Tortino con Patate e Scalogno (Potato and Shallot Pie)

3 Mar

An appetizing pie made ​​with potatoes, shallots and hard-boiled egg yolk to get a colorful, mimosa-like colorful effect. A different idea to celebrate Women’s Day on March 8th

This recipe is a simple, versatile and absolutely delicious one to enjoy either as an appetizer or as a main course accompanied by a fresh salad. The delicate but distinct flavor of shallots blends well with the starchy taste of potatoes. The addition of cream makes this pie velvety and inviting. The crumbled egg yolk is an additional decoration to create the mimosa effect and makes this pie perfect to celebrate Women’s social, economic ,and political achievements. This holiday was first celebrated in the United States in 1909 and arrived in Italy in 1922. The mimosa flower, with its intense and radiant color, was chosen as a symbol because it blooms in early March. The addition of boiled egg yolk is not essential and can be omitted, but this pie makes a savory version of the famous mimosa cake dessert.

TORTINO CON PATATE E SCALOGNO (POTATO AND SHALLOT PIE)
Preparation time: 45 min.  Cooking time: 20-25 min.   Servings: 8

Tortino con patate e scalogno

INGREDIENTS
800 g (28 oz) yellow potatoes, peeled
250 g (9 oz) shallots, finely sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)
250 ml (1 cup)fresh cream
2 teaspoons oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
230 g (8 oz) puff pastry , round shape
5 hard-boiled eggs

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 180 °C (350 °F)
1. Peel potatoes, put them in a pot and cover with cold water. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Cook for about 8-10 minutes ( the cooking time depends on the size of the potatoes) until the potatoes are cooked, but not soft. Remove from the water and allow to cool
2. While potatoes cool, in a saucepan over medium heat, sauté shallots in olive oil, stirring occasionally until it is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes
3. In a bowl combine shallots, ​​potatoes (thinly sliced) and cream. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper
4. Roll out the pastry into a ceramic pie plate (diameter 23 cm, 9 inch) , pour in the vegetable mix
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown
6. While the cake is cooking, prepare the hard-boiled eggs. Place the eggs in boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Cool. Remove the shell, cut in half, remove the yolk and crumble with your hands
7. Remove the pie from the oven. Allow it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Garnish with crumbled egg yolk and serve warm. – Paola

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Tortelli di Carnevale (Carnival Fritters)

24 Feb

Let’s party! It is Carnival! Carnival, well-known in the USA for the Mardi Gras celebrations, is one of the most joyous holiday of the year. We cannot refrain from masked balls, parades and street parties. This festive event is also celebrated with special treats prepared only during this season, for example tortelli (or castagnole, bugie, zeppe… whatever you like to call them). There are a lot of names for the same delicious fritters, loved by children and adults. I remember my grandmother preparing tortelli as well as chiacchiere, another Carneval treat! This event was part of our annual Carnival celebration. Toertelli are typically of Lombardy (my region) and can be enjoyed plain or, if you want to make them even more delicious, with chocolate cream or custard. The dough is smooth but not liquid and, when dropped in hot oil, swells to form lovely little puffs.

TORTELLI DI CARNEVALE (CARNIVAL FRITTERS)
Preparation time : 20 min. Cooking time: 20 min. Servings: 30 tortelli

Frittelle di Carnevale

INGREDIENTS
250 ml ( about 1 cup) milk
60 g (2.15 oz) butter, cut into cubes
50 g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
1 lemon, grated zest
1 pinch of salt
160 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
7 g (½ teaspoon ) baking powder
4 eggs
Peanut Oil
Chocolate cream (like Nutella)
Cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS
1. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Set aside
2. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat after 1 minute
3. Add the flour and baking powder, stirring energetically until the mixture is compact. Put on heat (medium-low) and cook for about 2 minutes. The dough should be a compact ball
4. Pour it in a bowl and let cool
5. Add the eggs one at a time with an electric whisk until the batter is smooth but not liquid
6. In a pan heat the frying oil to 170°C-340°F. If you do not have a thermometer, use this simple method. Place a cube of bread in the oil (approximately 2.5 cm). If it turns brown after 60 seconds, the oil is ready for frying. Slide a spoonful of batter (size of walnut) in the oil with the aid of another spoon. Wait until it is puffy and golden brown, then turn it over. It will take 4-5 minutes to cook tortelli perfectly
7. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Allow to cool. Fill with chocolate cream using a patisserie syringe. Roll in granulated sugar and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Note: Frying is a dry heat cooking method …read more in the Chiacchiere post. Paola

Peperoni Grigliati (Grilled Peppers)

17 Feb

An appetizing and tasty antipasto to serve with toasted bread or a side dish with meat.

When peppers are grilled, they taste completely different from raw ones and, in my opinion, are more appetizing and certainly more easily tolerated, since the indigestible substances that are contained in the peel are removed. This is an easy recipe and quick to prepare; you can prepare it a day in advance and then store it in the refrigerator. The dressing is made with parsley, anchovies and chilli peppers. All these ingredients enhance the smoky flavor of the peppers and make this dish a delicious antipasto (appetizer) that you can serve with fresh bread or baguette croutons.

Peppers are originally from South America, but nowadays they are used all over the world in many delicious recipes. They contain a lot of water (90%) and are, therefore, indicated in low-calorie diets. They also contain high amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene and are, consequently, very healthy .

There are several ways to grill peppers; I suggest this one which is, in my opinion, the most simple and effective method.

PEPERONI GRIGLIATI (GRILLED PEPPERS)
Preparation time: 40 min. Cooking time: 25 min. Servings: 4

Peperoni grigliati

INGREDIENTS
4 bell peppers of different colors
6 anchovy fillets in olive oil, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
2 teaspoons of parsley, chopped
1 small red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 250 °C (475 °F)
1. Wash and dry whole peppers. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 25 min. turning when the side in contact with the heat is charred. The cooking time may vary depending on the size. As soon all the skin is charred, remove from the oven
2. While the peppers are still hot, place each one in a plastic food bag (to facilitate removal of the skin) and wait for 15 minutes. After this time remove from the bag. The skin will come off very easily. Remove stalk using a sharp knife. Cut peppers in half and lengthwise into strips, removing seeds and white filaments. Cut peppers into strips
3.In a small bowl, combine the anchovies , garlic , parsley and chili pepper with oil. Put the peppers on a serving dish and sprinkle with the seasoning mixture. Allow to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour. Serve at room temperature .

Note: At the time of purchase make sure that the peppers are well attached to the stem; they should also be shiny, compact and with the skin taut. They keep fresh in the refrigerator for 5-6 days, or in oil and vinegar (refrigerated) for several weeks. Paola

Torta Gianduia con Ciliege (Gianduia Cake with Cherries)

10 Feb

Love and sweetness together? Yes it is possible with my gianduia cake prepared with chocolate and hazelnuts and then covered with a cherry topping. Chocolate is seductive and slightly mysterious; it has been called the food of the devil. Chocolate and love result in the same good feelings and sensations in the brain. Therefore, this delicious and tasty cake is perfect to serve as dessert for the most intimate dinner of the year, Valentine’s Day! Gianduia is a specialty of Piedmont, and it is made with ground hazelnuts and chocolate. The combination of these flavors makes an irresistible treat. I also recommend gianduiotti, the pralines made with the same mixture. The colorful and fruity addition of cherry topping gives a moist texture to this cake. You can certainly impress your partner on such a special day, an experience for all senses! Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my beloved readers.

TORTA GIANDUIA CON CILIEGE GIANDUIA CAKE WITH CHERRIES)
Preparation time: 1 h Cooking time: 50 min. Servings: 8

Torta Gianduia fetta

INGREDIENTS
Cake
260 g (1 ¼ cups) granulated sugar
3 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 g (5 oz) melted butter
140 g (1 ¼ cups) ground hazelnut
240 g (1 2/4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
15 g (3 teaspoons) baking powder
150 g (5 oz) dark chocolate (70%)
170 ml (¾ cup) buttermilk at room temperature
2 tablespoons rum
1 pinch salt

Topping
450 g (1 pound) canned, pitted cherries
1 lemon (juice)
6 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tablespoon potato starch
300 ml (1 ¼ cups) cherry juice

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 170°C (350°F)
2. Put the hazelnuts in a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside
3. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cacao powder, ground hazelnuts
4.Beat the eggs and the sugar with an electric whisk for at least 5 min. until pale and creamy. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined
5. In a double boiler melt chocolate. Cool for about 2 minutes stirring continously and slowly add buttermilk
6. Combine the egg mixture with the flour mixture, then add the chocolate mix and rum. Mix with an electric whisk until creamy
7. Generously butter a 25 cm (10 inch) spring-form cake pan. Sprinkle with flour to cover the entire surface, removing any excess flour
8. Bake for 40-45 min. or until done. Test by inserting a wooden toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it is done, it should come out dry
9. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 min. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack
10. In the meantime prepare the topping. In a saucepan dissolve sugar and potato starch into the cherry juice. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and the cherries. Over a medium low heat bring to boil. Cook for 4- 5 min. stirring slowly until thick. Let cool and spread over the cake. -Paola

 

Insalata con Avocado, Clementine e Pinoli (Avocado, Clementines and Pine Nuts Salad)

5 Feb

This colorful and nutritious salad is a real treat for the eyes and for the palate, something I usually prepare in winter when clementines are juicy and delicious in Italy. The addition of toasted pine nuts give a crunchy, sweet and nutty flavor to this fresh dish. The dressing is prepared with lime that adds a further note of freshness. This salad can be a great side dish for grilled meat (tagliata) while the addition of goat cheese makes this recipe a perfect dish for a light and nutritious lunch.

The avocado is a fruit that was not used in the past in our Mediterranean diet originally from Mexico, but nowadays it is getting more popular because it is tasty and is beneficial to one’s health and beauty. Hemingway called it ” food that has no rival among the fruits, the real fruit of paradise.” It is rich in vitamin A and E (which have high antioxidant properties ), minerals and fatty acids, and it provides a lot of energy. It is a “panacea” for health, and we should not forget that is also an aphrodisiac!

INSALATA CON AVOCADO, CLEMENTINE E PINOLI (AVOCADO, CLEMENTINES AND PINE NUTS SALAD)
Preparation time: 10 min.                   Servings: 4

Insalata Avocado

INGREDIENTS
8 cups mixed salad greens
½ red onion, thinly sliced
4 clementines
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 avocado, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil (extra-virgin)
Juice of one lime
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by mixing olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside
2. Wash and dry the salad. Set aside
3. In nonstick pan over low heat toast the pine nuts for 3-4 minutes. Set aside
4. Clean clementines, cut them into wedges
5. Clean the avocado, removing the skin and the central core. Cut it into small pieces and sprinkle with a few drops of lime juice to prevent darkening
6. In a large bowl, toss the salad with the dressing and garnish with avocado , clementines, onion and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

 Note: The success of this recipe depends greatly on the choice of ingredients, especially the avocado. It ‘s very important to use a ripe avocado. At the time of purchase I suggest you apply a gentle pressure with your fingers on the surface: if it does not yield, it is not yet ripe and you have to let it mature for a few days. If it is soft, but you do not see a groove in the pulp, it is perfectly ripe. Paola

Tortino con Bietole ed Acciughe (Swiss Chard and Anchovies Pie)

29 Jan

This pie makes a colorful and a tasty starter or a delicious main dish. The crust is made ​​with brisee dough while the filling is prepared with Swiss chard, first boiled, then sautéed with anchovies and mixed with fresh ricotta cheese. This is a superb combination of flavors.

Swiss chard is native to southern Europe where it grows spontaneously. It belongs to the same family as beets and spinach; its bitterness fades when cooked, leaving a more delicate taste than spinach. Like all dark green vegetables, it contains large amounts of vitamin A, fiber and folic acid. It is a low-calorie vegetable and is therefore a perfect choice for a weight-loss diet, especially if eaten boiled and dressed with oil and lemon. Furthermore this tasty vegetable can be a nutritious addition to pasta (see pizzoccheri ) and soups!

 TORTINO CON BIETOLE ED ACCIUGHE (SWISS CHARD AND ANCHOVIES PIE)
Preparation time: 70 min.          Cooking time: 45 min.           Servings: 6

Tortino bietole fetta

INGREDIENTS
Brisee dough (see tortino al cavolo nero )
600 g (about 1 1/2 pounds) Swiss chard (leaves)
2 garlic cloves
3 anchovies “sott’olio” canned
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
130 g (heaping 3/4 cup)  ricotta cheese
Salt and fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Prepare brisee pie crust 
2. Wash Swiss chard, cut off the white stalk (you can use in other recipes see note) and blanch the leaves for 8-10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut into segments of about 1 cm (0.4 inch) long
3. In a large skillet over medium-low heat sautée garlic in the oil for 4-5 min., being careful not to burn it. Chop the anchovies, add to the oil and stir until they beging to “melt”. Add chard, season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for 10 minutes , stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let cool
4. In a bowl work ricotta cheese with a fork, add the vegetable mix and season with salt and pepper
5. Heat the oven to 170 °C (350 °F)
6. In a 25 cm (9 inch) round baking pan, roll out the dough to 2-3 mm thick, puncture the bottom with a fork, pour in the filling and bake for about 40-45 min. Serve warm.

Note: When you buy Swiss chard look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with non yellow or brown spots. You can enjoy the stalk as well. First boil them, then sautée in olive oil with garlic and pepper. Serve warm with grated Parmesan cheese. The cheese will melt and give a special taste to this dish. – Paola

Torta ai Semi di Papavero e Mele (Poppy Seeds and Apple Cake)

21 Jan

Have you ever tried a butter-less, gluten free cake? I ate this delicious cake for the first time in South Tyrol. I was immediately struck by the delicate taste, in addition to the absence of butter and wheat flour in the recipe. The butter is replaced by poppy seeds, and wheat flour by gluten -free almond flour, but rich in protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. The cake with poppy seeds and apples is a typical German dessert, but also enjoyed in Trentino Alto Adige, a region in the north of Italy that was part of Austria until the beginning of the last century. The recipe is simple and includes eggs, sugar, poppy seeds and grated apples. After slow cooking in the oven, the cake is decorated with marmalade and toasted almond slices on the side. In fact, the poppy seeds blend very well with the citrus flavor, a real treat!
Poppy seeds are used mainly in bakery and confectionery, but we should not confuse the seeds with seed pod and straw. The seeds contain very low levels of opiates. The seeds are really healthy because they are rich in linoleic acid, omega 6, vitamins (vitamin E ) and minerals. They are used to treat anxiety and stress and, in fact, have a mild sedative and calming effect. You can enjoy this inviting and elegant dessert after dinner or in the afternoon with a good cup of tea or coffee.

TORTA AI SEMI DI PAPAVERO E MELE (POPPY SEEDS AND APPLE CAKE)
Preparation time: 1 h        Cooking time: 50 min.            Servings: 8

Torta ai Semi di Papavero

INGREDIENTS
200 g (1 scarse cup) granulated sugar
6 whole eggs
200 g (1 ¼ cups) ground and toasted almond flour
3 grated apples
200 g (1 cup) poppy seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
50 ml (¼ cup) rum
350 g (about 1 cup) orange marmalade (puree)
120 g (1 cup) toasted almond flakes
1 slice of candied orange

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 160 ° C.
2. In a non-stick skillet over low heat toast the almond flour for 4-5 min., stirring with a wooden spoon. Allow to cool and set aside
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until mixture is fluffy. Add ingredients in the order according to the list above. Stir with a wooden spoon, and not with an electric whisk, to prevent overheating of the poppy seeds
4. Coat the bottom of the spring form pan (25 cm in diameter) with baking paper previously wet under running water and wrung out. Pour the batter into the pan
5. Bake for approx. 50-60 min.
6. In the mean time in a nonstick pan toast the almond flakes with a teaspoon of sugar. Cool and set aside
7. Allow the cake to cool on a rack. Remove from the pan, cover with orange marmalade and decorate the sides with the toasted almond flakes. At the center of the cake you can place a slice of candy orange peel to give a touch of color. Paola

Zuppa del Contadino (Farmer’s Soup)

14 Jan

This is a dish that makes you rediscover the rural tradition and colors of the season! This soup is a great main dish, perfect for a cold, winter day. It ‘s simple but very nutritious, because it is made of legumes and vegetables. Legumes, in fact, are an excellent source of protein, fiber, minerals (calcium, potassium, iron) and B vitamins. In the past, legumes were considered the meat of poor people, and were commonly present on the peasants’ table. The recipe that I am proposing contains a mix of dried legumes such as beans, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, peas and beans. And to make this dish even more tasty, I prepare a soffritto with onion, garlic, celery and carrot. The preparation is very simple, but it requires a bit of time, because legumes have to be soaked in water before cooking. To save time you can use a pressure cooker, which reduces the preparation time without sacrificing taste. You can top this soup with croutons or grated parmesan cheese or, if you prefer, you can put a few drops of hot chili olive oil before serving.

FARMER’S SOUP
Preparation time: 5 hrs.    Cooking time: 40 min.      Servings: 6

Zuppa del contadino

INGREDIENTS
450 g (1 pound) mix of dried legumes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into slices
1 leg of celery, sliced
1 potato, cut into cubes
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. In a large bowl soak the legumes for about 4 hours with bay leaf. Drain and place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil, cook over medium heat for about 20 min. Drain, remove the bay leaf and set aside.
2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat saute onion, garlic, carrot , celery and potato in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add the legumes mix and cook over high heat for a few minutes, stirring with a spoon. Add the tomatoes and cover with plenty of water. Cook covered for about 20-25 minutes until all the legumes are tender (the exact cooking time should be indicated on the package). Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Note: When cooking legumes, it is important to add salt only at the end, because the addition of salt at the beginning will make the legumes less tender. It is also important when cooking to maintain a constant temperature. Paola

Crespelle con Zucchine e Crescenza (Crepes with Zucchini and Crescenza Cheese

8 Jan

Crepes with zucchini is a delicious and appetizing dish that you can serve either as a first course for an important dinner or as a main dish for a light lunch. Crescenza is a soft, fresh, creamy cow cheese that has a delicate and mild taste. It gives a delicious flavor to this recipe. If you cannot find crescenza cheese, I would recommend to use either Brie or Camembert cheese without the rind. First crepes are filled with the zucchini stuffing, baked in the oven with some bechamel sauce and then covered with tomato sauce.  Crepes are typical of French cuisine, but not only. In fact, in the province of Teramo (Abruzzo) they are commonly prepared and are called “scripelle”. They are used in various recipes such as pies or stuffed with Pecorino d’Abruzzo cheese, rolled and poured into chicken broth (called “scripelle’ imbusse ). In Salento, however, they are cooked longer. Therefore, they are more crisp and are eaten like a snack. I prepare crepes with a variety of fillings such as spinach and ricotta cheese, mushrooms, asparagus, ham and cheese. My kids love them as a dessert filled with Nutella, a special treat for children (and adults, too!).

CRESPELLE CON ZUCCHINE E CRESCENZA (CREPES WITH ZUCCHINI AND CRESCENZA CHEESE)
Preparation time: 1 h   Cooking time: 20 min.  Servings: 4
Crespelle con zucchine e crescenza

INGREDIENTS
120 g  (¾ cup) flour
240 ml (1 cup) milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
6 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
200 g (about 1 cup) crescenza cheese
120 g  (¾ cup) ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper
250 g (about 1 cup) bechamel sauce
6 tablespoons of tomato sauce

DIRECTIONS
Crepes
1. In a bowl combine flour with a pinch of salt. Add milk with a whisk until butter is uniformly smooth. In a small bowl, beat eggs with a pinch of pepper. Combine the milk mixture with eggs. The batter should be runny, if it is thick add a few tablespoons of milk. Add melted butter, whisking vigorously, cover with cling film and leave to rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator .
Grease with butter the bottom of a non-stick 18 cm (7 inch) pan over medium heat and pour a ladle of batter in the center, maneuvering the pan to distribute the batter over the entire surface. Cook for about a minute. When the crepe comes off easily from the pan and is golden brown, turn it with a spatula and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Keep the crepes under a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.

Heat oven to 180 °C (350 °F)

Filling
1. Wash zucchini, remove ends and cut into cubes. In a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat sauté the garlic in olive oil, being careful not to burn it. Remove garlic and add zucchini. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. In a bowl mix crescenza and ricotta until the mixture is creamy. Add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Stir and add  zucchini
2. Fill half crepe with stuffing and close like a book. Complete this procedure until you have used all the filling. If you have some crepes left,  wrap with cling film and freeze. Place the crepes on the bottom of a buttered baking pan. Cover with some bechamel sauce and bake for 10 min. Meanwhile heat the tomato sauce with a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. Remove the crepes from the oven, add 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce on each one, bake for additional 5 min. Remove from oven, let stand 1-2 minutes and serve with some grated Parmesan cheese on top. – Paola

Cotechino in Crosta con Lenticchie (Cotechino in Puff Pastry with Lentils)

31 Dec

Happy New Year all my beloved readers. Buon Anno! Tonight I am going to serve cotechino in crostra with lenticchie. Cotechino (the Italian fresh pork sausage) in puff pastry is a tasty and appetizing idea to enjoy the traditional cotechino and lentils during the Christmas holidays, and particularly at New Year’s Eve. According to the tradition, it seems that this dish is a good omen for the new year, lentils are, in fact, symbol of abundance and fortune.

The preparation is simple, but requires a little patience. First cotechino is cooked in water, then covered with a delicious lentil puree, wrapped in a sheet of puff pastry and baked in the oven. The result is a crunchy topping with a tasty filling, full of flavor. The pork sausage with lentils is a simple dish that dates back to the farmers’ tradition. Cotechino owes its name to the pork rind and is prepared by filling the gut with pork rind, meat, fat, all flavored with salt and spices. It is a type of sausage that is eaten cooked. It originated from Modena, but nowadays it is spread all over the country with some variations in spices. It is commonly sliced thick and laid on a bed of lentils.  You can also enjoy it with mushed potatoes,  sautéed spinach or polenta.

COTECHINO IN CROSTA CON LENTICCHIE (COTECHINO IN PUFF PASTRY AND LENTILS)
Preparation time: 60 min . Cooking time: 45 min. Servings: 4

Cotechino fetta
INGREDIENTS
500 g  (about 1 pound) fresh or pre-cooked cotechino
Aluminum foil
1 roll puff pastry (240 g, about 8 oz)Cooked lentils (see Lentil Stew)

DIECTIONS
1 . The cooking time of fresh cotechino is longer than pre-cooked.For fresh cotechino. Pierce the sausage skin with a toothpick in a few places, wrap with aluminum foil making sure it is well sealed. Place in a large pot, cover with cold water. Bring to boil over medium heat, reduce to medium-low, cover and simmer for about an hour. After this time, change the water  completely (replacing it with hot water so the sausage will be less salty) and continue cooking for about an hour and half. Remove from water and aluminum foil. Allow to cool
For pre-cooked cotechino, dip the foil package in plenty of cold water and cook according to the cooking time, usually 20-25 minutes
2 . For lentils see post Lentil Stew
3 . Preheat oven to 180 ° C
4 . Take 2 tablespoons of lentils and reduce in puree by blending in a mixer. Cover the sausage with lentil puree all around (top layer about 7-8 mm). Transfer the sausage on the puff pastry, cut in the shape of a rectangle. Close cropping the edges of excess dough. It is important to seal well. Bake on a baking sheet covered with some baking paper for about 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Wait 5 minutes, cut into thick slices and serve with the lentils. -Paola

Lenticchie in Umido (Lentil Stew)

30 Dec

This lentil stew is a tasty and comforting recipe that was always present on our dinner table on New Year’s Eve. Lentils are usually served on New Year’s Eve as they are thought to bring good luck and money, regardless if they do, they are delicious. Traditionally my mom made this recipe with bacon. Instead, I omit bacon, therefore it is a perfect vegetarian dish. Nutty and earthy flavor, lentils have nutritional value (see Insalata di Lenticchie). You can serve this dish with cotechino, the Italian sausage, that is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve too.

LENTICCHIE IN UMIDO (LENTIL STEW)
Preparation time: 30 min. Cooking time: 20 min.  Servings: 4

Lenticchie in umido

INGREDIENTS
310 g (11 oz) lentils
1 onion, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stem, finely sliced
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
120 ml (1/2 cup) white wine
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
Vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Make “soffritto”. In a saucepan on medium-low heat sautee onion, garlic, carrot and celery in olive oil for a few minutes. Rinse lentils under running water. Add lentils to the “soffritto” and cook on high heat for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add wine and let it evaporate. Add tomato sauce, bay leaves and cover with plenty of broth
2. Cover with a lid and cook for about 18-20 minutes until lentils are tender  (the exact cooking time will be indicated on the package ). Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. -Paola

Pandoro con Crema di Limoncello (Pandoro with Limoncello Cream)

22 Dec

This year Passion and Cooking will celebrate Christmas with Pandoro, the “golden cake”! Pandoro and panettone are the most popular sweets during the winter holidays. While panettone is a native of Milan, pandoro is from Verona. It is traditionally shaped like a frustum with an 8 pointed-star section and is served dusted with powdered sugar (my kids like to be the ones to put on the sugar). The dough is very soft and the taste is delicate and refined. Pandoro can be traced back to the 18th century to the rich Venetian aristocracy. Although some people recognize the similarity with the French brioche or with the ” Pan di Vienna”, pandoro seems to have been first produced on October 14, 1894, when Mr. Melegatti obtained the patent for a procedure to be applied in producing pandoro industrially. From this moment on, and considering the similarity with the Nadalin (a typical sweet from Verona), Verona is now universally recognized as the home of the original pandoro.The preparation technique is quite complex, so I suggest buying a good pandoro and enjoying it with a delicious homemade cream. I love the combination of citrus and soft sweets such as panettone and pandoro, so I propose this fresh and aromatic Limoncello cream, made with the legendary Limoncello of Sorrento, milk, cream, sugar and mascarpone cheese, the king of cream cheese!  In a few minutes you will have a delicious and rich cream to garnish your slice of pandoro. A helpful tip is to gently heat the cake for about 15-20 min. (for example on a steam radiator) and to sprinkle with powdered sugar to get the snow effect before serving. Wishing you all a delicious Christmas!

PANDORO WITH CREAM LIMONCELLO
Preparation time: 10 minutes            Servings:  10

Pandoro con crema

INGREDIENTS
500 g  (about 1 pound) fresh mascarpone
80 ml (1/3 cup) Limoncello liquor
40 ml  (1/8 cup + 2 tsp) milk
40 ml fresh  (1/8 cup + 2 tsp) cream
50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

DIRECTIONS
1. In a medium saucepan heat milk, cream and sugar for 1-2 minutes until sugar dissolves. Cool completely, add Limocello and lemon zest. Set aside the Limoncello cream .

2. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer whip the mascarpone, incorporate approximately 100-120 ml of Limoncello cream, adding one spoon at the times. Whisk for a few seconds until the mixture is creamy. -Paola

Besciamella Light (Light Bechamel Sauce)

16 Dec

Bechamel sauce, the queen of white sauces, is typical of the Italian and French cuisine. It was, in fact, the French Marquis Louis de Bechamel who began to use it in his recipes in the seventeenth century. According to other sources the sauce was created in Tuscany and was later introduced by Catherine de Medici in France. Whatever its origin, it is one of the most versatile and tasty sauces of our cuisine. It is used for the preparation of lasagne, cannelloni, crepes, pies and baked vegetables. The traditional recipe calls for the preparation of the known white roux with butter and flour, to which milk will be added  and then cooked to the desired consistency. My recipe uses small amounts of butter, thus making the sauce lighter and easier on the stomach. The flour is added directly to the milk with a whisk, and at the end of cooking the butter has melted into the mixture. This procedure allows the preparation of a delicate bechamel and reduces the formation of lumps which instead, with the traditional method is easier to obtain.

BESCIAMELLA LIGHT (LIGHT BECHAMEL SAUCE)
Preparation time: 15 minutes                                  Servings: 4
Besciamella

INGREDIENTS
1 l milk (approx. 4 cups)
100 g (⅔ cup) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of salt
30 g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. In a medium saucepan mix the milk and the flour well with a whisk until smooth. This will prevent any lumps from forming. Add the salt
2. Cook 3-4 minutes (medium-high heat) stirring constantly
3. Lower the heat as soon as the mixture reaches a slow boil and then continue to cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly to the right thickness (smooth and creamy). Stir constantly to ensure that it doesn’t stick or burn
4. Add butter and stir until melted. Let it cool and then you for your favorite recipe. -Paola

Fettuccine al Pesto “Ricco”(Fettuccine with “Rich” Pesto)

8 Dec

Fettuccine with “rich” pesto (also called ” avvantaggiato”, or advantaged) is the ancient version of pasta with pesto that is commonly enjoyed in Liguria today. This recipe is made ​​with potatoes, green beans and pesto. The addition of potatoes and green beans makes this dish truly appetizing, a real delight for those who love vegetarian dishes, including myself! The trick lies in the choice of fresh vegetables and homemade pesto (see lasagne al pesto); this naturally enhances the flavor and aroma of this meal. The pasta that I usually use is artisanal pasta, made ​​with organic flour. I bought the one I used for this recipe in Tuscany during my summer vacation. The color and the taste is a little bit different (more rustic) from mass-produced pasta. The preparation of this recipe is simple, but requires some skill to cook the vegetables. The original recipe for rich pesto calls for cooking the vegetables with the pasta, but the cooking times are different, and therefore to facilitate the preparation, I recommend cooking them separately. You can cut the green beans into larger or smaller pieces, depending on your taste. Fettucine can be substituted with linguine, both of which complement the pesto very well. This dish is certainly a delicious primo piatto (first course) for a cozy dinner or piatto unico (main course) for lunch.

FETTUCCINE AL PESTO “RICCO”(FETTUCCINE WITH “RICH” PESTO)
Preparation time: 25 min.     Cooking time: 6 min.          Servings: 4 Fettuccine al Pesto Ricco INGREDIENTS

340 g (12 oz) fettuccine
2 medium potatoes 150 g (5 oz) fresh green beans
2 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
4 tablespoons pesto
Salt pepper
Grated pecorino cheese

DIRECTIONS
1. Clean the beans by breaking off the ends and rinsing under running water. Boil in water or steam (even better). Drain when they are still crunchy. Keep warm
2. Wash the potatoes and cook in salted water or steam until they are tender. Allow to cool, peel, dice into 1.5 cm (1/2 in.) cubes. Keep warm
3. In a saucepan, bring 3 liters of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package. Strain and pour into a serving dish, season with olive oil, potatoes and green beans. Garnish with pesto and add some freshly-ground pepper to taste. You can also top with parmesan or pecorino cheese! – Paola

Torta di Zucca (Pumpkin Pie)

27 Nov

Pumpkin pie, or torta di zucca, is a typical American dessert, often prepared to celebrate Thanksgiving. When I first ate it in the US, I thought how I might add a bit of Italy to this recipe. The recipe I propose is my creation, with some additional, typically Italian ingredients in the filling, such as amaretti and amaretto di Saronno liquor, while the crust is prepared with pasta brisee instead of American pie dough. The taste of amaretti goes very well with that of the pumpkin making this dessert doubly delicious (I also use this combination of ingredients with pasta, in the pasta con zucca e amaretti recipe. Pumpkin pie is traditionally served with sweetened whipped cream, but I personally prefer to eat it plain, to fully enjoy the pumpkin’s distinctive flavor. Every time I serve it, it’s really a big success, something a bit different to savor.

TORTA DI ZUCCA (PUMPKIN PIE)
Preparation time: 1h+15min.      Cooking time: 45 min.      Servings: 8
Torta-di-Zucca

INGREDIENTS
Pasta Briseè (Briseè crust)
250 g  (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
120 g (¼ cup) chilled butter
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
60 ml cold water

Filling
450 g (1 heaping cup) mushed pumpkin
250 ml (1 heaping cup) fresh cream
50 g (¼ cup) brown sugar
100 g (½ cup) white sugar
10 amaretti cookies, finely crushed
100 ml  (½ cup) Amaretto di Saronno liquor
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8  teaspoon cloves
2 slightly beaten eggs

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 190°C (425°F)
1. Pasta brisee (brisee crust). In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time.  Add the egg yolk until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
2. Filling. To cook pumpkin see risotto di zucca. In a large bowl mix until well blended pumpkin, cream, brown sugar, white sugar, amaretti cookies, Amaretto liqueur, spices and eggs
3. Once the dough has rested, flatten it out on a lightly floured board, then transfer to a 25 cm (9 in) ceramic or glass pie or tart baking dish.  Gently pat the pastry dough in the pan to 4 mm (less than ¼ in) thickness, to line the bottom and sides.  The edge should have a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 5 mm. Prick the pastry bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times is sufficient)
4. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Bake for 15 min. at 190°C (425°F), then reduce the temperature to 170°C (350°F), bake about 30-35 min. longer until an inserted knife comes out clean
5. Cool on a racket and serve with sweetened whipped cream .  -Paola

To my Beloved Readers

18 Nov

Dear Readers. Please accept my deep apologies for not writing for a few weeks, but we have been robbed. My computer and my camera were stolen. As soon as I get new equiptments, I will start posting again. Thank you for your patience. A presto, Paola

Ragù (Bolognese Sauce)

9 Nov

The term ragù refers to a rich sauce composed of different ingredients usually including ground beef. The origin of this meat sauce is French -ragout-, and is derived from the verb ragoûter, to awaken the appetite. The Bolognese ragù sauce is the typical beef sauce from Bologna with bacon and vegetables (onion, carrot, celery and garlic).  This mixture’s flavor is enhanced by good red wine and cooked slowly for over an hour. There is a classic recipe filed in 1982 at Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Handicraft and Agriculture, but everyone has his own recipe. Different beef cuts can be used and some ground pork meat may be added, too.  Bacon can be replaced with sausage, making the sauce lighter, because sausage contains less fat (and of course fewer calories) than bacon. Some recipes also add a few tablespoons of milk or heavy cream at the end to make the meat more tender. Here is my recipe!

RAGÙ (BOLOGNESE SAUCE)
Preparation time: 1 hr+40min.      Cooking time: 1 ½ hrs       Servings: 4

Ragù

INGREDIENTS
30 g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
80 g (¼ lb) mild sausage
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped or diced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
225 g (½ pound) ground beef chuck
225 g (½ pound) ground pork
120 ml (½ cup) red wine
240 ml (1 cup) beef stock
1 can (about 250 ml) peeled whole tomatoes
5 tablespoons cream
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, sauté the butter and the sausage for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the onion, and when it begins to soften add the other vegetables. Sauté over low heat for 8 minutes until golden, stirring constantly
2. Add the ground meat and continue cooking for about 10 minutes
3. Add the wine and increase the heat to high to evaporate the alcohol
4. Add the tomatoes and the stock. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally until thick
5. Remove from heat and add the cream
6. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. The most traditional way to eat ragù is with tagliatelle or lasagne, but you can also enjoy it with any concave shaped pasta that goes well with chunky sauces.  -Paola

Miascia, Lake Como Cake

3 Nov

Today I would like to present miascia (mee-AH-sha), a typical cake from my beautiful home, Lake Como. It is one of the traditional peasants’ sweets prepared with stale bread (“pan poss” in the local dialect) with the addition of dried and fresh fruit. Most of the farmers’ cakes are prepared with dried fruit or fresh fruit (both in this recipe) to compensate the lack of sugar that, in the past, was very common among the less well off. The fruit actually adds minerals and vitamins that sugar doesn’t have, making this cake also nutritious. In the past miascia could even replace a full meal or be served on very special occasions such as parties or celebrations. Today it is enjoyed as a great dessert accompanied by a fortified wine or vanilla ice cream. It is also a tasty snack, going well with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee.

MIASCIA, LAKE COMO CAKE
Preparation time: 2 hrs +40 min.    Cooking time: 45 min.  Servings : 8

Miascia fetta

INGREDIENTS
500 g (18 oz) stale bread
15 amaretti cookies, crushed
500 ml (about 2 cups) whole milk
120 ml (½ cup) Amaretto di Saronno liqueur
50 g (⅓  cup) toasted pine nuts
150 g (about 1 cup) raisins
2 eggs
70 g (⅓  cup) sugar
2 apples
2 pears
1 lemon, grated rind
50 g (about ¼ cup) butter, melted
1 tablespoon flour 00

DIRECTIONS
1. Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan over low heat for a few minutes until golden brown. Cool and set aside
2. Cut the bread into small pieces and soak in a large bowl with milk and Amaretto liqueur. Let stand for about 2 hours. Add more milk if the bread is not soaked enough. The amount of milk depends on the type of bread used and how stale it is
3. Preheat oven to 190°C – 350°F
4 . Cut apples and pears into thin slices and add to the bread with the remaining ingredients (pine nuts, amaretti, raisins, eggs, sugar, lemon peel, butter and flour). Mix all ingredients together well
5. Wet and wring out some baking paper and line a baking pan (25 cm diameter, 10 inch) with it to make prevent the cake from sticking. Wetting the paper allows it to follow the sides of the pan better
6. Pour the batter into the pan and cook for 15 min. After this time, lower the temperature to 150°C and bake for an additional 30 minutes until golden.
7. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for about 15 minutes. While your cake is still warm, sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy.

Note: There are a few variations of this classic recipe in which a small amount of corn flour (2 tablespoons ) is added . The type of bread used is very important both for the taste and the quantity of milk. You can also use whole wheat bread with cereals , as was used in the past.  In any case, the bread should be a hearty, baker’s bread, not an industrially-produced sliced bread. The result will be a very sweet, delicious and healthy treat! – Paola 

 

 

 

Pane Toscano (Tuscan Bread)

27 Oct Pane Toscano

“L’uomo non vive di solo pane / Man does not live by bread alone” … but this certainly doesn’t seem to apply in Tuscany. For centuries Tuscan bread has been a staple for the poor. The Tuscan bread recipe is salt-free, therefore called in Italian “pane sciapo”. In fact, its taste goes well with traditional Tuscan cuisine rich in salt and abundant flavors. It has a crispy reddish crust, while the interior is soft, but not spongy . It is a perfect base for delicious appetizers or “stuzzichini”. It can be served with tasty cured meat products, “affettato”,  such as Tuscan Prosciutto Crudo, salami (fennel-flavored finocchiona) or Tuscan pecorino cheese, and it is one of the most appetizing ways to start a meal. It can also accompany savory soups such as “ribollita” and “pappa al pomodoro”.  It can also be used for the typical “panzanella”, a bread and tomato salad. Moreover it is very palatable in the form of crouton slices, thin pieces of grilled or fried bread. The croutons are very good with chicken liver pate’, olive paste, or as the base of the famous “bruschetta” with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and fresh basil. The lack of salt has historical roots: around the twelfth century, because of the struggle between the cities of Pisa and Florence, the maritime republic stopped the salt trade to the countryside, and because of this the farmers had to prepare their bread without salt. Today, this tradition is generally maintained, although nowadays in some areas of Tuscany bread is lightly salted. You can add a small amount of salt (about 5 g (1 tsp) for 500 g of flour, 3 cups), according to your taste and to match the food you are eating.

TUSCAN BREAD
Preparation time: 3 hours  Cooking time: 35-40 minutes  Servings: 8

IMG_1904

INGREDIENTS
500 g (3 cups) gluten-rich flour (Manitoba)
260 ml (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) water at 45 °C -110 °F
5 g (1 tsp) sugar
1 package (7 g, 1 heaping teaspoon) dried yeast or 1 cube (25 g, about 1 ounce) fresh yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small glass or bowl, dissolve in about 100 ml of the warm water, sugar and yeast. Sugar is the so-called ” food” for the yeast
2. In another bowl, mix the remaining water well with the oil
3. Pour the liquid containing sugar and yeast into a large glass bowl. Add half of the flour and mix well until smooth
4 . Continue adding the remaining flour and the water with olive oil until a smooth ball can be formed
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface, by hand for about 10 minutes. Do not add too much flour otherwise the dough will become tough
6. Put the dough in a glass bowl and let rise for about 20 min. Cover with a cotton towel. Let rise in a warm draft-free place at a temperature of approximately 30°C or 85°F.
7. After this time, knead the dough on a floured work surface about a dozen times.
8. Form a strand without handling it too much, cover with a sprinkling of flour , place on a baking sheet previously covered with greaseproof baking paper . Let rise for about 2 hours covered with a cotton towel.  Remember that the dough should rise in a warm room.
9. Preheat oven to 180 °C.
10. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.
11. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.  – Paola

Pasta con Zucca e Amaretti (Pasta with Pumpkin and Amaretti)

19 Oct

It is pumpkin season! Pumpkin is an autumn vegetable, very tasty and suitable for the preparation of a variety of recipes This recipe for pasta with pumpkin and amaretti cookies is a perfect, colorful dish on a cold and gray day. Amaretti refer to the almond flavored macaroons, crispy and crunchy, which are traditionally from Saronno, a small city in Lombardy between Como and Milan. The taste of the pasta blends well with the sweetness of pumpkin, the addition of sage gives a fragrant aroma . The flavor is unique and special; it definitely satisfies the taste of those people who love combining sweet and savory foods. I love this recipe because it reminds me so much of my childhood. In fact, this recipe is part of my family’s culinary tradition and goes back to my great-grandmother. Actually, I’ve never eaten it in any restaurant nor have I even seen it on the menu, so this is a true this is an exclusive for my readers. The pumpkin that I use is the “zucca mantovana” (Cucurbita maxima, Kabocha). It takes its name from Mantua (Mantova), a city in Lombardy where it grows in abundance because the soil is particularly suited to this vegetable. Its pulp is tender and very sweet, with its flavor somewhere between sweet potato and chestnut, with an almost nutty taste.

PASTA CON ZUCCA E AMARETTI (PASTA WITH PUMPKIN AND AMARETTI COOKIES)
Preparation time: 30 min.        Cooking time: 20 min.            Servings: 4

Pasta con Zucca e Amaretti

INGREDIENTS
1350 g (3 lbs) fresh pumpkin (about 260 g, or 2 cups, mashed)
340 g (12 0z) penne
18 finely crushed amaretti
100 g (7 tablespoons) butter
4-5 sage leaves
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch of cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS
1. Cut pumpkin into 4 pieces, remove seeds and strings. Wash in water. Bake pumpkin at 200 °C -400 °F (see pumpkin risotto‎‎) or steam. While it is still warm, remove the skin and mash into puree
2. Bring approx. 3 liters of salted water to a boil, cook pasta for about 10-11 minutes until al dente (read the cooking time on the package)
3. While pasta is cooking, melt half the butter in a saucepan, add pumpkin and 16 crushed amaretti, nutmeg and cinnamon. Season with salt. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking water to make the pumpkin puree creamier
4. Melt the remaining butter in a pan with the sage to flavor the butter. If you prefer you can remove the sage, however I leave it because I really like its intense flavor
5. Drain and transfer the pasta to the pan, stir gently and add the sage-flavored butter. Transfer onto a serving plate and garnish with crumbs from 2-3 crushed amaretti, Parmesan cheese and pepper to taste.

Note: You can use any type of short pasta such as macaroni , mezze penne , garganelli, tortiglioni and so on. You can substitute “zucca mantovana” with butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata).  – Paola Lovisetti Scamihorn

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