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Foods of the World: Italy


I've started on my Italian culinary adventure. I've finished reading the book and it was fascinating. I've watched some cooking shows where they make traditional Italian food and it's nothing like what I think of Italian from a restaurant - and now I know why. The cast majority of American Italian food is Neapolitan - heavy on the tomato sauce and pasta. But the cuisine of the country is extremely varied. The north uses more butter than olive oil and far fewer tomatoes. The shape of pasta is even different depending on where you are!

The book was excellently written and engaging. The cover shows some of the more famous Italian products - wine, olive oil, tomatoes and smoked cheese.

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Inside, there are great descriptions of all these products and how they have changed from medieval times to present (well, to the 60s!).

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(yes, those are Willa's toes in the pasta section!)

I have around 12 meals planned from this book (2 or 3 dishes each). Some of them are familiar dishes (ravioli, lasagna, calzone, etc) but other are completely foreign to me (zuppa alla pavese, bagna cauda, suppli al telefono). I'll be posting the meals along with pictures as we make them. Hubby is out of town for about a week so these 12 meals may take me a month to make!

And I already could barely contain myself reading about all the delicious Italian food - last night I made a risotto. Not based on a recipe in the book, but just using ingredients I had on hand. Oh, it was so good! And probably in the spirit of real Italian cooking as much of the south is a harsh climate and very much a 'make do' sort of cuisine. Ok, on to the real recipes!

(I'll edit this post and include links to each meal as this may become a long thread. It will be easier to find meals again with this index - the link will just take you to the post in this thread!)

]Basic Pasta Dough, used in many of the recipes

,offset=0#post240979]Lasagna Pasticciata

,offset=0#post241031]Roman Meal
    Gnocchi all Romana
    Polpette alla Casalinga
    Salsa Pizzaiola
    Broccoli alla Romana

,offset=10#post241283]Tortellini (chicken and cheese)

,offset=10#post241322]Cannelloni and Zuppa alla Pavese

,offset=10#post241353]Costolleta and Riso (pork chops with white wine sauce and rice) - ]full recipe

,offset=20#post241388]Mozzarella in Carrozza - deep fried cheese sandwiches - ]full recipe

,offset=20#post241429]Costolleta and Risotto (pork chops with tomato sauce and risotto)

,offset=20#post241750]Calzones ](recipe)

,offset=30#post241888]Suppli al telefono (deep fried risotto balls stuffed with cheese)

,offset=30#post241939]Ravioli (cheese filled pasta)

,offset=30#post242011]Fonduta and Stracciatella (cheese dip and soup with flakes of eggs and cheese)

Last edited by TexasMadness, 2/22/2012, 1:52 am
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Re: Foods of the World: Italy


I've never heard of Willa Toe Pasta before emoticon (sorry, couldn't resist!!)

I love Italian cuisine, but DH is a bit picky. He doesn't much care for ravioli, lasanga and such. He loves spaghetti and pizza, though!

I'm looking forward to the photos and all from your adventures with cooking! emoticon
We love to try new things if we think they sound good.

There is one thing you [sign in to see URL] al telefono... uh, unless I'm mistaken, telefono is telephone in Italian. [sign in to see URL] was right, but I pulled up what this is, and it sounds really good!!!

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Re: Foods of the World: Italy


Yep, fried balls of rice filled with cheese that looks like telephone wires when pulled apart! Silly name, but a delicious sounding food (I mean, fried and cheese filled? Can you go wrong? emoticon).

I haven't had too many lasagnas in my life that I've really liked. Hubby says it's because they all been veggie instead of meat based. This one has bolognese sauce - the classic meaty sauce with some tomatoes. So we'll see!
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Lasgna Pasticciata


We embarked on our tour of Italy starting first in the North in a region called Emilia-Romagna.

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This region lays claim to the original lasagna as well as several other pastas like tortellini (who knows who really came up with them though). They also produce the only true Parmigiano-Reggiano - all others must use the more generic name Parmesan cheese (Parma, a city in the region, is responsible for the name).

So we chose lasagna pasticciata, a traditional dish made with pasta con uova (egg noodles), ragu bolognese (bolognese sauce - a hearty meat sauce) and besciamella (white sauce).

We started the ragu bolognese at midday since it was a 4 hours sauce. I admit that I did not follow the recipe in the Italian cookbook. It called for veal and chicken livers. While I feel I'm pretty adventurous, I'm still a bit squeamish about organ meats. Plus, I have NO idea where to get the type of veal that is produced in Italy - calves raised with their mothers until slaughter. I didn't even see veal in either of the stores I went to this week. So I used a recipe from the new ]Cooks Illustrated Cookbook I got for Christmas. I used 50% pork and 50% beef (my first beef since eating meat). It simmered all day and made the house smell delicious!

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Then we set about making the pasta. I love homemade pasta but haven't found "the" recipe yet. This one needed a little tweaking from the printed instructions (called for one egg and one egg white but it was WAY too dry, so we added the reserved egg yolk) but I think it's a keeper. It turned silky smooth and tasted divine. Willa even helped spread flour during kneading!

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Finally, we went on to the besciamella. Hubby was very apprehensive about a lasagna that essentially had no cheese in it (there's a sprinkling of parmesan on top). But after making the white sauce, we realized there was no need for cheese! It's thick and tasty.

We layered it up (meat, white sauce, pasta) for 3 layers and then topped with cheese and baked until bubbly. And oh was it GOOD! We served it with some Caesar salad from the Cooking of America book even though I now know that's an American invention - it just seems to go with Italian food!

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We will most certainly be making this again. But it was so incredibly rich, you could only have one little piece. It was just so creamy - that was certainly the overpowering flavor. The recipe ends up with 3 cups of white sauce and 2.5 cups of meat sauce. I'd like to keep the filling at the same level (5.5 cups) but use 2 cups of white sauce and 3.5 cups of meat sauce next time.

Phew. So even though it was "one" dish, this meal required following 4 recipes! It was a fun Sunday project though - certainly not a weeknight meal!

Last edited by TexasMadness, 1/9/2012, 3:35 pm
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Re: Foods of the World: Italy


Yay for making lasagne! I have made it a couple of times, and it's not hard (well, I buy the pasta). However, I usually put one layer of pasta between the different sauces. I love it, but it usually is just a bit too much work, so I make it when I invite people. Oh, and I'm using a beef / lamb mix I get a the Turkish supermarket around the corner. Very yummy - and I find I don't like ground pork as much as I used to.

Glad you enjoyed it! emoticon

Last edited by Firlefanz, 1/9/2012, 5:12 pm


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Re: Foods of the World: Italy


It looks divine!!! If DH would eat it, I'd make it. Well, let me rephrase [sign in to see URL]'d eat it, but only because it would be what was fixed and his only real choice, unless he decided to eat a sandwich.

I've never made my own pasta, except for egg noodles, and those are probably not like what the Italians made. It's pretty much just flour, salt and eggs. Mom used to make them instead of dumplings when she'd do chicken and dumplings. I used to LOVE unrolling them. She rolled the dough out like a pie crust, then rolled it up like a jelly roll, and cut it into thin slices. My sister and I would then get to unroll and drop them into the chicken broth. I loved doing that. How hard was it to make the lasagna noodles??? and, were they more like dough, or actually like what you'd buy in the store?

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Re: Foods of the World: Italy


Saijen, it's just like the noodles your mom made! Just a dough of flour, eggs and salt (some recipes call for a bit of oil and others for some water). I have a pasta machine which just helps you roll it out. It also cuts it into strips for noodles, but I just left the pieces whole for this - each is about 4 inches wide so two sheets covered the lasagna nicely.

It was fun, certainly more work than a typical meal around here. Firle, I agree with you - it would be a good dish for having guests over! Especially if I had some frozen bolognese sauce (the idea is to make a huge batch of that next time).
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Re: Foods of the World: Italy


[sign in to see URL] you, Texas! emoticon I do love those kinds of noodles! Easy to make.

Mom just used a rolling pin and [sign in to see URL]'s all I've ever used. Never even thought of a pasta [sign in to see URL].

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Re: Foods of the World: Italy


The pasta 'machine' is probably not as fancy as you are thinking! I took some pictures for you (and realized I still hadn't cleaned it since lasagna night!):

It clamps to the corner of a table/counter and has different rollers, the main one being regular flat rollers to make thin pieces of dough. There's a knob on the left to set how far apart the rollers are and you crank the handle on the right. Put the pasta through the top and pull it out the bottom.

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It also has two other rollers you can see in this top view. One is for cutting strips about as wide as fettuccine and the other for making skinny spaghetti type pieces. The same crank makes them go.

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Best $10 I ever spent! emoticon I got it at an estate sale in a never-been-opened box. My parents had the exact same model when I was growing up and I loved nothing more than to be the 'catcher' - the person who helps guide the piece out the bottom. I loved [sign in to see URL] to eat as many raw noodles as possible!
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Roman Meal


Next on our tour of Italy is a big jump to the south to Rome itself, in the region of Lazio. The Roman cuisine is a blend of north and south as well as more international influences because of it's long history as a seat of power. Many Roman dishes are truly unique to the country.

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I tried for a simple set of recipes, this being a weeknight meal. Well, it was far more involved than I wanted but it was still on the table in 2 hours (most of the meals I've planned appear to have at least one 4 hour component if not longer). Much of that time was just cleaning up while waiting for something to chill, etc so it wasn't an arduous task.

The meal featured gnocchi alla romana (semolina cakes), polpette alla casalinga (meatballs) with salsa pizzaiola (tomato and garlic sauce) and broccoli alla romana (broccoli braised in white wine).

I've had "regular" gnocchi before - or at least what I think of as regular - little potato and flour dumplings. But this is entirely different. It's semolina flour cooked in boiling milk until a thick paste forms. Then cooled in a thin layer, cut into rounds and baked with butter and cheese. It was good, not jaw dropping delicious, but quite tasty. I'll probably stick with potato gnocchi in the future though.

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The meatballs were an interesting adventure for me. I thought hubby would be home but he was picking up [sign in to see URL] I had to deal with raw meat myself (for the first time since eating meat). I had just gotten to the point of needing to form the balls (with my hands!) when he walked in the door. Whew. But at least I got over my initial weirdness about even looking at raw meat. It wasn't bad at all. emoticon

The meat balls were mostly beef (a touch of italian sausage thrown in) with plenty of garlic, parsley, parmesan and some lemon peel. I've never had meatballs before, so I can't compare but I thought they were rather good and hubby certainly enjoyed them!

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The meatballs were served with the tomato sauce - a very simple recipe (only took an hour compared to the 4 hour bolognese sauce) that used canned ingredients (tomatoes and tomato paste). It went together quickly and tasted great!

And finally the broccoli. Simple ingredient list - oil, garlic, broccoli, white wine, salt. How could that be bad? Well, it was! I mean, it wasn't inedible but I'm a big broccoli fan and I could barely finish what I put on my plate. Not sure if the wine I used wasn't up to par (there was 1.5 cups in the recipe!) or what. But it's certainly not on our "make again" list!

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All in all, the meal was enjoyable. I'm glad I found something beef that I can eat - it helps to expand my diet! This was no where near as spectacular as the lasagna but we will be making the meatballs again!

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