Posts in Italy
Bicicletta

Spritz has remained a favorite for summertime cocktails and bubbly aperitifs. This one is simple enough: Campari, white wine, and soda. But the complexity of the liqueur with the sparkle of the soda water gives it a big character. 

We found a lovely little Campari alternative at our local Total Wine last time around. Leopold Bros Aperitivo. A little more bitter, with a heavier citrus note. Great in this cocktail, and adds a different kick to your standard Negroni. 

 

Bicicletta

Bicicletta

From Spritz by Talia Baiocchi & Leslie Pariseau

1 to 2 ounces Campari or similar herbal citrus aperitivo
3 ounces white wine
soda water
lemon slice for garnish

Build ingredients in a wine glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon slice.

 

Gelato di Crema
Gelato di Crema

Egg Custard Gelato

Gelato di crema

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

6 egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 cups milk
Peel of ½ orange, no pith
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
Ice Cream Maker

1. Beat egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow with soft ribbons.

2. Combine the milk and orange peel in a pan over medium heat, simmering for just a couple of minutes, do not allow to come to a boil.

3. Add the hot milk to the beaten yolks, through a fine strainer.  Be careful to add the hot milk slowly so as not to cook the eggs and curdle the mixture. If using a stand mixer, you can use the pouring shield to add the milk while the mixer is running and mix it all at once. Otherwise, add a bit at a time and mix between additions.

4. Add the orange liqueur

5. Transfer back to your saucepan, turn heat to medium and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.

Fried Zucchini with Vinegar and Garlic
Fried Zucchini

This dish is much more delicious than the simplicity of the ingredients lets on. A kick of vinegar lightens up the fried zucchini and the quick coat of flour before frying gives it a crispy complex texture. 

The vinegar in this recipe was what intrigued me to try it and I was right to think it would be great with a simple roast chicken or just as a side to some hearty pasta. If you don't want to mess around with frying it would be almost as good pan sauteed with the garlic and then splashed with the vinegar right before serving. You'd lose a little crispness but keep the flavor balance. 

Fried Zucchini in Vinegar and Garlic

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

1 pound fresh zucchini, cut into ¼ inch sticks
Salt
2 garlic cloves, smashed but still whole
Vegetable Oil, enough for frying
Flour
2-3 tablespoons good wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Sprinkle zucchini sticks with salt and let rest in a colander to shed some of their water.

2. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a wide pan. When the oil is quite hot, prepare zucchini sticks by sprinkling them with flour and shaking off excess. Add about half the zucchini sticks to the hot oil. Fry up just enough at a time that they do not crowd the pan. They should sizzle on contact when added to the oil.

3. Turn zucchini sticks when they begin to brown on one side. When they are brown all over use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer to a deep dish, shaking them to remove as much oil as possible.

4. Drizzle with some of the vinegar, they will crackle. Fry the remaining zucchini in batches.

5. Bury the smashed garlic cloves in amongst the fried zucchini sticks. Sprinkle with remaining vinegar and fresh pepper.

6. These can be served hot or at room temperature. Remove the garlic after 10 minutes if you want less garlic aroma. I leave it in…

Perfect Pasta Sauce

If you say "Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce" although she has many, this is the one everyone will immediately think of. Three ingredients. Perfection. Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. The name is the recipe. 

I am not the first, nor the last I am sure, to share this recipe. It is a gem that should be in everyone's repertoire. Easy, homey, delicious. 

I tried my hand at homemade pasta this past weekend for the Italian Grand Prix. It was fun, but my kitchen was like an explosion of flour with tea towels everywhere, strips of dough, boiling water, a churning pasta machine, and me running around nervous and off balance. Having this sauce just simmering on the back burner wafting the smell of melting onion, simmering butter, and softening tomatoes for the 45 minutes of pasta induced stress was positively lovely. 

Although delicious, this sauce does not steal the show away from a delicate pasta, a flavorful gnocchi, or in this case a first crack at homemade pappardelle. 

Pasta Sauce

This picture doesn't do this dish justice. Homemade pasta, though tasty, is not very photogenic. And although the pasta was what took the time and energy to make, the sauce is what really pulled the meal together. 

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

2  cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes
5 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt
1 to 1 ½ pounds pasta
Freshly grated parmesan

Put the tomatoes in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt. Cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for 45 minutes. Stir from time to time, mashing any large pieces of tomato. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.

Grate fresh parmesan over each individual bowl of pasta and sauce. 

 

 

 

Italian GP 2018: Roast Chicken with Lemon
Chicken with Lemons

I love the intro Marcella Hazan gives this dish:  “If this were a still life its title could be ‘Chicken with Two Lemons’ " 

Simplicity is sometimes the best thing you can choose. The name of this dish is the recipe Roast Chicken with lemon(s). No oil or butter, no herb blend, beyond a couple lemons it is just the addition of a little salt, pepper, and heat. It self-bastes in the oven with the steam of the lemons and the fat of the chicken. By flipping it part way through, the breasts stay moist and the skin has a chance to crisp up to perfection. 

Chicken with Lemons Pieces

Roast Chicken with Lemon

From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

A 3-4 pound chicken
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 small lemons

1. Preheat oven to 350 F

2. Wash the chicken and dry well.

3. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper rubbing all over with your fingers on the outside and in the cavity.

4. Wash the lemons in cold water and dry them. Soften each lemon by rolling it on the counter using the palm of your hand to press it into the counter. Puncture the lemons at least 20 times with a toothpick or skewer.

5. Place both lemons in the bird’s cavity. Close the opening with toothpicks or truss it, being careful not to close it too tight as it could burst. Wrap kitchen string around the legs, not too tightly, just to keep them in place as the bird roasts .

6. Put the chicken in a roasting pan, breast facing down. No need to add any fat, this is a self-basting bird. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken over, trying not to break the skin, this helps the bird steam and the skin will puff up if in tact, but it is delicious either way. 

7. Cook for another 30 minutes, then turn oven up to 400F, and cook for an additional 20 minutes per additional pound over 3lbs, or until the thigh meat reaches 165 F.

8. Serve whole at the table and carve in front of guests. Spoon pan juices over the chicken pieces.

 

Lemon Ricotta Biscuits
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These are Giada Di Laurentis's Nonna's Lemon Ricotta Muffins. Who can resist an Italian Grandmother's recipe? These turned out exactly as I had hoped, moist, just a bit crumbly and intensely lemon-y and almond-y. Almond extract is a magical ingredient that makes so many things better, banana bread, tapioca pudding, vanilla cupcakes, Fridays. 

Nonna's Lemon Ricotta Biscuits

From Giada Di Laurentiis

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar or more as needed for sprinkling
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds

1. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the ricotta. Beat in the egg, lemon juice, and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended (the batter will be thick and fluffy).

4. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the almonds and then the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar over the muffins.

5. Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Olive Oil Gelato

So, this recipe. I am so on the fence about it I am having a hard time figuring out what to say. 

The good: It tastes like something I would find in a tiny gelateria and say "ooh that's different!" It goes surprising well with Lemon Ricotta Muffins. It is creamy as all get out and pairs well with tart fruit and lemon zest. 

The bad: It makes you say "ooh that's different!" You need to pair it with something or your brain explodes going back and forth with, is that olive oil? mmm cream. wait, why is this grassy? mmm cream. is it supposed to taste like this? mmm cream. 

So, I'll let you be the judge. (But if I were to pull out my ice cream maker again, honestly I'd go for Ben and Jerry's Kahlua Amaretto Ice Cream!)

Olive Oil Gelato

From Saveur

1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. kosher salt
Fleur de sel or flaky sea salt, for serving

Using a hand (or stand) mixer, beat sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl until pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add oil in a steady stream, and continue beating until smooth and airy, about 3 minutes. Add milk, cream, vanilla, and salt, and beat until combined. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Serve with a sprinkling of fleur de sel or flaky sea salt, if you like.

ItalyMaria DawsonDessert
Spritz

Spritz: Italy's Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes by Talia Baiocchi & Leslie Pariseau is a beautifully illustrated and charmingly written cocktail guide and history of a particular genre of cocktail. 

HOW TO SPRITZ

First: A Spritz is always effervescent. Whether its bubble is aquired though soda water, prosecco, some other sparkling wine, or a flavored soda, the spitz would not be a spritz without bouyancy.

Second: A spritz is low alcohol, which, for our purposes means that is should contatin no more that one ounce of strong spirits (perferably less). This is a drink that is consuemd when the day is waning and the night is young.

Third: A spritz is a pre-dinner drink, meant to be consumed in that liminal hour between work and play. It should be bitter as a means to open the stomach for a meal.
— Talia Baiocchi & Leslie Pariseau

 

All of the following cocktails are from Spritz

Americano

1 1/2 ounces Campari
1 1/2 ounces Sweet Vermouth
Soda Water

Pour the Campari and vermouth into a Collins glass over ice. Top with soda water and add garnich (optional). 

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Negroni Sbagliato

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Sweet Vermouth
3 ounces Prosecco

Build the ingredients in a rocks glass over ice and add garnish (optional)

Note: on this one we chilled the ingredients by stirring them in a cocktail shaker before topping with prosseco to make a nice cold drink for a particularly hot day. 

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Spritzz

from Jim Meehan of PDT

2 ounces Pelligrino Aranciata
1 1/2 ounces Zwack Amaro
2 ounces Prosecco

Build the ingredients over ice in a rocks glass and add garnish (optional)

Italian GP - Osso Buco and Risotto Milanese

When researching recipes for the Italian GP, I felt overwhelmed by the ridiculous variety of delicious food I could make. Choice paralysis took over just by the thought of whether I should do a pasta dish, or make pizza, or find something properly authentic I've never made. I have cookbooks, and blogs I follow, and the entirety of the internet full of recipes that could be amazing, and will be, because Italian food is frickin' amazing. 

How to choose?! To narrow it down I'm going regional. Monza is one of the classic F1 tracks, and it resides in the Lombardy region of Italy. Lombard cuisine is known particularly for a unique Risotto made with saffron (Risotto alla Milanese) and for deep braises like Osso Buco. 

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I was also tempted to make something from the 'TIMES Foods of the World – Cooking of Italy' book from the 1960’s. It actually did have some gems like Polpette alla Casalinga (Meatballs - fried to perfection), Pere Ripiene (Pears stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese), and Pollo alla Cacciatora (Braised Chicken with black olive and anchovy sauce). But we stuck to the reliability of the internet for this meal.

However, we did pull a few cocktails from the Spritz cocktail book for your drinking pleasure! Check out the Americano, Negroni Sbagliato and the Spritzz on my Spritz post. 

For dessert I  found Giada's Nonna's Lemon Ricotta Biscuits and Olive Oil Gelato (and yes, me and Giada are totally on a first name basis).

They turned out to be particularly good together! Look for recipes in follow up posts. 

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Slow-Cooker Beef Shank Osso Buco

From Serious Eats

4 cross-cut, bone-in beef shanks (about 2 1/2 pounds total) (I used Beef Chuck Steaks)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 stalk celery, diced (about 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
Pinch ground cloves

For the Gremolata:

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated zest from 1 or 2 lemons
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

1. For the Shanks: Pat shanks dry using a paper towel. Place 1 cup flour on a plate. Season beef with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add meat and cook without moving until well browned on first side, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on second side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a slow cooker.

2. Add onion, carrots, and celery to the Dutch oven, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin have softened, about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic. Stir and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon.

3. Transfer the contents to a slow cooker and add stock, vinegar, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, and ground clove. Season with salt and pepper and cook on low until meat is tender, about 6 hours.

4. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Skim fat from the sauce and transfer 1/2 cup of gravy to a medium saucepan. Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour into the reserved gravy until no lumps remain. Add the rest of the sauce to the saucepan. Whisking frequently, bring the sauce to a rolling boil over high heat and cook until the sauce achieves a gravy-like consistency, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. For the Gremolata: Meanwhile, combine parsley, lemon zest, and garlic in a small bowl.

6. Arrange shanks on a platter and spoon sauce on top. Garnish with gremolata and serve.

 

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Risotto alla Milanese Recipe

From Serious Eats

14 ounces risotto rice (400g; about 2 cups), preferably carnaroli or vialone nano (though Arborio is the only variety I found in my store - and it works just fine!)
4 cups (950ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock or homemade vegetable stock, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced (about 200g; 7 ounces)
1 cup (225ml) dry white wine
2 generous pinches saffron (I know it is expensive, but now we can make proper paella too!)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 ounces (40g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup (115ml) heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks (optional; see note)

1. Combine rice and stock in a large bowl. Agitate rice with fingers or a whisk to release starch. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a 2-quart liquid cup measure or large bowl. Allow to drain well, shaking rice of excess liquid.

2. Heat oil in a heavy 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add rice and cook, stirring and tossing frequently, until all liquid has evaporated and rice sizzles and takes on a nutty aroma, about 5 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pan is nearly dry, about 3 minutes.

3. Give reserved stock a good stir and pour all but 1 cup over rice. Add saffron and a large pinch of salt, increase heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Stir rice once, making sure no stray grains are clinging to side of pan above the liquid. Cover and reduce heat to lowest possible setting.

4. Cook rice for 10 minutes undisturbed. Stir once, shake pan gently to redistribute rice, cover, and continue cooking until liquid is mostly absorbed and rice is tender with just a faint bite, about 5 minutes longer.

5. Remove lid. Stir remaining 1 cup of stock to distribute starch, then stir into rice. Increase heat to high, add butter, and cook, stirring and shaking rice constantly until butter has melted and rice is thick and creamy; add more stock or water as necessary if risotto becomes too dry. Off heat, add cheese and stir rapidly to thoroughly incorporate. Fold in heavy cream, if using. Season with salt. Serve immediately on hot plates, passing more cheese at the table.

 

And for the random thoughts part of the day...

Ferrari's home race poster. So gorgeous. 

 

Aaaand, last but not least, in case you haven't explored it, Google Play Music has some awesome radio stations, like 'Ultimate Oldies Party', 'Singing Your Feelings', and every type of dinner party you can imagine. This one seemed like an excellent pick for Osso Buco and Rissoto making... 

And in case you aren't convinced: this morning it is recommending: 'For Shame: 80's and 90's Guilty Pleasures', don't mind if I do. 

Caprese Salad

We were traveling over the Italian GP race weekend, so will end up making a belated Italian meal next weekend (Osso Buco and Risotto Milanese, anyone?) 

But by lovely coincidence, we ended up with a bucket load of homegrown tomatoes from my husband's folks which made the perfect Caprese Salad. 

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Super simple and beyond delicious Caprese Salad's are one of my favorite summer meals. I usually have a huge tomato crop every summer and we live off these for three glorious months. This year we are renovating our backyard so my garden is a sad dirt patch and this gift of fresh warmed by the sun tomatoes made my week.

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Caprese Salad

Fresh tomatoes - chopped  or sliced
Kosher salt
Fresh mozarella broken into bite size pieces
Handful basil - sliced thin
Good olive oil

Fill bowl to brim with tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt. Top with cheese and basil. Drizzle with high quality olive oil. 

Enjoy. 

 

We made this even more refreshing and irresistible with a spritz! This one is an Americano (Campari, Vermouth, and sparkling water). We're working our way through the Spritz cocktail book, so keep your eyes out for more where that came from!