alabama and Tennessee.

The Italian Americans were often victims of prejudice, economic exploitation and violence. The Delta states were no exception. Mississippi and Louisiana became a worldwide symbol of Anti-Italianism. In the twentieth century, mainly after World War I , the Italians were slowly accepted and integrated into society. The food and restaurant industry was one of the areas where they gained acceptance and economic success.

Italians developed a distinctive cultural life in the Delta, preserving traditional ways from their Italian ancestry and, yet, adapting to the culture of the American South. Families continued to make wine and cook Italian food with recipes long passed down from their grandmothers.

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Italians established restaurants that helped popularize Italian food in the region. Greenwood, in particular, has several restaurants with deep Italian connections. Lusco’s and Giardina’s both trace their ancestry to families from Cefalu in Sicily. Charles and Marie Lusco were first generation Italian immigrants, who established a grocery store in 1921. Local cotton farmers spent time there, playing cards in the back of the store, eating the dishes that Marie prepared and drinking Charles’s homemade wine. Lusco’s emerged from a grocery store into a restaurant because their food became popular. Patrons and customers began requesting the sauces made in the restaurant to take home. As a result, Lusco’s began bottling and marketing the three most requested salad dressings and sauces.

Beef and Spinach Lasagna

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Mississippi Farm Families recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 32 oz (4 cups) homemade spaghetti sauce
  • 14 ½ oz can Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well-drained
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 10 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef 8 – 10 minutes until no longer pink. Pour off the drippings.

Season with salt. Add tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and red pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese and egg.

Spread 2 cups beef sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Arrange 5 lasagna noodles in single layer completely covering the bottom. Press noodles into sauce.

Spread entire ricotta cheese mixture on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and top with 2 cups beef sauce.

Arrange remaining noodles in a single layer and press lightly into sauce. Top with remaining beef sauce.

Bake in 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until noodles are tender. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Tent lightly with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting into 12 servings.

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Galveston

Galveston was called the “Ellis Island of the West” as it was the primary point of entry for European immigrants settling in the western United States. By 1910, there were more than 1,000 Italian immigrants living in Galveston.  The language barrier and discrimination caused the Italian immigrants to stick together. Most of the southern Italians were fishermen, laborers and farmers, while the northern Italians tended to be businessmen. The northern Italians used their business skills to set up small, family owned shops. At the time, half the grocery stores in Galveston were owned by Italian families, who made up only 2 percent of the population. “There was an Italian grocery store on every street corner,” said Anthony Piperi, 89, who remembers those days well. Piperi said those who did well in business formed benevolent societies to help the new immigrants and the less fortunate get a foothold. “Fifty percent of them owned some kind of small business,” Piperi said. “By the second generation, everybody had a lawyer or doctor in the family.”

The reason the Italian community did so well, he said, was that it put a premium on education. Everybody in the second generation tried to get an education, he said, because their parents knew what it was like to try to make it without one. The emphasis on education allowed those children to have great mobility and freedom — a mixed blessing. “The families spread out,” Piperi said. “A brother would get a job in Houston. Somebody else would get a job in New York.” An American Army captain whose father was an immigrant, said one of the many things about the Italian experience in Galveston was how quickly many of the immigrants succeeded in their new American life.

Joe Grasso from Sicily pioneered the shrimp industry along the Texas Gulf Coast. Arriving in Galveston in 1906, he worked as a fisherman and saved his money to buy a boat. For 15 years he sold shrimp as bait to fishermen and, then in the 1920s, he began freezing shrimp to export to Japan, creating a successful business.

The Galveston Shrimp Company was founded in 1978 by Rosario Cassarino, an immigrant from the Italian island of Sicily. For twenty years he and his wife, Giovanna, unloaded  fish and shrimp boats at the historic Pier 19 and sold the catch of the day to Galveston locals and the visiting tourists. In 1994 their son, Nello, took over the daily  operation and moved the company to a larger facility that was more accessible to highway transportation. The company began to shift its focus from a retail operation to a wholesale seafood company that now supplies  retailers and distributors around the nation.

Texas Cioppino

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Chef Maurizio Ferrarese from Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook

Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew that originated in San Francisco. This Gulf version using brown shrimp, redfish and blue crab make it a Texas-Italian Cioppino.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds uncooked heads-on shrimp
  • One 4 pound whole redfish
  • 8 live crabs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • Small can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 bay leaves

Directions

Shell the shrimp and filet the fish. Make a stock with the fish bones and head and the shrimp shells and heads. When the stock boils, add the crabs and cook until done, about ten minutes. Remove the crabs and allow to cool. Reserve the crab bodies and claws and return the rest of the crab including the innards to the stockpot. Simmer the stock for a total of 30 minutes adding water as needed, then turn off the heat. You should have 8 cups of stock.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the green onion, garlic and jalapeño; saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes, wine and bay leaf.

Strain the stock and pour the strained liquid into the soup pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

Cut the fish into 2 inch chunks. Add the shrimp, reserved crab and fish to the soup. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through. Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and some hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Serve with crusty bread and nutcrackers for the crab claws.

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New Orleans

Italians flocked to New Orleans in the late 1800s because of the growing business of importing Mediterranean citrus into the port city. Many of these immigrants worked on the docks in the fruit district and, eventually, these workers opened grocery stores and restaurants around the city. Italians made up about 90 percent of the immigrants in New Orleans at the time and dominated the grocery industry. Italian contributions to the cuisine include “red gravy”, a red sauce thickened with roux that is used in everything from Creole Daube to grillades, stuffed artichokes and peppers. Today, the Italian influence in shaping Creole cuisine is unmistakable – Southern Italian and Sicilian ingredients fundamentally transformed the cuisine.

Joseph Maselli was a catalyst for countless American Italian activities in Louisiana, founding the first state-wide organization of American Italians that later became the Italian American Federation of the Southeast, an umbrella organization with over 9,000 members from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Ten years later, he founded the Italian American Renaissance Foundation Museum and Research Library, the first of its kind in the South, which contains more than 400 oral tape histories, vertical files on 25,000 individuals and 5,500 American Italian books. Today, it has been renamed the American Italian Cultural Center. To honor Louisiana Italian Americans who have excelled in athletics, he founded the Louisiana Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Maselli focused his energy on civic endeavors and, in particular, on preserving the Italian culture and heritage and fighting against prejudice on behalf of all nationalities. Mr. Maselli was the publisher of the Italian American Digest which he founded to preserve immigrant values of family tradition, hard work and education.

Parmesan Crusted Breast of Chicken

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Vincent’s Italian Cuisine/New Orleans

Vincent’s Italian Cuisine was founded in 1989 by native New Orleanian, Vincent Catalanotto. From a large, close Sicilian family, Vincent grew up eating wonderful food prepared by his parents who were both great cooks. The “little Italian place on the side street” quickly became Metairie’s hidden jewel. Vincent developed a menu that showcased the finest and freshest ingredients available. In fact, there are no walk-in coolers or freezers at Vincent’s – produce, seafood, meats and cheeses are delivered fresh daily. It wasn’t long before Vincent had more customers than chairs. A second location was added in 1997 on St. Charles Avenue near the Riverbend.

CREAMED SPINACH

  • 2 boxes (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Sambuca Liqueur
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese

Mix ingredients together and set aside.

CHICKEN

  • 6 Chicken Breast Halves – boneless, skinless, pounded thin
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil

Dredge chicken in flour, dip in beaten eggs, then in parmesan cheese, pressing cheese into chicken until well coated.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan; add chicken and sauté until golden brown.

While cooking chicken, heat creamed spinach in a small saucepan or in the microwave.

Spread approximately 3 tablespoons of heated spinach on each dinner plate, then top with a cooked chicken breast.

Finish the dish with lemon butter sauce (as follows).

LEMON BUTTER SAUCE

  • Juice of 2 small or 1 Large Lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup dry White Wine
  • 1 stick butter, cut up
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Green Onions (tops only)

Mix lemon juice, wine and Worcestershire in a small saucepan and cook until reduced.

Add butter and green onions, stirring until butter is melted.

Drizzle over chicken and serve.

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The Upper Midwest

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

Detroit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cheese Ravioli with Old-Fashioned Meat Sauce

Ingredients

Meat Sauce

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

Ravioli

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

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

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

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

 

Milwaukee

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

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

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

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Capellini alla Caprese

by Milwaukee Italian chef/owner, Gino Fazzari

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Elmwood Park

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

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

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Johnnie’s Beef Recipe

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

In Johnnie’s words:

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

Ingredients

The beef

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

The rub

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

The juice

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

The sandwich

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

Directions

About the beef.

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

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

About the bouillon.

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

Do this

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

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

Be aware.

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

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

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

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

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

Des Moines

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

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

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

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

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

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Graziano’s on the Grill

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

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

Heading West

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Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is referred to as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy. In the decades following 1868, Bloomfield was settled by German Catholic immigrants. Beginning around 1900, they were joined by Italians from five towns in the Abruzzi region. Descendants from both groups, with the Italians outnumbering the Germans, still give the neighborhood its character today.

The residents are diverse, as the neighborhood has a combination of working class Italian-Americans, various other European populations, African-Americans and a substantial population of college students. It is a decidedly urban neighborhood, with narrow streets and alleys packed with row houses. Liberty Avenue is the neighborhood’s main business thoroughfare.

Ciao Pittsburgh is western Pennsylvania’s longest-running online magazine covering all things Italian. They write about Italian cuisine, culture and traditions that have been passed from generation to generation. The magazine advocates for Italian-Americans and provides readers a platform to connect and unite with other Italian-Americans. Each month, they highlight the people, places, traditions and events among the Italian community with in-depth features and articles. Visit the magazine site. Here is a local recipe from a recent edition.

Nicky D Cooks: Pesci Pizzaiola

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Copyright 2011  Check out Nancy’s blog.

“White Fish in herbed tomato sauce – a simple peasant dish that goes perfectly over rice pilaf, couscous or lightly dressed orzo in olive oil.”

Ingredients

  • 1 ½  lbs cod fillets or white fish fillets
  • 1 -2 cans small tomato sauce
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup (about) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the pan, then put fish on top of the onions. Pour a thin coat of the tomato sauce over the fish. Sprinkle oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and cheese over the fish. Cover and bake fish in the oven about ½ hr (approximately) or until the fish is done. The fish will become white and flaky – this is when it is done.

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Marion County West Virginia

Italian heritage is especially strong in Mountaineer Country, where at least 11% of the population of the Mountaineer Country has Italian ancestry. Many Italians originally immigrated to West Virginia in the early twentieth century to work in the coal mines throughout the state. Specialty glass factories in this region were largely an Italian immigrant industry with factories in Fairmont, Mannington and Clarksburg. Italian stonemasons were also common in the early communities.

Today Fairmont, Clarksburg and Morgantown form a tri-city area with a strong Italian American network, where community members maintain strong family ties which often include distant relatives, godparents and family friends. Families keep in contact by gathering at significant life events, such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals.

Local organizations, like the Sons of Italy in Morgantown, provide an important meeting place for the Italian American community. These organizations promote various cultural programs. The Sons of Italy, for example, organizes an Italian language course at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Morgantown. Morgantown is also home to the recently formed Committee for the Preservation of Italian History and Culture. This group raises money for local cultural events and sponsors historical programs of special interest to the Italian community.

One important event of the year in the region is the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg. Held in September each year, this event features traditional and contemporary Italian music and dance, bocce tournaments, homemade wine contests and plenty of Italian food. The event is a focal point statewide for the Italian American community.

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Writer, filmmaker, Robert Tinnell, grew up in the small town of Rivesville, (Marion County) West Virginia, in an extended, Italian-American family.  His comic strips are based on his experiences. Robert Tinnell’s Feast of the Seven Fishes has taken on a life of its own. It began as his family’s story of Christmas Eve and became a ‘graphic novel’ or strip, telling an engaging story. Check out Robert’s blog.

Stuffed Calamari

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Here’s a recipe for one of Robert’s favorite Feast of the Seven Fishes dishes as described on his blog.

You Will Need:  2-4 pounds of calamari (squid), bread crumbs, salt, pepper, fresh grated Parmesan and/or romano cheese, eggs, garlic, basil, water, milk and additional chopped up portions of  various seafood. He recommends serving them in Tomato Sauce.

How You Do It:

Remove the tentacles from the calamari, leaving only the body cavity.
Prepare a homemade tomato sauce and allow it to simmer while preparing the stuffing.

The Stuffing – In a large bowl, combine two 15 oz. cans of bread crumbs (or four cups fresh bread crumbs), one head of minced garlic, cup of milk and an egg. Add cheese to preference and chopped seafood. Mix by hand until you get a thick moist mixture; add more milk if necessary.

Now, take the stuffing and fill each calamari tube (tight but not too tight) and place in an olive oiled casserole dish. Lay the stuffed calamari in rows.
Drizzle the stuffed calamari with olive oil and cheese, then pour your sauce over top the entire dish.
Cover with foil and place in an oven that’s been pre-heated to 450 degrees F for about an hour.

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Brier Hill is a neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio, that was once viewed as the city’s “Little Italy” district. The neighborhood, which was the site of the city’s first Italian settlement, stretches along the western edge of Youngstown’s lower north side and encircles St. Anthony’s Church, an Italian-American Roman Catholic parish. Each year, at the end of August, the Brier Hill Fest attracts thousands of visitors from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

The neighborhood was the birthplace of “Brier Hill pizza”, a home-style recipe with origins in the Basilicata region of Italy. Brier Hill pizza is prepared with a generous amount of thick “Sunday sauce”, bell peppers and romano cheese, as opposed to the more typical mozzarella topping. It is one of several dishes the Youngstown area prides itself upon, in much the same way New Yorkers value their distinctive thin-crusted New York-style pizza.

According to Tony Trolio, the organizer of the Brier Hill Memorial Tribute Plaque project, most of the Italians that lived in Brier Hill all came from the same area in Italy; Colobraro, Provincia, Matera and Basilicata. “My parents, Antonio and Nicolette Trolio, came to America in 1922,” said Trolio, who added that they lived on Pershing Street, near St. Anthony’s. Sharing that his father, who was a plumber, continued all of the traditional Italian customs, including having a huge garden and making homemade wine and sausage. Trolio added, “My mother, like all the mothers, made pizza.” He added however, that his mother made and sold about 300 pizzas every week. “We bought boxes for her and called it Mama Mia’s Pizza.”

“I wrote two books about Brier Hill and, in fact, I claimed to be the first one to come up with the name Brier Hill Pizza,” said Trolio, adding that he also led the move to have four road signs installed claiming Brier Hill as the first Italian settlement in Youngstown. “This exciting event brings our tribute to our parents and neighborhood full cycle with two books written, four historic road signs installed honoring Youngstown’s first Italian immigrants and, finally, the memorial plaque,” said Trolio. The plaque is installed next to the parish’s cornerstone on the outside of the church where Trolio said he received his first communion, was confirmed, married and from where many of his family members funeral masses were held. (http://www.towncrieronline.com/)

 Steve and Marian DeGenaro in the kitchen at St Anthony Church in Youngstown Friday 4-24-09. They and about 25 volunteers make and sell several hundred pizza's/week as a church fundraiser. See more at: http://www.vindy.com/photos


Steve and Marian DeGenaro in the kitchen at St Anthony Church in Youngstown Friday 4-24-09. They and about 25 volunteers make and sell several hundred pizza’s/week as a church fundraiser. See more at: http://www.vindy.com/photos

St. Anthony’s Church still sells its Brier Hill pizza by the pie on most Friday mornings. It is a simple recipe consisting of red sauce, red/green peppers and romano cheese. It was a pizza that many early southern Italian immigrants could make from ingredients grown in their own backyards. Many years later, it has become a source of pride for a city that takes food very seriously. There are lots of great places in Youngstown that sell their own version of this style of pizza. However, for the real deal, you need to get a pie at St. Anthony’s church.

Modarelli Baking Company posted a recipe for the Brier Hill sauce on their Facebook page and writes:

“For those of you who aren’t familiar with Brier Hill Pizza… It’s a ‘style’ of pizza that originated in a Youngstown, Ohio neighborhood called Brier Hill just uphill from Youngstown Sheet and Tube. It was a neighborhood of Italian immigrants including my grandparents. From this neighborhood emerged a unique style of pizza that is Now called Brierhill. It was made from their gardens with tomatoes, peppers and garlic and had only pecorino romano cheese on top.”

This will make 2 – 12” or 4 – 6” pizzas

Sauce

  • 2 large cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large can tomato puree
  • Dried Basil, .about 1-2  teaspoons
  • Dried Oregano, about 1/4 teaspoon
  • Dried Parsley, about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 4 Bell peppers (2 red & 2 green) chopped 1/2”- 1” chunks
  • 2- 4 large cloves garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Romano cheese
  • …and MY secret ingredient 2-3 in. chunk pepperoni
  • Favorite pizza dough crust/shell, see recipe below

Directions

Slowly brown garlic in olive oil in a saucepan…when it starts getting soft and slightly yellow-i crush it with the back of a spoon and let it get a darker yellow.
Add peppers and let it cool slightly before putting sauce in or it will ”sizzles” at you.
Add tomatoes, herbs and pepperoni chunk and bring to boil then simmer on low heat for at least 45 min. You can pull out garlic when done.
“Sometimes I add 1 hot pepper sliced in half or put in hot pepper seeds while cooking. Sometimes I will add some onion powder and garlic powder (1 teaspoon each and some seasoned salt ¼ teaspoon).”

Spread sauce/peppers on pizza dough, sprinkle on a generous amount of grated pecorino romano cheese and bake.

Pizza Dough

  • 1-1/2 cup warm water (100* to 105* F)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/4 oz Active Dry Yeast Packet
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 4 Cups of bread flour

(BY HAND) Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl, Add the sugar and packet of yeast. Stir the mixture slowly until yeast and sugar are dissolved. Let sit to allow the mixture to “mature” about 10 minutes or so, The mixture will begin to react: clouding and forming a foamy froth on the surface of the mixture.

Add the salt and olive oil and stir again to combine and dissolve the ingredients. Add one cup of flour and whisk in until dissolved. Add the second cup of flour and whisk it in. Add the third cup of flour and combine. The dough mixture should be fairly thick. Add the last cup of floor and with your hands begin to combine and knead the dough.

Remove the dough ball to the tabletop to knead it. You may need to add a dusting of flour from time to time to reduce the stickiness of the dough. Be patient, folding the dough ball in half, then quarters over and over again for about 8 minutes. You’ll know you’ve done well when the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Coat the dough ball with a thin layer of olive oil and place at the bottom of a large mixing bowl which has been coated on the inside with some olive oil and cover with a stretched piece of kitchen film or kitchen towel.

MIXER OR FOOD PROCESSOR: put all dry ingredients in as listed above and run the machine for about a minute on low-speed to mix the ingredients dry. Add the water slowly and mix/knead until a ball is formed (not usually more than a couple of minutes of machine running time).

Set in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise undisturbed for an hour or so until the dough ball grows at least twice its original size. Punch down lightly and let sit for another hour of rising before spreading in a pizza pan.

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The Hill is a neighborhood within St. Louis, Missouri, located south of Forest Park. Its name is due to its proximity to the highest point of the city, formerly named St. Louis Hill. The first Italians to move to St. Louis were Lombard villagers from the region around Milan. Fleeing poverty and overpopulation, they arrived in the 1880s to work in St. Louis’s clay mines and brick factories. At the turn of the century, Sicilians came to work in the same factories and were soon sharing the Hill with their northern cousins.

The first restaurants on the Hill began as taverns catering to workers and evolved over the years into Italian American restaurants. On their menus you’ll find the standards: spaghetti carbonara, cannelloni, scampi, plenty of veal dishes and, usually, ”toasted” ravioli—a definitive St. Louis Italian specialty, said to have been born by accident about fifty years ago at a restaurant on the Hill when a piece of the stuffed pasta fell into a pot of hot fat.

Tony Catarinicchia, who left Palermo more than 25 years ago, says, ”Good Italian food doesn’t need too many ingredients and should never be over sauced,”. Catarinicchia draws crowds of locals to his restaurant with his  long list of dishes including fried artichokes, pennette all’arrabbiata and seafood ravioli. His eggplant parmesan is made in the summertime with ingredients picked from the restaurant’s garden.

The Hill is one of St. Louis’s least changed and most stable neighborhoods. Currently, about three-quarters of the residents are Italian-Americans. The neighborhood is home to a large number of locally renowned Italian-American restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, salons and two bocce gardens.

Tony’s Eggplant Parmesan

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(http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Eggplant-Parmesan)

Serves 4

This southern Italian classic might be named after the cheese that tops it—but some Sicilians think the title comes from palmigiana , meaning ”shutter”, describing the way the eggplant slices are often overlapped.

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups dried plain bread crumbs, sifted
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 3/4 cup grated provolone cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°f. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring, until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow dish. Beat eggs together in another shallow dish. Mix bread crumbs with a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a third shallow dish. Set dishes aside.

Peel and trim eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2” pieces. Dredge each slice first in the flour, then in the egg, then in the seasoned bread crumbs.

Heat remaining ⅛ cup oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Add breaded eggplant slices to the hot oil (working in batches, if needed) and cook until golden on both sides and dark brown on the edges, 2-3 minutes per side.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large shallow ovenproof dish. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on top of tomato sauce. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Scatter basil on top of sauce and sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano, then provolone. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

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