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Mini Cassata Siciliana (Mini Sicilian Cassata)

13 Apr cassata siciliana

This year I will celebrate Easter with cassata, a delicious, tempting and colorful cake. Cassata is a typical dessert of the Sicilian pastry, in particular of Palermo. In the past it was enjoyed exclusively to celebrate Easter after the long period of Lent: a well-deserved award! Today it is enjoyed throughout the year.

The preparation is not particularly difficult as far as the cake it is concerned, whereas the decoration can be sumptuous and baroque, requiring some ability. The version that I propose is quite easy, also good for less experienced cooks. The ingredients are simple: ricotta cheese, dark chocolate and candied fruit. All these ingredients are mixed with sugar and used as a filling between two discs of sponge cake covered with colored marzipan and decorated to taste.

This recipe, like other Sicilian ones, was influenced by the Arabic domination. The name, in fact, derives from the Arabic “Quas’at”, which means round bowl. In fact, the shape looks like a bowl. The mini cassata is an alternative to cassata, elegant to serve and tasty to eat. Happy Easter all my beloved readers! Buona Pasqua a tutti!

MINI SICILIAN CASSATA
Preparation time: 2 hrs                        Servings: 6 people

Cassatta fetta

INGREDIENTS
450 g (16 oz) sponge cake, sliced 1 cm (½ inch) thick and cut into 12 discs 8 cm (3 inch) diameter with a cookie cutter
600 g (21 oz) ricotta cheese
160 g (2 cups) powdered sugar
150 g (5 oz) dark chocolate, cut into small cubes
150 g (5 oz) candied fruit, cut into small cubes
28 g (1 oz) peeled pistachios, cut into pieces
White Marsala wine
450 g (16 oz) almond paste
Green food coloring
White icing
Candied fruits for decoration

DIRECTIONS
1. In a large bowl whisk sugar with ricotta. Add chocolate, candied fruits and pistachios
2. Line the base and the sides of 8 cm (3 inch) diameter and about 10 cm (4 inch) height bowl with parchment paper. This process will help remove the cassata from the bowl. Place a disc of sponge cake sprinkled with Marsala wine, pour in some of the filling (almost to the top) and cover with another disc of sponge cake sprinkled with Marsala. Cover the surface of the cake with some parchment paper and store in the fridge for about one and a half hours
3. Knead the almond paste on a working surface sprinkled with powdered sugar, mixing in the dye until you get the your favorite shade of Easter green. Roll out a disc of marzipan to cover the entire mini cassata, including the sides, to a thickness of 4-5 mm.
4. Take out from the the refrigerator, remove from the bowl and flip over onto a serving plate
5. Place almond paste on top to cover the entire surface. Decorate as desired. I decorated it very simply with some white icing and candied fruits. You can use your creativity to make it fancy.

Note: You can use this recipe to prepare just one cassata with a disc (25 cm, 10 inch) diameter. The amount of almond paste is 280 g (10 oz). Paola

 

 

 

 

 

Involtini di Prugne e Bacon (Prunes and Bacon Rolls)

6 Apr Prugne

This a fast and irresistible appetizer prepared with only two ingredients: prunes and bacon. Pitted prunes are wrapped with bacon and cooked in the oven until bacon becomes crispy and tasty. The combination of prunes and bacon is delicious: the sweet flavor of prunes mix well with the bacon’s salty taste. When the bacon fat melts during cooking, it lends a special touch of extra flavor to the prunes. When you start eating these appetizing bites, it is hard to stop…..uno tira l’altro!

INVOLTINI DI PRUGNE E BACON (PRUNE AND BACON ROLLS)
Preparation time: 10 min. Cooking time: 10 min Servings: 4

Involtini di prugne e bacon

INGREDIENTS
8 thin slices of bacon
8 pitted prunes
8 toothpicks

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 180 °C
2. Soak prunes for 8 min. in water. Remove and dry
3. Wrap each prune with a sheet of bacon (about 15 cm long and 2.5 cm wide ). Pierce a toothpick through center of prunes to hold bacon into place
4. Arrange the rolls on a baking sheet covered with a baking paper
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until bacon is crispy. Remove from oven and serve hot.

Note: You can substitute the prunes with almond-stuffed dates. -Paola

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insalata di Songino, Noci e Uva Sultanina (Songino, Nuts and Raisins Salad)

31 Mar Insalata songino

This colorful salad can be either a great side dish for a main course, although the addition of goat’s cheese makes this salad a perfect wholesome, standalone meal, too. I love it after exercising at the gym: it is light and nutritious. The color of nuts and raisins contrast with the bright green of the lettuce and add an exotic flavor to this dish. The dressing , sweet and spicy, is prepared with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and mustard. This mix of flavors goes very well with the taste of songino lettuce.

Songino also known as lamb’s lettuce, has a slight sweetish taste and numerous nutritional properties and health benefits. It is rich in vitamins (A, B and C ) and minerals (phosphorus , potassium, iron and magnesium). It also has diuretic and detox properties, so it is a great choice for cleaning out our bodies in preparation of the summer. Do not forget that nuts are very rich in vitamins (especially vitamin E), minerals and unsaturated fatty acids, therefore an healthy choice too!

INSALATA DI SONGINO, NOCI E UVA SULTANINA (SONGINO, NUTS AND RAISINS SALAD)
Preparation time : 10 min. Servings: 4

Insalata songino

INGREDIENTS
150 g (5.3 oz) lettuce salad
4 tablespoons walnuts
3 tablespoons raisins

Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by mixing oil, vinegar, honey , mustard and salt
2. Wash thoroughly and dry the lettuce . This type of salad retains dirt easily, so it must be washed several times. Set aside
3. In a large bowl toss the lettuce, walnuts and raisins (keeping aside a tablespoon of each of these ingredients for garnish) with the dressing. Serve immediately. You can garnish with goat cheese cut into small pieces.

Note: The type of nut is purely personal. I suggest pecans, typical American nuts. They have an intense and buttery flavor, they are my favorite. When you taste pecans, you’ll want to replace walnuts in your diet with them in the future, I guarantee! – Paola

 

 

Focaccia di Recco

23 Mar Stracchino

Focaccia di Recco is a delicious snack that can be enjoyed any time during the day. When we think about focaccia, we usually think about bread dough with yeast; instead the peculiarity of the focaccia di Recco is the lack of yeast! For this reason it is also good for people who are intolerant to this ingredient.

It takes its name from the town of Recco in the Ligurian Riviera di Levante. The dough is very simple, made ​with flour, extra virgin olive oil, salt and water. The filling is stracchino or crescenza, a soft cow’s-milk cheese with a mild and delicate flavor. The name stracchino comes from the Italian word “stracca” meaning tired. This refers to the fact that the milk from the tired cows coming down in autumn from the alpine pastures, is richer in fat and it has a characteristic taste. The delicious combination of this dough and stracchino makes this preparation unique, a special treat for both adults and children. My kids love it for a quick lunch after school or for an afternoon snack. You can also serve it as a tasty appetizer with a glass of prosecco.

The history of focaccia di Recco is ancient and dates back to the third crusade. It was an affordable food when only simple ingredients were available. At the end of the 1800s it was added to the menu of the various local trattorie (rustic restaurant) as a special dish for the Day of the the Dead, celebrated on November 1st. Today it is enjoyed all year round and not just in Liguria!

FOCACCIA DI RECCO
Preparation time: 150 min . Cooking time : 10 min. Servings : 6 people

Focaccia di Recco

INGREDIENTS
320 g (2 cups) Mannitoba flour
200 ml (1 scarse cup) water, room temperature
8 g (1 heapping teaspoon) salt
45 ml (3 tablespoons) olive oil (Extra virgin)
500 g (19 oz) stracchino or crescenza cheese

DIRECTIONS
1. In a medium bowl combine water and oil, then dissolve salt
2. Place the flour in a large bowl, add the liquid. Start mixing with a fork incorporating the flour little by little, then mix with a wooden spoon until you obtain a smooth dough. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead (about 10 min.) with your hands until the mixture is uniform and elastic. Wrap in plastic paper and let it rest for about two hours at room temperature
3. Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll out with a rolling pin on a floured work surface trying to keep it as round as possible and pretty thin, about 1.5 cm. Now the hard part comes: you’ll have to pull the dough with your hands (floured) until it is almost transparent. It is important not to have holes in the dough, otherwise the cheese will come out when it bakes
4. Preheat oven to 230 °C (450 °F)
5. Grease a round baking pan (30 cm, 12 inch diameter) with olive oil and place a sheet of dough on it, cover with the cheese cut into pieces (not too small). Cover with the other sheet, sealing the edges well with your hands and pinching the surface 5 or 6 times. Brush the top with olive oil
6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the surface is golden Serve hot. If there is any left which you can it heat it again in a hot oven for a few minutes. Paola

Gnocchi di Pane Raffermo (Stale Bread Dumplings)

12 Mar Pane raffermo

This is a quick and easy recipe for gnocchi made with stale bread!

These bread dumplings, also called Zanzarelli, are an ancient food. They began to appear in the Renaissance banquets in Lombardy as a delicacy and were prepared with bread crumbs, milk and chopped almonds. The recipe that I am proposing belongs to my family’s culinary traditions. I remember that I prepared these delicious dumplings with my grandmother at least once a week, especially on Friday (the gnocchi day). This dish is very tasty and can satisfy the palates of lovers of sweet-savory combinations and spicy food. The recipe includes stale bread, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg and grated Parmesan cheese. Once boiled, the dumplings are served with melted butter flavored with sage. The sage’s aroma gives a fragrant and delicate taste to this recipe. You can enjoy it as a first course or as main dish. These are an excellent alternative to the traditional potato dumplings (see post gnocchi di patate) and can also be an appetizing vegetarian dish containing, however, eggs.

GNOCCHI DI PANE (STALE BREAD DUMPLINGS)
Preparation time: 20 min. Cooking time: 1-2 min. Servings: 4

Gnocchi-di-pane

INGREDIENTS
180 g (6.5 oz) stale bread
150 g (5 oz) raisins
140 g (5 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
160 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Salt
Milk

Dressing
60 grams (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
3 sage leaves

 DIRECTIONS
1. In a large bowl soak the bread with milk. Let stand for about 15 min. until the bread is completely softened
2. Meanwhile in a small bowl, soak the raisins in lukewarm water for 5 minutes
3. Squeeze the bread with your hands to completely eliminate milk. In a large bowl combine bread, Parmesan, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, strained raisins, egg and flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough is smooth. The amount of flour should be adjusted after cooking a couple of dumplings as a test (See next point)
4. In a pot, bring plenty salted water to a boil. Drop in a small ball of dough (teaspoon-sized). Before cooking the entire amount of dough, I suggest you do a test with a couple of dumplings to see if the dough is set. The right dumpling should be firm but not hard and does not break into pieces in the water. If it breaks , you should add 1-2 tablespoons of flour and repeat the test.
5. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon as soon as it floats, about 1-2 min.
6. In a separate sauce pan melt the butter with sage, to give the flavor. Arrange gnocchi on a serving plate and toss with the flavored butter and grated Parmesan cheese.- Paola

Tortino con Patate e Scalogno (Potato and Shallot Pie)

3 Mar tortino patate e scalogno

An appetizing pie made ​​with potatoes, shallots and hard-boiled egg yolk to get a colorful, mimosa-like colorful effect. A different idea to celebrate Women’s Day on March 8th

This recipe is a simple, versatile and absolutely delicious one to enjoy either as an appetizer or as a main course accompanied by a fresh salad. The delicate but distinct flavor of shallots blends well with the starchy taste of potatoes. The addition of cream makes this pie velvety and inviting. The crumbled egg yolk is an additional decoration to create the mimosa effect and makes this pie perfect to celebrate Women’s social, economic ,and political achievements. This holiday was first celebrated in the United States in 1909 and arrived in Italy in 1922. The mimosa flower, with its intense and radiant color, was chosen as a symbol because it blooms in early March. The addition of boiled egg yolk is not essential and can be omitted, but this pie makes a savory version of the famous mimosa cake dessert.

TORTINO CON PATATE E SCALOGNO (POTATO AND SHALLOT PIE)
Preparation time: 45 min.  Cooking time: 20-25 min.   Servings: 8

Tortino con patate e scalogno

INGREDIENTS
800 g (28 oz) yellow potatoes, peeled
250 g (9 oz) shallots, finely sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)
250 ml (1 cup)fresh cream
2 teaspoons oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
230 g (8 oz) puff pastry , round shape
5 hard-boiled eggs

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 180 °C (350 °F)
1. Peel potatoes, put them in a pot and cover with cold water. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Cook for about 8-10 minutes ( the cooking time depends on the size of the potatoes) until the potatoes are cooked, but not soft. Remove from the water and allow to cool
2. While potatoes cool, in a saucepan over medium heat, sauté shallots in olive oil, stirring occasionally until it is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes
3. In a bowl combine shallots, ​​potatoes (thinly sliced) and cream. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper
4. Roll out the pastry into a ceramic pie plate (diameter 23 cm, 9 inch) , pour in the vegetable mix
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown
6. While the cake is cooking, prepare the hard-boiled eggs. Place the eggs in boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Cool. Remove the shell, cut in half, remove the yolk and crumble with your hands
7. Remove the pie from the oven. Allow it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Garnish with crumbled egg yolk and serve warm. – Paola

Tortelli di Carnevale (Carnival Fritters)

24 Feb Tortelli Carnevale

Let’s party! It is Carnival! Carnival, well-known in the USA for the Mardi Gras celebrations, is one of the most joyous holiday of the year. We cannot refrain from masked balls, parades and street parties. This festive event is also celebrated with special treats prepared only during this season, for example tortelli (or castagnole, bugie, zeppe… whatever you like to call them). There are a lot of names for the same delicious fritters, loved by children and adults. I remember my grandmother preparing tortelli as well as chiacchiere, another Carneval treat! This event was part of our annual Carnival celebration. Toertelli are typically of Lombardy (my region) and can be enjoyed plain or, if you want to make them even more delicious, with chocolate cream or custard. The dough is smooth but not liquid and, when dropped in hot oil, swells to form lovely little puffs.

TORTELLI DI CARNEVALE (CARNIVAL FRITTERS)
Preparation time : 20 min. Cooking time: 20 min. Servings: 30 tortelli

Frittelle di Carnevale

INGREDIENTS
250 ml ( about 1 cup) milk
60 g (2.15 oz) butter, cut into cubes
50 g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
1 lemon, grated zest
1 pinch of salt
160 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
7 g (½ teaspoon ) baking powder
4 eggs
Peanut Oil
Chocolate cream (like Nutella)
Cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS
1. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Set aside
2. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat after 1 minute
3. Add the flour and baking powder, stirring energetically until the mixture is compact. Put on heat (medium-low) and cook for about 2 minutes. The dough should be a compact ball
4. Pour it in a bowl and let cool
5. Add the eggs one at a time with an electric whisk until the batter is smooth but not liquid
6. In a pan heat the frying oil to 170°C-340°F. If you do not have a thermometer, use this simple method. Place a cube of bread in the oil (approximately 2.5 cm). If it turns brown after 60 seconds, the oil is ready for frying. Slide a spoonful of batter (size of walnut) in the oil with the aid of another spoon. Wait until it is puffy and golden brown, then turn it over. It will take 4-5 minutes to cook tortelli perfectly
7. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Allow to cool. Fill with chocolate cream using a patisserie syringe. Roll in granulated sugar and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Note: Frying is a dry heat cooking method …read more in the Chiacchiere post. Paola

Peperoni Grigliati (Grilled Peppers)

17 Feb Peperoni

An appetizing and tasty antipasto to serve with toasted bread or a side dish with meat.

When peppers are grilled, they taste completely different from raw ones and, in my opinion, are more appetizing and certainly more easily tolerated, since the indigestible substances that are contained in the peel are removed. This is an easy recipe and quick to prepare; you can prepare it a day in advance and then store it in the refrigerator. The dressing is made with parsley, anchovies and chilli peppers. All these ingredients enhance the smoky flavor of the peppers and make this dish a delicious antipasto (appetizer) that you can serve with fresh bread or baguette croutons.

Peppers are originally from South America, but nowadays they are used all over the world in many delicious recipes. They contain a lot of water (90%) and are, therefore, indicated in low-calorie diets. They also contain high amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene and are, consequently, very healthy .

There are several ways to grill peppers; I suggest this one which is, in my opinion, the most simple and effective method.

PEPERONI GRIGLIATI (GRILLED PEPPERS)
Preparation time: 40 min. Cooking time: 25 min. Servings: 4

Peperoni grigliati

INGREDIENTS
4 bell peppers of different colors
6 anchovy fillets in olive oil, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
2 teaspoons of parsley, chopped
1 small red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 250 °C (475 °F)
1. Wash and dry whole peppers. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 25 min. turning when the side in contact with the heat is charred. The cooking time may vary depending on the size. As soon all the skin is charred, remove from the oven
2. While the peppers are still hot, place each one in a plastic food bag (to facilitate removal of the skin) and wait for 15 minutes. After this time remove from the bag. The skin will come off very easily. Remove stalk using a sharp knife. Cut peppers in half and lengthwise into strips, removing seeds and white filaments. Cut peppers into strips
3.In a small bowl, combine the anchovies , garlic , parsley and chili pepper with oil. Put the peppers on a serving dish and sprinkle with the seasoning mixture. Allow to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour. Serve at room temperature .

Note: At the time of purchase make sure that the peppers are well attached to the stem; they should also be shiny, compact and with the skin taut. They keep fresh in the refrigerator for 5-6 days, or in oil and vinegar (refrigerated) for several weeks. Paola

Torta Gianduia con Ciliege (Gianduia Cake with Cherries)

10 Feb Torta Giunduia

Love and sweetness together? Yes it is possible with my gianduia cake prepared with chocolate and hazelnuts and then covered with a cherry topping. Chocolate is seductive and slightly mysterious; it has been called the food of the devil. Chocolate and love result in the same good feelings and sensations in the brain. Therefore, this delicious and tasty cake is perfect to serve as dessert for the most intimate dinner of the year, Valentine’s Day! Gianduia is a specialty of Piedmont, and it is made with ground hazelnuts and chocolate. The combination of these flavors makes an irresistible treat. I also recommend gianduiotti, the pralines made with the same mixture. The colorful and fruity addition of cherry topping gives a moist texture to this cake. You can certainly impress your partner on such a special day, an experience for all senses! Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my beloved readers.

TORTA GIANDUIA CON CILIEGE GIANDUIA CAKE WITH CHERRIES)
Preparation time: 1 h Cooking time: 50 min. Servings: 8

Torta Gianduia fetta

INGREDIENTS
Cake
260 g (1 ¼ cups) granulated sugar
3 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 g (5 oz) melted butter
140 g (1 ¼ cups) ground hazelnut
240 g (1 2/4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
15 g (3 teaspoons) baking powder
150 g (5 oz) dark chocolate (70%)
170 ml (¾ cup) buttermilk at room temperature
2 tablespoons rum
1 pinch salt

Topping
450 g (1 pound) canned, pitted cherries
1 lemon (juice)
6 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tablespoon potato starch
300 ml (1 ¼ cups) cherry juice

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 170°C (350°F)
2. Put the hazelnuts in a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside
3. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cacao powder, ground hazelnuts
4.Beat the eggs and the sugar with an electric whisk for at least 5 min. until pale and creamy. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined
5. In a double boiler melt chocolate. Cool for about 2 minutes stirring continously and slowly add buttermilk
6. Combine the egg mixture with the flour mixture, then add the chocolate mix and rum. Mix with an electric whisk until creamy
7. Generously butter a 25 cm (10 inch) spring-form cake pan. Sprinkle with flour to cover the entire surface, removing any excess flour
8. Bake for 40-45 min. or until done. Test by inserting a wooden toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it is done, it should come out dry
9. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 min. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack
10. In the meantime prepare the topping. In a saucepan dissolve sugar and potato starch into the cherry juice. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and the cherries. Over a medium low heat bring to boil. Cook for 4- 5 min. stirring slowly until thick. Let cool and spread over the cake. -Paola

 

Insalata con Avocado, Clementine e Pinoli (Avocado, Clementines and Pine Nuts Salad)

5 Feb Avocado e Lime

This colorful and nutritious salad is a real treat for the eyes and for the palate, something I usually prepare in winter when clementines are juicy and delicious in Italy. The addition of toasted pine nuts give a crunchy, sweet and nutty flavor to this fresh dish. The dressing is prepared with lime that adds a further note of freshness. This salad can be a great side dish for grilled meat (tagliata) while the addition of goat cheese makes this recipe a perfect dish for a light and nutritious lunch.

The avocado is a fruit that was not used in the past in our Mediterranean diet originally from Mexico, but nowadays it is getting more popular because it is tasty and is beneficial to one’s health and beauty. Hemingway called it ” food that has no rival among the fruits, the real fruit of paradise.” It is rich in vitamin A and E (which have high antioxidant properties ), minerals and fatty acids, and it provides a lot of energy. It is a “panacea” for health, and we should not forget that is also an aphrodisiac!

INSALATA CON AVOCADO, CLEMENTINE E PINOLI (AVOCADO, CLEMENTINES AND PINE NUTS SALAD)
Preparation time: 10 min.                   Servings: 4

Insalata Avocado

INGREDIENTS
8 cups mixed salad greens
½ red onion, thinly sliced
4 clementines
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 avocado, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil (extra-virgin)
Juice of one lime
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by mixing olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside
2. Wash and dry the salad. Set aside
3. In nonstick pan over low heat toast the pine nuts for 3-4 minutes. Set aside
4. Clean clementines, cut them into wedges
5. Clean the avocado, removing the skin and the central core. Cut it into small pieces and sprinkle with a few drops of lime juice to prevent darkening
6. In a large bowl, toss the salad with the dressing and garnish with avocado , clementines, onion and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

 Note: The success of this recipe depends greatly on the choice of ingredients, especially the avocado. It ‘s very important to use a ripe avocado. At the time of purchase I suggest you apply a gentle pressure with your fingers on the surface: if it does not yield, it is not yet ripe and you have to let it mature for a few days. If it is soft, but you do not see a groove in the pulp, it is perfectly ripe. Paola

Tortino con Bietole ed Acciughe (Swiss Chard and Anchovies Pie)

29 Jan Tortino Coste

This pie makes a colorful and a tasty starter or a delicious main dish. The crust is made ​​with brisee dough while the filling is prepared with Swiss chard, first boiled, then sautéed with anchovies and mixed with fresh ricotta cheese. This is a superb combination of flavors.

Swiss chard is native to southern Europe where it grows spontaneously. It belongs to the same family as beets and spinach; its bitterness fades when cooked, leaving a more delicate taste than spinach. Like all dark green vegetables, it contains large amounts of vitamin A, fiber and folic acid. It is a low-calorie vegetable and is therefore a perfect choice for a weight-loss diet, especially if eaten boiled and dressed with oil and lemon. Furthermore this tasty vegetable can be a nutritious addition to pasta (see pizzoccheri ) and soups!

 TORTINO CON BIETOLE ED ACCIUGHE (SWISS CHARD AND ANCHOVIES PIE)
Preparation time: 70 min.          Cooking time: 45 min.           Servings: 6

Tortino bietole fetta

INGREDIENTS
Brisee dough (see tortino al cavolo nero )
600 g (about 1 1/2 pounds) Swiss chard (leaves)
2 garlic cloves
3 anchovies “sott’olio” canned
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
130 g (heaping 3/4 cup)  ricotta cheese
Salt and fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Prepare brisee pie crust 
2. Wash Swiss chard, cut off the white stalk (you can use in other recipes see note) and blanch the leaves for 8-10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut into segments of about 1 cm (0.4 inch) long
3. In a large skillet over medium-low heat sautée garlic in the oil for 4-5 min., being careful not to burn it. Chop the anchovies, add to the oil and stir until they beging to “melt”. Add chard, season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for 10 minutes , stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let cool
4. In a bowl work ricotta cheese with a fork, add the vegetable mix and season with salt and pepper
5. Heat the oven to 170 °C (350 °F)
6. In a 25 cm (9 inch) round baking pan, roll out the dough to 2-3 mm thick, puncture the bottom with a fork, pour in the filling and bake for about 40-45 min. Serve warm.

Note: When you buy Swiss chard look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with non yellow or brown spots. You can enjoy the stalk as well. First boil them, then sautée in olive oil with garlic and pepper. Serve warm with grated Parmesan cheese. The cheese will melt and give a special taste to this dish. – Paola

Torta ai Semi di Papavero e Mele (Poppy Seeds and Apple Cake)

21 Jan Torta ai semi di Papavero

Have you ever tried a butter-less, gluten free cake? I ate this delicious cake for the first time in South Tyrol. I was immediately struck by the delicate taste, in addition to the absence of butter and wheat flour in the recipe. The butter is replaced by poppy seeds, and wheat flour by gluten -free almond flour, but rich in protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. The cake with poppy seeds and apples is a typical German dessert, but also enjoyed in Trentino Alto Adige, a region in the north of Italy that was part of Austria until the beginning of the last century. The recipe is simple and includes eggs, sugar, poppy seeds and grated apples. After slow cooking in the oven, the cake is decorated with marmalade and toasted almond slices on the side. In fact, the poppy seeds blend very well with the citrus flavor, a real treat!
Poppy seeds are used mainly in bakery and confectionery, but we should not confuse the seeds with seed pod and straw. The seeds contain very low levels of opiates. The seeds are really healthy because they are rich in linoleic acid, omega 6, vitamins (vitamin E ) and minerals. They are used to treat anxiety and stress and, in fact, have a mild sedative and calming effect. You can enjoy this inviting and elegant dessert after dinner or in the afternoon with a good cup of tea or coffee.

TORTA AI SEMI DI PAPAVERO E MELE (POPPY SEEDS AND APPLE CAKE)
Preparation time: 1 h        Cooking time: 50 min.            Servings: 8

Torta ai Semi di Papavero

INGREDIENTS
200 g (1 scarse cup) granulated sugar
6 whole eggs
200 g (1 ¼ cups) ground and toasted almond flour
3 grated apples
200 g (1 cup) poppy seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
50 ml (¼ cup) rum
350 g (about 1 cup) orange marmalade (puree)
120 g (1 cup) toasted almond flakes
1 slice of candied orange

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 160 ° C.
2. In a non-stick skillet over low heat toast the almond flour for 4-5 min., stirring with a wooden spoon. Allow to cool and set aside
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until mixture is fluffy. Add ingredients in the order according to the list above. Stir with a wooden spoon, and not with an electric whisk, to prevent overheating of the poppy seeds
4. Coat the bottom of the spring form pan (25 cm in diameter) with baking paper previously wet under running water and wrung out. Pour the batter into the pan
5. Bake for approx. 50-60 min.
6. In the mean time in a nonstick pan toast the almond flakes with a teaspoon of sugar. Cool and set aside
7. Allow the cake to cool on a rack. Remove from the pan, cover with orange marmalade and decorate the sides with the toasted almond flakes. At the center of the cake you can place a slice of candy orange peel to give a touch of color. Paola

Zuppa del Contadino (Farmer’s Soup)

14 Jan Zuppa del contadino

This is a dish that makes you rediscover the rural tradition and colors of the season! This soup is a great main dish, perfect for a cold, winter day. It ‘s simple but very nutritious, because it is made of legumes and vegetables. Legumes, in fact, are an excellent source of protein, fiber, minerals (calcium, potassium, iron) and B vitamins. In the past, legumes were considered the meat of poor people, and were commonly present on the peasants’ table. The recipe that I am proposing contains a mix of dried legumes such as beans, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, peas and beans. And to make this dish even more tasty, I prepare a soffritto with onion, garlic, celery and carrot. The preparation is very simple, but it requires a bit of time, because legumes have to be soaked in water before cooking. To save time you can use a pressure cooker, which reduces the preparation time without sacrificing taste. You can top this soup with croutons or grated parmesan cheese or, if you prefer, you can put a few drops of hot chili olive oil before serving.

FARMER’S SOUP
Preparation time: 5 hrs.    Cooking time: 40 min.      Servings: 6

Zuppa del contadino

INGREDIENTS
450 g (1 pound) mix of dried legumes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into slices
1 leg of celery, sliced
1 potato, cut into cubes
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. In a large bowl soak the legumes for about 4 hours with bay leaf. Drain and place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil, cook over medium heat for about 20 min. Drain, remove the bay leaf and set aside.
2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat saute onion, garlic, carrot , celery and potato in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add the legumes mix and cook over high heat for a few minutes, stirring with a spoon. Add the tomatoes and cover with plenty of water. Cook covered for about 20-25 minutes until all the legumes are tender (the exact cooking time should be indicated on the package). Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Note: When cooking legumes, it is important to add salt only at the end, because the addition of salt at the beginning will make the legumes less tender. It is also important when cooking to maintain a constant temperature. Paola

Crespelle con Zucchine e Crescenza (Crepes with Zucchini and Crescenza Cheese

8 Jan Crespelle con zucchine intere

Crepes with zucchini is a delicious and appetizing dish that you can serve either as a first course for an important dinner or as a main dish for a light lunch. Crescenza is a soft, fresh, creamy cow cheese that has a delicate and mild taste. It gives a delicious flavor to this recipe. If you cannot find crescenza cheese, I would recommend to use either Brie or Camembert cheese without the rind. First crepes are filled with the zucchini stuffing, baked in the oven with some bechamel sauce and then covered with tomato sauce.  Crepes are typical of French cuisine, but not only. In fact, in the province of Teramo (Abruzzo) they are commonly prepared and are called “scripelle”. They are used in various recipes such as pies or stuffed with Pecorino d’Abruzzo cheese, rolled and poured into chicken broth (called “scripelle’ imbusse ). In Salento, however, they are cooked longer. Therefore, they are more crisp and are eaten like a snack. I prepare crepes with a variety of fillings such as spinach and ricotta cheese, mushrooms, asparagus, ham and cheese. My kids love them as a dessert filled with Nutella, a special treat for children (and adults, too!).

CRESPELLE CON ZUCCHINE E CRESCENZA (CREPES WITH ZUCCHINI AND CRESCENZA CHEESE)
Preparation time: 1 h   Cooking time: 20 min.  Servings: 4
Crespelle con zucchine e crescenza

INGREDIENTS
120 g  (¾ cup) flour
240 ml (1 cup) milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
6 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
200 g (about 1 cup) crescenza cheese
120 g  (¾ cup) ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper
250 g (about 1 cup) bechamel sauce
6 tablespoons of tomato sauce

DIRECTIONS
Crepes
1. In a bowl combine flour with a pinch of salt. Add milk with a whisk until butter is uniformly smooth. In a small bowl, beat eggs with a pinch of pepper. Combine the milk mixture with eggs. The batter should be runny, if it is thick add a few tablespoons of milk. Add melted butter, whisking vigorously, cover with cling film and leave to rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator .
Grease with butter the bottom of a non-stick 18 cm (7 inch) pan over medium heat and pour a ladle of batter in the center, maneuvering the pan to distribute the batter over the entire surface. Cook for about a minute. When the crepe comes off easily from the pan and is golden brown, turn it with a spatula and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Keep the crepes under a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.

Heat oven to 180 °C (350 °F)

Filling
1. Wash zucchini, remove ends and cut into cubes. In a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat sauté the garlic in olive oil, being careful not to burn it. Remove garlic and add zucchini. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. In a bowl mix crescenza and ricotta until the mixture is creamy. Add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Stir and add  zucchini
2. Fill half crepe with stuffing and close like a book. Complete this procedure until you have used all the filling. If you have some crepes left,  wrap with cling film and freeze. Place the crepes on the bottom of a buttered baking pan. Cover with some bechamel sauce and bake for 10 min. Meanwhile heat the tomato sauce with a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. Remove the crepes from the oven, add 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce on each one, bake for additional 5 min. Remove from oven, let stand 1-2 minutes and serve with some grated Parmesan cheese on top. – Paola

Cotechino in Crosta con Lenticchie (Cotechino in Puff Pastry with Lentils)

31 Dec Cotechino con lenticchie

Happy New Year all my beloved readers. Buon Anno! Tonight I am going to serve cotechino in crostra with lenticchie. Cotechino (the Italian fresh pork sausage) in puff pastry is a tasty and appetizing idea to enjoy the traditional cotechino and lentils during the Christmas holidays, and particularly at New Year’s Eve. According to the tradition, it seems that this dish is a good omen for the new year, lentils are, in fact, symbol of abundance and fortune.

The preparation is simple, but requires a little patience. First cotechino is cooked in water, then covered with a delicious lentil puree, wrapped in a sheet of puff pastry and baked in the oven. The result is a crunchy topping with a tasty filling, full of flavor. The pork sausage with lentils is a simple dish that dates back to the farmers’ tradition. Cotechino owes its name to the pork rind and is prepared by filling the gut with pork rind, meat, fat, all flavored with salt and spices. It is a type of sausage that is eaten cooked. It originated from Modena, but nowadays it is spread all over the country with some variations in spices. It is commonly sliced thick and laid on a bed of lentils.  You can also enjoy it with mushed potatoes,  sautéed spinach or polenta.

COTECHINO IN CROSTA CON LENTICCHIE (COTECHINO IN PUFF PASTRY AND LENTILS)
Preparation time: 60 min . Cooking time: 45 min. Servings: 4

Cotechino fetta
INGREDIENTS
500 g  (about 1 pound) fresh or pre-cooked cotechino
Aluminum foil
1 roll puff pastry (240 g, about 8 oz)Cooked lentils (see Lentil Stew)

DIECTIONS
1 . The cooking time of fresh cotechino is longer than pre-cooked.For fresh cotechino. Pierce the sausage skin with a toothpick in a few places, wrap with aluminum foil making sure it is well sealed. Place in a large pot, cover with cold water. Bring to boil over medium heat, reduce to medium-low, cover and simmer for about an hour. After this time, change the water  completely (replacing it with hot water so the sausage will be less salty) and continue cooking for about an hour and half. Remove from water and aluminum foil. Allow to cool
For pre-cooked cotechino, dip the foil package in plenty of cold water and cook according to the cooking time, usually 20-25 minutes
2 . For lentils see post Lentil Stew
3 . Preheat oven to 180 ° C
4 . Take 2 tablespoons of lentils and reduce in puree by blending in a mixer. Cover the sausage with lentil puree all around (top layer about 7-8 mm). Transfer the sausage on the puff pastry, cut in the shape of a rectangle. Close cropping the edges of excess dough. It is important to seal well. Bake on a baking sheet covered with some baking paper for about 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Wait 5 minutes, cut into thick slices and serve with the lentils. -Paola

Lenticchie in Umido (Lentil Stew)

30 Dec Lenticchie

This lentil stew is a tasty and comforting recipe that was always present on our dinner table on New Year’s Eve. Lentils are usually served on New Year’s Eve as they are thought to bring good luck and money, regardless if they do, they are delicious. Traditionally my mom made this recipe with bacon. Instead, I omit bacon, therefore it is a perfect vegetarian dish. Nutty and earthy flavor, lentils have nutritional value (see Insalata di Lenticchie). You can serve this dish with cotechino, the Italian sausage, that is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve too.

LENTICCHIE IN UMIDO (LENTIL STEW)
Preparation time: 30 min. Cooking time: 20 min.  Servings: 4

Lenticchie in umido

INGREDIENTS
310 g (11 oz) lentils
1 onion, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stem, finely sliced
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
120 ml (1/2 cup) white wine
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
Vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Make “soffritto”. In a saucepan on medium-low heat sautee onion, garlic, carrot and celery in olive oil for a few minutes. Rinse lentils under running water. Add lentils to the “soffritto” and cook on high heat for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add wine and let it evaporate. Add tomato sauce, bay leaves and cover with plenty of broth
2. Cover with a lid and cook for about 18-20 minutes until lentils are tender  (the exact cooking time will be indicated on the package ). Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. -Paola

Pandoro con Crema di Limoncello (Pandoro with Limoncello Cream)

22 Dec Pandoro

This year Passion and Cooking will celebrate Christmas with Pandoro, the “golden cake”! Pandoro and panettone are the most popular sweets during the winter holidays. While panettone is a native of Milan, pandoro is from Verona. It is traditionally shaped like a frustum with an 8 pointed-star section and is served dusted with powdered sugar (my kids like to be the ones to put on the sugar). The dough is very soft and the taste is delicate and refined. Pandoro can be traced back to the 18th century to the rich Venetian aristocracy. Although some people recognize the similarity with the French brioche or with the ” Pan di Vienna”, pandoro seems to have been first produced on October 14, 1894, when Mr. Melegatti obtained the patent for a procedure to be applied in producing pandoro industrially. From this moment on, and considering the similarity with the Nadalin (a typical sweet from Verona), Verona is now universally recognized as the home of the original pandoro.The preparation technique is quite complex, so I suggest buying a good pandoro and enjoying it with a delicious homemade cream. I love the combination of citrus and soft sweets such as panettone and pandoro, so I propose this fresh and aromatic Limoncello cream, made with the legendary Limoncello of Sorrento, milk, cream, sugar and mascarpone cheese, the king of cream cheese!  In a few minutes you will have a delicious and rich cream to garnish your slice of pandoro. A helpful tip is to gently heat the cake for about 15-20 min. (for example on a steam radiator) and to sprinkle with powdered sugar to get the snow effect before serving. Wishing you all a delicious Christmas!

PANDORO WITH CREAM LIMONCELLO
Preparation time: 10 minutes            Servings:  10

Pandoro con crema

INGREDIENTS
500 g  (about 1 pound) fresh mascarpone
80 ml (1/3 cup) Limoncello liquor
40 ml  (1/8 cup + 2 tsp) milk
40 ml fresh  (1/8 cup + 2 tsp) cream
50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

DIRECTIONS
1. In a medium saucepan heat milk, cream and sugar for 1-2 minutes until sugar dissolves. Cool completely, add Limocello and lemon zest. Set aside the Limoncello cream .

2. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer whip the mascarpone, incorporate approximately 100-120 ml of Limoncello cream, adding one spoon at the times. Whisk for a few seconds until the mixture is creamy. -Paola

Besciamella Light (Light Bechamel Sauce)

16 Dec Besciamella

Bechamel sauce, the queen of white sauces, is typical of the Italian and French cuisine. It was, in fact, the French Marquis Louis de Bechamel who began to use it in his recipes in the seventeenth century. According to other sources the sauce was created in Tuscany and was later introduced by Catherine de Medici in France. Whatever its origin, it is one of the most versatile and tasty sauces of our cuisine. It is used for the preparation of lasagne, cannelloni, crepes, pies and baked vegetables. The traditional recipe calls for the preparation of the known white roux with butter and flour, to which milk will be added  and then cooked to the desired consistency. My recipe uses small amounts of butter, thus making the sauce lighter and easier on the stomach. The flour is added directly to the milk with a whisk, and at the end of cooking the butter has melted into the mixture. This procedure allows the preparation of a delicate bechamel and reduces the formation of lumps which instead, with the traditional method is easier to obtain.

BESCIAMELLA LIGHT (LIGHT BECHAMEL SAUCE)
Preparation time: 15 minutes                                  Servings: 4
Besciamella

INGREDIENTS
1 l milk (approx. 4 cups)
100 g (⅔ cup) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of salt
30 g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. In a medium saucepan mix the milk and the flour well with a whisk until smooth. This will prevent any lumps from forming. Add the salt
2. Cook 3-4 minutes (medium-high heat) stirring constantly
3. Lower the heat as soon as the mixture reaches a slow boil and then continue to cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly to the right thickness (smooth and creamy). Stir constantly to ensure that it doesn’t stick or burn
4. Add butter and stir until melted. Let it cool and then you for your favorite recipe. -Paola

Fettuccine al Pesto “Ricco”(Fettuccine with “Rich” Pesto)

8 Dec Fettuccine al pesto ricco

Fettuccine with “rich” pesto (also called ” avvantaggiato”, or advantaged) is the ancient version of pasta with pesto that is commonly enjoyed in Liguria today. This recipe is made ​​with potatoes, green beans and pesto. The addition of potatoes and green beans makes this dish truly appetizing, a real delight for those who love vegetarian dishes, including myself! The trick lies in the choice of fresh vegetables and homemade pesto (see lasagne al pesto); this naturally enhances the flavor and aroma of this meal. The pasta that I usually use is artisanal pasta, made ​​with organic flour. I bought the one I used for this recipe in Tuscany during my summer vacation. The color and the taste is a little bit different (more rustic) from mass-produced pasta. The preparation of this recipe is simple, but requires some skill to cook the vegetables. The original recipe for rich pesto calls for cooking the vegetables with the pasta, but the cooking times are different, and therefore to facilitate the preparation, I recommend cooking them separately. You can cut the green beans into larger or smaller pieces, depending on your taste. Fettucine can be substituted with linguine, both of which complement the pesto very well. This dish is certainly a delicious primo piatto (first course) for a cozy dinner or piatto unico (main course) for lunch.

FETTUCCINE AL PESTO “RICCO”(FETTUCCINE WITH “RICH” PESTO)
Preparation time: 25 min.     Cooking time: 6 min.          Servings: 4 Fettuccine al Pesto Ricco INGREDIENTS

340 g (12 oz) fettuccine
2 medium potatoes 150 g (5 oz) fresh green beans
2 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
4 tablespoons pesto
Salt pepper
Grated pecorino cheese

DIRECTIONS
1. Clean the beans by breaking off the ends and rinsing under running water. Boil in water or steam (even better). Drain when they are still crunchy. Keep warm
2. Wash the potatoes and cook in salted water or steam until they are tender. Allow to cool, peel, dice into 1.5 cm (1/2 in.) cubes. Keep warm
3. In a saucepan, bring 3 liters of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package. Strain and pour into a serving dish, season with olive oil, potatoes and green beans. Garnish with pesto and add some freshly-ground pepper to taste. You can also top with parmesan or pecorino cheese! – Paola

Torta di Zucca (Pumpkin Pie)

27 Nov Torta di Zucca

Pumpkin pie, or torta di zucca, is a typical American dessert, often prepared to celebrate Thanksgiving. When I first ate it in the US, I thought how I might add a bit of Italy to this recipe. The recipe I propose is my creation, with some additional, typically Italian ingredients in the filling, such as amaretti and amaretto di Saronno liquor, while the crust is prepared with pasta brisee instead of American pie dough. The taste of amaretti goes very well with that of the pumpkin making this dessert doubly delicious (I also use this combination of ingredients with pasta, in the pasta con zucca e amaretti recipe. Pumpkin pie is traditionally served with sweetened whipped cream, but I personally prefer to eat it plain, to fully enjoy the pumpkin’s distinctive flavor. Every time I serve it, it’s really a big success, something a bit different to savor.

TORTA DI ZUCCA (PUMPKIN PIE)
Preparation time: 1h+15min.      Cooking time: 45 min.      Servings: 8
Torta-di-Zucca

INGREDIENTS
Pasta Briseè (Briseè crust)
250 g  (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
120 g (¼ cup) chilled butter
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
60 ml cold water

Filling
450 g (1 heaping cup) mushed pumpkin
250 ml (1 heaping cup) fresh cream
50 g (¼ cup) brown sugar
100 g (½ cup) white sugar
10 amaretti cookies, finely crushed
100 ml  (½ cup) Amaretto di Saronno liquor
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8  teaspoon cloves
2 slightly beaten eggs

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 190°C (425°F)
1. Pasta brisee (brisee crust). In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time.  Add the egg yolk until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
2. Filling. To cook pumpkin see risotto di zucca. In a large bowl mix until well blended pumpkin, cream, brown sugar, white sugar, amaretti cookies, Amaretto liqueur, spices and eggs
3. Once the dough has rested, flatten it out on a lightly floured board, then transfer to a 25 cm (9 in) ceramic or glass pie or tart baking dish.  Gently pat the pastry dough in the pan to 4 mm (less than ¼ in) thickness, to line the bottom and sides.  The edge should have a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 5 mm. Prick the pastry bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times is sufficient)
4. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Bake for 15 min. at 190°C (425°F), then reduce the temperature to 170°C (350°F), bake about 30-35 min. longer until an inserted knife comes out clean
5. Cool on a racket and serve with sweetened whipped cream .  -Paola

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