Archive | September, 2013


29 Sep

I bet that many of you have eaten Tuscan cantucci, the hard and crunchy, twice-baked cookies, at least once. They are often served as an after-dinner dessert to dunk in Vin Santo, a fortified sweet wine made with Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. Cantucci are also called Prato cookies and are a masterpiece of traditional Tuscan confectionery. Cookies are made by cutting a roll of freshly baked dough diagonally, which is then put back in the oven for a few minutes to brown. The dough is simple and requires eggs, sugar, flour and almonds. My recipe also includes the addition of a tiny amount of butter and baking powder; these ingredients make the dough softer, so your cookies will be less dry and more crumbly. In my opinion the lack of fat in the traditional recipe makes the cookies too hard. The name cantucci derives from canto in Italian (corner) or cantellus, a Latin word meaning a slice of bread that the Roman soldiers consumed as part of their meal. But the real sweet cookies first appeared in the second half of the sixteenth century at the Medici court in Florence, though the recipe did not contain almonds. Some centuries later almonds were added, and then at the beginning of the 1900s production started on a large scale. Nowadays cantucci are enjoyed all over the world and are the emblem of Italian cuisine. They have only one defect: they are too good – one leads to another, and when you start it is hard to stop! They are a real temptation, resistance will be futile!

Preparation time: 30 minutes  Cooking time: 20 minutes Yield: 36 cookies

220 g (1 ⅓ cups) blanched almonds
210 g (1 cup) sugar
2 eggs
50 g (about 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
300 g (scarce 2 cups) all-purpose flour
3 g (½ teaspoon) baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180 ° C
1. Roast almonds for a few minutes in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Cool, divide in half and set aside
2. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients such as flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside .
3. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and eggs, then add butter. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix well. The dough should be homogeneous. Add almonds. Knead the dough on a floured work surface until you get a ball
4. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and shape each one into a 18 cm (7 inch) roll about 6 cm (2.5 inch) wide and 3 cm (1.5 inch) high. Transfer each roll, using a spatula, onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Leave enough space to spread while cooking. Cook for 15 minutes
5. At this time, remove from the oven and cut diagonally into about 1-1.5 cm (½  inch) wide cookies. Bake again for about 5 min. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack . Eat when they are completely cold.

Note: Almonds can be replaced with equal amount of hazelnuts, pistachios, dried fruit such as figs (cut in small pieces) or chocolate chunks. Cantucci store well for several days in a cookie container . Paola

Linguine con Zucchine e Pomodorini (Linguine with Zucchine and Cherry Tomatoes)

22 Sep

Pasta with zucchini is a simple dish, quick and tasty that can be prepared in different ways. This recipe is made with linguine topped with zucchini and cherry tomatoes sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Linguine is a type of long pasta similar to spaghetti, but it is wider and flatter. It looks somewhat like fettuccine. In Italian the name linguine means “little tongues”, this might be related to its long shape. This healthy and colorful first course is also perfect for a light meal when you want to avoid weighing yourself down. In my opinion, pasta enhanced with fresh seasonal vegetables is best described as joy for your palate.

Preparation time: 20 minutes    Cooking time: 12 minutes      Servings: 4

Linguine con Zucchine e

340 g (12 oz) linguine, artisanal pasta
8 medium zucchini
500 g (18 oz) cherry tomatoes
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, whole
Salt and pepper

1. Bring to boil 3 liters of salt water.
2. Meanwhile, wash the vegetables under running water. Remove the ends from the zucchini and cut into cubes. Cut cherry tomatoes in half.
3. In a pan heat oil and sauté garlic over medium-low heat, taking care to not letting it burn. Add zucchini and tomatoes. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring gently. Remove garlic.
4. Cook linguine for 12 minutes (check the cooking time on the package). Drain pasta, add to the vegetables in the pan and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with grated Parmesan cheese or seasoned ricotta in flakes.

Note: My dear readers you might have noticed that in my recipes the amount of vegetables is always abundant; this is because I love vegetables. I’m not a vegetarian, but fruits and vegetables are mainstays of Italian cuisine and are always present in abundance on my table.  They are the basis of a healthy, Mediterranean diet!  -Paola


Coniglio alla Ligure (Ligurian Rabbit)

14 Sep

This summer I was cooking for some American tourists staying on Lake Como and one asked me to cook rabbit, so I thought it may be a good addition to the blog.The, coniglio alla ligure, Ligurian rabbit, is an appetizing second course from region of Italy’s Riviera; in fact, for a long time this region was home to many rabbit farms. Nowadays this delicious recipe is enjoyed throughout the entire country. It makes a perfect dinner for family and friends. I recommend roasted potatoes as side dish or if, you prefer something lighter, steamed potatoes . The delicacy of this dish is due to the mixture of the mild taste of rabbit flesh, the sweet and fruity flavor of the Ligurian olives and the gentle taste of pine nuts. Rabbit meat is rich in protein but also low in cholesterol, so it is particularly suited for low-calorie and low-fat diets. I prefer stewing instead roasting rabbit; since it’s lean meat, you need to use extra fat to keep it from drying out when roasted. In this recipe I cook the dish until the liquid is reduced to a thick coating, not at all soupy.  Did you know that the rabbit is native to Africa ? It was later imported to Europe, especially to Italy and France. The Italian name coniglio derives from the Latin word cuniculus, referring to the ability of this animal to dig warrens with many tunnels (cunicoli).

Preparation time : 1 ½ hrs           Cooking time : 1     Servings: 4

coniglio 5_2 ok

1.6 kg (3 pounds and 9 oz) rabbit
5 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
1 medium shallot , finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
230 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
140 g (¾ cup) Taggiasche olives
40 g (⅓ cup) pine nuts
500 ml (about 2 cups) vegetable broth warm
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Cut the rabbit into pieces by removing the head and entrails; to save time ask the butcher to do it for you . Wash and dry with kitchen paper
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté shallots and garlic over medium-low heat. Add rabbit, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Cook over medium heat until meat is golden
3. Deglaze with white wine and add olives, pine nuts and a ladle of broth. Cover with a lid and cook on medium-low heat for about an hour until flesh is tender (it will separate easily from the bone). Moisten occasionally with a ladle of broth. Serve warm !

Notes: When buying rabbit make sure that the meat is fresh, with a pale or intense pink color, depending on the variety. The color of the fat should be white and that of the liver uniform.  Paola

Pici alle Briciole (Pici with Breadcrumbs)

7 Sep

Pici alle briciole (pici with breadcrumbs) is typical dish from Siena, which I tasted the first time during a folk festival in Montepulciano, one of my favorite places in Tuscany!!! This dish is very simple, fast, and dates back to peasants’ cuisine. If you have never had a chance to taste it, give it a try – it’s really worth it! In a few minutes you can enjoy a delicious first course. The ingredients – pasta, bread , olive oil, garlic and chili pepper – are common in poor and rural cuisine. This is an example how simple ingredients are transformed into a beautiful and flavorful dish. According to the tradition, pici should be handmade, as our grandmothers did, but nowadays there are good dry products available on the market. Handmade pici are still the most delicious ones! Pici is a type of pasta similar to spaghetti, but wider, more than ⅛ inch thick. The dough is made from durum wheat flour and water, then worked on a board with the palms of the your hands to create a long and thick noodle, or is rolled to a sheet -not too thin – and shaped with a special rolling pin with grooves to form the pasta. It takes longer to cook pici ( about 20 minutes ) than it does other types of pasta, while fresh pici usually cook faster ( about 8 minutes ), depending on the thickness of the “noodles.

Preparation time : 20 min.          Cooking time : 20 min.                Servings: 4

Pici Piatto

340 g (12 oz) dried pici
4 slices of stale bread , about 120 g (4 oz)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon dried chili,
Salt to taste
Tuscan Pecorino cheese

1 Bring about 3 liters of water and salt to boil, and cook pici for about 20 min.
2 Meanwhile, in a blender, blend the bread coarsely. In a non-stick skillet heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toast the breadcrumbs until golden brown . Set aside
3 In an another non-stick pan sautee in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic and chili pepper, taking care not to burn the ingredients
4 . Drain pici with a fork, add the olive oil mixture, toss with the breadcrumbs mixture. Serve with grated pecorino cheese. – Paola

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