Tag Archives: Pecorino Cheese

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.

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


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)

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


Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa (Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe)

10 Apr

Orecchiette with broccoli rabe or rapini is one of the most representative dishes of Apulia (especially of the Bari area), and symbolizes the region’s so called “cucina povera” (peasant cooking).  It is a tasty and healthy dish made with orecchiette pasta and broccoli rabe.  The slightly bitter flavor of this leafy dark green vegetable blends well with the starchy taste of pasta and the hot bite of fresh chili pepper.  Orecchiette means “little ears” because of their shape; they are little concave disks.  Orecchiette are made with semolina, flour and water.  They are prepared by pressing a small amount of dough with one’s thumb pressure to create the characteristic depression. According to some legends, their shape also recalls the roof of the trulli constructions, the typical Apulian houses. The best orecchiette are, of course, homemade, but good ones also produced by some Italian pasta makers. The broccoli rabe, a leafy green vegetable and typical of Southern Italy, is very tasty and suitable for several pasta recipes.  There are mainly two types, one from Bari with a tough stalk and a lot of leaves and another one from Naples  (also known as friarielli) with a more tender stalk. If you prefer a milder taste you might use broccolini or regular broccoli. I personally love the bitter taste of broccoli rabe.  Apulia is not only known for its delicious food, but also for its traditional ceramics. You can admire the artistic decoration of the ancient plate (more than 100 years old) shown in the picture below.

Preparation time: 25 minutes    Cooking time: 20 minutes         Servings: 4

Orecchiette Piatto_small


600 g (21 oz ) broccoli rabe
450 g (16 oz) fresh orecchiette pasta
6 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
2 garlic gloves, coarsely chopped
2 fresh hot chili peppers, seeded and finely sliced
4 salted anchovies, rinsed and coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino

1. Wash the broccoli rabe, trim away the stalk, conserving the blossoms and leaves.  Cut the leaves into 5 cm (2 ½ inches) pieces
2. Bring about 3 l of water to boil.  Add 1 ½ tablespoons cooking salt, add the broccoli rabe.  Stir well and cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove the broccoli rabe with a fine mesh strainer.  Set aside
3. Bring the broccoli water back to boil and add the pasta.  Cook for about 5-6 minutes (until “al dente”)
4. While pasta is cooking , in a large frying pan over medium-low heat, sauté garlic, chili peppers and chopped anchovies in olive oil for 1 minutes. Mix in broccoli rabe and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to mix all the ingredients well
5. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the vegetable mix.  Toss it for 1 minute
6. Place the pasta on a serving plate and serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese.

 Note: When you buy broccoli rabe make sure that the bottoms of the stems are relatively firm and green.  If you prefer using dry pasta instead of fresh, you should reduce the amount to 350 g (12.5 oz).  -Paola

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