Author Archive

How to Open a Wine Bottle

Even though screwcapped wines are on the rise, you still should know how to properly open a bottle of wine the traditional way. After all, there’s nothing like the romantic ritual of pulling the cork from a bottle. Corks aren’t going out of style any time soon, which means you’ll always need at least one wine opener at home — especially if you want to enjoy the range of Mazzoni wines.

There’s more than half a dozen styles of wine openers available to use — from traditional corkscrews to the friendlier electric wine openers — but which is best all depends on your own preferences. Explore the major styles below to find the one that’s right for you.shutterstock_214100599

Twist & Pull Corkscrew

This is what many consider to be the “basic corkscrew” — and the first corkscrew patented, by Samuel Henshall, in England in 1795. The “twist and pull” method may sound simple, but this wine opener can be difficult to use, and definitely not a foolproof way to uncork a bottle of wine.

The Winged “Butterfly” Corkscrew

Perhaps the most popular wine opener in American kitchens, this double lever “wing” corkscrew has been around since the late 1800s. It isn’t the worst way to open your wine, but I’ve often found it has its flaws. The screw part of the device too often shreds apart even well made corks, so I’ve thrown mine away.

The Waiter’s Friend Corkscrew

This is the most versatile, affordable, and reliable corkscrew there is. If you’re a serious wino, you need one of these. My favorite waiter’s friend variation has a double-hinge to helps you get better leverage when removing a cork. Most come with a small knife for removing foil, and this method leaves little trace of having been used on the cork. It requires moderate skill, but after a few bottles of practice you’ll be a pro!

The “Bunny Ears” Lever Corkscrew

This wine opener has grown in popularity over the years because it’s so easy to use. Two handles wrap around the neck of the bottle, and a third handle is used to pull a lever over the top of the neck. With a simple push and pull open of the lever, you’ve done the “hard” work of uncorking the bottle. This single lever wine opener may require minimal effort, but you need maximum space to store them, so it’s not the best option if you’re low on drawer space like me.

Electric Wine Opener

It doesn’t get much easier than this. With the push of a button, these electric corkscrews do all the pulling and uncorking for you. It’s especially helpful if you have weak wrists or encounter difficulty when opening things. Just be sure to keep it charged!

And what if you need to open a bottle of wine but don’t have access to any corkscrew? Well, people have opened bottles with knives, scissors, and even with their shoes, but I wouldn’t recommend any of that. Always stick with a wine opener. If you don’t have one already, now is the time to go buy a waiter’s friend corkscrew. They’re inexpensive and versatile, and small enough to fit in your pocket wherever you go.


How Italians Celebrate Spring Holidays

Every year, on January 6, my father reminded us: “Pasqua Epifania tutte le feste porta via” (Epiphany carries away all the holidays). In Italy, the holidays don’t end on New Year’s Day (Capodanno): we celebrate Epiphany, or, to be precise, la Befana, the old lady wrapped in a shawl who rides a broomstick and fills children’s socks with candies or pieces of coal. Schools reopen on January 7, and Christmas tree decorations and nativity scene figurines are put away until next year.

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via Natalie Rae 

The saying my father recited had a second part, which varies based on geographic location. In his native village (north of Rome) it was something like: “poi revè Sant’Antognetto e ne reporta ‘n saccoccetto” (then comes Saint Anthony and brings a pocketful). The feast of Saint Anthony the Abbot, patron saint of domestic animals, is celebrated on January 17.

I never traveled with my father to his village for the feast, but I remember he always brought back some of the local traditional ciambella all’anice, a ring-shaped, lightly sweetened yeasted bread flavored with anise seeds that was first boiled then baked. My father loved to end his meal with a piece of the ciambella dipped in wine.

The pocketful of holidays mentioned in the saying refer to Carnival, a festive period that ends on Martedì grasso (Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. The exception to this is the archdiocese of Milan, which follows a different calendar where Lent starts the following Sunday, so people in Milan and surrounding areas hold the big end-of-Carnival party on Saturday.

Frappe (also called chiacchiere, cenci, bugie, crostoli and other names, depending on the region), strufoli, castagnole, tortelli di Carnevale are just a sample of the traditional sweets made during Carnival. They are all rather rich, fried and doused in honey or sprinkled with powdered vanilla sugar (zucchero vanigliato). Carnival is traditionally a time of indulgence before the somber 40 days of Lent. It is also the time when children and adults dress up in costumes, which can be lavish, as in the famous Carnevale di Venezia.

When my father was a teenager, he and his friends had to make the best of Carnival parties, because dancing was not allowed during Lent. Events held in the local school were easy to attend. A party in another village meant figuring out how to get there and back without public transportation or a car. Often, they walked for miles late at night to get back home.

One feast I looked forward to as a child occurred during Carnival but was not related to it. On January 29 my hometown of Perugia smells sweet due to pastry shops and people baking the traditional torcolo di san Costanzo, a ring-shaped yeasted cake studded with raisins, candied citron and pine nuts, and lightly flavored with anise seeds. Perugia has three patron saints, including Saint Constantius (probably the first bishop of the city). The torcolo di San Costanzo is so popular that some pastry shops bake it year-round. That did not diminish the pleasure of getting our fill of torcolo on its special day.

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via Wikipedia

The 40 days of Lent are an important period in the Catholic Church. By the time I came to experience it, fasting was no longer required and other precepts were relaxed. My family observed meatless Friday (abstinence) pretty regularly during the year, hence doing it during Lent was not much of a change. In Italy we call this “fare vigilia” (abstinence on the eve of a holy day).

My mother did not have specific Lenten dishes in her repertoire, but prepared variations of our usual Friday meals: spaghetti col tonno, which were a must on Christmas Eve, frittata wish seasonal vegetables, like artichokes, or hard-boiled eggs plus canned tuna and mackerel. Every now and then, she prepared baccalà (salt cod) with tomato sauce, prunes and raisins.

There are cookies called quaresimali in an otherwise rather bare landscape, since sweets by definition are to be eschewed during Lent. One exception is zeppole di San Giuseppe, pastries filled with custard that are made on March 19, the day the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Italy celebrates Father’s Day.

I remember Lent more as a passage, from the bright lights of Christmas and the other winter Holidays to the arrival of spring and the celebration of Easter. But that is a story for next month. In the meantime, enjoy days getting longer!

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.


Mazzoni Wines Applauded by Sommelier Sara Lehman

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via Somm in the City

This January, Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci visited the United States to present his wines in a series of tastings, including a luncheon at Ai Fiori in New York City. Joining him at this event was Sara Lehman, author of the blog, Somm in the City.

Praising Alessandro for his “charm, passion, and knowledge of food and wine pairings,” Lehman also lauded the wines themselves, saying:

“The Pinot Grigio’s acidity paired beautifully with the creaminess of the soup…notes of citrus and minerality make this Pinot Grigio one of my top favorites of all time!”

Mazzoni Vermentino Chardonnay quickly became a highlight as well:

“This wine was striking with tropical fruit notes…I will admit, I fell in love with the Vermentino blend and absolutely could picture this as a perfect poolside wine, brunch wine, or daily spring/summer sip.”

To read Lehman’s full review, click here.


The Great Wine Glass Debate: What Should You Drink Mazzoni Out Of?

If you’ve ever set out to buy a new set of wine glasses, you’re already familiar with the abundance of options available. There are an overwhelming number of styles and shapes to choose from — crystal or glass, with stems or without, clear or colored. And don’t forget about the wine glasses designed for specific grape varieties. Do you really need a special Pinot Noir glass to enjoy a glass of it?

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via Riedel

I remember when the Austrian glassware company, Riedel, released a new wine glass specifically designed to drink Malbec out of a few years ago. I was intrigued by the idea. I’m not generally a big drinker of Malbec — at least not the ones from Argentina. Often, I find them too high in alcohol and hot on the nose, with super ripe fruity aromas that aren’t always pleasing. But maybe this new Malbec glass could change that, I thought.

It didn’t. At least, not all that much. I compared the same wine poured into three different glasses — the new Malbec glass, the glass I usually drink reds from, and my typical white wine glass. The experience of drinking the wine in the Malbec glass and my usual red wine glass were nearly identical, but I learned that I should stick to drinking only whites from the other one.

So does it really matter what you drink your wine out of? Well…yes and no.

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You should certainly be drinking wine out of wine glasses. If you were to pour the same wine in a water glass and another in a wine glass, I assure you that you’d notice the difference in aromas and flavors.

The first thing you need to know when picking out a wine glass is to always stick with clear glasses so you are able to observe a wine’s color. While you don’t need a specific glass for Cabernet, another for Pinot Noir, and one more for Chardonnay, some wine glass shapes are better suited for certain wines. I use a Cabernet Sauvignon glass for all reds, and a Chardonnay glass for my whites, which I also drink my sparkling wines from. No need for a flute!

Almost important as having a set of good everyday wine glasses is serving wine at the right temperature. If the wine is too hot, the smell of alcohol will be overpowering, no matter what glass you ultimately end up pouring it into. And for the same reason, be sure to drink your wine from wine glasses that have stems. Those trendy stemless tumblers may be fun, but your hand gripped around them warms whatever is inside.

In the end, you don’t need to worry so much about having the perfect wine glass for your specific bottle. As long as you aren’t sipping your wine from a red Solo cup or mason jar, you’re already doing something right.

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


Authentic Italian Recipe: Peperoni al Forno con Patate

These delicious baked bell peppers are a simple Mediterranean dish coming from the Sicilian and Ligurian regions.

I love to serve them to my guests, not only because they are so colorful, but because they get so excited anticipating what’s inside. I surprise them with different ingredients stuffed inside each time.

The aroma when they are being baked fills the kitchen especially when they are filled with ground turkey then seasoned with breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil…but also when they are only stuffed with just rice or only with cheese.

It’s such a versatile dish and can be made for meat-eaters or vegetarians alike. Delicious and easy to make, these remind me of being at my Mama’s dinner table back home.

Authentic Italian Tip: You may think of Pepperoni as the spiced salami that goes on pizza, but Peperoni actually means bell peppers!

Francesco

Peperoni al Forno con Patate

Serves 8

Pair with Mazzoni Barbera

Ingredients

4 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow, each cut in half)

1 small green bell pepper (finely diced)

1 Pound ground turkey

4 Tablespoons Pecorino Romano (grated)

3 Tablespoons breadcrumbs (heaping)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley (finely chopped)

1 Large potato (thinly sliced using a mandoline)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 can San Marzano tomatoes (well chopped)

Directions

For the potatoes:

Slice the potato into 1/4-inch slices using a mandoline. Transfer to a large shallow pan and coat generously with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and bake at 400º for 20 to 25 minutes.

Preparation:

In a large skillet sauté olive oil and garlic for approximately 1 minute on medium-low. Add the San Marzano tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large skillet heat olive oil and add turkey. Add the finely diced green bell pepper and brown the turkey for approximately 7 minutes, stirring continuously.

Cut in half vertically the bell peppers keeping the stem, discard the seeds.

In a baking pan spoon the tomato sauce on the bottom and add the bell peppers with the hollow sides facing upward.

In a bowl mix the browned turkey, 4 tablespoons of the tomato sauce, breadcrumbs, Pecorino Romano, garlic, salt and pepper. Spoon equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper.

Cover with aluminum foyer and bake for 45 minutes, remove aluminum foyer and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the peppers are tender.

Transfer to serving plate and sprinkle the top with the remaining Pecorino Romano, garnish with the sliced potatoes.

Buon Appetito!

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.


How Italians Fall in Love

 

With the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.

The international language of amore requires no translation, but how exactly do Italians fall in love?

On Valentine’s Day, many couples will gift each other baci, a chocolate “kiss.” But every other day of the year? Here is how Italians do love- from dating, to meeting the family, and saying “I Do”:

Coffee

Ask for directions:  While you will still hear calls of “ciao bella” down the street, a more popular pickup line is to ask for directions.  Online dating has yet to become a popular way to meet future beaus in Italy, so asking for a bit of help gives you an excuse to approach the object of your affection and strike up a conversation. Once you have the directions you probably didn’t need in the first place, you can offer to buy him/her a caffè.

First date: Forget the cinema, most Italian first dates involve a walk and a bit of conversation.  Inviting your crush on a passeggiata, and maybe a gelato, means you don’t have to commit to a fancy dinner or drinks up front. If things go well, you will eventually become “fidanzati,” or boyfriend and girlfriend.  However, if you want to continue to woo your beloved, you better download Whatsapp.  The popular messaging service is how friends AND lovers keep in touch through out the day.

Meeting the parents: If things are getting serious, you will have to take a deep breath and meet the family.  When dating, you go to the parents, rather than waiting for them to come to you. While it might be more comfortable to meet on neutral ground like a restaurant, more often than not you will be driving out to mama’s house to eat a home cooked meal.  Praise your beloved to his or her parents and clean your plate of all you’re served if you want to make a good impression.

Vineyard wedding

Next come marriage: Italian weddings begin with the civil ceremony, but only after announcements have been made in newspapers and other public forums to allow time for any objections to be aired.  For many couples, the city hall wedding is the main service, while others will plan for a large church wedding days or even weeks after. Regardless of the ceremony type, the meal is the real event. Think multi-courses, with food and wine flowing all night.  At the end, send the happy couple sends guests home with even more treats – confetti (sugar coated almonds).

 

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.


Polpette Recipe: An Update to Italian Meatballs

Meatballs are served as a main dish or in soups all throughout Italy. Almost every country in the world has their own version of a meatballItalian-Americans created their own main dish of meatballs served with spaghetti, which is something I had never seen before in Italy.
With this recipe, I remembered how much I loved these little treats that Mama used to make for me when I was a boy, so I wanted to create something with a little surprise in the middle, that would be fun and delicious for both kids and adults.

Francesco

Panfried meatballs are an Italian classic made with beef and/or pork, with Pecorino Romano, parsley and garlic and breadcrumbs. With this recipe, I made them into small oval shapes and filled them with fresh mozzarella, so when you bite into them, they ooze out with the creamy cheese. Served with an arugula and tomato salad, it’s a perfect Italian dinner that your whole family will love. If you are having a cocktail party, you can pierce each little polpette with a small skewer and serve them as a bite size appetizer. Enjoy this delicious and versatile staple of Italian cuisine.

Buon Appetito!

Francesco 2

Francesco 3

Polpette

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serve with: Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana

Ingredients:
  1. 1 pound ground beef
  2. 1 clove garlic minced
  3. 2 cups of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  4. 1 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  5. 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  6. 1 egg
  7. 1 tsp kosher salt
  8. 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  9. 4 Tbs Extra-Virgin olive oil
  10. 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, cubed
Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients above except for the olive oil and mozzarella.
  2. Using your hands, roll the meat into golf ball sized meatballs. With your finger make a hole in the center and place a cube of mozzarella.
  3. Cover the cheese with the remaining meat, and shape into an oval.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.
  5. Fry the meatball for about 3 minutes on each side. Until meatballs are golden brown.
  6. Drain on a paper towel and serve warm.

Note: Eat them while they’re hot! 

 

Francesco 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.


10 Italian New Year’s Resolutions to Make in 2016

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  1. Make pasta by hand: A true cornerstone of the Italian diet, fresh pasta does not have to be intimidating or require special machinery. All you need is some water and flour, plus enough patience to pull and push until the dough is just-right-sticky.  Grab a rolling pin or even a bottle of wine to flatten the dough and cut with a knife.  Congratulations- that is casarecce: homemade, free-form pasta! In 2016, conquer this kitchen staple.
  2. Toast to a Tuesday: Italian living is about enjoyment, not excess. Rather than saving up all those lovely bottles for a special occasion, pop one open for lunch.  Italian meals almost always feature a glass of wine, to help with digestion of course! There is no reason not to raise a glass, savor the little things, and toast to a regular Tuesday. Cin cin!
  3. Break out your fancy underwear: On New Years Eve in Italy, it’s traditional to wear new red underwear for good luck. Italy gave the world famous lingerie brands such as La Perla, so luxury underthings remain in style beyond December 31st. This is the year to ban the boring briefs.
  4. Speak your mind: Everyone has an opinion, and Italians are not shy about sharing them. If you are making your tomato sauce wrong or wearing too few clothes on a brisk day, your neighborhood nonna will be sure to let you know. In 2016, express your self with confidence.
  5. Call your mother more often: Put that new iPhone to use and ring mama. Staying connected to family and friends is one of the best ways to start off 2016 on the right foot.
  6. Explore your hometown: You don’t have to hop on a plane every time the travel bug bites. Italians are embracing slow travel and staycations and you can resolve to do the same this year.  Imagine the familiar streets with new eyes and seek out the hidden gems in your own hometown.
  7. Start an herb garden: You don’t need a green thumb to add a bit of spice to the kitchen. Hearty herbs like basil can be grown on any windowsill through spring and summer. Plan to create a small kitchen herb garden to add fresh homegrown Italian flavors to any dish you whip up in the coming months.
  8. Save electricity, save the world: You would be hard pressed to find an Italian home with a dryer. Electricity is too expensive, making fancy clothes dryers a luxury that most Italians skip.  Cut down your bill and embrace green living by doing laundry the Italian way: hang it out!
  9. Dress up the dog: Man’s best friend is truly a part of the family, so why should puppies be left out when it comes to fashion? Doggy sweaters, boots and raincoats are all in heavy rotation in Italy during the colder months. Resolve to take the dog on more walks (in his new puppy outfit).
  10. Make your house a home: Home is a sanctuary and a place to welcome friends and family throughout the year. Most Italian homes are brimming with personality to mark the space.  Make a resolution to add small touches that will transform even the most basic apartment into a refuge to enjoy every day of 2016.

 

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.


How to Make Italian Street Food: Panzerotti

Panzerotti: one of the most delightful Italian street foods

Coming from the regions of Basilicata and Puglia, Panzerotti are fried dough filled with simple ingredients. When the yeast-dough hits the oil, they puff up and quickly cook whatever delicious ingredients you have filled them with. You can make them larger and serve them as a nice lunch, or as I show you below, they can be made into small, appetizer sizes and filled with the traditional tomato and mozzarella (called Panzerotto Materano). Adults and children alike will devour these delicious bites. Get out your rolling pin and let’s get started!

Francesco

Panzerotti

Ingredients:

For dough:

1 pound all purpose flour

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups lukewarm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon fresh yeast

Grapeseed oil for frying

For Filling:

1 can San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 ball fresh Mozzarella

Fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.

Add the salt to a 1/2 cup of warm water.

Sift the flour in a large bowl.

Add the salt water and yeast mixture to the flour and combine until the mixture turns to a soft ball.

Add the olive oil and mix well.

Transfer the dough to lightly floured board and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Divide the dough into about 20 balls and place them onto baking sheets, leaving generous space around each.

Cover the trays with a clean cotton towel and set in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours, or until they double in size.

Gently flatten each ball into a 5-inch circle. Place some tomato, mozzarella and a basil leaf (or other ingredients of your choice) into the center of the circle.

Season with salt and pepper and brush the edges with water.

Fold each one over and seal the edges together and eliminate excess dough with a dough cutter. Repeat with the remaining balls and filling.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a deep fryer or deep saucepan to 350°. Place a one or two panzerottini into the oil in batches and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until both sides are golden brown. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately.

 

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.


What’s the Perfect Everyday Wine?

Just like every wise home cook has a collection of essentials in their pantry to use for a quick and satisfying meal, every smart wine lover should have a well-stocked inventory of wine bottles. Whether it’s to aid you during a bad case of the Mondays, alongside a take out dinner, or with last-minute company, every household has a need for an everyday wine. I am always prepared, with a generous stash of perfect wines for any and all occasions.

There are wines that have a place in every home, and Mazzoni’s Piemonte Barbera is one of them. Need a wine to pair with the delivery pizza you just ordered? Or a pleasurable bottle to bring with you to a friend’s house? How about a wine to enjoy as you’re busy catching up on all your TV shows? Grab a bottle of Mazzoni Piemonte Barbera from your collection and you’re good to go.

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I recently added the newest release, the 2012 Mazzoni Piemonte Barbera, to the list of wines I hoard several of at a time to save me during those everyday emergencies. Made completely with barbera grapes from Italy’s Piemonte region, the wine is full of elegant aromas of black cherries and dried flowers, with raspberry tart flavors. It’s a juicy and extremely gulpable wine — in the very best way. Its mild tannins and bright acidity make it an excellent match with a range of foods, too. This is an excellent wine for pizza night, with grilled meats, or even just by itself on a Tuesday night.

It’s fitting that one of my favorite everyday red wines is made from Barbera. In Piemonte, the wine region that Barbera calls home, it’s often referred to as “the people’s wine.” Unlike the Barolo and Barberesco wines made from Nebbiolo in the same region that are saved for special occasions, Barbera is affordable and an everyday sensation. In my experience, I’ve found the best Barbera comes from Asti (located in the Piemonte region), which is where Mazzoni grows their Barbera for this wine. You can taste the quality of the grapes upon first sip of the wine, and its elegance lasts until the very last drop.

If you haven’t already established a small collection of wine at home, get started. And if you love Barbera as much as I do, perhaps consider buying a whole case. I promise you’ll find plenty of reasons in your everyday life to uncork a bottle.


The Ultimate Gift Guide for the Italophile in your Life

Ah, the holidays.

As the end of the year and the festive season approaches, December is the perfect time to gather around the people that are dear to us.  If one of those people in your life loves Italy, well, we have the perfect tips on how to surprise them with a small gift from the bel paese.

1. Moleskine:

The choice of Hemingway (an Italy-lover himself), these small notebooks are now manufactured by a publishing house in Milan. High quality, ageless design and lightweight, these books are perfecting for jotting down to do lists, daydreams and trip itineraries.

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via Moleskine  

2. Moka Pot

A great Italian coffee does not require a plane ticket to Rome, or even a fancy espresso maker. All you need are some good beans, a few instructions and a classic stovetop coffee pot that is found in every Italian home. The most trusted is Bialetti, and this small gift can deliver great espresso for years to come.

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via Natalie Rae

3. Passport holder:

What better way to get excited for future travels than a beautiful passport holder? The dual purpose holders can protect documents while pretty-ing up a necessary piece of identification. There are hundreds of designs out there for any personality, but our favorites are timeless and made of Italian leather, of course.

Passport holder

via Gigi New York

4. Classic stemware:

Add a touch of sophistication to annual gift giving with wine glasses that can be used and treasured for years to come. For a made in Italy touch, check out the glasses from Luigi Bormioli, which offers stemware that will enhance the full flavors of your Italian wine.

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via Luigi Bormioli

5. Biscotti cookbook:

With so many occasions calling for a special treat in the coming weeks, biscotti recipes straight from Rome can come in handy. This lovely little cookbook shares the history of Italian cookies, with well-tested recipes that can be recreated in any kitchen.  These biscotti go well with everything from morning coffee to nightcaps.

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via Amazon.com

6. Lemon zester:

If it is already getting cold outside, simply imagine summer on the Amalfi Coast, with vibrant blue waters and hills covered in trees weighed down by citrus flowers. You can bring the taste of Amalfi anywhere with a simple lemon zester. Perfect for cakes, cookies, and even pasta, a bit of zest adds a new brightness to the winter holidays.

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via Amazon.com

7. Vintage map of Venice:

There are always new designers, artists and creative foodies innovating in Italy, but some things never change. The perfect example? Venice. This unique city is so hemmed in by canals that the streets have not changed in hundreds of years. A vintage map can be an inspiring piece of home décor, but it can double as a nearly usable map on your next trip!

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via BlueMonaclePrints

8. Taralli:

What goes perfectly with any glass of wine? Taralli. These simple snacks are served across Italy to tide you over before dinner.  They make an authentic and delicious hostess gift, and will keep crowds happy while you open another bottle of wine and put the finishes touches on your holiday feast.

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via Amazon.com

Happy Holidays!

 

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.


Drinking White After Labor Day

After a long and exceptionally hot summer, I’ve been welcoming this crisp autumn air and embracing the flavors of fall’s bounty. I’ve willingly stored my flip-flops and bathing suits away until next year, but there’s one summery thing I refuse to give up: drinking white wine. I know wearing white after Labor Day can be considered a major faux pas, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t still be drinking white wines.

Mazzoni-PinotGrigio2014-p19lmeuekg1irv1ddj10qk160lep6There are plenty of white wines that are more than fit for fall. At this time of year, I often look for whites with bigger body and texture, and sometimes prefer whites with ripe flavors of orchard fruits like apple, pear, or quince. The Mazzoni Pinot Grigio meets all these requirements. Light straw yellow in the glass, it’s full of ripe pear aromas and full flavors, with refreshing acidity on the finish. It’s a pleasurable and fresh wine, certainly more complex than most pinot grigios I’ve tasted in the past.

This is the first year I’ve signed up for a fall CSA, which stands for Community-Supported Agriculture, and is basically a weekly seasonal share of local produce. Each week, as I head to pick up my share, I have no idea what’s going to be inside it. I’ve so far enjoyed the challenge of preparing my weekly meals based on what I’m given every week, but sometimes I get thrown a curveball — a vegetable or herb I’ve never cooked with or eaten. Perhaps a fruit I’ve never baked with before.

Earlier this month, a mysterious looking vegetable appeared in my CSA share. It was kohlrabi, an alien-looking root vegetable, something I would have never bought for myself at a grocery store. After a few minutes of researching online and paging through cookbooks, I found a recipe for kohlrabi risotto. I already had most of the ingredients required — kohlrabi, Arborio rice, Parmigiano-Reggiano, onion, chicken stock, and most importantly, white wine — so decided to make it for the first time for dinner.

Shelby

Now, making risotto is no easy task. It requires a little bit of love and a lot of patience. But there are rewards should you choose to invest your time in the process. The recipe I followed, like most risotto recipes, required wine. To be exact, I needed a ½ cup of dry, white wine. Luckily, I had an unopened bottle of Mazzoni Pinot Grigio in my fridge to use. Yes, I used a half-cup of a beautiful wine to cook with. But trust me, if you don’t like a wine enough to drink it, you shouldn’t cook with it. Don’t you want the same balance and liveliness on your plate as you have in your glass? I know I do.

Another bonus of cooking risotto is the remainder of the bottle of wine you get to drink. As I carefully tended to the pan of risotto on my stove, I sipped on a glass of Mazzoni Pinot Grigio and snacked on bites of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The final result was just as pleasant as the process of preparing it.

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.


Italian Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Peppers and Tarragon

Roasted bell peppers are a staple in Italian cooking, and are at their most flavorful from July through November. I was reading an article by Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times, about how to choose the best bell peppers, which inspired me to create this recipe. I used his suggestions and went to the farmer’s market to find the perfect bell peppers to roast.

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While there, I asked the butcher for a pork tenderloin to go with my peppers. Most people associate pork with apples, but instead I thought a nice and flavorful accompaniment would be to make a roasted gold and red pepper sauce. I grabbed some fresh tarragon and found some imported Sicilian pistachios and I was on my way back to the kitchen to create this recipe. The aroma of roasting peppers and blending them with fresh tarragon will infuse your house with the most delicious scent. Once again, the Italian philosophy of simplicity and using the freshest ingredients made an incredibly flavorful and beautifully colorful dish. I hope you enjoy this simple and fresh recipe and share it with your friends and family.

Buon Appetito!

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Peppers and Tarragon

Serves 4

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 35 min

Pair with Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana

Ingredients:

For the Pepper Sauce:

2 whole bell peppers (1 red & 1 gold)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 sprigs fresh tarragon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup pistachios, lightly crushed

For the Pork:

1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary

1 garlic clove, minced

Instructions:

For the Pepper Sauce:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°. Place the roasting pan with the bell peppers on the rack.
  2. Roast, turning occasionally, until they blister and darken on all sides, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven and place in a bowl.
  4. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.
  5. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and slice them open.
  6. Remove the seeds and discard.
  7. Place peppers and tarragon in a food processor and blend until creamy.
  8. Add salt to taste and set aside.

For the Pork:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Combine the garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl.
  3. Rub the pork with the mixture and olive oil.
  4. Place pork tenderloin on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven.
  5. Cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 145 degrees.
  6. Remove the tenderloin to a platter, cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Warm up the pepper-tarragon sauce.
  8. When the pork has rested, pour the sauce on top, sprinkle the pistachios and serve.

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.


How to Live La Dolce Vita from Home

Party scene

La Dolce Vita was immortalized in Federico Fellini’s iconic film in 1960*.  Translated literally, la dolce vita means the sweet life- a life that is lived to the fullest.

While la dolce vita might be equated with Italy, you don’t have to live in Italy to enjoy the good life. Living la dolce vita is about allowing yourself the pleasure of small luxuries.

Here are five ways to live la dolce vita wherever you may be!shutterstock_169841813

  1. Embrace the “perchè no?” philosophy. Perchè no means why not? It is easy to apply the principle to so many of life’s little indulgences. For example: Should you book that weekend getway? Why not!
    Is it really ok to have cookies for breakfast? Why not!
    Would you like a second glass of wine? Why not!

    Allowing space for a small splurge is what the good life is all about.

  2. Make time for your passions. Life can pull us in so many different directions, but every now and then it has to be me Take the time to invest in what you are most passionate about – be that old films, DIYing around the house, family time or taking Italian classes.  La dolce vita means being a tiny bit selfish every now and again.

  3. Learn il dolce far niente. Sometimes doing nothing is better than trying to do everything. Il dolce far niente is the pleasure of doing nothing at all. Give yourself a break from the busyness of everyday to take a walk in the park or host a picnic with your favorite Italian foods in the backyard. The point is that there does not have to be a point! Slow down and enjoy.
  4. Fall in love. In Fellini’s film, Marcello falls head over heels for Sylvia, the famous actress. He lets himself become totally caught up in the emotion. Love is a critical part of the good life, but does not have to be of the romantic variety.  It could mean remembering how much you love your favorite book and losing an afternoon re-reading it. Or, you could fall in love with your hometown, wandering the streets with fresh eyes. The trick is to let go and let yourself get carried away.
  5. Appreciate the beauty in the small things. La dolce vita usually brings to mind beach lounging, but it does not take sunny skies to live the good life. All you have to do is spot the beauty already around you. It could be the perfect fall-hued oak tree, the first frost, or a perfectly wrapped gift. Savour it!

*P.S. Did you know that Fellini’s movie popularized more than just the term “la dolce vita”? It is also where we get the word paparazzi.  In the film, there is a photographer who is always trying to get a photo of the two stars. The pushy photographer’s name? Paparazzo.

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.


Ten Days of Chocolate

Imagine walking around a city’s downtown and being surrounded by chocolate. For ten days every October such a dream becomes true in Perugia, Italy, thanks to Eurochocolate, a festival that is all about chocolate.

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This year’s edition of Eurochocolate started on Friday, October 16 and will run until Sunday, October 25.

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Eurochocolate 2025 has mustache as theme, so visitors can admire an enormous chocolate mustache sculpture, explore an exhibit dedicated to all things mustache, buy mustache-shaped chocolates or mustache-themed gadgets. Entrance to Eurochocolate and its activities is free.

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The festival takes place in the beautiful downtown of Perugia, including Piazza IV Novembre, dominated by the iconic Fontana Maggiore, Corso Vannucci, the city’s main thoroughfare, and the Rocca Paolina.

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The latter is my favorite part to visit: besides panels describing the phases of chocolate production, from bean to bar, there is a space devoted to showcasing cacao-producing countries, one for the chocolate boutique and, to get some respite from chocolate, one dedicated to Umbrian products, like the famous lenticchia di Castelluccio, various cheeses and cured meats.

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The festival’s program is always packed with activities, from chocolate sculpting to chocolate tasting. To get a good sense of the variety of chocolate and chocolates available takes some stamina, considering the large number of companies offering their products in the many stands.

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Stores in an around downtown go with the flow of chocolate and offer (Euro)chocolate-inspired products.

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Perugia is a beautiful city, worth visiting every time of the year for its rich history, precious art and old-world elegance. Eurochocolate is one more reason—a sweet one— to do so.

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With 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.


The Beginner’s Guide to Montalcino

When it comes to exploring in Italy, Tuscany ranks among the top destination on every traveller’s list.  Florence, for example, is consistently voted as the top city in the world.

As gorgeous as Florence is, the real beauty of Tuscany is in the hilltop villages and rolling vineyards, and olive groves that blanket the famous region.  Seeking out the back roads and undiscovered towns is an Italo-philes dream come true.

One Tuscan destination that cannot be missed is the village of Montalcino in the famed Val d’Orcia.  Home of the Il Poggione Winery where Mazzoni Wines are made, this historic region is well known for making the most highly praised Brunellos in the world. To make the most of any trip, or to imagine one from home, follow our guide to the hilltop town.

The Il Poggione Winery in Montalcino

The Il Poggione Winery in Montalcino

What to see:

Fortress of Montalcino:

Tuscan towns tended to be built on hills for defense, with the height serving to deter invading armies, or at least offer a better vantage point to observe invaders from. The village of Montalcino was also a walled city for further protection and the fortress was built into the city walls in 1361 at the highest point.

Chiesa di Sant’Agostino:

Follow the street extending from the fortress to arrive at the 13th century church of St. Augustine.  A building that formerly served as a convent next to the church is now a museum which houses the most famous artwork of Montalcino- a beautiful sculpture of the Madonna by an anonymous artist.

Historic center:

With small winding alleyways, cobbled streets and stone houses, the historic center of Montalcino requires no itinerary. Explore the different corners, old abbeys and characteristic Tuscan feel.

What to eat:

Montalcino is famous for its red wine, so order a glass and select a meal that naturally goes well with the full bodied wine.  In Montalcino this could be pasta with a ragu made with wild boar (none as cinghiale), roasted pork stuffed with herbs, or ribollita – a hearty soup made with vegetables, beans and bread to thicken.  Finally, in addition to wine, Montalcino is famous around Italy for its honey.

What to pack:

The easiest way to get around Montalcino once you arrive is on foot, so cute but sturdy walking shoes are in order. Spring and Fall call for a light jacket, whereas summer temperatures can reach the high 80s. Winter brings rain and some wind, and while it usually stays well above freezing, a winter coat will keep you warm while exploring town.

How to get there:

Montalcino is located in the province of Siena, but is also close to Florence and Pisa.   The easiest way to arrive is to take the train from any of these three cities, as the regional line runs several times a day. Schedules are available on TrenItalia. Buses from Siena are also an option, and the closest main motorway is the A1 to the SS478 for those arriving by car.

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.


Cook Like an Italian: Bucatini Amatriciana

Since I’ve spent most of my life in Rome, I always thought that Amatriciana was a Roman dish. However, it is actually from Abruzzo! The name comes from a mountain city called Amatrice, which is in Lazio.

There are still many disputes over who invented this dish and who added a key ingredient to the sauce : the tomato! It must be San Marzano!

This is a simple dish to make, with just a few ingredients, so make sure you use the best quality, since you can taste every single element of the recipe.

Bucatini pasta is a thick spaghetti with a tiny hole in the center, guanciale is pork cheek, and make sure you use San Marzano tomatoes, imported from Italy, so you can recreate the authentic taste!

Francesco

Bucatini alla Amatriciana

Pair with Mazzoni Vermentino Chardonnay

Serves  4

Total time 35 minutes

Ingredients

1 -28-ounces can San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano plus 1 tablespoon for topping at the end.

6 Oz. guanciale, pancetta or bacon thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Pound bucatini pasta preferably Barilla or De Cecco

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.

Add guanciale, pancetta or bacon and sauté until rendered and crispy. 5 to 6 minutes.

Add pepper flakes, black pepper, the crushed tomatoes and stir.

Taste for salt and add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt only if necessary.

Reduce heat to low.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 15 minutes.

When the sauce is cooked turn off the heat and add the Pecorino cheese.

Tip: turn the heat on again 1 minute before you drain the pasta!

For the pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. 8 minutes.

Drain and transfer immediately to the skillet with the tomato sauce, toss vigorously with tongs to coat.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with the reserved tablespoon of Pecorino.

Serve hot.

Authentic Italian Tip: Never use onions or wine in authentic Amatriciana!

Buon Appetito!

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.


Parmigiana That You Can’t Resist!

I first realized how good Parmigiana was when I was 5 years old, sneaking in the kitchen while my Nonna was frying the eggplant. I would hide under the table and when she was distracted, I would grab one from the plate and run like a rabbit. It tasted like candy to me and I couldn’t resist them…and guess why? Because they were fried. In fact, frying eggplant makes them become sweet and creamy.

Growing up, I was concerned about the calories in this dish, but i would rather have a small amount of delicious freshly prepared food than a huge amount of bland food.

So I created these perfectly sized, round-shaped parmigiana that are the delicious and fulfilling.

Buon Appetito!

Authentic Italian Tip: Serve it with grilled whole wheat crostini to dip in the sauce.

Francesco

Eggplant Parmigiana

Ingredients

1 Large eggplant (sliced 1/2-inch rounds)

1 can San Marzano Tomatoes

4 Slices mozzarella (1/8 of an inch)

1/4 cup basil (finely chopped)

1/4 cup olive oil (for frying)

4 Tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano

2 Teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cans peeled San Marzano Tomatoes crushed by hand.

2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Frying the eggplantSlice the eggplant into 6 pieces about 1/2-inch thick. Lightly season each round with salt and pepper and place aside.

In a skillet, fry the eggplant slices at 325º until the slices turn deep brown on the bottom. Flip them and continue frying until the other side is the same color, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the eggplant slices from the pan and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. Let them cool.

Simple tomato sauceHeat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Do not burn!

Add the tomatoes and salt and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until thick. Remove from heat and let it rest.

Assembling and layeringPlace a 6-inch diameter by 2-inch round metal shaping ring into a shallow pan and add a tablespoon of tomato sauce to the bottom.

Layer inside the ring adding a slice of eggplant, 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce, a teaspoon of basil, one slice of mozzarella and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated Parmigiano-Regiano.

Repeat the layering process using 3 slices of eggplant per ring.

Sprinkle some Parmigiano on the top.

Baking:  Heat the oven to 350°. Put the layered eggplant in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Carefully transfer the eggplant to a plate and remove the metal ring.

Add a sprinkle of Parmigiano to the top and serve immediately with the grilled crostini.

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.


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 http://www.piramidealimentare.it/) 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 Terroirist.com. 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!

Francesco

Penne alla Besciamella & Ragu

Ingredients

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

Instructions: 

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.

Francesco

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

Simona 1

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.

Simona 4

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.

Simona 3

Frittata di Pasta

Serve with Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay

Ingredients: 

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

Preparation:

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.

Simona 2

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

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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!