Today I want to share this simple recipe with you, which comes from Valle D’Aosta, the smallest Italian region in northwest Italy, right on the border with France and Switzerland. This region is famous for its majestic peaks, but also for its fontina cheese. This recipe is very easy and delicious!
Cris’ Valdostana Cutlets – serves 3
Recommended pairing: I would suggest a medium body, still, dry red wine. You can stay in the region and pair with a Chambave Red, but Rosso Montepulciano or Barbera work as well!
– 3-4 big slices of thinly sliced veal (or 6 small)
– 4 slices of ham
– 3 slices of Fontina or Emmental
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs
– 1 cup of flour
– 1 1/2 cups of sunflower oil
• Flatten the meat with a meat tenderizer
• Place the Fontina cheese on the veal cutlets
• Add one slice of ham on top of each cutlet
• Fold it or cover with another cutlet
• As best you can, seal the edges (use wooden sticks if necessary)
• Dunk the stuffed cutlets in the flour
• Then move to the beaten eggs, coating both sides
• Then pass the meat to the breadcrumbs and make sure that you cover both sides very well to seal the cheese inside
• Once the oil is hot, add the stuffed cutlets
• Fry both sides for 6-7 minutes each, or until golden and crispy
• Place on a kitchen paper towel and serve immediately
As our lockdown here in Italy continues, I keep thinking about where I want to go when this is all over. It’s a bit cold today, and I find myself dreaming of the beach. Maybe I will visit Ischia, or somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, or maybe I will enjoy a great Vermentino with a view in Sardinia.
I can dream, but for today, it’s time to stay at home… and cook!
Today’s recipe is pesto pasta, and you only need a few ingredients to prepare this delicious basil sauce. Fun fact: pesto was originally made with a mortar and pestle in Genoa, where Max (my husband and Ciao Andiamo co-owner) is from. If you want to store pesto, remember to put in a small box, pack it in, remove air pockets, and cover completely with olive oil. You can also freeze it!
Cris’ Pesto Pasta – serves 4
Recommended pairing: A white fresh, fruity, wine with good acidity like Pigato, Vermentino or Sauvignon works perfectly!
• 2 bunches fresh basil (around 4 cups)
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
• 1/2 cup olive oil EVOO
• 1/2 pine nuts
• 1 clove garlic chopped, if you like
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 250/300 gr spaghetti or trofie
• 1 medium potato , in small pieces
– Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water with potato until done
– While the pasta is cooking, wash and dry fresh basil leaves
– Add basil leaves and olive oil into the food processor and pulse to combine
– Add parmesan cheese and pine nuts
– Add salt, and then a spoonful of olive oil
– Add garlic, pulse on high to combine
– Pay attention that the processor do not get too warm
– Drain the pasta
– In a large bowl, mix pesto sauce into pasta. Stir in grated cheese
Easter is a very important holiday to us Italians – it’s like our Thanksgiving! It is the biggest religious holiday after Christmas, and has a rich history spanning 1500 years. It is a time when families come together from all over the country and celebrate the end of Lent with festivities of all kinds, including, of course, lots of food.
This easter will be very different from those before. Maybe you get to be with your close family, or maybe you will eat at home while you speak with your family on your phone or computer. Either way, here are some of my favorite things to make for an Easter Sunday spread that always makes my family happy!
• 450 gr flour
• 4 egges
• 1 glass oil (EVO or sunflower)
• 1 glass whole milk
• 200 gr Pecorino cheese
• 30 gr instant yeast
• 4 pinches salt
– Grease a rounded tray with butter and sprinkle a spoon of flour so that the mixture will not stick
– In a small bowl, add 2 spoons of warm milk and yeast
– Beat eggs with salt
– Add Pecorino Cheese and mix together
– Add milk and oil
– Add the flour and mix well
– Add the yeast
– Put mixture in the tray and cook in the oven for 30 minutes at 200 degrees
Spinach and Ricotta Crêpes
INGREDIENTS – 8/10 crepes
• 100 gr all-purpose flour
• 2 large eggs
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 glass whole milk
• 1 tbsp. butter
– In a large mixing bowl, create a well with flour then add eggs, slowly whisking them into the flour
– Add sugar and salt and stir until combined
– Gradually add in milk, whisking to combine after each addition
– Let batter stand at room temperature 15 minutes
– In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. About 1/4 cup at a time, drop batter evenly onto pan, swirling it to an even coat
– Cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook for 1 more minute. Repeat with remaining batter
– Set aside
• 1 glass whole milk
• 50 gr butter
• 40 gr flour
• 1 tsp nutmeg
– Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming
– Add flour
– Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy
– Remove from heat and slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth
– Return to heat
– Cook, stirring gently, for 10 to 12 minutes or until it comes to a boil, thickens, and coats the back of a wooden spoon
– Remove from heat and add salt and nutmeg
• 250 gr Ricotta Cheese
• 200 gr Boiled spinach
• 100 gr Parmesan
• 1/2 tbsp EVO
• 1 garlic clove
• salt + pepper
– Oil the spinach, squeeze out the excess water very well
– Roughly chop the spinach
– In a large bowl, add Parmesan and ricotta, then add the spinach
– Season well with salt and pepper
Grab your crêpes!
– Spread filling on one half of each crepe and fold over twice
– Place on the baking sheet or singular plate
– Add béchamel and asparagus (or tomato or whatever you like) and Parmesan on it
– Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted
• 350 gr “OO” all purpose flour or pastry flour
• 140 gr sugar
• 175 gr butter
• 2 large eggs
• orange zest
– Mix the butter and sugar together
– Add the eggs and mix again until the dough forms a ball
– Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes or until needed
• 350 gr ricotta cheese
• 250 gr sugar
• 2 eggs + 1 yolk
• 1 milk glass
• A few drops of vanilla extract
• A few drops of orange blossom water, to taste
• 75-100g candied orange and/or citron peel (if you like)
• orange zest
• lemon zest
• 300 gr Grano precotto (pre-boiled wheat berries or barley)
You can prepare the filling even a day before or even 2 hours before and keep it in the refrigerator
COOK THE GRANO COTTO
Put the grano cotto in a saucepan with milk , stirring until the mixture becomes creamy (similar to porridge) (about 15-20 minutes) and let it cool completely before adding to the ricotta
– Pour the ricotta into a large mixing bowl
– Add the sugar and whisk until the sugar is well incorporated and the mixture is rather fluffy
– Add the eggs, one by one
– Add orange and lemon zest
– At this point, pour grano cotto into the ricotta cream and orange blossom water
– Taste and adjust the seasoning
Fill the crust
– After 30 minutes, take the dough out of the fridge. Take about 2/3 of the dough and roll it out into a round and fit into your pie plate
– Pour the filling into the pie plate, making sure not to fill the pastry shell to the very top, since the filling will swell during baking
– Cut off any excess dough that is hanging over the sides
– Create stripes and lay on top
– Using your fingers, make sure that the crust sticks to the sides
– Place the pastiera in the oven at 190 degrees for about an hour, or until the filling is cooked through and the top has browned nicely
April 3rd, 2020 – (see update on April 15th, 2020 below)
It is without a doubt that we’re all living through a very hard time, but the truth is that we are living through it as a community. As Italy is struggling and mourning its losses just as China did a few weeks ago, there’s another aspect of the story which is emerging to the worldwide attention thanks in part to national news, but mostly to social media. It’s a story of resistance, rediscovered empathy and fraternity. Here are a few pieces of happy news, in case you missed them:
The Italian People Rise Up
Many Italian celebrities started fundraising or donated a generous amount of money to support the public health system. Above all, instagram influencer Chiara Ferragni and her husband, the Italian singer Fedez, managed to raise more than 4 million euro for the construction of a new intensive care ward at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, which was built in only 12 days. From politicians to actors and actresses, from singers to football teams and individual players, from sports stars to big fashion names like Armani, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino Rossi, and even the Fondazione Andrea Bocelli, all have played their part in supporting their home country.
What is even more heart-warming are the ways that common people have come up with to help one another. As soon as the lockdown started on March 9th, notes and signs appeared in apartment buildings, with younger people volunteering to bring groceries to those who had been advised to stay inside at all costs. Charities, religious associations, and even local shops themselves have arranged an extensive delivery service so that people can avoid going out and queueing too long to buy necessities.
When not working from home, people spend several hours online and on the phone keeping in touch with friends and family who live all over the country. Having video-call aperitifs and dinners can keep people both keep busy and stay happy! Social media live dance and gym classes and book readings, online cooking tutorials, and other communications can help people find beauty in such a dark period. There have even been online virtual tours of museums, open source libraries, and online concerts filling the web with culture and beauty. And, of course, singing and playing music from windows and balconies is quickly becoming a popular trend for people in isolation all over Europe, with Irish musicians performing traditional music from pub rooftops, to Germans sending a big virtual hug to their ‘amici italiani’ by singing Bella Ciao.
Solidarity and Support for Medical Professionals
The Italian people are also doing their best to help doctors and medical personnel in any way they can. Even though restaurants and bars have been closed since March 11th, owners of pizzerias and bakeries all over Italy have decided to remain in operation with a reduced staff (often their own families) to provide hospital workers with free pizza or cornetti, sometimes with donations from other citizens who help them buy the raw material. Upholsterers and seamstresses are crafting new breathing masks for both health personnel and fellow citizens alike, trying where possible to make them as colorful as they can, to lift spirits up.
On a more technical level, people are rising to other kinds of challenges. For example, following an online plea for low-running medical materials, engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli and their team succeeded in designing and 3D-printing valves for intensive care machines that are now being produced on small scale, filling critical gaps in supplies and saving the lives of patients hospitalized in Chiari, Lombardy. In Emilia Romagna, Marco Ranieri (professor at the Department of Medical and Surgical Studies at the University of Bologna), together with his colleagues and a local company, designed a ventilator machine which can provide oxygen to two patients once. The machine has already been tested at Sant’Orsola Hospital in Bologna, and arrangements are being made to start a wider production.
The Environmental Effects
A welcome side effect of Italy’s newfound stillness, and one that will hopefully inspire a constructive debate once this is all over, is the environmental one. Videos and pictures document how nature is stepping back in the scene. Day by day, satellites are showing the pollution rate dropping significantly, ducks came back to populate Rome’s famous fountains, dolphins have been spotted in Cagliari Port in Sardinia, and people are amazed at seeing Venice’s canals as clean as they’ve been in ages, a happy thought in such difficult times.
We Will Get Through This
What Italy has demonstrated is a strong will to react to an unprecedented crisis, a fierce attachment to life, and a renewed sense of community. This too shall pass, and we can’t wait to be the first to welcome you to our beautiful country, once everything is over.
It has now been six weeks since Italy began its national lockdown. What began as encouragement and inspiring acts of community and solidarity has turned into a deeper and heavier realization of the reality of the situation, and what will have to happen before the lockdown is lifted. We’re sure our American friends may understand this feeling.
What is noteworthy, however, are the ways in which those initial reactions made space for quieter, more organized, resistant and long-term ones.
When a call for medical staff was sounded, hundreds of people volunteered; funds were raised on large and small scales, and volunteers kept working to provide elderly people and those in need with essential goods. Mayors committed fiercely to the safety of their own cities (you may have heard of Mr. De Luca!). The relief funds that the government allocated for families and freelancers started to arrive today after only two weeks.
The Curve is Flattening
We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s faint, but it’s all we need for the strength to keep going and stick it out until the end of the lockdown and prepare for our future in the light, hopefully sooner than later. This week, experts have declared that the curve is finally flattening: the number of people checking into intensive care continues to decline, and, on Easter Sunday, Italy saw the lowest number of deaths since March 19th. Umbria, the region where the Ciao Andiamo Italy office is located, reported only one new case today; together with Sardinia and a few others, it is among the regions that are getting closer to the zero-new-cases goal.
Some other major news is that Italy is slowly starting to reopen activities! Although the recommendation for caution remains and some counties are further postponing the deadline, not only are more and more restaurants and bars opening for home deliveries, but this week has also seen establishments such as bookstores, children’s clothing stores, and some others reopen, respecting a limited schedule and social-distancing rules.
Updated measures should progressively arrive as we get closer to the last-set lockdown deadline on May 3rd. Whatever they will be, we trust that #andràtuttobene (everything will be alright).