Reggio Calabria is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. It is the southernmost province in mainland Italy and is separated from the island of Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The Aspromonte mountain range dominates the western part and, with its long coastline, the province is a popular tourist destination during the summer. In 2018, the province will become the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria.
The province features three types of terrain. The west is mountainous with creeks and rivers flowing through the area. The lower hills are terraced for the cultivation of citrus fruits, olives and vines and the wooded areas are covered with chestnuts, beeches, holm oaks, pines and Sicilian firs. The southern part of the province has a coastal plain that extends from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Ionian Sea.
Eggplant is a favorite vegetable crop and it is prepared in a variety of ways: sautéed in olive oil with garlic and parsley; coated in egg and breadcrumbs and fried or and stuffed with salted anchovies and breadcrumbs. Sweet peppers, artichokes, zucchini, onions and mushrooms are all abundant.
Coastal waters are rich in tuna, swordfish, sardines and anchovies and in the mountain areas pork is the main meat of this area. There are countless salamis and sausages, as well as all types of homemade pastas. Pecorino is made by every family that owns sheep. The luxury of sweets is usually reserved for holidays.
The food is simple: pastas and vegetables, complemented by olive oil and sausages. Think of various shapes of dried pasta like spaghetti or penne topped with colorful sauces made with combinations of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. All these ingredients frequently make their way into hearty soups.
The province was devastated by the 1908 Messina earthquake. This was followed by a series of tsunamis that brought further damage. In the 1950s there was a mass migration of rural people from Reggio Calabria and other provinces in southern Italy to the cities of Rome, Milan and Turin in the north. They were driven by poverty, the poor soil of the region and the chronic lack of employment opportunities. The Italian government responded by making Catanzaro the regional capital and arranging for the regional assembly to be held at Reggio. A new port was built and it has become a busy container terminal that processes more than three million shipping containers each year. New roads have been built to handle the resulting increase in traffic.
The region is famous for the production of the Bergamot orange. The bergamot orange (pronounced /ˈbɜːrɡəˌmɒt/) is a fragrant fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon. Citrus bergamot is commercially grown in southern Reggio), where more than 80% is produced. Bergamot peel is used in perfume for its ability to combine with an array of scents to form a bouquet of aromas which complement each other. About one-third of all men’s and about half of women’s perfumes contain bergamot essential oil. Bergamot essential oil is popular in aromatherapy. Bergamot is also used in many skin care creams.
An essence extracted from the aromatic skin of this sour fruit is used to flavor Earl Grey tea. It is often used to make marmalade, particularly in Italy. Carpentierbe, a company based in San Giorgio Morgeto, near Reggio Calabria, makes a digestive liqueur derived from bergamot marketed under the name Liquore al Bergamotto.
The juice and zest can be used to flavor cookies, cakes, yogurt and custard. Bergamot oranges pair well with other citrus fruits, seafood, ricotta, mild salad greens, avocado and fresh herbs such as dill, basil and tarragon. Bergamot oranges will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Makes 2 (450 g/1 lb) jars
- 1 lb (500 g) bergamot oranges (about 3 medium)
- 2 cups (400 g) sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
Separate all the seeds from the fruit and place in a muslin bag or in cheesecloth and tie closed.
Puree fruit, skin included (but not the seeds), in a food processor.
In a large heavy bottom pot, add the citrus fruit mixture, juice, bag with seeds and water.
Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer and cook until the peels are translucent, about 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let the mixture rest for 2 hours. (It helps to release the pectin and essential oils from the rinds).
Add the sugar to the citrus fruit mixture, bring it to a boil again and reduce to slow simmer. Stir from time to time to make sure that the fruit doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
The marmalade will take about 15-20 minutes. Scoop out the muslin bag, squeeze any liquid out of it and give the marmalade a good stir. Remove from the heat and check if it is set.
To test, spoon a teaspoon of hot marmalade onto a small plate. Transfer it to a freezer for 1 minute. Then, tilt the plate to see if the jam “wrinkles.” If so, it’s done.
(If you use a candy thermometer, the temperature should be around 221 F/105 C).
Once the marmalade is cooked, ladle into clean jars and twist on the lids tightly. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
Bergamot Orange Custard Cups
- 4 ounces sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated Bergamot orange zest, plus extra for garnish
- 4 large eggs
- 4 ounces freshly squeezed Bergamot orange juice
- 10 ounces heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the sugar and orange zest on low until thoroughly mixed.
Add the eggs, then the orange juice and then the cream, mixing on low for several seconds after each addition until just combined.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Divide the mixture among 6 ramekins and place them into a roasting pan.
Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and bake for about 25 minutes, or until just set.
You can tell that the custards are done when they jiggle like gelatin.
Remove the custards from the water bath and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or until firm. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream garnished with orange zest.
Orange Roasted Chicken
- Zest of 5 bergamot oranges
- 1 cup bergamot orange juice
- 3 finely minced garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped herb mixture (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, bone-in, skin-on
- ¼ cup butter, softened and room temperature
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 bergamot orange, cut into thick slices for garnish
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Herb sprigs for garnish
In a mixing bowl, combine half of the orange zest with the orange juice, garlic, herbs and olive oil. (Set aside the remaining zest for later.)
Stir to combine and pour into a very large zip-lock bag. Add the chicken pieces and move them around to ensure they’re all coated with the marinade.
Seal the bag and place into a bowl (in case it leaks) and then into the refrigerator to marinate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, combine the softened butter with the paprika and the remaining orange zest.
Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and place them in a 9 X 13 X 2-inch baking dish. (Set aside the marinade in the bag.)
Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and then using your hands rub the butter mixture under the skin of each chicken piece and on top of the skin.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and add the orange slices. Place the baking dish in the oven and roast the chicken until it’s cooked through, about 45 minutes.
Baste the chicken several times during cooking.
Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired.
Fresh Fruit Salad
Use additional in season fruits, if you would like to add them.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons bergamot orange zest
- 1/4 cup fresh bergamot orange juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups fresh bergamot orange segments
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted, optional
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, orange zest, orange juice and water.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Remove the pan from the heat, strain through a sieve into a small bowl. Let cool completely.
In a large serving bowl, combine the fruit and mint. Add the orange syrup, stirring to combine. Cover and chill for at least an hour.
Sprinkle with almonds, if using, before serving.
I have a bookshelf filled with cookbooks, but the ones that mean the most to me, are the Italian cookbooks I have had since the early days of my married life. Before getting married, I really didn’t take much interest in cooking because my mother took care of all that in our home. Around the time that I was planning my wedding, my mother gave me, what was probably one of the most popular Italian cookbooks of that era, Ada Boni’s, The Talisman Italian Cookbook , and one that most first and second generation Italian-American daughters received as a gift. I was recently reminded of this traditional custom while I was reading a novel, Adriana Trigiani’s, Very Valentine. The novel is about an Italian-American family living in New York during the 1960s and one of the women in the novel takes out her copy of the Talisman to look up a recipe.
Ada Boni was a professional food writer in Italy. In 1915, she founded a lady’s home economic’s magazine called Preziosa. Each monthly installment featured recipes that she had collected from all over Italy, with a strong emphasis on recipes from her native Lazio and central Italy. In 1929, she published a compendium of over 2000 recipes from her columns–a volume that had a major impact on modern Italian cuisine.
Boni’s work was probably the first cookbook published in Italy intended specifically for housewives and was to Italians what, The Joy of Cooking, was to American cooks. The book was translated and published in the United States in 1950, and sad to say, is no longer in print. I still have my copy, though.
In the early days of my marriage, I refered to this book for ideas on what to make for dinner because my husband was a lover of Italian food. I was happy to have this reference because I could not keep calling my mother to find out how to make this dish or that dish.
Minestrone Soup was one of the first dishes I learned to make and have included Boni’s recipe for you to read. The recipe is healthy as written and does not need any changes. While this was my first version of minestrone, I graduated to a more substantial version, minus the bread, over the years that included more vegetables and some type of macaroni.
Minestrone Toscano (Tuscan Vegetable Soup)
Yield: 6 servings
- 1/2 pound dried white beans
- 1 very small cabbage, shredded
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 clove
- 12 slices thin of toasted bread
- 2 tablespoons grated Roman cheese
Soak the beans overnight; then boil in 3 quarts water 1 hour or until
tender. While the beans are cooking, place oil, garlic, onion, celery and rosemary
in soup pan and brown lightly. Dilute the tomato paste with a
little warm water, stir it into the pan and cook 5 minutes. Add the cabbage,
zucchini, parsley, salt, pepper and clove, as well as the beans and their cooking water. Cook slowly for 20 minutes.
Place 2 slices of toast in each soup bowl, add soup and sprinkle with cheese.
Leone’s Italian Cookbook
After a few years I became more adventurous and looked for additional recipes to master. Of course, I had a few American cookbooks for common, everyday meals, such as meatloaf and pot roast but I wanted to branch out into more Italian restaurant style food. Who knows why I thought that then? In any case I purchased my next cherished book, Leone’s Italian Cookbook by Gene Leone, of the famed New York eatery, Mamma Leone’s. My husband and I had eaten there a few times and even took the children there once after going to the theater. The restaurant closed in 1987. The book was first published in 1967 and is no longer available.
The recipe that I made most often from this book, and one my husband really liked, was Spaghettini with Clam Sauce. The version I make today is one with less oil, no butter or bacon and uses whole grain pasta. There are much easier ways to open the clams than the method used in this recipe. When I made this recipe back then, I usually turned to canned clams so I would not have to shuck them. A much easier way to open clams in the shell is to use a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1/4 cup of water or white wine to a boil. Add the cleaned clams, cover immediately, and steam until the clams are open, 3 to 5 minutes.
Notice some of the terminology and wording used for foods and processes mentioned in the recipe date this book considerably.
Mamma Leone’s Spaghettini with Clam Sauce
24 medium-sized cherrystone clams
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh creamery butter
1 ounce salt pork or bacon, diced
3 medium-sized garlic cloves, mashed
12 fresh parsley sprigs, leaves only
Pinch of flour
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
Open the clams, saving any juices, and coarsely chop the clams. Combine olive oil, butter and salt pork in a skillet; heat.( For a meatless meal, omit the salt pork.)
Chop garlic and parsley together and add to skillet. Cook slowly for 2 minutes. Do not burn. Add chopped clams and cook 5 minutes. Add flour and red and black pepper and stir well.
Do not add salt as the clams are salty. Cook for 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the clam juice, but be careful not to make the sauce too liquid. Bring to a boil and mix and the clam sauce is ready.
In the meantime have boiling salted water ready for the spaghettini. Cook for 10 minutes. (If a heavier spaghetti is used, cook a little longer.) Always taste a strand before removing from the heat to be sure it is cooked to your taste. Drain immediately and place back in the hot pot in which it was cooked. Pour a little sauce over it and mix. Serve in a warm bowl and add the rest of the sauce. Serves 4 to 5.
Note: You may add a dash of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon to the balance of the clam juice for an invigorating and refreshing cocktail. Or mix clam juice with a glass of Champagne and a dash of Tabasco.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
After about 10 years, I purchased a much revered book in the culinary world, Marcella Hazan’s, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. By this time in my cooking experience, I was ready for more sophisticated and more diverse cooking techniques. I was entertaining more and wanted to make dishes like homemade pasta, cannelloni, gnocchi, osso buco and risotto. The author’s style is very clear and her directions are easy to follow. Marcella Hazan has written several books since this classic cookbook came out in 1973. Luckily, her books are still in print and, if you want authentic, classic Italian recipes, pick up a copy of one of her books.
I learned to make risotto with this recipe, but I did not use truffles. I don’t think I even knew what they were, when I read this recipe for the first time. Not something we had in our pantry when I was growing up. I still make risotto every once in awhile, but like to add more flavorings and ingredients, such as lemon, asparagus, shrimp and chicken broth instead of beef. The process for cooking risotto, though, will always be, as described here. Well, maybe not the part about “never stop stirring”. Risotto can survive with occasionally stirring.
Risotto with Parmesan Cheese
This basic white risotto is the simplest way to prepare the dish, and for many, the finest. Good as it is, it can be even better when blanketed by shaved white truffles.
5 cups Homemade Meat Broth, or 1 cup canned beef broth diluted with 4 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons onion chopped very fine
2 cups Arborio or other imported Italian risotto rice
½ heaping cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
OPTIONAL: ½ ounce (or more if affordable) fresh or canned white truffle
Salt, if required
1. Bring the broth to a very slow, steady simmer on a burner near where you’ll be cooking the risotto.
2. Put 1 tablespoon of butter, the vegetable oil, and the chopped onion in a broad, sturdy pot, and turn on the heat to medium high. Cook and stir the onion until it becomes translucent, then add the rice. Stir quickly and thoroughly until the grains are coated well.
3. Add ½ cup of simmering broth and cook the rice, stirring constantly with a long wooden spoon, wiping the sides and bottom of the pot clean as you stir, until all the liquid is gone. You must never stop stirring and you must be sure to wipe the bottom of the pot completely clean frequently, or the rice will stick to it.
4. When there is no more liquid in the pot, add another ½ cup, continuing always to stir in the manner described above. Maintain heat at a lively pace.
5. Begin to taste the rice after 20 minutes of cooking. It is done when it is tender, but firm to the bite. As it approaches that stage, gradually reduce the amount of liquid you add, so that when it is fully cooked, it is slightly moist, but not runny.
6. When the rice is about 1 or 2 minutes away from being fully cooked, add all the grated Parmesan and the remaining butter. Stir constantly to melt the cheese and wrap it around the grains. Off heat, taste and correct for salt, stirring after adding salt.
7. Transfer to a platter and serve promptly. Shave the optional white truffle over it, using either a truffle slicer or a swiveling-blade vegetable peeler. Some prefer to shave the truffle over each individual portion.
- Italian zuchinni soup (incrediblylovelylotte.wordpress.com)
- How to Use Beans in Italian Cooking (jovinacooksitalian.com)