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Traditional Italian food of Easter typically includes: capretto o agnello al forno (roast lamb), carcioffi fritti (fried artichokes), pizza rustica (a pie stuffed with ricotta, sausage and hard boiled eggs), la colomba di Pasqua (a dove-shaped sweet bread). Taralli, cassatelli, biscotti di pignoli, pena di Pasqua (sweet bread with hard-boiled, pastel colored eggs baked in the center), and torta di ricotta (Ricotta cheese cake) are prepared in every Italian home.
Chocolate Easter eggs are a special treat for children in Italy. The “uovo di pasqua” – a large decorative chocolate egg that comes with a gift inside are beautifully wrapped in elaborate and colorful decorative foils weighing from a few ounces to about 18 pounds. Stores are filled with “uovo di pasqua” creating a psychedelic and festive atmosphere. In past times, parents would take the gifts to their cioccolataio (chocolate maker) and it would be placed inside the chocolate egg.
The taralli is a treasure from Apuglia and are eaten any time of the day. Simple yet delicious recipes are created with eggs and flour. Fennel seed, black pepper, red pepper flakes and wine added and formed into oval or round shapes. In southern Italy, taralli come in many sizes and flavors. These are typically referred to in Neapolitan dialect as “scaldetelli” little boiled things. Many, but not all taralli are dipped in boiling water before being baked creating a nice sheen on the outside. Some are baked and brushed with egg wash. Taralli are biscuits or snack food, but can also make an appearance as a dessert after a meal is over and dunked into wine. In our family they are the star of the Easter desserts along with the Ricotta Torta and Torta di riso. They are traditional desserts that make each and every day special and holidays a delight for everybody. The Italians have a saying “no matter what the argument it can be resolved over a glass of wine and handful of taralli”.
The Easter egg taralli (as I call them) are only made at Easter and have no other flavoring. Typically, taralli are not frosted, but there is a version called “Charmel” that are lightly frosted with a confectionary glaze and sprinkled with tiny colorful sprinkles. Egg taralli are hard, but as light as clouds. Our recipe for egg taralli are boiled and then baked turning a warm caramel color. I make large quantities of them and serve them in an Italian hand painted bowl from Apuglia. Taralli dunked in “Vino Santo”, a sweet Italian white wine coming from the Tuscany is like floating in air. Very appropriate for Easter!
Easter Egg Taralli
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes at 400ºF or until light brown
Yield: 5 Dozen
7 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons oil
Add the salt to the flour in a large bowl. Mix the egg and oil into the flour and form a ball. This step can be done in a mixer. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel. Let it rest in a warm place for an hour.
Roll out pieces of dough into 6” x 1” cylinders. Take each piece of dough and bring the ends together to form a doughnut shape. Press the ends together with your thumb.
Fill a large saucepan with water and let it to come to a boil. Drop them one at a time into the boiling water. When they rise to the top, remove them to a dry board or kitchen towel. Make a cut along the outside edge of the doughnut. This allows them to rise.
Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them in a 400ºF oven until they are a light golden brown. The taralli will be hard on the outside, but light and airy on the inside. They are not sweet, but more like a biscuit. They will store in an airtight container for weeks.
Serve them with “Vino Santo”, a white sweet wine from the Tuscany.
In “Deserts”: A Frosted Taralli, Charmel are an Easter Specialty
In “Food”: Taralli: A Italian national biscotti
in “Biscotti”: Double Dip Wine Taralli
When looking for a quick but elaborate and unexpected first dish or even a main course, you don’t have to spend hours at the stove. Most Italian pasta dishes are prepared within twenty minutes with available ingredients in season. Pasta is almost always served as a first dish in Italy (primo piatto).
I like to serve pasta as a primo piatto because it is easy to make and most of the time you can pre-prepare the ingredients even if you are making the pasta fresh. Although you don’t often find foie gras on the menu in Italy, this dish is elegant and compliments meats that might follow. The rosemary gives it a smoky flavor and the richness of the foie gras makes this dish that special event star of the meal.
It can be served with red of white wine as the flavors are strong enough for either or if you really want to impress your guests serve it with a glass of Champagne.
Time: 20 minutes
3 baby artichokes, cleaned and sliced thinly
3 1/2 oz foie gras cut in medium size chunks
1/2 lb of spaghetti, boxed or freshly made
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 sprigs fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 medium size clove garlic, chopped
10 oz celery, thinly sliced
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pat unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
Remove the leaves from the artichokes until you come to the white leaves. Cut them in half, if they are baby artichokes they won’t have any hay in the middle, but if they do, remove it. Slice them thinly.
Sauté the shallots, celery and garlic for a few minutes in the olive oil. Add the sliced artichokes, wine and chicken stock and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add salt and taste.
In another pan, sauté the foie gras and rosemary in the butter for 1 minute and set aside.
Boil the water for the pasta; salt when it come to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Sprinkle the basil over the top and lightly toss the ingredients well. You don’t want to over cook the foes grass, keep it on the heat just long enough to mix the ingredients.
Plate the pasta and grind black pepper over the and then enjoy the rich flavors you are about to experience.
You hardly feel like cooking on hot summer days and yet fish and shellfish seem so perfect for light summer meals. They are also very easy and fast to prepare. I have a husband who just didn’t like fish but would eat shellfish. I solved this problem by taking him to a cooking class in Italy where just about all the dishes we prepared were fish. There were 4 chefs from a 5 star restaurant and just the two of us. I didn’t expect this, as it was a class at a hotel that we had gone to many times and advertised as a class for a maximum of 6 people. Seems we signed up for the first class of the season that started the beginning of June. Along the Adriatic, this is not high season and we were the only ones to register. The chefs wanted to do the class in any case, probably to test it out, how lucky was that!
I wondered how my husband was going to deal with eating the meals we prepared, as he really hated fish. My husband is a diabetic and it was important for him to change his diet that consisted mostly of meat. This class was the cure and he totally enjoyed every dish we prepared. He still eats meat, but today we have fish at least two or three times a week. The message is that if there is something you don’t like, it is worthwhile to learn how to prepare it. Many times you can find recipes that you never knew existed and will satisfy your taste.
The following is an easy recipe that is great as it includes greens, shellfish and pasta, what is there not to like!
Strozzapreti con rucola, patate e cozze
Chef Franco, Vieste (Foggia), Italy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. strozzapreti, cavatelli or pasta of your choice
1 bunch arugula (rucola in Italian)
1/4 lb. of potatoes
1 lb. of mussels
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Wash the mussels thoroughly and let them soak for about 1/2 hour in cold water, changing the water a few times. Remove the beard that is between the shells. Steam them in a small amount of boiling salted water. This will take 3-6 minutes; discard any that have not opened. Strain out all the liquid and reserve it for the sauce. Remove most of the mussels from their shells, keeping about 5 per person for garnish.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small squares, par boil them in salted water. Set them aside.
In a skillet, sauté the oil and onions until they become slightly translucent. Add the garlic and pepperoncino and cook a few more minutes. Add the reserved mussel liquid and boil it down to about half. Add the cubed potatoes.
In a large saucepan, cook the strozzapreti in salted boiling water. Three minutes before the strozzapreti is cooked add the arugula in with the strozzapreti and cook until the strozzapreti are al dente. Drain them and toss them into the skillet blending them until they are completely covered with the sauce.
I search for the small hotels that are owner operated and the service is focused on your return. The place where you say, I would come back. Where the chef comes to your table to make sure that everything is to your satisfaction and they are willing to spend time talking with you as though you have gone there many times before.
In S. Mamete village in Valsolda, Italy is the small hotel of Stella d’Italia. On the Italian side of Lake Lugano, it is about 2 miles from the Swiss border, 6 miles from the city of Lugano and an hour from Como.
Mr. & Mrs. Ortelli have owned and run the family owned hotel for many years. It has been in their family for 4 generations. They are very welcoming and speak English fluently. There are 34 rooms tastefully decorated with French doors, balconies and beautiful views of Lake Lugano.
Guests can enjoy breakfast; lunch or dinner under the rose covered terraced garden boarding the lake. The gardens also have small tables where you can enjoy drinks or lounge and take up the sun and beauty of the lake. It has a very small beach and a dock where boats can pull up and moor until guests have finished their meal.
The restaurant is very good and stopping by just for a meal on our way back from Como is a must. I suggest if you decide to stay there, that you make a reservation for dinner as you won’t be disappointed in the food, and there are few other places to eat in the village.
The village is very small and does not offer much interest. There is a ferry that links the village to the city of Lugano and Porlezza, Switzerland where ferries can be taken to other points in the Lake Region. It is a fantastic location to visit Gandria, Monte Bre, Lugano and the Lake Region with rooms at a reasonable price compared to Lugano. If you are a golfer the Menaggio e Cadenabbia Golf Club is one of Eruope oldest and most prestiges clubs and is about 15 minutes away (http://www.menaggio.it/). If you want a small, friendly and well-appointed hotel while traveling from the Ticino, Switzerland to Italy it is a perfect place to stay. Be sure to make a reservation, the hotel is fully booked in the summer months. Spring and Autumn are beautiful in this region and the hotel opens on Easter weekend.
Salsa crema e zucchini was inspired by a dish I had at Stella d’Italia.
Zucchini Cream Sauce for pasta
Salsa crema e zucchini
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups water
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large fresh zucchini
4 tablespoons cream (half & half or heavy cream)
1 small anchovy (optional)
Salt to taste
Peel one zucchini. Half both zucchini lengthwise and remove seeds. Put the peels and seeds into the broth. Cut both into 1/2” cubes. Put half of the peeled cubes and half of the unpeeled cubes into the broth. Reserve the 2 remaining halves for the steamer.
Add water, garlic (whole), peppercorn and anchovy into broth. Put the steamer with the remaining half of the cubes on top of the pan and cover. Boil down at medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the steamer and reserve the steamed zucchini. Remove and put aside the zucchini cubes from the broth. Strain the broth and reduce to half, approximately 1 1/2 cups.
Put the reserved zucchini from the broth back into the broth. Puree with a hand emulsifier until smooth. Add the cream (heavy cream will make the sauce thicker; I prefer half & half). Just before serving the pasta add the reserved zucchini from the steamer to the cream sauce. Taste for salt and spoon it over the pasta.
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The markets stalls are neatly stacked with artichokes of all varieties and sizes during this time of the year in Italy. People gather around two and three deep to make their purchases and the vendors scrabble to keep up with the demand as people clamor to get their attention. Artichokes are in season – a vegetable with a lot of versatility.
A fresh artichoke salad with ribbons of parmesan cheese over the top and a lemon and olive oil dressing, a creamy soup, marinated in olive oil – Carciofi o carciofini sott’olio, boiled and served with a vinaigrette, Carciofi alla Giudia, Stuffed artichokes, Tagliata con carciofi – sautéed and spread over grilled meat or fish, are prepared at home and in restaurants all over Italy.
Artichokes take a little effort to clean, but once you know how to do it, it goes pretty fast and the effort is well worth the time. If you are lucky and live in Italy, you can find them in some markets already cleaned. When I find them this way, I buy enough to prepare meals for the week and get our fill of them as long as the season lasts. They can be bought frozen, marinated, or in cans, but they don’t compare to fresh artichokes.
Spaghetti con carciofi freschi or Fettuccine with fresh artichokes is a fast and easy dish to make. The artichokes have a delicate flavor and just using fresh tomatoes and a little wine results in a flavorful sauce that compliments the pasta. If you are willing to make fresh pasta, you will be rewarded with a wonderful dish you will prepare again and again.
Spaghetti con carciofi freschi
Prep Time: 30 minutes for fresh artichokes
Cook Time: 12-15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. spaghetti
16 small artichokes, cleaned and sliced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped or 10 cherry tomatoes cut in half
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup white wine
1 pepperoncino, broken in half
1/2 lemon plus juice
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped parsley, as garnish
Clean the artichokes by cutting the top off about 1/4” of the way down. Remove the outer leaves by pulling them down and snapping them off until you reach the white/yellow leaves. Remove the stem and cut around the bottom to remove any dark, hard or stringy part. Cut the choke in half and clean out the hay with a melon ball scoop or a small spoon. Cut the halves lengthwise into 1/8” thick slivers.
In a frying pan, add the olive oil, garlic, pepperoncino and sauté, add the artichokes for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and the chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes longer until the artichokes are slightly soft. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the speghetti or fettuccini and add it to the pan with the artichokes and finish the cooking adding a little pasta water as needed. Garnish the pasta with freshly chopped parsley.
Note: You can serve this dish with a little Parmesan cheese or a side dish of red pepper flakes. I prefer a little heat and no cheese, as I think the cheese overwhelms the flavor of the artichokes.
Making fresh pasta used to be a labor of love. Many Italians consider rolling out the dough by hand an art. I took a cooking class from a couple in Italy, Marco was a restoration architect and his wife Monaca was a child psychiatrist. They were passionate about food and their classes were a lot of fun. But anyone else rolling out the pasta dough was just out of the question as far as Marco was concerned, this was his and only his to make. This sounds unreasonable for a cooking class, but you have to understand how serious this is to Italians who consider rolling out the dough all-important to the quality of the pasta. After several classes, one of my classmates, a dentist from Michigan decided he just had to roll out the dough and proceeded to try to convince Marco to let him do it. We all sided with our classmate including Monica and won the battle, somewhat. Marco started the process and rolled the dough out to a huge size on the very large kitchen table and then let my classmate finish the process. Unfortunately for our classmate, he made a very small hole in the dough. It was a comedy I will never forget, as Marco just simply couldn’t deal with a hole in his dough. It took all of Monica’s humor and professional training to calm Marco down and convince him that the piece of noodle that had the hole in it would be discarded. We hand cut the fettuccini, but I’m sure none of us met his expectations. Never the less, it was delicious and we all left that evening with an appreciation of the importance of rolling out pasta dough.
I have to admit; I have also taken great pride in making dough, rolling it out to the thinnest sheet, and cutting it by hand. However, I am also a fan of kitchen tools that make cooking easier and allow us to still get good results in the least amount of time. Today we are not all at home worrying about how thin we can roll out our dough, or even making pasta by hand at all. But with a few tools we can cut the time down and make it by hand more often. Fresh pasta has a quality and flavor that you just can’t get with boxed pasta. Having said that, I feel that in the case of spaghetti, a good quality boxed spaghetti is often better then handmade.
I use to have a hand cranked pasta machine but have invested in an electric machine. I have a Puglian Chitarra (the spaghetti comes out better on this then the machine) and you can make troccoli, taglatelle and fettuccini. There was a time when you could only find these in Puglia Italy, but today I have seen them in Sur La Table and Surfas. I’m sure other kitchen supply stores carry them. It is an inexpensive simple box with wire strings strung across the top. You roll the dough out and then run it over the strings with a rolling pin and watch the pasta fall in strips into the holding tray. Kitchen Aid mixers have a dough rolling attachment. These tools and a few pasta cutters (I search for old pasta cutters in flea markets and Italian markets) along with a food processor give very good results. It takes very little time and the quality far surpasses anything you can buy.
The following is a recipe for garganelli, and some examples of other types of pasta you can prepare when rolling sheets of dough. The dough ingredients will vary according to the type of pasta you are making.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 3-5 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups flour
Tepid water (if necessary)
Mix the dough either by hand or in a food processor. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be dry, or it will not go through the pasta machine without adding flour. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel so that it doesn’t dry out when you are working with it. Cut a piece of dough off the ball and roll it through the pasta machine in each slot until you have rolled it though the second to the last slot. Cut 2” squares with a clean-cut cutter. You can use a pizza cutter for example or a knife. I find that the pizza cutter works very well.
Using a spindle or the end of a round handle, fold each square from one corner to another. Roll it over the back of a folk or a grooved tool, which are sold in kitchen supply stores especially for this purpose. You can also leave them without grooves, but the sauce adheres better to the pasta with grooves.
Allow the garganelli to dry. Cook them for about 3-5 minutes; the pasta should be al dente. Fresh pasta cooks faster then boxed pasta so watch carefully and don’t over cook as they will be very soft.
Anchovies are used to flavor many dishes in Italy from pasta’s to meats and stews. Their pungent salty flavor gives a special twist to a dish that is sometimes hard to identify. It is that flavor that you search for that makes a dish different and you wonder why yours doesn’t taste the same.
Anchovies are in the herring family and are usually sold packed in olive oil or salted but in Italy they are also often found fresh marinated in olive oil and herbs. They are widely used throughout the Mediterranean.
If buying them packed in salt, remove some of the salt by running the felts under water. Put them in a zip lock bag with extra virgin olive oil. They will last a long time if you keep them topped with olive oil. I use the oil to flavor pasta dishes and also to make salsa di acciughe served over linguini or spaghetti.
Whether they are mashed with garlic and spread over crostini or a few felts mixed in with a stew, you will immediately taste the difference.
The recipe for Linguini con salsa di acciughe is found in many parts of Italy but often not on many restaurant menus’. It is the primo piatto of my family’s Christmas Eve dinner along with mixed fried fish or as the Italians say “Peci Fritti” and Biscotti for dessert.
In the South raisins are added giving the sauce a slightly sweet flavor. Olives, capers or toasted breadcrumbs and toasted pignoli can also be added.
Linguine con salsa di acciughe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 Servings
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves chopped
10 flat anchovies, (salted dry anchovies are stronger)
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small pepperoncino or red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 1/2 lbs. Linguini
Salt to taste (before adding salt taste the sauce)
Run cold water over the salted anchovies and remove as much salt as possible. Place them in a container and cover them with olive oil. You can keep them in olive oil for a few weeks.
Cook the garlic and sauté it in the stored anchovy olive oil (if using canned anchovies in olive oil use this oil). Do not burn the garlic; cook on low heat for a minute. Chop the anchovies and add them to the pan, stir with a spoon. When the anchovies have dissolved, add the dried red pepper broken in half and wine. Grind black pepper to your taste. Do not add salt until you have tasted the sauce, usually it doesn’t need additional salt. The anchovies, even though washed still are very salty. Add 2 cups of water and allow it to cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. The anchovies will dissolve in the cooking process. You may have to add additional water to dilute the sauce if it is too salty.
Raisins are added in the South of Italy, and I find that they give the sauce a nice slightly sweet flavor. If you choose to add them, hydrate them in the wine and add them at the same time.
Cook the pasta in boiling unsalted water (check the sauce, it may have enough salt) until it still has a bite, strain it and add it to the sauce. Allow it to continue cooking in the sauce until al dente.
Add whatever ingredients listed below if desired. Allow the cooked pasta to absorb the sauce for several minutes before serving.
Note: Anchovies are used in Italy to flavor many dishes from sauces to roasts.
Note: Red pepper flakes can be sprinkled over the top by each person, if you prefer not to add pepperoncino into the sauce.
Note: The sauce can be strained or the anchovies can be left in the sauce. If you strain the anchovies, serve them in a small bowl so that your guests can add some back if desired. It is also very good spread on toasted bread (anchovy paste bruscchetta).
Note: Black olives and/or raisins can be added to the sauce if you desire a sweeter flavor; toasted pignoli nuts (pine nuts), toasted breadcrumbs and capers are often added to this dish in the south of Italy.
Although Linguini with anchovy sauce is served year round in Italy, it is always served in our family as part of our Christmas Eve dinner.
For me there just isn’t any other pasta that is as good as old fashion ricotta ravioli. My grandmother was the expert in our family and thank goodness she loved to teach us all how to cook. I often wonder when I read stories by chefs or others who write blogs about food how it is that everyone mentions their grandmother as being their inspiration. Whatever happened to their mothers? My mother was a great cook also and we loved making cookies and ravioli with her. It was a family affair in the kitchen as we only made them for holidays. Today I make them very often and with different filling. I love when my children and grandchildren join in and I can continue the roll of the grandmother who inspires them to cook. I have put all these recipes on a CD for them to carry on the traditions and heritage that I treasure.
We always have some Italian dishes during our holidays. Whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Easter there is always ravioli on our table as a first dish. We set up an assembly line with all of us pitching in to make hundreds of them before Thanksgiving so that we could have them for Christmas also. They freeze very well, but don’t ever defrost them before cooking them. Put them into a large amount of salted boiling water directly from the freezer.
My grandmother made them very big, not like the little ones you find today in many restaurants. These are “the old country” ravioli and I love them. She had a small white sideboard with a roll top and made all of her cookies and pasta on this little pull out counter.
Use whatever tomato sauce recipe you like the best. Hers was always a meat-based recipe cooked for hours.
Prep Time: Dough 10 minutes, filling 20 minutes, 40 minutes forming the ravioli’s
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes and test them
Yield: 35 Ravioli
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Warm water to mix
2 lb. whole milk ricotta
1 teaspoon or more of salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste (slightly over salt)
Add finely chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese and the eggs to the ricotta, taste before adding salt. Slightly over salt the filling. Set the filling aside.
Place the flour on a board and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and salt with a little water as needed. Use a fork and beat into the well the flour a little at a time. Form the dough into a ball and knead until it is smooth and shiny. Let it stand for at least 15 minutes to rest. If you are using a pasta machine to roll out the dough, keep the dough dry by adding less water. When using a pasta machine, roll the dough in the different slots until you come to the second to the last slot. This consistency is the desired thickness. As you roll the dough through the different slots, it will also knead the dough. If you are using a rolling pin, roll the dough out so that it is thin enough but not so thin that it would break. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, (large enough to fold over the filling) in an envelope style.
Place a tablespoon of filling along the middle of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling forming the envelope. Press down on the edges and also along the sections forming the squares. Be sure to cup the filling with your hands so that you remove as much of the air inside the envelope. Cut into squares (whatever size you wish). Prick the edges with a folk to keep them from opening while cooking.
The ravioli can be frozen at this point on a platter, and then removed when completely frozen to freezer bags. They can be cooked fresh in the same way as stated below.
Take them directly out of the freezer and place them in boiling salted water. When the water comes to a boil again, turn the heat down and let them cook at a light boil. They will float to the top when they are done. Test one to be sure they are done before removing them from the water. Remove them very carefully so that they don’t break. It is best to let them stand for a few minutes to let the water drain out completely.
Note: Other fillings such as spinach, squash, meat, or fish such as lobster or crab fillings can be used with the basic dough recipe.
Note: They can be served with a tomato sauce or butter and sage.
Note: If serving for a first dish, serve 3 ravioli. If serving for a main dish about 5 to 8 is a good size serving.
Vieste Foggia is located in Puglia in the southeast of Italy. The old medieval town stands on the eastern coastline of the Gargano; a peninsula protruding towards Dalmatia, surrounded by the Adriatic Sea and separated from the Apennines by the Tavoliere plateau with a unique landscape of naturalistic beauty. It is a melting pot of foreign populations with influences of Greek, Arab, Norman and Pisan reflected in its architecture making it distinctly different from other Italian villages. There are the sea caves and grottos and long white sand beaches. Ride bikes along the hilly coastline visiting many small villages or the National Park. The region is famous for olives and olive oil light in color and flavor perfect for the typical seafood cuisine.
The old village is not reachable by car. Stone steps bring you back in time to a village with glorious views of the Adria. It is situated atop a cliff capped with white stucco flat roofed houses. Doorways framed with pepperoncini (red hot peppers), pomodori (cherry tomatoes), pepperoni (peppers) and aglio (garlic) line the old cobblestone streets. I remember once when I took my brother there for his first visit, as we were meandering through the village in the late afternoon saying all this needs to complete this picture is a mother calling out “Angeloooooo!”. To our absolute amazement that is exactly what happened as the words left out mouths.
Colorful and friendly proprietors welcome you into the small Enoteca and restaurants offering beautiful fresh grilled fish, troccoli chitarra, pastas with ripe tomatoes grown locally and zuppa di peche (fish soup).
Puglia is one of the largest wine-growing regions in Italy and you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the wines. Deep in color and aroma, they compliment the flavors of the products grown in the region. Many can be bought in wine shops in the US and Europe. The following wines are some of the more popular available:
Aleatico di Puglia, Alezio, Brindisi, Cacc’è Mmitte di Lucera, Castel del Monte,Copertino, Galatina, Gioia del Colle, Gravina, Leverano, Lizzano, Locorotondo, Martina o Martina Franca, Matino, Moscato di Trani. Nardò, Ortanova, Ostuni, Primitivo di Manduria, Rosso di Barletta, Rosso di Canosa, Rosso di Cerignola, Salice Salentino, San Severo, Squinzano.
In the early nineteen hundreds many Italians emigrated from this region of Italy to America. They brought with them rich traditions, culture and wonderful recipes. Living in Europe for many years, I have traveled to Vieste often and took a cooking course to learn the local dishes of my heritage. My grandparents immigrated to the US between 1894-1912. The name was originally “Tura”, but as happened to many immigrants their name was misspelled at Ellis Island and the name became “Turo”. Also like many immigrants, they worked at what they knew and opened “Turo’s Market”, (originally a fish market) in Worcester Massachusetts. Later the family went into the restaurant business.
Orecciette con cimi di rape is a specialty in Apulia. As you sit down to eat your homemade oreccietti con cimi di rapa (shown below), given to me by a chef at the “Palace Hotel Pizzomunno”, you will feel as if you are experiencing a meal in a little restaurant situated on a cobble stone street overlooking the Adria in Vieste (Foggia) Italy.
4 cups flour (all purpose, or half all purpose and half semolina flour)
4 medium eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Water (tepid) as required
Place the flour mixture on a pastry board and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, olive oil, salt and a small amount of water (you can always add more water if the dough is too dry). Begin to stir the flour from the outside part of the well into the wet ingredients. Continue this process until the dough holds together in a ball. The dough should seem as if it is too dry continue kneading for at least 10-15 minutes, and allow it to stand covered with a clean kitchen towel at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Roll out a cylinder about 1/2” wide and 10” long. Cut into 1/2” pieces. Taking one piece at a time, turn the piece of dough with the cut side up. Press your thumb down on the dough and pull it slightly toward you. Turn the piece of dough inside out to form a little cap. The edges will be a little thicker so that is looks like a rim.
1 lb. Cime di rape (mustard greens)
4 small tomatoes
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 pepperoicnno (small dried hot pepper)
Salt to taste
Put the olive oil, chopped garlic, pepperoicnno and anchovies into a pan and cook for a few minutes. The anchovies will begin to break up and dissolve. Do not burn the garlic or the sauce will taste bitter. Add in the tomatoes that have been cut into cubes and deseeded.
Remove the leaves and flowerets from the mustard greens. The stems are fibrous and discarded. Cut the leaves roughly.
In a large pan of boiling salted water, put in the orecchiette and the rabe. Cook until the rabe and pasta are done. If the orrecchiette is fresh this will only take 3-5 minutes; if boxed follow the cooking direction on the box and put the rabe in for the last 5-6 minutes. Place the orecchiette and rabe into the sauce and grate the pecorino on the top.
Hunting season has arrived and hunters head for the mountains in search for deer, elk and mountain goat. The hunting season is only about 3 weeks or the time that is needed to meet the culling goals of the herds. Hunters deliver their game to the local butchers who prepare them and sell the meat. Hirsch, Reh (venison and elk) are prepared into steaks, racks, sausage, Hirsch Peffer (marinated venison in wine) and Hirsch Bündner Fleisch (air dried meat a Graubünden speciality. The meat is rubbed with a mixture of pepper, juniper berries, herbs and salt and hung to dry in small barns in the mountains about 5,500 ft. for several month. During this time the meat loses about 50% of the water content. The Bündner Fleisch is then sliced into razor thin slices and served with cornichons (sour pickles), rye bread, small pickled onions and tomatoes. It is a Bündner specialty, although it is also made in the Ticino (Italian part of Switzerland). Veltliner wine is often consumed with Bündner Fleisch. Veltliner is a blend of Ciavennasca, Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes, produced in Graubünden and Lombardy, Italy. Veltliner is mostly sold in Switzerland and Northern Italy.
Today some factories reduce the drying process using air blowers. The product made internationally does not compare to the one made in Switzerland. In Graubünden it is offered in every restaurant and served on rustic wooden pallets.
We put our order in for Reh and Hirsch medallions, racks and steaks with our local butcher and have it frozen so that we can have local venison during the winter months. Grilling it over an open wood fire adds a slightly smoky rustic flavor. Traditionally Spätzli (a dumpling made by making a batter and scraping small pieces off into boiling water), wine poached pears with cranberry sauce and glazed chestnuts are served with venison. But I have created a chestnut fettuccine that I think compliments grilled venison.
Cervo alla Griglia
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2-3 minutes on each size depending on the weight
Yield: 2 servings
2-6 oz. venison medallions
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Bring the venison to room temperature. Rub each one with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides.
Allow the fire to burn down to red coals, but it should be just a little smokey. Place the medallions on the grill and cook them on the wood fire until the meat slightly springs back to your touch. If it is resistant it is over done. This usually takes a few minutes on each side. The venison should be a deep rose color in the middle.
Venison can be grilled on an electric or coal grill, but the woody, smoky flavor when grilled over a wood fire gives the venison a wonderful rustic flavor.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes for the sauce and 3 minutes for the fettuccine
Yield: 4 Servings
1 1/2 cups flour 00, (if you can’t find 00 use all purpose flour)
1/2 cup chestnut flour
Pinch of salt
2 medium sized eggs
2 tablespoons tepid water
In a food processor, place all the dry ingredients except for the water. Add the eggs. Start the mixer allowing the ingredients to blend for 30 seconds, then add the water. As soon as it starts to look like it is a heavy corn meal, stop the processor and feel the dough. It should be very dry, but when pinched between your fingers, it should stick together. Don’t add additional water unless the dough is not sticking together. Remove the mixture and knead for 10-15 minutes by hand. The amount of water may be needed.
If you are making the dough by hand, place the flour on a board and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs in the well and mix the wet ingredients into the flour with a fork. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, cover it with a clean kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out.
Using a pasta machine, roll a piece of the dough through each level. Once you have rolled it through the last level the dough will be ready to roll through the noodle cutter of the pasta machine. Rolling the dough through these levels also kneads it. Using the noodle cutter, roll a piece of dough through and take half the noodles and roll them around your hand to form a little nest. Put them on a kitchen towel and let them dry. If you have a pasta hanger, don’t make nests, but hang them to dry. You can also roll the dough into a cylinder and cut it with a knife about 1/4″. Toss with a little flour.
Drop the fettuccine in a large amount of lightly boiling salted water and test after a few minutes. They should take only about 3 minutes to cook.
Note:. Chestnut flour may be found in specialty stores
Sage & Pine Nut Sauce
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 6-7 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb pasta
12 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup pine nuts
Several leaves of fresh sage
Salt to taste
In a deep pan, boil salted water and cook the fettuccini. If the pasta is boxed, cook according to directions. If the pasta is fresh, it will take less than 3 minutes to cook.
While the water is heating up, prepare the sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter and the oil. Cut the sage leaves lengthwise and place them in the saucepan along with the pine nuts. Sauté it in the butter and oil, watch the pine nuts very carefully as they will brown very quickly. Remove from the stove as soon as they start to turn golden brown and allow them to finish browning in the hot butter. If the sauce needs more liquid, add a little boiling water from the pasta.