Tag Archives: Italian Food

Italian manicotti

Italian Recipe: Manicotti from Mamma Rosa

Italian Recipe: Manicotti from Mamma Rosa

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog ManicottiItalian crespelle are crêpes stuffed with delicious ricotta cheese!

Italian Recipe: Manicotti from Mamma Rosa

Manicotti (pronounced (man-ee-cot-tee) are Italian crêpes, called crespelle, filled with cheese, topped with just a bit of sauce, and baked. They are a perfect light start  as the “primo”(first) course for a special Italian meal. Because making the crespelle is a bit labor intensive—they have to be made one by one—we don’t often have manicotti at my house. I made these at home this past Easter for dinner, so I thought I would share the method.

A few words about what are called manicotti in America. Many of you have no doubt tasted manicotti made with pasta tubes in an Italian-American restaurant or have seen manicotti pasta tubes in the grocery store. And yes, the pasta tubes are about the same size as the “tubes” we will make when we roll up our crespelle. And yes, our filling will work well in these pasta tubes or large pasta shells for a quick meal. But for true manicotti made the southern Italian way, as passed down by my Mamma Rosa, the shells must be light crespelle, not made from boiled pasta.

Also, I have to say that I completely forgot that manicotti can be topped with sauce and a bit of grated mozzarella cheese. But please (I am begging here), please do not “drown” your manicotti in sauce or a pool of gooey mozzarella cheese, as some restaurants do. Then the crespelle will become soggy, and you will not be able to taste the delicate flavors of the cheese filling!

To see the method to make Italian crespelle in real time, watch our Stella Lucente Italian You Tube Channel. Visit the Learn Travel Italian Pinterest site for photos of how to put together your own manicotti. Try our recipe and amaze your family with something new!
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Italian Recipe: Manicotti from Mamma Rosa 

Italian Manicotti
Two Manicotti baked and ready to serve.

Ingredients for Italian Recipe: Manicotti from Mamma Rosa
(Serves 4)

For the crespelle (crêpes)*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp olive oil

For the cheese filling
15 oz.  good, fresh Ricotta cheese**
6 oz. mozzarella (not buffalo mozzarella) cut into small cubes***
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced, stems removed

For baking
1 jar (26 oz.) homemade or favorite tomato sauce

Make the crespelle batter

Put 1/2 cup of the milk and the rest of the ingredients into a mixing bowl.

Beat briskly with a whisk until all lumps of flour have dissolved. (This may take a little bit of time and produce small air bubbles if done thoroughly.)

Add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and beat with the whisk again.

Let batter rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator. This will let any remaining particles of flour absorb into the batter and relax any gluten that may have formed during the mixing. The rest allows for a more tender and less “doughy” crespelle.

Method to cook the crespelle 

To cook the batter to make the crespelle, you will need a small frying pan that heats evenly and holds the heat well. A crêpe pan works best, of course!

The technique is a little tricky, and the crespelle must be cooked one at a time. But once the method is mastered, you should have a batch of about 8–10 crespelle in no time!

  1. Brush the pan with olive oil and then heat the pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Pour approximately 3 Tbsp of batter into the center of the pan.
  3. Off heat, tilt the pan around with a circular motion so that the batter thins out and forms a round crêpe about the size of the pan.
  4. Place the pan back on the heat again and cook until the edges of the crêpe become whitish and the inner portion yellow and partially solid.
  5. Using a spatula, flip once and cook briefly (about 30 seconds).
  6. Remove to a plate to cool.

Watch our video “How to Make Crespelle” on the Learn Travel Italian YouTube Channel.

Assemble the Manicotti

One at a time, place a crespelle on a separate plate and stuff with the ricotta mixture to make a manicotti as follows:

  1. Place the crespelle with the second side up (the side that cooked briefly after flipping) onto a plate or work board.
  2. Place 1–2 Tbsp of ricotta filling in a line down the middle.
  3. Fold one side of the crespelle over to the center.
Manicotti crespelle
One side of a crespelle folded over the ricotta cheese filling.

Repeat with the other side and overlap to make a tube shape with open ends, similar to a large penne pasta. Seal the overlapping edges in the center with a drop of water.

Have a baking pan ready with a layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom.

Place the manicotti into the pan.

Continue to make manicotti and place them into the pan, making as many rows as possible to fill up the pan.

When the pan has been filled, pour a bit of your favorite tomato sauce to make a “line” of sauce over the center of each row of manicotti.  Don’t put too much sauce over the manicotti, or the crespelle will become soggy.

Italian manicotti
Finished manicotti topped with tomato sauce in a pan ready to put into the oven to bake.

Above all, please don’t drown your manicotti in mozzarella cheese! If you like, put a small amount of shredded mozzarella over the top of the sauce line.

Bake in a 350° oven about 15–20 minutes, or until the mozzarella cheese has melted and the manicotti have crisped a bit.

Serve with tomato sauce on the side.

*There are, of course, many variations on how to make crespelle batter. Some use more egg or less flour. Others don’t use olive oil. I’ve found that the recipe for crespelle batter given above works the best with the pan that I have available at home. If adding more egg, the batter may stick to the pan. Less flour makes a watery batter that is a little difficult to deal with without a true crêpe maker. If you have a favorite crêpe batter, you can use that, although crespelle are traditionally a little bit thicker than crêpes.

 **This dish showcases how delicious ricotta cheese can be. So please use only creamy, fresh, good quality ricotta cheese, from a specialty store if possible.

*** For the mozzarella cheese, the hard mozzarella cheese holds up better and has more flavor to add to the dish than buffalo mozzarella. The slightly nutty flavor of fontina cheese is also wonderful in this filling, although it is not “authentic” because it is a northern Italian cheese, and the dish is southern Italian.  

—Adapted from Primi e Secondi Piatti Italian cookbook from the Italian-American Society of Peoria; recipe by Rose Schimmenti Occhipinti and Kathy Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Learn Travel Italian

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Recipe: Manicotti from Mamma Rosa

Chicken in Marsala Wine Italian Style

One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine

One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine 

A delicious and easy to make family dinner. Try it tonight!

Try One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine for YOUR Dinner Tonight! 

The recipe title, “One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine” sounds rich… and it is! But it is also so easy to make! I am told that for many years in Italy, only relatively wealthy families had ovens (in the day of my great grandparents). As a result, many wonderful Italian meals were developed that could be made entirely on the stove top. This actually fits perfectly with the lifestyle we live today.

In this chicken in Marsala wine recipe, a whole cut chicken is cooked in one large skillet along with the wine and few other ingredients until a silky gravy forms. This hearty and fulfilling dish can be made during the week or served when friends are over on the weekend. Hearty, crusty Italian bread makes a perfect accompaniment. Add a salad or vegetable side dish (contorno) if you like.

So get out the largest skillet you have, and try our chicken in Marsala wine dish for your family tonight. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed! —Kathryn Occhipinti


One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine 

Ingredients

1 frying chicken, cut into 2 breasts, 2 thighs/legs, 2 wings
(any chicken with breasts and thighs of similar size)
up to 1/2 cup olive oil, as needed
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 strips guanciale (bacon from cheek of pig) or
2 strips prosciutto, chopped
3/4 cup Marsala wine
8 oz. cremini mushrooms
1 (15 oz.) can chopped tomatoes or
canned or fresh cherry tomatoes
2 sprigs of Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped coarsely

Method

Rinse the frying chicken inside and out, pat dry, and cut into pieces. Reserve the back for chicken soup to be made at a later date!

Sprinkle chicken lightly with salt and pepper.

Use a large, shallow pot, Dutch oven, or skillet to cook all ingredients over medium high heat as follows:

Pour olive oil into your pot or skillet to coat the entire bottom of the pot with a thin layer of oil, using 1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil. Heat oil over medium high heat (do not let the oil smoke or flavor will be lost).

Add chicken to the pan skin side down, keeping each piece separate from the other and cook without moving the chicken for a few minutes, until the skin has browned and some of the fat from under the skin has been rendered.

Turn chicken pieces once and cook about 5 minutes more.

Remove chicken pieces to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

Pour out excess oil/fat from the skillet. Add fresh olive oil if necessary to coat the bottom lightly again.

Into the skillet, add the chopped onion, crushed garlic clove, and guanciale or prosciutto. Cook until the onion has softened.

Add Marsala wine and turn the heat up to high briefly to boil off alcohol while scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release chicken bits that will help flavor the sauce. Lower heat and continue to boil off alcohol until about 50% of the Marsala wine remains in the pot.

Put the chicken back into the skillet and add tomatoes (with the juices in the can), mushrooms, and parsley. Add enough water, so the chicken and vegetables are almost completely covered.

Chicken in Marsala Wine
Browned chicken with vegetables and Marsala wine on the stove top

Cover the skillet and cook on medium high heat until the chicken is cooked through, adding more water as needed, about 15 to 30 minutes (this will depend on how cooked the chicken was initially, of course).

Chicken in Marsala Wine Italian style
Italian chicken in Marsala wine with tomatoes added, cooking on the stove top

If the sauce is too watery at the end of cooking time, remove the lid and boil off some liquid gently. The sauce should be fairly thick.*

Taste, and adjust salt and pepper before serving.

Place the chicken pieces on a large platter or on individual plates. Pour on the sauce and serve with rustic Italian bread.

Italian Chicken in Marsala Tomato Sauce
Italian chicken Marsala served with a side of bread

*This method is a fricassee of chicken (a method of cooking meat in which it is cut up, sautéed and braised, and served with its sauce), so the sauce will be a little fatty. If you want to decrease the amount of fat, the same method can be followed with skinless, bone-in chicken cooked for a shorter time initially.

Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine

Filled pork chop

Italian Pork Chops Ripieno (with Prosciutto and Fontina)

Italian Pork Chops Ripieno (with Prosciutto and Fontina)

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Ripieno—The word for “stuffed” in Italian.  And pork chops filleted and filled  with prosciutto and Fontina cheese can only mean—delicious!

Italian Pork Chops Ripieno 

Monday night is pork chop night at my home, a tradition started some time ago when my children were small and just starting to eat table food. When the butcher has thick pork chops available, I like to use the trick of filling the pork chops with prosciutto and Fontina cheese to liven up our evening meal. As usual, for the recipes I post, the method is short and simple, so the dishes are easy to prepare at home. And the combination of delicious Italian ingredients will have your family clamoring for more!

Fontina is a wonderful Italian cheese that has been made from cow’s milk in the Val d’Aosta region of Northern Italy since the 12th century. Fontina has a light yellow color, a soft but firm texture, and a slightly nutty flavor. Like mozzarella, but less well known in this country, it is used in dishes that require melted cheese. When paired with prosciutto and a single fresh sage leaf, it makes a delicious filling for… just about anything!

—Kathryn Occhipinti


Italian Pork Chops Ripieno  

Pork chops with Italian ham and cheese
Pork chop filled with prosciutto, Fontina cheese, and sage leaf, cut and ready to eat.

Ingredients
(Makes 4 filled pork chops)

4 thick cut pork chops (1.5 inches optimal)
salt, pepper, olive oil

Filling
4 slices of Fontina cheese, cut into a rectangle
4 slices of Prosicutto di Parma, halved lengthwise
4  fresh sage leaves

Procedure

Lay out the ingredients for the filling.

Prosciutto, Fontina cheese, sage
Fontina cheese, fresh sage leaves, and prosciutto for filling

Take a rectangular piece of Fontina cheese and cover each side with half of a prosciutto slice. Top with a sage leaf.

Rinse the pork chops and pat dry.

Lay the pork chops flat on a cutting board, and using a sharp, small meat knife, pare off the excess fat from the edge. Then cut parallel to the surface of the pork chop through the whitish membrane until you can feel the bone. Gently separate the layers of pork chop with your fingers as you cut to create a pocket to hold the filling.

Pork chop filet with filling ingredients
Filled pork chop with filling ingredients ready to package and insert.

Insert prosciutto and Fontina cheese filling packets into the pork chop.

Close the free edge of the pork chop with two or three toothpicks. Angle each toothpick through the layers of pork chop so the pork chop seals nicely and can lie flat.

 

Filled and sealed pork chop
Filled pork chop sealed with two toothpicks

Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in your favorite skillet or on a griddle. If you have a ridged skillet, this will create grill marks on the meat, but a regular skillet will work.

Grill skillet
Skillet with grill ridges

Add pork chops and cook over high heat about 3 to 4 minutes to brown the surface. Two pork chops will usually fit in one skillet at a time. Try not to crowd the pork chops in the pan, so they brown properly.

Skillet with pork chops
Place pork chops on the skillet along the grill ridges.

Flip pork chops over and cook another 3 to 4 minutes over high heat to brown the other side.

Flip pork chops back to the original side. If using a skillet with grill ridges, turn the pork chop 90 degrees when you flip it over to create a criss-cross pattern.

Cover and lower heat to medium. Cook about 5 to 7 minutes.

Flip pork chops over and cook over medium heat, covered, for another 5 to 7 minutes.

Test the pork chops by inserting a knife into the meat near the bone.  If the juices do not run clear, cook an additional 5 minutes on either side, or until juices run clear.

Remove from skillet and take out toothpicks. Set each pork chop in an individual dish, drizzled with a small amount of the pan juices. Watch your family’s look of amazement when they cut into the pork chops to find a delicious filling!

Pork chops filled and cut open
Finished stuffed pork chop cut open to show the filling

—Adapted from the Italian-American Society of Peoria cooking classes, by Kathryn Occhipinti

 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Pork Chops Ripieno (with Prosciutto and Fontina)

Italian tartufo and other gelato treats at an Italian gelateria

Tartufo: Summertime Gelato Treat!

Tartufo: Summertime  Gelato Treat! 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Tartufo — Enjoy this chocolate-coated ice cream treat that is delicious enough for kids and special enough for adults!

Tartufo: A gelato treat made just for summertime! 

The word Italian word “tartufo” refers to the round, brown-and-white truffles found in the densely forested Apennine Mountains that run down the spine of Italy. These slightly irregularly shaped round balls are found nestled between the roots of old beech, birch, and pine trees by specially trained dogs. A similarly shaped sweet French candy made from chocolate and cream, known as “ganache,” is also referred to as a truffle.

We present here a method for a round, chocolate-coated ice cream treat made from vanilla and chocolate Italian gelato ice cream that is also called “tartufo.” In the version that follows, there is a surprise in the center—a real Italian marinated Amarena cherry.* Try our recipe as is, or make your own version with any of your favorite Italian gelato flavors. Enjoy a cold, refreshing treat this summer with our simple method!
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Tartufo: Summertime Gelato Treat! 

Gelato treat tartfuo
Tartufo: chocolate-covered gelato ice cream with an Amarena cherry in the center, cut in half and ready to enjoy!

Ingredients
(Makes approximately 8 ice cream balls)
(Method takes a few minutes each day for 3 days)

1 pint vanilla ice cream (gelato)
1 pint chocolate ice cream (gelato)
8 Italian Amarena cherries* in syrup

Chocolate coating**
4.0 oz. bittersweet chocolate
4.0 oz. semisweet chocolate
4 tsp canola oil

Procedure

To see step-by-step pictures, visit Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest.

Make the Ice Cream Balls

Let the vanilla and chocolate ice cream soften slightly in the ice cream cartons so it is easy to scoop out. (If it is too soft and watery, it will not make good ice cream balls.)

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out 4  balls of vanilla ice cream and place each ball on a piece of plastic wrap. Pull the plastic wrap above the ball and twist to seal.

Quickly put the balls into a freezer-safe container and back into the freezer. (Plastic tray containers from Chinese take-out food work well because they are just the right size for four balls and have a cover.)

The same way, make 4 ice cream balls from the chocolate ice cream, wrap each ball in plastic wrap, and place the wrapped balls into a second freezer-safe container. Quickly return the container to the freezer.

Freeze overnight. If you want, after the ice cream balls have refrozen, form them into a more rounded shape with the plastic still on and return them to the freezer.

The next day, or when the ice cream balls have frozen through completely and are hard, remove one vanilla and one chocolate ball from the freezer at a time.

Unwrap each ball quickly and save the plastic wrap.

Turn each ball over so that the smooth, round end of each ball is facing up.

Slice each ball in half and make a tiny well in the center of each half that is the size of half a cherry. Quickly press a cherry into the center of one of the ice cream halves, and then top with an ice cream half of the other flavor so that the final balls are half vanilla and half chocolate.

Wrap each ball in the original plastic wrap again and place them back into the freezer container.

Repeat the last 5 steps until all 8 ice cream balls have been used.

Freeze overnight.

If desired, you can form each ball into a more smooth circle after it has frozen again while the ball is in the plastic wrap.

Make the Chocolate Coating

**A note about baking chocolates: I like to use 1/2 dark/bittersweet chocolate and 1/2 semisweet chocolate for children; you can use all dark chocolate if you like. Unsweetened chocolate is not recommended. Make sure to use good quality baking chocolate, whatever your choice.

On the third day, after the combined ice cream balls have completely frozen through, they are ready to coat with chocolate.

Microwave the chocolate and the canola oil in a small glass bowl (best) or glass measuring cup for about 2 minutes on medium heat (50%). Stir, and if all chocolate dissolves, set aside. Or microwave 30 seconds more, check and repeat as needed, until all chocolate is melted.

After the chocolate has melted, let it cool slightly. This is a crucial step, because if the chocolate is too hot, it will melt the chocolate balls; if the chocolate cools too much, it will start to harden. A glass bowl is best for coating the ice cream balls because it can be put into the microwave to melt the chocolate again if it starts to harden before you are finished working with it.

One at a time, take out an ice cream ball from the freezer, remove plastic wrap from the ice cream ball, and immediately place each ball into the chocolate, rolling the ball over once with a  large spoon to coat the top and bottom of the ball.

Immediately set each chocolate-covered ball onto a cookie sheet or small tray covered in aluminum foil and place back into the freezer.

Repeat the last two steps until all ice cream balls have been coated with the chocolate. There will be just enough chocolate to coat 8 balls, so work quickly and reheat the chocolate as necessary, scraping down the sides of the bowl to use all the melted chocolate efficiently.

Freeze all chocolate balls uncovered at least 2 hours.

If you are not serving the tartufi right away, cover them lightly in aluminum foil or place them back into covered containers and store in the freezer.

When ready to serve, cut each tartufo in half with a serrated knife and place on a small plate.

Or place each tartufo ball as is in the center of a large fancy ice cream cup and watch everyone  crack open the chocolate shell, dig in, and enjoy their summer treat!

*To find Amarena cherries if you do not have an Italian specialty shop in your neighborhood, simply search online. Look for the Fabbri brand pictured here.

Jars of Amarena cherries
Amarena cherries

The cherries, in heavy syrup, come in a beautiful white-and-blue decorated jar. Save the jar when you have used all the cherries and use it as a lovely decorative glass piece to give your kitchen a true Italian flair.

—Adapted from a cooking class given for the Italian-American Society of Peoria, by Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Tartufo: Summertime Gelato Treat!

Menus in Italian on Lido Island, Venice

Visiting Italy? Reading Italian Menus

Visiting Italy? Reading Italian Menus 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Visiting Italy? Follow Caterina for tips on how to read the Italian menus at your favorite restaurant—from the Conversational Italian series of books!

The Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook begins each chapter with a dialogue from a story about the character Caterina, an American girl who travels to Italy to visit her relatives. As the story continues from one chapter to the next, we learn Italian, and about Italy, in an engaging way through Caterina’s experiences.

Visiting Italy? Learn how to read the menu at your favorite Italian restaurant!

After Caterina arrives in Italy, she stays with her Italian cousin Pietro and his family in Milan for a while and adapts to Italian life and the Italian language. Then, in the last unit of the book, they all go on a summer vacation together. Caterina and her family stay at a typical northern Italian lake resort in the town of Stresa on Lago Maggiore.

Italian menus can look confusing to those who are new to Italian culture, but a few tips will help you understand how they are usually designed. Because most restaurants in Italy offer several courses, the Italian menu will usually list each course in  the order in which it is to be served. Read on for a description of each Italian course, and find out what to expect when you order your own delicious meal in Italy!

To listen to the dialogue from Chapter 16, when Caterina and her Italian family arrive at an Italian restaurant and begin their wonderful meal together, go to the interactive audio dialogues on our website at learntravelitalian.com/interactive.html.
—Kathryn Occhipinti


  Cultural Note: Reading Italian Menus

Italian restaurant menus for pizza in Italy may be similar to this example
Italian menus may list different types of pizzas. Listed here are specialty pizzas made with a wood-burning oven in Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy.

Italian menus reflect the typical Italian meal offered at most all Italian restaurants open for dinner, from the family-run trattoria, to the more formal ristorante (with a professional chef). The Italian meal consists of several courses.

Appetizers, called “antipasto” or “antipasti,” are small servings of vegetables, meat, or fish, served either hot or cold, to start the meal. The pasta course can be, and often is, the main course for the meal and is called “il primo.”

If there is time for a longer dinner, or for a celebratory dinner, it is traditional to follow the pasta course with an additional course of fish or meat (usually accompanied by a vegetable) that is called “il secondo.” 

And, of course, there is almost always the option of dessert under the “il dolce” section listed on most Italian menus, or at least coffee at the end of the meal.

With all these courses, an Italian dinner may take between 1½ and 2 hours! This is understood by the restaurant owners, who consider the table booked for the evening from the moment it is occupied; dinner in Italy is considered finished only when the diner asks for the check! In Italy, meals are a time for gathering with family and friends, and a well-prepared dinner with several courses is considered a part of “la dolce vita,” or “the good life.”

Below is a list of the courses that comprise a full Italian meal, in the order that they usually appear on most Italian menus.

La Cena Italiana The Italian Dinner
   
L’Antipasto Appetizer Course
Il Primo The First Course
Il Secondo The Second Course
Il Dolce The Dessert (Sweet) Course

 


 Cultural Note: Italian Courses Explained 

L’Antipasto 

When looking through Italian menus, expect to see a selection of appetizers (gli antipasti) listed first. Each region has its own specialties, which include a wide variety of vegetables (raw, preserved in olive oil or vinegar, or cooked), as well as cold meats or salami and cheeses. Salad can also be served as part of this course, but it is often eaten after the second course, when the main course has been completed. Salads are usually not formally composed but consist of fresh lettuce and whatever other fresh garden vegetables the chef has on hand that day (insalata mista). Hot antipasto may be served, with a variety of fried foods (fritto misto), very popular throughout the coastal regions of Italy.

Soup (zuppa), often referred to as the most common type, minestrone (made with bean- and tomato-based broth and various vegetables and pasta), on Italian menus  is well loved throughout Italy, and during leaner times, soups were a mainstay of the lunch and dinner meals. Soup may come after or replace the antipasto course.

Appetizers and soups are always served with fresh bread (pane) typical of the region. The type of bread is not usually listed as a choice on Italian menus, because bread-making varies by region. That said, bread in Italy is always wonderful—either with a hard, crunchy crust and a soft center, like a French baguette, or soft throughout but golden brown on top, like a thick, light pizza (focaccia). Thin, crunchy breadsticks (grissini) are common throughout northern Italy.

Bread in Italy can be eaten as is, or dipped in fresh, extra-virgin olive oil from a bottle that is provided along with the bread when one is seated. Butter—always unsalted—will only occasionally be found on the table as an accompaniment to the bread, and only in northern Italy. So if butter is not brought to the table with the bread, it probably is not available. When it comes to bread, just follow the local traditions for the best way to enjoy the type of bread each region has to offer!


 Cultural Note: Italian Courses Explained 

Il Primo

Next on Italian menus, we come to a list of starchy foods, such as pasta, gnocchi, or rice for the first course, or il primo. The word pasta means “paste” or “dough,” and refers to the method of mixing flour with water or eggs and then kneading the paste that is formed from this simple mixture until the gluten in the flour transforms it into a dough. The dough is rested, then rolled out and stretched, and finally cut into strands or put through a hand-cranked pasta machine at home. Commercial pasta machines, with their metal dyes that shape pasta into its many well-loved forms, and the ability of pasta to be dried and then cooked easily in a pot of salted boiling water, have allowed Italian pasta to become one of the world’s most popular dishes.

Many restaurants in Italy will have a selection of fresh pastas made daily, and it is the custom to make all sauces from scratch using farm-fresh ingredients. Pasta in Italy is always cooked freshly and served “al dente,” which literally means “to the tooth” (a bit firm when chewed). Pasta is served promptly, so it is never soft or mushy.

Italian short-grain rice (riso) when cooked in the Italian way is called risotto and is often served in northern Italy instead of pasta for the first course. The most popular types of rice grown in Italy are arborio and carnaroli. Italian rice is very starchy and is cooked slowly, with constant stirring, to bring out the starch and create a creamy sauce. No milk or cream is added! A variety of vegetables, seafood, or saffron can be added, along with a final enrichment of butter and cheese. How “soupy” the final dish turns out to be varies by region, but the rice itself is always a little firm, despite the constant stirring it takes to create the sauce.

Gnocchi, or potato dumplings, look like little pillows and when made properly are said to be as light as air. They are popular all over Italy for the first course and can be served with red tomato sauce, basil pesto, or Gorgonzola cheese sauce. (See our previous blog post Gnocchi with Brown Butter or Gorgonzola Sauce if you would like to try this dish!)


 Cultural Note: Italian Courses Explained 

Il Secondo

Il secondo, or the second course, always consists of meat or seafood, and with this course, a vegetable side dish, or contorno, can be ordered. The meat or seafood may be served alone or with one starch only, such as a potato or rice, so be sure to order your vegetables if you are a vegetable lover! Italians are very fond of vegetables and consider them as important as the meat or seafood in this course—important enough to be given their own listing on Italian menus!


 Cultural Note: Italian Courses Explained 

Il Dolce

For those who like to finish their meal with something sweet, there is usually a wide array of offerings for the dessert course, or il dolce. Whether for an informal meal, a large, important gathering, or a special holiday, several dessert choices are usually listed on the menu. Il dolce may consist of fruit, nuts, cheeses, an assortment of pastries or ice cream, and of course, sweet wine (vin santo), liquors, and coffee.

Try a full Italian meal “al fresco” one balmy evening in Italy, just the way the Italians do. Watch the people stroll by as they take their evening walk, relax, and enjoy. You won’t be disappointed!

—Adapted from Conversational Italian for Travelers, Chapter 16, “Cultural Note – A Typical Italian Menu” © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC.

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Stella Lucente Italian Facebook and Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest.
 Facebook Stella Lucente Italian
 Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Visiting Italy? Reading Italian Menus

Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage sauce

Gnocchi with Brown Butter or Gorgonzola Sauce

Gnocchi with Brown Butter or Gorgonzola Sauce

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Gnocchi—light, airy dumplings perfect for your favorite Italian sauce!

Italian Recipe: Gnocchi with Brown Butter or Gorgonzola Sauce 

Gnocchi (pronounced (NYAAW – KEY) are Italian potato dumplings, and if made properly, they are said to be like little pillows: delicate and soft, and a delight to eat! Gnocchi are popular in northern Italy and as far south as the Abruzzo region.

The dough is prepared with just a few ingredients—potatoes, a bit of flour, and sometimes an egg. The dough is then kneaded gently, rolled out, and cut into bite-size pieces. At the end of the process, ridges are created by rolling each “gnocco” along a fork or specially carved small wooden board. These ridges are perfect for capturing the delicious butter sauce, Gorgonzola sauce, pesto, or tomato sauce they can be served with. To see the method to make gnocchi in detail, visit our Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest site.

Italian families commonly gather around the kitchen table and make these treats together, often on a Sunday afternoon. Make and enjoy these famous Italian dumplings one afternoon at your home for a special treat!
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Italian Recipe: Gnocchi with Brown Butter or Gorgonzola Sauce 

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce
Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce

Ingredients
(Serves 6–8)

For the gnocchi
1 large Idaho potato
1 cup of flour

For the brown butter and sage sauce
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 fresh sage leaves, torn

For the Gorgonzola sauce
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 lb. fresh Gorgonzola cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 –1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or half and half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure to make the gnocchi

Place the potato on a rack in the oven and bake until soft throughout, or microwave it on high for about 6 minutes. (If you are cooking potatoes for more than one batch, wrap the extras in foil to hold in the heat until you are ready to use them.)

Don’t work with the potato when it is very hot. Wait until it is comfortably warm, then remove the skin and mash it with a fork or use a potato ricer. (The ricer is recommended because it makes quick work of getting the potato ready to add the flour, while at the same time keeping the potato fluffy and removing all eyes and lumps.)

The mashed/riced potatoes should be light and loose.

Place 1 cup of flour on your work surface.

Place your mashed/riced potato alongside in a separate pile.

Spread out the mashed/riced potatoes, then sprinkle some of the flour onto the potatoes. Start working the two ingredients together.

As soon as the flour is absorbed, add more flour until the mixture starts to create a workable dough. A light hand in mixing here will yield a tender dumpling. Do not over-knead!

Depending on the size of your potato, you may or may not use all of the flour; use only enough to create a workable dough. (Too much dough will yield sticky, heavy gnocchi when cooked instead of light and airy gnocchi!)

Gather the dough into a ball and cover for 10 minutes. This will allow the moisture from the potatoes to be absorbed by the flour.

Knead the dough just enough to blend again; do not overwork.

Slice off a quarter of the dough and start rolling it out to form a length of “rope” that is 1/2 inch thick.

Cut the rope into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces and then process it by rolling the gnocchi beneath your finger, then quickly pulling it toward you until it has made a full turn and curled up a bit.

To create ridges, use this same movement over the back of the tines of a fork or a specially ridged wooden gnocchi board.

Method to cook the gnocchi

Fill a large pot with water about ¾ of the way to the top and add a generous amount of salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil. While the water is boiling, prepare your sauce.

Turn the heat down, uncover, and add gnocchi gently. A large, flat, slotted serving spoon works best to lower the gnocchi safely into the water.

Cook gnocchi  for about 3–4 minutes.

Watch the gnocchi as they cook, and when they float to the top of the water, gently lift them out with a slotted spoon.

Procedure to make the brown butter and sage sauce

Melt the butter gently in a large, light-colored skillet or saucepan over very low heat.

Turn the pan around on the burner as needed, so the butter melts at an even rate if you have an electric stove.

After the butter has melted, keep the heat on low, but watch it carefully. It will start to turn brown. Swirl the melted butter in the pan gently to evenly distribute the heat.

When the butter has turned light brown, immediately remove it from the heat.

Add the salt and swirl to melt.

Add the fresh torn sage leaves.

Immediately pour over warm, just-cooked gnocchi waiting to be sauced in a serving bowl and mix gently to coat.

Garnish with a sprig of sage and serve while hot.

Procedure to make the Gorgonzola sauce

Place the butter, Gorgonzola cheese, and milk in a small saucepan. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Melt all ingredients together slowly over low heat while stirring gently to blend the Gorgonzola cheese with the other ingredients.

When all has melted and blended together, taste and adjust salt.

If the gnocchi are not ready at this time, turn off the heat. Then reheat sauce gently on low heat for about a minute and add the final ingredients.

Add the heavy cream or half and half, mix to incorporate, and cook over medium heat, simmering the sauce to reduce and thicken it.

Add the Parmesan cheese and cook over low heat to melt.

Remove from heat and pour over warm, just-cooked gnocchi waiting to be sauced in a serving bowl and mix gently to coat.

—Adapted from “Cooking Around the World” at the Chillicothe Public Library, Illinois, as presented with the Italian-American Society of Peoria on July 14, 2014, by Rudy Litwin and Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Gnocchi with Brown Butter or Gorgonzola Sauce

Grand Hotel Isles des Borromees in Stresa on Lago Maggiore, Italy

Visiting Italy? Italian Restaurant Tips

Visiting Italy? Italian Restaurant Tips 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Visiting Italy? Follow Caterina for tips on how to order at your favorite Italian restaurant—from the Conversational Italian series of books!

The Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook begins each chapter with a dialogue from a story about the character Caterina, an American girl who travels to Italy to visit her relatives. As the story continues from one chapter to the next, we learn Italian, and about Italy, in an engaging way through Caterina’s experiences.

Visiting Italy? Learn how to order at your favorite Italian restaurant!

After Caterina arrives in Italy, she stays with her Italian cousin Pietro and his family in Milan for a while and adapts to Italian life and the Italian language. Then, in the last unit of the book, they all go on a summer vacation together. Caterina and the family stay at a typical northern Italian lake resort in the town of Stresa on Lago Maggiore.

For those travelers who are adventurous enough to try out their Italian on their own visit to Italy, read on for some phrases that will come in handy when ordering at an Italian restaurant. Get started by speaking with the waiter. A delicious meal is soon to follow!

To listen to the dialogue from Chapter 16, when Caterina and her Italian family arrive at an Italian restaurant and begin their wonderful meal together, go to the interactive audio dialogues on our website at learntravelitalian.com/interactive.html.
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Ordering at an Italian Restaurant (Part 1)
Speaking with the Waiter

Italian Restaurant at the Hotel Villa d'Este, Lago Como, Italy
Italian restaurant at the Villa d’Este hotel on Lago Como ready for lunch.

Below are some expressions that are commonly used when dining in a restaurant.

The io (I) and noi (we) forms of the verbs potere (to be able to/can) and volere (to want) are important to know in this situation, because requests are usually made for oneself or for the entire table.

We revisit the verb “Può?” for a polite way to say, “Could you?” and add “Posso?” for
“May I…?” and “Possiamo?” for “May we…?” to our list of polite phrases to use when making a request.

To the popular “io vorrei…” for “I would like,” we add the conditional plural form, “Noi vorremmo…” for “We would like…” See Chapter 18 of our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook for the full conjugation of these verbs in the conditional tense.

Posso… May I…
Possiamo… May we…
…sederci vicino alla finestra? …sit by the window?
…sederci a un’altro tavolo? …sit at another table?
…avere il menù? …see (have) the menu?
Qual’è lo speciale oggi/stasera? What is the special today/this evening?
 Qual’è il piatto del giorno? What is the dish of the day? (English = special of the day)
Che cosa ha scelto/avete scelto? What have you/you all chosen?
Vorrei… I would like…
Vorremmo… We would like…
…come antipasto, l’insalata mista. …for the antipasto, mixed salad.
…come primo, le tagliatelle alla bolognese. …for the first course, tagliatelle with Bolognese meat sauce.
…come secondo, l’osso bucco. …for the second course, braised veal shank.
…come dolce, solamente frutta. …for dessert, only fruit.
Non posso mangiare niente… I cannot eat anything…
…fatto con noci/arachidi. …made with nuts/peanuts.
…molto piccante. …very spicy.
Questo è troppo caldo. This is too hot.
Questo è troppo freddo. This is too cold.
Mi può portare… Could you bring me…
Ci può portare… Could you bring us…
…dell’acqua senza gas/naturale? …some water without gas (natural water)?
…dell’acqua con gas/frizzante? …some sparkling water?
…del pane/più pane? …some bread/more bread?
…del sale e pepe? …some salt and pepper?
…un cucchiaio, un coltello, una forchetta? …a spoon, a knife, a fork?
…un tovagliolo? …a napkin?
Cin cin!/Salute!/Alla tua salute! Cheers! (To your) good health!

Adapted from Conversational Italian for Travelers, Chapter 16, “Important Phrases  – Speaking with the Waiter,” © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC.

 Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Stella Lucente Italian Facebook and Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest.
 Facebook Stella Lucente Italian
 Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Visiting Italy? Italian Restaurant Tips

Italian Sunday Dinner - Braciole and Pasta

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls for Sunday Dinner

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls for Sunday Dinner 

 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogBraciole: It’s what’s for Sunday dinner!

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls for Sunday Dinner 

Italian beef rolls—involtini di carne,  also known as braciole, bracioli, or  bruciuluni (in Palermo Sicilian dialect)—are a favorite southern Italian treat that are often served for the Sunday family dinner. What I enjoy most about this dish is that there are so many different variations, and every family that makes braciole has its own special traditional recipe. My family hides a whole hard-boiled egg in the center for a surprise when the braciole is cut open. Other families chop the egg in half or into smaller pieces, and some families do not use egg at all!

By the way, I am not sure of the origin of the word braciole used here in America, but in Italy, braciola refers to a cut of pork (usually grilled), and this dish can be made with pork cutlets. My friend Peter Palazzolo from the Speak Sicilian! Facebook group mentioned to me that long ago this rolled-up meat was cooked with grape vine twigs cured like coal, or bracia.  But, I think my friend and Italian teacher Maria Vanessa Colapinto (blog eleganza per me),  is correct with her idea that the real origin of this word comes from the Italian for the old-type grill that the rolled up meat for this dish was cooked on. This grill is still in use today and is called a “brace.” Meat cooked in this way is “all’abrace,” or “on the grill.”

A Note about Italian Tomato Sauce 

When I was growing up, I always knew it was Sunday from the wonderful fragrance of the pot of homemade tomato sauce cooking on the stove top that would slowly permeate every corner of our house. If we couldn’t wait for the sauce to finish cooking, a slice of Italian bread dipped in the sauce would serve to keep our appetites at bay until mom or grandma deemed it was finally perfect.

Southern Italian tomato sauce is cooked at least an hour or so and usually longer when other meats are added to flavor the sauce. Every Italian family has its own special sauce that has been passed down for generations. I am including here the basic tomato sauce recipe from my family that I use to cook the braciole.

Most Italians use only a little basil in their tomato sauce and sometimes some parsley, and I have included both herbs in the tomato sauce recipe below. The Italian motto seems to be “less is more” when it comes to tomato sauce, although the ingredients used must be high quality. Oregano is a herb not generally found in tomato sauce in Italy, although legend has it that American soldiers brought oregano home after World War II, and it seems like the American families here have adopted this additional herb for their sauce in many parts of the country.

Also, if good tomatoes or good tomato puree is used (with less acid), it is not necessary to add sugar to tomato sauce, but in some parts of America, a sweeter sauce is preferred. Growing up as I did in New York, we liked the Contadina brand of tomato products.

There are as many variations as there are families in Italy and America, so make the pot of sauce your family has come to love, and enjoy a special Sunday together!

Buon appetito!
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Braciole Recipe

 Italian Tomato Sauce

1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 can (28 oz.) Contadina brand tomato puree or chopped tomatoes
1 can Contadina brand tomato paste
1/4 cup dried parsley or chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 Tablespoon dried basil or 2 Tablespoons torn fresh basil
1 Tablespoon of salt or to taste
Optional meat: ground beef, Italian sausage, braciole

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onions and garlic with a wooden spoon until softened.

Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, parsley, and basil to the same pot.

Add 2 cups of water.

Cover, bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low.

Simmer on medium-low heat with the lid partially covering the pot, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for at least 1 hour, so the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Cook for at least 1 hour; at least 1.5 hours if adding meat to the sauce. (Brown any meat in a separate skillet before adding it.)

Add additional water if the sauce becomes too thick, or cook for additional time with the lid of the pot off if the sauce becomes too thin.

Prepare the Braciole Meat

Any thin, flat cut of beef can be used, such as top round. If you can, ask your butcher to cut the meat against the grain, so when it cooks in the sauce, it will soften properly and virtually melt in your mouth. At Caputo’s in Chicago, the meat is nicely marbled and labeled “braggiola steak,” an Americanization of the original word, no doubt.

DSCN2228

Tenderize Braciole Steak
Braciole meat ready to tenderize

 

One package with four braciole steaks, about 1.5 pounds for four people.

 

 

 

Lay the slices of meat out on a plate. Trim them to approximately the same rectangular size. If you want, tenderize and enlarge slightly with a meat mallet.

Fill, Assemble, and Cook the Braciole
4 hardboiled eggs, whole or halved
1/4–1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, stems removed, chopped coarsely
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1/4–1/3 cup  Provolone or another hard, sharp cheese, cut into coarse pieces

Other additions/substitutions: caciocavallo cheese, pancetta, ham, salami, mushrooms
Examples: breadcrumbs + garlic + olive oil or breadcrumbs + salami + cheese + parsley

Braciole
Ready to roll the braciole

 

Place the egg and other ingredients desired onto the braciole steak.

 

 

 

 

Roll up the braciole
Braciole rolled and tied

 

The braciole meat is rolled over the egg, long side, with short ends tucked in, and then tied with meat twine. The ends also can be sealed with toothpicks. To see step-by-step pictures of the methods for rolling a braciole, go to Stella Lucente Pinterest.

 

 

Braciole and Tomato Sauce
Braciole browning in a pan and a freshly made pot of tomato sauce

 

Brown each assembled braciole in a little olive oil in a frying pan.

Have sauce boiling on the stove top. Gently lower the braciole into the boiling sauce.

 

 

 

Lower heat to a simmer and cook about 1 hour, or until tender.

While braciole are cooking in the sauce, set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil and cook spaghetti or another pasta of your choice. Time the pasta so that it is hot and ready to be sauced when the braciole are done.

Remove the meat string or toothpicks before serving the braciole!

Serve with your favorite pasta and extra sauce on the side.  Pasta used for the picture in this blog is Mafaldine 81 from Divella, made in Italy.

 —Adapted from the cooking classes given by the Italian-American Society of Peoria, with special thanks to Rose M. Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn Occhipinti, MD, author of the Conversational Italian for Travelers series is a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube Videos to learn Italian are available from ©Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
 Facebook Stella Lucente Italian
 Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts about Italian food and culture in each chapter of our book! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls for Sunday Dinner

Easter Cheesecake: Sicilian Sweet Ricotta Farro Pie

Easter Cheesecake Recipe: Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie

Easter Cheesecake Recipe: Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie 

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.comA traditional Easter cheesecake recipe—enjoyed by generations of Sicilians here in America!

Easter Cheesecake Recipe: Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie

Italian Easter traditions are unique to each region of the country and have been lovingly handed down within families through the generations. Ricotta cheesecake, a version of which was first served by the Romans centuries ago, has come to play a part in the Easter celebration in Sicily as well.

The recipe given below is for a Sicilian Easter cheesecake—actually a “ricotta pie,” made with a sweet Italian pie crust and sweet ricotta and farro wheat filling.  It has been passed down through the years within my father’s family from the town of Ragusa in Sicily. If you would like to see how the lattice pie crust top is assembled, visit the Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest site.

Farro wheat is one of the oldest forms of natural wheat grown in southern Italy and has been enjoyed by Italians for centuries. This whole-wheat grain is added to the ricotta filling as a symbol of renewal, along with dried fruit left over from winter stores and traditional Sicilian flavorings, in order to create a rich texture and a perfectly balanced sweet citrus and cinnamon flavor. Try it this Easter for a taste of Italian tradition!
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Easter Cheesecake Recipe
Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie

Ingredients

Pasta Frolla (Sweet Pastry)
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
¾ cup butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp brandy
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Farro Wheat* Preparation
½ cup whole farro wheat (about 1¼ cup cooked)
¼ cup hot milk
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp candied orange
1 Tbsp minced dried apricot
1 Tbsp minced dried prune

Ricotta Filling
¾ lb. whole milk ricotta cheese
¾ cup sugar
3 egg yolks, beaten
dash of cinnamon
grated rind of 1 lemon (yellow part only, not white pith)
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp orange juice or orange blossom water
2 egg whites, whipped until stiff with a pinch of cream of tartar

 

Procedure

Prepare the wheat

Cook the wheat according to the package directions; drain the water.

Add the scalded milk, salt, and sugar and boil an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, add the orange peel and dried fruit, mix, and set aside to cool.

Prepare the pasta frolla

Sift the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl.

Cut in butter with a fork and fingertips until the size of small peas.

Stir in egg yolks one at a time, mixing gently with a fork.

Gather the crumbly pieces of dough, adding a little milk if necessary to moisten.

Turn out on a floured board and press together with a soft, gentle kneading motion with the palm of the hand until a dough forms.

Form two discs, one slightly larger than the other, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Make the filling

Mix together all the filling ingredients except the egg whites.

Fold in the prepared wheat and then the whipped egg whites.

Assemble the pie

Roll out the larger disc of dough for the bottom crust and lay it in a 9” springform pan.

Prick the bottom with a fork. Add the prepared filling and refrigerate.

Roll out the top crust and cut it into strips using a knife or pasta wheel, and use the strips to make a lattice crust on a pizza plate or other flat board (see Stella Lucente Pinterest for step-by-step pictures).

Slide the lattice crust onto the top of the pie and crimp the edges.

Bake in preheated oven at 350° for about 40–50 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned. Cool in oven.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar when cool if desired. Refrigerate until serving.

*Whole farro can now be found in many specialty stores and on the Internet. Rustichella D’Abruzzo brand “whole farro cereal grain” was used in the recipe.

 —Kathryn Occhipinti: Adapted from the cooking classes given by the Italian-American Society of Peoria

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, author of Conversational Italian for Travelers,
is a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from ©Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
 Facebook Stella Lucente Italian
 Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts about Italian food and culture in each chapter of our book! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy.  —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC.

Easter Cheesecake Recipe: Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie

Recipe for Italian lentil soup

Italian Recipe: Lentil Soup (Zuppa di Lenticchie)

Italian Recipe: Lentil Soup (Zuppa di Lenticchie)

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.comNothing like a bowl of hot Italian soup for a cold winter’s day!

Italian Recipe: Lentil Soup (Zuppa di Lenticchie)

Lentils are loved by Italians and make a wonderful, hot, nourishing soup for everyone! Try this recipe, and I think you will agree, even if you’ve never eaten lentils before. Any kind of miniature pasta can be used in this soup. My mother usually breaks regular spaghetti into shorter pieces for her version, although miniature ravioli are fun if you can find them in your local grocery store. For a vegetarian dish, dried ravioli with squash filling, which are pictured in this blog, are a wonderful complement to the lentils.
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Italian Lentil Soup

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion (chopped finely)
2 carrots (chopped finely)
1 stick of celery (chopped finely)
1 package (12 oz.) dried lentils (sorted and rinsed once but not soaked)
1 tsp crushed, dried sage
1 bay leaf
optional: meat stock or broth*
1 can (14.5 oz.) chopped tomatoes
about 6 oz. dried miniature pasta or dried miniature squash ravioli**

Use a large, wide-bottom pot to make this soup.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and then add the chopped onion and carrot and cook, stirring, until both have softened a bit.

Add the lentils and cook the vegetables a bit longer, stirring, but do not let the onions brown. (This initial cooking of the lentils is said to harden the skin, so they will not become too mushy. If you like more mushy lentils, skip the sautée and just add the lentils after the rest of the vegetables have become soft . This will also decrease the overall cooking time.)

Add enough water (or meat stock if you have it and do not want a vegetarian dish) to cover the vegetables—about 6–8 cups—the dried sage, and the bay leaf.

Cover and bring to a boil; uncover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes.

After the vegetables have cooked a bit, taste the soup. See how much the lentils have softened, and if they are still hard, cook longer. If they are about soft enough for your liking, proceed as follows:

Add about 1 Tablespoon of salt (to taste; less can be used) and an additional 2–4 cups of water for the pasta that you will soon be adding. Cover and bring soup back to a rolling boil.

When the soup is at a rolling boil, add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato juice from the can and the pasta.

Cook until the pasta is “al dente” or “to the tooth.”

Remember to remove the bay leaf before serving!

Enjoy with crusty Italian bread on a cold winter’s day!

*Italian “meat stock or broth” is often composed of whatever bones and small pieces of meat are left over from the night before—chicken and pork bones can be combined, for instance, or just one or the other used. When I make this soup for my family, it is usually with pork chop bones and meat left over from Monday night’s dinner. This gives the soup a nice added complexity.

**The dried ravioli used for the dish pictured was the “La Piana” brand imported from Italy, “ravioli with squash filling,” which also adds a nice bit of flavor to the dish. Here are some links to help you find this pasta in the United States: Italian Foods Corporation, La Piana Italian foods Facebook pagePennsylvania Macaroni Food Company.

Squash ravioli

—Adapted from the cooking classes given by the Italian-American Society of Peoria,
Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, author of Conversational Italian for Travelers 
and teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian
Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

 Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts about Italian food and culture in each chapter of our book! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Recipe: Lentil Soup (Zuppa di Lenticchie)