Francesco Romano

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.


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.


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.


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.

ork-tenderloin-roasted-peppers-tarragon

pork-tenderloin-roasted-peppers-tarragon_postx

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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…)


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.


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…)


Pici al Ragu di Carne: An Italian Pasta Recipe

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

Pici is a longer, thicker version of spaghetti.

Pici is a longer, thicker version of spaghetti.

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

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

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