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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!

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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).

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Read the rest of this page »

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!

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