Tag Archives: Prosciutto crudo

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


Piadina Romagnola

29 Aug

Piadina (in English “flatbread”), is one of the most popular dishes of the Emilia Romagna region, and it is certainly appreciated all over the country. It looks like a pastry disk, made of flour, lard, salt and water, and it is traditionally cooked either on a terracotta dish or metal griddle over hot coals. Piadina has an ancient history dating back to the Etruscans, who prepared a batter of cereals similar to piadina. For many years, this flatbread was considered a peasants’ meal because the ingredients are simple and easy to find. The traditional piadina is filled with Parma ham (prosciutto crudo), squacquerone or crescenza, fresh and tasty cheeses, quite soft and mild tasting, and of course with arugula (rocket) which gives the sandwich a zesty taste to munch on! It is also delicious when it is spread only with cheese and arugula, and a perfect foil for cold cuts or grilled sausages too; actually the choice is unlimited. It is up to you to decide how you prefer to enjoy it. It is an ideal dish for lunch, for a quick snack during the day. It can also be consumed as a substitute for bread to accompany various dishes. It is an excellent cookout bread. The homemade piadina, of course, has a distinctive flavor and aroma, but nowadays it is very common to consume pre-cooked piadina which is then heated on a griddle and then filled at the moment.

Preparation time: 40 minutes          Cooking time: 5-6 minutes          Servings: 4

Piadina Ripiena

500 g (3 cups) all-purpose flour
65 g (2,5 oz) soft lard
2 g (½) baking soda
6 g salt
200 ml (¾ cup) lukewarm water
200 g (7 oz) Prosciutto crudo
100 g (3.5 oz) squacquerone or crescenza cheese

1. Mix flour and baking soda in a bowl. Dissolve salt in the water
2. Make a volcano with the flour on the work surface, making sure to form a “crater” big enough for holding the lard. Mix well by slowly adding lard and water. Knead to a smooth and homogeneous dough
3. Cover with a cotton cloth and let rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature
4. Divide the dough into 4 balls of equal size. To roll out the dough flatbread you need a wooden rolling pin – about 80 cm (32 inch) long and 4 cm (1 ½ inch)in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 5 mm (⅛ inch) and make 4 discs of 23-25 cm (10 inch) in diameter. To obtain smooth edges use a wheel cutter with a smooth blade following the contour of a circular plate
5. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, wait until it is hot and place a disc of dough on the pan. Punch with a fork and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side. It may puff up. If it does gently press the bubbles with a spatula
6. Spread with a thin layer of cheese, cover with a few slices of ham and garnish with arugula
7. Fold in half and serve warm.

Note: You can substitute lard with olive oil – about 110 ml (½ cup). The result will be a lighter piadina. You can also substitute water with milk; I personally prefer the taste of water. It is also possible to freeze piadina. Wait until it is completely cool, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.  Remove from the freezer, thaw and heat on a non-stick skillet.   -Paola


Saltimbocca alla Romana

10 Dec

The saltimbocca (literally “jumps in the mouth” from the skillet, referring to the fact you have to eat it hot off the stove) is one of the flagships of the Roman-style cooking. This tasty dish is made of veal slices lined with prosciutto crudo (dry-cured ham) and sage leaves, cooked in butter and flavored with white wine. The origins of this recipe are uncertain. In any case, Pellegrino Artusi (a well-know Italian writer and gourmet in the 1800s) reported that he enjoyed saltimbocca in a historic trattoria (tavern) in Rome; after this event the dish started being served in several other taverns in the Capital and became popular throughout the Lazio region. Other sources, however, indicate that the origins are from Brescia (a Lombard city). Who really knows? The most important thing is that today, all over the country, we enjoy this fast-to-prepare and appetizing dish either as a second course or as main course. You can serve it with baked or mashed potatoes, or grilled vegetables.

Preparation time: 30 minutes                             Servings: 4

Saltimbocca 3 small

12 veal slices (scaloppine) 14 cm long and pounded to less than 1 cm (¼ inch) thick
12 thin slices of prosciutto crudo
12 large sage leaves
60 ml (¼cup) white wine
70 g (2.5 oz) unsalted butter
60 g (⅓ cup) all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To save time ask the butcher to pound the veal meat for you.

1. Cover the entire surface of the meat with on slice of prosciutto. Then place a sage leaf on top of the prosciutto. Stick a toothpick through the meat to secure the prosciutto and the sage
2. Flour the scaloppine only on the meat side. Shake off the excess of flour
3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and place the scaloppine, floured-side down, without overlapping
4. Cook for 5 minutes without turning, until golden
5. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add some salt and freshly ground pepper. Prosciutto crudo is pretty salty, therefore do not add much salt. I personally do not add it at all
6. Place the saltimbocca on a serving dish, keep warm. Cook the wine sauce for about 2 more min. Pour it over the meat and serve immediately. Saltimbocca is very tasty when eaten warm, right away!

Note: Prosciutto crudo’s taste depends on the ageing time and the amount of fat present in the pork. Prosciutto di Parma (from Parma in Emilia-Romagna) has a distinct flavor due to the longer ageing time when compared to Prosciutto S. Daniele (from Friuli), sweeter and lighter in texture, while Prosciutto Toscano has a much stronger and decisive taste because of the spices used to cure it.  -Paola

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