Author Archive


Italian Recipe: Sicilian Braciole

There are few things better than tender meat stuffed with fresh mozzarella cheese and herbs. These delicious rolls are a Sicilian recipe that I remember having when I was a little boy, growing up in the beautiful city of Messina. I was inspired to make these tasty little jewels while eating carpaccio in a restaurant in Los Angeles.

My family owned a Michelin-Star restaurant in Italy named after my Nonna Sara, and this recipe is from that menu. While they are simple to make, as with most traditional Italian recipes, make sure you use the freshest and best quality ingredients.

Serve them at your next dinner party and watch how a few simple ingredients can taste so incredible, and impress your guests!

Buon Appetito!

Francesco 1

Francesco 2

Sicilian Braciole Recipe

Cook time:1 hour

Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Serve with Mazzoni Barbera

Ingredients:

1 Pound round steak (sliced 3/8-inch)

5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic (minced)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)

3 Tablespoons Parmiggiano Reggiano (finely grated)

2 Tablespoons Pecorino Romano (finely grated)

1 1/2 Cups breadcrumbs

1 cup mozzarella (freshly grated)

Directions:

For the filling:

Combine in a bowl the half the bread crumbs, Pecorino, Parmiggiano, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil.

Mix until the mixture is smooth and becomes a paste. Set aside.

Grate the mozzarella cheese and set aside.

Assembling and cooking:

Lay the steak slices on a wide surface and using a small silicone spatula, spread 1/2 teaspoon of butter on each slice.

Divide the paste mixture equally among the steak slices. Add 1 teaspoon of mozzarella cheese to each.

Roll up the slices to enclose the filling, tucking in the ends. Secure the rolls inserting them onto a skewer. 4 rolls per skewer.

Put the remaining bread crumbs in a shallow dish and pat the rolled meat into the bread crumbs, creating a crust.

Grill each skewer for 2 minutes on each side or until medium-rare and the cheese is melted.

Take the rolls off the skewers 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.


How to: Make Tagliatelle Verdi (Green Pasta)

Simona 3

Tagliatelle verdi owe their bright color to the inclusion of spinach in the dough. The green pasta plays the role of fieno (hay) in the classic combination paglia e fieno (straw and hay), with the role of straw played by tagliatelle all’uovo.

I like tagliatelle verdi, yet cooking the spinach before making the pasta sometimes is not practical. Some years ago, I tried Deborah Madison’s recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone: her spinach variation for egg pasta involves the puréeing of fresh spinach and eggs, which eliminates the spinach cooking step. It worked perfectly: I easily combined the resulting paste with the flour to obtain pasta dough of a beautiful green color.

While my attempts at growing spinach in my small vegetable garden have produced disappointing results, kale sprouts everywhere easily and grows year round in the climate where I live, which constantly motivates me to find ways to consume it. Most of my kale is of the variety Red Russian, and the rest is cavolo nero (a.k.a., Tuscan kale). If you are considering growing some of your food, try kale. My gardening skills are quite limited, yet kale thrives, generously providing me with large quantities of tasty and nourishing dark green leaves.

Simona 2

I particularly like the tender leaves of baby kale, and it was easy to think of using them instead of spinach to make tagliatelle verdi. Appreciation of baby kale has increased in recent years, so until you can harvest your own, you should be able to purchase it.

As usual when I write recipes for homemade pasta, I recommend you start small. Then, when you become familiar with the process, you can multiply the amount of ingredients to satisfy a larger number of guests. (Of course, if you are already comfortable with the pasta-making process, you can skip the initial baby steps.)

Note on flour: to make egg pasta, I like to use King Arthur Flour’s Perfect Pasta Blend, which includes semolina flour, durum flour and all-purpose flour. (I don’t have any business relationship with the company: this is in truth what I use.) Alternatively, you can use a blend of 50% semolina flour and 50% all-purpose flour or your preferred flour blend.

Tagliatelle Verdi

1 cup lightly packed baby kale leaves, tougher part of the stem removed, 15 g / 1/2 ounce

1 large egg, preferably from pastured poultry

3 1/2 ounces  / 100 g King Arthur Flour’s Perfect Pasta Blend OR a blend of 50% semolina flour and 50% all-purpose flour OR your preferred blend of flours for pasta — plus more as needed to obtain the dough

A pinch of fine sea salt

4 ounces / 113 g fresh [homemade] ricotta

Simona 1

Wash the baby kale leaves and pat dry. With your hands, break them into pieces and place in a beaker or similar container (mine came with the hand blender). Add the egg and process with the hand blender until the kale is very finely shredded.

Weigh the flour in a bowl. Pour the blended egg and kale into the bowl. (Make sure you scrape the beaker well.) Stir with a small fork. Add the salt and stir some more until you have a cohesive dough. Empty the bowl onto a kneading board (again scraping the container well) and start kneading the dough with your hands.

Simona 5

Add a bit more flour blend as needed to obtain a dough that is not sticky, but should not feel hard when kneaded. I usually add 5-10 g. Knead for 8-10 minutes, folding the dough on itself towards you and pushing it away from you with the heels of your hands in a fluid motion that should feel relaxed and meditative. Cover well and let rest for about an hour.

Roll the dough by hand or with a pasta machine. You may find it easier to cut the dough into 2 equal pieces, flatten both with a rolling pin and then roll each piece with a pasta machine until you are down to the last but one notch. Sprinkle the dough with all-purpose flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Simona 4

Let the rolled dough rest for a short while. Sprinkle the dough with a bit of all-purpose flour, then cut each piece into tagliatelle (long strips that are 1/4-inch / 6 mm wide) with the machine attachment or by hand. In the latter case, fold a 3-inch strip of pasta lengthwise away from you. Continue to fold the strip until the entire pasta sheet is folded into a flattened roll. With a sharp knife, cut across the flattened roll. Unfold the cut tagliatelle immediately.

Lay out the tagliatelle in such a way that they don’t stick to each other until you are ready to cook them. You can dress the tagliatelle as you prefer. For the batch in the photo, I chose fresh homemade ricotta. Burro e parmigiano is always an option, or a light tomato sauce (especially now that tomatoes are in season).

Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil, add some coarse salt, stir and then toss the tagliatelle in it. Bring water back to boiling and keep it there. The time needed to cook the tagliatelle is not long, so don’t wander away.

Since the pasta takes only a short time to cook, prepare the ricotta as the water comes to a boil. Put the ricotta in a bowl and mash it with a fork to make a cream. If it is on the dry side, add to it a teaspoon or so of the pasta cooking water.

When the pasta is ready, remove from the heat, pour a glass of cold water in the pot, stir and then drain the pasta, leaving a bit of water clinging to it. Toss pasta and ricotta. Depending on the ricotta and on personal preference, a bit of salt may be added during the tossing. Plate and serve immediately.

The recipe makes a bit more than two portions (served as Italian first course).

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.


7 Things Italians Think About Americans

As Italy-lovers, it is easy to come up with a list of traits we admire about Italian life, but after celebrating the good old US of A on the Fourth of July, we wanted to take a look at what Italians think of Americans.  The stereotypes that live on in the eyes of Italians are sometimes half-true, and a few are very funny.

  1. Americans work too much.
    14 days of vacation a year? Working 8-6 every day? Americans are officially hard workers. Italians both admire this trait (and the American economy), but at other times they recoil in fear at the prospect of so few holidays and time with family.
  2. America has the best honeymoon destinations. Did you come to Italy, or dream of visiting for your honeymoon or anniversary? Well, Italians dream of going to the U.S. for their post-wedding trips. America is a top honeymoon destination, with the most popular itinerary being a tour of California, a stop at the Grand Canyon, ending up to close the trip in Las Vegas.
  3. Americans like Italian food that is a little bit weird. It is. Meat and pasta together?? Meatballs should be served as a second course on their own, after pasta. Chicken Alfredo? Not a thing in Italy! And don’t get Italians started on cheese/peperoni/hotdogs inside pizza crusts. Italians are pretty sure Americans are doing a lot of things wrong in the food department.
  4. Americans get everything to go. Why get a take away coffee? Why eat dinner in your car? Italians see Americans as leading a more frantic lifestyle and always being on the move. Give yourself a break during the day for a moment of calm, instead of constantly running to the next commitment.
  5. Americans move houses, a lot. In Italy, the most typical kind of lease is called a 4+4. That’s four years, renewing automatically for another four years unless something goes wrong—so an 8-year minimum lease on an apartment! It is also more common to stay in the place you were born and raised. Italians watch Americans go off to college, often far from their hometowns and families, and wonder why we transfer ourselves to cities so far away.
  6. Each American eats a whole turkey on Thanksgiving, by themselves. Americans have the TV show Friends to thank for this one, but many Italians have heard rumors about Thanksgiving and the feast that goes along with it. One rumor that lives on is that Americans eat a lot on this day—an entire turkey to each person, rather than a turkey per party!
  7. Americans are hard to stereotype because the country is so big and the culture so varied. Sure, there are stories of loud-talking tourists, but overall Italians see America as a land of great opportunity, with motivated and professional people, funny food, but also very unique from each other!

Did we miss any Italian thoughts on America??

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.


Our Favorite Recipes for a Complete Italian Summer Meal

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, we’re planning lots of outdoor meals to share with our friends and family. Of course, we’re putting an Italian spin on things, so we’ve assembled a full four courses of light, refreshing, summer recipes that will be a hit at all your parties this weekend. The whole meal is a perfect pairing with a glass of crisp, cool Mazzoni Pinot Grigio or Vermentino Chardonnay.  What are you most excited to make? Share in the comments below!

Trio

1. Antipasto – Bruschetta Trio

Bruschetta, or slices of toasted, rustic bread topped with simple ingredients, is a classic choice for a starter to an Italian meal. Since it’s usually served with cold toppings, it’s also a perfect choice for an outdoor dinner. Choose from the classic tomato and basil, prosciutto and melon, or pickled eggplant varieties in this recipe – or make all three!

Trofie with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

2. Primo Piatto – Pasta with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

This dish is perfect for summer because it can be served hot or cold, like a pasta salad. A slight variation on traditional pesto, this recipe incorporates sun-dried tomatoes, which are a mid-late summer treat in Sicily. Serve it as a lighter first course, or as a side dish to your entree.

screen-shot-2014-12-02-at-10-52-47-am

3. Secondo Piatto – Lemon Rosemary Chicken

If you’re Italian, there’s most likely have an army of relatives walking through your door this holiday weekend. We’re a big fan of this easy chicken recipe for large family reunions. There are only six ingredients, and it can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how many mouths you have to feed. The best part? You’ll have these chicken breasts prepared and grilled in under a half hour so you can spend more time enjoying your family!

Serving has begun

4. Dolce – Crostata di Fragole

We love to save the best for last – and if this isn’t the most delicious thing you’ve ever seen, there’s something wrong with you. Perfect for a hot summer day, this crostata is a traditional Italian dessert, and melts in your mouth. Grab a slice before it’s all gone – this last dish won’t last long!

Buon Appetito!


Cook Like an Italian: Balsamic Roasted Chicken

Roasted chicken is a very popular dish in almost every country in the world, including in Italy. I have vivid memories as a child going to my Nonna’s house in the countryside and having her Balsamic roasted chicken. This is a very easy recipe, and once you master the roasting process, you can conquer a multitude of delicious chicken recipes. The sweet flavor of Balsamic vinegar and red onions makes this dish uniquely Italian, and gives the chicken a tender and juicy texture.

You can also master your carving techniques when presenting the chicken to your guests, which will impress them and make your dinner party one to remember.

Chicken

Chicken and Onions

Ingredients

1 organic free-range roasting chicken

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 large red onions, sliced into 1/4-inch slices

1 medium onion, halved

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, combine the thyme rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil.

Rub the mixture under the skin of the chicken.

Generously salt and pepper the inside cavity of the chicken and place the halved onion inside.

In a roasting pan, drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the sliced onions, toss to combine. Combine the wine, balsamic vinegar and chicken stock and pour over the chicken

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for about 2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 165°, basting occasionally with pan juices.
Remove from the oven, cover the chicken with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Collect the onions and juices into a bowl and skim the excess fat.

Carve the chicken, transfer to a serving platter and pour over the sauce with the onions.

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.


Chill Out: 4 Things You Should Know About Chilling Your Wine

shutterstock_196205864

With summer in full swing and the Fourth of July right around the corner, we’re spending most of our time outside, eating al fresco dinners and having picnics in the park. And no outdoor meal is complete without a bottle of wine or two. But as the heat rises, so will the temperature of your wine – so how do you keep your whites (and reds?) cold enough to enjoy all summer long?

Of course, you’re welcome to serve your wine at the temperature that best suits your tastes. However, we do have a few ideas and guidelines that will shed some light on the art of chilling, and will increase your guests’ enjoyment of the wine. You’ll be drinking like an Italian in no time!

shutterstock_1738609941. Refrigerate that white! You probably already know that you should keep your whites (like Vermentino Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio) in the refrigerator. What you might not know is that you should also take the bottle out of the fridge for a bit before serving it. While a nice chilled white is refreshing on a summer day, letting the bottle sit out for 15-20 minutes will bring out the full depth of aromas and flavors in the wine. Don’t miss out by drinking the wine completely chilled!

2. Yes, you might want to put that bottle of red in the fridge too. But only for a little bit! If you don’t store your reds in a cool cellar, it could be 70-75 degrees or hotter on a summer day, which is a little too warm, and will taste overly alcoholic. Avoid this by putting your bottle of red in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before serving it. Fuller bodied, tannic reds (like Rosso di Toscana) need less chilling, and should be served around 65 degrees. Lighter reds like Barbera can be served at a lower temperature (55 degrees or even lower in the summer, depending on personal taste).

3. Keep it cold! If you’re hosting a party (especially outdoors) in the summer, make sure your wine not only comes out cold, but stays cold throughout the evening. Submerge your whites in an ice bucket on the table, or in a cooler if you have multiple bottles. Make sure your wine serving area is well shaded in a spot where the sun can’t heat up your wine too much.

4. Chill it – FAST! If you have an Italian family, you know it’s always a full house, with frequent (sometimes unannounced!) visits from friends and neighbors. Don’t be caught unprepared when there’s a sudden need for a cool bottle of wine. Chill your bottle fast by wrapping it in a cold, wet paper towel and sticking it in the freezer for 15 minutes. When you take it out, just make sure you put it on ice to keep it cold!

So what’s your favorite wine to drink in the summer? Do you have any other tricks for keeping your wine cold? Share with us in the comments below! 


Cool Off Like an Italian: Gelo di Melone

Simona 5

Boxes full of whole watermelons and halved watermelons placed on crushed ice in grocery stores invite us to touch, smell, weigh with our hands, employ whatever method of assessment we rely upon to choose the specimen to carry home, slice and savor. I grew up calling this summer favorite cocomero. Later on I learned that in some parts of Italy it is called anguria and in others melone d’acqua (literally, watermelon).

Watermelons are popular in countries around the world and I believe no justification for this is required. As a child I eagerly waited for summer, when, among other delectable fruits, cocomero was in season. Road-side stands selling whole watermelons and/or chilled slices of the fruit are a summer feature throughout Italy. My father liked to engage in pre-purchase watermelon appraisal, a complex activity that comprised specific hand movements, knocking on the fruit — as if someone inside it could answer: “Yes, I am ripe and sweet” — and also the cutting of a wedge, called tassello, for the definitive quality assurance evaluation: a bite into the glistening red flesh of the fruit. That allowed my father’s palate to decide whether the watermelon was crisp and sweet to satisfaction and therefore worthy of his purchase. (more…)


Relax Like an Italian: The Art of the Passeggiata

In most Italian towns and neighborhoods around 6PM, there is a natural gravitation towards the piazza, or town square. Summoned by an invisible force, well-dressed couples and families slowly amble towards park benches and stop to greet friends and neighbors.

The daily passeggiata is a tradition that is hard to resist and exerts its pull on people of all ages.  From the verb passeggiare, “to stroll,” a passeggiata is a “little walk” – less workout and more a chance to socialize after a day’s work.

Rather than heading home to shrug into sweatpants, or strapping on running shoes for jog before dinner, the goal is to dress to impress. The need to fare la bella figura, or make a good impression, means that a well-executed passeggiata is a true art form.

shutterstock_157177319

Originally, the evening stroll was a time for marriageable young ladies to catch the eye of potential suitor. Now, the passeggiata fills a range of other social needs- from nonnas (grandmothers) catching up on gossip, to a cheap and pressure-free first date idea.

The walk can end with a small glass of wine at a local bar, or a cheeky gelato before dinner.  However, a passeggiata is not about getting anywhere in particular.  The main aim is to reconnect over a few laps around the piazza.  It allows friends and couples stroll arm-in-arm outside of the private space of the home, and nurture that true sense of community.

When traveling in Italy, if you are out at about at sunset, you will likely find yourself even unintentionally a part of the custom.  However, it is easy to recreate tradition wherever you are in a few simple steps:

  1. Take a few minutes to recover from the day. Freshen up and dress up a bit. In the winter, the moda (fashion) of choice is furs and hats, while in summer, pressed white linen should do the trick.
  2. Head for the main street or center of town.
  3. Greet everyone, and stop to share a few details about your day and your plans for the evening.
  4. Enjoy the most social time of day before heading home to a delicious meal.

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


5 Tips for Visiting Italian Churches

Duomo

It’s no secret that Italy is home to many historic churches, both big and small. These works of art are some of the greatest architectural feats in the world, and were created by some of the most famous artists of all time. Italian cathedrals and basilicas have become a travel destination, and are frequented by tourists and locals alike.

While many churches in the United States abide by a “come as you are” policy, Italians are much more strict about how visitors conduct themselves in religious spaces.  Below, we’ve provided you with a short list of ground rules to follow should you have the opportunity to tour an Italian church.

If you’re mindful of these few easy pointers, your exploration of Italy’s rich historic landmarks will be simply stress-free and awe-inspiring. Enjoy!

Church

via Shutterstock

  1. Cover up. Italian churches emphasize modesty, and all visitors are required to have covered shoulders and knees. If it’s hot and you must wear a tank top and shorts, bring along a few scarves to wrap around your waist and shoulders when you enter the church. And don’t forget to pack a scarf while you’re still in the US – many street vendors surrounding the church will attempt to sell you one at a highly inflated price.
  2. Quiet down. Much like many American churches, Italian cathedrals and basilicas are a reverent place meant for contemplation, reflection, and appreciation for a sacred environment. That means you should keep your voice low, walk slowly, and turn off your cell phone.
  3. Save your selfies for the beach. Most churches have a no photography policy, so if you don’t want to get involved with any security guards, look for prohibitory signs as you enter the church. Often, this rule is to preserve the artwork inside. Of course, you can take photos of the building from outside!
  4. Eat on the street. Trust us, we know it’s not easy to put the pizza down when you’re in Italy. In respect of your surroundings, however, save the snacks for after your tour!
  5. Visit during Vespers. If you’re interested in seeing an Italian mass in action, Vespers is the way to go for tourists. It’s a quiet evening service made up mostly of repetitive songs, and has several benefits for tourists. You don’t have to wake up early for morning mass, it’s usually the shortest of the services, and the repetition and song is easiest to listen to for non-Italian speakers.

Have you visited an Italian church before? What’s your favorite? Have a tip we left out? Share in the comments below!


Trofie with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

Summer in Italian cooking calls for lighter dishes, but that doesn’t mean you have to skimp on taste.

Trofie with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

Everyone recognizes the original basil pesto recipe from Genova, which is classic and delicious. This month, however, I wanted to travel south to Sicily to make a Sicilian Pesto that has all of the colors and flavors of the sun-drenched island: tomatoes that have been lovingly dried in the sun, fresh basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, a touch of creaminess with some ricotta, and the salty bite of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I mixed it with Trofie pasta from Liguria, which is a short, thin, twisted pasta, to blend the north and south of Italy in one delicious dish.

Since the topping is raw, it is quick to prepare, and is perfect served warm or cold. Take it to the beach and serve it at room temperature! You can use any shape of pasta that you like, but make sure you add this flavorful pesto to your summer recipe repertoire and savor all the tastes of Italy in one dish.

Buon Appetito!

Trofie with Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto

Serve with Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound trofie pasta

1 8 oz. jar Italian sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, drained

2 tablespoons fresh ricotta

1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano

1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup toasted pinenuts

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor add the drained sun-dried tomatoes and basil and pulse 4 or 5 times. Add the garlic, ricotta, pinenuts, salt and pepper and pulse 3 more times. Add the olive oil and run the food processor on high until you get a creamy texture. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, reserving 2 tablespoons for topping, and pulse 2 times to incorporate. Set aside.

In a large pot of generously salted boiling water, add the trofie and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente, drain, transfer to a large bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Add the pesto mixture and 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano, toss to coat all of the pasta.

Serve this versatile dish warm, room temperature or cold.

FrancescoInfluenced by memories in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, Italian-born Francesco Romano is the man behind the food blog, Coco de Mama. He shares recipes and culinary knowledge with Mazzoni fans each month.


A Dessert Recipe for Summer: Crostata di Fragole

Simona's Crostata di Fragole

Simona’s Crostata di Fragole

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

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

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


10 Signs You Lived in Italy in a Past Life

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

shutterstock_157177319

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

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

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

10330354_812163962178995_7618264113453942239_n

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

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

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

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

10421471_765594813502577_8418253330910881202_n

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

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

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


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

Francesco 2

Buona Festa della Mamma – Happy Mother’s Day!

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

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


The Wine You Should Be Drinking This Spring

Who says the perfect spring wine needs to be zippy and white, or popularly pink? After all, it’s a season that’s all about transitions. Flowers don’t just bloom overnight, and our mornings still require a jacket, even if it’s just a light one. We don’t swap our snow boots for flip flops right away either. So why shouldn’t our preference for wine get time to adjust as well?

I’ve never been able to immediately switch from drinking the big, bold reds of winter to the lighter wines often associated with spring. Which is why my go-to wine of the moment is the just-released Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana 2012. A beautiful blend of 78% Sangiovese and 28% Merlot, the wine offers the best of the Old and New worlds. Juicy, with hints of anise and dried herbs, and velvety tannins, it has just enough depth, warmth, and weight to be comforting. But it also embodies the very best aspects of spring in a glass. Its bright red color and abundant aromas of berries and cherries are lively and fresh — a refreshing sensory wake up call from the heavier wines of winter I’ve lately grown accustomed to drinking.

MZI_05An even more important quality I look for in a good transition wine for spring is the ability to pair well with a range of different dishes. This is something you don’t often have to worry about with Italian wines. The cliché is usually true — Italian wines go well with food, perhaps better than any other wines in the world. With lots of acidity and elegant tannins, I’ve found that red wines from Italy are simply made for the table.

Now that the snow has finally melted and eating outside is possible again, I find myself craving all sorts of grilled foods. Over a sunny weekend earlier this month, I cleaned off the grill with a strong craving for steak. I threw on a few in-season vegetables, and uncorked the Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana 2012. Before long, I had a meal that rivaled one I enjoyed in Tuscany last year, with a wine that was the perfect companion. And don’t forget about classic comfort Italian dishes. The next evening, I finished the wine with a plate of homemade spaghetti and meatballs, wishing for another glass as soon as it was gone.

This spring, don’t be so quick to rush into drinking wines better suited for summer. Enjoy the newest vintage of Mazzoni’s Rosso di Toscana — both now and through the end of the year.

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


Sunday Lunch: A True Italian’s Childhood Memories

A tavola! is the call that brings everybody to the table, a place where Italians like to linger. A tavola non s’invecchia, my father liked to say. Literally: “one doesn’t grow old at the table,” meaning that we should take our time to eat, enjoying the company and the conversation, which are also nourishing.

Growing up, the main meal of my day was lunch, il pranzo, prepared by my mother for our family of four. We followed the traditional structure: primo (pasta, rice, or soup), secondo (a meat, fish or egg dish), contorno (side dish), and fruttaThe Sunday lunch – il pranzo della domenica – was richer than the weekday ones and included dessert (dolce).

On Sunday morning, my mother would make a pot of ragù di carnetomato and meat sauce. She would use some of it to dress her handmade egg pasta (usually tagliatelle) for lunch and the rest during the week. The smell wafting from the kitchen changed as ingredients were added in sequence. First came the soffritto, the traditional mix of minced onion, carrot and celery (cipolla, carota e sedano) gently cooked in olive oil (also used as a base for other dishes).

soffritto

(more…)


How to do Fast Food the Italian Way

When the first international burger joints opened in Italy, there was a protest. People stood on Rome’s Spanish Steps and handed out free bowls of spaghetti. This opposition to fast food became known as the Slow Food movement.

But there is no shortage of quality fast food in Italy. It’s just that Italians do fast food differently than Americans. The aim is to make a meal more portable, without skimping on ingredients. Traditional street food, or cibo di strada, shows that fast and affordable can be delicious.

Here are popular versions of Italian fast food that will satisfy any junk food craving and hit the spot when you don’t have the time or appetite for a three-course meal.shutterstock_187071668

1. Pizza al taglio

While pizza tonda, or round pizza, is more recognizable in restaurants, pizza al taglio is a quick lunch staple. Al taglio means “by the cut.” this flat, elongated rectangle of a pizza is massive. To order, the pizza seller holds a knife over the pizza, and you indicate how much should be cut off. Your custom-sized slice is then weighed to determine your price. This means that more toppings will cost you in the end, but the sky’s the limit in flavor combinations.

The slice can be folded over and wrapped in paper to eat on the go. And if you want home delivery? Well then you order by the meter!

2. Pizza Bianca

While the same size and shape of other types of pizza al taglio, pizza bianca is in a category of its own. This “white pizza” is toppings-less. The pizza dough is covered with olive oil and salt. The result is an irresistible snack that has just the right amount of chewiness and fluff.

To turn this snack into lunch, a large square of pizza bianca is cut in two, and stuffed with mortadella (a boloney-like Italian deli meat), to create a type of panino made with pizza instead of bread!

shutterstock_147719081

3. Supplí and arancini

Crispy on the outside and filled with cheesy gooey goodness, these fried rice balls are the ultimate comfort food. Stuffed with rice, tomato sauce, and mozzarella and then covered in breadcrumbs, these fried goodies differ more in shape than in flavor. Supplí hail from Rome and are oblong in shape, while Sicilian arancini are more conical and usually slightly bigger. Both go equally well with pizza!

4. Sfogliatelle

Light and flaky dough is thinly layered to make sfogliatella, a pastry from Naples. They are usually topped with powdered sugar, so consuming the sweet treat on the go is likely to leave the eater dusted with white, but the risk to your outfit and your dignity is worth it.

shutterstock_242264098

5. Arrosticini

This meat on a stick comes from the Italian region of Abruzzo. Typically grilled lamb skewers, arrosticini are cooked over an open flame. Politely eaten with a fork and a plate, the skewered kebabs are also easy to eat on the move, making them a simple but satisfying fast food.

6. Fritti Anything

French fries will seem boring after Italian fritti. Fritti means “fried,” and depending on where you are, just about anything qualifies. In the south, you will find pasta fritta – cooked macaroni fried in breadcrumbs and shaped in irregular globes. In Sicily and Tuscany, fried chickpea flour is popular. However, fried fish and fried vegetables are most common, and usually served in a paper cone for a speedy and dangerously good fast food.

With pizza by the foot, sweet pastries, freshly grilled meat, and countless other regional specialties, there is no need to settle for a bland burger ever again!

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog,An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


5 More Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt

A few months ago, we published a post called “5 Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt,” that shared our favorite aspects of the Italian lifestyle. We were overwhelmed by how much you, our readers, enjoyed the post and incorporated many of the items on our list into your everyday lives.  Today, we thought we’d share a few more ideas about how Americans can live like Italians!

Thank you to our Mazzoni fans who shared their thoughts on how to live the Italian lifestyle after our last post. Some of you might see your ideas in the list below – take a look!

1. Wine CultureMZI_29

When it comes to wine, Italians know best.  Known internationally for producing some of the best wines in the world, Italy is home to many a wine lover.  While Americans often choose a great bottle of wine for special occasions or to celebrate, Italians are known to have a bottle on the table at nearly every meal.  Appreciated as an everyday delicacy to be enjoyed by all, wine is an essential part of life in Italy. And we’re not complaining…Salute!

2. La Famiglia

Italians are well-known for their love of family. In fact, many Italian children live at home until well into their 30s, or don’t leave their parents until they’re married! Italians understand that family is a reminder of where you’ve come from, and spending lots of time together is a way of life. Whether it’s Sunday pasta dinners at grandma’s house or taking a summer holiday together, there are plenty of ways Americans can adopt Italians’ love for la famiglia!

3. That’s Amore

Showing a great deal of affection is second nature to Italians. While Americans are often more reserved, Italians greet family and friends with two (or more!) kisses on the cheek, and are always quick with a hug or a “Ti amo.”  When meeting in bars or at a coffee shop, Italians are much more likely to say hello or even sit and converse with strangers. Of course, Italians also show their love by preparing delicious, multi-course meals for their loved ones. We think America could use a little more affection, and a lot more authentic Italian home cooking!

Piazza Navona in Rome (via Shutterstock)

Piazza Navona in Rome (via Shutterstock)

4. Love of the Arts

In any Italian city, it’s not hard to find art. Whether it’s the beautifully preserved historic architecture, the public museums and sculptures in piazzas, or the street performers and painters, art is everywhere.  Of course, like Americans, Italians also have an undying love for sports, especially soccer, but there’s a certain appreciation for the finer parts of culture in Italy.  Americans, take note – surround yourselves with art!

5. Travel Culture

If Italians know anything, it’s how to travel. Many take the entire month of August off for Ferragosto, or summer holiday. Many city shops and restaurants shut down, and Italians take to the beach or to a neighboring European country for a little rest and relaxation. Maybe that mental health break is what makes Italians so friendly! Trenitalia and Ryanair also allow tourists to travel within Italy and to other European countries quickly and inexpensively. Americans could benefit from a little extra summer vacation time to explore other states or our neighboring countries!

So what do you think? Can Americans benefit from living like an Italian? Anything you think we forgot? Let us know in the comments below!


How to Make Bruschetta Like an Italian

Bruschetta (Broo-SKET-ah), which are slices of toasted, rustic bread topped with simple ingredients, started out as a simple peasant snack for field workers, but today is an appetizer found in most Italian restaurants.

Trio The most famous version of bruschetta is topped with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and either fresh basil or a sprinkle of oregano. However, any crostini topped with meats, cheeses, beans, or other seasonal vegetables and herbs make endless possibilities that can satisfy all palates.

My trio of bruschetta appetizers utilizes the freshest ingredients found at the local farmers’ market. The colors and flavors can be combined to create many memorable toppings. When I am in Rome, I always go to Campo di Fiori to do my daily shopping for vegetables.

Farmer's market

I have made friends there and also in the United States at my local farmers’ market, and they can always tell me what is the freshest, or about some unique herb that can spark my imagination on how to incorporate it into a new recipe.

Tomatoes

My first bruschetta is the most famous, with fresh tomato, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and oregano. It’s a crowd-pleaser that never lets you down.  The second is topped with thinly sliced Prosciutto de Parma, fontina cheese and melon, which is a play on sweet and savory. The final one is a combination of pickled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese, which has a slightly spicy kick from Southern Italy. This one is special because I pickle the eggplant and jar the sun-dried tomatoes with oil to release all of their delicious flavors.

With just a few ingredients, these starters will kickstart your palate and will be the beginning of a wonderful Italian dinner.

Buon Appetito!

Bruschetta Trio

Suggested Pairing: Mazzoni Pinot Grigio

Ingredients:

1 large baguette, or rustic Italian bread, sliced to 1/2-inch thick

1/4 pound of Prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced

1 package small cherry tomatoes

1 small cantaloupe melon

1 package of micro greens

8 oz. fontina cheese, thinly sliced

8 oz. soft gorgonzola cheese

10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

4 oz pickled eggplant

4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, cut in half

Procedure:

1. Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters and place in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Add the finely chopped basil, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator.

2. Cut the cantaloupe in half and discard the seeds. Use a melon-baller to make as many balls as needed.

3. Wrap each ball with a strip of prosciutto, set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator.

4. Slice the fontina set on a plate cover and transfer to the refrigerator.

5. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and pickled eggplant into very small pieces, crumble the gorgonzola cheese and mix all together. Set on a plate and transfer to the refrigerator.

6. Slice a baguette on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices. Grill, or bake in the oven until they are slightly crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub with a garlic clove that has been cut in half.

7. Remove all the ingredients from the refrigerator and assemble the bruschetta right before you serve them.

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.


Become an Expert: The Essential Guide to Prestigious Italian White Wine

I love everything about Italy: the culture, landscape, people, places, industry (read bicycles and motorcycles), but especially the food and wine. I’m so lucky for the opportunities I’ve had throughout my several years in the wine industry. One of my favorites has to be the times I’ve attended Gambero Rosso’s annual event called “Tre Bicchieri”. For many years it’s been held only in New York and San Francisco, but our great city of Chicago was added six years ago and it has become a huge success. The three tastings are usually held in mid-February, with the winemakers traveling from city to city to attend, sharing their wines and wisdom. (more…)


How to Make Pasta By Hand: Starting Simple

Cuzzetielle: as I was leafing through the pages of the Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita, the pretty name stopped me and made me read the details.

Zanini De Vita writes that this pasta shape is typical of Molise, the small southern Italian region sandwiched between Abruzzo and Puglia. She describes it as “rather open strascinati, whose curvature varies with the thickness of the pasta sheet.” It is made by dragging (trascinare) on a wooden board with two fingers a small rectangle of rolled dough. I couldn’t find a photo or image of cuzzetielle, so what you see here is my rendition based on the description I read.

(more…)


6 Tips You Need to Know Before You Visit Italy

IMG_0695

1. Ditch the sweatpants. Long haul flights and cross-country train rides are no excuse for resorting to pajamas outside of the house. Treat a travel day as an opportunity to get started on your holiday style. If you are going to be stuck in a small space with strangers, make the best impression and embrace la bella figura. (more…)


Traditional Italian Recipe: A Spinach Soufflé

Tortino

Some of my favorite parts of an Italian meal are the antipasti, or appetizers. Recently when I was in Rome, I went to one of my favorite traditional Roman restaurants and saw tortino di spinaci, or spinach soufflé, on the menu, so I ordered the rest of my meal to match the flavors of that amazing appetizer.

Tortino di Spinaci is too delicious to enjoy only once in a lifetime, so I knew right away that I’d have to come home and recreate this dish. Mama makes her soufflés with a delicious combination of spinach, gruyere and Parmigiano, which is how I made this recipe. Instead of serving it in the dish in which it was cooked, I pulled it out to show the delicious layers and colors, which is quite an impressive presentation to wow your guests. (more…)


How to Eat Spaghetti Like an Italian

Spaghetti

It’s an age old dilemma; how does one eat spaghetti gracefully? Unless you plan on eating pasta with your hands or reenacting Lady and the Tramp, you might want to study up.

Managing the pasta can be a difficult process at first, but with some practice, you’ll be eating spaghetti like an Italian in no time. In our humble opinions, eating spaghetti is still easier than using chopsticks, so so you’ll be a pro before you know it!

Below are a few easy tips that will help you eat spaghetti politely and elegantly. Take a stab at it and let us know how it goes in the comments below! (more…)