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Carnival sweets

Published February 4, 2013 by Tony

CHIACCHIERE
Mardi Gras fritters

Next Tuesday is Carnival here.
Although present in the Catholic tradition, the characters of the celebration of the Carnival festivities have origins in ancient times, such as the Greek Dionysian  or Roman Saturnalia. During the Saturnalia and Dionysian festivals was achieved a temporary dissolution by social obligations and hierarchies to leave room for subversion, for joke and even debauchery. From a historical point of view and religious carnival represented, therefore, a time of celebration but also of symbolic renewal. During these celebrations the social order was overturned: the slaves, for example, could be considered temporarily free men.

saturnalia
In Italy, one of the typical Carnival sweets are  the “Chiacchiere”. They are made with a mixture of flour that is fried or baked, then dusted with a lot of powdered sugar. This snack is known by different names in different Italian regions, like “bugie” in Genoa and Turin, “cenci” in Tuscany, “frappe”  in Viterbo,” sfrappole” in Bologna, “galani”  in Venice, but “CHIACCHIERE”  in Lazio, Campania and Sicily. This term could be translated as chatter, chitchat, babble and the origin of this word is to be found in antiquity. It is said that during the Liberalia, Roman festivals in honor of deities of fertility, rural elderly women with head encircled with ivy sold on the street a sort of sweet pizzas, fried with honey to offer to the gods. The celebration on March 17th was meant to honor Liber Pater, an ancient god of fertility and wine (like Bacchus, the Roman version of the Greek god, Dionysus). Liber Pater is also a vegetation god, responsible for protecting seed. Liber, again like Dionysius, had female priests although Liber’s priests were older women. The word Liberalia probably derives from the factphallus that on that day traditionally this feast also celebrated the maturation of young boys to manhood (puer), with all the rights and duties of a Roman citizen. Roman boys, usually at age 14, would remove the bulla praetexta, a hollow charm of gold or leather, which parents placed about the necks of children to ward off evil spirits, and wore toga libera or virilis. At the Liberalia ceremony the young men might place the bulla on an altar (with a lock of hair or the stubble of his first shave placed inside) and dedicate it to the Lares, who were gods of the household and family. Over time this feast evolved and included the goddess Libera, Liber Pater’s consort, and the feast divided so that Liber governed the male seed and Libera the female. This ancient Italian ceremony was a country or rustic ceremony. The processional featured a large phallus
puerwhich the devotees carried throughout the countryside to bring the blessing of fertility to the land and people. The procession and the phallus were meant also to protect the crops from evil. At the end of the  procession, a virtuous and respected matron placed a wreath upon the phallus, to cover it.
Furthermore, it seems that the “chiacchiere” were similar to the ‘frictilia’, fried in pork fat, which the ancient Romans consumed en masse just in times of Saturnalia’s feast. During the festivities they were distributed to the crowd in mass poured on the streets. Thanks to the ease of their preparation it was possible to fry in large quantities and in a short time, since they had to last for the entire period of Lent.
The recipe is not complicated and those who want to try their hand at preparing the chiacchiere of Carnival will not be disappointed.

Ingredients

500 g of flour
100 g of suet (butter if you don’t find it)
3 eggs
1 small glass of liquer (like limoncello, Italian Strega, rum)
1 small glass of anise
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
a little water if needed
sufficient icing sugar

Steps

1 Put the flour on a pastry board, giving it the shape of a fountain.

2 Place in the centre the eggs, suet, sugar, baking powder, vanilla and the liqueur.

3 Mix the ingredients well until the mixture is smooth, elastic and homogeneous. If the dough is too tough add water.3

 4 Form a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour in a cool place.

5 With the help of a rolling pin or a pasta machine, roll out the dough into a very thin sheet.

6 Fold the dough several times, going back to lay down. This will give a smooth and uniform.

7 Cut, obtaining rectangles (more long than large) with the wheel to the pasta and cut at the middle of each of them. Pass the corner of each rectangle inside the incision and gently pull, like trying to roll, it will form a kind of knot. This step can be avoided if you are not able to do it. You also can cut them as long stripes (10 x2 cm).


8 Fry the rectangles in abundant hot peanut oil, making them slightly browning on both sides.

9 Put them to drain on absorbent paper and, once dry, put in a container and sprinkle with a lot of icing sugar.

Although these pancakes can be eaten so, we usually serve them with the liquid chocolate…. ..yummy!

chiacchiere

ITALIAN GNOCCHI

Published May 16, 2012 by Tony

GNOCCHI RECIPE

GNOCCHI AL RAGU

This Sunday I have eaten “Gnocchi with ragù”  and since it is a dish I love, I’m going to share this delicious recipe with you, sure you will like it. “Gnocchi” preparation is not difficult, and even those who are not expert cooks can try it, because gnocchi are only half the story, if anything, the problem is the Neapolitan diabolical “Ragù” that, although not so difficult to make, takes time and the right ingredients. Such a treat! This post pertains to gnocchi, which are nothing more than “fresh pasta”, while the ragù can be replaced with a common tomato sauce, however. Whichever way, gnocchi are great accompaniment for Italian dishes by different recipes. Instead, if you just are denied for cookery, I advise you to choose an Italian or Neapolitan restaurant whose menu includes gnocchi with sauce, and taste them at least once in your life.
Note that “gnocchi” is the plural of “gnocco” and we guess the name is due to its shape that could come either from “nocchio” which is a knot in wood, or from “nocca” meaning knuckle, just to mean a small bulge.  Besides, here, “gnocchi” once were called “strangolapreti o strozzapreti” that literally means “priests-stranglers” or “priests’ stranglers” because it is told that in the 18th century a priest loved so much them and ate so many that a “gnocco” once blocked in his throat, chocked him to death. Shortly, gnocchi are thick but small soft dumplings, made with potato and flour simply.

Gnocchi preparation for 4-5 persons.

•    800 g (1 ¾ lb) (old floury) potatoes;
•    200- 300 g (7 – 10 oz) plain flour;
•    1 Egg (medium size, this ingredient can be optional as many don’t add it);
•    Salt for the boiling water.

Take into account that the flour quantity is indicative because it depends on potatoes absorption, since there are various types of potato on the market and each type absorbs different amount of flour (due to the different amount of water absorbed during boiling). However, you shouldn’t add too flour in order to keep the gnocchi softer.gnocchi_patate

1    Put the unpeeled potatoes into a pan of cold water (slightly salted) and boil them for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Potatoes should be roughly of the same size so that the boiling time is the same for them all. Generally speaking, the potatoes should be ready when the skin starts showing some cracks. Try to prick the potatoes with a fork and if you do not find any resistance, then the potatoes are ready for the next stage.

2    Drain the potatoes and as lukewarm peel them. Mash them in a pan to get a purée-like and let cool down for about 10 minutes.

gnocchi_patate3 Spread some flour onto the work surface to avoid the mashed potatoes sticking to it. As working surface any table or kitchen counter-top is good.

4    Put the egg into a small bowl and whisk it for few seconds (as told this is facultative). We are not going to add the whole egg into the potato mixture otherwise the mixture could be too wet requiring too much extra flour to complete the dough (excessive flour will make the gnocchi stodgy). Better to have the egg in a bowl and to add what we need, just two-three spoonful of it could be sufficient.

5    Put potatoes on the working-surface, add half of the flour and mix with your hand adding a spoonful of egg.

gnocchi_patate

6    Mix and add the rest of the flour and other egg, always mixing and knead the mixture for 5-7 minutes till getting the final dough that should be smooth and elastic (not sticky). If while mixing you think it is too dry, then gnocchimust add an extra spoonful of egg or, if it is too wet other flour, to bring the dough to the right consistency. Give it a cylinder-shape while the final dough will look like a soft loaf of bread.

7    Cut the dough vertically in 4-5 or 6 pieces. Flour the work surface lightly and then, press and roll each piece onto the surface to make long sausage-like strips.  The sausage should be about as thicker as your thumb. Cut the sausage in about 1 inch (2 ½ cm) long pieces. It is not necessary to give them a particular shape. Take into account that during the next boil the pieces will dilate a little bit, so avoid cutting bigger pieces.

fork8    This step is facultative and you can jump to the next if you want. Sweep each piece lengthwise toward you, pressing against the board with your fingertips. This will make each piece to curl up, taking the shape of a little shell. For this purpose you may also use other utensils such as the back of a cheese grater or a fork. In this case, gnocchi will be ridged and curled. Some prefer to roll the gnocchi onto the fork prongs will make grooves on their surface. If you want to do a top job, I suggest you use a grooving board specifically made for this purpose. These are all good ways to retain more sauce around their surface.

9    The cut pieces should be laid onto the lightly floured work surface and separated each other to avoid they stick together. Put on a cloth and let them to dry a little bit. For the lunch, Neapolitan housewife usually prepare gnocchi in the morning, so they are ready for lunchtime.

10    In the meanwhile prepare the “ragù” (original recipe needs 5-7 hours) or a simple tomato sauce, possibly made with some leaves of basil.

11    Fifteen minutes before the banquet has to come, take a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil. When the water is gently boiling, put the gnocchi into the pan and wait! The gnocchi will be cooked when they start floating (it should take not more than 3-4  minutes). Leave them to float for a further 1 minute. A way to check if the gnocco is done is to cut it and look at its interior part which should be wet as the surface and not floury.  Take them out with a slotted spoon and put them quickly into the saucepan containing the tomato sauce (this has to be hot).

12    Gently toss the gnocchi in the saucepan for about 20-30 seconds adding some basil leaves. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, serve it immediately and…..  Buon appetito!

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

To get the “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina” start from the point 11 and follow these step:

– Gently toss with a couple of tablespoons of sauce, then put any serving (portion) into a single oven-dish mixing a handful of diced mozzarella inside(you will need 4-5 oven dishes). Sprinkle again with a couple of tablespoons of tomato, a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano, and place them under the (oven) grill for a few minutes. The ideal time will depend on the power of your grill: we say that will be ready when the Parmesan is just-browned and reaches a nice light-brown color. When gratin is complete, remove the dish and serve garnished with a 2- 3 leaves of fresh basil.

The following is a simple recipe to get a fresh tomato sauce to dress gnocchi or to prepare “gnocchi alla sorrentina” :

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

1 kg. (2-3 lbs) of fresh, red and ripe tomatoes (better if San Marzano variety,  Roman type or paste Variety);
3- 4 tablespoons of olive oil;
2-3 fresh basil leaves;
1 teaspoon salt.

1 – First skin the tomatoes. To do this, pour boiling water over them and leave them for exactly 1 minute or less tomato_sauceif the tomatoes are small. Then cut half any tomato and squeeze the seeds out over a strainer over a bowl and reserve the juices. Either coarsely chop you tomatoes on a cutting board or use a potato masher to do so in your pot, as you cook them in a bit.

2 – Put tomatoes in a pot and cook on a low heat until tomatoes get limp and crush, stirring from time to time. It needs few minutes

3 –  Pour this sauce in a grinder and mash, putting the juice in the prior pot.

4 – Heat the sauce adding oil, salt and basil over medium heat, stirring from time to time. Then let simmer on low heat for 20 min as minimum or more until thick.

I would like to know if any of you followed these my recipes and succeeded!

LIMONCELLO

Published February 24, 2012 by Tony

 LIMONCELLO RECIPE

limoncello
In most Italian supermarkets or groceries, we can buy bottles of 95% proof alcohol, which we use to produce all sorts of infused liqueurs, but mostly limoncello, the famous Sorrento-liqueur made from lemons, also if someone like to add tangerine too.
Every family has its own recipe but more or less they are similar and the difference is in the alcoholic strength due to the amount of water added, while someone like to add more tangerine peels than lemons one.
The following one just is the classic recipe (but take into account that you can use half doses or according with the capacity of the alcohol bottle you buy. In Italy we easily find 1 ltr, 1/2 litr or 75 cl. bottles).

Ingredients

8-10 lemons (the spring harvest when they have the best perfume and still unripe);
1 ltr 95% proof alcohol (often we also find 75 centiliters bottle that someone prefer to get a limoncello with less alcohol content);
1 ltr water;
1 kg sugar.

Preparation

Peel the lemons roughly and put the peel into the liter of alcohol; you can use any container but capped up. (The inside of the fruit can be used for other purposes if you need it).

lemons
Leave for a week (a day more or a day less gets no importance but leave it until peels fade and become hard) so that the flavors from the peel infuse into the liquid that step by step will become yellow.

lemons pells into alcohol
When ready, boil the water and dissolve the sugar in it.
Wait till this mixture is cool.
Meanwhile, removed the lemon peels from alcohol.

mixed wth water and sugar
Then add the mixture to the alcohol blending with care.
Decant (better using a filter but even a cotton wool is good) into smaller bottles to cork up and store.
Serve chilled straight from the freezer.

filtering and ready to bottle

We Italians usually drink it after a good meal.

A tip.
Since more than 2 ltr of liqueur could be too much for you, instead to utilize the whole bottle of alcohol you could use the half dose of any ingredient and in this case also check if the alcoholic strength meet your liking. If okay you must repeat the procedure to get other liqueur otherwise, when preparing the new portion, you could use more water (and even more or less sugar according to your taste).

.

NEAPOLITAN XMAS MEAL

Published December 17, 2011 by Tony

NEAPOLITAN CHRISTMAS DISHES

What do Neapolitans eat during Christmas holiday?

Not all Italians know and much less one who is not Italian, or as any Neapolitan who has lived abroad for too many years. Since this is a blog about Neapolitan culture I could not avoid to dedicate a post to this tasty subject. Aside from some ingredients, hard to find on the other side of the ocean, many of these recipes are easy to make and those who enjoy the Neapolitan cuisine or who just want to taste something special for this Christmas, may try and present these dishes on the table. The applause will be guaranteed!

Any ‘genuine’ Neapolitan already knows what he eats during the holidays because the menu has ancient tradition handed down from mother to daughter, and it is very important to us. On almost all the Neapolitan tables you find the same dishes and shops are used to sell these usual products during this time of year. I’m referring, for example, to clams, eels, oysters, cauliflower, broccoli, cod, and the ingredients to prepare some classical dish. One of them is the “minestra maritata” (literally ‘married soup’), so called because the different ingredients mix as to “get married” each other to give an unique vegetable-meat stock. The typical ingredients are: chicory (cicoria), endive small (we call them scarola or ‘scarurelle’), broccoli, borage (which gives it a slightly bitter), chard (bietole), spinach, cabbage (verza) and with turnip (cime di rapa) too; in some variant is also used the Catalonia, while the meat is typically beef, pork chops and rind, other cuts and a typical sausage (made with salted pork intestine). Traditional also is the “Insalata di rinforzo” (literally Salad reinforcement), an appetizing salad make with boiled cauliflower, oil, vinegar, olives, anchovies and pickles. In every cake-shop and supermarket you then can find Panettone, Pandoro (traditional in the northern Italy), Rococo, Struffoli, Mustaccioli or Susamielli, just the traditional Neapolitan sweets together wine, Spumante and other liquors as drinks.
Well, during the holidays we have to distinguish from Christmas day and Christmas eve, as like as New Year day and New Year’s eve that precedes the so-called “Veglione” (New Year’s party).
The “Cenone” (the big New Year’s meal) is generally freer than Christmas’s and can also include the same courses as Christmas dinner, and not so important especially if people go to some restaurant or disco to enjoy the long nightly party among dances and dishes. As a rite, Neapolitans cannot pass a New Year’s eve without a slow long slow meal. But, here’s now a typical

Christmas’s eve meal

Oysters and spumante (ostriche e spumante);
Spaghetti with clams (spaghetti alle vongole), [with or without cherry-tomatoes;
Broccoli (lemon) salad (broccoli all’insalata);
Dried (salt-cured) cod (baccalà fritto);
Insalata di Rinforzo;
Dried large eel (capitone fritto);
As pastime a mix of dried fruits as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and the wonderful “castagne del prete” (Priest’s chestnuts), a particular dried chestnut got by a slow steam-cooking.
Of course, local or bottled wine can’t lack.
[You can read this previous post about some Italian dish pronounce.

Christmas’s meal

Vegetable/meat stock (Minestra maritata), [Note that many make it simply with pieces of hen only and then use the broth to get pasta soup (tortellini, ravioli, or any egg-pasta)];
Instead of Soup, someone prepare Cannelloni or maccheroni at ragout simply or pasta with sauce of baked lamb with peas and potato.
As second course we can find fish (grilled king prawn, roasted sea-bream, i.e.) or meat (grilled chop lamb, roast beef, i.e.), also if usually Neapolitan families will try to consume some of the ingredients bought or prepared the day before, as Broccoli, cod or eel, Insalata di Rinforzo, etc.
After any meal can’t lack the traditional desserts as Panettone and Pandoro also if these one aren’t typical of Napoli but always accompanied with Roccocò and Struffoli, then drinking spumante, Limoncello or a different. [ I talked about this in the post Neapolitan sweets
]

For you some recipe now

Spaghetti con vongole
you find the recipe here:
https://italiots.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/italian-dish/

Broccoli leaves salad with salt anchovies
BROCCOLIWe are referring to Italian broccoli that is mostly leaves, with just little flowerets because they just are the leaves to be eaten here in fact people from other regions used to call Neapolitans “leaf-eaters” even.
Trim off the leaves from the raw broccoli stem, discarding those too big or shabby and the tough stalk at the end. Cut the largest leaves and the trim off flowerets too, then wash broccoli thoroughly.
Place in a large pot with water and blanch for the necessary time the leaves become soft and flaccid (15 min should be sufficient). Drain and leave them to cool. Shortly before the dinner is on, dress boiled broccoli with olive oil, some crumbled garlic cloves, salt and lemon juice. Take some salt-packed-anchovies from the can and wash them a little bit before to add them to the salad. You can avoid to add anchovies in the case you don’t like them. The salad is ready and can be utilized to accompany some fried dishes as cod or eel.

Dried (salt-cured) cod
CODCall it baccalá, bacalao, bacalhau, morue, but we usually buy pieces already soaked and ready to be cooked, otherwise you need to soak the dried fish in fresh water for 2-3 days, changing the water every day – so plan it ahead.
Once got the soaked fillets, dry them and if possible, coat with white flour before frying.
Fry in abundant and hot oil until both sides of the chunks become slightly golden. Drain it on absorbent paper and avoid to add salt!

Dried large eel
EELYou should buy one still alive and able to cut into pieces before wash and dry.
As for cod, better to cover any pieces with white flour before frying.
Fry in abundant and hot oil until eel pieces become slightly golden, then remove the fish with a slotted spoon, drain it on absorbent paper, salt it, and serve it at once, with lemon wedges or with white vinegar squeeze. For someone the exterior fried skin can be hard to digest but, it can be easily put away.


Insalata di Rinforzo

Insalata_di_rinforzoDespite it’s not so difficult to prepare, I advise you to buy a ready-made-can at supermarket, otherwise you need to buy cauliflower, oil, white vinegar, olives, salt-packed-anchovies and different pickles. You need to boil the white cauliflower till becomes soft in advance. It has to be fork-tender (a fork slips in easily), but not overcooked. Once drain and cool cut it in small pieces and in a large bowl add green (or black too) olives, washed salt-anchovies, pickles, oil, salt and vinegar. You got a good one adding slices of small vinegar peppers instead of the pickles.



Vegetable/meat stock (Minestra maritata)
VEGETABLES

It’s a difficult recipe both to find different ingredients and to prepare it. As vegetable you should find at least more than two of the following one: chicory, small endivel, broccoli leaves, spinach, borage, chard, green cabbage, turnip; while chicory, spinach, chard and endive could be sufficient. An example for 5-6 people
1 pound spinach
1 pound chicory
1 pound escarole
1 pound small endive
1 pound chard
1/2 green cabbage
Some cheese rind (parmigiano crust) if u have
A bouquet garnis.

minestra_maritataOnce trimmed off and washed accurately the vegetables you need a big pot.
some cheese rind (parmigiano crust) if u have.
As meat you need (at least) pieces of beef and pork chops, also if u can add some pork rind (not so fat and without hair), some Italian fresh sausage (or cotechino), a prosciutto bone with some meat attached. if you cannot find pork chops and rind use prosciutto rind or use a quarter pound of fresh side pork (the cut used to make bacon). Do not substitute pork rinds or bacon, which have spices that will throw off the seasoning.
Remember you are going to make a vegetable-meat stock so it’s worth to add more ingredients also if in the end you will get something a little bit different from the original Neapolitan ‘minestra maritata’ taste.
Prepare a bouquet garnis consisting of a rib of celery, a garlic clove, 1 onion, a peeled carrot and some sprigs parsley, tied with a string.
Wash the meat and put it in a pot with the herbs. Cover all the meat to a depth of about 3 inches with water, add salt and set the pot on the stove. Simmer for two hours or more.
In the meantime, blanch the greens in a little bit of lightly salted water (dump them into the pot, cover it, wait for the water to return to a boil, and after some minute drain the vegetables into a colander). Squeeze out as much water as you can (it will be quite bitter because of the broccoli rabe).
MINESTRA MARITATAGive a look to the meat, if the pork rind still is tough, remove other meat and let it boil more. Transfer the pulled meat to another pot, and add to it a ladle or two of broth; check seasoning, adding more salt if necessary, cover the pot and set it aside. Let the broth in the stock pot cool and skim the fat that rises to the surface. Return the pot to the fire. Crumble the Parmigiano crusts and stir it into the stock, together with the drained vegetables and a pinch of hot pepper. Simmer for about a half hour, and check seasoning, adding salt if necessary. In the end add the pulled meat, mix and boil again for some minutes. Serve the soup very hot adding grated Parmigiano on the side if you like.
The wine? I’d go with a white, either a Fiano or a Greco di Tufo.

YUMMY!

ITALIAN DISHES PRONOUNCE

Published October 24, 2011 by Tony

Correct Italian dishes Pronounce

Italian_Menu
We all know that Italian restaurants are widely available, often inexpensive, usually have a romantic atmosphere and the food is very delicious and particular. Besides, it’s well-known worldwide that Italian diet (and Neapolitan specially) is very healthy and balanced.
But, unluckily, not anybody knows Italian language or able to pronounce exactly the name of the food while ordering by an Italian Menu and I think no one wants to sound fumbling or silly in that circumstance. Also if Italian food is such a big part of American culture, by now with most dishes perfectly acceptable English pronunciations — surely there will be some dish butchered even by well-meaning diners. How many person makes a big deal out of rolling the “R’s” when ordering spaghetti carbonara, for instance?
I can’t know the restaurant you get ready to go or the dishes in its menu so, I’ll limit myself to the most common Italian dishes you possibly can find in the menu, but you may ask me for other with no problem….
As a real Italian voice is worth more than hundreds of tips, cliking on the dish  you will hear the exact Italian pronunciation. Hope it will be pleasant and useful for all of you that like Italian dishes.

carpaccio
APPETIZERs

BRUSCHETTA
It’s a common appetizer (correctly called ANTIPASTO, meaning “before meal” in Italian, while ANTIPASTI is the plural), usually made with crouton and tomato. Please, don’t pronounce it “brewshhetta” because in Italian the “ch” seems a hard “K” with a well pronounced “s” ahead.
CAPRESE (it means coming from Capri)
A simple salad made with mozzarella, slices of fresh tomatoes and basil.
CARPACCIO
Well, probably in Italy we find many different recipe for the carpaccio. Beef carpaccio was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice in 1950 and legend has it that this dish was created for a frequent guest whose doctor had placed her on a diet forbidding cooked meat. Carpaccio di pesce (fish carpaccio) follows a similar concept, being prepared with very thin and marinated (uncooked) fish, the one I like more. Usually, different fillets of fishes are combined as Salmon, Swordfish, Alaskan halibut, Bream, Tilapia, Kingfish, whose long process of marinating brings the fish to become fork-tender and to lose that fish-smell that someone dislikes, especially children.
PROSCIUTTO E MELONE (also Cantaloupe or Muskmelon)
PROSCIUTTO E MOZZARELLA
INSALATA DI MARE
A seafood salad mainly made with octopus, vongolas and mussels.
POLPO ALL’INSALATA (salad of boiled octopus)
Note that the fresh octopus (not referring to the small ones) is a dainty seafood very common in the south Italy where there even is a rite to cook it. In the past when a fisher caught an octopus he had to kill it in a rude way – usually by some bite on the head or banging it against a rock to let it become tender. Once pulled away the entrails, it then had to be cooked in few boiling water dipping into and lifting up it a couple of times before to leave it. Nowadays, if we buy a living octopus, keep it in the freezer for a day at least, always with purpose to make more tender the hard inner tissue.
PANZEROTTI or CROCCHETTE (croquettes)
The potato panzerotti or croquettes are made with a mashed potato filling, stuffed with cubes of fresh mozzarella, cheese and finely chopped parsley, then breaded with fresh breadcrumbs before frying. While panzerotti are cylinder-shaped, croquettes can be small or big balls and made with rice and egg too. In this case we call them ARANCINI (from the word arancia=orange) that usually is part of the dish “Frittura all’Italiana” or “Frittura Napoletana” (Neapolitan fried) or “Fritto misto” (mixed fried) as someone call it too.

gnocchi
STARTERs
Sometimes you could read the word “Casareccio” or “Casarecce”… don’t worry because it should be a good sign. It’s a typical Neapolitan term used to mean “homemade” and referred to the pasta mainly, thus choose it with confidence.

GNOCCHI
Just dumplings! In Italy, these consist of morsels of pasta made with potato and flour and served in a tomato sauce. If you’re lucky, they’ll be “fatti in casa” (homemade) and fresher and soft. The “g” in gnocchi just modifies the “n” sound (sort of like the Spanish ñ), becoming nasally … “gn” as gnome.
MINESTRONE
Italian is tricky because unlike in English, vowels at the end of a word are never silent. English speakers tend to overcompensate for this by exaggerating the vowel sound at the end of a word, for instance, saying “minestron-EE”, while in Italian this last sound has a much lighter touch. If you don’t want bother with the “E”, you can pronounce it as “Mean-ehs-tron-ih.” or truncating it if you want, having the Americanized version of the word (with the silent “e”), but don’t add any extra vowels.
LASAGNA
A flat sheet of baked pasta prepared in different ways and with different ingredients. Garfield’s favorite dish is comprised of lasagna, but is actually called at the plural “lasagne” in Italian.
SPAGHETTI ALLE VONGOLE (clams)
Sometimes you can find CAPESANTE (scallops) as clams.
SPAGHETTI (or LINGUINE) AGLI SCAMPI (lobsters)
Often called ALLO SCOGLIO (sea-rock to mean sea-life) when prepared with different fresh shellfishes or clams.
SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA
SPAGHETTI ALL’AMATRICIANA
SPAGHETTI AGLIO E OLIO (garlic and oil)
SPAGHETTI AL POMODORO
In this case the dish could be prepared with any sort of pasta and called as “PASTA AL POMODORO” (Tomato pasta). Some original Neapolitan or Italian chef could call it “AL FILETTO” (to mean a fast sauce made with fresh cherry tomato and oil simply). Italians call it “AL SUGO” too, where “sugo” refers to the tomato sauce. We even call the most elaborate RAGU’ as sugo sometimes. About ragù, let me mention the two most important ones we have in Italy, the Neapolitan and the Bolognese, the first called beef ragù because made with different pieces of meats. Neapolitan ragù is very similar to and may be ancestral to the Italian-American “Sunday gravy”, the primary difference being the addition of a greater variety of meat in the American version, most famously meatballs (whence spaghetti and meatballs), braciole, sausage, and pork chops. Bolognese, instead, is made with minced veal and carrot. The people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous ragù with freshly made egg-pasta tagliatelle (tagliatelle alla bolognese) or with their traditionally green “lasagna”. It should be noted that the Italians do not pair Ragù alla Bolognese with spaghetti. Wider shaped pasta are thought to hold up to the heavy sauce better.
SPAGHETTI AL PESTO (pestle)
A famous Genoese recipe made with a sauce of vegetable, consisting of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano. Pesto means pounded, crushed, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle.
PASTA E FAGIOLI (beans)
Sometimes you can find the name “Borlotti”, an Italian red type of beans we use to get a soup too.
PASTA E LENTICCHIE (lentils)
PASTA E CECI (chickpeas)
FUSILLI
This is a common Italian type of pasta. Fusilli are long, thick, corkscrew shaped and the word presumably comes from fusile, archaic or dialectal word for “rifle” (fucile in modern Italian), referring to the spiral-grooved barrel of the latter. The word can also mean “little spindles” in standard Italian.
FETTUCCINE
Another type of pasta. Fettuccine (literally “little ribbons” in Italian) is popular in Roman cuisine and is a flat thick noodle made of egg and flour wider than but similar to the TAGLIATELLE, typical of Bologna. They are eaten with “sugo”. Fettuccine are traditionally made fresh while dried tagliatelle is a commercially product. A popular fettuccine dish in North America is “Fettuccine Alfredo”, while spinach fettuccine are made from spinach, flour and eggs.
PAPPARDELLE are a typical Roman pasta similar but larger than tagliatelle and the name derives from the verb “pappare” (to gobble up).
CANNELLONI (from the word “canna=barrel or pipe” because their cylindrical shape)
They are made with fresh pasta served baked with a filling and covered by a sauce (ragù mostly).
PASTA ALLA BOSCAIOLA (lumberjack pasta)
Because made with mushrooms.
TORTELLINI
The name comes by their shape because tortellini are a ring-shaped pasta. They are typically stuffed with a mix of meat (pork loin, prosciutto), cheese or vegetable. Originally from the Italian region of Emilia they are usually served in broth, meat broth, either of beef, chicken, or both.
PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA (letterally pissed off pasta)
So called because quite spicy.
RISOTTO
By this word we mean any dish rice-based and according to the main ingredient we can get:
RISOTTO ALLA PESCATORE (fisherman, to mean with seafood) made with shelled claims, mussels, prawns, minced octopus and cuttlefish.
RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE (of Milan) which main ingredient is the saffron.


PIZZA MARGHERITA
Pizza Margherita is the most common and known Italian pizza and surely the simpler and genuine one. Created in Naples in 1889 when the queen Margherita Teresa Giovanni, the consort of Umberto I, visited Naples with her king. Don Raffaele Esposito, who owned Pietro Il Pizzaiolo, was asked to prepare a special dish in honour of the Queen’s visit. Esposito consulted his wife who was the real pizza expert and together they developed a pizza featuring tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. He named it the Margherita Pizza, after the city’s guest of honor. It was a tricolor pie that recall the Italian flag colors. Note that Mar-ghe-rita is spelled with an “e” and not an “a” — this is what distinguishes it from the Mexican drink Margarita, made with tequila. You must say: Marg-EH-rita, where the “ghe” is similar to the one in the word ghetto . About pizza or spaghetti, often you can find the vegetable “RUCOLA” as ingredient. If you don’t know it, I advise you to taste it first in a simple fresh salad, because Rucola has a particular sharp flavor you should try before ordering a Rucola-based starter or second-course.

mozzarella-in-carrozza
SECOND COURSEs

BRASATO (braised)
This Italian recipe is a traditional dish of the autumnal period in Lombardy; it is made with veal meat in an only piece and red wine and so called because the meal must be soaked in the wine.
MOZZARELLA IN CARROZZA (literally meaning mozzarella on the couch)
Who doesn’t know the Neapolitan mozzarella? And do you know that it also can be fried?
To get mozzarella in carrozza, two slices of bread are pressed around mozzarella cheese, floured, dipped in egg and then deep-fried, so the mozzarella goes….. on board!
FRITTATA (fried)
Frittata is an egg-based dish similar to omelette or quiche, enriched with additional ingredients such as cheeses, vegetables or pasta even. My mom made it with onions (frittata di cipolle) or with
thin slices of courgette (zucchini) but for we all the frittata par excellence is the one made with pasta. At that time, the (boiled) pasta in surplus wasn’t thrown away (!) but reused at the occurrence as a second course or as a good picnic dish, just making a frittata. Just a curiosity now. For Neapolitans the word “frittata” means a sort of mess too, a confused situation just like to this dish where the beaten eggs mix with other ingredients.
PANINI
Panini is the plural word of Panini (sandwiches) so, if you want just one Italian sandwich, then you’d order a “panino”. The original should be made with Italian bread, usually round or tapered at the edges and stuffed with simple ingredients as prosciutto, cheese, lettuce, tomato or more elaborate as salsiccia (sausage) and friarielli (the typical Neapolitan vegetable “Brassica rapa subsp. sylvestris var. esculenta”), a sort of just-grown turnip tops, with a very unique taste, perfect fellow for pork.
SCALOPPINE (scallops)
A thin slice of meat, especially veal or poultry cooked in a rich sauce, usually of wine with seasonings. The most common recipes are probably Scaloppine al Marsala, made with Sicily’s renowned fortified white wine; Scaloppine al Vino Bianco made with white wine, and Scaloppine al Limone, made with lemon juice. However, there are also many variations on the theme.
POLLO or CONIGLIO ALLA CACCIATORE (hunter’s rabbit or chicken)
This ‘hunter style’ dish is a braise by some tomato and chilli.
BISTECCA (or chicken too) ALLA DIAVOLA (deviled Steak)
So called because the grilled meat is spicy.
BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA (T-bone steak Florentine style)
You should order it if you like underdone meat and hearty eater.
A favorite of Tuscan cuisine, bistecca alla fiorentina consists of a thickly cut and very large T-bone or porterhouse steak grilled over a wood or charcoal fire, and seasoned with salt and, sometimes, black pepper, and olive oil.
PARMIGIANO (PARMESAN)
It is the best Italian cheese we all grate onto pasta and so called because coming from the Italian city of Parma (Prosciutto is also from Parma). Probably expensive because a cow’s cheese aged for a year, at least. Useless say it is delicious to eat as second course or appetizer, accompanied with prosciutto or any other Italian “cold cut”. Usually, Parmesan is the informal American word for this cheese, which is why the Kraft cheese in the green bottle says Parmesan, and not Parmigiano. But to be correct and make good you should say Parmigiano.
PECORINO
This is another traditional Italian cheese whose name comes from pecora (sheep) , because just a sheep’s milk cheese with a distinctive and strong aroma and flavour. This cheese is often used in some particular dish as “Spaghetti alla carbonara”, i.e. In Italy two renowned pecorino cheeses Roman and Sardinian.
PARMIGIANA di melenzane (eggplant)
Despite this name means “from Parma”, because made with grated cheese, it’s a Sicilian and Neapolitan recipe. Note that this word get nothin to do with “parmigiano” having as last vowel (we call it vocale) an “a” and not an “e”.
POLPETTE
(meatballs)
This meatball is made from an amount of ground meat rolled into a small ball, sometimes along with other ingredients, such as breadcrumbs, cheese, spices, and possibly eggs. Meatballs are usually prepared and rolled by hand, and cooked by frying or braising in sauce (as ragù).
PESCE ALL’ACQUA PAZZA (literally means fish with crazy water)
For “crazy water” chefs mean a mix of oil, cherry tomatoes, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and water with which the fresh fish must cook together. It’s a healthy recipe giving to the fish a tender taste.
ESPRESSO
Most Italians end their meal with a coffee, the most widespread and appreciated drink.
The word “espresso” means “FAST” (as express) in Italian, because the coffee machines in the coffee bar do it in a faster and concentrated way, compared with the ordinary coffee made at home by the traditional coffee makers. Anyway, note that in this word there’s no “X” but three well-pronounced “s”, instead! Express in not and Italian word and quite different from the Espresso coffee we mean here. Also, this totally doesn’t matter when dining in America, but if you ever find yourself on a date in Italy, don’t order a cappuccino (coffee + milk) after dinner, that’s only a breakfast drink. Remember that for Italians, children even, the milk just is not a drink given during whichever meal.

tiramisu
DESSERTs

BISCOTTI
FYI, biscotti (cookies) is the plural of biscuit and since no one will order just one biscuit only, it’s common to say biscotti.
TIRAMISU’ (literally raise me up!)
A dessert consisting of layers of lady fingers soaked in coffee and liqueur and a cream made up of mascarpone cheese, eggs and sugar, covered with powdered chocolate.
BABA’
SFOGLIATELLA
CROSTATA (tart or pie)
A crostata is an Italian baked dessert tart, and a form of pie. The jams that are traditionally used as a filling are cherries, peaches, apricots, berries. The crostata can also be blind-baked and then filled with pastry cream (crema pasticcera) topped with pieces of fresh fruit; this is called crostata di frutta (fruits). A typical central Italian variety replaces jam with ricotta mixed with sugar, cocoa or pieces of chocolate and anisetta; this is called crostata di ricotta.
PANNA COTTA
A creamy set dessert similar to the BUDINO (from English pudding, with influence from French boudin).
ZUPPA INGLESE (literally English soup)
This dessert, often gets translated as “trifle”, gets nothing to do with “soup” but comes from the verb “inzuppare” which means “to dunk”. It is a layered dessert like trifle with pan di spagna (sponge cake) or soft biscuits known as savoiardi (ladyfingers) dipped in liqueur.
AMARO (bitter)
At the restaurant, for Amaro we mean whatever spirit drink or after meals (bitter) liqueur also if it’s in fashion to drink here a “grappa” or a chilled “limoncello”, especially after the dessert.

drink

In the end…. when in doubt, pronounce slowly every syllable, simply.
If you’re unsure of how to attack a word — say, “carpaccio,” “amatriciana” or “peperoncino,” just remember that there are no silent vowels in Italian, and usually the words are spelled phonetically (unlike English!). Our “c” is your “ch,” while our “ch” is a “k” — but beyond that, word pronunciation is pretty straight forward. But also remember that few mistakes are so egregious as to actually be a turn-off to your date. Try to pronounce things correctly when possible, but no one expects you to actually be fluent. You’re not an Italian, merely an American who knows his or her way around an Italian menu.
Remember, all this is told by an Italian guy living in Naples… so trust in me.

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Razor clams au gratin

Published October 8, 2011 by Tony

Cannolicchi au Gratin

cannolicchi
Today I want give you another recipe concerning another type of clam that we Neapolitan called “Cannolicchio”, also if it is not common worldwide, being a mollusk living in the Mediterranean sea typically. Besides, it is not a specie reared in culture and so only available in determined seasons.  Being a particular clam,  delicate and quite a delicacy, I hope you can find some imported in your country otherwise remember to taste it during your next trip in Europe.
The bivalve mollusc ‘ Cannolicchio’ is the razor clam  “Solen marginatus” also called as ‘grooved razor shell’.
It is a fragile species usually to eat raw, just fresh-picked  (as oyster)  but there are some particular way to cook it, trying to keep its subtle characteristics as the following recipe. It will give you the way to get a tasty ‘second course’ or an exceptional appetizer.

Ingredients for 4 persons

1,10 lbs  (500 gr) of Cannolicchi (5-6 clams on average per person);
1/2 cup bread crumbs;
olive oil (enough to spread on any clam);
1 tablespoon of parsley, finely chopped;
1/2 clove garlic;
A splash of white wine;
A pinch of Salt and Pepper.

PREPARATION

Note, the razor clams should be keep in the seawater and in a fresh place till the preparation.

Punta in alto   Prepare a sauce mixing oil, a handful of  breadcrumbs, parsley and garlic finely chopped, wine, salt and pepper (optional).

Punta in alto   Open the clams carefully with a sharp knife. This is the most difficult and demanding task of this recipe because the long and thin shells are very delicate. Try to stick the knife’s point at the latter interior part of the shell, then sliding slowly the knife inside with the intent  to fold down one shell. Usually, it should have to keep one valve only, but you also may keep both the shells if you like it. Wash the clam and at this time I prefer to remove the entrails too. Gut is easily visible because the small blackish or brown part of the mollusc in the middle external part of the animal. Help yourself with the knife’s point, avoiding to ruin too much the soft body and mantle. Put the open shell in large pan or casserole, one close to another in a row.

cannolicchi

Punta in alto Turn on the oven and reach 180°C (355°F).

Punta in alto  With a tablespoon pour the sauce on every clam, then with the hand sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top till to cover any clam.

Punta in alto  Put the pan in the preheated oven until the breadcrumbs are golden and crisp and the clams cooked, it needs not more than 10 – 15 minutes according to cannolicchi size.

cannolicchi

Punta in alto   Serve and eat when acceptably warm. A dry light Italian white wine is the best drink for this dish.

cannolicchi

YUMMY!

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ITALIAN DISH

Published October 5, 2011 by Tony

SPAGHETTI WITH VONGOLA(s)

spaghetti vongola
How to prepare the original spaghetti with vongolas dish, by a real Neapolitan guy recipe.
Note “vongola” should be singular so, I will use vongola
s as plural.
It’s a great Italian slight meal for any occasion.
Hope you know the Italian kind of pasta called spaghetti and what vongola is. Vongolas are freshwater mussels, just a marine bivalves whose scientific name is Venerupis decussate. We called it ‘Vongola verace’ when picked from sea and not from breeding that, obviously is more delicious. The true spaghetti -vongola are made with no tomato but with olive oil, garlic and parsley only.
As pasta you can use spaghetti,  linguina or vermicelli according to your taste and pasta thickness, where linguina is bigger than spaghetti and with a square cross-section while round for spaghetti and vermicelli.

Ingredients for 4 people:
– 2 Pounds (or more)  of clams; – 350- 400 gr of spaghetti; – ½  cup (150 milliliter roughly ) of white wine; – A sprig of fresh Parsley; – Salt; – Extra virgin olive oil (3,5 oz. roughly)  ; – 1 Garlic clove; – pepper or red chili pepper (optional).

spaghetti
vongolas

 

 

 

 

 

Step 1: Prepare the clams

Pour the vongolas into a large colander and leave under cold running water for roughly for some  minutes to remove any grit from the shells. If you have bought them and have to prepare the dish later, you should keep them in salt water or wrap them in a wet table napkin and keep in the fridge where you can store them for more time even.

Step 3: Heat the water

Place a large pot of salted water on a high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and bring to the boil.

Step 4: Drain the clams

Place a large frying pan on high heat, add olive oil and garlic and stir until lightly browned. Remove the pan from the fire and put the drained vongolas adding some splashes of white (dry) wine (even spumante if you already have an open bottle). Place on high heat and stir from time to time. Vongolas needs few minutes to open and cock, 5 minutes should be sufficient, and a minute before blowing out add the chopped fresh parsley and as optional some paring of red chili pepper.

vongola

Step 5: Cook the spaghetti

Once the water is boiling, uncover and put the spaghetti in. Bring the water back to the boil, whilst stirring and cook for 8-10 minutes. The timing is often written on the packaging of sundry brands and depending on thicknesses.  You should taste the pasta from time to time to check the right cooking point because pasta never should be too soft (softish consistency).  A tip: –  boiled consistency of pasta is called ‘al dente’ (Italian for to the tooth), meaning soft but with texture, sometimes even with bite in the center.

Step 7: Drain the pasta

Put the pasta in the colander, allow it to drain and then transfer it back to the same pan.

spaghetti-vongola

Step 8: Add juice to spaghetti

Using the slotted spoon to prevent any clams from falling, tip some juice from the clams over the spaghetti, and stir. Add vongolas at any portion (dish) and serve still warm. Please, don’t forget to do the “scarpetta” in the end, as Neapolitan call it, it’s to say to clean your plate with a piece of (Italian) bread. Any Italian white wine should be the best drink for this dish, also if I advise a fresh and aromatized Neapolitan wine as “Greco di Tufo” or “Fano”.  
Enjoy and YUMMY!

spaghetti-vongolasGreco di tufo