Lazio located in central Italy, stretches from the western edges of the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is mainly flat with small mountainous areas in the most eastern and southern districts. Lazio has four very ancient volcanic districts, where the craters of extinct volcanoes form the lakes of Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Albano and Nemi. Lazio is the third most populated region of Italy and has the second largest economy of the nation. Rome is the capital of Italy, as well as the region. Other important cities are Frosinone, Latina, Viterbo and Rieti.
Until the late 19th century, much of the lowland area of Lazio was marshy and malarial. Major reclamation work in the early 20th century resulted in drainage and repopulation of the plain that transformed the region. Migratory grazing was greatly reduced and wheat, maize, vegetables, fruit and meat and dairy products were able to flourish in the lowlands, while olive groves and vineyards gradually began to cover the slopes.
Light industry developed with the help of regional development programs, particularly in and around the new satellite towns of Aprilia, Pomezia and Latina, south of Rome. Rome is the region’s commercial and banking center, but it has little industry apart from artisan and specialized industries, such as fashions. Large numbers of persons are employed by the government. In the rest of the region only chemical and pharmaceutical plants, food industries, papermaking and a few small machine industries are of significance.
Rome, including the Vatican, is Italy’s largest tourist center and tourism is also important at resorts in the Alban Hills, the Apennines and along the coast.
Lazio’s transportation is also dominated by Rome’s railways and roads and the city has one of Europe’s busiest international airports. Civitavecchia, the only port of importance, is noted chiefly for its trade with Sardinia.
Take a tour of the Lazio region with the video below.
Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed the cuisine for all. Add to this a heavy influence of Jewish cooking and a variety of flavor combinations emerge.
Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (artichokes, deep-fried or simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint) and inexpensive cuts of meat (called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chili pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and zucchini blossoms) and sharp Pecorino cheese (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside).
The hills in Lazio are rich and fertile making it easy to grow vegetables of all types which in turn makes them an important part of the cuisine. They are cooked with liberal amounts of oil, herbs and garlic and, more often than not, a good portion of anchovies.
Lazio appetizers feature fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, artisanal breads, olives and olive oils produced within the region. Lazio cuisine may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is usually found in lasagne or fettuccine. Lazio recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Potato, rice or semolina gnocchi dumplings are also commonly prepared. Suppli al telefono are hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver or anchovies.
Chicken is used more here than in other regions and they also eat a fair amount of rabbit. Pork is used to make Guanciale or cured pork cheek, Ventresca or cured belly meat, Mortadella di Amatrice, sausages or salsicce, lard and prosciutto. Often the salumi are spicy and flavorful.
Much of the fish consumed in Lazio comes from the Tiber River and Bolsena Lake, including ciriole, caption and freshwater eels.
Even when it comes to desserts, they keep it simple. Maritozzi, a type of cream-filled pastry, doughnuts, fried rice treats and ricotta tarts are all popular.
Lazio is known for Est Est Est a wine that is produced in the area near Lake Bolsena and Falerno.
This deep dish pie is probably named for the town of Gaeta and the pan they used to prepare the pie. It was popular for the farmers and fishermen, so that they had a meal that could keep for a few days. It consists of a rustic pizza round that usually contains olives, fish (such as anchovies and / or sardines, octopus and squid), ricotta cheese or other cheeses and vegetables, such as tomatoes or onion.
- 10 ½ oz (300 gr) Italian flour (00 flour)
- 7 oz (200 gr) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
Ingredients for the filling
- 1 1/4 lbs (500 gr) octopus
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup (60 gr) black olives
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup (200 gr) tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons (20 gr) parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons (3 gr) crushed red chilli pepper
- Salt to taste
Combine the dough ingredients and let it rise, push the dough down and let it rise again.
Roll out half the dough to fit a 10 inch baking pan.
Put the octopus in a large pot of boiling salted water with the vinegar and boil until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel as much of the skin off the octopus as you can while it is still hot. Chop the octopus into bite-size pieces.
Combine the filling ingredients.
Place the filling in the dough covered pan.
Roll out the remaining dough and cover the filling. Seal and brush the dough with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake at 350 degrees F (180-200) for about 25-30 minutes.
Spaghetti and Roman Broccoli
- 1 head Romanesco broccoli or regular broccoli
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 ¼ cups (500 ml) of vegetable broth
- 8 oz (220 gr) of spaghetti, broken into pieces
- Salt and Pepper
- 5 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For Romanesco broccoli:
Clean and dice in small pieces. Set aside in a bowl.
If using regular broccoli:
Wash the broccoli, clean the tops and cut off the florets. Dice the stalks. Set aside in a bowl.
Fry the garlic in the oil until golden in a large saucepan. Add the broccoli to the pan and stir well.
Add the vegetable broth and the tomato paste, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until the broccoli is tender.
Add salt and pepper according to taste.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water. Drain and add to the broccoli in the saucepan and heat. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese.
Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana and Gricia are the four most popular pasta dishes in Rome. Together they form the backbone of Primi courses at every trattoria in the Eternal City, where the locals have strong, vocal opinions on where to find the best execution of each, never all at one place.
- 12 oz (320 gr) bucatini pasta
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) Pecorino romano cheese, grated
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) guanciale or pancetta or bacon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Dice the bacon and brown over low heat in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil.
Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water, al dente. Drain well. Add to the skillet with the bacon and sauté for 1 minute.
Sprinkle with the cheese and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.
Salt Cod Fillets Roman Style
- 1 1/3 lbs (600 gr) salted codfish (baccalà), soaked
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 (1/4-ounce) packet dry active yeast
- 2 tablespoon butter, melted
- Olive oil
Soak the baccalà in cold water for at least 3 days prior to preparing this dish. Change the water each day.
Combine butter, flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
Dry and cut the cod into serving pieces.
Coat each fillet in batter, then fry in a large pan with very hot oil.
Place fillets on paper towels to drain before serving.
Hazelnut Cake Viterbo
- Cake pan – 10 inches or 26 cm diameter
- 1/2 cup (50 g) potato starch
- 7 1/8 oz (200 gr) 00 Italian flour
- 1 2/3 cups (350 gr) sugar
- 1/3 cup (60 gr) milk chocolate, chopped
- 1 ¼ cups (200 gr) chopped toasted hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup 50 gr raisins softened in a little milk
- 6 oz (170 gr) milk
- 3 eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 5 ¼ oz (150 g) butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Powdered sugar for garnish
In a large bowl mix the potato starch, flour, baking powder, sugar, chocolate, chopped hazelnuts and softened butter.
Add one egg at a time and mix it into the mixture before adding the next. Add the drained raisins, lemon zest and milk.
Butter the pan and sprinkle with flour mixed with a little sugar.
Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake in the oven at 325 degrees F (160-170) for 45-50 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.
In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes, by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet. The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.
The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.
The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.
By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.
The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.
The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.
I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.
The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.
The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.
Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.
The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.
When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.
The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.
The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.
Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.
Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. Pecorino or pork rind flavored breads are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough. Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves. A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit. Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola. This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.
Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)
- 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
- 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
- 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 2 cups farro
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Squeeze of lemon juice
Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.
In a large saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil.
Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.
Drain and let cool until no more than warm.
Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.
Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.
White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )
Makes 6 servings
- 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
- 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.
Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.
Umbrian Mixed Grill
This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.
- 1 pound boneless pork loin
- 1 pound boneless beef loin
- 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
- 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
- 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
- Coarse salt to taste
- Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.
Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.
Apricots with Amaretto Syrup
- 10 firm-ripe large apricots
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
- 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), crumbled (1/3 cup)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling
Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.
Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.
Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.
Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.
Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.
Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Liguria is where pesto is originally from, one of the most popular sauces in Italian cuisine. Seafood is a major staple of Liguria, as the sea has been part of the region’s culture since its beginning. Another important aspect of the culture is the beach. Tourists have been flocking to the Italian Riviera for decades to experience its calm, deep blue water.
Liguria is the coastal region of north-western Italy, where Genoa is the capital. Liguria is bordered by France to the west, Piedmont to the north and Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to the east. It lies on the Ligurian Sea. This narrow strip of land is bordered by the sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Mountains and steep cliffs that rise loftily out of the Ligurian Sea in the most northerly part of the Western Mediterranean.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the region’s economic growth was remarkable: steel mills and shipyards flourished along the coast from Imperia to La Spezia, while the port of Genoa became the main commercial hub of industrializing Northern Italy. During the tragic period of World War II, Liguria experienced heavy bombings, hunger and two years of occupation by the German troops, against whom a liberation struggle was led. When Allied troops eventually entered Genoa, they were welcomed by Italian partisans who, in a successful insurrection, had freed the city and accepted the surrender of the local German command.
Steel, once a major industry during the booming 1950s and 1960s, phased out after the late 1980s, as Italy moved away from heavy industry to pursue more technologically advanced and less polluting productions. Ligurian businesses turned towards a widely diversified range of high-quality and high-tech products (food, electrical engineering, electronics, petrochemicals, aerospace etc.). Despite this new direction, the region still maintains a flourishing shipbuilding industry (yacht construction and maintenance, cruise liners and military shipyards).
A good motorways network (376 km, 234 mi) makes communications with the border regions relatively easy. The main motorway is located along the coastline, connecting the main ports of Nice (in France), Savona, Genoa and La Spezia.
The capital, Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state in the Middle Ages. Today, one can find impressive buildings, elegant mansions and churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past and which blend in perfectly with the modern city. Numerous historical treasures and be found throughout Liguria. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place. Other important cities in Liguria are: Imperia, Savona and La Spezia.
Visit Liguria in the video below:
The forests are covered with pine trees, providing the fresh pine nuts (pignoli) for Ligurian dishes. Mushrooms and chestnuts abound in the hills, as do rabbits and other wild game, making the region ideal for producing hearty and rustic country dishes. The warm Mediterranean air helps create good conditions for growing olives, wine grapes, corn, herbs (particularly basil), garlic, chickpeas, zucchini, potatoes, onions and artichokes. Because of its wide coastline, fish and shellfish are the predominant proteins used in Ligurian cooking, though the region shares its love of pork and pork products with both its Italian and French neighbors.
Pasta is important to the region’s cuisine. A small lasagna noodle originated here, made from chestnut flour, is still popular today. The innovative Ligurians were skilled in making do with locally grown ingredients, like chestnuts and chickpeas, to produce flours to use in pasta, polenta and bread. Today, wheat is fairly easy to import to the region, so it is now the primary ingredient in pastas and breads.
Pesto sauce is popular as a topping for pastas and is widely consumed, since basil and pine nuts are so readily available. Fidelini, a local favorite pasta, cut long and thin, is the perfect base for light sauces. Other favorites include, trenette a form of flat, thin pasta similar to linguine and hearty gnocchi, both of which can be found on almost every menu.
High on the list of Ligurian specialties is the bread known as focaccia. This flatbread is not meant to be stored for any length of time, but rather is best eaten straight from the oven. Though usually baked plain, the region’s abundance of herbs are often combined and sprinkled on top. Cheeses, meats and fresh vegetables are other regional additions to focaccia. Ligurian focaccias have a dense texture, perfect for sopping up rich sauces or simply a great tasting olive oil.
Regional Favorites To Make At Home
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
- 1 cup warm water
- One ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
- 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons rosemary or thyme leaves
Oil a large bowl and set it aside. Pour the water into a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil.
Mix together the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, then stir the yeast mixture into the flour with a wooden spoon until a slightly sticky dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Coat your hands with flour, then knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, 2-3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, put it into the oiled bowl and roll it in the bowl to coat it lightly with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it in a warm spot until the dough roughly doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Lightly oil a 7-by-11-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape it into a rectangle to fit the baking pan. Put it in the oiled pan and pat the top down gently so it is even. Using the handle end of a wooden spoon, make regular rows of slight indentations across the entire surface, spacing the indentations about 2 inches apart. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise for another hour at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Brush the top of the dough lightly with oil, then sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. (If desired, sprinkle 2 tablespoons rosemary or thyme leaves over the top of the focaccia after it has been in the oven for about 10 minutes.)
Serve warm or at room temperature and cut into wedges or squares.
Cozze alla Maggiorana ed Aglio alla Ligure (Steamed Mussels with Marjoram and Garlic Ligurian-Style)
Mussels are plentiful along the rugged Ligurian coastline. Marjoram, a favorite herb in Liguria, is usually added to seafood dishes. Toss the mussels with 1 pound of cooked linguine for a first course.
- 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced marjoram
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
Soak the mussels in cool water to cover with 1 tablespoon of the salt for 30 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly a few times. This step is essential for ridding the mussels of any dirt or sediment.
Place the garlic, marjoram, parsley and olive oil in a 4-quart pot. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine, mussels and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Cover and cook until the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed and serve hot, with the cooking juices.
Ligurian Style Pesto Lasagna
- Pesto, recipe follows
- Besciamella, recipe follows
- Butter, for baking dish, plus 2 tablespoons cut into small pieces for the topping
- 1 1/2 (9-ounce) boxes no boil lasagna noodles
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
- 4 cups of milk
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 cups of fresh basil leaves (about 4 oz)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup of pignoli
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano Cheese
- Salt and pepper
Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour.
Pour in the milk, whisking constantly, while bringing the mixture to a boil; simmer for about 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Rinse the basil and separate the leaves from the stems.
Grate the cheeses and peel the garlic.
Combine the basil, the garlic, the pignoli and the olive oil in a blender and process until a paste forms. Add the cheeses, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
MAKING THE LASAGNA
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a 13″ × 9″ x 4″ pan layer the ingredients as follows:
– a thin layer of besciamella
– cover with a layer of pasta
– a thin layer of besciamella
– 4 tablespoons of pesto, gently spread across the surface
– sprinkle the layer with 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan
– cover with a layer of pasta
– repeat the layering until you use all the pasta
– top with a very thin layer of besciamella and remaining pesto, parmesan cheese and dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter
Bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes and serve with extra parmesan cheese.
Italian Plum Cake
- 1 cup unblanched almonds
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup for topping
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 pounds Italian plums, pitted and sliced thickly
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 10-inch tart pan or springform pan.
Put the almonds and the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse once more. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
Beat the eggs with the milk in another bowl and stir in the melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk for a minute or two until the batter is smooth.
Pour the batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the plum slices on top on a circular pattern. Sprinkle the 1/ 3 cup sugar over the plums.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
This Italian region comprises the historical areas of Emilia and Romagna. Half the territory is formed by the Apennines and the other half is a large plain, which reaches east to the Adriatic Sea. The coastline is flat and sandy with lagoons and marshy areas.
Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life standards. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist center, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Its cuisine is renowned and it is home to the automotive companies of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati.
Popular coastal resorts such as Rimini and Riccione are located in this region. Other important cities include Parma, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Forlì and Reggio Emilia.
Despite being an industrial power, Emilia-Romagna is also a leading region in agriculture, with farming contributing 5.8% of the region’s agricultural products. Cereals, potatoes, corn, tomatoes and onions are the most important products, along with fruit and grapes for the production of wine (of which the best known are Emilia’s Lambrusco, Bologna’s Pignoletto, Romagna’s Sangiovese and white Albana). Cattle and hog breeding are also highly developed.
Tourism is increasingly important, especially along the Adriatic coastline and the art museum cities. Since 187 B.C., when the Romans built the 125-Mile Roman Road/Via Emilia, this thoroughfare has taken travelers throughout the region and connected them with the major trading centers of Venice, Genoa and central/northern Europe. This main roadway crosses the region from north-west (Piacenza) to the south-east (Adriatic coast), connecting the main cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and the Adriatic coast.
Emilia-Romagna gave birth to two great musicians, one of the most important composers of music, Giuseppe Verdi and Toscanini, the famous conductor. Marcella Hazan, one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine, was born in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara. Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She moved to New York City following her marriage to Victor Hazan and published her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, in 1973.
The most popular sport in Emilia-Romagna is football. Several famous clubs from Emilia-Romagna compete at a high level on the national stage: Cesena, Parma and Sassuolo. With 13 professional clubs in 2013, the region is only bettered in terms of a number of professional clubs by Lombardy. It also has 747 amateur clubs, 1,522 football pitches and 75,328 registered players. Another sport which is very popular in this region is basketball and teams from Emilia-Romagna compete in the Lega Basket Serie A. Zebre rugby club competes professionally in the Guinness Pro 12 league. The club’s home ground is located in Parma.
Take a tour of Emilia-Romagna with the video below.
The Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna
The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna, while Grana Padano is produced in the rest of the region. Prosciutto di Parma is Italy’s most popular ham, especially beyond Italy where it’s widely exported. With its roots going back to 100 BC, when a salt-cured ham was mentioned in the writings of Cato, Prosciutto has a long and hallowed history in the Parma province.
Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar to pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. Pasta is often the first course and Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pastas, such as tortellini, lasagna and tagliatelle. In some areas of Romagna rice is eaten, with risotto taking the place of pasta. Polenta, a cornmeal-based dish, is common both in Emilia and Romagna.
Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Although the Adriatic coast is a major fishing area (well-known for its eels and clams), the region is more famous for its meat products, especially pork-based, that include: Parma’s prosciutto, culatello and Felino salami, Piacenza’s pancetta, coppa and salami, Bologna’s mortadella and salame rosa, Modena’s zampone, cotechino and cappello del prete and Ferrara’s salama da sugo. Reggio Emilia is famous for erbazzone, a spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano pie and Gnocco Fritto, flour strips fried in boiling oil and eaten in combination with ham or salami.
From grilled asparagus with Parma ham to basil/onion mashed potatoes or roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a cornucopia of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.
Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries & red wine often find their way to the table. Regional desserts include zuppa inglese (custard-based dessert made with sponge cake and Alchermes liqueur) and panpepato (Christmas cake made with pepper, chocolate, spices, and almonds).
Some differences do exist in the cuisines of Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia has lush plains, gentle hills and a cuisine that demonstrates more Northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s ample supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of the Ferrara province and the rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes, plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.
TRADITIONAL RECIPES OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA
PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (CAPPELLACCI)
FOR THE PASTA
- 10 oz all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- Pinch of salt
FOR THE FILLING
- 2 lbs pumpkin, baked and the flesh scooped out
- 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Nutmeg to taste
- 2 oz butter
- Salt to taste
- 1 egg
For the pasta:
Mix the eggs, flour and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.
Roll out into thin sheets on a pasta machine and cut into squares, about 2.5 inches a side.
For the filling:
Mix the baked pumpkin pulp with the egg, the grated cheese and the nutmeg.
Put the filling on half the squares of pasta and top with another square. Press the edges with a fork to seal.
Cook them in abundant salted water and season with melted butter, sage and grated cheese.
BEEF FILLET WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE
- 1 ¾ lb beef fillet
- 1 ½ ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating the meat
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- Salt to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Cut the fillet into four equal slices and flatten slightly with a meat pounder. Coat the meat in flour and shake to remove any excess. Put the fillets on a greased plate, then salt them.
Heat a large skillet and cook the fillets on both sides over very high heat, sprinkling each with some of the balsamic vinegar.
In a separate saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar, the beef broth and the flour. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
When the fillets are cooked, cover them with the sauce and garnish with parsley.
ERBAZZONE (SAVORY GREENS PIE)
This pie is often served with slices of prosciutto.
- 2 lbs spinach
- 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 oz olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 oz pancetta, chopped fine
- 1 ¾ oz butter
- 3 ½ oz lard
- 1/2 onion, about 2/3 cup
- 1 clove of garlic
- Box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cook the spinach in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and chop the spinach. Squeeze well to dry.
Sauté butter, lard and onion in a skillet. Add the spinach and garlic and cook for five minutes. Cool. Then, mix with some grated Parmesan, the olive oil, pepper and salt.
Lay one sheet of pastry in a rectangular oven-dish (about the size of the pastry sheet; cut to fit, if needed). Spread the filling over the dough. Dot the top of the filling with the pancetta. Cover with the second pastry sheet. Press down lightly.
Bake at 350°F until the pastry is golden, about 30 minutes.
Serve hot or warm.
CIAMBELLA (RING CAKE)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- Grated zest of 1/2 a medium orange
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- Powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch ring mold or a springform pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.
Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.
The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Trentino-Alto Adige is situated in the very north of Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland and is best known for the beauty of its peaks. Trentino-Alto Adige is a relatively young region, having only been fully annexed by Italy in 1919, and because of its proximity to neighboring countries, a large portion of the population speak German as well as Italian. Slavic culture and cooking traditions are still very much a part of the Trentino-Alto Adige region.
The region is mainly mountainous, rich in rivers and lakes. To the west one finds the glaciers, Adamello-Presanella-Care Alto and Brenta and to the east are the Lagorai, Latemar, the Dolomites of Fassa and the Pale di S. Martino. Extensive coniferous forests cover the slopes and three natural parks, Adamello-Brenta, Paneveggio-Pale of S. Martino and Stelvio, are in the region. The city of Trento is the administrative headquarters of the province and of the region.
The most striking natural feature has to be the Dolomites and they are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers an unforgettable experience for ski and winter sports lovers. This year the region is host to the European Cup Alpine Skiing.
The traditional food of Trentino Alto Adige is based on local agriculture and farming. The region’s most celebrated specialty is the Tyrol smoked ham known as Speck. Local salami, kaminwur, is very tasty along with regional cheeses represented by trentingrana, toma di montagna and casolet cheeses.
Polenta, served as a first course, is prepared with a meat, cheese or mushroom sauce. Other first courses include barley soup, pasta and beans, mushroom soup and the popular, brò brusà, a simple local soup.
As for main courses, the specialties of the region are: rabbit with grappa, goulash, roe deer with polenta, trout and lucanica, a pork sausage.
A famous local food is the Val di Non apple, used to prepare strudel and fruit tarts.
Trentino-Alto Adige is also known for the production of wines, that include Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot, Chardonnay and Spumante. In an unusual divergence from southern Italian tastes, beer is a favorite drink with midday and evening meals. Beer making can be traced back for centuries in the area and is another testament to the strong Germanic influence the Trentino-Alto Adige region enjoys.
Take A Tour The Trentino-Alto Adige Region
Brò Brusà and Porcini Mushrooms
Ingredients for 4
For the soup:
- 3 ½ oz (100g) ’00’ ( Italian) flour
- 4 ¼ cups (1 litre) warm meat stock
- 3/8 cup (100ml) lukewarm water
For the porcini mushrooms:
- 10 ½ oz (300g) fresh porcini mushrooms
- 7/8 cup (200ml) white wine
- Fresh chopped parsley
For the garnishes
- 1 ¾ oz (50g) Butter/Botiro di malga (high quality homemade butter)
- Bread cut into croutons
- Grated trentingrana cheese, to taste
Sieve the flour into a warm pan and keep it on low heat. Keep mixing the flour until it starts to brown. Set aside, let it cool and then add the warm stock.
Place the pan back on the stove and bring to a boil on low heat, adding the lukewarm water slowly.
In a separate skillet clean the mushrooms, chop them into small pieces and saute them in olive oil, then drizzle them with the wine. Add salt and fresh chopped parsley to taste.
Prepare the croutons by frying them in the butter.
Serve in individual soup bowls. Ladle the soup first and the croutons on top. Sprinkle with the grated trentingrana cheese and finally add the mushrooms.
Serve over polenta or boiled potatoes.
- 1 ¾ lb beef chuck, cut into small cubes
- 5 onions, sliced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon sweet red paprika
- 1 oz all-purpose flour
- Lemon zest
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig marjoram
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 oz tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 cups water
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the thinly sliced onion and the diced meat. Cook until browned.
Dissolve the flour and the paprika in the ½ cup of water.
Pour over the meat. Add the red wine to the saucepan and let it evaporate.
Add the herbs, the grated lemon zest, salt, pepper and tomato paste; stir.
Add the remaining water, cover the pan with a lid and cook for at least 2 hours, adding extra water, if the goulash should thicken too much.
Spinach Canederli (Spinach Dumplings)
- 6 day-old Italian bread rolls (about 2 ounces each)
- 3 ½ ounces fresh spinach
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 3 eggs
- 1 onion
- 2/3 cup flour
- Olive oil as needed
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mince the onion.
Cut the bread rolls into 1/2-inch cubes.
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, add the onion and bread cubes and sauté until golden.
Wash spinach and boil in salted water for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water in a towel.
Chop with a knife or food processor.
In a bowl, mix the chopped spinach with the eggs, flour, grated cheese, salt and pepper.
Add sautéed onion and bread and combine with a spoon.
Shape into egg-sized balls with floured hands and boil in salted water for about 8 minutes.
Drain and serve with grated Parmigiano and melted butter.
1 frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted and at room temperature.
- 1 1/3 lbs (600g) apples
- 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
- 1/4 cup (50g) breadcrumbs toasted in butter
- 2 oz (60g) golden raisins
- 2 tablespoons rum
- Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 egg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into thin slices and mix them with the sugar, bread crumbs, golden raisins, rum, cinnamon and lemon peel.
Unroll the pastry and place on a floured surface. Usually ready-made puff pastry is too thick for the purpose of making strudel, so you need to enlarge the sheet and make it thinner (about 1/8th of an inch or 2 mm thick).
Roll out the dough and put it on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough and roll the strudel from the long side.
Brush the strudel with egg and bake it for 45 minutes, until golden brown.Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Sprinkle the strudel with confectioner’s sugar before serving.