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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.

A Dessert Recipe for Summer: Crostata di Fragole

Simona's Crostata di Fragole

Simona’s Crostata di Fragole

Crostata is a popular dessert throughout Italy: you can see various types in the window of bakeries and pastry shops and it is easily made at home. I have yet to meet an Italian who doesn’t have a soft spot for crostata of one kind or another.

The base (shell) of crostata is made of pasta frolla, a dough of flour, sugar, butter and eggs. Pasta frolla is versatile: besides providing the base to make crostata, by itself it makes very nice cookies (called frollini).

There are many recipes for pasta frolla and various ideas about how to make it. In my repertoire, I have two versions of pasta frolla that I have been using for some time, inspired by those in the seminal cookbook La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene by Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911), first published in 1891 and still in print. In Italy, we refer to the book as l’Artusi. (It is available in English translation as Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.) Read the rest of this page »

10 Signs You Lived in Italy in a Past Life

1. Your hands are as important as your words. Everything you say is punctuated with a perfectly orchestrated hand motion.  Crazy weekend? You recount it with a flourish of the wrist.  Difficult boss? A shake of the fist. Don’t understand what someone wants? Purse your fingers together. Absolutely starving? Tap your tummy.  No story is complete with the hand motions that really get the point across.

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2. You dress to make an impression. Be that head-to-toe monochrome, or a perfectly fitted suit, your clothes make a statement about you.  You do not believe in sweatpants in the grocery store, unless they are designer and accessorized; and you would never leave the house without hair done and makeup perfectly applied.

3. Whatever  your shape, you work it. Most fabulous person in the room? That’s you. But you already knew that.  Your confidence is off the charts and anyone who says otherwise is crazy.

4. You don’t believe in using “inside voices.” Something worth saying is worth saying loudly. Regardless of if you are happy or sad, you are always pret-ty expressive. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are yelling out of joy or anger, but the one thing that is certain is that you are not shy about making a point.

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5. Family comes first. Your family is your biggest support system and you would never dream of putting anything before them. Holidays or events are just an excuse to celebrate together. You make time for family meals, and use dinner time to catch up and reconnect. You would do anything for your family without question.

6. Personal space—what is that and why would you want it? In restaurants, you pick the one table next to other diners, instead of sequestering yourself in a corner. On the bus, you are not afraid to squeeze into an impossibly small space.  At home, you hug and kiss friends and relatives with abandon.

7. Lunch is the most important meal of the day. You are perfectly content with a small breakfast and a coffee. (Well, lots of coffee). But if you had it your way, lunch would always be a multi-course affair with wine pairings. At a minimum, you always take your lunch break instead of hurriedly eating at your desk, savouring every bite and dreaming of sun-drenched summer feasts.

8. Say no to fad diets. Bread, pasta, pizza: you love it all.  You know there is nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence and feel no meal is complete without a hearty helping of carbohydrates.  Within a healthy Mediterranean diet, carbs are a cornerstone along with plenty of fruit and vegetables, olive oil, meat and seafood.

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9. Ordering coffee is an art. You know exactly how you want your coffee and you are not afraid to order it just right. Multiple times a day. With an accompanying and suitably long break to enjoy it.

10. Italy is the place dreams are made of. You daydream about Italian vacations and buying Tuscan villas (with enough bedrooms for your entire family to visit, of course).  When you can’t be there in person, you still know how to adopt Italian customs into everyday life.

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.

Eggplant Recipe: Celebrate Mother’s Day Like an Italian!

Francesco 2

Buona Festa della Mamma – Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s not a coincidence that I named my own blog Coco de Mama, which translates to “Mamma’s Boy” in Italian. Mamma has taught me everything I know about cooking and life and has always supported me through thick and thin. You see in almost all Italian families that the Mammas and Nonnas (grandmothers) are put on a pedestal by their sons, and are loved and adored.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, I put a recipe together combining Mamma’s favorite ingredients; eggplant and tagliatelle, but baked in the shape of a cake, so when she cuts into it she sees a delicious surprise. I based this recipe on our traditional Sunday lunch dish, Involtini alla Norma, but I made it this time with a twist. It has a striking presentation that can also feed a family celebrating Mamma’s special day. Read the rest of this page »

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

Read the rest of this page »

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