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!

Schiacciata con l’Uva Recipe

Schiacciata con l’Uva:  waiting for the wine

 

uva
There is something Italians love as much as their mums: that dark red/purple liquid called wine. No surprise then that in Tuscany, one of the most important areas of wine production in Italy, there is lots of excitement and expectation when we come closer to the time  of the year where the yearly wine production will finally “be released”. That is, in early Autumn. Wine harvesting in Italy starts at the end of August and by the beginning of October the vino novello (not aged fresh made table wine) will be already on our tables. Get to know more about Italian culture and traditions with us along with our Food Tours!

While waiting for the real stuff to be ready, Tuscan people make use of the grapes as much as they can. Schiacciata con l’Uva is a product of this sense of expectation. Traditionally made with a a bunch of the grapes of the harvest, this grape pie is very similar to the focaccia dough, but sweater.

Schiacciata con l'Uva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nowadays, many Italians do not harvest their own grapes any longer so they choose to use uva fragola grapes for this recipe! You can choose to use whatever grapes you find available in your country! Try to go for the  most organic option you can find!

Ingredients

FOR THE FOCACCIA DOUGH:

  • 5 Cups white flour

  • 2 Teaspoons instant east

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

  • 1 3/4 Cups Warm Water

FOR THE FILLING & TOPPING:

  • 2 bunch of grapes

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • Rosemary

  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil

Put the flour, three olive oil tablespoons, salt and yeast in a bowl. Mix and start adding the warm water little by little, while stirring. Continue to add water until the dough begins to thicken and you are able to knead it with your hand. At this point, continue “to work on” (as Italians say) the dough for around 5 outside the bowl, on a lightly floured flat surface. Make a ball with your dough and place it back in the bowl, after sprinkling some flour on it so that it doesn’t stick to your ball. Cover it bowl with a kitchen cloth or a plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm spot for around an hour or more.

impasto schiacciata con l'uva

 

Divide the dough in half, and place half on a large baking pan. Drizzle it with a little olive oil, and scatter half the grapes over it. Sprinkle with half the sugar and rosemary.
At this point, add the other half of the dough over the dough in the pan. Stretch it and pinchi the two doughs together. Spread the other half grapes on the top. Leave the dough to rest while preheating oven to 180 C° (375 degrees F). Bake the focaccia for around 30/45 minutes until it is golden brown.

schiacciata-con-luva

Ecco fatto! Italian early autumn taste on your table!

To be enjoyed as a snack with your afternoon tea! Feel like trying more?

Come along with our Florence Food Tours!

Octopus and potatoes salad: easy and summery

 

Who said that Italian culinary tradiion is all about pasta? Italian cuisine has a lot to say also about fish! This recipe is going to join your need of fresh flavors and Italian taste!

Octopus and potatoes salad

It is great as a starter, as a main dish and also as finger food if you provide toothpicks. The must-follow rule is quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley. Italian cuisine makes great use of this herb, but it is strictly fresh and never dried! So let’s try to stick to these simple rules to get some real taste of Italy! When you visit, have a look at our Food Tours to discover more about Italian culinary tradition!

For this fresh and easy recipe the ingredients should be easy to find. There are many small variations of this recipe that can be adapted to your personal taste! Just give it a try!

Ingredients for 5 people

1 kg of octopus

5 big/1 kg potatoes

1 clove of garlic (optional)

Few bay tree’ leaves

Parsley

1 lemon

Salt

Pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

As first, place the potatoes in boiling water until cooked. You can choose whether to cut and peel them before or after boiling them! Just be awareh that if you peel and cut them before it will take less time to cook and you should be careful not to over-boil them! If you boil them intact, check with a fork: when they are soft they are ready! Drain them in cold water and put them aside cut in big pieces. Here, it all depends on your taste, if you prefer to cut them a little bit smaller, then cut the octopus in pieces of the same size!

potatoes

Clean the octopus and cook it in boiling water together with the bay tree’ leaves until the meat will become white and tender (it will take usually around 30 min). Once ready, leave it in its cooking water until it cools. It is important to do so, in this way it will stay nice and tender.  Once cool, drain and cut into pieces. Place the octopus and the potatoes together in a bowl.

Octopus salad

And now the seasoning: add the entire clove of garlic peeled (only if you like and are ok with garlic), chopped parsley, the extra virgin olive oil, the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

The best would be to leave the octopus in its seasoning for at least half an hour before being served. Enjoy it with a great dry white wine. We will give you also some ideas for wine-food combination during our Food Tours in Florence!

octopus and potatoes salad

 

The ultimate Italian summer salad dressing

saladsSummer is coming and it is time to get fresh! Bring all of your creativity in the kitchen and start getting mad on salad! Salads are just the best solutions for fresh, easy, quick and yet nutritive lunches! Parmigiano reggiano and bresaola, mozzarella and tomatoes, rucola and cherry tomatoes…you can really create anything out of simple ingredients!

Strawberry salad dressingEver tried adding fruits to your salads? Strawberry with vinegar is just one of my favourite! Not talking about regular vinegar of course but of aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar)! One of the greatest characteristics of this specific type of vinegar, traditionally produced in the central city of Modena, is that it renders all good flavours just taste even better! Try it if you don’t believe me! During our Florence Food Tours you’ll get the chance to try aceto balsamico with cheese and strawberries and trust me it will drive your taste buds crazy!

Here you go with a simple and quick recipe for your Strawberry Salad Dressing with aceto balsamico!

Ingredients

1 cup of strawberries (5/6 big strawberries)

2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

4 tsp balsamic vinegar

Pinch of salt

Instructions

Blend the strawberries, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt in a blender or a food processor. Mix until smooth and serve it in a bowl next to your salad! You can even choose to cool it a bit in the fridge! In that case, be sure to prepare it a bit in advance and take it out right before serving the salad!strawberry salad dressing

As simple as this! Now you just have to compose your salad and pour as much vinaigrette as you like on it! I suggest a spinach, walnuts and gorgonzola salad for your first try for your strawberry salad dressing !

strawberry-salad

I have tried also this vinaigrette adding few leaves of mint and it does taste even fresher if possible! Some other options are adding poppy seeds to the dressing or a pinch of mustard!

Just experiment and find the right combination for you!  Looking forward to hearing your feedbacks!

 

Fried Pizza: because pizza is always pizza!

Fried Pizza

Fried Pizza

How many types of pizzas have you tasted in your life? There are so many extravagant version of this typical Southern-Italian dish that it is sometimes impossible to distinguish original Italian ones. Well, there is always something new to try! You know what we are talking about if you’ve joined one of our Roma Pizza Tour!

One of the specialities of this tour is the fried pizza! Yes, you got it right! As if pizza was not good enough, we decided also to fry it! This recipe is of Neapolitan origins and it is called Montanara recipe, which takes its name from the montanari. I montanari  were the mountain peasants, who apparently used to eat fried bread dressed with tomatoes and cheese.  Just to give you an idea of how easy this recipe is!

So here is what you need to try to do Fried Pizza at home:

Ingredients

  • 800 gr basic pizza dough

  • Mozzarella (better if buffalo one)

  • 1 clove garlic , peeled and finely sliced

  • 400 gr good-quality tinned plum tomatoes

  • oregano

  • fresh basil

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • salt

  • black pepper

  • vegetable oil

It is better to prepare the tomato sauce first, so that once the dough is ready you can just dress it and enjoy your fried pizza while still warm. So, first of all heat a saucepan, pour few spoons of olive oil and add the sliced garlic. Cook gently over low fire. When the garlic turns light golden, add the tomatoes and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, turn the fire off, add some basil and put to one side.

Tomato Sauce for Fried Pizza

Now you’ll just have to fry your pizza base and it is ready! Let’s suppose here that you have already your basic pizza dough ready. Divide it in 12 balls of around 60 gr each and then flatten them to obtain a disk-like shape. Every disk of pizza is going to be fo 8-10 cm of diameter. At this point, heat 2 cm of vegetable oil on a frying pan and fry each pizza for 2 minutes or so on each side. Put the dough balls in the oil only when it is really hot. Remove them with tongs and place them on a tray with some kitchen papers, so that the extra oil is absorbed.

Fried Pizza

Now spread each one of the little pizza with a spoonful of the tomato sauce and tear over some mozzarella and few leaves of basil or dried oregano.

Here you go! Easy, tasty and colorful! Don’t forget to try the original Montanara recipe when you pass by Italy!

 

#LasagnaForEveryone: an easy lasagna recipe

There is something about lasagnas that I really can’t tell. As if it could embody all the flavors and all that makes up Italian identity. Lasagnas  is home…

Now, lasagnas  is almost everywhere in the world, but please, please, please do stay away from bad imitations! That doesn’t mean it has to be complicated! You can prepare lasagnas yourself following this very easy lasagna recipe, without spoiling it with shortcuts.

Lasagna: the best of Italian Food

It won’t be like the one you can have in Italy, but it will get really close to it. Have you tasted the best lasagna in Milan? You will have the chance of trying the real authentic taste of this dish at Pastificio Moscova!

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef

1 pound pork sausage

1  can tomato Sauce

1  can tomato Paste

1  canned chopped tomatoes

1 glass of red wine

1 celery stalck

1 carrot

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 middle-size onion

1 teaspoon of sugar

Salt and black pepper to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese

9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

800 ml of béchamel sauce 

The best way of making lasagna is to cook the ragù sauce a day before. It is just a matter of fact: it tastes so much better the day after. To prepare the ragù heat some extra virgin olive oil in a large pan or a pot (where all of your sauce will fit in the end) and add diced garlic, onion, carrot, parsley and celery. This is the base for most of Italian sauces and the ingredients added are called odori all together. Let them fry for some minutes and then add the ground beef and the sausage over medium heat until browned. That’s where the wine comes in. Over high heat, add a generous glass of red wine until completely absorbed. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, sugar, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now if you have time, the longer your ragù cooks, the better it will taste. So if you have some time, let it cook even for few hours over low heat. You can add water any time you see that it is necessary for the sauce to remain of the right texture: not too dry and not too liquid.

easy lasagna recipe

Once the ragù is ready, let it cool for some minutes (or wait the day after if you can). Preheat the oven at around 180 °/ 356 F. Your lasagnas is almost ready! Start with a layer of lasagna noodles in an ungreased 9 X 13 inch baking dish, then spread the first layer of meat sauce,  few generous spoons of béchamel and parmesan. Repeat layers and top with last 3 noodles and the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining béchamel sauce and cover everything with a nice layer of grated  parmesan. Bake for around 50 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. And here you are!

easy lasagna recipe

 Enjoy and do not add anything on it!!!! It will taste just wonderful the way it is! ;).  An easy lasagna recipe that will help us spreading the right lasagnas taste all around the world!!!! And if you pass by Milan, to join us and taste the best lasagna in Milan!

 

Butter and anchovies: easy crostino topping

Having some friends over for dinner on short notice? Don’t panic! The trick is to start with some good and filling appetizers! Surprise your guests with the starters and they’ll enjoy the rest even better! And if you have no time for shopping, we have a perfect idea for you!

All you need is bread, butter and canned anchovies and here you go with a great Italian starter: crostini burro e acciughe! Sometimes the simplest things are the best!

Butter and anchovies crostini topping

If any of you have passed by Italy already, you might have tried it along with our Florence Food Tour, during which you get the chance to taste Italian crostini in Florence.

Now, as you know there are many crostini toppings in our tradition. You might now some of the very standard one: tomato and basil, black olives… Burro e acciughe is something that doesn’t come to your mind easily, but believe me it is a pleasure for your mouth!

As ingredients, we’ll list what it would be better to use, but surely any surrogate will do:

  • Tuscan bread

  • Good quality unsalted butter

  • Good quality anchovies, in oil or salted.

  • Pickles baby capari (if you like)

Butter and anchovies crostini topping

Tuscan bread is the one that best fit this recipe. If you don’t have, just use what bread you have. Cut as many slices as to have at last two crostini per person. Toast the bread and let it cool some minutes. Spread a good layer of butter on the slices and, depending on the size of these slices, lay one or two anchovies on the top. You can add a capari as the final touch on your crostini burro e acciughe. And there you go, you are ready to offer your guests an original and finger-licking Italian starter!

If you do want to taste Italian crostini while in Florence let us know! We’ll make sure you’ll get the best out of your stay!

 

Torta Fedora: the best of Tuscany

Italian culinary tradition is wide and varied: all kinds of pasta sauces, the many versions of lasagne, tasty meat stews, pizzas, and last but not least: the desserts. There are so many of them that there is always something new to taste. One of the less-known ones is Torta Fedora, a real delicatesse of Tuscan cuisine. A soft heart of puff pastry, whipped cream and sponge cake covered up with a crunchy layer of dark chocolate.

Torta Fedora

Torta Fedora

I bet we already made you drool! No despairs though, you’ll get the chance to try this tasty dessert of our cuisine during our food tours in Florence!

And in case you like it, and we bet you will, here is a simple version of this recipe that you can try at home. The only thing that you might struggle to find is the alchermes liqueur, which you can replace with any another kind of gentle and
Alchermes and Maraschino

Alchermes and Maraschino

sweet liqueur. Some versions of this cake is with maraschino, a liqueur obtained from the distillation of Marasca cherries.

Here is what you will need:

1 roll of puff pastry

1 disk of sponge cake

550 gr whipped cream

Icing sugar as required

Few spoons of milk

For the chocolate crust:

150 gr: dark chocolate

1 spoon of water

2 spoons of honey

Icing sugar as required

For the bagna (to soak the sponge cake):

65 g of water

35 g of sugar

50 ml of alchermes liquor

It would be better to prepare the sponge cake the day before or – don’t tell anyone we suggested you-  you can buy already-made one. First thing, you’ll need to bake the puff pastry. Before doing that make sure you poke few holes on it using a fork, gently brush it with some milk and sprinkle it with some icing sugar. Bake at 180° until golden brown.

While you wait for the puff pastry to bake, prepare the bagna, with which we will soak the sponge cake. Pour the water together with sugar in a small pot. Once it boils, you can leave it cooling a bit and then add the alchermes liqueur.

At this point, take the puff pastry out of the oven, cut it the same size of the sponge cake and lay the sponge cake on it. Pour the bagna all over the sponge cake and now our base is ready to be topped with a thick layer of whipped cream. Let now rest the cake in the fridge for at least few hours.

Cioccolato a pezzi

Let’s now prepare the chocolate topping. Cut the chocolate in pieces, put it together with 2 spoons of honey and a spoon of water in a small pot and let it melt in a bain-marie. Let it cool, sprinkle some icing sugar on a clean surface where you can pour the chocolate. Add icing sugar until it gets thick enough to make a ball out of it. Let it rest a bit until it becomes a malleable dough of chocolate.

At this point, place it on a long piece of baking paper and roll it out using a rolling pin. Now it is all up to you: decorate your Torta Fedora as you wish with the “chocolate papers” you made! You can also add some icing sugar if you want it to look nicer!

Torta Fedora

Well, if Torta Fedora doesn’t sound easy to make, we can assure it tastes good! Don’t miss our food tours in Florence next time you are around, during which you’ll have the occasion to ask more tips for this recipe to the local “artisans” of desserts!

Cornetto Sfogliato: The Italian Croissant recipe

Speaking of what we share with La France, did you think that only French make croissants? Well then, we do too! Our favourite bar breakfast is “cappuccino and brioche”. Especially in Rome, Cornetto is as iconic as the Colosseo.

cornettocappuccio

So, if you want to impress your friends, don’t buy some: make them fresh!
It’s not an easy recipe but with some attention and a lot of patience you’ll awe everyone.

you’ll need

  • 310 gr white or manitoba flour
  • 140 gr “00″ white flour
  • 75 gr sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid honey
  • 70 gr softened butter
  • 100 gr milk
  • 20 gr beer
  • 7 gr salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 of orange flavour
  • 1/3 of lemon flavour
  • 10 g vanillin
  • 1 brewer’s yeast cube

For the “sfogliatura”

  • 200 gr butter

Start kneading the milk, the yeast, the beer, the eggs, the sugar, the honey, the flavours, the vanillin and the sifted flours until the dough becomes smooth and soft; then add the salt and the softened butter.

Once everything is well mixed, keep kneading constantly until the dough is really smooth.

Leave it rest for 20 minutes, covered with a table cloth, then powder a large cup with some flour and transfer the dough, in a ball shape, in it. Cover it with some cooking film and leave it rest, room temperature, for 2 hours. Then put the cup in the fridge and… wait 24 hours!

Next day, you can prepare the “sfogliature” (now, google suggests stripping, I actually don’t know how to translate those amazing, buttered pastry stripes. You’ll see).

sfogliatura

Take off the fridge the 200g of butter and leave it room temperature for 3 hours (it should soften naturally). Then fold it with a clean table cloth and press it until it becomes a 1cm tall loaf.

Roll the dough in a round shape and… put the butter loaf at its center, folding it with the dough (make four angles). Then roll again until it becomes rectangular and fold the lower third upon itself. Now fold the upper third covering the rest of it.

Cover with film again and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat this operation three times (yes, you may have a wine glass now, but just a little bit: you’ll have to be sharp!).

img_7896

Now you can roll the dough in a long, thin, rectangular shape. Then cut it in triangles; stretch the wider part and roll them on theirselves, letting them take their peculiar shape (cornetto means “little horn”). Remember to keep the pointy end below so it won’t detach while cooking.

Put them in the baking tray and let them rest until… they double their volume (it may take more than two hours, so just go out to dinner, or better: leave them rest all night long, so the morning after you’ll have the most amazing breakfast!

croissant-crudo-640x511

Paint the raw cornetti with some egg yolk, heat the oven up to 170° and bake them for about 25 minutes.

Then you can cover them with powdered sugar or brown sugar, and once they’re not super hot you can fill them with cream or jam or chocolate… and enjoy your great Italian breakfast!

RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE

One of the most typical food in northern Italy is Risotto: that thick amass of rice and condiment that looks so sticky and is yet so perfectly al dente. If you haven’t tried it in our Milan food tour, you definitely should: the Risotto alla Milanese is one thing you sure cannot miss. And with us you have the chance to taste it in a really interesting version, that mixes italian flavours and tradition, from North to South, from Milan to Palermo… any clue? Book and behold our delicious arancino di risotto!

Infact, there are many ways to prepare Risotto, from the gourmet like the one before to the basic-simple-and traditional, and lots of sauces too! The most famous in Venezia is the one with Radicchio, in Tuscany there’s the one with asparagus and sausage, both in the north and center there’s the mushroom one… but the real icon is this golden and savory plate, the one and only Risotto alla Milanese.

risotto

Making risotto is not as simple as it looks: the rice should not overcook, but it should as well look “melted” with all the other ingredients. It’s not like a friend of mine used to prepare it – she cooked the rice and melted some cheese on it with some zucchini. That’s not a risotto, everybody!

It requires patience and attention. If you are willing to take your time with it, risotto will reward you. So, let’s try!

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, very finely chopped

100 grams of unsalted butter

400 grams of arborio, vialone nano, or carnaroli rice, or other medium- or short-grain Italian rice

half a liter of dry white wine

1,5 lt hot homemade stewing steak broth or low-salt canned chicken broth; more as needed

30 grams (one teaspoon) of dried saffron

100 grams of finely grated parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

zafferano

 *

In a heavy-based saucepan (there should be a lot of room after you poured all the rice), on a medium-low fire cook the onion with half of the butter until it’s translucent and fragrant.

Stir in the rice and cook it over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the wine and let it evaporate almost entirely, then add 2 cups of broth, then the saffron, stirring with a wooden spoon to avoid the rice sticks at the bottom. Enhance the heat until the mixture starts to simmer, then set the flame in order to maintain the simmer.

Keep cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring every minute or two. You don’t actually have to stir constantly, even if every italian mother would tell you so.

Add another cup of broth and keep cooking, stirring, and adding broth until the rice is al dente but not raw or grainy in the middle. How to determine that? There’s only one way – you have to try it!

When the rice is ready, you can add the cheese, directly in the saucepan, and keep stirring. Add as much broth as you need to obtain the consistency you like. Turn the heat off, stir in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm – even if it’s amazing also when it’s tepid… or even the day after!

Just one tip: do not re-heat it unless you want something mushy! Invite a lot of people over if you made too much :)