COOK LIKE AN ITALIAN

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.


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.


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…)


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…)


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…)