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How to Master the Art of Italian Coffee Culture

Coffee bar

If no meal in Italy is complete without wine, no day is complete without coffee. The cult of coffee is central to Italian life.  From stovetop moka pots, to affordable coffees sipped at the neighbourhood bar, there are almost as many ways to order coffee as there is to make pasta!

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As with anything in Italy, there is a right and a wrong way to do coffee.  This short guide to Italian coffee culture will help you find the drink to satisfy any caffeine craving.

Caffè – a shot of espresso served in a small ceramic cup.  Ordered first thing in the morning, taken during a 5-minute mid-morning break, after lunch, in the afternoon, after dinner, or any time. No need to call it an ‘espresso,’ it is simply “un caffè.”

Caffè macchiato- if you find a straight caffè too strong, you can asked for coffee ‘stained’ with milk.  A shot of espresso with a small amount of milk foam on top.

Caffè americano – the Italian-take on American style drip-coffee (which is sometimes called acqua sporca or dirty water). An Americano is made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso, diluting the concentration.

Caffè lungo – sometimes confused with an Americano, a caffè lungo is a ‘long’ pull on the espresso machine.  This allows more water to filter through the espresso, and results is a slightly diluted shot. Read the rest of this page »

Pici al Ragu di Carne: An Italian Pasta Recipe

In my recent travels through Tuscany, I visited this little village on top of a hill called Sant’Angelo in Colle in Montalcino, where Mazzoni Wines are produced. I had an amazing lunch at Trattoria il Leccio, where they specialize in the region’s famous pasta called “Pici,” which is a longer, thicker version of spaghetti with a wild boar ragu sauce.

Pici is a longer, thicker version of spaghetti.

Pici is a longer, thicker version of spaghetti.

I told the owner that I wrote a blog about Italian cooking and he invited me into the kitchen to see how Pici is made. His Nonna (grandmother) was in the kitchen making this regional pasta and she showed me the process and gave me tips on how to roll and stretch the pasta perfectly.

Over the burners on the stove was a large pot of ragu that had been simmering for hours. She walked me through a recipe and told me, “Devi avere pazienza,” or “Be patient.” The sauce takes over two hours to become so rich and delicious.

To bring a little bit of Montalcino to the United States, we’ve provided you with a traditional Pici recipe below. With this recipe, I hope you’ll make your own fresh pasta. There is a great tutorial here if you’ve never made Pici before. Don’t be afraid of the dough; not only will you impress your guests, but you’ll notice the difference in the taste and texture of this special dish.  Read the rest of this page »

5 Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt

If you’ve been to Italy, you know there are a few differences between American and Italian customs. While there are pros and cons to both cultures, we think the U.S. could take a few pages from Italy’s book when it comes to living La Dolce Vita (the sweet life).

Take a look at our top five Italian customs that we think should be adopted in American culture.

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via Shutterstock

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Orecchiette & Co.: Five Handmade Pasta Shapes

Simona’s rendition of scorze d’amelle

Orecchiette, strascinati, cavatelli. The musicality of the Italian language is displayed not only in inherently lyrical expressions, like poems and songs, but also in the names of everyday things, like pasta. Scorze d’amelle, scorze di nocelle. Simply saying these names tickles the imagination.

When I want to learn more about a pasta shape, my reference is the “Encyclopedia of Pasta” by Oretta Zanini De Vita. The book contains entries for 310 types of pasta. Each type is identified by a main name, and when applicable, alternative names. The same pasta shape can have different names in different regions, or different towns. Various sizes of the same shape may have different names. Sometimes the same name refers to two different types of pasta. Such proliferation can be a bit intimidating, if not maddening, for the visitor – or the writer trying to inform her readers. Read the rest of this page »

Italian Celebrations: The Holiday You Might Not Know About

The blur of the holiday season may seem to be fading into the background, but the Italian celebrations continue for one more day- La Epifania.

The Epiphany takes place on 6 January (the 12th day of Christmas), and is a national holiday in Italy.  While Babbo Natale has the 25th of December covered, the real star of the season is La Befana, who visits on the night of January 5th.

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Cook Like an Italian: Mussels in White Wine Recipe

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via Shutterstock

This Thursday is New Year’s Day, and it’s one of our favorite holidays because it’s celebrated by all kinds of people all over the world. Whether you’re in New York or Milan, religious or not, a new year is cause for festivity.

New Year’s Day is also an excuse for a good meal surrounded by family and friends. Seafood is always a popular choice for New Year’s, as it’s thought to bring good luck, so we’re sharing our favorite mussels and pasta recipe with you this week in preparation for the holiday.

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How Many Italian Christmas Songs Do You Recognize?

Are you ready for the holidays yet? We’ve had so much fun preparing for the festivities right along with you – we’ve taken you on a tour of some of the best European-style Christmas markets in the U.S., we’ve cooked up a holiday meal, and we’ve shared how to celebrate the holidays like an Italian.

In the whirlwind of shopping, cooking, and wrapping, sometimes it’s hard to slow down and enjoy the holidays. So this week, we’re encouraging you to sit down, relax, and enjoy the company of those around you.22

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In Italy, relaxation time often involves music (and wine, of course!), so this week we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Italian Christmas songs to accompany your holiday parties. Take a listen and sing along! Read the rest of this page »

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