Tag Archives: Free recipe

Pasta and zucchini

Zucchini with Pasta Made Two Ways

Zucchini with Pasta Made Two Ways

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog  Zucchini with Pasta  is a classic combination, either alone or paired with  fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and basil for a summer vegetable treat!

Zucchini and My Italian-American Gardening Family 

Growing up as I did with two Italian-American parents means that  to me, summertime will always be the time for gardening—and enjoying the fresh vegetables and fruits of that garden!

As I’ve written in my last blog under Italian and Italian-American Recipes, both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America.  My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York.

Most of my grandfather’s yard was dedicated to all kinds of  vegetables and fruits, perfectly staked  in neat rows so that no space was lost on his small plot of land. There were all kinds of tomatoes, both large and small, and green and red peppers of all types.  Vines of zucchini, or in Italian, molte zucchine, were somehow trained to grow  between the rows of tomatoes and peppers.  My grandfather grew the “typical” dark green zucchini found in all American supermarkets today, harvested at about 5-6″ long.

Recently, though, I’ve learned of a squash called cucuzza, which is so popular in the south of Italy that the word cucuzza has replaced the word  zucchine when people talk about squash grown in the summertime.  Read below for some “fun facts” about this type of squash and Italian-American culture.

Zucchini and Italian Culture

Cucuzza – The Famous Italian Summer Squash

Image from www.specialtyproduce.com

A famous long, thin, light green squash that is harvested in the summer from southern Italy and Sicily is known as “cucuzza.”  Cucuzza (pronounced “goo-gooz” in  Sicilian dialect) typically grows from 1 to 3 feet. Unlike a true summer squash, the skin from this squash must be peeled before cooking.  There is a well-known Sicilian proverb that states, “Cucinala come vuoi, sempre cucuzza è!” meaning, “However you cook it, it’s still just squash!” 

Cucuzza is also used as an endearing term for a young girl in a 1950’s Italian novelty song sung by Louis Prima called, “My Cucuzza.”  He sings about the vegetable, Cucuza grows in Italy down on the farm.  It’s something like zucchini flavored with Italian charm… I call my girl cucuzza because she’s as sweet as can be.”  To hear the song sung by Louis Prima in it’s entirety, click this My Cucuzza link.


Zucchini with Pasta Made Two Ways

To continue with the story of my family, while my grandfather was busy gardening, my grandmother was busy in the kitchen!  She created wonderful dishes from zucchini, which was a favorite summer vegetable in my mother’s house and is in my house today.

Pasta with zucchini and fresh tomatoes and basil is a classic Italian combination that my grandmother and mother made frequently. In this dish, chopped tomatoes are cooked in olive oil just to soften, and left chunky, which is different than the more usual pureed tomato sauce of winter in Southern Italian households. In the recipe below, I’ve used bow-tie pasta, which makes it fun for kids of all ages to eat their zucchini! Note that basil, not oregano,  is the herb of choice for any type of pasta and “fresh tomato sauce” combination.

My mother recently remembered my grandmother’s summer version of   “Spaghetti Aglio Olio,” or spaghetti with garlic in olive oil, which was modified in the summer to include zucchini slices fried gently in the garlic-flavored olive oil until a light golden color.  I made this simple recipe for my family’s dinner one recent summer evening, and topped with Parmesan cheese it quickly disappeared.

Yes, with the zucchini and pasta combination recipes that I share below, children of all ages will love to eat their vegetables! I hope your family enjoys this zucchini recipes as much as my family does!  -Kathryn Occhipinti


Zucchini with Pasta and  Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Zucchini and Pasta
Zucchini with Bow Tie Pasta and Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

3 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
2 medium-size zucchini, chopped coarsely
4 plumb tomatoes, chopped coarsely
1 large bunch of fresh basil,
leaves stripped from stems and hand-torn
1 box (1 lb.) bow-tie pasta, cooked al-dente
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

 

Method

Set a pot of water on the stove to boil for making the spaghetti.  When the water does boil, add salt, cover, bring to boil again, and then uncover and add bow-tie pasta. Stir pasta, cover and bring to a boil again. Take cover off and stir.  Let the pasta cook until al-dente (“to the tooth”), or slightly firm, stirring occasionally,  while you cook the zucchini below.

The rest of the dish is made in a large frying pan with high sides.

Add enough olive oil to almost cover the frying pan and then heat gently on medium-high heat.

Add chopped garlic and let soften.

Add chopped zucchini and a sprinkle of salt, and let soften, stirring frequently, so the zucchini does not burn, but browns lightly.

Add chopped tomatoes and freshly torn basil leaves, and stir.

Add a bit of the pasta water and turn the heat down to simmer.  Let the sauce cook for 10 – 15 minutes, until all vegetables have softened, but are still a bit firm, stirring frequently.

When the “sauce” is ready, drain the pasta and add to the frying pan.  Depending on the size of zucchinis and tomatoes you use, you may have a little less or more sauce than needed for 1 lb. of pasta.  Add “enough” pasta to the frying pan so when it is mixed it is coated lightly with the “sauce.”

Add the coarsely grated Parmesan cheese and mix again.  Salt to taste.

Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese on the side and enjoy!

Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see me actively making this zucchini and pasta dish.  A delicious dinner or side dish will be ready in no time with this classic Italian combination!

View this post on Instagram

Zucchini and Tomatoes with Pasta. Use your fresh garden vegetables to make this easy and delicious authentic Italian pasta dish. Your kids will love eating their vegetables! Use 3 cloves of garlic, 2 medium size zucchini, 4 plum tomatoes, fresh basil leaves torn, and 1 lb. box of bowtie pasta. 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, salt to taste. Add salted pasta water as vegetables cook and then after adding pasta, as needed……………………………………….. #osnap #italianstyle #italianfood #pasta #pastaandzucchini #pastaandzucchinis #zucchiniandpasta #zucchinirecipes #andzucchini #zucchinipasta #pastasitalianas #foodblogger #foodie #italianstyle🇮🇹 #italiancooking #italianrecipe🇮🇹 #Italianrecipes #italianvegetables #italianvegetarian #vegetarianitalian @niafitalianamerican @osia_su @chicagolanditalians

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Zucchini with Spaghetti Aglio Olio
(Zucchini with Spaghetti in Garlic and Olive Oil)

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

 

3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 to 4  medium sized zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
(cut the zucchini cross-wise from one end to the other,
as in photo of cucuzza above)
1 lb. of spaghetti
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Method

Set a pot of water on the stove to boil for making the spaghetti.  When the water does boil, add salt, cover, bring to boil again, and then uncover and add spaghetti. Stir spaghetti, cover and bring to a boil again. Take cover off and stir.  Let the spaghetti cook until al-dente (“to the tooth”), or slightly firm, stirring occasionally,  while you cook the zucchini below.

The rest of the dish is made in a large frying pan with high sides.

Add enough olive oil to almost cover the frying pan and then heat gently on medium-high heat.

Add the crushed garlic cloves and let soften to flavor the oil.

Add sliced zucchini, spreading over the pan in one layer, so the zucchini can fry in the oil evenly.  You will need to do this in 2 or more batches if cooking more zucchini slices than the size pan you have can accomodate.

After a about 5 minutes, when the zucchini rounds have softened, turn and let the other side soften.

Continue to cook until zucchini rounds have shrunk and turned a light, golden brown.

When the zucchini is ready, drain the spaghetti and put into a large serving bowl.

Add the fried zucchini from the pan,  without draining the olive oil from the zucchini rounds. Mix. Add additional olive oil from the pan as needed to coat the spaghetti lightly and evenly.

Add the coarsely grated Parmesan cheese and mix again.  Salt to taste.

Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese on the side and enjoy!

Check out my Instagram site (soon to be posted) if you’d like to see me actively making zucchini and spaghetti aglio olio.  A delicious dinner or side dish will be ready in no time with this classic Italian combination!

— 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

Zucchini with Pasta Two Ways

Tomato, Mozzarella, and fresh basil salad

Caprese and Panzanella Salads with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Caprese and Panzanella Salads with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog  Caprese and Panzanella Salads  are what Italians make with their fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and basil for a summer salad treat!

My Italian-American Gardening Family 

Growing up as I did with two Italian-American parents means that  to me, summertime will always be the time for gardening—and enjoying the fresh vegetables and fruits of that garden!

Both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America.  My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York.  As a small child, I knew that my fondest memories of summer would begin as I opened the large, decorative, black iron gate to enter what to me was a miraculous place – my grandparent’s a two story attached brick building that had my grandfather’s grape vines growing happily along the only free side.  Out back, there was a small cement landing where the family gathered amid large decorative clay pots of herbs, with a pergola for the ripened grapes to hang from and provide shade, of course!

The rest of my grandfather’s yard was dedicated to all kinds of  vegetables and fruits, perfectly staked  in neat rows so that no space was lost on his small plot of land.  I loved picking the  perfectly red, vine-ripened tomatoes, green peppers and fresh, soft  purple figs to take home. Yes, my grandfather even managed to keep fig trees alive during the cold NYC winters by bundling the branches up a pail and covering them with blankets, just so we could enjoy baskets of fresh figs for the summer. And enjoy them we did!

While my grandfather was busy gardening, my grandmother was busy in the kitchen!  She created wonderful tomato salads  for summertime with our fresh tomatoes and our favorite herb—basil, with its leaves freshly  pinched off  right from the stem of the plant. Even today, the women in my family keep a small pot or glass with water by the kitchen window with cuttings of fresh basil ready to make a cool tomato Caprese salad or a Panzanella salad for lunch.

Caprese and Panzanella Salads

Making Caprese and Panzanella salads entails following a couple of simple methods, using whatever you have on hand, rather than following a strict recipe step by step. However, it is best to come as close as possible to the recommended ingredients, as the ingredients themselves will be the stars of each dish.

For the most mouth-watering Caprese salad imaginable, use fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and soft, fresh buffalo mozzarella.  Coarse sea salt adds extra flavor to the tomatoes. Top all with a generous drizzle of your favorite pungent or fruity, extra-virgin olive oil from Italy, rather than the a more bland olive oil that you would use for cooking on the stove top.

For Panzanella salad, which probably originated as a clever way to use up day-old, stale bread, be sure to use a crusty loaf of Italian bread and make sure it has time to dry out.  If you want, drizzle the bead with a little bit of olive oil and brown in the oven, either before or after cutting into cubes. The mozzarella for this salad should be a firm mozzarella, as it needs to be cubed and mixed in with the other ingredients.  I prefer my panzanella salad with hard cubes of bread; if you like, use the drippings from the fresh tomatoes to soften the bread.

And, of course, large, sweet, fresh basil leaves from the garden are an essential ingredient to both salads!

But whatever ingredients you have on hand, I’m sure you will enjoy these simple and refreshing tomato and basil salads on a hot summer day!  -Kathyn Occhipinti


Caprese Salad

 

Tomato, basil and mozzarella caprese salad
Italian Caprese Salad, with layers of tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves ready to share

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

3 large, vine-ripened tomatoes,
(each a different color to add interest;
heirloom tomatoes if desired)
Sea salt

Fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced
Large, whole, freshly picked basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil from Italy

 

Method

In an individual or large dish, create colorful layers of tomato slices (sprinkled with sea salt), mozzarella slices, and basil leaves.

If making in a large plate of Caprese salad for a crowd, have the tomato and mozzarella slices lengthwise once they are assembled and place a piece of mozzarella in the center to create a “flower” pattern, as in the picture above.  Decorate with extra basil.

Let sit for about 15 minutes for the tomato juices to develop. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Serve with Italian bread to mop up the tomato juices and enjoy!

Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see me actively making a Caprese salad that can be shared by two people.  Remember, the correct choice of  ingredients is the key to this simple “salad.  A touch of sea-salt to bring the juices out of the tomatoes that provide the acid for the “vinaigrette” and a drizzle of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil makes an exquisite summertime treat!

 

View this post on Instagram

Caprese Salad: Let’s use our fresh basil (basilico), heirloom tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella with extra virgin olive oil to make this flavorful salad from the Italian island of Capri. The secret is very ripe tomatoes and a little sea salt to allow the tomato juices to escape and blend with the olive oil. Buon appetito! #osnap #chicagogardening #chicagogardener #chicagogarden #italyinamerica #italiangardenstyle #basil #basilico #basilico🌱 #basilsalad #tomatoandbasil #tomatobasil #basilandtomato #basilandtomatoes #freshbasilandtomatoes #buffalomozzarella #buffalomozzarellacheese #buffalomozzarellasalad @chicagolanditalians @niafitalianamerican @sons_of_italy #freshsummersalad #freshsummertomoatoes #italianfood #italiangardens #italianfood

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Panzanella Salad

Tomato and bread Panzanella salad
Italian Panzanella salad with halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh torn basil and bread

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

1-2 large, vine-ripened tomato, cut into small wedges
or several cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt

Mozzarella, cubed
Large, freshly picked basil leaves, torn
Dry Italian bread, cubed
(from the day before or browned in the oven)
Italian extra-virgin olive oil
Optional: Add 1/2 red onion, chopped coarsely
Optional: Drizzle with Italian red wine vinegar

Method

In a large dish, combine small wedges of fresh tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, torn basil leaves, and dry Italian bread.  If using the optional chopped red onion, it can be added at this point.

Mix gently.

Drizzle on extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with fresh sea salt to taste.

Mix again gently to combine all and enjoy!

Optional: Drizzle bread with olive oil and brown in oven prior to or after cutting and mixing with other ingredients.

Optional: After cutting tomatoes, put into a colander, add salt and mix. Put a bowl that contains the bread cubes under the colander.   Allow the bowls to stand at room temperature until tomato juices form and drip onto the bread to soften the bread.

Optional: Add a drizzle of  Italian red wine vinegar along with the olive oil.

— 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

Caprese and Panzanella Salads with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Blogger Kathryn Occhipinti at the CIAP Meatball Fest

Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs

Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian Meatballs 

Everyone’s Italian-American mom makes her own version of Italian Meatballs. And they are all the best!

Try Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs for YOUR Sunday Family Dinner! 

The blog title, “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs,” came about during an event I attended with the Chicagoland Italian American Professionals (CIAP) this fall.  The executive director, Salvatore Sciacca and his group, feature Italian-American “cooking competition” events several times a year, and I have to say, they are always a delicious and  entertaining way to spend a Sunday afternoon with my family.

So, when I was invited to be one of the home cooks for this fall’s event,  The First Annual Meatball Fest,  I quickly checked my calendar, noted I was available, and signed up for another Sunday afternoon of Italian-American food and fun.

Making Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs

I had learned  my family recipe for Italian meatballs from my Sicilian-American mother and grandmother long ago, and have been preparing meatballs  for my own family for Italian Sunday dinners for about 20 years now.  I was happy to share my family’s recipe with other families at the event, and also looking forward to tasting what the other home cooks had to offer.

Growing up in an Italian-American household as I did, I really did not have to  do anything special to prepare for the  Italian meatball event held by the CIAP group – at least,
I thought I didn’t have to do anything special !

As it turned out, though, after hearing the other home cooks talk about their method for making meatballs,  I came home curious about the origins of this very common Italian-American dish and ended up doing a bit of research after the event!

I decided to write a blog  to share my experiences that day and what I have been able to learn about  the evolution of the many different styles of meatballs that are loved here in America today.  And of, course, my family’s Italian-American recipe and tips I found from one of my favorite “go-to” Italian cook  books, Ada Boni’s  Italian Regional Cooking (translated from Italian into English by the International Culinary Society, New York ©1969will be included in the blog.

I’d love to hear how YOUR family makes Italian meatballs – leave a comment if you wish at the end of the blog! Buon appetito! – Kathryn Occhipinti

 


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How to Make “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs”

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Let’s get back to the story of the day I was a home cook for  The First Annual Meatball Fest,  held by CIAP.

The morning of the CIAP event, I rummaged around the  basement to find my trusty crock pot, rinsed it off, and set a pot of tomato sauce to cook on the stove.  I set a large bowl on the counter and followed the same routine as I have done many times before for my family: put  ground beef  and all other ingredients into the large bowl, mix gently, and  roll into balls.

Meatball ingredients ready to mix
Italian meatball ingredients ready to mix
Italian meatball ready to fry
One Italian meatball ready to fry!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am from the  “Italian Mom’s Cooking School” that fries, rather than bakes meatballs to brown them. ( Sorry, I hope I haven’t offended anyone – I know there is a BIG debate about this in the Italian-American community, but I think browning dries out the meatballs and is better left to restaurants making large batches of meatballs at one time.)

I browned my meatballs in olive oil carefully, turning each with tongs to get them browned on all sides.

 

Fry Italian meatballs in olive oil
Italian meatballs frying in olive oil
Italian meatballs turned in olive oil
Turn Italian meatballs gently to brown all sides evenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the meatballs had browned, I added them gently to the simmering pot of tomato sauce on the stove to finish cooking.

I was taught to always stir my tomato sauce with a wooden spoon, and have a small collection of wooden spoons – some with long  handles, some with short handles;  some I save just for sauteing onions and garlic, others for “non-onion” savory or sweet dishes – but recently have been using my favorite  wooden spoon for my tomato sauce, which I bought as a part of a fundraiser for the National Italian American Foundation.

The NIAF recently started a “Make Sunday Italian Again” campaign, which I love, as it not only promotes Sunday time together with family, but also  raises money for their scholarship program by selling these “Nonna spoons” that have the slogan “Make Sunday Italian Again” engraved on the wooden handle.  Check out the NIAF website, if you like, after you finish reading this blog, of course!

Tomato sauce with Italian Meatballs
Italian meatballs cooking in tomato sauce

 

After about 30 minutes,  the meatballs had finished cooking and the sauce had a nice, meaty taste.  I adjusted the salt and pepper, put all into the crock pot and left to join the event.

When I arrived at the event, with my tried and true  “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs”, I learned that I was one of 10 different contributors to the dinner!  I named my meatballs “Mom’s Best”,  because it seems to me that every Italian mother’s meatballs are loved and considered the best by her family!

CIAP 1st Annual Meatball Fest September 2018 attended by author Kathryn Occhipinti
Author/Blogger Kathryn Occhipinti at the CIAP 1st Annual Meatball Fest, September 2018

I was happy to see Italian-American home cooks of all ages, and both men and women contributed their meatballs for the event. There were two long tables of meatballs and a long line formed as everyone tried to taste them all.

CIAP 1st Annual Meatball FestEnjoying Italian meatballs at the CIAP 1st Annual Meatball Fest

At first, I had thought this would be a competition, but as it turned out, just as I had suspected, although all the meatballs were made with different ingredients, EVERYONE’s meatballs were delicious, and in the end, no vote was taken!

CIAP Mom's Best Italian Meatballs
Italian Meatballs to sample
CIAP Meatball Fest
More Italian Meatballs

 

Even more Italian meatballs
Even more Italian meatballs!

 

Below is a picture of those who participated, holding signs with the names of the type of meatballs they contributed. (I am in the back row and the Executive Director, Salvatore Sciacca, is just to my left.)

CIAP Italian meatball home cooks
Italian home cooks holding signs of the names of their meatballs at CIAP’s 1st Italian Meatball Fest

Read on for the recipe that I used to make my “Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs”.  Additional tips I learned from reading about meatballs are given in green italic lettering.  As a bonus, I am including my family’s recipe for basic Italian tomato sauce.  For tips on making Italian tomato sauce, please visit my blog Braciole – Italian Beef Rolls for Sunday Dinner.   Of course,  your own favorite tomato sauce will be fine as well!

But don’t stop after reading the first recipe, because when I went home I did a bit of research in Ada Boni’s cook book and discovered more tips on making “the best” meatballs in different styles that you may want to try yourself!

 


Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs 

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil +more for frying
1 lb. ground beef (80% lean best)
1 egg
3/4 cup Progresso brand Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
Salt and Pepper to taste.

This recipe will serve 4 people; it can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd!

Coat a small frying pan lightly with some olive oil  and add the chopped onion and garlic and a pinch of salt. Saute gently, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the onions and garlic have softened and given their flavor to the olive oil.

(I find that sauteing the onions and garlic gives both a nice mellow taste, and I would recommend not skipping this step.  In fact, when my  daughter was young, she insisted that she didn’t like onions,  so I would remove the onions after competing this step and she never caught on to my trick!)

Put the sauteed onions and garlic, with the olive oil, into a large bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients: 2 additional tablespoons of olive oil,  ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs and parsley.

Sprinkle with salt and a grind of fresh pepper  to taste (some people like more pepper, others less).

Mix gently with your hands, careful not to work the meat too much or this may make the meatballs tough!

Adjust amount of breadcrumbs as needed – more if you more, less to make a more  “meaty” meatball.  If too dry, add a few drops more of olive oil.

(What I learned from researching meatballs – moisten the breadcrumbs in a bit of milk to make for a more tender meatball.)

When the meatball mixture consistency is to your liking, pull a bit of the meat mixture off and roll into a ball to make a meatball.  Size of the meatballs is to taste, but of course the larger meatballs will need to finish cooking longer in the tomato sauce.

Set a frying pan coated with olive oil over medium-high heat.

Place the newly rolled meatballs gently into the frying pan. Fry on medium high heat (adjusting as necessary during the frying time), turning each with tongs so all sides become browned.

(What I learned from researching meatballs – roll each in a bit of flour to aid browning if you want.)

After the meatballs have browned, immediately remove them with tongs and gently place into a pot of simmering tomato sauce (recipe below) to finish cooking.

Serve with spaghetti for the Italian-American presentation, or continue on to the following Italian recipes for other serving ideas.

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Southern Italian Tomato Sauce  

Ingredients

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

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.

 


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How to Make Italian Meatballs – My research…

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Ada Boni,  (1881 – 1973) the author of  one of my favorite Italian cook books, Italian Regional Cooking, was a well-loved Italian author and food writer.  According to the back flap of the edition of my book, Ada Boni is known throughout Italy as the author of the classic bestselling cook book, Il Talismano della Felicità.

Boni worked as a magazine editor in Italy.  This book is a collection of the series of food articles about regional Italian cooking that was originally written for the Italian monthly magazine “Arianna”.  The magazine articles cataloged in depth recipes for the entire range of food served in the 14 major regions of Italy, long before the importance of regional cooking was understood here in America.  Boni was and still is well-known for the authenticity and variety of her recipes.

The book  Italian Regional Cooking is beautifully illustrated, with a spectacular photo montage of each Italian region to be covered at the beginning of each chapter that provides a backdrop for Italian tables laden with dishes from appetizer to dessert that evoke a special family gathering.  (There are no images for each individual recipe, however).  Although I have an edition from 1969 translated into English, the book is still listed on Amazon today.  I found this book about 30 years ago in a book store in California and my cover is tattered by now!

Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni
The book cover from “Italian Regional Cooking” by Ada Boni

When I wanted to research Italian meatballs, I searched this cook book in particular for a couple of reasons.  First, I wanted to discover if the way Italian-Americans now make meatballs differs significantly from how an Italian in southern Italy makes meatballs.  Second, I wanted to see if I could figure out the origins of the meatballs I make today.

 

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The Ingredients in Sicilian Meatballs

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In answer to my first question – do we make meatballs differently over here than they do in Italy, I searched  the chapter in Italian Regional Cooking that lists the recipes for Sicily.  I was pretty certain when I started my search that my family’s recipe was authentic, as it has been handed down from my grandmother, who spent her first 22 years in Sicily, and as the oldest child had been helping her mother with the household cooking since she was a young girl.

It turns out that the ingredients in Ada Boni’s  Sicilian“Polpette di Maiale con Pitaggio” are almost identical to my family’s meatballs.  “Polpette”* is the Italian word for what we call “meatballs” in America, but the translation given is, “Pork Rissoles with Vegetables”.

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The meat used for the meatball recipe from Sicily is pork, rather than beef, which of course would be more easy to come by in Sicily.  If I have ground pork or ground turkey on hand, I occasionally will use this meat to “lighten up” the meatballs.  The CIAP cooks used a variety of different meats (see about Neapolitan meatballs below).  The meatballs were rolled in a bit of flour before frying, which is an idea I will use from now on.

Instead of breadcrumbs, the recommendation is to soften the “pith of a small roll” with milk and “squeeze it dry.”  Several of the home cooks at the CIAP event mentioned using this method instead of  bread crumbs, and I will have to try this on my next attempt at making meatballs.   And, of course, Progresso brand is an American invention, so here is how we changed the meatball over in America for sure!

Other than that, the ingredients listed  for Sicilian Polpette were about the same as the meatballs I had learned to make.   The onion my family puts into meatballs was left out, but  included were garlic, fresh parsley, grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and a bit of flour to coat the meatballs before frying. The flour is another good tip!  Most of the CIAP cooks included these ingredients.

How to serve Sicilian meatballs: Suggested  serving was with sauteed artichokes (with chokes removed), green peas and fava beans in the same oil used for frying the meatballs.

I have not seen meatballs served this way, but plan on trying this suggestion, which sounds good  since true Italian meatballs  (I am told, but am not quite convinced) should served with Italian bread, rather than pasta.

 

***************************************

The Ingredients in Neapolitan Meatballs

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When I searched the chapter in Italian Regional Cooking  that lists the recipes for Napes-Capagna, I discovered “Polpette di Carne”, translated into “Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Neapolitan Style.” 

**********

The meat used for the meatball recipe from the Naples region is beef, which is probably the most common meat used in America today, although the CIAP cooks used ground pork and a mixture of been and pork as well.  One cook even made vegetarian meatballs of her own invention using zucchini flowers (Salvatore’s mother) and I have to say, they were delicious. Again, the meatballs were rolled in a bit of flour before frying.

Breadcrumbs were used in the Neapolitan recipe, of course grated from stale Italian bread,  and first moistened with a little milk.  This seems like a good idea to me, and I am going to include this tip from now on when I make meatballs.

The remaining ingredients listed  for Neapolitan Polpette differed significantly from the meatballs we see most frequently in America today in that they called for yellow raisins, pine nuts, and a bit of lard.  Onions were again left out. The remaining ingredients of garlic, parsley, eggs, and Parmesan cheese were the same basic ingredients given in the Sicilian recipe.

I tried the Neapolitan style meatballs one night for dinner (you might notice some pine nuts in the  images of my mixing bowl from the first section of the blog!), warning my family that they would taste sweeter than our usual meatball.  I have to say the addition of milk and a bit of lard made them the most tender meatballs I have ever had!

But it seems like Americans have lost their taste for a “sweet” meatball, however, and it was a consensus at the CIAP dinner that “no one” here in America used raisins anymore.

How to serve Neapolitan meatballs: Suggested  serving was with tomato sauce, and a recipe for simple tomato sauce was provided, as noted in the title for the recipe.

****************************************

How to Make Italian Meatballs – My conclusions…

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It seems to me that there are as many ways to make and serve Italian meatballs as there are home cooks to make them! I do find it interesting, though, that here in America we have retained the idea of cooking meatballs in tomato sauce, whether the idea is from Sicily or Naples, and meatballs are paired with spaghetti is indeed an “American classic”.

 

**********

 * A final tidbit of interesting information:  when I looked up the word “polpette” in the dictionary, which means “meatballs,” I discovered that the Italian singular “polpetta” for  the singular meatball, has several negative connotations.  “Polpetta” can refer to “poisoned bait,” possibly because the reference is to little pieces of meat that are poisoned. “Polpetta” can also be used in a figurative sense, to mean that a person is a “dud” or a “drag.”  

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

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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

Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs

Italian Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Italian Chocolate  Hazelnut Tart

 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogItalian chocolate hazelnut tart: It’s  delicious for dessert!

Italian Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

This Italian chocolate hazelnut tart (crostata) blends two classic Italian ingredients that go perfectly with one another to create a delicious, sweet end to any meal. I think you will agree that a slice of this chocolate tart for dessert will add something special to any get-together or celebration.  And it is very simple to make!

A basic, pre-baked pie crust and a no-bake filling of chocolate ganache, hazelnut spread, and real hazelnuts will turn into something special when combined. The filling is candy-like, similar to the flavored chocolate fillings found in truffle candies, so even a thin slice is very rich! Also included is an easy method for homemade whipped cream.

Try a slice of our chocolate hazelnut tart topped with a dollop of freshly made whipped cream and see for yourself!
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Italian Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Chocolate Hazelnut Crostata
A slice of Italian chocolate hazelnut tart topped with whipped cream and a raspberry. Serve with coffee and enjoy!

 

Make the tart pastry:
Chocolate Pasta Frolla
Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
1/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbsps) cold, unsalted butter, sliced into 1 Tb pieces
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly mixed together
1 tsp vanilla
about 6–8 Tbsps of chilled water

Method to make the tart crust:

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt.

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or a fork or rub between your thumb and the tips of your fingers to make small, flat, flakes of butter.

Mix the egg with the vanilla and then add to the dry ingredients. Add 5 Tbsp of chilled water. Mix all together with a fork. Crumbs of dough will start to form.

Add an additional 1 or 2 Tbsp of chilled water.

Bring the dough together gently with your hands, and attempt to form a disk. If a dough will not form, mix in 1 or  2 Tbsp of water and try again. Continue to do this until a dough does form. The final dough will be a little bit sticky before it all holds together.

Complete the disk and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

After the dough has chilled, gently roll it out on a floured board until it is large enough to fit into an 11″ tart pan. The dough will be soft. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator. It should have firmed up a bit. Prick with a fork. Line the tart shell with aluminum foil and then fill with pie weights (dried beans make good pie weights if you want to use something from around the house).

Bake the pie crust at 350° for 8–10 minutes.

Out of the oven, remove foil and weights, and cook an additional 8–10 minutes. When done, the edges of the tart will start to pull away from the tart pan.

Let the crust cool completely on a pie rack in the tart pan while preparing the filling.

 

 Make the chocolate ganache filling and assemble the tart:
Ingredients:

1 cup whippng cream (cold)
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa)
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread*
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped**

*Nutella brand works well because it contains sugar. If using another brand, taste the mixture and add sugar as needed.

**If you buy whole hazelnuts, prepare as follows: roast whole nuts about 8–10 minutes at 350°, put into a small brown paper bag, and rub to remove as much of the brown “skin” as possible. Chop coarsely with a knife or a nut chopper/grinder device if you have one.

Method to make the filling:

Heat the whipping cream in a small saucepan until it just reaches a boil, and immediately pour over the finely chopped chocolate. (Use a heat-proof glass or CorningWare bowl for this step.)

Mix with a whisk until the chocolate has melted.

Add hazelnut spread, salt, and vanilla, and whisk again.

Whisk in the chopped hazelnuts. Keep mixing. The filling will start to thicken more and more as it cools.

Pour immediately into the cooled pie crust.

Refrigerate until the filling sets.

Take out of the refrigerator 30 minutes or so before serving to let the filling and crust soften a bit at room temperature.

Serve individual slices garnished with whipped cream and raspberries if desired.

 

Homemade whipped cream:
Ingredients:
(1 cup of whipping cream will serve about 4 people)

1 cup whipping cream (chilled)
1 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Method to make fresh whipped cream:

It is a snap to make whipped cream if all bowls/whisks/beaters and the cream is cold to start. In fact, be careful, because it is easy to overbeat and then you will end up with butter!

This whipped cream has a very light, not-too-sweet taste. More sugar and vanilla can be added as desired, or even a splash of liquor.

Chill a large bowl and the beaters in the freezer before starting.

Take the whipping cream directly from the refrigerator and pour 2 cups into your chilled bowl.

Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix together with a fork to dissolve.

Hand mix very briskly with a whisk, or set your electric or standing mixer to medium and begin to whip the cream/sugar mixture.

Gradually increase the speed of your mixer as you continue beating the whipping cream.

Stop every couple of minutes to test the whipped cream. Near the end, as the whipping cream thickens, slow the mixer down and watch carefully.

When almost done, it will start to form a pattern of “ridges” in the bowl as you move your electric hand mixer back and forth. Lift up your beaters at this point. The whipped cream will cling to the beaters and make a soft peak that stands up when done.

—Kathryn Occhipinti 

 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn 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 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

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Italian Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Sicilian Christmas cookies

Cuccidati: Traditional Sicilian Christmas Cookies

Cuccidati: Traditional Sicilian Christmas Cookies 

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.comCuccidati are traditional Sicilian Christmas cookies—try my family recipe enjoyed for three generations here in America!

Cuccidati: Traditional Sicilican Christmas Cookies

Italian Christmas traditions are unique to each region of the Italy and have been lovingly handed down within families through the generations. Cuccidati – a version of Christmas cookie that probably originated after the Arabs introduced oranges and almonds to Sicily centuries ago – play an important part in the Christmas celebration in Sicily even today.

All Sicilian cuccidati, or any Italian cookie for that matter, are unlike what Americans think of when they think of cookies. Most Italian cookies are made from dough that cooks up drier than American cookies and there is much more variation in the presentation.  Sicilian cookies come in a multitude of different shapes and sizes and fruit fillings are often enclosed in the cookies as a special treat.

The recipe given below is for a Sicilian Christmas cookie—my family calls them “cuccidati,” although they are not identical to most of the cookies found online under this name.  The cookies in this recipe start out as the “typical” cuccidati: one long “tube” of sweet, Italian pie-crust-like dough, which contains a dried fruit and nut center. (No figs in our version, by the way.) But, instead of then cutting the tube into bite-sized pieces that are finished with icing, my family cuts larger pieces, which are then formed into different shapes, and finishes the cuccidati with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.  Whatever the name, this is just one version out of many dried, fruit-filed cookies still made in Sicilian bakeries today to celebrate the Christmas season.

When I was a child, my family always gathered the weekend before Christmas to share our creativity while we formed our cuccidati into wreaths, ribbons, or candy cane-like forms.  They could be completely covered in dough, which would allow for a creative, fringe-like covering, or left open.  The sides could be pinched for decoration if like, similar to how Americans form a pie crust along the rim of their pies. If you would like to see how the various shapes of these cookies are made, visit the Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest site.

The ingredients for the cuccidati filling are considered easy to come by today, but remember that dried fruit, including raisins and oranges and spices like cinnamon were considered special when the cookies originated.  These filling ingredients were only found only in well-off households. Since the filling ingredients are difficult to chop and mix together, in some Sicilian towns “back in the day,” people would bring their filling to the butcher to mix together for them in his meat grinder, which had been newly cleaned for the season for this purpose.

Despite the few ingredients in traditional cuccidati, and the difficulty of making the filling with them, the dried fruit has a rich sweetness, the roasted almonds a robust flavor, and the cinnamon, orange, and citron add a complexity of flavor that goes beyond its simple ingredients. Try our recipe this Christmas season for a taste of Sicilian tradition!
—Kathryn Occhipinti


Cuccidati
Traditional Sicilian Christmas Cookies

Sicilian Christmas cookies
Cuccidati sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and ready to eat

Ingredients
If you’re trying this recipe for the first time, it may be easier to cut the recipe in half.  
Makes 2–4 dozen cookies, depending on the size and shape of the cookies created.

Pasta Frolla (Sweet Pastry)
2½ lbs. flour (about 10 cups)
10 oz. of lard or Crisco
½ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
about 1 cup cold water

Filling
2 lbs. yellow raisins (not red raisins)
1 lb. whole almonds (skinless), roasted
2 Tbsp citron (lemon)
2 Tbsp candied orange peel
or zest of 2 tangerines
2 tsp cinnamon sugar

 

Procedure

Prepare the pasta frolla*

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

Cut in the lard with a fork and/or your fingertips until it is the size of small peas.

Add the cold water a little at a time, while mixing with a fork. After about 1 cup of water has been added, gather the dough and test it to see if it holds together. If it does, form one large ball. If it is too dry, add more water, mix, and try again.

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

Form into one large disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

 

Make the filling

First, chop the yellow raisins coarsely with a sharp knife so they open up. This is fairly labor intensive, and it may take a bit of time to chop all of the raisins.

Then, chop the almonds coarsely with a sharp knife.

If you have a small manual chopper/grinder specifically for nuts, put the coarsely chopped nuts into the machine and grind to obtain more finely chopped nuts, which can then be mixed with the raisins. Otherwise, try one of the next two steps below.

Either: Take the tenderizing part of a meat mallet and mash small amounts of the raisins and almonds together at a time. This can be done under a dish towel so they do not scatter everywhere. (Mashing the raisins and almonds together seems to work the best and will leave varying sizes of raisins and almonds in the mix.)

Or: An alternative to the last step: pulse the pre-processed raisins and nuts in a food processor a few times if you have one, making sure the ingredients are not over processed.

To the raisin/nut mixture: add the citron, orange peel or zest, and cinnamon and mix well.

Form into 2 rectangular “logs” the shape of a loaf of bread. Cover with aluminum foil if not using right away and store at room temperature.

Filling for cuccidati
Cuccidati filling formed into logs

 

Assemble the cuccidati

Set up a kitchen table “assembly line” style: place the dough on one end on a surface that is good for rolling and cutting the dough, place the filling in the middle, and use the surrounding work areas for each member of the family to create the cookies. Place cookie sheets on the far end for the finished cookies.

Cuccidati work table
Table set up for assembling the cuccidati

Cut off one strip at a time from the large dough ball and roll it out into pie-crust-size thickness.

Cut the rolled-out dough into fairly thick strips, depending on the size of cookie desired. These strips can then be cut again crosswise to make the size needed to make smaller cookies.

Cut rectangular pieces of filling from the filling logs to place into the strips of dough.

Be creative! Create cookies with the sides brought up to cover the filling entirely, or leave the filling uncovered and just pinch the dough together to form various designs. Traditional shapes are round (like a wreath), horseshoe, or long or short ribbons. Candy cane shapes are popular with kids.

Sicilian cuccidati
Cuccidati ready to bake – various shapes

 

Bake in preheated oven at 350° for about 20–30 minutes, or until the bottom of the cookie is nicely browned. The sides and top of the dough should be cooked but not browned. This will make a flaky crust and avoid burning the filling.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar when cool.

Cookies will keep for about 2 weeks in a cookie tin or covered with aluminum foil.

*The original recipe passed down from my grandmother states that the flour and the lard should be mixed together and left overnight before the sugar, salt, and water are added to create the dough. I’ve never tried this and instead use the traditional “pie crust” method.

 —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.

Cuccidati: Traditional Sicilian Christmas Cookies

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 1/4 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  about 1/4 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

That’s Italian Minestrone Soup for Your Family

That’s Italian Minestrone Soup for Your Family

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Minestrone Soup — A hearty and warming dish for the fall season or any time.

That’s Italian Minestrone Soup!
Calling Italian Moms, Dads, and Kids Everywhere! 

Minestrone soup is common in Italy. So common, in fact, that the word “minestrone” is synonymous with “zuppa” or “soup.” When one mentions minestrone, what comes to mind is a bean and pasta soup, usually flavored with a bit of tomato. The beauty of this soup is that, aside from these three basic ingredients, almost any vegetable can be added. So minestrone soup can be made again and again and still add variety to your dinner table!

Below is my family’s basic method for minestrone soup. The final soup is vegetarian, but the broth does use leftover meat bones and is a testament to how Italians traditionally use every bit of food they have at home. Ditto for the fresh parsley stalks. Why throw them away when they make a wonderful flavoring for soup broth?

White beans (cannellini) are the most common bean to add to the homemade broth, but other types of beans can be substituted, such as pinto beans or kidney beans (but not black beans). Dried beans work best, but for shorter cooking times, canned beans can be used. Canned chickpeas are a nice addition. Any miniature pasta variety will work. In a pinch, spaghetti can be cut into smaller pieces and added.

If you have a bit of leftover cooked potato, green beans, zucchini, or another vegetable, add it to your minestrone soup at the end of the cooking time. A bit of leftover pork chop, chicken, or beef from the night before? Meat can be added as well. You will be following a long Italian tradition of not wasting food and at the same time turning bits of leftovers into something delicious!

Try our method to make minestrone soup and continue a wonderful Italian tradition for your own family.  —Kathryn Occhipinti


That’s Italian Minestrone Soup for Your Family

Zuppa di Minestrone
Minestrone soup, ready to serve

Ingredients

For the Meat Broth
(Day 1)
 About 16 cups of water
4 pork chop bones (leftover/cooked)
1 chicken back (leftover/cooked)
or any other combination of leftover bones
with small amounts of meat clinging to them

2 carrots, each cut into 3–4 pieces
1 stalk of celery, cut into 3–4 pieces
1 onion, skin removed, cut into 4 pieces
1 parsnip cut into 4 pieces (optional)
1 clove garlic, skin removed
bundle of fresh parsley stems

For the Soup
(Day 2)
1 lb. dried cannellini beans
or other Italian white beans, pinto beans, kidney beans
2 carrots, peeled and chopped finely*
1 stalk celery, chopped finely*
1 onion, chopped finely*
1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes
1/4–1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut into quarters
1/4 cup dried parsley or 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1–2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/2 cup Ditali Rigati 59 pasta (Granoro brand)
or minature pasta of choice

*See below for note about how to chop soup vegetables.

Make the Meat Broth (Day 1)

Fill a large stock pot with about 16 cups of water and set it on the stove. You may need a little more or less depending on the number of meat bones you have to make the broth. The amount of water should easily cover the bones and vegetables.

Add the leftover, precooked bones. (This soup can also be made with bones that have not been cooked, of course, but the precooked bones will add a little bit of flavor from the herbs and seasonings already used for the first cooking.)

Add all of the vegetables to the soup pot—carrots, celery, onion, clove of garlic. Note that these vegetables will be cooked until they have released all their flavor and will be removed before making the final soup, so there is no need to peel and chop them finely. Just wash, chop coarsely, and add to the soup pot.

Tie a bunch of parsley stalks together with food string and add them to the soup pot.

Turn the heat up to high and cover the pot to get it to boil. When the water comes to a boil, remove the lid and lower the heat to medium. Keep the water at a low boil and let the bones and vegetables cook slowly for 3–5 hours.

Skim any surface froth that may develop during cooking with a large spoon, but do not stir, or the broth will get cloudy.

Add additional water if necessary and continue cooking until the broth has the desired flavor and has reduced to about 8 cups.

When the broth is done, the meat should be falling off the bone and the vegetables very mushy.

Turn off the heat and let cool. Remove larger pieces of bone and vegetables with a straining ladle to leave the broth in the pot.

Pour the broth through a colander with fine holes to remove any particulate matter, then store it in a large plastic container in the refrigerator overnight.

If using dried beans, sort the beans in a bowl and remove any stones or beans that have not dried properly. Rinse and then place the beans into a non-reactive (plastic or glass) bowl overnight in cold water (about twice the amount of water as beans). Change the water once if you can.

Make the Soup (Day 2)

The next day, remove the broth from the refrigerator. Skim off the fat that will have floated to the top and hardened overnight and discard.

Place the skimmed broth into a large pot, about twice the size as the amount of liquid you have remaining. Add about 4 cups of additional water, becausse the broth will cook down again on the stove top.

Add the dried beans that have been soaked overnight. Cook about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the beans have softened and started to fall apart.

Note that the beans that dissolve will give the soup flavor and thickness, and about half the added beans will dissolve by the end of the total cooking time. The amount of cooking time to get the beans to soften to this point will mostly depend on how old your beans are (older will take longer) and how long you have presoaked them.

When the beans have softened and started to fall apart, you can add your chopped vegetables—carrot, celery, onion, green beans.

Add the can of chopped tomatoes, including the liquid and the dried or chopped parsley.

Cook about 15–20 minutes on medium heat to soften the vegetables.

Add the canned garbanzo beans and any other cooked beans or vegetables at this point. Add optional fresh parsley.

Continue to cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Bring the soup to a boil and then add pasta and cook al dente (a little firm) according to package directions. If not serving the soup right away, undercook it a bit, because pasta will absorb water as it sits in the soup.

Serve in a large soup bowl garnished with fresh parsley.

Refrigerate leftovers to eat later in the week, if there are any!

*How to Chop Soup Vegetables
Carrots: Cut lengthwise to half, and then lengthwise again to get quarters. Line them up side by side and then cut crosswise from the tips to the base of the carrot to get small, even pieces that look like quarters of a circle.
Celery: Cut lengthwise through each celery stalk as many times as needed to give pieces the same thickness as the carrot pieces. (You will need more lengthwise cuts at the thicker part of the celery near the base.) Then cut crosswise from the tip to the base to get small, rectangular  pieces of celery about the same size as the carrot pieces.
Onion: Halve the onion lengthwise. Turn each flat side of the onion half down onto the board. Cut through lengthwise, from one side to the other, following the vein in the onion. Then cut through crosswise to make pieces the same size as the other vegetables. 

—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

That’s Italian Minestrone Soup for Your Family

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!