Francesco Romano

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…)