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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Milan

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Milan is the home of Italy’s stock exchange, the Gothic cathedral – the Duomo, one of Europe’s biggest trade-fair complexes, famous nightclubs, the prestigious opera house, La Scala, A.C. Milan (football) and endless opportunities to eat the best of Lombard’s Italian food. Milan is also the fashion icon of Italy and houses millions of residents in this northern city located south of the Italian Alps. Milan is very close to several other cities, such as Venice and Florence, and attractions, such as the Alpine ski slopes or the seashore villages of Liguria and Cinque Terre. The fashion quarter is not only known for major designers in the industry, such as, Valentino, Gucci, Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent but, also, for many small boutique stores and fashionable shops.

milan

Milan’s cuisine features many specialties. Pasta dishes, such as “tortelli di zucca”, which is ravioli stuffed with pumpkin, “zuppa pavese” (broth with bread and eggs) and “zuppa di porri e bietole” (soup made with leeks and swiss chard). Polenta topped with mushrooms or meat sauce is typically served during the winter. Risotto alla Milanese, Osso Buco, breaded veal cutlet, pork chops or roast beef are typical main dishes. Cheese is a must on the Milanese table at the end of the meal. The cheeses that are eaten in Milan come from the surrounding countryside and alpine valleys. Among the most popular are Bagoss, Brescia cheese, Caprini, Crescenza or Stracchino, soft cheeses flavored with mountain herbs and, of course, Gorgonzola, eaten alone or served over risotto and polenta. You will notice that the dishes in Milan are based on more high calorie ingredients such as butter and sausages, supposedly due to the fact that the winters are long.

Milanese Dinner

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Appetizer Course

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Polenta e Gorgonzola

Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup gorgonzola blue cheese
  • Chopped herbs, such as rosemary or sage
  • Coarse ground black pepper

For the polenta:

  • 13 oz polenta (not quick cooking)
  • 7 cups water or milk or a combination
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Boil the water and/or the milk, add salt and butter.

Pour the polenta into the boiling water, slowly and mixing well with a whisk.

Cover and let simmer over low heat for 60 minutes.

Grease a large baking tray and pour the polenta onto the pan, spreading it with a spatula: it should be around 1/4 inch thick, let it cool.

With a decorative 2 inch cookie or biscuit cutter make 24 circles.

Spread the gorgonzola cheese over half of the circles, cover with the other half and decorate with a walnut on the top, herbs and black pepper.

Serve warm, heating for 5 minutes in the oven

First Course

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Leek and Swiss Chard Soup – Zuppa Di Porri E Bietole

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 ounces swiss chard, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cups stock ( vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

In a large saucepan over low heat, cook the leeks in the butter and oil until tender and golden.

Add the Swiss chard and stock and bring to a simmer.

Cook until the chard wilts, about 10 minutes.

Add the rice, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook over low heat about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.

Stir in cheese and serve.

Main Course

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Italian Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing

During the autumn season in Italy, turkey is often made with a stuffing of chestnuts and sausage. The wild turkey was brought to Europe from the New World and, once domesticated, became one of the large courtyard fowl animals in Lombardy. With Italy being one of the largest producers of chestnuts, it was natural to use them in a stuffing.

Ingredients

  • Chestnut Stuffing, (recipe below)
  • 1 12-to-14-pound turkey
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

Make Chestnut Stuffing.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a large roasting pan and a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Remove the giblets, neck and any visible fat from the turkey. Rub the cavity with lemon halves, squeezing them as you go. Make a few tiny slits in the skin under the wings, where the legs join the body and in the thickest part of the breast. Stuff each slit with a piece of rosemary and sage.

Stuff the cavity and neck pouch with about 5 cups of the stuffing, securing the neck cavity with a skewer. Place remaining stuffing in the prepared baking dish; cover and refrigerate until needed.

Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper. Place bacon slices across the breast. Tie the drumsticks together.

Place the turkey, breast-side up, in the prepared roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour. Pour the wine over the turkey and baste a few times. Continue to roast for 2 hours more, basting with the pan juices several times and roast until the turkey is done, an additional 30 to 60 minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh should register 180°F and 165°F in the stuffing.) Total cooking time will be 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

About 40 minutes before the turkey is ready, cover the reserved stuffing with a lid or foil and bake until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes. If you like a crisp top, uncover for the last 15 minutes of baking.

When the turkey is ready, place it on a carving board or platter. Scoop stuffing into a serving bowl, cover and keep warm. Tent the turkey with foil.

Place the roasting pan over medium heat and pour in the broth; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Mix water and cornstarch in a small bowl; add to the simmering sauce, whisking until lightly thickened.

Remove string from the drumsticks and carve the turkey. Serve with stuffing and gravy.

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Chestnut Stuffing

Ingredients

  • Two 7 1/2-ounce jars vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts
  • 8 cups cubed country bread, (1 pound)
  • 12 oz sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Break the chestnut meat into chunks. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread bread on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 15 to 25 minutes. Set aside.

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Wipe out the skillet.

Add oil to the skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and fennel and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine the reserved chestnuts, toasted bread, sausage, onion-mushroom mixture, parsley, thyme, sage, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss until well mixed.

Whisk eggs and 1 cup broth in a small bowl. Drizzle the egg mixture over the bread mixture and toss until evenly moistened. If you like a moist stuffing, add remaining 1/2 cup broth.

Use as directed in Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing or place in a 3-quart baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray, cover with a lid or foil and bake at 325°F until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes. If you like a crisp top, uncover for the last 15 minutes of baking.

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Broccoli with Orange Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh broccoli, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • Juice of 1 medium orange
  • 1 teaspoon orange peel, grated
  • 1 medium navel orange, peeled and thinly sliced

Directions

Cook the broccoli in a saucepan in a small amount of salted water for about eight minutes. Drain the broccoli in a colander and place it in a serving bowl.

In the empty saucepan combine the cornstarch, chicken broth, orange juice and orange peel and stir until mixture is blended. Then bring to a boil and stir for two minutes or until it thickens. Drizzle the sauce over the broccoli. Garnish with orange slices before serving.

Dessert Course

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Fresh Pear Crostata

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chopped peeled ripe pears (about 8 medium)
  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, or your favorite pie crust
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. In medium bowl, mix the 1/2 cup sugar and the flour. Gently stir in the pears to coat.

Place the pie crust on a parchment lined 15×10 inch pan with sides.

Spoon the pear mixture onto center of the crust to within 2 inches of the edge. Carefully fold the 2-inch edge of crust up over pear mixture, pleating crust slightly as you go along the circle. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the crust edge.

Bake 15 minutes and sprinkle almonds over the pear mixture. Continue to bake 5 more minutes until the pears are tender and the crust is golden. Cool 15 minutes. Cut into wedges; serve warm.

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The Italian version of fruitcake is panettone, and although it does contain the candied fruits that can make fruitcake something to avoid, its airy texture and light sweet flavor make it more appealing than other fruitcakes. Traditional panettone, (yellow in color because it has butter and egg yolks in it) is studded with raisins and the candied peels of lemons and oranges. It’s cooked in a cylindrical paper and, when it rises, it puffs out of the top of the paper so that the end product looks like a muffin. While some fruitcake varieties incorporate alcohol into the recipe, panettone does not – but it goes quite well with a glass of sweet wine!

Panettone is more than just a Christmas bread. It is also a good story – or two – depending on whom you’re talking to. The legends behind the origin of this cake differ slightly, but all agree as to where it comes from – Milan. While the Ancient Romans were known to make sweetened bread, the origins of this particular recipe don’t go back quite that far.

The most commonly quoted legend behind panettone says that in the 15th. century, a man fell in love with the daughter of a baker called Toni. In order to win her heart and prove his love to her father, he came up with a bread recipe that included dried and candied fruits and called his creation “pane de Toni,” or Toni’s bread. Another story says the Christmas banquet given by the Sforza family had no dessert until a young kitchen hand baked up a sweet bread, thereby saving the meal – and yes, the kitchen hand’s name was Toni. Whether there is any truth to these legends is immaterial – the bread remains a part of the Christmas season in many Italian households.

Although panettone comes from Milan, it is now found throughout Italy. During the Christmas season look in any Italian bakery window and you’ll see brightly-colored packages ready for sale. You’ll even find mass-produced panettone in shops around the world, although the quality of these isn’t great. If you’re not in Italy and don’t have access to a good Italian bakery, you’re probably better off making your own panettone – especially since you can control exactly what goes into it.

Resource: Under the Tuscan Gun

In the weeks before Christmas, hundreds of millions of panettone are sold all over Italy, and throughout Europe, as well as in North America. That famous brightly colored box—oversized, festive and elegant—is an immediate cue that the holidays are here. Before industrialization, panettone (literally, “big bread”) was made in local bakeries or at home, and it was a laborious, time-consuming task. Traditionally, the father, or head of the household, would mark a cross at the top of the tall loaf of sweetened bread before it was placed in the oven, as a good omen for the coming year. And, still to this day, panettone retains a special aura, bringing a feeling of love, luck and joy whenever it is offered.

The special dough, similar to sourdough, slowly ferments and rises for at least 12 hours, but the leavening process can last much longer. Panettone ingredients are usually flour, eggs, butter, yeast, dried raisins, candied oranges, citron and lemon zest. Throughout Italy, bakeries still prepare it daily during the Christmas season for their customers. The quality of bakery-made panettone is usually excellent and is reflected in the price.

Panettone is eaten during the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations—which last for 10 days or so in Italy. Like the Christmas fruitcake so commonly offered by relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbors in the U.S., it is not uncommon for an Italian family to receive as many as ten or twenty loaves of panettone during the holidays. Many of these cakes are then passed on to other neighbors, or donated to less fortunate households or charities. Yet, like a favorite family relative who appears every Christmas, familiarity does not diminish the appreciation most people feel when panettone is offered—often brought along as a gift when invited for lunch or dinner during the holiday season, and presented with a good bottle of Spumante or Prosecco.

Traditionally, panettone is served after the enormous Christmas day feast or on Santo Stefano (that is, December 26th, a national holiday in Italy)—but also on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. However, very few have any room left for dessert after these feasts, so panettone is saved to be eaten in the morning with caffe latte or cappuccino, or as a snack with an afternoon espresso. In the U.S. French Toast panettone is a breakfast favorite during the Christmas season.

The traditional dough for panettone is quite rich and contains plenty of butter and eggs. The addition of all the fat to the dough gives it a very tender texture. It can also weigh the dough down, so the bread is given a very long rise to ensure that it is fluffy, not dense, and rises up very high. Traditionally, the bread is baked in octagonal or hexagonal pans, but just about any shape or size can be used, even a bundt pan. Aside from the butter and eggs, most of the flavor of the panettone comes from the add-ins. The most traditional recipes have dried fruits, candied citrus, lemon and/or orange zest. These days, there is more variety and you might see chocolate chip panettone, or panettone soaked in rum for something a little more grown-up.

Making your own panettone gives you the liberty to include whatever fruits and nuts you like – including candied fruits if that’s to your liking. You can find the traditional papers that are used to bake panettone in specialty kitchen shops like Sur la Table or online (there’s a variety of sizes on the Amazon and King Arthur sites). This Christmas enjoy fresh sliced panettone with a sweet wine after dinner and the next morning have it toasted with your coffee.

The Traditional Recipe for Panettone

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast, divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 12 tablespoons softened butter, divided
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped fine

Icing:

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Make the sponge: Place 1 1/2 cups flour, 2/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons apricot jam, and 1 teaspoon yeast in a small bowl and whisk together. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rest for 3 hours.

Make the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the sponge, 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon yeast. Use the hook attachment to knead the dough until the mixture is smooth and stretchy, about 3-5 minutes.

Add 3 egg yolks, one at a time, and knead until dough is smooth, shiny, and stretchy.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Return dough to the mixer, and add salt, vanilla, lemon and orange flavoring, honey, and 1 teaspoon yeast. Knead for 1 minute.

Add 3 egg yolks and knead until incorporated. Add the 12 tablespoons of softened butter, one tablespoon at a time. Knead until dough is soft, shiny and very stretchy, about 5 minutes. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Toss the chopped raisins, cherries and pecans with 2 tablespoons of flour. Add them to the dough and knead briefly, until just mixed in.

Place dough in a oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Place dough inside of a 6 inch diameter panettone mold, or use a clean, buttered coffee can lined with parchment paper. Make a small cross in the top of the dough with scissors.

Let dough rise in a warm place until triple in size, which may take several hours since the dough is cold from the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Place the panettone in the oven, and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Bake the panettone for about 1 hour, until it has risen high and springs back a little when pressed on top (like a muffin).

Let panettone cool in the pan on a rack.

Make icing (optional): Melt 2 tablespoons butter, and whisk into 1 cup powdered sugar. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of salt, and 1-2 tablespoons of milk until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle icing decoratively over top of panettone.

Store panettone wrapped in plastic for up to 1 week. 

Note: Traditional Italian panettones are made with a special flavoring called “fiori de sicila”, which you can purchase at gourmet stores and online. Use in place of the lemon and orange extract.

Here’s my healthy, quick and easy recipe for Panettone.

Panettone was not a popular sweet bread in my family. If someone gave my father a gift of this bread at Christmas, we would all groan. We didn’t even try to eat it and my mother would throw it out. Packaged panettone from Italy was the usual way this bread was given to us and it was not very good. Homemade can be a different story. I experimented on my children in the past and I changed many of the traditional ingredients to meet my children’s “sophisticated” tastes. The bread I developed probably shouldn’t be called panettone.

  • 3 packages active dry yeast or 2 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (SAF-see photo)                                                                                                        

    SAF Instant Yeast

  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ cup blanched slivered almonds.

Directions

In a large bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, warm water, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon, almonds, salt and butter; beat well. Gradually stir in the flour, adding just enough flour to make a soft dough. Transfer to the dough hook and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until dough is smooth. Place dough in a well-greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Punch dough down, place on well-floured work surface and shape the dough into a ball.  Place in a well-buttered 2-quart casserole dish. Set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake panettone in a preheated 400°F oven (375°F oven if using a glass pan) for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F (325°F for a glass pan), and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes. Cover panettone with aluminum foil if it begins to get too brown.

 


According to the Roman historian Livy, a Celtic village was first founded in this area in the 6th century BC. Conquered by Roman legions in 222 BC, “Mediolanum” (this was the Roman name for Milan) attempted to rebel, becoming an ally of Carthage, Rome’s enemy. But the Romans won and, towards the end of the 1st century BC, Milan became a part of the state of the Caesars.

Milan then went through several transitions over the years, beginning in 1535, when the city fell under Spanish rule, and then in 1713, the city was passed to Austria.

In 1802, Milan became the capital of Napoleon’s Italian Republic, and he was crowned King of Italy and Milan in 1805. Following a brief return of the Austrians, Vittorio Emmanuele II drove them out in 1859, thus incorporating Milan into the new Kingdom of Italy. To commemorate this king, the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II was built in the center of Milan. The key factor of the city’s success was credited to trade, which led the city to a great success in development.

La Scala, is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated in August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala.

Milan now is the fashion icon of the country of Italy and houses millions of residents in this Northern city in the Lombardy region. Located south of the Italian Alps, Milan is very close to several other cities and attractions such as Venice and Florence, great skiing and the seashore villages of Liguria and Cinque Terre. Each are just a few short hours away, which makes Milan a great place to live or tour.

The fashion quarter is full of the big names in the industry but also many small boutique stores and fashionable shops. However, everyone looking for fashion will be searching out the big designers and they are all here, Valentino, Gucci, Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent all have shops. This area is where you will find all the prestigious outlets, top line names with the prices to match.

Milan Specialties

Each region in Italy has its own culinary specialty, which may have been influenced by an area close to it, such as, the sea or the mountains or a bordering country.  Noted below are five specialties of the Lombardy region. You will notice that the dishes in Milan are based on more high calorie ingredients such as butter and sausages, supposedly due to the fact that the winters are long.

Polenta– is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal and it is one of the staple foods in Northern Italy, especially in the region of Lombardy. Usually this dish is served with tomato sauce and sausages and ribs.

Risotto alla Milanese– is a typical dish of the city of Milan with rice, saffron and ox bone marrow.  Even though there are a number of different varieties of this dish in Northern Italy, the original has these ingredients plus onion, wine, butter and beef broth.

Cotoletta alla Milanese- is actually the rib of calf with the bone, breaded and fried in butter, originally, the fried butter used was also poured on top of the meat, but in more modern times people tend to use lemon on top, and sometimes you will find it with tomato sauce and rucola (arugula) on the side, but this version is used during the cold months.

Panettone– is cake is used for Christmas in all parts of Italy and it literally means big bread.  It is originally from Milan and was served only in the houses of noble people but later became popular for everyone. The shape of the Panettone is almost like a dome, and the ingredients are water, flour, butter, eggs and dried candied fruits.

La Barbajada-a sweet that is made with whipped cream, hot chocolate, coffee and milk.  It is delicious drink but with a high caloric content, and it is served hot, which makes it a great winter dessert. The history behind this dessert is that the hot chocolate with whipped cream was invented by Domenico Barbaia, who operated a coffee shop in the La Scala Opera House in Milan and it became popular around the 1830’s.

Bring The Foods Of Milan To Your Table

You can make some of Milan’s culinary specialties without the unhealthy calories by using the recipes that I have adapted, as posted below:

Minestrone alla Milanese

Serves 6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 3/4 pound garden peas
  • 1/2 pound lima beans or 1-10 oz. package frozen, defrosted
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1  1/4 cups small pasta or rice, whichever you prefer
  • 1 bunch Parsley
  • Handful of Basil and Sage
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano (or Parmigiano)

Directions:

Dice the celery, carrot, and zucchini; slice the tomatoes, discarding the seeds; peel the potatoes and dice, and mince the parsley, basil, sage and the garlic with the onion. Put the vegetables, except for the peas, in a pot and add 2 quarts of water; lightly salt the soup and simmer it over a gentle flame for about 2 1/2 hours.

When the time is up stir in the peas, and the short pasta (e.g. ditalini or small shells) or rice. Adjust seasoning and cook, stirring gently, to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the pasta is cooked, ladle the soup into bowls and serve it with grated cheese.

Pappardelle with Mushrooms                                                                                                               

This recipe calls for porcini mushrooms and they are necessary to do it justice. Ideally, fresh porcini, but if you cannot find them you will have to make do by purchasing cultivated mushrooms and a 1-ounce packet of dried porcini (this will be about a half cup, packed. Steep the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then mince them and add them to the cultivated mushrooms. Strain the steeping liquid, since it may contain sand, and add it to the sauce as well. The other option, in the absence of fresh porcini, is to use the wild mushrooms available where you live, combining them with some cultured mushrooms, if need be, and some steeped dried porcini.

A last thing: This recipe calls for pappardelle, which are broad (1-inch) strips of pasta. You can, if you want, use fettuccine (half-inch strips) instead.

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pappardelle, ideally freshly made
  • 3/4 pound fresh porcini, or follow directions above
  • 2 shallots
  • 12 oz. low sodium diced canned tomatoes
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • The leaves of a sprig of rosemary
  • A few sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt & pepper
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Chopped parsley for a garnish

 Directions:

Clean the mushrooms, brushing the dirt away from the stems, and separate the caps from the stems; dice the stems and cube the caps, keeping them separate.

Mince the shallots and the herbs and sauté them for a few minutes in the oil in a deep pot. Add the diced stems, cook another minute, and then add the wine and the tomatoes. Season with a little pepper and simmer the mixture over a very gentle flame for 30 minutes. Depending upon how much moisture the mushrooms contain you may need to add more liquid: a little more wine or water (or the liquid the mushrooms steeped in if you are using dried mushrooms), and the cubed caps. Continue simmering the sauce over a gentle flame.

In the meantime bring pasta water to a boil, salt it, and cook the pappardelle. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce; garnish with herbs and serve with grated cheese.

Milanese Chicken Stuffed with Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken weighing 3 ½ to 4 pounds
  • 10 walnut halves, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 4 white cabbage leaves, shredded
  • 2 leaves sage
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon dry plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 onion, cut in quarters
  • 2 celery ribs, cut in quarters
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Twine 

Directions:

Bring a pot of water large enough to contain the whole chicken to boiling and add the celery and onion.

In a bowl combine the shredded cabbage, sage, garlic, cheese, pancetta, breadcrumbs, egg, nutmeg, and walnuts. Mix well and season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Fill the cavity of the chicken with the stuffing and close it tightly with the twine (don’t forget to include the neck opening).  See directions below.

Salt the boiling water and submerge the chicken. As soon as the water comes back to boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the chicken, partially covered, for about 2 hours.

Carefully remove the chicken with 2 large spoons to a platter. Cut up the chicken into 8 pieces, without breaking up the stuffing. Arrange the pieces on a heated platter, slice the stuffing into half-inch thick slices, and serve.

Save the broth for making risotto, or for serving meat based tortellini, or for making soup.

Step 1
With the breast side up, line up the middle of your piece of twine with the chicken’s tail and tie a knot around the tail

Step 2
Make a loop around each drumstick.

Step 3
Pull them close together and tie a knot.

Step 4
Keeping the twine tight around the chicken, pass each half of the twine through the wing.

Step 5
Tuck the wings under the chicken so that they’re holding down the twine.

Step 6
Flip the chicken over so that it’s breast side down. Tie the twine around the neck so that it’s holding down the wings. Make sure the knot is secure, then cut off any excess string.

Milanese Meat and Vegetable Stew

Milanese Stew, or Stufato Milanese: Almost every region of Italy has a stew or pot roast, it calls its own. This variation is Milanese, and it will also work well with lamb or pork; the important thing is that the pieces of meat not be too small, because if they’re small then the dish is a spezzatino as opposed to a stufato. The quality of the red wine is important; don’t use something you wouldn’t want to drink — and also, be careful not to overcook it.

Serves 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds beef (chuck or a similar cut suited for pot roasting)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • A bay leaf
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • Canned beef broth
  • Flour
  • Dry red wine (For example, Valcalepio Rosso, or Valpolicella), enough to cover the meat
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Freshly ground nutmeg ( a pinch)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Dust the meat with some freshly ground pepper, a little salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. Put it in a bowl and add wine to cover; let it sit in the refrigerator for at least six hours, turning it occasionally.

Slice the onion and sauté it in the butter in a Dutch Oven until golden. Remove the onion from the pan. Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and pat the meat dry. Flour it and brown it in the pan drippings. Then return the onions to the pan, add the remaining ingredients and the reserved marinade, cover, and cook at the barest simmer for about 4 hours. Check on it occasionally, and, to keep the meat covered with liquid, add a little beef broth to the pot, as needed.

Served with Polenta.

Charlotte alla Milanese

Charlottes fall into the category of dolci semifreddi, in other words chilled desserts. They are also generally much more elaborate than this version, generally calling for liqueur, whipped cream, candied fruit, and all sorts of other things. In short, they’re desserts for when company is expected. So is this Milanese Charlotte, though not so much for the ingredients as for the presentation.

6-8 servings                                                                                                                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith
  • 3/4 cup sugar or 6 tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 jigger Rum
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • Thinly sliced Italian bread, about 16 slices

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place apples, 1/2 cup sugar (or a 1/4 cup of Truvia), lemon zest and wine in a heavy saucepan. Pour in water to cover completely. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered 15 minutes.

Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak 10 minutes, then drain and reserve.

In a small bowl, cream together butter and  2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon of Truvia until well combined. Coat the bottom and sides of a 2-quart round baking dish (or a Charlotte Mold) with this butter-sugar mixture.

Line bottom and sides of the baking dish with bread slices, overlapping slightly. Drain the apples and combine them with the drained raisins. Spoon the fruit mixture into the lined dish. Cover the top with the remaining bread. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon of Truvia.

Bake in the preheated oven 1 hour.

To serve, pour rum over the warm charlotte and light it with a long match or kitchen torch to brown the top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


The arrival of rice in Italy was introduced by the Arabs during their invasion of Sicily, along with oranges, lemons, sugar cane and pistachio nuts. Some historians, also, claim that saffron made its appearance around the same time.  Urban legend tells of a young apprentice, called Valerius, who was supposed to have invented the yellow risotto recipe that Milan is so famous for, now called, “Risotto  alla Milanese”. He was put in charge of making the stained-glass window that was to adorn the Cathedral Duomo Di Milano. While he worked, many of the townspeople made fun of him, giving credit to the herb saffron for the beautiful colors showcased in his artwork. As a result, Valerius became angry and devised a plan of retaliation. During his master’s wedding, he added an excessive amount of saffron to the rice being served at the affair.  He hoped his action would ruin the festivities, but instead the rice received great reviews and so the yellow risotto recipe of Milan became famous.

Italy is the leading producer of rice in Europe, with the majority of it being grown in the Po River Valley. Lombardy is home to the best rice growing area, Lomellina, while Piedmont and Veneto also have bountiful rice harvests. Rice thrives so well in these areas that first courses of risotto are more common than pasta. That is not to say that other regions of Italy do not eat rice, as there are wonderful rice recipes throughout Italy..

Italy grows mostly short, barrel shaped rice that is different than the long-grain rice that is usually boiled or steamed in other parts of the world. Among this type of rice are four categories based on grain size: comune, semifino, fino, and superfino. The superfino rice is the type most used for risotto, with Arborio being the most recognized outside of Italy. However, Venetian cooks prefer the Carnaroli variety, which was invented in the 1950’s. Baldo is another variety well-known for making excellent risotto.

Risotto is made with great care, braising the rice and allowing it to absorb the cooking liquid, usually broth. The special rice used in the preparation lends its starches to the cooking liquid, giving the risotto a rich consistency that in some ways, resembles a heavy cream sauce. The actual braising of the rice is a standard procedure starting with the rice being toasted in a soffrito (chopped vegetables such as onion, garlic, carrots and celery), before broth is ladled in slowly. What makes each risotto unique is the local ingredients that give the dish its character.

In Piedmont it is not unusual to find risotto with truffles or made with red Barolo wine. In Venice, seafood risotto is a mainstay and risotto with sauteed eels is a Christmas tradition. Risotto is completely versatile, and goes just as well with cuttlefish ink (Nero di Sepia) as with Prosciutto di San Danielle or with butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano (added just before serving – Risotto Mantecato) or with wildfowl like quail (Risotto con la Quaglie).

Italian rice is not just limited to risotto.   One of the more famous of the non-risotto rice dishes is Minestrone alla Milanese, a hearty vegetable soup, which makes use of Lombardy’s abundant rice. In Venice,  Peas and Rice (Risi e Bisi) is a popular dish that is like a soup made with rice and peas, but thick enough to eat with a fork. Riso al Salto is a great way to use up leftover risotto – pressed into patties and fried in butter. Another delicious way to eat leftovers is to add the rice to eggs for an Omelette di Riso.  Arancini (little oranges) are fried rice balls with a filling, usually of cheese, and they are a popular snack found in Italian cafes and bars. Rice stuffed tomatoes are a traditional antipasti  around Naples. Rice is also useful in desserts, such as Sicily’s Dolce di Castagne e Riso – a rice pudding flavored with chestnuts.

http://www.lifeinitaly.com/food/risotto.asp

It is a common belief that risotto must be stirred constantly while you’re making it. Outrage rippled through the masterclass on rice when Gabriele Ferron, a well known chef from Verona,  first presented his ‘no-stir’ method of cooking risotto many years ago. How could anyone call a dish a risotto, if you haven’t slaved over the pot, stirring constantly as you add stock? Never mind the fact that his “revolutionary” method freed the cook from the stove and produced an excellent rendition of this famous dish.

Wonder if all that work is really necessary!
The editors of bon Appetit sampled recipes for stirred risotto and “quick n’ easy” no-stir risotto and compared the results. The verdict? It depends on what you like!
Risotto made in the traditional way, adding the broth one cup at a time and waiting for it to be absorbed so that the starch from the rice dissolves into the sauce, turns it silky and creamy.
No-stir recipes where all the broth is added at once do not wind up with the same sauce-like consistency. The editors of Bon Appetit say they turn out more like pilaf.  It’s still full of flavor and definitely a fine method to use if you don’t want to be tied to the stove, but the results aren’t nearly the same.
Both methods are definitely edible and have their own merits, so it comes down to what you have time for and what you like.

Chef Simon Humble, who won a silver medal in an international rice competition in Italy, employs the ‘no stir” method at his Melbourne restaurant, Tutto Bene.
His basic principles of the ‘no stir’ method are summarised as follows:

  • use minimal oil,
  • never allow the onion to brown as bitterness will pervade the rice,
  • “toast” (toss in oil and heat) the rice over moderate heat
  • ensure all liquid used is hot
  • DO NOT STIR the risotto again after an initial stir when adding the liquid – if you start stirring at the beginning, then you must stir right through to the end.  After adding the liquid, the dish is cooked over low heat.
Why don’t you give this method a try.  I don’t agree with Bon Appetit about the outcome of the no stir method, because whenever I have used this method, the dish is creamy and rich tasting.

The Almost No Stir Method For Risotto

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  large shallots, peeled & finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

To Finish:

  • 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter

Directions

Heat the broth and water in a pot and keep warm.
In a heavy-bottomed Dutch Oven pan with a lid, heat the oil and cook the shallots and garlic over medium heat until it is translucent. 
Add the rice and stir to coat well.
Add the wine, and cook over medium heat until the wine is almost absorbed.
Reduce the heat to medium low, and add 5 cups of the hot liquid. cover the pot.
Cook for about 18 minutes stirring just twice during this period or until the rice is just al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Add 1/2 cup of broth and stir constantly for 3 minutes until the rice is creamy, add the remaining ½ cup of broth if the risotto isn’t loose enough.
Add the finishing ingredients and mix well.
Serve immediately offering additional grated cheese at the table.
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Stir in any one of the following ingredients to the almost finished dish:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in skillet. Sear the asparagus just until beginning to brown, about three minutes.

1 butternut squash (medium, about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups).  Place the squash on a baking pan and toss it with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

2 cups shrimp and/or scallops cut in half  and sauteed  in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 minced garlic clove.

2 cups mushrooms such as shiitake, chanterelle, or oyster mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into half inch pieces and sauteed in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

8 ounces sweet pork, turkey or chicken Italian sausage, browned.

10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach cooked according to package instructions and drained well. Cool spinach completely and squeeze dry.

10 oz pkg frozen peas, defrosted

2 cups chopped leftover roasted or grilled chicken

2 cups broccoli florets, cooked

1 medium zucchini diced and sauteed in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 2-3 minutes

When You Have Leftover Risotto, Make Risotto Cakes

Risotto Cakes
Makes 6-8 cakes

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F and spray a baking pan with olive oil cooking spray.

Combine the egg substitute, the risotto and 1/2 cup panko crumbs and mix well.
Pour the remaining breadcrumbs onto a  shallow dish.
Form the risotto mixture into 6 to 8 patties (depending on how large you want to make them) and coat lightly with the remaining panko crumbs.
Place the risotto cakes on the prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes, turning the cakes over half way through the baking time.
Serve each with a tablespoon of pesto.



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