Tag Archives: Italian Recipes

Italian Chicken Cacciatore

One-Pot Italian Chicken Cacciatore

One-Pot Italian Chicken Cacciatore

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian Chicken Cacciatore 

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

Try One-Pot Italian Chicken Cacciatore  for YOUR Italian Dinner Tonight! 

The recipe title, “One-Pot Italian Chicken Cacciatore,” refers to a type of meat stew made in Italy, presumably when a hunter would bring home a fresh catch. Or possibly, the hunter himself would make this stew with the one pot he had on hand while out in the forest. Exactly where the title comes from is no longer known, and many delicious variations of chicken stew are called “alla cacciatore”—meaning “as a hunter would make”—in Italy today.

For our Italian chicken cacciatore recipe, a whole cut chicken is cooked in one large skillet, using olive oil and fresh summer tomatoes and peppers. Although this dish started out “back in the day” as a stew (in cooking terms, a fricassee), I’ve omitted the flour to make less of a gravy and instead a light, fresh “sauce.” By taking the chicken out of the pot after browning and then putting it back in to finish cooking, the amount of chicken fat in the dish is reduced. I like mushrooms, which I often add to the dish as well.

Hearty, crusty Italian bread makes a perfect accompaniment to Italian chicken cacciatore, although I have to admit that my family does not follow the proper Italian food “rules” when it comes to this dish. If you’ve been to Italy, you know them: the first course (il primo) is pasta, risotto, or gnocchi, and the second course (il secondo) is the meat—all by itself in a sauce or gravy. Fresh vegetables are abundant in Italy, but in Italian restaurants, they must be ordered as a side dish (contorno) during the second course.

Like good Italian-Americans, we eat our chicken with the pasta on the side and cover both in sauce. Add Parmesan cheese if you like, but only to the pasta! I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine does.   —Kathryn Occhipinti


One-Pot Italian Chicken Cacciatore 

Ingredients

1 frying chicken, cut into 2 breasts, 2 thighs/legs, 2 wings
(or any chicken with breasts and thighs of similar size)
approximately 1/4 cup olive oil, and more as needed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3/4 cup Italian dry white wine
1 large medium onion, sliced thickly
2 bell peppers (1 green and 1 red preferred), sliced lengthwise
11 (15 oz.) can tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped, in liquid
6–8 cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, sliced lengthwise (optional)
(quickly rinsed, gently rubbed dry with a paper towel, stem trimmed)

1/2–1 cup good chicken stock, or water
2 sprigs of Italian flat-leaf parsley (chop off leafy parts and reserve; tie stems in a small bundle)

Full Method

(*Scroll to the end of this section for an abbreviated method for an even quicker weeknight dinner.)

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 freshly ground black 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 approximately 1/4 cup of olive oil.

Add 1 of the cloves of crushed garlic and cook under low heat until it softens and adds flavor to the olive oil, but do not brown.

Remove garlic.  Raise heat to medium high.

When the oil has heated, add chicken to the pan skin side down, keeping each piece separate from the other. Let cook without moving the chicken for a few minutes. Lift up one of the chicken pieces gently to check. When the skin has browned lightly, turn chicken pieces once and cook about 5 minutes more.

Remove the chicken to a plate. Pour off any rendered chicken fat and a couple more tablespoons of olive oil so pan is coated lightly.

Add the second piece of crushed garlic, the onions, and the peppers and sauté until all vegetables have softened a bit but have not cooked.

Add the white wine and boil off about 1/2 of the wine. While the wine is boiling, use a wooden spoon to scrape off any browned bits that have stuck to the pan while the chicken was browning.

Add the chopped tomatoes with their juices, bundled fresh parsley stems and optional sliced mushrooms. Then add a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Add enough chicken stock or water to almost cover the chicken and vegetables.

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

Cover the skillet, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook on medium low heat about 30–40 minutes. The liquid should be simmering but not boiling in order to give a nice consistency of the vegetables and retain their shape. Turn the chicken over a few times gently as it cooks, to ensure even cooking, and add more water as needed. (Additional cooking time will depend on how cooked the chicken was initially, of course.)

Test the chicken to make sure it is cooked through by cutting a slit into one of the breasts. When the chicken is done, the juices should run clear. Just before the chicken is cooked through, you may want to uncover to boil off any excess liquid.

Italian chicken cacciatore
Chicken Cacciatore simmering on the stove top.

This dish is not quite a chicken stew,** and the “sauce” it yields will usually be a bit thin, because we have not added flour as a thickener.

Taste the sauce, and adjust salt and pepper before serving. Remove the parsley stems.

Place the chicken pieces on a large platter or on individual plates. Garnish with fresh parsley leaves.

The “sauce” can be served over the chicken and the dish eaten accompanied by bread, like a stew. But as I’ve noted above, I have to admit that here in America, my family breaks the “pasta first course and meat second course” rule and serves this chicken dish together with pasta. I think that this dish is a great way to introduce children to how delicious fresh vegetables can be. But only put grated Parmesan cheese on your pasta—not the chicken, please!

*Abbreviated Method

With this method, the chicken can be cooked on the stove top, with a large, deep skillet, or started on the stove top and finished in the oven with an oven-safe pot.

(Note: It is not  traditional Italian to cook onions and garlic without softening them first in olive oil, but when simmered in hot, salted liquid, onions and garlic will mellow and add a sweet flavor to the sauce.)

Put 1/4 cup olive oil, crushed garlic, sliced onions, sliced peppers, tomatoes and their juices, optional sliced mushrooms, and parsley stalks into your cooking pot of choice. Sprinkle with salt.

Place the chicken, washed, patted dry, and sprinkled with salt and pepper, on top of the vegetables.

Add enough water or stock to just cover the chicken and vegetables. (Omit the white wine in the ingredients list.)

Cook on stove top over high heat to bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, on the stove top or in the oven at 350° until done, about 40–60 minutes. Turn chicken and mix vegetables so all remain in liquid every 15 minutes or so while the chicken is cooking. Add more liquid as necessary. When the chicken is cut with a knife, the juices should be clear when the chicken is cooked through to the proper temperature.

Plate chicken and vegetables in their juices and serve with bread or pasta on the side, as given in the first method.

Italian Chicken Cacciatore
Chicken Cacciatore served with pasta and sauce from the pot.

**In a stew meat is cut up, sautéed, and braised, with flour as a thickener. In this recipe, we use a generous amount of healthy olive oil. If you want to decrease the amount of fat, the same methods can be followed with skinless, bone-in chicken, browned 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 Cacciatore

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

Sliced Italian pot roast

Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine for Sunday Dinner

Italian Pot Roast in  Barolo Wine for Sunday Dinner

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine

The most moist and flavorful pot roast is Italian—and easy to make! Try it for a special Sunday dinner.

Try Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine for YOUR Sunday Dinner! 

“Do Italians really make pot roast?” I am happy to share not only that Italians do make pot roast, but also that Italian-style pot roast is the most moist and flavorful pot roast I’ve ever tasted!

When I lived in San Francisco, I discovered the wonderful way that Northern Italians from the Lombardy region have with pot roast. They braise their pot roast slowly, under low heat for many hours, with a full-bodied northern Italian red wine called Barolo wine. With this method, the meat becomes melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicious. If you can’t find the Barolo wine that is typical of Northern Italy, Barbera wine or any hearty Italian red wine will do.

I’ve been making Italian pot roast in red wine for many years now, usually as a special treat for Sunday dinners with my family. The nice thing about the Italian red wine method is that the meat is even more flavorful if reheated; with this in mind, the dish is traditionally prepared the day before serving. Cook the meat until it is almost done, then reheat and finish in about an hour’s time for your special dinner the next day. And don’t worry—there is virtually no way to overcook pot roast with this method!

For the Italian pot roast recipe below, you will need a 3 lb. top round or rump round cut of beef. Ask your butcher to tie your meat with butcher’s twine, so the roast will stay intact as it cooks. Or, if you’d like to try to tie the meat yourself, click on the link to a master chef’s video from Le Cordon Bleu.

The recipe below also calls for “larding” the meat. This is an old method, whereby salt pork is inserted into tough cuts of meat to yield more tenderness and flavor. Nowadays, salt pork can be hard to find. And although larding is not absolutely necessary, I find that when I use a minimally processed bacon fat—no smoke, salt, or other flavorings added—this little bit of added fat does seem to help keep the roast moist during the long braising time. I have provided below a simple method for larding meat with kitchen utensils found in most homes. If you are interested in a special larding gadget and watching the larding process in real time, click on this video: Tescoma Presto Larding Needle.

Of course, you may add a vegetable side dish (contorno) to your pot roast meal. Northern Italy is the home of polenta, which would make a wonderful accompaniment. Small boiled potatoes and cut carrots are also nice to frame your roast when you present it on a serving dish.

And don’t throw away the vegetables that have been braising with the roast—those onions, carrots, and celery may have an unappealing brownish color, but they will also have developed a wonderful sweetness. Serve as a garnish to top the pot roast slices when they are plated. Ladle the finished slices with the warm pot roast juices and enjoy!  Kathryn Occhipinti


Italian Pot Roast in Barolo Wine 

Italian pot roast
Italian pot roast with potatoes and carrots

 

Ingredients
            for the Pot Roast:           

1 (3 lb.) top round of beef,  tied with butcher’s twine
6 strips natural, uncured, unsalted bacon
1 or 2 large cloves of garlic,
with the second clove sliced lengthwise into several thin slices
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole, dried clove
1 onion, chopped coarsely
3 carrots, sliced diagonally into thick slices
2 stalks of celery, sliced diagonally into thick slices
1 cup Barolo wine, Barbera wine, or any full-bodied Italian red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste

Ingredients
     for the Vegetable Garnish

1 lb. of small red or yellow potatoes
1 lb. of carrots, cut into serving pieces
Fresh parsley

 

Method

Prepare the meat and vegetables:

Prepare your top round or rump round meat by rinsing, patting dry, and then tying with butcher’s twine, if the butcher has not already done this for you.

Pot roast Italian style
Top round cut tied with butcher’s twine

Lard the meat by making holes lengthwise through the roast and then pushing a strip of fat from the bacon through each hole. One of my steel barbecue skewers cuts through the meat nicely and makes a hole about the right size. I use my fingers and, if necessary, my knife sharpener or the dowel of a wooden spoon to push the fat through. A special larding device, of course, does the job easily and quickly (see above for the link).

Rub the meat all over with the garlic. If you like, make additional small cuts with a paring knife and insert small slices of garlic into the meat.

Pot roast larded with garlic
The top round is turned on its end and larded. Small pieces of garlic have been inserted as well.

Cut up your vegetables, so all is ready to go before you start to cook.

Pot roast with vegetables
Top round tied, larded, and surrounded by chopped vegetables ready for the pot.

 

Cook your pot roast:

Heat the butter and oil together under low heat in a deep, heavy pan. Use an oven-proof pan or pot if you have one. (Or you can transfer to a pot suitable for the oven later.)

When the butter has melted, add the pot roast and brown the meat under medium heat, turning the meat with tongs so that each side browns nicely.

After the meat has browned completely, add the clove, onions, carrots, celery, and wine, with 1 cup of water.

If you are making this dish on the stovetop, cover and cook slowly under low to medium heat, so the liquid is kept at a simmer.

 -or-

If you have an oven-proof pan, I find it easier to transfer the pan to the oven and cook at 325°. If you do not have an oven-proof pan, you can move the pot roast from the pan into a pot, but be sure to scrape the bottom of the original pan with a wooden spoon so the liquid contains all of the good-tasting browned pieces from the bottom. Then pour the liquid over the pot roast.

The pot roast should cook gently for 3 hours. During that time, every 30 minutes or so, uncover briefly, turn the pot roast gently, and baste it in its juices.

After 3 hours, add the tomato paste diluted in 1/2 cup of water. You may need to add additional water to the pot if some has evaporated and the juices become too thick.

Continue cooking and braising as above for another 2 hours.

The cooking process can be stopped at this time. The meat should be tender enough to flake easily when tested with a fork along one of the corners. If not, continue to cook for an additional hour or so.

When the meat is done cooking, it is traditional to leave the meat in the pot with the juices and cooking vegetables until the next day, then reheat an additional 30 minutes to an hour or so before serving. (Refrigerate the pot roast until ready to cook for this final hour.)

While the pot roast is reheating, prepare your favorite vegetable to go with the meal. Polenta, small potatoes, and boiled or glazed cut carrots look nice surrounding the pot roast, but any favorite vegetable is fine.

Serve your pot roast:

Sliced Italian pot roast
Italian pot roast sliced and ready to serve

When you are ready to serve, take the pot roast out of its cooking pan and place it in the center of a platter. Remove the twine and cut into slices—before or after presenting at the table.

Strain the pan juices, and reserve the vegetables to place around the pot roast. They will look brown but should still have some shape and will taste very sweet.

Drizzle some of the pan juices over the pot roast and reserve the rest to serve in a gravy boat.

Surround your pot roast with prepared vegetables of your choice for the final presentation. Serve and enjoy!

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 Pot Roast in Barolo Wine

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.
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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
 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

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)

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!”

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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

Gnocchi with Brown Butter or Gorgonzola Sauce

Italian Sunday Dinner - Braciole and Pasta

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls in Sauce for Sunday Dinner

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls in Sauce for Sunday Dinner 

 

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

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls in Sauce 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. I’ve found that a little bit of breadcrumbs and prosciutto make for the most flavorful braciole. 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 “the less the better” 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 in Tomato Sauce Recipe

Southern 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 Beef Cutlets

Any thin, flat cut of beef stew meat can be used, such as top round. If you can, ask your butcher to cut the meat against the grain to make the thin cutlet slices, so that the meat will cook properly in the sauce and virtually melt in your mouth when it is done. At Caputo’s grocery stores 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 cutlets, about 1.5 pounds for four people.

 

 

 

Lay the cutlets of meat out on a cutting board. Trim them to approximately the same rectangular size. Tenderize and flatten slightly with a meat mallet.

 

 

 

Fill, Assemble, and Cook the Braciole –
For 4 Braciole, divide ingredients below evenly on each cutlet

4 hardboiled eggs, whole or halved (medium eggs work best)
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, stems removed, chopped coarsely
1 small onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
1/4 cup  Provolone cheese or Pecorino-Romano cheese, coarsely grated
1/2 cup breadcrumbs browned in olive oil with a finely chopped clove of garlic
(Progresso brand Italian breadcrumbs or make your own!)
4 slices of Prosciutto

Other additions/substitutions: caciocavallo cheese, pancetta, ham, salami, mushrooms

Braciole
Ready to roll the braciole

Place the egg and other ingredients desired onto the beef cutlet.  (If you cannot find  braciole slices  large enough  in your grocery, you can overlap two pieces and they will cook together nicely after they are tied up.)

Layer the ingredients as follows for each cutlet:
1/8 cup breadcrumb, 1/4 cup parsley,
onion and cheese, Prosciutto,  and egg

 

 

Roll up the braciole
Braciole rolled and tied

The braciole  cutlet is rolled over the egg, with ends tucked in as you roll, and then tied with butchers twine. The ends also can be sealed with toothpicks.  For more layers, roll along the short end; less layers, roll along the long end.

To see step-by-step pictures of the methods for rolling a braciola, 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 braciola in a little olive oil in a frying pan. Turn so they brown nicely on all sides.

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

 

 

 

Lower heat to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until cooked through.  Do not overcook, or the meat will become dry.

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

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  Recipe

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)