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Our Favorite Recipes for a Complete Italian Summer Meal

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, we’re planning lots of outdoor meals to share with our friends and family. Of course, we’re putting an Italian spin on things, so we’ve assembled a full four courses of light, refreshing, summer recipes that will be a hit at all your parties this weekend. The whole meal is a perfect pairing with a glass of crisp, cool Mazzoni Pinot Grigio or Vermentino Chardonnay.  What are you most excited to make? Share in the comments below!

Trio

1. Antipasto – Bruschetta Trio

Bruschetta, or slices of toasted, rustic bread topped with simple ingredients, is a classic choice for a starter to an Italian meal. Since it’s usually served with cold toppings, it’s also a perfect choice for an outdoor dinner. Choose from the classic tomato and basil, prosciutto and melon, or pickled eggplant varieties in this recipe – or make all three!

Trofie with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

2. Primo Piatto – Pasta with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

This dish is perfect for summer because it can be served hot or cold, like a pasta salad. A slight variation on traditional pesto, this recipe incorporates sun-dried tomatoes, which are a mid-late summer treat in Sicily. Serve it as a lighter first course, or as a side dish to your entree.

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3. Secondo Piatto – Lemon Rosemary Chicken

If you’re Italian, there’s most likely have an army of relatives walking through your door this holiday weekend. We’re a big fan of this easy chicken recipe for large family reunions. There are only six ingredients, and it can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how many mouths you have to feed. The best part? You’ll have these chicken breasts prepared and grilled in under a half hour so you can spend more time enjoying your family!

Serving has begun

4. Dolce – Crostata di Fragole

We love to save the best for last – and if this isn’t the most delicious thing you’ve ever seen, there’s something wrong with you. Perfect for a hot summer day, this crostata is a traditional Italian dessert, and melts in your mouth. Grab a slice before it’s all gone – this last dish won’t last long!

Buon Appetito!

Cook Like an Italian: Balsamic Roasted Chicken

Roasted chicken is a very popular dish in almost every country in the world, including in Italy. I have vivid memories as a child going to my Nonna’s house in the countryside and having her Balsamic roasted chicken. This is a very easy recipe, and once you master the roasting process, you can conquer a multitude of delicious chicken recipes. The sweet flavor of Balsamic vinegar and red onions makes this dish uniquely Italian, and gives the chicken a tender and juicy texture.

You can also master your carving techniques when presenting the chicken to your guests, which will impress them and make your dinner party one to remember.

Chicken

Chicken and Onions

Ingredients

1 organic free-range roasting chicken

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 large red onions, sliced into 1/4-inch slices

1 medium onion, halved

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, combine the thyme rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil.

Rub the mixture under the skin of the chicken.

Generously salt and pepper the inside cavity of the chicken and place the halved onion inside.

In a roasting pan, drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the sliced onions, toss to combine. Combine the wine, balsamic vinegar and chicken stock and pour over the chicken

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for about 2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 165°, basting occasionally with pan juices.
Remove from the oven, cover the chicken with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Collect the onions and juices into a bowl and skim the excess fat.

Carve the chicken, transfer to a serving platter and pour over the sauce with the onions.

Buon Appetito!

FrancescoInfluenced by memories in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, Italian-born Francesco Romano is the man behind the food blog, Coco de Mama. He shares recipes and culinary knowledge with Mazzoni fans each month.

Chill Out: 4 Things You Should Know About Chilling Your Wine

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With summer in full swing and the Fourth of July right around the corner, we’re spending most of our time outside, eating al fresco dinners and having picnics in the park. And no outdoor meal is complete without a bottle of wine or two. But as the heat rises, so will the temperature of your wine – so how do you keep your whites (and reds?) cold enough to enjoy all summer long?

Of course, you’re welcome to serve your wine at the temperature that best suits your tastes. However, we do have a few ideas and guidelines that will shed some light on the art of chilling, and will increase your guests’ enjoyment of the wine. You’ll be drinking like an Italian in no time!

shutterstock_1738609941. Refrigerate that white! You probably already know that you should keep your whites (like Vermentino Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio) in the refrigerator. What you might not know is that you should also take the bottle out of the fridge for a bit before serving it. While a nice chilled white is refreshing on a summer day, letting the bottle sit out for 15-20 minutes will bring out the full depth of aromas and flavors in the wine. Don’t miss out by drinking the wine completely chilled!

2. Yes, you might want to put that bottle of red in the fridge too. But only for a little bit! If you don’t store your reds in a cool cellar, it could be 70-75 degrees or hotter on a summer day, which is a little too warm, and will taste overly alcoholic. Avoid this by putting your bottle of red in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before serving it. Fuller bodied, tannic reds (like Rosso di Toscana) need less chilling, and should be served around 65 degrees. Lighter reds like Barbera can be served at a lower temperature (55 degrees or even lower in the summer, depending on personal taste).

3. Keep it cold! If you’re hosting a party (especially outdoors) in the summer, make sure your wine not only comes out cold, but stays cold throughout the evening. Submerge your whites in an ice bucket on the table, or in a cooler if you have multiple bottles. Make sure your wine serving area is well shaded in a spot where the sun can’t heat up your wine too much.

4. Chill it – FAST! If you have an Italian family, you know it’s always a full house, with frequent (sometimes unannounced!) visits from friends and neighbors. Don’t be caught unprepared when there’s a sudden need for a cool bottle of wine. Chill your bottle fast by wrapping it in a cold, wet paper towel and sticking it in the freezer for 15 minutes. When you take it out, just make sure you put it on ice to keep it cold!

So what’s your favorite wine to drink in the summer? Do you have any other tricks for keeping your wine cold? Share with us in the comments below! 

Cool Off Like an Italian: Gelo di Melone

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Boxes full of whole watermelons and halved watermelons placed on crushed ice in grocery stores invite us to touch, smell, weigh with our hands, employ whatever method of assessment we rely upon to choose the specimen to carry home, slice and savor. I grew up calling this summer favorite cocomero. Later on I learned that in some parts of Italy it is called anguria and in others melone d’acqua (literally, watermelon).

Watermelons are popular in countries around the world and I believe no justification for this is required. As a child I eagerly waited for summer, when, among other delectable fruits, cocomero was in season. Road-side stands selling whole watermelons and/or chilled slices of the fruit are a summer feature throughout Italy. My father liked to engage in pre-purchase watermelon appraisal, a complex activity that comprised specific hand movements, knocking on the fruit — as if someone inside it could answer: “Yes, I am ripe and sweet” — and also the cutting of a wedge, called tassello, for the definitive quality assurance evaluation: a bite into the glistening red flesh of the fruit. That allowed my father’s palate to decide whether the watermelon was crisp and sweet to satisfaction and therefore worthy of his purchase. Read the rest of this page »

Relax Like an Italian: The Art of the Passeggiata

In most Italian towns and neighborhoods around 6PM, there is a natural gravitation towards the piazza, or town square. Summoned by an invisible force, well-dressed couples and families slowly amble towards park benches and stop to greet friends and neighbors.

The daily passeggiata is a tradition that is hard to resist and exerts its pull on people of all ages.  From the verb passeggiare, “to stroll,” a passeggiata is a “little walk” – less workout and more a chance to socialize after a day’s work.

Rather than heading home to shrug into sweatpants, or strapping on running shoes for jog before dinner, the goal is to dress to impress. The need to fare la bella figura, or make a good impression, means that a well-executed passeggiata is a true art form.

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Originally, the evening stroll was a time for marriageable young ladies to catch the eye of potential suitor. Now, the passeggiata fills a range of other social needs- from nonnas (grandmothers) catching up on gossip, to a cheap and pressure-free first date idea.

The walk can end with a small glass of wine at a local bar, or a cheeky gelato before dinner.  However, a passeggiata is not about getting anywhere in particular.  The main aim is to reconnect over a few laps around the piazza.  It allows friends and couples stroll arm-in-arm outside of the private space of the home, and nurture that true sense of community.

When traveling in Italy, if you are out at about at sunset, you will likely find yourself even unintentionally a part of the custom.  However, it is easy to recreate tradition wherever you are in a few simple steps:

  1. Take a few minutes to recover from the day. Freshen up and dress up a bit. In the winter, the moda (fashion) of choice is furs and hats, while in summer, pressed white linen should do the trick.
  2. Head for the main street or center of town.
  3. Greet everyone, and stop to share a few details about your day and your plans for the evening.
  4. Enjoy the most social time of day before heading home to a delicious meal.

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.

5 Tips for Visiting Italian Churches

Duomo

It’s no secret that Italy is home to many historic churches, both big and small. These works of art are some of the greatest architectural feats in the world, and were created by some of the most famous artists of all time. Italian cathedrals and basilicas have become a travel destination, and are frequented by tourists and locals alike.

While many churches in the United States abide by a “come as you are” policy, Italians are much more strict about how visitors conduct themselves in religious spaces.  Below, we’ve provided you with a short list of ground rules to follow should you have the opportunity to tour an Italian church.

If you’re mindful of these few easy pointers, your exploration of Italy’s rich historic landmarks will be simply stress-free and awe-inspiring. Enjoy!

Church

via Shutterstock

  1. Cover up. Italian churches emphasize modesty, and all visitors are required to have covered shoulders and knees. If it’s hot and you must wear a tank top and shorts, bring along a few scarves to wrap around your waist and shoulders when you enter the church. And don’t forget to pack a scarf while you’re still in the US – many street vendors surrounding the church will attempt to sell you one at a highly inflated price.
  2. Quiet down. Much like many American churches, Italian cathedrals and basilicas are a reverent place meant for contemplation, reflection, and appreciation for a sacred environment. That means you should keep your voice low, walk slowly, and turn off your cell phone.
  3. Save your selfies for the beach. Most churches have a no photography policy, so if you don’t want to get involved with any security guards, look for prohibitory signs as you enter the church. Often, this rule is to preserve the artwork inside. Of course, you can take photos of the building from outside!
  4. Eat on the street. Trust us, we know it’s not easy to put the pizza down when you’re in Italy. In respect of your surroundings, however, save the snacks for after your tour!
  5. Visit during Vespers. If you’re interested in seeing an Italian mass in action, Vespers is the way to go for tourists. It’s a quiet evening service made up mostly of repetitive songs, and has several benefits for tourists. You don’t have to wake up early for morning mass, it’s usually the shortest of the services, and the repetition and song is easiest to listen to for non-Italian speakers.

Have you visited an Italian church before? What’s your favorite? Have a tip we left out? Share in the comments below!

Trofie with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

Summer in Italian cooking calls for lighter dishes, but that doesn’t mean you have to skimp on taste.

Trofie with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

Everyone recognizes the original basil pesto recipe from Genova, which is classic and delicious. This month, however, I wanted to travel south to Sicily to make a Sicilian Pesto that has all of the colors and flavors of the sun-drenched island: tomatoes that have been lovingly dried in the sun, fresh basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, a touch of creaminess with some ricotta, and the salty bite of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I mixed it with Trofie pasta from Liguria, which is a short, thin, twisted pasta, to blend the north and south of Italy in one delicious dish.

Since the topping is raw, it is quick to prepare, and is perfect served warm or cold. Take it to the beach and serve it at room temperature! You can use any shape of pasta that you like, but make sure you add this flavorful pesto to your summer recipe repertoire and savor all the tastes of Italy in one dish.

Buon Appetito!

Trofie with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

Serve with Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound trofie pasta

1 8 oz. jar Italian sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, drained

2 tablespoons fresh ricotta

1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano

1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup toasted pinenuts

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor add the drained sun-dried tomatoes and basil and pulse 4 or 5 times. Add the garlic, ricotta, pinenuts, salt and pepper and pulse 3 more times. Add the olive oil and run the food processor on high until you get a creamy texture. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, reserving 2 tablespoons for topping, and pulse 2 times to incorporate. Set aside.

In a large pot of generously salted boiling water, add the trofie and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente, drain, transfer to a large bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Add the pesto mixture and 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano, toss to coat all of the pasta.

Serve this versatile dish warm, room temperature or cold.

FrancescoInfluenced by memories in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, Italian-born Francesco Romano is the man behind the food blog, Coco de Mama. He shares recipes and culinary knowledge with Mazzoni fans each month.

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