Week 4 of the A to Z Challenge

Here’s what happened in week 4 of Italian Cuisine!

Q is for Quattro Staggioni

Pizza Quatro Staggioni

Pizza Quatro Staggioni

R is for Ricotta Pie 

ricotta pie with raisins and pine nuts

Ricotta pie with Raisins and Pine nuts

S is for Sicily

italian gelato in sicily

Choosing my first Italian gelato in Taormina, Sicily

T is for Tagliata

tagliata

Thinly sliced beef marinated in olive oil with balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese

U is for Uva a.k.a Italian Wine

chianti sangiovese

A Chianti as served in Trastevere, Roma.

V is for Vitello Tonnato

vitello tonnato

Thinly sliced veal with tuna mayonnaise and capers

 

V is for Vitello Tonnato

Vitello Tonnato is just as classic as a carpaccio. It resembles it only in that both feature thinly sliced meat. This dish however uses veal, and is smothered in a deliciously creamy tune mayonnaise. To be honest, I know it’s not how it it supposed to be, but I normally serve the sauce along with spaghetti. It is one our family’s favourite dishes.  

 The recipe originates form Piedmont, a northwest region of Italy. It begins with you basically making a broth, and boiling the meat along with some vegetables to enhance the flavour. In the meantime you make your very own tuna mayonnaise, which is ridiculously easy (as you can also find out in my Club Sandwich recipe). All you need is either a food processor, or a really strong arm. I would advise you to use the processor for this one though, as you’ll need to incorporate some vast ingredients. Also, don’t forget to cool the sauce in the fridge, this makes the flavours come out even more!  

  If you’re a lover of anchovies or want to follow the traditional recipe, add a can of the little fishes! I am not too fond of them myself, so I leave them out of any recipe I make. But they do add a certain Mediterranean saltiness that you cannot get from regular salt.

Vitello Tonnato is a perfect dish to serve during an Italian buffet, or as a secondo. Enjoy it with a chilled glass of Fiano or Pinot Grigio

Vitello Tonnato

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 45 min
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 750 gr veal
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 liter water
  • 1 egg
  • Salt
  • 300 ml olive oil
  • 1 can of tuna
  • Optional: capers, anchovies, parsley

Used kitchen appliances

  • Food processor
  • Large pan

Preparation

  1. Roughly chop the celery and carrot. Add it to the pan along with the water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the meat. Let boil for about 25 minutes or until cooked through.
  2. Drain the tuna. In the food processor, beat the egg with some freshly ground salt. Gradually add the olive oil while mixing after each addition. Finally, add the tuna (you could also add some anchovies and capers at this point). Season to taste.
  3. Finely slice the meat. Place on a plate, cover with the tuna sauce, capers and fresh parsley.

U is for Uva a.k.a Wine

I’m a big sucker for wine. You can pour any white, red, rose, or sparkling wine in my glass and I’ll drink it. As long as it tastes nice, I’ll be happy. Ofcourse, I do have some preferences. For instance, I am not a big fan of French wines. I don’t know why, but they just don’t work for me. I adore wines from South America and Australia.

And I am absolutely in love with Italian wines (how surprising). As one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, the Italians have learned to make the best of the best.

Here are my favourites:

Pinot Grigio
A white wine which, due to its freshness, is perfect for hot summer nights. One of the most popular white wines, also known as Pinot Gris in France. It’s delicious with a pizza or past, or just as a chilled drink while soaking up the sun.

chianti sangiovese

A Chianti as drank my myself in Trastevere, Roma.

Sangiovese
The red Sangiovese grape is grown in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. Typical for this wine is a spicy, powerful flavour and can contain quite some tannins. It is often used in a blend with other red wine grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon to make Tuscany’s most famous wine: Chianti.

Fiano
This wine is relatively unknown, but my favourite. The Fiano grape is cultivated in the Campania region of Italy and in Sicily. The dry white wine has a strong flavour with notes of tropical fruits. I love to drink this wine with grilled fish or with a salad, as it is quite light.

Lambrusco

My dad is pouring me a glass of red Lambrusco.

Lambrusco
This sparkling wine comes in white, rose, and red, but I would definitely recommend trying the red variety which is less sweet. White Lambrusco is amazing when served chilled during a picknick or light meal, although it can accompany a heavy dish just as perfectly. The grape originates from Emilia-Romagna and Lumbardy.

What are your favourite wines? Do you prefer the Old World over the New? Rather drink a white than a red? Let me know in the comments!

T is for Tagliata with Rocket Lettuce and Balsamic Vinegar

In principle, tagliata is just a sliced steak. But I think by now we have come to realize that in Italy it’s never just that. It’s never just a fish, or just a pie, no, it’s a simple dish, but with immensely intense flavours that knock you off your feet everytime you take a bite.tagliata

Same goes for this wonderful recipe. Thinly sliced steaks, marinated in olive oil in rosemary, on a bed (I feel like such a douche saying “on a bed” but it’s the truth, I’m sorry) of rocket lettuce, covered with syrupy balsamic vinegar and topped off with shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese. It’s that kind of dish that literally everyone will be able to cook and everyone will definitely enjoy, just as long as you put some love in it (aaand there’s the douchiness again).tagliata

I’m not a big meat lover, but this is one dish that I will not say no to. Like ever.tagliata

Ofcourse, you don’t necessarily need to marinate the meat. But just that tiny effort makes the flavour explosions in your dish so amazing. If you’re short on time, you could easily put it in the marinade the night before or in the morning!tagliata

Serve it as a secondi during your Italian dinner! Enjoy!

Tagliata with Rocket Lettuce and Balsamic Vinegar

  • Servings: 2-3 persons
  • Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 300 grams beef
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 shallot
  • 100 grams rocket lettuce
  • Parmesan cheese

Used kitchen appliances

  • Mixing bowl
  • Small pan
  • Grill

Preparation

  1. Coat the meat with olive oil and rub in the rosemary sprigs. Put in the bowl, and cover with cling foil for about 1 hour in the fridge to let the flavours soak in the meat.
  2. When the meat has marinated, heat the grill pan or a regular frying pan. Bake the meat on each side for about 2 minutes, depending on how you like your meat. Let rest for a minute or 2.
  3. Pour some olive oil over the lettuce, and season to taste. Finely chop the shallot, and add to the rocket.
  4. Slice the rested meat in thin slices. Serve with the rocket lettuce, and Parmesan cheese. Pour over some balsamic vinegar


This post is part of the A-Z Challenge, running throughout the month of April. For more posts on Italian Cuisine, go visit this page.

S is for Sicily

Ah, Sicily. One of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Back in 2004, I spent 3 weeks with my family on this stunning island. My first experience with La Dolce Vita. Eating my first actual Italian pizzas (Calzone!), soaking up the Italian sun, and tasting real Italian gelato. And oh my, what a sensation that was!

italian gelato in sicily

Look at all those flavours! What to choose, what to choose?!

As you may have read in my previous posts, Sicily is quite the innovative little island. How about Arancini, Limoncello, and even Gelato! I know right. Besides all those wonderful culinary aspects of Sicily, it’s also an island with loads and loads of culture. Famous cities such as Palermo, Catania, Syracuse, and Taormina have a history dating back to the Ancient Greeks, which can still be seen today in many places.

sicily

Walking round the Greek Theatre in Syracuse (don’t I look awesome with my Ronaldo shirt?!)

Other amazing dishes originating from Sicily are the popular pastry Cannoli (from Piana degli Albanesi, close to Palermo), the frozen dessert Granita (from Catania) and the sweet cake Cassata (from Palermo and Messina). But being a land in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, there’s bound to be lots of fish in your diet as well. Like swordfish, which you can buy at the market of Catania.

swordfish

Spooky, isn’t it?

Sicilians do have quite a sweet tooth, which might be explained due to their incredibly wanted citrus fruits. There has to be something in the soil of the island which makes, not only the people, but also the citrus fruits very sweet. Might have something to do with the endless amount of sun as well.

mediterranean sea

The beautiful blue Mediterranean sea…

Also, there is a volcano there, people. Awesomeness. Go visit. It’s such an immensely beautiful place, this island has taken my heart away…

etna

The Etna vulcano close to Taormina

R is for Ricotta Pie with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Oh wow, this recipe is so incredibly delicious. It’s quite a sweet pie but then you have the sensation of biting into those hearty pine nuts which is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before.ricotta pie with raisins and pine nuts

Ricotta is a sheep’s cheese, made from the whey that’s left over when producing hard cheeses. The ricotta does make this pie quite a mighty one, so it’s probably best to serve small slices, or not I mean I’m not gonna stop you. I get it.ricotta pie with raisins and pine nuts

So you’ve got the sweetness of the honey and raisins, the heartiness of the pine nuts, the sublte alcohol flavour of the amaretto, the creaminess of the ricotta and a ridiculously crunchy crust. It’s so good.ricotta pie with raisins and pine nuts

I’d serve it with a small glass of amaretto, or an espresso after dinner.

Ricotta Pie with Raisins and Pine Nuts

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • 250 gr flour
  • 120 gr butter at room temperature
  • 80 gr of fine cane sugar (or just light brown caster sugar)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp amaretto
  • 1 tsp salt

For the filling

  • 500 gr ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 50 gr honey
  • 150 gr white caster sugar
  • 50 gr raisins
  • 90 gr pine nuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 50 ml amaretto

Used kitchen appliances

  • Food processor (electric whisk)
  • Cling foil
  • Rolling pin
  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • Pie dish
  • Oven

Preparation

  1. Mix the flour with the butter in the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients for the pastry.
  2. Knead everything together. Try to use your fingertips, as to much warmth of your hands will melt the butter even more. Turn it into a ball and wrap in cling foil. Cool in the fridge for 1 hour.

  3. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  4. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds on a dusted surface and use a rolling pin to flatten the pastry until it’s 3 cm thick.
  5. Grease the pie dish with butter and lightly dust with flour. Fit the pastry into the dish, and use a fork to prick holes in the bottom.
  6. In the mixing bowl, add the ricotta and all other ingredients for the filling. Pour the mixture in the pie dish. Try to get the pastry to be on the same level as the filling.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour. If the top gets too black, cover with aluminium foil. Let cool on a wire rack.

Q is for Quattro Staggioni

Quattro Staggioni. Four seasons. Frankie Valli. I’m here to tell you about my love for this band.

Pizza

Pizza Margherita and Pizza Quattro Staggioni

No, kidding, I promised you a recipe for pizza toppings last Saturday, and that’s what you’ll get (although if you do want to talk about the band, I’m always up for it). So Quattro Staggioni is one of the most popular toppings, probably because it has so many yum ingredients on there, which basically means that you have four pizzas in one!

Pizza Quatro Staggioni

Pizza Quatro Staggioni

Mushrooms, artichokes, black olives (more about that here) and ham. Deliciousness all over the place. Listen to Verdi’s Four Seasons if you want to get in the mood, he probably dedicated it to this stunning pizza (no he didn’t).

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita

Also, a bonus recipe for Pizza Margherita, which originated in Napels!

Pizza Margherita

Quattro Staggioni and Margherita

  • Servings: 2 small pizzas
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients for Quattro Staggioni

  • 200 gr artichokes
  • 125 gr mushrooms
  • 125 gr ham
  • 120 gr black olives
  • 125 gr mozzarella
  • Tomato sauce
  • Pizza dough or one pizza base

Ingredients for Margharita

  • Tomato sauce
  • Pizza dough or one pizza base
  • 125 gr mozzarella
  • Fresh basil

For the tomato sauce

  • 400 gr peeled tomatoes (canned)
  • 20 gr fresh basil
  • Dried oregano
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Used kitchen appliances

  • Oven
  • Baking tray
  • Mixing bowl

Preparation

  1. Pre heat the oven to 240C.
  2. In a bowl, mix the ingredients for the tomato sauce. Season to taste. Spread over the pizza bases.
  3. Slice the mozzarella, mushrooms, and black olives. Dice the ham.
  4. Place the mozzarella slices on the pizza bases. On one base, lay the mushrooms, black olives, ham, and artichokes. Keep them seperate!
  5. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until crispy. Sprinkle some fresh basil leaves over the Margherita base.

Week 3 of the A to Z Challenge

Hope you all had a nice weekend! Here’s a recap of what was posted on the blog in the third week of the A to Z Challenge!

K is for Know your Italian Pasta

tonnarelli

Cacia e Pepe with tonnarelli pasta

L is for Limoncello

Limoncello with balsamic infused strawberries

Limoncello with balsamic infused strawberries

M is for Mozzarella

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita

N is for Neapolitan Cuisine

vongole

Fresh vongole

O is for Olive Oil

extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil with sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper

P is for Pizza

Pizza

Pizza Margherita and Pizza Quattro Staggioni (due on Monday!)

 

P is for Pizza

I’ve never met a pizza I didn’t like. To me, it is literally one of the best inventions to have ever happened in the culinary world.

Made in Naples, pizza are a versatile recipe, which you can adjust in whatever way you like. A pizza with only cheese, or just meat, or solely vegetables. You could even opt for a sweet topping, such as Nutella (my fave) or fruits. Nothing is too crazy when it comes to pizza.

Pizza Nutella

Pizza Nutella as served in Hotel Quirinale in Rome.

Also, it is actually not that hard to make at all. It’s quite the same dough as used for making Focaccia, only with less proving time. I cannot stress this enough though, if you let it rise more than needed, you will end up with a Dr. Oetker pizza, which is ofcourse just as delicious but it isn’t Italian. If you do prefer that, just leave the dough to prove a little while longer, and let it have more baking time in the oven.

Pizza

Pizza Margherita and Pizza Quattro Staggioni (due on Monday!)

This basic pizza recipe will help you to bake your own pizzas in the future! A lovely recipe for the topping will come your way on Monday!

What are some of your favourite toppings? Do you prefer a thick or thin crust?

Pizza Dough

  • Servings: 2 pizzas
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • 500 grams flour (tipo 00, or strong white bread flour)
  • 275 ml lukewarm water
  • 14 grams dry yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Used kitchen appliances

  • Small bowl
  • 2 Large mixing bowls
  • Fork
  • Baking tray or pizza tray
  • Oven
  • Wet cloth

Preparation

  1. In the small bowl, add the yeast and 8 tbsp lukewarm water. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  2. Place the flour in the mixing bowl, sprinkle the salt on the sides and make a hole in the middle. Pour the yeast in the hole.
  3. Add the sugar and oil. Gently mix the yeast into the flour with the fork. Keep stirring while gradually adding the lukewarm water.
  4. Once mixed, place the dough on a dusted surface and knead for about 5-10 minutes or until you have a smooth and elastic dough. If needed, add more lukewarm water or flour.
  5. Grease another mixing bowl with some oil. Place the dough in the bowl, and make a cross on top of the dough with a sharp knife. Cover with a moist cloth and leave the dough to rest in a warm, airtight place for 1 hour.
  6. In the meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 240C.
  7. Knock back the dough on a floured surface and knead for another minute. Cut in half and spread over the greased baking tray. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

O is for Olive Oil

My absolute, number one, favourite ingredient is for the letter O: Olive Oil.

I prefer any type of oil over butter, but the Queen of oils is the one for me. With so many different olive variations, producing techniques and regions, there is an endless supply of this golden liquid.

extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil straight from Rome, Italy!

It all started an immense long time ago, probably around 5000 BC (wow.) when the smart people back then thought of a way to use all those olives that fell from the trees; namely, by pressing the olives until a liquid comes out. During the time of the Egyptians (1200 BC), the cultivation of olives for oils was a regular thing, not only using it for their food but also to light up oil lamps, for religious rituals, and as a medicine.

The Ancient Greeks used olive oil as a way of maintaining hygiene. The atlethes rubbed their skin with the oil, after which they scraped all the grease and dirt with an instrument called the strigiles. Ofcourse, the Romans found olive oil to be quite an exquisite thing as well, thus planting the trees everywhere in Italy – except for the northwest.

Olive oil is not solely cultivated in Italy, but also in other European countries such as Spain, Turkey, France, and Greece. Famous Italian olive varieties are the Taggiasca, the Frantoio, the Moraiolo and the Coratina.

extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil with sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper

The best olive oil there is, is the extra virgin oil which I have mentioned in quite some posts I believe. This variety of the oil is highly concentrated, resulting in the dark colour. It is a great oil to use in dressings (such as the one below!), in the Bruschetta or over the Crostini. Or simply pour some oil in a bowl, add some salt and pepper, and dip with bread. That’s the way to go to enjoy this olive oil.

Classic Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 1 portion
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • Shallot
  • 1 part red or white wine vinegar (or balsamic)
  • 5 parts extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes
  • Fresh pepper

Used kitchen appliances

  • 1 bowl
  • Knife

Preparation

  1. Finely chop the shallot. Place in bowl.
  2. Add the vinegar and olive oil. Stir.
  3. Season to taste.

Serve with an avocado salad, green salad, or over oven roasted potatoes.