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Danette St. Onge

Italian Food

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Buona Pasqua! Italian Easter Recipes

Monday April 14, 2014
Italians celebrate Easter in may ways throughout the different regions, but generally with chocolate eggs for the children containing toy surprises, roast lamb or goat, spring vegetables such as artichokes, and a colomba (dove) a cake made with the same dough as panettone but baked in the shape of a bird and topped with coarse pearl sugar and/or almonds. As a special Easter chocolate treat, together with a variety of traditional Easter recipes we have a recipe for decadent Bacio brownies, made with the famed chocolates from the Perugina brand. Buona Pasqua a tutti!

Easy Weeknight Dinners

Monday March 31, 2014
Even in Italy, the land where the Slow Food movement originated, people are busier than ever these days. On a lazy Sunday you might have time to slow-cook your ragu' for hours, but on a weeknight, if you're just getting home from work, you're tired, and you don't have a lot of time or energy, you probably want something faster and simpler. Here are some dishes you can have on the table in less than 30 minutes, either start-to-finish, or by making them ahead of time and simply reheating!

Happy San Giuseppe's Day!

Wednesday March 19, 2014

The holidays in Italy seem endless, and each one has its special associated foods, which might differ from region to region. Part of the reason for so many holidays is the fact that every single day of the calendar year is the Feast Day of one or more Catholic saints. This doesn't mean that every day is a holiday in Italy, of course. March 17, for instance, the feast day of San Patrizio (better known in the English-speaking world as Saint Patrick), is not celebrated in Italy. (He is the patron saint of Ireland, after all.)

Food and the Feast Day of San Giuseppe
Today, though, March 19, the Feast Day of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph), is celebrated throughout Italy and in many Italian American communities. It's also Father's Day in Italy and it's traditionally celebrated with fried or baked pastries originating in Naples called zeppole (also known as bigne' or sfinge/sfingi/sfinci), They're usually filled with pastry cream or ricotta and dusted with sugar. Read more...

Fava Bean and Fennel Soup
One of the dishes traditionally served on the Feast Day of San Giuseppe, in Sicily, this velvety, flavorful puree incorporates the fava bean, considered a lucky charm as well as a token of St. Joseph. See the recipe for Fava Bean and Fennel Soup (Macco di fave e finocchietto).

Felice Otto Marzo!

Friday March 8, 2013
March 8 is International Woman's Day, and is an occasion for considerable celebration in Italy.

Not familiar with L'8 Marzo? Like many other days set aside to celebrate the rights of workers, the International Woman's Day's origins are American: At the turn of the last century women were entering the workforce in record numbers in the United States, and began to agitate for better working conditions and pay, as well as the vote. In 1908 the Socialist women of the US held demonstrations for improved working conditions, better pay, and suffrage on February 28. On February 28 1909 several thousand women turned out in Manhattan, and during the same winter the women working in the sweatshops struck for better conditions and pay, with the support of the Woman's Trade Union, which provided bail money and food.

American women continued to observe February 28 as Woman's Day, while in 1910 the delegates of the Socialist International Meeting in Copenhagen voted unanimously to establish an International Women's Day, without setting a specific date.

So in 1911 the women of Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland demonstrated on March 19, and it is estimated that more than a million people participated. A week later, on March 25, in Manhattan the Triangle fire claimed the lives of more than 140 workers, mostly immigrant girls -- there was only one fire escape for the hundreds of people trapped in the burning floors -- and the newspaper accounts led to calls for reform, while tying the fire to the struggle for women's rights in popular imagery. (For more information, including heart-rending newspaper accounts, see the Triangle Fire pages).

Yearly demonstrations continued, becoming associated with the peace movements that formed as a response to the gathering clouds of war in Europe; in particular, Russian women settled on February 28 as the day for their demonstrations. And continued to demonstrate during the war; despite opposition from other activists, on the last Sunday of February -- the 23rd -- 1917 they went on strike to protest conditions at home and the more than 2 million war dead. They called for "bread and peace," and four days later the Czar capitulated; one of the first things the provisional government did was grant women the right to vote. The date, February 23 on the Julian calendar then used in Russia, was March 8 in the Gregorian calendar used elsewhere, and that's why International Woman's Day is March 8.

In Italy it's an occasion for meetings, talks, and demonstrations, and men traditionally give women a sprig of mimosa, with its bright yellow blossoms, to mark the occasion. I'm off to buy Daughter Clelia and Wife Elisabetta theirs.

Again, happy March 8 to all who celebrate it!

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Thinking about Chicken Bruschetta...

Monday October 1, 2012
Bruschetta I was searching the Web the other day for bruschetta, and came across an entry for "chicken bruschetta." It struck me as odd, because I'd never heard of bruschetta di pollo, which is what it would (roughly) be in Italian. So I clicked on the link and discovered it is a grilled chicken breast with a topping.

While an Italian might like a grilled chicken breast with a topping, few in Italy would think to call it bruschetta, for the simple reason that the word bruschetta means a rustic slice of country bread that has been bruscato, or toasted, and then rubbed with a slice of garlic. Antonio Piccinardi says the practice of toasting and garlicking slices of bread began between the Abruzzo and Lazio, and subesquently spread to other parts of Italy, gaining the dusting of salt and the drizzle of olive oil as it went.

While Bruschetta made this way is still one of the finest fall antipasti and the perfect way to enjoy newly pressed olive oil (in about a month), Italians do now also enrich their bruschetta with finely chopped tomatoes, or cooked white beans (especially in Tuscany and Umbria), or with kale, at which point the bruschetta becomes cavolo con le fette.

But as I said, I don't personally know anyone in Italy who makes Bruschetta di Pollo. Yet -- Google did turn up one recipe for Bruschetta di Pollo on a site called "A Tutto Pollo" -- Solid Chicken -- which says it is a "Piatto light e molto mediterraneo," A light very mediterranean dish, and the use of a trendy English word in the description speaks volumes. If the recipe catches on, we may yet talk of Bruschetta di Pollo in Italy, though I rather expect most people will continue to call the dish Petti grigliati alla...

In the meantime, if you want to try Chicken Bruschetta (written up in English), Linda's recipe looks quite nice.

Today's Picture: Millefoglie with Crema Chantilly.

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Fresh Ricotta and More

Saturday September 29, 2012
Ricotta You might not think it, but ricotta is one of the more versatile Italian ingredients, working very well in fillings for pasta, fillings for vegetables, and also in pasta sauces and dishes such as lasagna, and that's just the savory side of the equation. It's also wonderful in cheesecakes and puddings, and if you don't feel like cooking, good fresh ricotta is very nice with a drizzle of good olive oil, salt, pepper, crusty bread, and a class of wine.

Got some ricotta and wondering what to do? Check out the ricotta recipes collection I just posted.

While we're on the subject of new things, don't miss Paccheri Pasta with Cheesy Grilled Zucchini, or Neapolitan Lasagna with Sausages. A pair of easy recipes that will work nicely as comfort foods.

Today's Picture: A Chianina ox, hitched to a wine cart for the annual presentation of Chianti Rufina to Florence (which took place today).

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Almost Wordless Wednesday: Cavolo Verza, Savoy Cabbage

Wednesday September 26, 2012
Savoy Cabbage

Cabbage is, like most everything else in Italy, both seasonal and regional. The leafy head cabbages are more of a northern thing because they do best with cold winter temperatures of a sort that are rarer in the south.

And yes, heads of Savoy Cabbage are beginning to appear in the markets. Given that it's quite soon for them, I'm not sure if they're Italian, but they are nice. A couple of ideas: Today's Picture: A Venetian Mask.

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Thinking About Stuffed Peppers

Saturday September 22, 2012
Bull's Horn peppers Bell peppers are one of the finest summer vegetables, but are also very nice come fall, when it cools enough that one actually feels like turning on the oven (we don't have air conditioning in our house), and can therefore bake the peppers after stuffing them. A few ideas: Today's Picture: Storage tanks at a distillery.

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Almost Wordless Wednesday: Patate!

Wednesday September 19, 2012
Potatoes

Potatoes may be from the Americas, but it's difficult to imagine Italian (or any other European cuisine) without them.

Italians fry them, mash them, dice tham and add them to the roasting pan, and in the past when frugality was more important, would simply boil them and eat them with a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Then there are gnocchi, stuffed pasta dishes, and other preparations, for example soups, which gain considerable creaminess from the addition of a potato or two.

These potatoes were in Florence's Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio, and have a rather non-commercial look to them -- the potatoes one finds in bags in the supermarket hare generally much better washed.

About Potatoes, and Many Italian potato recipes

Moving in a slightly different direction, the latest addition to the site is a collection of Italian peasant foods, what are generally called Ii>Cucina Povera -- Traditional, inexpensive, often one-course meals enjoyed by Italy's rural population in the days when meats were a treat for special occasions.

Today's Picture: Venice at Night.

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Start with a Chicken...

Friday September 14, 2012
Chicken is one of the most popular meats in Italy, and even though much of what is now sold is commercially raised, it is tasty. And then, if one is lucky enough to come across a true free-range bird that foraged in the barn yard, well. Heaven on earth! What to do with it?

If it's really hot, set it on the grill. You can either squash it with a brick in the Etruscan tradition, or marinate it following Vittorio's lead.

If it's not so hot, pollo alla cacciatora, or chicken cacciatore is quite nice. Though many recipes are extremely elaborate, I like Artusi's simple recipe. A close relative would be Pollo alla Marengo, the dish Napoleon enjoyed after a great victory in Piemonte. Or you could cream your chicken, if you want something more delicate.

Cooler out, or a special occasion? Stuff it, and a rice-and-tomato stuffing is quite nice.

Winding down, three things:
How to Chop Up a Chicken | How to Bone a Chicken | Italian Chicken Recipes

Today's Picture: Downtown Siena.

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