Carnival: Frittele time in Italy!

Carnival desserts in Italy: frittelle di carnevale

 

Hola foodies out there!

It is Carnival time in Italy! Everyone is busy finding the right costume for a party or a special dinner with friends. The ones who are lucky enough to live in Venice are probably busy strolling around its canals admiring the typical masques and the beautiful dresses. If you come to Italy at this time of the year, you are likely to find a tradition wherever you go! Our guides will tell you more during one of your food tours in Italy!

But well well, Carnival is also about children, who usually love this time of the year: they can dress up as their favourite heroes, throw colourful confetti at each other and eat all the delicious typical Carnival desserts. Every region has different traditions but they are all really yummy traditions!

Frittelle Carnival Italy

If you want to bring a little bit of Carnival in your home, just throw some confetti here and there and then start cooking one of the easiest dessert: frittelle! Involve your kids in the process, they’ll love it! (If you don’t have kids just borrow them from relatives, friends, neighbours).

Ingredients

1 and ½ cup of flour

2 eggs

⅓ cup of butter

Lemon grated zest

1 tsb vanilla extract

½ tsb baking powder

Pinch of salt

Powdered sugar

Vegetable oil

Start with mixing the flour with the eggs and the sugar a large bowl,. Add the butter in soft, room temperature, small pieces. Add also the lemon zest, the vanilla extract, the baking powder and the pinch of salt. Mix the flour until you get a nice compact and smooth dough. You can use your hands, it is the easiest thing. Let the children do it! It is going to be a nightmare to clean but lots of fun!

Meanwhile heat some sunflower oil in a saucepan or deep fryer (don’t let the children do it!).

frittelle carnival italy

Now let’s make some small balls out of the dough. This is how you can do it: first, Divide it in chunks and then roll them into long sticks. At this point cut the sticks in small 1 inch pieces and roll them with your hands until you get small balls! At this point the oil will be at the right temperature to fry (to be sure about it, just try with a small piece of dough. It should start frying right away when you put it in the pan. Deep-fry until crispy and golden. Prepare a dish with some kitchen paper where you can put the frittelle once they are ready and let them dry a bit. When completely dried, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top.

frittelle carnival italy

Serve them with tea or juices for children, sparkling or a sweet wine will do for audults. It is Carnival afterall ;).

If you are curious about Italian traditions and a food-lover, book a Food walking tour in Florence with us! You won’t be disappointed!

Trapizzino: a new Roman tradition

New trends in Italy: Trapizzino!

Tired of pizza? If you are passionate and curious of the new entry in Italian culinary tradition, we have some good news for you! We cover most of Italy’s screed along with our Rome Food Tour with Skip the Line Colosseum Guided TourIn the heart of Rome, a new way of eating Italian food is born!

trapizzino roma

Trapizzino is something halfway between calzone or panzerotto: it has a triangular sandwich shape and the bread is the same dough of pizza. It can go with various fillings, which are cooked separately. Imagine something like a panino, but not quite. A panino in Italy can be filled with salami, cold cuts, cheeses and maybe pickles and it can come in many different forms of bread. Trapizzino is different. Tomato and mozzarella, beef or chicken: unlike its ancestor it can be filled with any of the great Italian dishes. Basically, it is a way of eating Italian delicatessen on the go! Great idea, isn’t it?

trapezzino roma

As all new things, they are still to be fully accepted by Italians. Some welcomed it as a great innovation, some others complain about the “globalization” influence on our traditions: food is to be eaten seated and any major meal should last at least an hour!

trapizzino roma

The inventor of Trapizzino is Stefano Callegari. It was in 2008 when he had this idea while working on his pizza-by-the-slice shop in Rome. At the beginning it was almost a scandal: Italian traditional dishes transformed into quick and take-away snacks! And then, straight after this reaction, it was a  great success!

Right now, there are trapizzini places in several Italian cities and it is very appreciated by foreigners too! Come and find out more with our Food Walking Tour in Rome!

 

Meet your local guide in Rome: Tony ;)

Meet your local guide in Rome: Tony

Hello, my name is Tony!

Meet your local guide in Rome: Tony. Italy Food Culture Tours. Planning a visit to Rome? Here are some tips from Tony, The Best foodie guide in town!! Tony will lead you to his favourite places and restaurants, with tips on how to make the most of your stay in Rome.

Name:  My name is Tony

Nationality and Hometown? I’m Italian and proud roman

Name of tour you lead and where: I lead the Food tours, bike&food tours and also segway tours!

What’s your favorite part of the tour: The delicious slice of pizza outdoor, in the middle of the street inside the magical frame of  Campo de fiori market.. an authentic spot of italian life.

Meet your local guide in Rome: Tony

The lovely “Campo dei Fiori” square

Favorite Local Restaurant in your city: “Dar filettaro” (translated from roman: the filet guy 😉 ) you cannot miss this, because it’s the first “roman fast food ever”. The place is near Campo dei Fiori  square.

One thing visitors to your city can’t miss: The Jewish Ghetto, this area is like a natural movie set. You’ll feel like stepping into ” Roman Holidays” or “La dolce vita”, I promise!

What’s next on your travel bucket list? The east, Asia. I want to go to Vietnam, a country with great culture, places and people! I can’t wait!!

Overview of Matera

Overview of Matera, it’s beautiful!

What is your favorite Italian city to travel to?  Matera, the italian Jerusalem. This city is one of the many pearl of our unique country, as well as being one of the most ancient towns -still inhabited- in the world. I wish it was more appreciated nationally and internationally.

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy? The tip of using your heart…travelling to our country must be an initiative completely natural and spontaneous to fully appreciated our culture.

The delicious "Pasta alla Gricia"

The delicious “Pasta alla Gricia”

What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving? Of course it’s the pasta alla gricia. Might have heard of pasta all’amatriciana, well this is the ancestor of amatriciana and one certainly needs to try both to learn how they’re made and which is your favourite. 🙂 If you’re an expert on Italian food, you could try this at home!

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours? The most memorable experience, was a marriage proposal during a Segway tour, by night, in Rome….an offer which is impossible to refuse!

Meet your local guide in Rome: Tony

Here we are on a food stop of our tour!

What do you like most about leading tours? To meet people from allover the world, to interact with them and to share our culture and backgrounds. There’s always something to learn, from every single person.

What makes your tour unique? My passion! To me this is not only a job but it’s a way of living and share all my love for my beautiful city.

Pasta alla Gricia: Roman cuisine triumph

New year is on! Welcome 2018!

Do you already know how you want to start this new year? We suggest starting with new things! In terms of food, what about trying a recipe that it is popular in Italy but yet not regularly in Italian restaurants menus? There are some Italian dishes that are simply everywhere. Think about Carbonara or Arrabbiata or the famous Alfredo Pasta, completely unknown in Italy. Well, Gricia is that kind of pasta you will find in Roman trattorias, but quite rarely is to be found elsewhere in Italy. And yet is an easy and mouth-watering recipe! Sure that you’ll have a try along with our Roma Food Tour! Ingredients? Really few! Only thing you need is a good Italian Food shop where you can buy guanciale and percorino romano!

pasta alla gricia

 

Ingredients for two people

 – few thick-cut slices of guanciale

 – 4 tablespoons of grated Pecorino Romano

 – 200 gr pasta

Directions

Pour around 3 liters of water in a pot, salt it, and bring it to boil. Take into the account that both pecorino romano and guanciale are quite salty so you don’t need much of salt. If you can, try to find exactly pecorino romano and not other types of pecorino.

While the water is heating, slice the guanciale thinly into strips or even dices, or whatever shape you like. Put it in a pan that is big enough to contain also the pasta  – that you’ll add later on –  and place over medium heat. You need to cook it until the fat is cooked but yet not too brown or crispy.

pasta alla gricia

Once ready, add a spoon of water from the pasta pot and let it on low heat. Add the pasta to the water when it starts to boil properly. Now, you can follow the instruction on the pasta box on how long it should cook or drain it just a minute before so that it is al dente. Keep a cup of the cooking water aside before draining the pasta. Add the pasta to the guanciale and use the cup of cooking water to mix well.

At this point, remove the pan from the heat and add the grated Pecorino Romano cheese, just as much as to create a white thin coat on the pasta.

Grind some black pepper oh the pasta and serve immediately!

pasta alla gricia

Pasta alla Gricia is one of my favorite ones – and don’t tell anyone  – I like to exaggerate with pecorino romano, so I suggest you feel free to do that. If you need to cook for more people just calculate proportionally! It is a great dish to share according to the Roman tradition! Curious about finding out more about Rome? Join us for our Rome Tour Food!

Italian Christmas traditions: from North to South

Christmas is coming… It’s time to enter this joyful moment of the year, during which everything is lightened and colorful.

And yet I really want all of you who are planning to visit Italy this time of the year to be ready, so let me just introduce the topic, would you? There is something very important to keep in mind when talking about Christmas Italian traditions: there is not such a thing as a single tradition! This is the very first thing to know when talking about Christmas in Italy! If you don’t trust me, you can ask about it to any of our tour guides along our Food Tours, they’ll surely confirm!

 Italian Christmas Traditions

As for many other things, food is a profound marker of Italy’s regional differences. In our country, every single region is proudly rich of its own local culture. One example? Panettone can be bought in any supermarket in Italy, but it is originally baked in the North! There will be no Southern nonna baking it at home!

 Italian Christmas Traditions

The same thing goes for tortellini, which are a tradition of Central Italy, usually homemade for big occasions. During Christmas time, tortellini are prepared in brodo, (in broth) and are served on Christmas day, and might be followed by bollito misto (a mix of boiled meat with special sauces and pickles).

 capitone_umido-986x400

Less famous are the Southern Italy Christmas traditions: in Rome and Neaples for example capitone is a must (even said anguilla in Italian, eel in English). This tradition most probably comes from Neaples, which lays by the sea and make therefore fish available quite easily. Some tried to associate it symbolically to a way of “eating” the devil, since the sneak-like shape of eel. Anyhow, the most traditional families buy the capitone on the 23rd, still alive, to cook it on the 24th. Indeed Capitone is eaten on Christmas eve, since it is a well-known rule widespread all around the country that it is better to eat fish on this day.

 Italian Christmas Traditions

Also typical of most of the Southern regions (Campania, Pulia, Calabria) are the zeppole (also called struffoli in some areas). This dessert is as simple as delicious: it is basically fried sweet bread dough. As easy it may sound, it represents a basic and yet strictly present part of the Christmas eve table. The Southern you go along the boot-shaped country, the wider the variety of sweets gets! Usually, a selection of fruits, both dried and fresh, are offered too (with a copious assortment of nuts). Better to keep it in mind if you ever happen to be invited to an Italian Christmas table, so that you can keep some appetite for the last course!

 

There are many other traditional Italian Christmas dishes! Don’t be shy, be curious and ask more during our Food Tours! Stay tuned for some luscious r

Italy Food Culture presents: “Meet your local guide: Daniele!”

Italy Food Culture presents: “Meet your local guide: Daniele from Milano!”

We’ve been away for awhile but are now back with new entries and new posts! This time we’re taking you to Milan to meet Daniele a witty and personable local guide, that is waiting just for you, to make the most of your visit!

"Hi, this is me!"

“Hi, this is me!”

Name:  Daniele Umberto Lampasona

Nationality and Hometown? I’m originally from Catania, but live in Milan.

Name of tour you lead and where:  I’m in charge of leading the food tours and beer tours. Yes, beer too, because Italian craft beers are terribly good and won’t disappoint any beer lover!

If you are not from the city you are based in for tours, what originally brought you there? As many other families, also mine moved for work reasons from south of Italy to Milan, the richest city of our country. I was 1 year old, so basically…I followed them.

Your favorite part of the tour:  My favourite part is the wine tasting at the enoteca (italian word for wine shop): it’s always a wonderful shop, with wonderful people… and certainly wonderful wine! 

Favorite Local Restaurant in your city:  Rather than a specific place, I prefer recommending neighbourghoods where to live an experience. So I like to suggest the Navigli area and Brera – my favourites – which are so full of restaurants and each focusing on different products, that you can just go there and literally follow your nose.

"The best part of the terraces is the view!"

“The best part of the terraces is the view!”

One thing visitors to your city can’t miss: Going up to the roof of the Duomo (here’s useful link to book a Duomo tour) and actually walking on its tiles. It’s hard to find a similar opportunity in the whole world, and the view from up there is amazing!

What’s next on your travel bucket list? Next week I’m going to Lithuania!

What is your favorite Italian city to travel to?   I’m totally in love with Rome: there are so many things to see and to do that. Although I’ve lived there for a while and I’ve visited it many other times, I always find something new around!

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy? Clear your mind from stereotypes and relax.

"mmm...this is mouthwatering delicious"

“mmm…this is mouthwatering delicious”

What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving? The combo ossobuco with saffron risotto is a must!

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours? Having a prosciutto tasting with some people from Australia who were prosciutto producers and we discussed about all the varieties and the differences between the Australians and Italians cured meet, most memorable!

What do you like most about leading tours? The possibility to learn from each person in my tour groups.

What makes your tour unique? A light and funny atmosphere, seasoned with deep knowledge of the tour. And of course, my hair! 😉

Baked clams: fish for Christmas!

christmas

Christmas, Christmas… coming closer! Getting ready for having some friends over? If you want to make your Christmas eve dinner more Italian, read some of our tips on Christmas traditions in Italy! Among this traditions, the fact that Italians prefer to avoid meat on Christmas eve and therefore have developed a large variety of fish dishes, some of which are really easy and quick, like the one I will propose you here: baked neck clams!  You’ll have the opportunity to taste some of these appetizers including fried fish during our Milan Food Tour

baked-clams

As you know, in Italy appetizers are important as much as main dishes! This easy recipe is accessible to everyone, it is tasty and even good-looking! What else?

Ingredients

  • 25 little Neck clams

  • 1 cup  bread crumbs

  • grated parmesan cheese

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • fresh parsley

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • salt & pepper

neck clams

Wash the clams under fresh water, shuck them and leaving the fruit on the half shell.

In a bowl, add the chopped garlic, parsley, olive oil, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and mix well until the oil is fully absorbed by the bread crumbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put all the open clams on a baking sheet and with the help of a teaspoon put the breadcrumbs in each clam until the clam is completely covered. Bake at 180 c° (500F) for 5-7 minutes, then put under the broiler for 1 minute to brown.

baked clums

Serve hot if possible and together with some fresh rucola and lemon!

Only thing that you need to add now is a good white wine or prosecco if your guests fancy some bubbles to start with!

Want to discover more about Italian food traditions? Follow us on our Food Tours! There is so much more to know, believe me! 😉

 

Italian Apple pie: torta di mele!

Autumn, autumn…winter is just alle porte! And so it is family time!

Italians are really bounded to their families and cold months are a perfect occasion to get close to your relatives and spend some time together! So what to bring in occasion of a warm family reunion?

Italian apple pie

Well let us tell you: una bella torta di mele! Apple pie Italian style! If you are not new to Italy you’ll probably know almost everything about pasta and lasagne (and more than that if you took part in  our Florence Food Tours), but we are not only that! Let us guide you in the sweet side of Italy!

Italian apple pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you’ll need:

  • 4 apples

  • 8⅚ ounces flour

  • 3½ ounces butter

  • 5⅓ ounces sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 4 ounces milk

  • 1 lemon

  • ⅗ ounce baking powder

  • salt

Heat the oven to 200° C while you prepare the cake.

The process is easy and it will be faster if you have a friend/partner/family member peeling the apples for you! 😉

Another thing about Italians: cooking is something social, so not only your Italian apple pie will be a great contribution to your family reunion, but you can invite a cousin or a sibling over to help you prepare it!

Start by mixing the sugar with the butter in a bowl. Stir it until you have a creamy and uniform mixture. Add the eggs, the flour, milk (you can substitute also with any almond/rice/soya milk), the lemon zest, a pinch of salt and the baking powder. Mix until the dough is creamy again. You and add a little bit of milk or water if it is too thick!

At this point, if no one has done it for you yet, peel the apples. Slice 3 ½ of them and cut the rest in small chunks that you will add to the mixture. Butter and sprinkle with flour a round baking tin and pour the mixture. On the top of it, place the sliced apples as in a radial (or in whatever shape you want them to form).

italian apple pie

Bake for 40-45 minutes in the preheated oven. Once ready, for how yummy it may look, let the cake cool before slicing!

Some nonna will also want to decorate it with some icing sugar on top! Other modifications can be adding some pine nuts or some cinnamon.As you can find out in our Food Tours Italians also like to be creative!

Cooking is something serious in our country, so any innovation is welcome if it comes from solid basis! Take your time to become familiar with cooking and baking and then find your way!

Buon appetito and enjoy your family reunions!Italian apple pie

Cachi: oriental fruits that became part of Italian Autumn

At this time of the year, Italian countryside’s landscapes are changing colors; from light yellowish they are going towards one of my favorite colors: orange and red! Colors are bright  and warm and every little gem of nature adds a pinch of Autumn in our days.

cachi italian autumn

There is one gem that became very popular and typical in Italy even though its origins are to be found in a very far land. It is kaki (or Persimmon), a rounded and orange sweet  fruit that decorates many family tables in Italy in Autumn time! Not to speak about the beautiful tree of cachi, with their bright orange color: they are simply part of our imaginary of a chilly rainy November day.

cachi Italian autumn

The origins of this fruit are to be found in Asia and it can be proudly described as one of the oldest plants in cultivation. In Italy kaki is eaten alone and simple with a spoon as a dessert and it is also used to make jams, cakes and liquors, just like most things in Italy. Our motto is: whatever tastes good should be eaten in all its possible shapes! That’s why during our Italian Food Tours you can try many different kinds of jams, patè and dressings!

Be careful to eat cachi only when well ripe, as they contain high levels of tannins and are really astringent (or allappanti as Italian say)! You’ll understand if it is just by touching it: it should be soft! If you are in Italy and you buy them, you’ll probably be sold unripe ones! That is completely normal! Just place them together with few apples and they might be ready to be eaten even within 24 hours!

cachi italian autumn
Cachi contain a lot of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber, and are said to be beneficial for the nervous system, the liver, and for gastrointestinal problems. They contain a lot of sugar and are a high calorie fruit: try it to believe it! Even one normal size cachi can be really filling! If you pass by in the right season (between October and November) you might be lucky enough to try them during our Italian Food Tours.

Interesting facts about cachi

The full name is diospyros kaki, from Greek the fruit of Zeus! In Italy is often called cachi or diospero in Tuscany.

This fruit was introduced across Italy in the middle 1800s.  It is believed that Mussolini created a decree for them, requiring each farmhouse have a cachi tree planted besides it.

Risotto alla zucca: an Autumn must!

Autumn is here! Landscapes are getting orangish and brownish, sky is blue, rain is back again in Italy after a long dry summer! Tomato, eggplant, zucchini season is almost over…but no despair!! It is time of one of the greatest pearl of our vegetable gardens: butternut squash! Starting from the end of September on, these curiously shaped vegetables enter Italian houses and take place as decorative elements of livingrooms and kitchens, to be used in the following months for great vellutate and risotti! You’ll notice this seasonal change also in food shops and window decorations in Italy. If you don’t trust us, come and see it yourself and join our Italy Food Culture Tours!

risotto alla zucca

In October, it is very likely that your nonna will serve you the first risotto alla zucca of the season! If you want to be as seasonal as we are, here you go an easy recipe for this creamy, tasty and warm dish!

 

Ingredients (serves 4-5 people)

1 Tbsp unsalted butter or few spoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 onion

1 garlic clove

1 lb butternut squash, diced ½ inch

1 tsp salt

1 tsp rosemary

6 ½ c water or broth

500 gr risotto rice

Parmesan cheese, grated

 

Directions

As for everything in Italy, you can follow different schools for the risotto. One makes the famous soffritto (onion and garlic base for any sauce) with butter, the other with extra virgin olive oil. So make up your mind and go for your favourite option!

 

In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium high heat. If you are using the extra virgin olive oil, just pour few spoons to the pan and add diced onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until golden. Dice the squash in ½ inch squares and add it to the pan together with salt, rosemary, and ½ cup of water (or broth).

Risotto alla zucca

Cook until the squash begins to turn tender. In the meantime, bring the remaining 6 cups of water (or broth) to a boil in another pot. Add the rice to the squash mixture. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the water gradually, stirring and waiting until the water has completely absorbed before adding any additional water. Continue to cook the risotto this way until the rice is soft and creamy. It should be around 30 minutes but it all depends on the quality of the rice you are using. Once the rice has reached your desired consistency, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the fresh, grated Parmesan cheese. Serve warm topped with additional Parmesan cheese and rosemary for decoration!

Risotto alla zuccaAdd a good red wine to your table and toast to this great Autumn!