After hitting up the Italian Christmas markets, with all your gifts wrapped and Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) on his way, it is time to settle in and celebrate Christmas like an Italian.
1. Take in the lights | During Christmas, the concept of bella figura extends to cities and streets as well. It is all about image, beauty and presentation. Head out on foot to experience the twinkling lights, and never say no to roasted chestnuts and mulled wine along the way.
2. Set up il Presepio | While Christmas trees are gaining in popularity, most Italian homes still set up a presepio, or manger scene. All of the usual cast of characters are included, but to really deck out your holiday set up, you can opt for optional figurines like pizzaioli (pizzamakers) and tiny casks of wine (of course) to fill out the scene around Mary and Joseph. (more…)
With the holidays coming up, it’s easy to get stressed about what to feed the army of relatives that will soon be on your doorstep. We’re a big fan of this easy chicken recipe for large reunions. It’s an old family recipe brought straight from Italy, and can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how many mouths you have to feed.
And the best part? You’ll have these chicken breasts prepared and grilled in under a half hour so that you can spend more time catching up with Uncle Joe and less time standing over a hot stove. Pair with Mazzoni Pinot Grigio and enjoy. Salute! (more…)
Italy is a beautiful place to visit this time of year, when everything is lit up and the streets are bustling with shoppers visiting their local outdoor Christmas markets. Famous for artisan holiday decorations, scopine scacciaguai (brooms said to rid you of bad luck) and amusements for children, these markets are an essential part of Italian life in the winter.
One of the most well known Italian Christmas markets is located at the Piazza Navona in Rome. Famous year round for its Fountain of the Four Rivers, the piazza sets a perfect scene for holiday festivities. But you don’t have to live in Italy to experience the magic of an outdoor Christmas market; read below to find out where you can visit one a little closer to home.
The holidays are here, which only means one thing: there’s lots of food and wine in our future. Between the grocery shopping, turkey prepping, and table setting, Thanksgiving can become a stressful time for everyone.
Luckily, Italians never seem to be stressed around the holidays. That’s because they live by the simple mantra, “No food without wine and no wine without food.” As long as there’s food and wine, it’s a party!
Neiman Marcus, a name known for iconic style and excellent taste, recently published Neiman Marcus Cooks, a completely updated edition of their classic cookbook. We are incredibly honored that Mazzoni was featured as a suggested wine pairing in multiple recipes!
We don’t want to leave our blog readers hanging, so today we’ll share with you a Calamari recipe from the book. Although the dish has become a popular appetizer, this isn’t your average Calamari. Impress your date or your family with this mouth-watering Flash-fried Calamari and Thai Chile Dipping Sauce. Pair with Mazzoni Vermentino Chardonnay and dig in. Salute!
Above: The Italian professional basketball league is hugely popular among fans (image via Basket Streaming).
No, that’s not a photograph from a recent Cleveland Cavaliers game above.
Best Italian food blog? When it comes to the top online resources for Italian recipes and cooking techniques, no one holds a noodle to Briciole (above).
Last week we blogged about how to food shop like an Italian.
This week, we’d like to share some of our favorite resources for Italian recipes and cooking techniques on the internet: Italian food blogs!
In another era, recipes were handed down in notebooks and favorite recipe collections, often from generation to generation.
That tradition continues to this day in Italy, where mothers (yes, mostly mothers) still share dog-eared recipe albums with daughters and sons (yes, sons, too!).
The internet hasn’t caused the phenomenon to disappear. Exactly the opposite: many Italian food bloggers are inspired by their parents’ and families’ culinary legacies and they take to the web to document, share, and trade notes with like-minded Italian foodies.
The follow are 5 of our favorite Italian food blogs.
Pronounced BREE-choh-leh, this blog has it all: recipes and technique, amazing photography, concise videos, and wonderful insights into Italian cuisine, culture, and language by an Italian living in California.
This blog is by an American ex-pat living (currently) in Umbria. The site is chock-full of recipes, gorgeous photography, and a fantastic “kitchen tips” section with a glossary, substitutions for food products not available here in the U.S., and conversions (very important when you need to use a recipe written using the metric system).
Loosely translated, coco de mama means mommy’s little baby and the title couldn’t be more appropriate for this blog inspired by recipes by the author’s mother and grandmother. “When I was growing up, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was spoiled!” writes the author on his about page. “I had 2 of the best chefs under one roof, my Grandmother Nonna Sara and my Mama Francesca, who made every meal from scratch and with love.”
Whether hamming it up (pun intended) with one of Italy’s biggest food stars, the Italian butcher Dario Cecchini, or sharing the nitty gritty on Sicilian street food, Over a Tuscan Stove is always a great read. The author’s life seems to be as fabulous as her cooking.
Emiko tends to focus on Tuscany and Tuscan cooking on her blog because that’s where she lived for many years. But she also branches out into other regional cuisine as well. Her recipes are very precise and nearly foolproof and we really love her index of recipes (which makes the blog really easy to browse and search).
Are you an Italian food blogger? Let us know about your site by leaving a comment on this post!
Many of you will be surprised to learn that Italians have gone HAMBURGER CRAZY!
Over the course of the last two years, scores of hamburger-themed restaurants have appeared across Italy, from Milan to Rome and beyond.
And Italian food bloggers join in the fun by rating and ranking the many different restaurants where they’re now serving all-American burgers, sharing recipes, and bragging about the “best hamburgers” they’ve ever eaten.
The fad is so popular, in fact, that you’ll often hear Italians use the English bacon when they order their “bacon cheeseburgers” (“amburgher con formaggio e bacon”)!
(Traditionally, bacon is called pancetta in Italian.)
Here at Live Like an Italian, we’re already planning our all-American burger Labor Day menu.
Above: Italian food bloggers love to rate and rank their gourmet hamburgers!
There’s probably no wine that pairs better with hamburgers than the Mazzoni Piemonte Barbera: it’s bright, fresh, and lively in the glass and it’s also a wine that Italians like to chill during the summer.
Here’s our Labor Day grilling menu wine pairing tip: put your bottle of Mazzoni Piemonte Barbera in the fridge the night before your Labor Day bash; take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to serve it to your guests; it will be just the right temperature (chilled but not so cold that it will mask the juicy, delicious flavors of the wine).
Above: Summer truffles foraged in Umbria, not far from the Mazzoni winery in Tuscany.
The U.S. truffle foraging season doesn’t begin until the fall but it’s never too early to begin planning your trip to truffle country!
It was once believed that truffles — a Tuber (not a mushroom) – were found only in Europe.
But today, there are a number of truffle “farms” scattered across the U.S. and in some areas, the naturally occurring truffles are so abundant that the culinarily adventurous can book “private truffle forays.”
The most popular destination is Oregon, where truffle hunting begins in late November and lasts throughout the spring.
The spring and the summer are the seasons for black truffle hunting in central Italy, where Mazzoni wines are made.
August is generally the last month when hunters head to the wood with specially trained truffle hunting dogs.
In another era, pigs were used. Female pigs are attracted to the scent of truffles but they would often eat their bounty once they found it!
Dogs, on the other hand, can be trained to find the truffles and not eat them.
So if you want to hunt for truffles just like an Italian, simply Google “truffle foray” or “truffle hunting America” and you’ll find a wide array of truffle hunting packages.
And in case you just want to eat truffles (and not hunt for them), be sure not to miss the Oregon Truffle Festival in January.
It’s August, which means Italians are taking a two-week holiday. While they’re celebrating summer, we want to celebrate YOU. Visit our Facebook page to take part in our first ever #MazzoniMonday. Take a picture of how you’re living like an Italian this week: cooking like an Italian, playing like an Italian, or simply feeling Italian. Post your photo to our wall with #MazzoniMonday. We’ll pick a winner to receive a prize and a feature on our page. Buona fortuna!
When you travel to Montalcino, Tuscany where Mazzoni wines are made, you quickly learn that the folks who live there like to eat steak.
The bistecca fiorentina (often simply called fiorentina) or Florentine steak is one of the region’s most popular dishes.
Tuscany is famous for being “wine country” but it’s also cattle country. And the Tuscans are fiercely proud of their special breed of cattle, the Chianina. It’s an extraordinarily large breed and because of its size, it makes for some of the most prized beef in the world.
Grilling a steak can be a lot harder than it seems. And the Tuscan use a special technique (see below) for cooking the fiorentina, a cut that we know in America as the Porterhouse.
Because they like their beef seared on the outside and rare on the inside, they cook the steak upright on its “T” before cooking either side.
This does two things: It heats and releases the juices of the bone and it warms the entire steak without changing its color. After the steak has “warmed through,” you simply cook it briefly on either side over high eat to achieve the desired char.
Do the Tuscans love steak because they make such great red wine or do they love red wine because they make such great steak? It’s an age-old question that may never be answered.
What we do know is that one of the greatest pairings for bistecca fiorentina is the Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana: the lush fruit of its Merlot sweetens the char of the beef while the acidity of the Sangiovese cuts through the meat’s tender fattiness.
It makes for a great summer grill but it will thrill your meat-loving guests anytime of year, as well.
Here at Live Like an Italian, we look forward each year to the running of the Palio in Siena, the famous horse race held each year in the town’s main square, the Piazza del Campo.
The Tenuta Il Poggione, where Mazzoni wines are made, lies about an-hour-and-a-half drive south of Siena in the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle (in the township of Montalcino). Even as far away as Sant’Angelo in Colle, the townsfolk “live” and thoroughly enjoy the event, following each development and all the pageantry that’s involved.
For those who have never heard of the Palio, it’s an ancient horse race that originated in the Middle Ages.
Each year, on July 2 and August 16 (in two separate races), ten of Siena’s seventeen contrade (wards or neighborhood) compete. They are selected by lottery.
The intense and deep-seated rivalries are as much part of the spectacle as the colorful feasts and parades.
The race is an “anything goes” affair and the ten competing wards will do nearly anything to put their rivals at a disadvantage.
Even an excluded ward (not chosen in the lottery) will rejoice when an adversary loses. The celebrations over a vanquished rival are as colorful as those held for an outright victory.
To read more about the Palio, its history, and legacy, check out this well-written entry on Wikipedia.
And to get a sense of the excitement on race day, watch the video (below) of last year’s August race, which was won by the Onda or ward of the Wave.
We’ll be following the events that lead up to this year’s August Palio and we’ll be posting on the race as the event draws closer and the excitement mounts.
Two and a half years after it capsized along the coast of the beautiful Isola del Giglio in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the cruise ship Costa Concordia has finally been set afloat and will probably be towed away early next week, according to Italian news reports.
We were thrilled to read that tourists are flocking back to this gem of an island, with its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and scattering of beachside trattorie where it’s pretty hard to get a bad meal.
“I was here in October 2012,” said an American who is working there, “less than a year from the sinking. I have noticed that the Italians don’t seem too concerned about the wreck now. The island is a major destination for Italians, and there are many tourists here enjoying the sunshine and ignoring the wreck.”
The man, a Floridian, is part of the team that has been working arduously to right the ship and get it out of there.
The island lies (see Google map here) just a short ferry ride from the Italian peninsula and not far from the vineyards where the grapes for the Mazzoni Pinot Grigio and Vermentino-Chardonnay grapes are grown.
You can bet that we here at Live Like an Italian will raise a glass when the ship is finally gone.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll be able to remove it early next week.
If you’re not already there, so many of you are on your way to Italy for summer vacation.
For those of you heading to the Siena wine country (where Mazzoni wines are made), we wanted to share a couple of online resources for museums in Siena proper and surroundings.
That’s a photo above, btw, of Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo in the town’s historic center.
The first link we’d like to share comes from “About Siena, Your Tourist Guide to Siena.” It’s a no-frills site packed with useful information. And although the English translation is not always the best, it does the trick.
The second link comes from a site called “Musei Senesi” (Museums in Siena). It’s a little harder to navigate than the first and the English version is pretty spotty.
Those little museums can be very rewarding, in part because of the travel through the countryside to reach them and in part because of their picturesque settings in medieval hilltop hamlets.
Italy is so rich in cultural heritage and Siena and its surroundings can be counted among the country’s gems.
As our friends in America are preparing for a three-day Fourth of July weekend, we know that many of them will be grilling hot dogs and hamburgers for the holiday.
Here’s a recipe for Italian-style roasted bell peppers, a perfect accompaniment to give an Italian flair to your Fourth of July menu.
Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers
yellow and red bell peppers
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly cracked pepper
Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Wash and dry the bell peppers. And then place them on stove-top burner over medium heat (see video below).
Using a pair of tongs, turn the peppers until they have blackened. Once they are entirely black, place them in a brown paper bag and roll up the top of the bag to seal.
After the peppers have cooled, remove them from the bag and peel off the blackened skin (the easiest way to do this is under running water).
Slice off the tops of the peppers and discard. Slice the peppers in half and remove their seeds. Then slice the peppers into strips roughly ¼-inch wide.
In a mixing bowl, toss the peppers with the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and whole parsley leaves to taste.
Let the peppers marinate for at least an hour and ideally for 3-4 hours before serving.
Pair with Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay.
More than once on the Live Like an Italian blog, we’ve posted about some of our favorite Italian saying and how to wish someone, for example, a good weekend (buon weekend!).
In the spirit of Italian football (otherwise known as soccer in the U.S.), we wanted to do a post on how to say enjoy the game.
If someone is going to watch the game on television (or other streaming device), you say: buona visione (BOO’oh-nah vee-ZEE’OH-neh). It’s the same thing you would say to someone about to watch a film or a television show.
If someone is going to the stadium to see the game, you can say: buona partita (BOO’oh-nah pahr-TEE-tah), meaning literally [have a] good game (even though that person isn’t playing in the game but is just a spectator).
You could also say, goditi la partita (GOH-dee-tee lah pahr-TEE-tah), literally, enjoy the game.
Below you’ll find some other common sayings we’ve posted in the past.
Buona Coppa Mondiale! Enjoy the World Cup!
Here’s a list of simple Italian sayings that can really come in handy, especially when you’re trying to say have a great weekend!
Buon lavoro = may your work be fruitful.
Buona lettura = enjoy your reading.
Buona lezione = may the lecture/class be fruitful.
Buon seminario = may the seminar/class be fruitful.
Buono studio = may your study be fruitful.
Buon appetito = enjoy your food.
Buon ascolto = enjoy the music [listening].
Buona degustazione = enjoy the tasting.
Buona spaghettata = enjoy your spaghetti [pasta].
Buona visione = enjoy the movie.
Buona continuazione = enjoy the rest of your day/activity.
Buona domenica = enjoy your day of rest [the day of the Lord].
Buone feste = happy holidays.
Buon fine settimana [buon weekend] = have a great weekend.
Buona permanenza = enjoy your stay.
Buon proseguimento = enjoy the rest of your stay/activity.
Buone vacanze = enjoy your vacation.
Buon viaggio = have a safe trip.
Buon volo = have a safe flight.
Buon weekend [buon fine settimana] = have a great weekend.
Buona guarigione = I wish you a speedy recovery.
Buon riposo = sleep well [get well soon].
Buona giornata = have a great day.
Buon giorno = good day [greetings].
Buona notte = good night [good-bye].
Buon pomeriggio = good afternoon [greetings].
Buona sera = good evening [greetings].
Buona serata = have a great evening.
Which ones are we missing? Please feel free to add others in the comment section…
The World Cup 2014 begins today in Brasil and as it does every four years, it brings together nations from every part of the globe.
Soccer — or calcio as it is known in Italy (meaning literally kick) — is practically a national religion for Italians. You’ll often hear Italians say that the only thing that truly unites the country is its national soccer team. That’s because Italy is really 20 different countries: each of its 20 regions has its own customs, foods and wines, its own dialects, and its own culture and traditions. But when the national soccer team plays, every Italian cheers in chorus.
In many ways, the team unites Italians from all walks of life in the same way that the World Cup unites nations from across the globe. And here at Mazzoni wines, we think of it in the same way as we unite an international grape, Merlot, with a classic Italian grape, Sangiovese, in our Tuscan red blend, Rosso di Toscana IGT.
The team is known as the Azzurri, Italian for blue, the color of the Italian national jersey. And when cheering their team on, the Italians cry forza Azzurri!, literally, Go Blue!
The tournament begins tomorrow and Italy has its first match, against England, on Saturday. Here are some useful links for following and cheering along. Note that local time in Brasil is one hour ahead of EST.
Italy plays its first game this Saturday at 4 p.m. EST vs. England (you’ll find the complete Italy schedule on its FIFA page here).
Here at Live Like an Italian, we’ll be following and cheering the Azzurri as they progress through the tournament. They have won the World Cup four times in its history and are always a favorite. We hope you’ll join us in cheering: Forza Azzurri!
Image via FIGC.it, the official site of the Italian national soccer team.
Here’s what Mark Bittman, food critic for the New York Times, had to say about Belly in Eugene, Oregon a few years ago: “Belly, a popular new Eugene restaurant run by a lovely young couple doing honest, straightforward food and doing it well.”
Ever since Brendan Mahaney opened the restaurant in 2009, he’s been racking up the praise from the local and national media. It’s just one of those places that hits the mark on every level: great, wholesome food, prepared thoughtfully.
It’s no small accomplishment in a part of the country where great restaurants and fantastic wines abound. Indeed, many consider Eugene and Portland to be among America’s most hip food and wine cities.
Here’s how he describes his cooking on his website: “Rustic, European Farmhouse Soul Food.”
Belly current serves Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay by the glass. It’s a great list and we’re proud to be part of it.
We highly recommend it.
Image via the Belly website.
Above: Castiglione della Pescaia is one of Tuscany’s best-kept secrets. Click here for the Google map to see where it’s located on the Tuscan coastline.
Now that summer’s around the corner, we know that a lot of you are planning your summer vacation in Italy.
Many of you beach-lovers will head to the glitzy Amalfi coast or to the swank beaches of the Lido in Venice.
But Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci will be spending his summer vacation (in August) in Castiglione della Pescaia in Tuscany, a roughly one and a half hour drive (depending on how fast you drive) from his home in Sant’Angelo in Colle where Mazzoni wines are made.
Castiglione has all the amenities of Italy’s more famous beaches. There are camping spots, beaches with cabana/umbrella services, and some of the most famous seafood restaurants in Italy, mostly on the economical side.
But the best part is that the village of Castiglione della Pescaia — which translates loosely as “the fisherman’s castle” — is a wonderful hilltop medieval hamlet. It’s a great place to get lost in its winding little streets, to have a coffee at a café with the local folks, or just to relax with one of the greatest views of the Mediterranean (the Tyrrhenian Sea).
And from Castiglione, you’re only a short drive from Montalcino where they make Brunello di Montalcino (and Mazzoni wines), an even shorter drive from Bolgheri wine country, and there are also a number of interesting historical and archeological sites in the area as well, including many Etruscan excavations and museums, like the Museo Archeologico e d’Arte della Maremma.
Above: Puttanesca sauce is just another variation on classic pomodoro (tomato) sauce. The difference is that anchovies, capers, and pitted olives are sautéed with the garlic before the tomato is added. For our basic pomodoro recipe, please click here.
Anyone who’s lived in northern Italy knows that pomodoro (tomato) sauce is regularly made using finely chopped onions and garlic in the sauté (the soffritto in Italian, similar to the French mirepoix).
But when you travel south of Rome, you’ll find that home cooks religiously omit onion from the recipe. In fact, the mere thought of using anything more than garlic in the soffritto is considered sacrilegious to those living south of Italy’s capital.
In Naples and Campania (the region that forms the “shin” of Italy’s boot and claims Naples as its capital), classic pasta al pomodoro is made exclusively with garlic.
Some would attribute this to the fact that the warmer climate in the south produces richer garlic than in the north, where temperatures are colder and other species of Allium, the onion genus, are easier to cultivate.
In the period after the second world war, when canned tomatoes and dried pasta began to be sold across Italy, pasta al pomodoro went from being a southern Italian dish to being a pan-Italian, national dish. Indeed, today pasta al pomodoro is served regularly throughout Italy and is widely considered one of the symbolic dishes of Italian national cuisine, despite its true origins in the south.
It’s kind of like pesto. In Liguria, home to true pesto, the dish is prepared almost exclusively with a pasta shape called trenette and Pecorino, sheep’s milk cheese, is used. In the rest of Italy, pesto is prepared with Parmigiano Reggiano (from Emilia-Romagna) and spaghetti are commonly used.
When you make your pomodoro, do you use onion and garlic? Or do you use just garlic?
Last week, we posted our basic recipe for making tomato sauce for pasta.
There are infinite variations: over the next few weeks, as summer tomatoes begin to come into season, we have a whole series of posts planned on seasonings, the “onion vs. garlic” debate, pasta shapes, and other tips on how to make great, authentic tomato sauce.
But before we move on to the finer points of a great salsa al pomodoro, we wanted to take a moment to discuss one of the most important elements in “finishing” any pasta with tomato sauce.
While we have nothing against those who simply top their cooked noodles with a ladleful of sauce, we do subscribe to the camp of those who believe that the pasta should be folded into the sauce (as in the image above).
Here’s the trick.
Right before the pasta is done cooking, add a quarter or half ladleful of its cooking water to the simmering sauce (it’s important that you use the salted cooking water, which also contains some starch from the pasta).
Be sure too cook the pasta very al dente and you can even remove it from the burner while still undercooked.
Strain the pasta carefully and then fold it into the simmering sauce.
As the pasta finishes cooking through, it will absorb the flavors of the sauce (if you omit this step, the sauce will still flavor the pasta but not as deeply).
For many pasta lovers, this a key element in preparing any pasta sauce.
Coming soon: the great “garlic vs. onion” debate…
Mazzoni wines were a huge hit at last weekend’s Second Glass Wine Riot event at the swank Great Hall at Union Station in Chicago.
More than 3,000 “wine rioters” gathered for the shindig, now in its fourth year.
The walk-around tasting included dozens of wineries and literally hundreds of wines.
And attendees rave about the seminars (including Wine 101) and the overall high quality of the wines poured.
(For a reviews of how the event works, how to buy tickets, and how to obtain a free ticket for future events, check out the Yelp reviews here.)
The Mazzoni ambassadors poured all four of the Mazzoni labels — Vermentino-Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Piemonte Barbera, and Rosso di Toscana. And the wines were a big hit among attendees (who have the opportunity to review the wines and trade notes with fellow tasters on the SecondGlass.com site).
Thank you, Chicago wine lovers, for making Mazzoni one of the most popular wines at the event!
A great tomato sauce for pasta… It’s one of the holy grails of contemporary cooking.
One of the secrets of a great homemade tomato sauce is — yep, you guessed it — the quality of the tomatoes.
Today, there are so many great brands of canned and bottled tomatoes and tomato purées available across the U.S.
When you choose your brand, you want to make sure that the tomatoes are either unseasoned or lightly seasoned. This allows you to season your sauce the way you like it. Look for tomatoes that have healthy acidity (San Marzano heirloom tomatoes are arguably the best) and avoid tomatoes that are overly sweet. The number one thing that makes a tomato sauce great is the balance between sweetness, acidity, and seasoning.
Classic Tomato Sauce for pasta
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion or shallots
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
28 oz. peeled tomatoes (standard can size)
½ cup Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay
freshly cracked pepper
In a wide pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion becomes translucent (this step is very important because the onion won’t fully infuse its flavor to the sauce unless it’s properly sautéed).
Add the tomatoes to the pot and once they begin to simmer, turn the flame to low, applying just enough heat to keep a gently simmer (see the video below).
Add the wine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer for 1 hour or until you achieve the desired consistency, stirring occasionally (if you’re in a hurry, you can cook over medium heat but if doing so, be sure to stir more frequently so that the sauce doesn’t burn on the bottom).
In an upcoming post, we’ll address how to “finish” the dish and what other seasonings you can use. Stay tuned and buon appetito!