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!

Warm up your winter with an Italian cappuccino

What’s better than a hot, foamy cappuccino to start the day?

Hot cappuccino

Hot cappuccino

For us, cappuccino is like morning fuel, it’s absolutely necessary to start the day and it has to be foamy, creamy and hot. Italians are used to good food and they are extremely demanding about it. After all, a good cappuccino can make your day and a bad one, on the other hand, may ruin it.

The secret for a perfect cappuccino is the foam that should come in a rich, creamy and consistent layer. You can ask for some cocoa powder or cinnamon on top.

But what is this cappuccino? Basically consider that is based on a regular espresso, milk and foamed milk. The creamy foam strictly requires whole milk.

The perfect pairing for a perfect breakfast is with a buttery, fragrant brioche. Yes, we know that the correct name for this pastry is croissant, but we call it brioche anyway. If you want to feel and act like a real local, try to order breakfast standing at the counter and saying: Cappuccino e brioche, per favore!

Usually we don’t order a cappuccino in the afternoon since it’s considered a breakfast drink. I mean, they’ll serve it to you but if you want to feel like locals, don’t order it after 11 a.m. ;-).

cappuccino-e-brioche

cappuccino-e-brioche

But what’s the origin of this drink? First of all, the name literally means hood, or rather small hood, since it recalls the brown color of the habits used by the Capuchin friars. The first version of this drink appeared for the very first time in Wien, where the first cafés were opened in 18th century and where once a Capuchin friar, asked the barman to mild his coffee with some milk and spices. The first cappuccino was born.

When Austrian have conquered the central and northeastern Italian territories, they  brought with them their habits, “Kapuziner” included, and it became popular mostly in the area of Trieste.

Actually the cappuccino as we know it, descends from these first versions, but has some differences and it became popular only from the beginning of the 20th century, when the first coffee machines were patented by a brilliant, young Italian mechanic born and raised in Milan: Luigi Bezzera. From then on, it has spread all over the world!

Being so proud of our fellow citizen (and being cappuccino addicted), we couldn’t not include this drink in our Food Tour in Milan. The first stop of the tour is in a bakery that smells like fresh bread where we taste cappuccino and a sweet pastry. Drooling? Come and taste a cappuccino in Milan with us!

We bet that now you’re dying for a cappuccino :-)

Mozzarella di bufala: the real taste of mozzarella

mozzarella di bufala

Mozzarella di Bufala

Apologies if what we are about to say might sound harsh to you, but we have to reveal you a cruel reality: whatever you think of mozzarella, you have no idea of what a real mozzarella is like until you try a mozzarella di bufala. Imagine the taste of the soft clouds of heaven… well that taste will sure resemble the one of mozzarella di bufala: juicy, creamy and slightly sour, a mix that drives all Italians crazy.

This kind of mozzarella is usually bigger and the texture is indeed very different from a normal mozzarella, which usually is addressed as fior di latte. Whenever in a pizzeria, you’ll know it is a good one if it has at least a margherita with mozzarella di bufala on the menu.  That is why it can’t be missing in our pizza tour in Rome! Anyhow, the best way of enjoying this kind of cheese is to eat it alone, as a separate dish. Useless it is to add oil, salt, oregano or any other kind of sauce. It has already such a peculiar taste that it will enough to carry you away.

Italian water buffalo

If you wander what the difference is with a normal mozzarella, that is an easy question to answer: mozzarella di bufala is produced with the milk of domestic  Italian water buffalo.

This milk is higher in calcium, protein and lower in cholesterol than cow’s milk. Not only, Mozzarella di bufala is manufactured under strict regulations in precise areas: in in Lazio, Campania and near Foggia in Apulia. Mozzarella di Bufala produced in Campania region bears the “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” trademark and DOC status granted in 1993. In 2008, the European Union granted Mozzarella di Bufala Campana a Protected Geographical Status. You’ll probably find mozzarella di bufala produced elsewhere and we strongly advise you to stay away from imitations. Instead, you could consider a trip to Italy to enjoy the beautiful experience of a the real pizza with a real mozzarella! Check out our pizza tours!

Last but not least: mozzarella di bufala shouldn’t be kept in the fridge, but at room temperature on “its own water”, which means in the water were it was when you bought it! If kept in the fridge, it should rest at least 20 minutes outside before being served!

Autumn in Tuscany: the traditional Mushroom Soup recipe

Autumn in Tuscany is marvelously colorful  and smells like mushrooms and chestnuts. Imagine how cozy could be to savor a hot, fragrant soup looking at the foliage outside the window…it really warms body and soul.

Autumn in Tuscany

Autumn in Tuscany

Mushrooms are typical in traditional cuisine and bring us back to a time when the ingredients were the seasonal ones and when people used to cook what the nature had to offer. Also that’s why the original recipe uses mixed mushrooms, since this is what you find when you go pick them! A mixture!

Still nowadays in countryside, grandparents go to find mushrooms in woods with their grandsons and they teach them how to recognize the good ones (if you’re not an expert, do what we do, go to a good shop and buy safe mushrooms ;-)).

Mixed mushrooms

Mixed mushrooms

Here there’s an easy and tasty recipe for you, to enjoy this special comfort food with your family and friends. The ingredients and the preparation are simple, like in most of the traditional Italian recipes.

What you’ll need (4 servings)

  • 800g mixed mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 ripe red tomatoes
  • chopped parsley
  • 1l vegetable broth: face the truth,the secret is in the broth, if you’ll prepare it fresh, your soup will  taste far better. It takes a little longer but at the end you’ll  say: I made it!
  • home-baked sourdough bread (I’m pretty sure that your favorite bakery sells it ;-))
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

How to prepare it

First of all, mushrooms should never been washed, but gently wiped using a damp towel.  They’re spongy and washing them under running water means spoiling them since they’ll absorb the water and will lose their aroma. After that slice them thin. Boil for few seconds the tomatoes, peel them and remove the seeds.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, sauté the garlic, then add mushrooms and pepper. After sautéing a couple of minutes , add chopped tomatoes and all the broth. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for 15 min.

How to serve it

Toast the bread slices and settle them at the bottom of the soup-tureen, pour the hot soup on them and serve it!tuscan-mushrooms-soup

Give your soup a twist ;-)

To make it extremely lavish, pour your mushroom soup into single soup-tureens and cover the surface with some grated Parmigiano, put in the oven and wait until it makes a crispy, golden crust then serve it…hot and delicious!

Like many traditional recipes, the traditional Tuscan mushroom soup is 100%  vegetarian, have you noticed it? And if you serve with gluten free bread is also enjoyable by who needs a gluten-free diet, a truly delicacy for everyone!

And least but not the last, let’s talk about the wine! As every good meal deserves, also the mushrooms soup needs to be paired with a good red wine and our option goes for a bottle of red Chianti, the king of Tuscan wines. It will soothe the palate and the soul.

If it happens to you to come to Tuscany, grant yourself a treat and join our Food Tour in Florence, a real dive into the food tradition and a chance to visit traditional places spotted by locals!

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!

Formaggi toscani: an amazing bite of Florence

tagliere-4big

If you think of cheese, probably the first thing that will come to your mind will be France. But Italy has some aces too, in the matter. Tuscany, for example, is quite big in the cheese field: have a taste of Florence‘s deliciousness!

In Tuscany many different caseary products are made, but the king of all formaggi toscani is Pecorino. And, furthermore, there’s not just one kind of pecorino… 

Let’s talk about this creamy wonder a bit more. Pecorino means “sheep cheese”: it’s made from sheep milk and its taste depends from many things. First of all, its aging time.
Young pecorino tastes sweet, it’s soft and it almost melts into your mouth. It’s perfect with a light red wine or a rosé and even with some white vernaccia; very good as well with nuts or honey (another very typical tuscan product) – tuscan raw prosciutto, though, might cover its flavour a bit too much. With some grated fresh black truffle, though… it’s quite a love story.
Often you can find it served at the end of a meal, not a real dessert but almost one, a sweet taste to refresh your mouth.

cacio fresco

Semi-aged pecorino, that you often recognize for its reddish “skin”, is more intense, more solid. It’s the perfect merenda: two slices of tuscan bread, some pecorino and prosciutto and there you go with your panino. All the tuscan kids ate this during their lessons break. Seriously: all of them.
Its yellow colour and its great texture, its flavour not too strong but already bald makes it also the perfect appetizer. It’s often combined with strong honey (such as chestnut honey) or mustards, and it’s great with beer – sometimes they sell beer cheese as well and it’s pretty often a semi-aged pecorino.

formaggio-e-birra

Aged pecorino looks either really yellow or really white, according to its aging process, it’s quite hard to cut and to eat but, it may looks almost dry, but – it’s my absolute favourite, so forgive me if I’m getting romantic – at the taste it’s like an explosion. Do you remember the famous Ratatouille’s scene where the mouse imagines the flavours like a colourful symphony? There we go. Red wine is its match, salame (tuscan salame of course) its companion, and you can really experiment stuff with it: try it with honey, or with balsamic vinegar… grate it on your pasta and add a little pepper and you will have one of the most famous plates in the tuscan kitchen. Or… with figs or pears, of course (there’s a motto that says: don’t let the farmer know how great pears and cheese will match / al contadino non far sapere quanto è buono il cacio con le pere).

ppichi-pecorino-e-miele

So these are the most known ways to taste Pecorino; keeping aside all the great flavoured kind: with pepper, with chili pepper, with truffles… Florence has plenty of these little cheese shops, but if you happen to walk through the Valdorcia (the valleys around Siena, like San Quirico or Pienza) you’ll find one special kind of heaven.

As I said, though, there’s not only Pecorino: Tuscany also produces great Stracchino, for example, a very soft – almost liquid cow cheese. If you’re brave enough you might want to try the other great tuscan merenda, the panino with raw sausage and stracchino!

Yes, that’s another level of bravery. But a “gottino” (a small red wine glass) and this, are the grown up merenda. Actually it’s not so easy to find anymore, and I highly recommend you to either buy it from a superfresh certified butcher shop or to try its more secure version, the one they also give you in restaurant, oven baked crostini with the same mix… or pizza! I cannot decide which one I like best.

crostini

Guess with what does stracchino matches greatly as well? With prosciutto, of course! Forget Hawaii pizza and ask for a prosciutto e stracchino. Or – veggie version: an apple and stracchino pizza! It’s pretty grand, I promise.

So, get fit and get ready, because once you’ll be here, while exploring the city with us, you will have the chanche to train nothing but your tummy!

Meet your guide in Florence: Angela!

Meet your guide in Florence: Angela! Learn about Florence food and history!

This August we want to introduce Angela, she is one of the “oldest” guide at Italy Segway Tours! Be prepared to have the best fun on the tour while Angela tells you the history of her marvellous city!

 

Meet tour guide in Florence: Angela!

Name: Angela

Nationality and City of residence: 100 % italian, from Sicily originally…but Florence has stolen my heart!

Name of tour you lead and where: Food tour in Florence, but also Segway, Bike and walking tours to the top of the Duomo!

If you are not from the city you are based in for tours, what originally brought you there?
I came here the first time when I was 16 during a school trip. I really fell in love with Florence and with all its beauty so I decided to come here to study Art History: I moved here when I turned 19 and never left since!

Your favorite part of the tour: I love when I’m asked a lot of questions because it means that I managed to arouse interest in my customer about what we see and taste on the tour, and perhaps that I was also able to lit up some more curiosity!

After wine tasting, everyone’s happier!

Also, the best moment of the food tour is right after we start tasting wine…everybody suddendly turns happier and more sincere!
Favorite Local Restaurant in your city: This is a tough one! There are so many good restaurants in Florence…But if I have to pick one I would say the one where It feels like home: “Sabatino”, in the Oltrarno district. It’s not a fancy place and the menu it’s almost always the same but everything is genuine and it’s like going to dinner at my grandma’s house! If you’re looking for a place where only locals go, that’s the one!
One thing visitors to my city can’t miss: The view of Florence at sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo and the San Miniato church on the top of the same hill: it’s the most romantic place in the city! Be aware you are at risk to falling in love!
Travel Mantra? “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind”, words by Seneca, a Latin philosopher and writer, that really knew what traveling means!

 What’s next on your travel bucket list? I’d love to visit Turkey or to take a trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights!

What is your favorite Italian city to travel to? Not just a city, an entire region: Sicily, my birthplace!

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy? Try new things, don’t be scared by our, sometimes strange, habits and always ask when you need help: you will be surprised by the kindness of (most) Italians! ;)

Bistecca alla Fiorentina - thick and raw!

Bistecca alla Fiorentina – thick and raw!

What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving? The Fiorentina steak, the best beef I’ve ever tried! But remember it has to be rare, so don’t ask the chef to have it more cooked, otherwise you will offend him!

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours? Once I had on a tour a man with my same last name; he was American and his grandparents emigrated to the States from Sicily. It was like having a new uncle…he even started talking Sicilian dialect with me!

What do you like most about leading tours? I believe that tourguides are the ambassadors of our culture so what I like most is to introduce to people from all over the world with very different backgrounds to our history and food, and almost always with the same result: they fall in love with it!

 

Angela the Cook!

Angela the Cook!

What makes your tour unique? The fact that the places where we go are mostly just for locals…it would be very difficult to find them on your own!

And personally I should also say that I really love to cook so I always spend time to explain what are the ingredients of the things we taste and how they could be made at home to continue the food tour experience!

 

Won over by Angela already? So, what are you waiting for? Conclude your booking and ask for her!

 

Till next time!

GRAPPA AND ITS MULTIPLE USES

If you have in mind to visit destinations in northern Italy you can’t ignore grappa. Let’s say it, in Italy a meal can’t be considered finished until you drink the so called ammazzacaffè…which can be literally translated into “coffee-killer”, since is meant to dull the caffeine effect.

A glass of grappa

Each Italian region has its own traditions in terms of ammazzacaffè, but we can say that if in southern Italy usually restaurants serve the world-famous Limoncello, in northern Italy what will arrive on your table is grappa. Of course many restaurants have Limoncello, but since you’re here, why don’t try something local? And honestly after a rich Milanese menu there’s nothing better than a little glass of grappa to help the  digestion. After all, as old (and wise) people say: a devil drives out another.

If you’ve never seen it, imagine that grappa can be transparent, golden or brownish and contains around 40% alc/vol. It comes from the distillation of pomace and, exactly like for wine, the taste depends on the grapes used to make it and on the aging. If aged in wood barrels, the color turns into yellow or darker and it gets a nice vanilla taste.

Let's spray some grappa!

Let’s spray some grappa!

In our Milan Food Tour, we figured  out a way to taste it…by spraying it! Our clients decide if to spray it directly in their mouth or on a hand and then to smell it…Don’t worry, for tougher people small glasses are provided ;-). We picked a variety of grappa distilled from a sweet grape, with a nice floral bouquet of honey, vanilla, almond and fruits like apple and pear. We promise, even the most hesitating person was surprised by how sweet and smooth it can be.

But speaking about habits, how do we serve it in Italy? Basically we drink it straight in small glasses, or we add it to the coffee to make the so-called caffè corretto (literally “corrected coffee”). The quantity served depends on you and on where you are, don’t be surprised if in simple trattorie in country side we bet that they’ll pour you a bigger quantity of it! If you’re hosted by a local family it may happen that after dinner the host proudly opens for you his liquor cabinet and describes you the features of each variety of grappa in it.

If you don’t like to mix your coffee with grappa, you can “rinse” the cup with some grappa after that you finish the coffee. Just put a little amount of grappa in the cup, stir and drink…yummy!

But grappa’s multiple purposes are not finished yet! It can also be used to give a twist to a simple fruit salad. The best is with peaches, just slice them, add some sugar and some grappa and eat them…you’ll be surprised by the taste! Same with gelato, try to put some on top of your vanilla, pistachio or chocolate gelato and tell us if it’s not delicious.

Last but not least, try to put some on meat before putting it on the barbecue, it will give it a special taste and the meat will be more tender.

We bet you’re curious now, then join our walking tour in Milan, learn about grappa’s multiple, creative uses and make a toast with us.. Cin Cin!

MEET YOUR GUIDE IN FLORENCE: VERONICA

Meet your guide in Florence!

This week, we’ll meet a new entry in our Segway Tours in Florence. She’s nice and kind and she do love her job very much! After reading her words, I bet you’ll book a tour immediately!

bria3

Hi there, what’s your name?

Hello!!! My name is Veronica!

What are your nationality and hometown?

I was born in Florence and I live in the so called Oltrarno, “the other side of the river”, but I left my heart in the Santa Croce district where I grew up.

Name of tour you lead and where: 

I lead food tours, bike, segway and walking tours in Florence and surroundings areas.

Why did you choose to become a touristic guide? 

I chose to become a tourist guide because it’s the only job that gives me the chance to do everything I really love: meet people from different countries, share ideas and knowledge, make people fall in love with my city, just as much as I am.

bria2

Your favorite part of the tour: 

What I enjoy the most in my job is seeing a dazzling smile or a sparkle in the eyes of our customers tasting something they never tried before and they really like!

Your favourite recipe:

It’s hard to say, but one of my favourite recipy is the “Gnudi”, a tasty typical dish easy to prepare that fully represent our cuisine. “Gnudi” are little dumplings made of poor ingredients: spinach and ricotta cheese. Actually the Gnudi are the filling of the ravioli and Gnudi in the fiorentine dialect means “naked”. Therefore, we could say that ‘Gnudi’ are similar to ravioli, but without clothes/dough!

Favorite Local Restaurant in your city: 

One of my favourite restaurants is Il Ghianda in the Santa Croce district. The menu changes quite often and they offer a great selection of typical dishes cooked like the tradition says. If you want to immerse yourself in a local atmosphere, I suggest to going there during the lunch time when the restaurant is crowded by many florentines.

One thing visitors to your city can’t miss: 

When visiting Florence you can’t miss the stunning view of the city visible from the Michelangelo terrace, a wonderful hill-top panorama which I recommend at sunset.

Favorite Travel Quote? 

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (M. Proust) Sometimes our customers are my “new eyes” pointing out something that I had not noticed yet.

What’s next on your travel bucket list?

It’s still a dream but I want to do the Trans-Siberian, the famous route from Moscow to Vladivostok. I’m really fascinated by the amazing nature and the fact that you have to change 12 different time zones.

What’s your best travel tip for those coming to visit Italy?

Italy is well known all over the world especially for its good food, so I definitely suggest enjoying it as much as possible. Also, keep in mind that the dishes are different from one city to the other!

bria1

What’s the food that someone must try in your city before leaving?

I use to say: “If you haven’t tried the Lampredotto with green sauce and a glass of red wine… even two, you haven’t been to Florence!” It’s the most famous sandwich in town. Only for strong people!

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on one of your tours? 

One day, on our first stop at ChiaroScuro, after the coffee tasting, the typical elderly florentine customers of the cafeteria stopped us and started to talk to the beautiful women I was leading. It has been an hard and fun work to take them away and reach the next stop!

What do you like most about leading tours?

The thing that I prefer the most is to share thoughts, ideas and good time with all our customers. I feel so lucky to know a lot of people coming from so many different places and distant spots on the earth.

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 :)