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The Wine You Should Be Drinking This Spring

Who says the perfect spring wine needs to be zippy and white, or popularly pink? After all, it’s a season that’s all about transitions. Flowers don’t just bloom overnight, and our mornings still require a jacket, even if it’s just a light one. We don’t swap our snow boots for flip flops right away either. So why shouldn’t our preference for wine get time to adjust as well?

I’ve never been able to immediately switch from drinking the big, bold reds of winter to the lighter wines often associated with spring. Which is why my go-to wine of the moment is the just-released Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana 2012. A beautiful blend of 78% Sangiovese and 28% Merlot, the wine offers the best of the Old and New worlds. Juicy, with hints of anise and dried herbs, and velvety tannins, it has just enough depth, warmth, and weight to be comforting. But it also embodies the very best aspects of spring in a glass. Its bright red color and abundant aromas of berries and cherries are lively and fresh — a refreshing sensory wake up call from the heavier wines of winter I’ve lately grown accustomed to drinking.

MZI_05An even more important quality I look for in a good transition wine for spring is the ability to pair well with a range of different dishes. This is something you don’t often have to worry about with Italian wines. The cliché is usually true — Italian wines go well with food, perhaps better than any other wines in the world. With lots of acidity and elegant tannins, I’ve found that red wines from Italy are simply made for the table.

Now that the snow has finally melted and eating outside is possible again, I find myself craving all sorts of grilled foods. Over a sunny weekend earlier this month, I cleaned off the grill with a strong craving for steak. I threw on a few in-season vegetables, and uncorked the Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana 2012. Before long, I had a meal that rivaled one I enjoyed in Tuscany last year, with a wine that was the perfect companion. And don’t forget about classic comfort Italian dishes. The next evening, I finished the wine with a plate of homemade spaghetti and meatballs, wishing for another glass as soon as it was gone.

This spring, don’t be so quick to rush into drinking wines better suited for summer. Enjoy the newest vintage of Mazzoni’s Rosso di Toscana — both now and through the end of the year.

Shelby VittekShelby Vittek is an award-winning food, wine, and travel writer, and a current contributor at Terroirist.com. She provides accessible, approachable wine reviews for Live Like An Italian.

Sunday Lunch: A True Italian’s Childhood Memories

A tavola! is the call that brings everybody to the table, a place where Italians like to linger. A tavola non s’invecchia, my father liked to say. Literally: “one doesn’t grow old at the table,” meaning that we should take our time to eat, enjoying the company and the conversation, which are also nourishing.

Growing up, the main meal of my day was lunch, il pranzo, prepared by my mother for our family of four. We followed the traditional structure: primo (pasta, rice, or soup), secondo (a meat, fish or egg dish), contorno (side dish), and fruttaThe Sunday lunch – il pranzo della domenica – was richer than the weekday ones and included dessert (dolce).

On Sunday morning, my mother would make a pot of ragù di carnetomato and meat sauce. She would use some of it to dress her handmade egg pasta (usually tagliatelle) for lunch and the rest during the week. The smell wafting from the kitchen changed as ingredients were added in sequence. First came the soffritto, the traditional mix of minced onion, carrot and celery (cipolla, carota e sedano) gently cooked in olive oil (also used as a base for other dishes).

soffritto

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How to do Fast Food the Italian Way

When the first international burger joints opened in Italy, there was a protest. People stood on Rome’s Spanish Steps and handed out free bowls of spaghetti. This opposition to fast food became known as the Slow Food movement.

But there is no shortage of quality fast food in Italy. It’s just that Italians do fast food differently than Americans. The aim is to make a meal more portable, without skimping on ingredients. Traditional street food, or cibo di strada, shows that fast and affordable can be delicious.

Here are popular versions of Italian fast food that will satisfy any junk food craving and hit the spot when you don’t have the time or appetite for a three-course meal.shutterstock_187071668

1. Pizza al taglio

While pizza tonda, or round pizza, is more recognizable in restaurants, pizza al taglio is a quick lunch staple. Al taglio means “by the cut.” this flat, elongated rectangle of a pizza is massive. To order, the pizza seller holds a knife over the pizza, and you indicate how much should be cut off. Your custom-sized slice is then weighed to determine your price. This means that more toppings will cost you in the end, but the sky’s the limit in flavor combinations.

The slice can be folded over and wrapped in paper to eat on the go. And if you want home delivery? Well then you order by the meter!

2. Pizza Bianca

While the same size and shape of other types of pizza al taglio, pizza bianca is in a category of its own. This “white pizza” is toppings-less. The pizza dough is covered with olive oil and salt. The result is an irresistible snack that has just the right amount of chewiness and fluff.

To turn this snack into lunch, a large square of pizza bianca is cut in two, and stuffed with mortadella (a boloney-like Italian deli meat), to create a type of panino made with pizza instead of bread!

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3. Supplí and arancini

Crispy on the outside and filled with cheesy gooey goodness, these fried rice balls are the ultimate comfort food. Stuffed with rice, tomato sauce, and mozzarella and then covered in breadcrumbs, these fried goodies differ more in shape than in flavor. Supplí hail from Rome and are oblong in shape, while Sicilian arancini are more conical and usually slightly bigger. Both go equally well with pizza!

4. Sfogliatelle

Light and flaky dough is thinly layered to make sfogliatella, a pastry from Naples. They are usually topped with powdered sugar, so consuming the sweet treat on the go is likely to leave the eater dusted with white, but the risk to your outfit and your dignity is worth it.

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5. Arrosticini

This meat on a stick comes from the Italian region of Abruzzo. Typically grilled lamb skewers, arrosticini are cooked over an open flame. Politely eaten with a fork and a plate, the skewered kebabs are also easy to eat on the move, making them a simple but satisfying fast food.

6. Fritti Anything

French fries will seem boring after Italian fritti. Fritti means “fried,” and depending on where you are, just about anything qualifies. In the south, you will find pasta fritta – cooked macaroni fried in breadcrumbs and shaped in irregular globes. In Sicily and Tuscany, fried chickpea flour is popular. However, fried fish and fried vegetables are most common, and usually served in a paper cone for a speedy and dangerously good fast food.

With pizza by the foot, sweet pastries, freshly grilled meat, and countless other regional specialties, there is no need to settle for a bland burger ever again!

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 More Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt

A few months ago, we published a post called “5 Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt,” that shared our favorite aspects of the Italian lifestyle. We were overwhelmed by how much you, our readers, enjoyed the post and incorporated many of the items on our list into your everyday lives.  Today, we thought we’d share a few more ideas about how Americans can live like Italians!

Thank you to our Mazzoni fans who shared their thoughts on how to live the Italian lifestyle after our last post. Some of you might see your ideas in the list below – take a look!

1. Wine CultureMZI_29

When it comes to wine, Italians know best.  Known internationally for producing some of the best wines in the world, Italy is home to many a wine lover.  While Americans often choose a great bottle of wine for special occasions or to celebrate, Italians are known to have a bottle on the table at nearly every meal.  Appreciated as an everyday delicacy to be enjoyed by all, wine is an essential part of life in Italy. And we’re not complaining…Salute!

2. La Famiglia

Italians are well-known for their love of family. In fact, many Italian children live at home until well into their 30s, or don’t leave their parents until they’re married! Italians understand that family is a reminder of where you’ve come from, and spending lots of time together is a way of life. Whether it’s Sunday pasta dinners at grandma’s house or taking a summer holiday together, there are plenty of ways Americans can adopt Italians’ love for la famiglia!

3. That’s Amore

Showing a great deal of affection is second nature to Italians. While Americans are often more reserved, Italians greet family and friends with two (or more!) kisses on the cheek, and are always quick with a hug or a “Ti amo.”  When meeting in bars or at a coffee shop, Italians are much more likely to say hello or even sit and converse with strangers. Of course, Italians also show their love by preparing delicious, multi-course meals for their loved ones. We think America could use a little more affection, and a lot more authentic Italian home cooking!

Piazza Navona in Rome (via Shutterstock)

Piazza Navona in Rome (via Shutterstock)

4. Love of the Arts

In any Italian city, it’s not hard to find art. Whether it’s the beautifully preserved historic architecture, the public museums and sculptures in piazzas, or the street performers and painters, art is everywhere.  Of course, like Americans, Italians also have an undying love for sports, especially soccer, but there’s a certain appreciation for the finer parts of culture in Italy.  Americans, take note – surround yourselves with art!

5. Travel Culture

If Italians know anything, it’s how to travel. Many take the entire month of August off for Ferragosto, or summer holiday. Many city shops and restaurants shut down, and Italians take to the beach or to a neighboring European country for a little rest and relaxation. Maybe that mental health break is what makes Italians so friendly! Trenitalia and Ryanair also allow tourists to travel within Italy and to other European countries quickly and inexpensively. Americans could benefit from a little extra summer vacation time to explore other states or our neighboring countries!

So what do you think? Can Americans benefit from living like an Italian? Anything you think we forgot? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Make Bruschetta Like an Italian

Bruschetta (Broo-SKET-ah), which are slices of toasted, rustic bread topped with simple ingredients, started out as a simple peasant snack for field workers, but today is an appetizer found in most Italian restaurants.

Trio The most famous version of bruschetta is topped with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and either fresh basil or a sprinkle of oregano. However, any crostini topped with meats, cheeses, beans, or other seasonal vegetables and herbs make endless possibilities that can satisfy all palates.

My trio of bruschetta appetizers utilizes the freshest ingredients found at the local farmers’ market. The colors and flavors can be combined to create many memorable toppings. When I am in Rome, I always go to Campo di Fiori to do my daily shopping for vegetables.

Farmer's market

I have made friends there and also in the United States at my local farmers’ market, and they can always tell me what is the freshest, or about some unique herb that can spark my imagination on how to incorporate it into a new recipe.

Tomatoes

My first bruschetta is the most famous, with fresh tomato, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and oregano. It’s a crowd-pleaser that never lets you down.  The second is topped with thinly sliced Prosciutto de Parma, fontina cheese and melon, which is a play on sweet and savory. The final one is a combination of pickled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese, which has a slightly spicy kick from Southern Italy. This one is special because I pickle the eggplant and jar the sun-dried tomatoes with oil to release all of their delicious flavors.

With just a few ingredients, these starters will kickstart your palate and will be the beginning of a wonderful Italian dinner.

Buon Appetito!

Bruschetta Trio

Suggested Pairing: Mazzoni Pinot Grigio

Ingredients:

1 large baguette, or rustic Italian bread, sliced to 1/2-inch thick

1/4 pound of Prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced

1 package small cherry tomatoes

1 small cantaloupe melon

1 package of micro greens

8 oz. fontina cheese, thinly sliced

8 oz. soft gorgonzola cheese

10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

4 oz pickled eggplant

4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, cut in half

Procedure:

1. Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters and place in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Add the finely chopped basil, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator.

2. Cut the cantaloupe in half and discard the seeds. Use a melon-baller to make as many balls as needed.

3. Wrap each ball with a strip of prosciutto, set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator.

4. Slice the fontina set on a plate cover and transfer to the refrigerator.

5. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and pickled eggplant into very small pieces, crumble the gorgonzola cheese and mix all together. Set on a plate and transfer to the refrigerator.

6. Slice a baguette on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices. Grill, or bake in the oven until they are slightly crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub with a garlic clove that has been cut in half.

7. Remove all the ingredients from the refrigerator and assemble the bruschetta right before you serve them.

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.

Become an Expert: The Essential Guide to Prestigious Italian White Wine

I love everything about Italy: the culture, landscape, people, places, industry (read bicycles and motorcycles), but especially the food and wine. I’m so lucky for the opportunities I’ve had throughout my several years in the wine industry. One of my favorites has to be the times I’ve attended Gambero Rosso’s annual event called “Tre Bicchieri”. For many years it’s been held only in New York and San Francisco, but our great city of Chicago was added six years ago and it has become a huge success. The three tastings are usually held in mid-February, with the winemakers traveling from city to city to attend, sharing their wines and wisdom. Read the rest of this page »

How to Make Pasta By Hand: Starting Simple

Cuzzetielle: as I was leafing through the pages of the Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita, the pretty name stopped me and made me read the details.

Zanini De Vita writes that this pasta shape is typical of Molise, the small southern Italian region sandwiched between Abruzzo and Puglia. She describes it as “rather open strascinati, whose curvature varies with the thickness of the pasta sheet.” It is made by dragging (trascinare) on a wooden board with two fingers a small rectangle of rolled dough. I couldn’t find a photo or image of cuzzetielle, so what you see here is my rendition based on the description I read.

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