Category Archives: Food

Italian Street Food (Spotlight Review)

Standard

italian-street-food

Italy’s classic recipes are well known the world over, but few are aware of the dishes that reign on the flourishing Italian street-food scene. Hidden behind the town squares, away from the touristy restaurants, and down back streets are little-known gems offering up some of Italy’s tastiest and best-kept secret dishes that the locals prize.

ITALIAN STREET FOOD is not just another Italian cookbook; it delves into truly authentic Italian fare—the kind of secret recipes that are passed down through generations. Learn how to make authentic polpettine, arancini, stuffed cuttlefish, cannolis, and fritters, and perfect your gelato-making skills with original flavors such as lemon and basil or affogato and aperol. With beautiful stories and stunning photography throughout, ITALIAN STREET FOOD delivers an authentic, lesser known take on a much loved cuisine.

Where to Buy the Book:

Rizzoli  ~  Amazon

Meet The Author:

image

Paola Bacchia is one of Australia’s most popular Italian food bloggers. On her blog, Italy on My Mind, she shares family memories and their connections to food. It won awards for best food blog in 2013 and 2015 from ITALY Magazine. Paola returns to Italy every year to expand her knowledge of Italian food, its traditions, and innovations.

 

Connect to the author: Website  ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

italy-book-tours-logo-in-colour

Risotto with Chives

Standard

FullSizeRender

As I’m trying to watch my carb intake, I don’t eat much rice…but every once in a while, a good creamy risotto is such comfort food!

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice

1 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 c. white wine

3 to 4 cups chicken broth, warmed

1 c. grated parmesan cheese

2 T. butter

Truffle oil or truffle salt

I package chives, minced

2 T. parsley, minced

Directions:

Heat some olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the rice and sauté a few minutes. Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the wine evaporates. Add the broth, one scoop at a time, and cook until the broth is incorporated. Continue in this manner until the rice is tender.

Add in the parsley, chives, butter, and parmesan cheese. Stir for a while and add some pepper and either the truffle salt or the truffle oil. Stir and serve.

Top with some more Parmesan cheese, if desired.

La Macedonia di Frutta

Standard

FullSizeRender

Nothing reminds me more of the summers I spent in Italy as a young girl than La Macedonia! My aunt used to prepare for me a HUGE bowl of this delicious fruit salad, with all the freshest summer fruits she could find. She used to stare in awe as I finished off a whole bowl of it. “How can such a tiny thing eat so much Macedonia?”, she’d wonder.

Since those days, I’ve always been a big fan of summer fruit salads. I like to throw whatever fresh fruit I have and mix it up with just a little bit of lemon and orange juice, and a tiny pinch of sugar. When I had my first child, in August of 1986, summer was in full bloom and it seems like I survived on Macedonia di Frutta! I lost all my pregnancy weight, plus 4 pounds, within 2 weeks of having my baby! Was it the Macedonia di Frutta or just the fact that I was a first-time mom and was so nervous I forgot to eat!

Skinny Eggplant Parmigiana!

Standard

524738_10151326120562924_134438997_n[1]

I know, you’re probably thinking that just because Eggplant Parmigiana is a vegetarian dish that it would be low-cal! Actually, that’s not the case when it’s made in the traditional way. Usually, the eggplant slices are breaded and then fried in oil to crisp them up before layering them with the tomato sauce and cheese. But in this recipe, that frying step is eliminated…thus cutting out lots of fat!

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana
Serves 6
About 200 calories per serving

2 large eggs, whisked with about 2 T of water
1 1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan type cheese (I used Trader Joe’s Asiago), plus 2 T.
Some dried spices like Oregano and Basil
Some salt and pepper to taste
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 1/2 cups shredded lite mozzarella cheese  
About 3 to 4 cups marinara sauce (I used the one I made here)

1.  Sprinkle some salt on both sides of the eggplant slices and let them sit for awhile until they release some of their water.  Dab off the water.

2.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3.  Mix together the breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup of the parmesan cheese, and spices in a bowl.

4.  Dip each eggplant round into the egg mixture and then coat it with the breadcrumb mixture and place them on a cookie sheet that has been coated with cooking spray.

5.  Place the eggplant slices in the oven for about 25 minutes (or until the eggplants are slightly tender).

6.  Turn the broiler on and brown the eggplant slices on both sides, being careful not to burn them.  You want them to be a little crispy.

7.  When the eggplant slices are browned, remove them from the oven.  Turn the heat to 400 degrees.

8.  Coat the bottom of a baking dish with some marinara sauce.

9.  Place half the eggplant rounds in a single layer on top of the sauce.

10.  Sprinkle half the mozzarella cheese over the eggplant.

11.  Repeat with more sauce, eggplant and finish with the cheese.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on the top.

12.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Prosciutto & Melon – A Perfect Combination

Standard

842398[1]

Last night, after having eaten a big lunch for Father’s Day, we decided to have a light but tasty meal. I had a cantaloupe melon that was at that perfectly ripe stage, right before going bad! Ha! Ha! It was deliciously sweet! So I decided to pair it with some prosciutto! That combination of sweet and salty was the perfect light meal.

Prosciutto and melon is a classic summertime appetizer in Italy and has been so for centuries! Evidently, melon was considered a “dangerous” fruit back in Medieval times. It’s properties of being cold and juicy were not a good thing (maybe that’s why my Nonna used to forbid me to have ice cold water in the dead of summer because it would give me indigestion!). Anyway, to counterbalance the danger of the cold and juicy melon, it had to be combined with something warm and dry – like prosciutto! Hence, the delightful combination was born – thankfully something good came out of those dark ages!

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

Standard

FullSizeRender (1)

This was the most simple pasta sauce to prepare…and it was absolutely delicious! Traditionally it is made with long thin noodles, but my orrechiette (little ears) was delicious as well (even though some will think I committed a sacrilegious act by using the incorrect pasta shape!!) This dish is a typical Roman dish and the important thing is to reserve some of the pasta water in order to make the sauce! The starch in the water helps the sauce bind to the pasta.

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta – I used orrechiette (little ears), but I think anything would work well

200 g. pecorino romano – freshly grated (Trader Joe’s has a great one!)

Pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the pasta as directed.

While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese into a large bowl.

Add some of the pasta water, a little at a time, to the grated cheese. Mix it up until it melts into a nice consistency. Do not make it runny!

Add the cooked pasta and lots of pepper. Mix well and serve

Italy Meets Asia…Like Marco Polo!

Standard

marco-polo-travel[1]

We all know that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from his travels to the Orient….so, why not combine the two cultures to make some exquisite pasta delicacies?  That is exactly what I did last weekend.  My mom, the native Italian, actually came up with the idea.  We live in California in an area with a very heavy Asian presence, therefore Asian specialty markets abound!  Asian staples are easily found in the local supermarkets.  We decided to make agnolotti, a sort of ravioli, with Sue Gow wrappers – a kind of very thin wonton wrapper.

nhk-sjp[1]

This is fresh and the pasta sheets are round and very thin! Just perfect to wrap around some great Italian filling!

Realizing I didn’t have the real filling meats (veal, beef, sausage), but having the desire to make the agnolotti RIGHT now (do you ever get those “want to make something right now” moments? – if so you’ll understand!), I decided to raid the freezer and refrigerator to see what I had readily available. I found some ground turkey and frozen spinach, along with pancetta and parmesan cheese and a couple of eggs to hold it all together…and voila!!! A delicious filling was created, I’ll have to say! I took a round wrapper, filled it with the filling, used a little water around the edges, and crimped the edges together. The finished product was a little half moon of heaven!

agnolotti_smerlati[1]

I cooked them up in a brown butter-sage sauce and they were a big hit!

spinach-mushroom-ravioli-610x300[1]

So the next time you want to make some “homemade” stuffed pasta, look no further than the Asian section of the supermarket!

 

 

Everyday Italian Cooking…Easy!

Standard

logo[2]

My mom was watching me prepare dinner the other day and she blurted out, “You spend too much time prepping for your meals! Why don’t you make simple things instead of chopping, chopping, chopping!” Ha! Ha! Coming from an Italian Nonna, these words stung a little – I thought I was cooking something special and tasty, and in order to get all those good flavors, I had to spend lots of time prepping. But then, I thought back to my mom’s cooking – it’s always delicious and healthy…and a lightbulb went off that I don’t need to always spend so much time – healthy, tasty meals can be achieved with the simplest ingredients in the simplest manner possible. So I asked her how she cooked her chicken legs and thighs on the stovetop. This is her recipe – so delicious and, I have to admit, REALLY easy! You just need a little time to cook this slowly, but other than that, there really isn’t much to it!  I’m not going to add amounts for the ingredients because everything will be to taste!

chick

Ingredients:

Chicken pieces, such as drumsticks and thighs – skin removed but bone in

Desired spices – I use a combination of Italian seasonings, with pepper and a little salt

Butter

Olive oil

White wine

Directions:

Wash the chicken but don’t dry it.

In a skillet large enough to hold the chicken but not too large that the flavors can’t coat the chicken, place everything except the white wine in the pan.

Turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Let it cook slowly for about half an hour.

Look at it and see if the water has evaporated. If not and the chicken hasn’t developed any color yet, increase the heat just a tad. Cover and cook a few more minutes.

Check the chicken frequently and turn the pieces to evenly brown them. When all the water has evaporated and the chicken pieces have browned well, add a splash of white wine. Turn the chicken and evaporate down most of the wine.

The Venetian Wine Road

Standard

I had always heard of the Euganean Hills and of the thermal spas there, but I didn’t realize that they were also an area rich in vines. Since we had a few hours to explore before boarding our plane in Venice, we decided to take a short drive from Padua to view this beautiful countryside and charming little villages. The one village which we decided to explore was actually the home of the famous poet, Petrarch from the 1300’s.This tiny town, Arqua Petrarca,known as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, sits up on a hill and overlooks lots of vineyards.

4

 Cobblestoned streets and homes made out of stone fill the tiny town which can easily be seen in an hour or so.

3

It was fun to stop into one of the little wine bars and have an excellent lunch while overlooking the gorgeous valleys below. We chose one of the few that was open – L’Enoteca di Arqua.

2

The food was delicious – we sampled the lasagna and the polenta with mushrooms. Both were delicious!

1

It was kind of a sleepy town when we were there in March, but I’m sure during the height of the summer, it comes alive with lots more restaurants and shops. This area is also known for it’s trails, and the Path of St. Anthony wanders through this town – connecting it to others along the path.

 

Padova Finale

Standard

During our trip, we split up our exploration of Padova over several days. Padova is actually very small and you can visit the same places several times over – but the beauty is that you can explore these places at different times of the day and have a completely new experience. During our final saunter into Padova, during daylight hours, we revisited Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta (along with the “food court” located between the two underneath the Palazzo della Raggione.) The food court is actually a marketplace for meats, cheeses, pasta, and fish.

1

 Everything looked delicious and fresh, and you can be sure if I lived there, this is where I would do all my shopping! In either piazza, you could also pick up your fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers! Supermarkets are great, but I don’t think anything can replace the quality of food that can be found in these establishments – some of them in existence for centuries. I heard a rumor that these kinds of shops were dying…let’s hope not! This slow food movement (at least, that’s what I’m calling it) has to persist and I feel has a very important place in society – not only for our physical health but also our mental one! Neighbors and friends find each other here, and even take a break from their shopping to share an espresso or glass of prosecco! Relaxing and socializing with each other is good for us…we are social creatures who need interactions with others! You can’t get that at the supermarket!

After wandering and lusting over all the food we saw, our appetite was getting the best of us – as well as the desire to sit in an Italian piazza sipping on a glass of wine while eating a delicious panino sandwich! In the Piazza delle Erbe, tucked into a corner, is a gorgeous outdoor restaurant, Bar Nazionale, which specializes in panino’s and tramezzino’s (small sandwiches grilled on thinly sliced bread and filled with all sorts of goodies!)

You can people watch, drink an aperitivo, and eat simple fare while surrounded by stunning architecture.

Right above us was the old Palazzo della Raggione which deserved a quick look see. We had purchased a 48 hour Padova Card for our time in Padova – many of the buildings are free with this card. The buses are free, too, so it’s a pretty good deal. The Palazzo della Raggione was included in the Padova Card and so we thought we’d take advantage of the card and have a look. You need to walk up some stairs, but once up, you have a great view of the piazza below as well as a chance to walk under some heavily frescoed arched ceilings. Anytime I see painted ceilings, I fall in love!

2

From here, you enter into a huge hall, which once again, is completely frescoed. The decorations are always so stunning and it’s unbelievable how many places have such rich wall and ceiling decorations! There sure were a lot of artists being kept employed in all this decoration!

3

Near these piazzas and definitely within walking distance is the Palazzo del Bo. It is actually one of the University of Padova’s many campuses and, surprisingly, one we had walked through the evening before. Little did we know at that time that this was one of Padova’s main attractions! Within this campus is the Anatomy Theater where the inside of the human body was originally explored. We took a tour to see this interesting theater – it includes 6 or 7 tiers of balconies where the students could look down on the cadaver and observe the interior of the body.

4

The cadavers were those of dead convicts and it was believed that by allowing their bodies to be used for science, they would be forgiven their sins and find an easier way into purgatory. The scholars had to find ways to appease the Church in order to perform these scientific experiments and this arrangement seemed to make everyone happy. This campus was also where Galileo Gallilei taught mathematics for many years, before he was excommunicated from the Church for his astrological beliefs.

From here, we walked to the Piazza dei Eremiti to explore the church there. This old church, built in the 13th century, was heavily bombed during WWII so many of the frescoes were damaged.

5

An orchestra was setting up on the altar and we got to hear a bit of their practicing – the acoustics were incredible and the sound unbelievably beautiful. Too bad we couldn’t stay for the concert, but we had tickets to see the Scrovegni Chapel decorated by Giotto. This was the private chapel of a nobleman name Scrovegni, who had a gorgeous palace built for him and his family on the grounds of an ancient Roman arena. Sadly, the palace is gone, but fortunately the chapel has remained.

The wall frescoes tell the story of Mary and Jesus, and you can “read” the stories from the Bible within the panels. The Scrovegni Chapel is included in the Padova Card with free admission.

6

Dinner tonight was at Gourmeteria – an excellent restaurant and shop! Everything we ate was delicious and very fresh. I had gnocchi with a butter/sage sauce – so good!

7