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Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino





Updated: 2018-04-21T11:44:04.408+02:00

 



Northern Italian Recipes

2018-03-18T12:46:13.447+01:00

The Alps, Apennines and Dolomites –– to mention a few Italian mountain ranges –– where the temperatures are cold year round, are the home of extraordinary cuisine.


Italian mountains have strong cultural identity. Traditions and economy are based on farming, cheese making, and woodworking. Tourism began growing in the early 20th century and expanded after World War II to become the dominant industry. But in montagna, sumptuous traditional cooking can be just as important as ski slopes.


While olive oil is a staple throughout Italy, butter takes on greater importance in the mountain uplands. Local cuisine has Hapsburg and French influences. Climate, politics and geography all contribute to a lesser-known but rich array of food. Here are just a few Alpine specialties.

Continue Reading → Go North, food lover as appeared in The American Magazine


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Meatballs and more

2018-02-14T17:00:00.326+01:00

You may have caught on to my meatball obsession. Beyond consuming ridiculous amounts of cheese, the lure of leftovers reused to make polpette is, culinarily speaking, what defines me. Eating meatballs hurls me back into childhood bliss, they are my Proustian madeleines.Small morsels bound together by a little starch and an egg go such a long way. Polpette are fun and easy to make, and equally fun and easy to eat.Rolled in breadcrumbs and fried, baked, steamed, drowned in sauce––whatever the cooking method, polpette are sensational fridge-cleaners. In my family we eat meatballs at least once a week.When I was living in Naples 18 years ago, my boyfriend at the time would have me over at his family's house for lunch quite often. The highlight of the week was on Tuesdays, the day his Nonna made meatballs. Her fried polpette will go down in history as some of the best I've ever eaten.I can't feel like I'm truly in Venice until I bite into the meatballs served as cicchetti at Ca' d'Oro alla Vedova, a legendary bacaro in the Cannaregio neighborhood. The suspicion of minced garlic, the soft chewy interior revealed under the crisp, breaded crust is enough to make my mouth water at the thought...In Rome, when not making my own, I embark in impossible-to-find parking in Borgo Pio just for the lemon veal polpettine served at Romolo alla Mole Adriana.We're carnivores, so the meatballs I make at home use leftover bollito, or ground veal, some are made with fish even. Those who love beef tartare or carne cruda all'albese are served their raw chopped meat in the shape of a patty and variably dressed with taggiasca olives, capers, minced onion, mustard and so on.Meatball madness doesn't stop at meat however, infact vegetarian polpette are just as popular in my household. Think winter broccoli croquettes, or a personal favorite, polpette di melanzane, eggplant vegetarian meatballs: a recipe published 8 years ago that's still one of my most popular posts to date.In South Tyrol I learned how to make Knödel, the Alpine version of matzah balls, which––if you think about it––are "meatballs" made with bread. Similar bread-recycling is found in a typical Abruzzo peasant recipe called Pallotte cacio e ove, where instead of costly meat, bread and grated pecorino are bound together with beaten eggs. These are then braised slowly in a rich tomato sauce and served piping hot along with a glass (or five) of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wine.In the realm of bite-sized fried balls, I cannot forego mentioning the universe of arancini and supplì made with rice, or baccalà and potato croquettes and the famed olive ascolane, stuffed olives from Ascoli!But polpette don't have to be exclusively savory.Sweet dessert polpette are a sinful treat. One of my favorite ways of repurposing leftover panettone is shredding the crumb, wetting it with some milk and squeezing out the excess moisture before mixing the "dough" with an egg. I shape small bite-sized balls and place them on a greased cookie sheet. In the hot oven they go briefly to develop a golden crust, so no more than 5-7 minutes at 350°F. And it's suddenly Christmas all over again.[...]



If I had a restaurant...

2018-02-05T17:00:11.572+01:00

This is what it would be like.

My latest contribution to The American Magazine is a glimpse into a fantasy world in which I am the cook and owner of a small neighborhood restaurant in Rome.

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illustration by Suzanne Dunaway

My heavy blue canvas apron has a white torchon tucked at my waist, it is wet. I have just finished cleaning the kitchen after dinner service, and my bones ache a little. The metal surfaces shine and the air is redolent of duck ragout and brown butter.

When it rains in Rome, people come into the restaurant mainly seeking shelter. Aficionados growl at these walk-ins who unknowingly steal their customary tables. Take Signor Roberto, for example. He comes in, like clockwork, every evening at 7:30 p.m...

Continue Reading → Notes from da Lola as appeared on The American Magazine in Italia
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Dad's favorite dishes

2017-12-07T11:20:12.713+01:00

I need to write. Writing is my preferred form of therapy. My father has flown away, and I still can't believe it's true.I'm grieving and I have no idea how to do it. My emotions overlap and my heart aches. I can't make any sense of what's happening. FYI You're in the wrong place if you're expecting to read a cheerful post.What follows is a moment of intimate reflection, of deep therapeutic writing that I'm putting out there in the universe (secretly, I'm hoping Dad will read it and smile, from wherever he is right now).Although we did have time for our goodbyes, for whispered I love yous, and no remorse of anything left unsaid, there are so many other moments that I would have wanted to share with you, Dad.I would have wanted to see the look on your face when reading the dedication of my first book to you.Your reaction to the wink in the camera I gave as I joked about eating blue cheese (which you hated) on the gorgonzola segment of my show.I would have loved E. to hang out with you more, and finally play that golf match you two have been talking about for years.I so wanted to take you to the Navy museum in Anguillara on lake Bracciano, you would have loved it!I wanted one more walk on the beach together. One more granita di caffè at Tazza D'Oro. One more impromptu softball game in Santo Stefano di Sessanio together. One more.Just like this blog started eight years ago as a journal of thoughts followed by recipes, today I'm honoring the memory and the greatness of my Dad by assembling an ideal menu made up of all the dishes he loved, the majority of which were Italian––or so I like to think. I'm going to cook them all for him.So here goes, Dad, I hope you enjoy it.AntipastoProsciutto e Melone – Dad, you loved this classic Italian hors d'oeuvre. If prosciutto was unavailable, you'd sprinkle salt on your cantaloupe. This created the same perfect umami contrast. You often told a story of your Navy days in the Philippines. One of these memories was of you and a fellow officer riding on a boat to a local's house. It was a sweltering hot day. In the distance you saw the woman whose house you were headed to standing on the jetty, holding a jug of what looked like pulpy orange juice. You hated pulpy orange juice more than you hated blue cheese. A mix of disgust and fear of being impolite when declining to drink the beverage washed over you. Imagine your surprise when you soon realized the contents of the jug was crushed cantaloupe melon! You said you didn't let anyone else have much of it. Eating melon will never be the same for me. I will always smile and think of you with every bite.Primo piattoAnything al Pesto – You had this thing with pesto sauce. When you'd come visit us in Rome, this was always your first pasta choice. I remember this one time you came to visit when E. was 2 and for the welcome dinner I made gnocchi al pesto for you, a classic go-to and, modestly, a personal showpiece. Well, that night the gnocchi turned out to be a disaster: a collapsed, sticky mass sunken at the bottom of the pot. I fished it out and attempted dressing it with my homemade pesto sauce, which somehow had oxidized and looked dark gray instead of bright green. You ate a full helping of it and feigned appreciation, but I could sense the effort each time you swallowed a bite. Maybe you would have rather eaten my pesto lasagna. Damn, I wish I had baked that for you instead.Secondo piattoScaloppine al limone – I think these were your favorite over saltimbocca alla romana. Whichever veal cutlet recipe it was, the competition was close. I remember how you savored each bite, carefully cutting small portions with your knife and fork, eating them slowly in order to make the joy last.Remember that great Christmas we all celebrated together in Rome, when Amy and the Anderson gang came over, and we celebrated Christmas Day all together ice skating and then dining in my small apartment? Well, the day you arrived from the airport we went out to eat at La Scala. I[...]



House-hunting in Rome? Follow your palate

2017-11-22T17:00:53.876+01:00

The Eternal City is spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing neighborhoods where romantic attics, flats, condos and apartments are in close proximity to fine eateries and food shops in town. Here are some of the best food-centric Rome neighborhoods to live in, based on favorite foods.Centro Storico – Family-owned "botteghe"The historic center of Rome is a gorgeous tangle of alleys, busy squares, Baroque cathedrals and Renaissance palaces. The romantic, ivy-draped sidewalks are full of small family-owned shops, cafes, restaurants and stylish bars, market traders and historic food shops. Above these, locals dwell in small to mid-size apartments. This part of Rome is a food lover’s dream destination. In this cobblestone-paved corner of the ancient city, Romans rely on quality shops that have been in business for generations. If your favorite Italian specialties include bread products like pizza al taglio, rustic loaves of Lariano bread, artisan gelato, and sweet holiday treats like chocolate, panettone, sfogliatelle and cannoli, be sure to peruse real estate located in the surroundings of Campo de’ Fiori, the small alleys around Piazza Navona, via dei Coronari, and the gorgeous (yet pricey) Pantheon area.Jewish Quarter – Tradition!The Jewish presence in Rome dates back to the second century BC. As the oldest Jewish community in Europe, this gorgeous neighborhood locally known as “the Ghetto” was established in a flood- and disease-prone 4-block area near the Tiber River. Its borders and discriminatory laws regarding what professions Jews could and could not carry out were defined in a Papal Bull issued by Pope Paul IV in 1555. Though the neighborhood now holds some of the highest property prices in Rome, the original Jewish Ghetto was walled-in, crowded, enforced a curfew, and life was quite grim until the Ghetto was demolished and the ancient perimeter walls were torn down in 1888. Over the years the rebuilt area has grown into a beautiful neighborhood filled with great restaurants, churches, and synagogues and where a strong sense of community is still palpable.Lovers of Roman-Judaic specialties such as carciofi alla giudìa (Jewish-style fried artichokes), unique pizza ebraica pastries, plus classic dishes such as concia (marinated zucchini) and aliciotti e indivia (a baked casserole of grilled anchovies layered with curly endive), should be house-hunting in the area surrounding the ancient via del Portico d’Ottavia, piazza Beatrice Cenci, piazza Mattei, via Arenula and via Santa Maria del Pianto.Testaccio – Quinto Quarto at the MercatoThe Testaccio neighborhood is a working-class area of Rome that's wildly popular with locals who value traditional cucina romana and the Fifth Quarter (nose to tail) as much as they love the AS Roma soccer team. That alone should be enough of an invite to seek lodging here. But it's the area's small-town charm and laid back vibe that makes it feel like home. The neighborhood's pulsating heart is the Testaccio market, which is first and foremost a meeting place where neighbors catch up on daily news, sports results and gossip, and where the actual food shopping and transactions happen later. Testaccio is the place where locals source some of the freshest meat and seafood, and where they pick up trendy street food and fresh pantry basics. A good place to start looking for a flat in Testaccio is the grid streets and avenues surrounding the ex-slaughterhouse – now a reclaimed exhibition space housing art exhibitions and cultural events – and the Monte dei Cocci, an artificial hill made of ancient Roman amphorae clay shards.Parioli – Michelin stars, museums and merchantsConservative and 'old money' family-oriented Parioli is stately, elegant and safe. In fact, many governments have set up their embassies here. This obviously comes at a cost: homes in Parioli are bigger and are rented at higher prices. Quiet, refined, elegant and exclusive Parioli[...]



Pantaleo: food, wine, mixology in Rome

2017-09-29T13:23:10.156+02:00

I missed the grand opening but I'm headed there this weekend.The brand new cocktail bar-restaurant in Rome is called Pantaleo and by the looks of the photos I've seen on social media it's a definite must.Located in a small square half way between Campo de' Fiori and Piazza Navona, Pantaleo is open all day long, until 2 am.Divided on three levels, Pantaleo welcomes guests on the ground floor with the large bar and kitchen counters in plain view and a large social table in the middle of the room. The more lounge area with large velvet armchairs is located on the mezzanine. Downstairs is a glamorous party room fitted with a circular bar for more formal evenings.The kitchen has three different menus: a raw menu featuring tartares and ceviches made with a selection of fine quality products; a hot menu with soups, meats and fish that are perfect for the colder months; and an exotic cuisine menu with aromas and flavors borrowed from the Mediterranean tradition, as well as from the cookery of Europe and Asia. I'm dying to try the scampi tartare with Septenber figs, as well as the mullet served with onions on a lime and cashew nut powder. The red and black Ceviche with goji mayo and tomato sounds equally tantalizing. From the raw seafood menu my curiosity was piqued by the Mazara prawns served with beet hummus, burrata and citron.  The symbols of the restaurant are connected to the history of Saint Pantaleo after which the place is named. He was a doctor who was prosecuted under the emperor Domitian for believing in alchemy. On one of the walls of the ground floor bar room, the Saint is portrayed in a mural by artist Leonardo Spina. The features belong to Count Negroni, turn of the century viveur and creator of the famous cocktail. Also portrayed are the symbols connected to the passion and true soul of Pantaleo: the ancient alchemy symbol of lead, which recalls the elegant mixology department coordinated by Paolo Sanna; the Icosahedron which was one of the 5 Platonic Solids, regarded as a carrier of perfection and universal harmony, and the symbol of cold fire that represents the culinary offer played on complex and hot dishes, opposite cold, raw preparations.The bar features an entire section on Martinis. The three-sip cocktail dear to James Bond is my favorite, so I know I will break my diet and have at least one Dirty Pantaleo, made with brined capers instead of olives.Did I mention they serve oysters?Pantaleo - Food Wine MixologyPiazza San Pantaleo 4Tel. +39 06 93572514www.pantaleoroma.itPhotos courtesy of Pantaleo[...]



School meals in Italy

2017-09-11T17:33:03.987+02:00

One out of three Italian children under 12 years is overweight. While these rates are far behind those of the United States and the UK, Italy is working hard to reverse the trend.

Back to school season in Italy also means celebrating the "Mediterranean diet" in the school cafeteria.


Here's how Italians have joined the global fight against the rise of child obesity.

Continue Reading → School lunches in Italy: setting a healthy pattern for adult life as appeared on Gambero Rosso.(image)



Casatiello

2017-09-04T18:00:06.809+02:00

I'm long overdue sharing this recipe. I have been enjoying casatiello for many years, but only got around to actually making it from scratch last spring in Irpinia, during an episode shoot of ABCheese, my TV show.Casatiello is an Easter dish from the region of Campania, of which Naples is the capital. Casatiello and Tortano are two rustic Neapolitan savory pies that differ only in how the eggs are placed. In casatiello the eggs are placed whole, in their shell, embedded in the top part of the bread dough, secured by criss-crossed strips of dough. In tortano the eggs are part of the filling. Casatiello is a pagan symbol of rebirth and celebration, but also represents a Catholic metaphor for the circular element of the crown of thorns worn by Christ on the cross. Casatiello is in fact normally eaten during the Easter festivities, served with fava beans, salumi and salted ricotta. Whatever is left over is usually packed in the Pasquetta (little Easter/Monday) picnic hamper.The ingredient list of this rustic and savory bread includes rich and fatty chopped salami, cheese, pork cracklings, eggs and lard. Yes, lard.The dough which will be the shell of the casatiello needs to be light and flaky, this is where lard comes into play. This forgotten and now demonized ingredient (living a recent revival, however) is what our grandmothers used as fat in virtually every baked preparation. Inexpensive and stable lard is by no means "healthy" but it does have less cholesterol and saturated fat than butter, and unlike most vegetable shortening, it does not contain any trans fats. Moderation, obviously, is the key word here. Because of its relatively large fat particles, strutto or sugna (rendered lard) is extremely effective as a shortening in baking. Pie crusts made with lard tend to be flakier than those made with butter or olive oil.Lard, and shortening in general, work by coating flour particles and gluten strands in doughs (virtually "shortening" the strands, hence the term), and preventing them from forming a strong bond. The stronger the bond, the tougher the crust, and vice versa. Lard also has a higher melting point than butter.The picture above shows homemade rendered lard made from the kidney fat of healthy, free range pigs.Here is the recipe for this sensational southern Italian Easter recipe.Ingredients600 g strong, bread flour*300 ml lukewarm water25 g brewer's yeast, melted in a small amount of water - or natural sourdough starter225 g rendered lard100 g pecorino cheese150-200 g Italian salami100 g pork cracklings150 g sharp provolone cheeseSalt and pepper4 or 6 eggs, depending on size, plus 1 yolk *Strong flour and bread flour generally mean the same thing: plenty of gluten which allows the dough to stretch and incorporate lots of air bubbles. The strenth of a flour is given by its "W" value. Bread flour varies between W160 and W310. This value is usually clearly stated on the packaging.Start by preparing the bread dough. You're aiming for a wet, elastic dough.Build a flour volcano. Add the yeast mix in the 'crater' along with 50 g of lard, then pour in the water a little at a time, stirring with a fork or your fingers. Keep adding the flour from the sides of the volcano. Only add a good pinch of salt at the very end (salt nullifies the yeast action). Knead to obtain a soft and elastic ball of dough. Add a little water if it feels too dry. It really all depends on what flour you're using. Let the ball of dough proof in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap. The mass should double if not triple in volume. I usually place my dough to rise in the oven (turned off) with only the light on. This takes no less than 2 hours.Move the dough to a flat work surface lightly dusted with flour. Deflate and roll it out to form a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. You could use a rolling pin, but the dough is fluffy enough to do this[...]



48 hours in Cilento

2017-08-28T16:00:26.310+02:00

My friends in Positano report that this summer the town is so crowded that it's barely possible to move around. Hotels are fully booked, ferries and hydrofoils pour out hundreds of people several times a day. Restaurants cannot fill tables fast enough. The recent earthquake that hit Ischia has forced many to leave the island and flock to Positano, only adding to the chaos.

If you want to enjoy the beauty and unique character of that enchanted coastline, but have a hard time with crowds and noise, you may want to read further, to learn about one of Italy's best kept travel secrets.


The Cilento coast is a portion of the region that extends from the bottom of the Gulf of Salerno to the border of Basilicata. If you're the kind of traveler who is OK with total absence of designer boutiques and yacht slips, you'll find yourself in a part of southern Italy that has retained its authentic charm through low profile, yet is replete with historical and archeological destinations, wildly untamed nature and gorgeous beaches.

Ready for a dream weekend discovering the untamed beauty of Cilento?
Continue Reading → Weekend Escape to Cilento as appeared on Casa Mia Italy Food & Wine(image)



Food writer on a diet

2017-08-21T10:59:07.336+02:00

Working as a food professional, whether be it a home cook, food guide, journalist or food show host – coincidentally, my job description – poses nutrition challenges. The anatomy of a food writer is always put up against a grumbling stomach. The occupational hazard has to do with constantly testing recipes, cooking many dishes and visiting restaurants (for research!), plates upon plates that need to be described, photographed and ultimately eaten. All this concurs to an ever-expanding waistline.Personally, the weight was always an issue. Even before I worked in the food world. Even before pregnancy. I was overweight before I stopped smoking, imagine after. I blame the quantity of gelato I downed to overcome broken hearts. I blame having been educated to clean my plate. I blame my slow metabolism. I now can blame pre-menopause. What I never did was take responsibility and blame myself. My sublime ability to procrastinate was never the problem, it was something else.Continue Reading → Food writer on a diet as appeared on The American Magazine in Italia.[...]



Naples and Amalfi Coast travel tips

2017-04-28T19:12:46.165+02:00

The urban sprawl of Naples can feel tattered, anarchic and forsaken. But look beyond the grime and graffiti and you’ll see a city of breathtaking beauty, chock with dramatic skies, panoramas and art. You’ll discover its elegance, engage in spontaneous conversations with locals and be surprised at the city’s profound humanity.


The Amalfi Coast and Sorrento Peninsula is one of Italy's most sought-after destinations. Famous writers have long waxed poetic about the curvy coastline that runs from Sorrento to Salerno. Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe built a villa on Capri. Henrik Ibsen moved from Norway to Sorrento, where he wrote his renowned play Ghosts. Italy-lover Goethe called this sliver of southern Italy the "magic land of endless sun where lemons bloom." In the early Fifties American novelist John Steinbeck fell in love with Positano and begged people to keep the secret.


We've singled out our best advice and travel tips for traveling to Naples and the Amalfi Coast in 2017.

Continue reading our top 12 travel tips for 2017 ➔
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Places in Rome for fine food and free wifi

2017-03-27T16:00:15.939+02:00

Working in Rome as an entrepreneur without an office space requires two things: finding balance and discipline at home, and a handful of reliable spots with good wifi around town. 

I avoid frequent coffee breaks and fridge sweeps while pounding the keys of my computer in a corner of my living room, but it tests my self control and demands a well regimented routine. Finding a comfortable place to plug in my laptop to work in a relatively peaceful public environment presents an equally big challenge.


Your best options are places that offer a free password-protected connection that doesn’t require a registration with an email account or a local cell number. If on top of that you're looking for well-brewed caffeinated beverages, fine food and courteous staff, the selection narrows even further.

Continue Reading ➔ public spaces in Rome with reliable wifi, where it's possible to work while sipping espresso or munching on tasty food.
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48 hours in Santo Stefano di Sessanio

2017-03-23T16:00:37.449+01:00

The region of Abruzzo is one of Italy's best kept secrets. The Medieval hilltop village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, in the L'Aquila province, sits on the edge of the Campo Imperatore plain in the Apennine Mountains, within the breathtakingly beautiful Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Santo Stefano di Sessanio has ancient origins (paleolithic!) and a Medieval imprint, but it flourished under the Medicis in the late 1500s with agriculture contributing to the area’s economy mostly thanks to transhumance. This is the ages-old moving of herds of sheep from the valleys to high altitude mountain pastures in summer. Unfortunately in the mid-19th century the area suffered from extreme poverty leading to mass emigration. S. Stefano di Sessanio fell into abandonment.The conservation efforts introduced here since 2004 spearheaded by Italo-Swede philanthropist Daniele Kihlgren to preserve the area’s cultural heritage, restored dignity to the pastoral culture that once inhabited these remote rural areas. Kihlgren purchased a portion of the village and maintained the smoke-blackened walls and original buildings intact. With a team of enlightened historians, architects and anthropologists, he re-purposed native materials and reconditioned ancient arte povera furnishings for his unique project: Kihlgern urged local authorities to leave Santo Stefano in its original condition.In 2007 Daniele Kihlgren's "embargo" on building new houses turned into a legislative ban on the use of concrete. This has led to a complete turnaround: with a permanent population in the very low hundreds, today S. Stefano di Sessanio is a delightful vacation getaway for lovers of nature, fine dining and R&R. By encouraging investment in the traditional trades and crafts of the region, the village now boasts many shops that sell locally produced handicrafts like lace, woven fabrics, beeswax candles and artisanal soap. Others sell honey and jam, cured meats, olive oil, grains and cereals, local cheese, as well as the region's famous lentils.Continue Reading ➔ my tips for spending 48 hours in Santo Stefano di Sessanio.[...]



Anti-blues comfort food

2017-03-20T21:53:25.901+01:00


Yes, it's the first day of spring.

But the grey blanket shrouding the sky, and the scarf wrapped around my neck as I type this suggests otherwise. This weather plays tricks on my mood.

When – despite what the calendar says – I need something warm to comfort me, I can always rely on these anti-blues winter recipes.

There are dishes that perform miracles, triggering memories. We ritually feed on tried and tested recipes that work as a Linus blanket. Others simply heal. Chunky soups, velvety pureed creams, court bouillon-based fish stews, consommés...

I have my own set of comfort food classics. They warm and pacify, and help me ward off the melancholy that nightfall brings on.

I once nursed a broken heart on a strict diet of passatelli in brodo, a cheesy-eggy dough that's forced through a ricer and then simmered in chicken broth. It worked wonders.

Continue Reading ➔
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Quick market run and carciofi {video}

2017-02-20T16:07:21.458+01:00

The morning was blustery and I needed a macchiato before hitting the market.

Never with a shopping list in mind, rather letting the goods for sale inspire the menu, I decided to make Carciofi alla Romana.

The wonderful globe artichokes have finally hit Rome markets, and braising them with garlic, olive oil and mentuccia is my favorite way to usher carciofo season.

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Ciao!(image)



Madeleine moment

2017-02-07T19:31:29.685+01:00

(image) Children pottering in the kitchen is not uncommon in Italy.

The vibrant core of every Italian household is the stovetop. Both 18th century peasant hearth and sleek modern design cooking areas are where Italian families gather, share, truly talk and where relationships are made. These relationships are cultivated early on, and leave deep, important memories on young children.

My earliest recollection of food-making is tied to my Nonna, my maternal grandmother Giuditta Rissone. Titta, as everyone in the family called her, was not the average nana...

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Mini-guide for families in Rome

2018-02-02T17:52:20.769+01:00

Where do Romans go when their kids fire fusillades of questions, throw tantrums and complain with grumbling stomachs?

To a child's unaccustomed eyes art exhibits and museums are a haze of meaningless artefacts, complex dates and intimidating terminology. Thankfully Rome also offers an offbeat, less academic choice of fun, child-enticing activities. 

It's up to us parents to alternate the more scholarly museums––like the Vatican, for example––to the simply playful and educating, child-friendly cultural experiences.

Continue Reading "City breaks with kids: Rome" as appeared on The Guardian ➔
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11 years

2017-01-26T15:38:10.546+01:00

This photo was taken 11 years ago today. I had come out of the delivery room only a few hours before. I love Elliot's dazed look. His congested 9-months-floating-in-liquid complexion, glazed eyeballs and stupor of having just ingested his first meal straight from my unaccustomed breast is hilarious. He soon after fell asleep and snored in that same position, mouth open. He still does that, collapsing after eating. And snoring, mouth open.I can't believe Elliot is turning 11 years old today. That little bundle in the photo is now a grown person. With his own opinions, peculiarities and body odour.This is the last thing I'm writing today. I'll be tking the rest of the day off to be with him. After school we may go to an art exhibit, a movie, or not. We may stay in and order sushi. Whatever he wants, we'll do.Having a birthday one month after Christmas sucks from a gift-receiving perspective. I try to be as original as possible with my presents. Cooking class, ice-skating party, kart driving... we may even steal away for a weekend somewhere we've never been. The plan is to not have a plan until the very last minute.Happy birthday, topino. You are my love. My joy. My reason for living.Ti voglio bene, Mamma.[...]



Testaccio Market in Rome

2017-01-11T16:00:08.321+01:00

Buzzing with activity, chatter and delicious aromas, the market square has historically been at the center of city life.


The Greek concept of agora – a term whose literal meaning is "gathering place" or "assembly" as the center of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city – later evolved to a place that also served as a marketplace where merchants sold their goods on stalls and small clustered shops. The agora marketplace brought people together to supply and provide sustenance for family and to foster communication, enhancing social interaction.


One of Rome's best examples of this cultural evolution is the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio: a modern-day agora sitting on nearly two millenia of history.

Continue Reading ➔(image)



Avanzi, Italy's glorious leftovers

2017-01-07T11:52:37.120+01:00

You know me. I'm the one fixated with not throwing away food. I so firmly believe in recycling leftovers that I purposely cook in larger quantities than needed in order to have uneaten food to work with later.After a sad few days of the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple, toast)––my son and I caught the stomach bug of 2016 late––I needed something to revive my depressed taste buds.So for dinner yesterday I "made" two sensational Southern Italian dishes with avanzi. Made is actually too bold of a term, let's say I transformed leftover spaghetti into Neapolitan frittata di maccheroni and day-old green beans into Sicilian fagiolini alla muddica.A week ago I made enough Puttanesca for 10 (there were 7 guests, 3 of which kids) so naturally I had a bowl of it sitting in the back of the fridge. The sauce made with this summer's pommarola, brined olives and minuscule capers from Pantelleria stuck to the noodles and was still fragrant. I didn't have to think twice: frittata di maccheroni. Every Neapolitan homemaker has this recipe in their repertoire.I loosened the spaghetti from their bowl-shape and mixed in 4 beaten eggs. I transferred the slippery mix to a heavy-bottomed pan with just a drizzle of olive oil and gently heated for about 5 minutes, until a delicious crust started forming on the bottom. My mother's trick is beating one more egg with salt and pepper and pouring it on the surface. This helps set the frittata. I covered the pan for another 2 minutes, checking that the bottom didn't darken too much: browned frittata is dry and disgusting.At this point of cooking frittata you have to be resourceful for the flipping portion of the recipe. I use a lipless lid and good balancing skills to slide the uncooked side back into the pan.On the whole, another plus is that this dish takes about 10-12 minutes to make. So while wisely thrifty, you're also budgeting time.But my recycled carbs with high-protein needed a vegetal side. I glanced at the handful of yesterday's steamed green beans sitting suffocated under a plastic wrap cover. I reached in for the bowl and let the contents warm to room temperature on the countertop while I made the seasoned breadcrumbs.I have a small fabric pouch where all my bread corners, broken breadsticks and uneaten slices fall into. This is what's known around the house as the Pangrattato Pouch. All the hardened bits of sourdough in there become breadcrumbs. I transfer the amount needed in a sturdy airtight plastic bag and arm myself with a rolling pin. I seal the bag and bash the hunks of bread to the desired powder grain. I prefer coarse. To the ziploc I then add powdered herbs, seasoned salt and a fistful of polenta (cornmeal) for crunch.I toasted the breadcrumbs with olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. A salt-saving, flavor-boosting trick is adding 2-3 oil-packed anchovies and working them into the crumbs with the tines of a fork. When the breadcrumbs clumped together to a crispy crumble, I added the green beans, tossing to coat and heat through. I didn't need to adjust seasoning, so I served immediately.A tavola![...]



Vote for Casa Mia!

2016-12-22T17:19:24.615+01:00

As you may know, in the spring of 2015, I co-launched a new travel website called Casa Mia Italy Food & Wine.

We offer interesting food, wine and cooking experiences and inform our followers with regular updates on our blog.

After coming in "runner up" in the Best New Blog category of the Italy Magazine 2015 Blog Awards, this year Casa Mia has been shortlisted for the Best Travel Blog category!

Needless to say, we couldn't be prouder.

Want to help us win?

Vote for Casa Mia!

Easy, you don't even need to register, just click on the banner below.


PS: You helped Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino win Best Food Blog in the previous edition, so I'm asking you to work your magic again this time.

Thanks!(image)



Italian torta rustica

2016-12-13T22:33:30.770+01:00

Don't call it quiche.

In Italy torta rustica is a seasonal staple and a versatile dish: it can serve as an appetizer, as a side dish, or be the main entree. 

With boundless recipes and fillings, the savory rustic pies of Italy were initially intended as thrifty fridge-cleaners, adding bits of leftover vegetables to a mix of cheese, cured meats and an egg to bind it all together in a flaky shell. 

If you're looking for savory pie baking inspiration, here’s a failsafe recipe for quick and easy vegetarian torta rustica filled with spinach and punchy gorgonzola cheese.

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Stracciata cheese from Molise

2016-11-29T13:10:47.928+01:00

Move over burrata, hello stracciata.Stracciata is a fresh cheese that owes its name to the Italian verb, "stracciare", for 'to tear'. The name reflects the action of tearing the stretched curd into characteristic elongated and rubbery strands. Snow-white and rind-less, stracciata cheese is delicate with an intense milky flavor. It is customarily eaten freshly-made, preferably with prosciutto stuffed between two warm slices of bread. This was the typical Molise antipasto served at weddings.This traditional dairy product is made only in Molise in the towns of Agnone, Capracotta, Carovilli and Vastogirardi, in the province of Isernia.I learned of the existence of stracciata during filming of ABCheese. My crew and I traveled to Molise and visited the actual birthplace of this original and rare cheese: the Di Nucci creamery.After WWII, the Di Nucci family relocated from the town of Capracotta – where they owned a cow farm – to the larger town of Agnone where there were better working opportunities to continue the family tradition of cheese-making. Stracciata was born to celebrate this important relocation.No two strands are alike. Every stracciata, hand-made in the family creamery using the same time-honored technique, is obtained by pouring boiling water over the natural-yeast, raw cow milk curds and pulled from a wooden basin. Every strand is therefore different. Generations of Di Nuccis have been making stracciata in the same way since that 1955 journey from Capracotta to Agnone.Caseificio Di NucciAgnone, Isernia – ItalyOpening image & portrait ©Di Nucci, all other ©E.Baldwin[...]



Ethnic meals in Rome, a Renaissance

2016-11-16T14:00:00.957+01:00

What a year this has been. I cannot say 2016 was a good one. Personal and world-changing events have given me sleepless nights.


Only two good things happened in 2016: the Cubs won the World Series, a victory which my Chicagoan dad has been waiting for for the last 85 years; and the international Rome dining scene finally started opening its doors to quality.

The majority of the restaurants in Rome serve local cuisine. Many are below average, some are OK, a few are stellar. For a bit. Then, after the nth plate of cacio e pepe my palate starts begging for variety. That's when I shrug in the face of guanciale, and turn all my attention to papadums.

But while in Milan the situation is improving, Rome residents (mostly US expats) sadly grieve the near absence of quality ethnic cuisine. Accustomed to 24-hour available world meals in hometowns New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, stranieri in Rome had it pretty bad. Always the optimists, they wandered the city in search of a decent surrogate. 

Recently, there's been a growth spurt in quality international cuisine. Finally something to celebrate! When I want to digress from amatriciana, here are some of the places I head for.

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Internet craze apple roses

2016-11-09T16:00:00.193+01:00

These super easy "apple roses" are all over the internet lately.Everyone's making them, my son and I even crafted some at the latest cooking school session we attended together.This got me thinking that I absolutely have to get my baking act together. This recipe is a great way for begginners to approach baking.The thought that organically followed was, "This classic flaky dough wrapped around apple slices "glued" together with apricot jam can be transformed into fun variations."In addition to the ubiquitous apple rose recipe, I'm adding a few savory suggestions to up your aperitivo game or your children's merenda snacks.Internet craze apple rosesPreheat oven to 200° C (390° F)Cut 2 apples in half and core. Do not peel. As a matter of fact, choose Gala or Red Delicious varieties whose red skin creates a beautiful color contrast with the cream colored pulp.Slice the apple halves thinly and drop in acidulated water.Prepare a basic syrup (2 parts sugar and 1 part water) and soften the apple slices in it for 2 minutes.Dust with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, toss to coat evenly and allow to cool.Using a pastry cutter, cut a rectangular sheet of puff pastry into 2-inch strips.Brush the strips with warmed apricot jam and lay the apple slices on the top half of the strip, slightly overlapping them.Fold up the bottom half of the strip and starting from one end, roll the strip on itself.Place each rolled "rose" in buttered ramekins or paper lined muffin molds.Sprinkle a little brown sugar on the surface of each rose.Bake in hot oven for approximately 20 minutes.Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.Sweet & savory spin-offs using the puff pastry as a baseUse pears instead of apples, and spread white or dark chocolate instead of jam, sprinkle chocolate chips as garnishUse celery slices, spread peanut butter, garnish with coarsely ground peanuts or slivered almondsStrawberries and ricottaPancetta and smoked cheesePears and gorgonzolaPeaches and nutellaGrilled zucchini and goat cheeseSalami and stracchino cheeseRoast pumpkin and brieLox and cream cheese garnished with arugulaRoast potato and caramelized leek...I can keep going if you like.Image © Giorgia Di Sabatino – Elliot Baldwin – dlicedorient.blogspot.it [...]