One Drink and Four Foods I Look Forward to Consuming in Italy

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Looking up at the Etruscan Arch in Perugia 

What does this Italian expatriate look forward to eating and drinking when she goes back to her country of origin? I grew up in Perugia and that is the city I usually visit first.

As soon as possible after my arrival, I go to a coffee shop and ask for un cappuccino. Two words, and I get what I had been wishing for during the long hours on the plane: an espresso mellowed by milk, topped with a layer of creamy foam, served in its own cup placed on a matching saucer, with a small spoon resting on the saucer.

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In the days that follow, I use my cappuccino break as my daily writing time. One of the places where I like to sit down with my notebook is You Grifo in downtown Perugia, where cappuccino is served with a side of fresh whipped cream (panna montata).

Next stop is the grocery store, il supermercato, where I go to the charcuterie and cheese counter to get prosciutto crudo, mozzarella di bufala and ricotta. Where the various types of prosciutto are displayed, I can usually find prosciutto di San Daniele (PDO), prosciutto di Parma (PDO) and prosciutto di Norcia (PGI), the latter produced in Umbria, the region of which Perugia is the capital.

Besides prosciutto e melone (with cantaloupe), a classic summer dish in Italy, when melons are plentiful and flavorful, the pairing with fresh fichi (figs) is also quite nice. My favorite way of eating prosciutto is with torta al testo, a traditional flatbread from Perugia. My husband prefers to drape slices of prosciutto on crispbread.

A bite of fresh mozzarella is like a dive into a cool pool on a hot day: deeply refreshing. When the mozzarella is made with buffalo milk, the experience is even more pleasant. A plate of sliced milky, fresh mozzarella and salty, aged prosciutto offers a perfect balance of opposites.

The word ricotta comes from the Latin recoctus, meaning cooked again. The name describes the process whereby ricotta has been traditionally made in Italy for centuries, by cooking again the whey (siero di latte) left over from making certain types of cheese.

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Ricotta can be purchased packaged in the refrigerated dairy section, but I prefer to get some of that sold in bulk. I choose ricotta di mucca (cow) or ricotta di pecora (sheep), depending on what I am planning to do with it, for example, dressing pasta. My favorite way of consuming ricotta is slightly sweetened, spoonful by spoonful. I regularly make cheese at home in California, and make ricotta with the resulting whey. It is quite good, yet not as delicious as the one I buy in Italy.

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I then go to the biscotti aisle. Biscotto is a word of Latin origin that means twice-baked: the dough is baked, cut into slices and baked again. From describing a cooking procedure, the word biscotto came to indicate a baked product, crunchy and fairly dry in texture. Nowadays, biscotti are not usually twice-baked (some of them are, like biscotti di Prato). In Italy, biscotti dipped in caffelatte are a breakfast staple (they have their own entry in the Italian food pyramid and in grocery stores you can find a wide array of biscotti: frollini, novellini, petit, oswego (or osvego), etc.

When I moved to California, I did not find in the local stores any of the biscotti I was used to eating. On the other hand, I found plenty of ‘biscotti,’ that is, variations on the theme of a twice-baked product that up until then I had called cantucci. While I am able to find some of my favorite biscotti in the U.S., in particular my childhood favorites made by Gentilini, I like to eat a variety of them when I am in Italy.

But “What about pizza?,” some of you may say, “What about gelato?” Space limitations prevent me from listing all the foods I am looking forward to eating during my visit. Let me know in the comments what your shortlist is. In the meantime, as a preview, I will tell you that I am also planning to taste some chocolate: I will write about this in my next post. Stay tuned!

6a00d835508b1869e201a511871f44970c-150wiWith a specialty in handmade pasta, Simona provides detailed, accessible tutorials teaching readers to cook like an Italian right from home on Live Like an Italian as well as on her own blog, briciole.

How to Make A Perfect Cup of Italian Coffee

There are many rules about living in Italy. For example, it is unlucky to make a toast with water- only wine will do!

Furthermore, you should never trim your toenails or fingernails on a Thursday, do anything associated with the number 17, or go for a swim without waiting 3 hours after eating. 3 hours!

But when it comes to coffee, the only rule is that it should be enjoyed often. (Also, that it should be called simply “caffé” not “espresso”).

Making Italian coffee at home does not require an expensive espresso machine.  You can make fantastic Italian coffee on a stovetop in these easy steps.  All you will need is water, finely ground coffee, and a moka pot- a staple in all Italian kitchens!

  1. Unscrew the top chamber from the bottom, and remove the basket.DSCF0863
  2. Fill the bottom chamber with water up to the faint line, or about 1 inch below the top.DSCF0864
  3. Place the basket back into the bottom chamber and fill with finely ground coffee. Tap lightly to smooth, but do not pack the coffee.DSCF0870
  4. Screw the top chamber on and place over low heat.DSCF0862DSCF0873
  5. The moka pot works via steam, and you can listen for the coffee to begin to brew and spurt lightly into the top chamber. Turn off the heat when the coffee stops, but allow the pot to sit for a moment for the sought after ‘crema.’DSCF0874
  6. Pour and enjoy!DSCF0876

If you have a new moka pot, brew as above but throw away the first batch to break the pot in.

Once you have made Italian coffee at home, you can enjoy a hot caffé, or turn it into any kind of Italian coffee you like, from breakfast to dessert!

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_nNatalie 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.

Have You Tried the Perfect Beach Wine?

wine lakeItalians haven’t been the only ones enjoying a vacation this month. I’ve spent a great deal of time at the beach over the past few weeks, too. Which means I’ve spent plenty of time contemplating and researching what, exactly, makes a great beach wine.

It has been an especially hot August here on the East Coast. So it’s been almost necessary to fill my fridge with crisp, dry, and refreshing white wines to help stay cool. My latest wine infatuation has been with the latest vintage of Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay. Whether my day involved swimming, surfing, or just sitting in the sand, I looked forward to having a glass at home in my family’s beach house.

MazzoniVermentinoChardonnay2014Bottle_4CA blend of 75% vermentino and 25% chardonnay, it’s truly a beautiful wine, offering character and pleasant flavors at a very fair price. The vermentino brings brightness and freshness to the wine. And thanks to a touch of chardonnay, it’s richer and fuller bodied than the typical pinot grigio — the Italian white wine you might be more familiar with. Full of lime zest and green pear aromas, precise minerality and bright acidity on the finish, the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay was always revitalizing after a long day in the hot sun.

I believe that any wine that qualifies as a great beach wine should also be fit for a seafood feast. Several times, the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay passed the test. It’s an approachable wine to drink alone, but really shines alongside steamed clams or a dinner of freshly caught fish. The wine even paired well with an array of grilled vegetables.

It makes sense for the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay to be a pleasant accompaniment to any beach trip. After all, most of the grapes used to make this wine were grown off the western coast of Italy, in the Maremma. Vermentino craves the sea and thrives in these coastal areas of Tuscany. The last time I visited vineyards in the Maremma, I could sometimes see the blue sea in the distance, and on cool, breezy days, would catch a whiff of it in the air. And you can absolutely taste the sea’s influence in the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay — from its obvious saline minerality to its crisp freshness, it clearly offers a taste of the sea.

Wine pool

If you haven’t been able to enjoy the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay after a summer beach day, you still have a few weeks left to do so. But don’t worry too much if you can’t — its refreshing qualities will last well into fall, when you just might need this bright reminder of the sea once again.

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

Italian Comfort Food: How to Make Baked Pasta

There is something so comforting and satisfying about a baked pasta recipe. I guess it reminds me of home, when Mama used to make it for the family almost weekly. I also used to order it at restaurants in Milan, but it originates from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. This particular dish is so easy to make and can feed a hungry crowd that will be so pleased once they bite into the pasta with creamy besciamella and light ragu. When you’re short for time, you can also make this ahead and freeze it, then bake it when your guests arrive. If you leave out the ragú, it is still delicious and will satisfy any of your vegetarian guests.

Buon Appetito!


Penne alla Besciamella & Ragu


1 pound penne pasta

For the ragu:

12 oz. ground beef

1-14 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup Vermentino-Chardonnay

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Besciamella sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 tablespoons all purpose flour

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – plus 4 tablespoons for sprinkling on top

4 1/2 cups milk, simmering

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


For the ragu:

Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook until soft, about 12 minutes.

Add the meat and sauté, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, stir until browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and stir until it evaporates completely. Scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot and add the San Marzano tomatoes, stir to incorporate. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the Besciamella:

In a large non-stick skillet melt the butter over medium heat.

Stir in the flour and incorporate. Cook for 2 minutes.

Gradually add the simmering milk and whisk to combine.

Whisk continuously, when the sauce is creamy and smooth, turn off the heat and add the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and set aside.

For the pasta:

Preheat the oven to 375°.

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water.

Add the penne and cook for about 5 minutes, it will not be cooked, but will finish in the oven.

Drain in a colander.

Return pasta to the pot and add the besciamella and the ragú sauces, mix well until all the pasta is thoroughly coated.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or use parchment paper for easy pull up) and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling and the top turns golden.

Remove from oven and sprinkle the reserved Parmigiano on top. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.


Influenced 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.

Here’s a Genius Way to Reinvent Leftover Pasta

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Leftovers are a fact of life, but what are we to do with leftover pasta?

Every Sunday morning, my mother would make a four-egg batch of pasta dough and usually cut it into tagliatelle. She also prepared a pot of tomato and meat sauce. At lunchtime, she cooked all the tagliatelle, knowing that half would be left over. The day after, she prepared them ripassate in padella, meaning she heated some olive oil in a skillet and tossed the cold pasta in it, sautéeing it until it was nice and hot. What I liked about the result was that some strands became crisp and the sauce acquired a deeper flavor.

For my first vacation away from my parents, when I was 16 years old, I spent 10 days or so in the Calabrian city of Rossano. One day, my host prepared spaghetti, and I noticed that she set some of it aside, then dressed the rest and brought it to the table. The day after, she made a frittata with the spaghetti she had set aside. It was a revelation.

I kept that memory with me until I started making my own version of  frittata di pasta, usually with pasta left over from a meal, hence dressed. The nice thing about it is that the frittata is a bit different every time, depending on the kind of pasta and how it was dressed. For the rendition shown here, I used some tagliatelle verdi with ricotta, made according to the recipe in my previous post. A portion was eaten right away and the following day I used the rest to make the frittata.

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Consider the below as more of an invitation to be creative with what you have available than a recipe.  Adjust the number of eggs and pan size to the amount of pasta at hand and choose a cheese that you think pairs better with the pasta (whose original dressing may include some cheese, something to take into account in the planning).  A wedge of the frittata served with a simple heirloom tomato salad makes a lovely summer lunch.

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Frittata di Pasta

Serve with Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay


Leftover pasta

Extra-virgin olive oil

6 eggs, possibly from pastured poultry

3 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 ounce piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated; for other kinds of pasta, 1 ounce wedge of caciotta, or similar cheese of choice (e.g., Monterey Jack or Colby, plain), thinly sliced


Oil a 10-inch oven-proof skillet and warm up. Add the leftover pasta. Warm up the pasta and lightly sauté it for a couple of minutes, stirring every now and then.

In the meantime, break the eggs in a bowl and whisk them lightly until just blended. Add the salt and whisk briefly. Add the water and whisk lightly to incorporate. Add the grated cheese to the eggs and whisk lightly to incorporate. If you use the sliced cheese, hold on to it until later.

Turn on the broiler. If your oven allows it, choose the “low” setting, otherwise, move a rack to the lowest position.

Pour the eggs slowly into the skillet. With a fork, gently arrange the pasta so it is evenly distributed. Cook over low heat. After the edge is set, run a spatula under it and shake the frittata gently to ensure the bottom does not stick to the pan. Evenly distribute the sliced cheese on the surface.

When the eggs are set, place the skillet in the oven, leaving the door ajar, for 3 minutes. Take the skillet out of the oven (don’t forget that the handle is hot) and let rest of a couple of minutes, then slide the frittata onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve.

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6a00d835508b1869e201a511871f44970c-150wiWith a specialty in handmade pasta, Simona provides detailed, accessible tutorials teaching readers to cook like an Italian right from home on Live Like an Italian as well as on her own blog, briciole.

Here’s What You Should Be Drinking on Your Summer Holiday


The month of August means it’s summer holiday, or ferragosto, in Italy. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true; nearly everyone in the country takes a vacation for two weeks to a month in August. Shopkeepers and restaurant owners close their businesses, and the city streets are quiet as families flock to the beach, the mountains, or the countryside to relax, recharge, and prepare for the autumn ahead.

Even the Mazzoni team takes time off from their work in the vineyards and the cellar. Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci and his staff are on holiday until August 17, and will be back just in time to begin harvest.

As for the rest of us here in the United States, we can’t all be so fortunate to take a long vacation this month. We’ve been celebrating the end of summer with smaller moments, like delicious meals shared with family and friends, or a relaxing evening in the backyard.

MZI Vermentino Food Pairing

Of course, we’ve also been drinking lots of wine. Summer is the perfect time for seafood and sharing boards of charcuterie, so Mazzoni Vermentino Chardonnay has made several appearances on the patio this month. A perfect pairing with oysters, mussels, and medium aged cheeses, this wine is an elegant, savory, and balanced choice to finish out the summer. Aromas of ripened pear and apples along with mineral and spicy notes recall the Italian origin of this Vermentino, and make you feel like you’re almost sitting in the Tuscan countryside, enjoying your very own ferragosto.

So what’s your favorite Mazzoni to drink in the summer? Have any good recipe ideas to pair with Vermentino-Chardonnay? Let us know in the comments below!


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