An Italian Canadian LifeAn Italian Canadian Life Mon, 11 Dec 2017 21:02:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pizzelle Cookies Mon, 11 Dec 2017 21:01:56 +0000


When you enjoy all four seasons in Canada, you learn that each season has its own sweet spot. Summer’s best time is the end of June when everything is in bloom but the stifling heat of July hasn’t chased you indoors. Fall is wonderful, right when the leaves turn and the cool breeze first fills your lungs for the first time in months. Winter is beautiful during the first couple of snowfalls then it comes at you with all it’s icy, cold force. Between fall and winter – those rainy, damp late November days – the skies are grey and you realize summer is long gone. So you wait by the window for the first picture-perfect snow, those big fluffy flakes that land on the window, resting just long enough that you can see the crystals in full form.

I say: why wait for it? On those grey days, I get to baking, and, well, make my own snowflakes. In the form of pizzelle. These thin biscuits are simple to make, so long as you have the pizzelle iron, and resemble snowflakes so much to me that I really only get the craving for them in the winter. The easy batter can take on flavours, the cookies themselves can be molded into shapes, and each one comes out the press unique – each their own special snowflake.

I’m trying to be positive, that is, calling each one unique. I used to try as hard as I could to get each one perfect – filled fully to the edges and not over to get each full pattern. Trying this will drive you crazy. You have to love the pizzelle for what they are – handmade snowflakes that disappear as soon as you make them, gobbled up by you and anyone you serve them to. A great staple for the Christmas cookies trays, but also a simple cookie to have around for coffee, pizzelle are popular and there’s a lot of recipes for them. But I would be remiss not to include them here on the blog. Plus, it also gave me a chance to photograph my mom’s pizzelle maker, I love it’s tarnished, well-loved look.


3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla (you may opt for other extracts like anise, almond, coconut, etc.)
1 pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Plug in the pizzelle maker to get it warming. Mine has no on/off button – it’s just on once the power is headed to it!

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat until well mixed and smooth. Add the flour and stir until just moistened. The batter will have the consistency of a very thick pancake batter or very thin cookie dough.


With the pizzelle iron heated, place about one tablespoon of the batter onto each circle. Close the iron and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until the pizzelle are lightly golden brown. You’re going to have to really wait that minute or two – you don’t want to open the iron too early – but then act fast when you open it up. If you see it nicely lightly golden, remove them immediately with tongs onto a wire rack or cool tray.

The pizzelle are soft when they come out of the iron but cool down and harden quickly.I like the traditional shape but if you want to mold them to make something like a cannoli, or bowl, you can do this as soon as they are ready. You can roll it by hand into a tube or cone (and later, fill it with cream or custard) or drape it over an upturned muffin tin to make bowls that can hold ice cream or fruit. You’ll have to accept that the first few that you try to form will be trial-runs, but as soon as you get the hang of it, you’ll see how quick the process will go.



The beauty of simple recipes like this is just how flexible they are to your own creativity. Not only can you shape them – you can flavour them too. Different extracts add different twists of flavours. Add some cocoa to make them chocolate. Sprinkle some nuts on to the batter before you close the iron for some extra crunch. You can opt to cook them a little less or make the batter a bit thicker (with a bit more flour) to have a softer version. Sandwich two together with caramel or chocolate in the middle. Make them your own!


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Vegetable Tomato Sauce Thu, 19 Oct 2017 21:24:58 +0000

Sometimes recipes become traditions a little later in life – or we add them on from other family members as we go. For me, a vegetable-tomato sauce is one of those recipes.

My husband’s grandmother – Marianna – who unfortunately passed away earlier this year at 92 years old, shared many recipes with us. In fact her little black book of recipes is one of my husband’s cherished items. Even before we were married she would recite recipes from memory to me at the kitchen table. She grew up in Italy with five brothers and would help her mother prepare food each day to sustain them all, including bread batches so large that when she was a little girl she had to knead the dough with their feet just to keep up. When she came to Canada with her husband, she did her best to cook wisely and on a budget and this included making traditional tomato sauce with a twist. Whenever she had extra vegetables from the garden, she would throw these into the pot as well, making a sauce that was healthy, yes, but also sweeter and lighter. And it also meant that nothing went to waste.


Soon after she told me this, I gave it a try and I love vegetable sauce, in fact sometimes I even prefer it. The first time I had it, I also paired it with homemade pasta with a new pasta extruder so I could make short shapes of pasta. Now that I have a child (who eats pretty much nothing but pasta) vegetable sauce has been the perfect way to get more nutrients into him. We bottle it, freeze it and make it last minute even during the winter. In honour of Nonna, here’s her vegetable sauce recipe.


It’s so easy, here it goes:

Vegetable Sauce
Tomatoes or Tomato Passata
Any other vegetable you have from the garden or in the refrigerator. I’ve used beans, spinach, kale, eggplants and hot peppers depending on the spice level you like.


If you are starting with fresh tomatoes, be that the quantity of tomatoes make up at least half of the total vegetables you are using. Peel and de-seed the tomatoes and cook them down over medium heat until they have broken down completely. Otherwise, start with tomato passata, making sure the quantity of this is at least half of pot, and heat this up to boiling.


Meanwhile, peel your onions, garlic and eggplants (if using). There’s no need to remove peels from tender zucchinis or carrots, just be sure they are washed well. Remove the stems from all the vegetables and chop them into large chunks. Add them to the tomatoes and allow them to boil on low together for two to three hours or until all the vegetables have broken down.


Using an immersion blender, or transferring the sauce to a blender, whiz up the sauce until smooth. If you really want to get traditional, you can use a vegetable mill. Return the sauce to a pot on the stove and cook down until it reaches the consistency you like – if you want it any thicker. Add in salt and herbs (parley, oregano, basil) as you like.


The sauce can be stored in food-safe containers in the freezer or jarred, using a canner to seal the jars. We make big batches when we are doing our traditional tomato canning but also a small pot full when we have the last few vegetables coming out of the garden at the end of the season. The sauce is smooth and slightly sweet, and my son can’t tell the difference from the regular stuff. Nonna always knows best!

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Pasta Arrabbiata Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:43:17 +0000



Ever have one of those people in your life that just knows everything? Yup, you do. I know you do. Like that friend of a friend, who upon hearing I had a food blog about Italian recipes took up five minutes of my life telling me pasta was Chinese.

Sigh. Yes, there are Chinese noodles. They are similar. In fact, most cultures have some semblance of a pasta-like dish (spaetzle, anyone?). I’m sure most cultures have their version of salad or bread too.

It’s not a matter of who came up with what dish first – each has evolved. But pasta – made with durum wheat or semolina – is completely Italian. Durum gives pasta a high gluten content, and semolina isn’t highly absorbent – both qualities that give pasta the ability to be dried and last long, but also give that al dente bite when mixed with sauces.

And if you ask me, it’s not pasta “noodles” that I focus on as Italian so much as the sauces. The fresh vegetables and herbs, thrown together straight from the garden; quick mixtures with fresh olive oil or pasta water that coat the pasta in numerous tasty variations. In fact, so many times it is the pasta that takes longer to cook than the sauce. Those fresh flavours, that’s Italian.

And this recipe for Pasta Arrabbiata is a great example of it. It was one of my grandfather’s favourite meals if just for the sheer speed of it. Put the pot for the pasta and the pan for the sauce on at the same time and about 20 minutes later you can dive in. This recipe is so quick that it’s now a tradition to have it when we get home from trips. When I land at the airport, a quick call to my mom and she puts on the pot to boil and by the time we’re in the driveway, it’s ready to eat.

Arrabbiata means “angry”, referring to the fiery dried hot peppers, but in our dialect, we call it “’ragata”. It can be made with penne or spaghetti, but be sure to get great tomatoes for the sauce. Serve it up extra hot for your know-it-all friend!


Pasta Arrabbiata
400g pasta (or 1 full standard package of 454g to 500g)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
150 g (2) cured sausages, sliced (or the equivalent in soppresata, or in pinch, bacon)
1L crushed tomatoes
crushed hot pepper flakes
grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

Put a large pot of water on the stove on high heat. At the same time, put a large frying pan on medium heat. Heat olive oil in the pan until just shimmering. Meanwhile chop the onions and sausage.


When the olive oil is heated, add the onions, dried peppers and sausages to the pan. Cook until the onions are softened and the sausage has begun to slightly crisp at the edges. Add the tomatoes to the pan and stir together. Allow the sauce to simmer to reduce, stirring occasionally. You can choose to add salt to taste for this sauce, though I generally think the salt in the sausage or soppressata and the cheese later is enough.

Once the pot of water has come to a boil, salt the water generously. Add the pasta and cook to just under the allotted time on the packaged (for example, if there’s a 10 minute cook time, cook for 8 minutes).


Once the pasta has cooked, drain the pasta reserving a cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta directly to the pan of sauce and toss together, cooking for the remaining pasta cook time (for example, 2 to 3 minutes). If you find your sauce to be very thick, add some pasta water to the pan so the pasta has some liquid to absorb.

Serve immediately, topping with freshly grated cheese.


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Memories of Italian Easter Bread (La Colomba di Pasqua from Bauli) Tue, 11 Apr 2017 13:55:20 +0000


Sometimes our worlds collide. You think of your home life in it’s own bubble, work in another. Traveling in yet another, friends again another area of your life. But more often then not, these worlds come together in the most amazing ways – mostly because of who you are and your interests.

This is exactly where this recipe lies. At a crossroad of so many things: traditions, travelling and memories. When Bauli – a purveyor of great traditional Italian bread items – contacted me to offer a couple Italian Colomba breads for Easter – I got excited. I hadn’t had a Colomba di Pasqua in a couple of years, since my father’s parents had passed. They bought one, or a few, each Easter.

This traditional bread – much like a panettone at Christmas – is baked in the shape of a dove to represent peace and is served up at Easter for religious remembrance. Growing up, I always thought it was a misshapen cross (I knew there was religious significance in there somewhere). Over the years, the tradition and the softness and sweetness of the bread made it part of my best Easter memories. And Bauli’s La Colomba, with it’s pink Easter box, was always part of Easter.


La Colomba is great on its own but in this recipe, I give in a slight Australian – yes, Australian – twist. Years and years ago my family visited Australia and while we were struck by just how much it felt like home, we were also in awe of the amount of Italians there – just like us in Canada. What I know now, and my blog readers tell me often, is just how similar the experience of Italian-Canadians, Italian-Americans, Italian-Australians, and Italian-Argentinians are (all the countries which were accepting immigrants from the 1940s onwards). In Australia we also fell in love with lamingtons, an icing coated sponge cake that is often rolled in coconut. So when faced with an abundance of Colomba di Pasqua in the house, I turn the dove-shaped bread into an international dessert that reminds me of so, so many things: my grandparents, my traditions, my traveling, and the experience of all my readers across the world.

This is the recipe for soft squares of La Colomba di Pasqua, dipped in a chocolate icing spiked with almonds, and served up like a small cake of its own. It’s Easter made even more special by mixing old and new memories and coming up with something new.


La Colomba di Pasqua Almond Lamingtons
1 Bauli La Colomba
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa
4 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
20 roasted unsalted almonds

Original flavour La Colomba has a slight almond flavour and is studded on the inside with dried fruits and on the top with almonds. I kick that almond flavour up a bit (plus I love chocolate and almond together).

Cut the Colomba into small rectangles or squares. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and add in the milk to warm it through (do not boil it). Meanwhile, sift together cocoa and icing sugar. Mix the butter/milk mixture into the cocoa and icing sugar and whisk together until smooth. Stir in almond extract.

Using two forks, dip the Colomba pieces into the chocolate icing, allowing the excess to drip off before placing them on a piece of parchment paper to firm up. Top with an almond immediately.The icing will create a slightly crisp and sweet outer chocolate and it will also seep into the bread itself. Let the Colomba pieces rest for 1 hour before moving them to a serving platter.


This post was sponsored by Bauli. As always, however, the opinions about this product are my own.

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Fried Smelt Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:22:48 +0000


My grandfather was a trouble maker.

He was the youngest of seven children and I can safely say he never lost his mischievous and child-like streak. He was a prankster, a laugher and a storyteller. My sister loves to tell the story of when, as I was reading in a hammock in our backyard, my grandfather snuck out of the garden where he was tending to his tomatoes and got on this hands and knees to crawl under the hammock to knock me out of it from below. He was in his late 70s and was giggling during the entire episode.

My grandfather was always active too, constantly on the go. For many years when I was a child springtime meant late night trips to go smelt fishing. We’d drive to a pier on a lake north of the city, unfurl a square net and dip it into the water and pull it up full of wriggling small fish. We’d usually run into family or family-friends in the same location. It was a fishing tradition that my grandparents had took part in ever since they had landed in Toronto. Gathering food in any way that was traditional (and money saving) like fishing, mushroom hunting or collecting dandelion leaves for salad, were regular occurrences. In fact, in the 1970s my grandfather would go with extended family to Lake Ontario, near Ashbridges bay, to fish for smelt at night. And ever the jokster, he would slip live fish into his sister’s pockets when they weren’t paying attention.

As I got older, the smelt started to disappear. I remember the few times we would go fishing at 1 or 2 in the morning only to come back with just a few. The population crashed in Lake Simcoe in the mid-1990s and a series of invasion species are suspected to keep their populations at bay. I haven’t had smelt in years so when I found them at a local grocery store, I snapped them up.

Smelts were a treat – not a full meal, but a full plate that we would share after a plate of pasta. Other than the frying, they weren’t dressed up in any way. Just fresh fish, fried to a crisp. So my pictures for this recipe don’t have a sprinkling of parsley, or a gremolata for added colour. This is just pure fish, how they were enjoyed. The only thing missing is my Nonno, eating the fried smelt with the heads still on, head first into his mouth with a gleam in his eye, knowing it would gross me out. It always gave him a good laugh.


Fried Smelts
1/2 pound fresh smelts, cleaned and patted dry with paper towels
1/4 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
Canola oil for frying

Rinse and clean the fish. If you pick them up at a local grocery store, you most likely will find the smelt are already cleaned and the head is removed. If you are lucky enough to be fishing for these little beauties, you might have fish so small that you can fry them whole and that includes leaving the head on. I know, a scary thought, but it’s crispy and good after frying. It was my Aunt Maria that got me to try smelt in the first place and she was right: the crispier the better. And those small ones are the best. For the larger smelt, remove the heads and the innards. After you rinse the fish, make sure that the fish are lightly patted with a towel. Toss smelt with herbs and salt and pepper. Then toss in flour.


Using a large heavy metal skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Use enough oil to submerge the smelt halfway.
Be sure the oil is hot before frying the smelt or the fish will become too oily.


Add the fish to the oil. Do not put too many in the pan to ensure they aren’t touching each other. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through until the fish are a golden brown. Serve hot!


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Rapini with Potatoes Fri, 20 Jan 2017 03:07:57 +0000


Every once and a while my mind wanders to dark, winter nights in my grandparent’s kitchen, where the stove had already been on for hours by the time I got there. This was a time of quiet comfort. The windows reflected our actions in the dark outside and the TV played Wheel of Fortune in the other room. The air was warm with cooking and echoed the quiet shuffle of my grandparent’s slippers on the tile floor. We never bothered to set the whole table for dinner, but threw a tablecloth on half and used a jumble of mismatched glasses and forks with our food.

While so many of the meals served at Nanna and Nonno’s house were familiar, my grandfather also tried new things whenever he felt inspired. Though the one consistent was the food was cooked low and slow. I highly suspect that this recipe is one of his experiments that stayed a regular feature for us (or maybe a few other children of Italian immigrants can prove me wrong). We loved rapini as winter vegetables, their bitter hardiness appearing on our plates for most of the winter. When I was younger, rapini were a bit of a harder taste for me except when presented this way: fried up with mashed potatoes. The creaminess of the mashed potatoes, fried to a crisp on the outside, mellowed the taste of the rapini. Sometimes we’d pair this “impanata” (the name given to something breaded or encased) with a protein, or sometimes just eat it on it’s own. Now it’s more often the dish I use to introduce people to rapini, before they get a full-blown taste of it.

The inside of this dish was always piping hot, burning your tongue almost, while the winter winds blew outside and the snow gathered against the back door. It was, and is, comfort food.


Rapini Impanata
1 half bunch rapini, washed and chopped
4 to 5 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt (as desired)
hot pepper flakes (as desired)


Wash and peel the potatoes. Place into cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil until just cooked through (a fork or knife inserts easily). Drain and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, clean and chop the rapini (for detailed instructions on that, click here). Chop the rapini into inch-long pieces.


After the potatoes have slightly cooled, mash them finely or put them through a ricer.

In a medium frying pan, heat the oil at medium heat. Add in the rapini, garlic, salt and hot pepper flakes (if desired). Cook the rapini until they are slightly soft. Add the potatoes to the frying pan and stir to fully combine, mashing the potatoes into the rapini.


Smooth out the top of the potato mixture and turn the heat down to medium-low. Allow the potatoes to cook until a crust forms on the bottom, which could take up to 20 minutes. You can check the bottom with a thin spatula but also by shaking the pan slightly to see when the potatoes release from the bottom.


When the bottom is browned, remove the potatoes to a plate and then flip it over while returning it to the frying pan to brown the other side, again for another 15-20 minutes.

Remove to a platter when done and cut, in pie slices, to serve.


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An Italian-Canadian Christmas: Six recipes that you’ll find on my table this year Sun, 18 Dec 2016 15:30:22 +0000

As I’m writing this, my two-year-old son is admiring the Christmas tree while incessantly turning on and off its’ lights. He’s giggling and it is a good break in the silence. I’m excited about for Christmas for my son – who is finally understanding the season – but this holiday will also be tougher than most. My dad will be missing from the festivities and, as is expected, some things will just have to change this year as we struggle on without him. Maybe we will start new traditions, maybe we will eventually go back to all the things we used to do with him…but one thing I’m noticing my family isn’t compromising on is the food. We still have to have the right Christmas food, my dad would be wondering what we were doing if we didn’t do at least dinner right.

So what does that mean? Well, usually a Christmas Eve full of seafood – fried shrimp, salted cod (bacala) and usually lobster too – and a Christmas day that starts with pasta and ends with a-few-too-many-desserts. I might not be able to give all my readers a brand new recipe post this year for Christmas (forgive me), but I can provide some of my past favourites. Here’s some typical Italian foods that will be on our table this coming holiday. What will be on yours?

Colluri (Also called: cullurielli, ciambelle, bomboloni, buffarede, grispelle)
The requests for these potato doughnuts start shortly after Halloween and continue on to sausage making season in the spring. When they are fresh out of the fryer, they are hot, fluffy and soak up tomato sauce like a sponge. If you make them a day ahead, you warm them up in the oven and it creates a super-crisp outer shell to these seasonal favourites. Here is the recipe.

Italian Potato Doughnut Recipe

Fritto Misto (fried mixed seafood)
I would protest any Christmas Eve without this. Firstly, yes Christmas Eve is all about seafood traditionally, but secondly deep-fried shrimp and calamari are one of my biggest treats. So quick to cook and perfect with a squeeze of lemon. This is a really simple recipe and totally better than calamari at a restaurant (never mind WAY cheaper). Here is the recipe.



Pasta with Meatballs
Once we have had our fill of Christmas Eve seafood, Christmas Day brings out the heavy hitters. And in typical Italian fashion, yes, we start the meal with pasta. The sauce will have been simmering all day with various cuts of meat as well as meatballs and veal rolls. Here’s the truth though: you eat the pasta first and then fish the meat out of the sauce to enjoy it on it’s own (or with colluri – see above!). Here is the recipe.

meatball and braciole recipe

The most common winter vegetables in Italian households, rapini is a bit bitter but is a great partner to other dishes that are so rich on the holidays. It’s really easy to prepare, a quick sautee with garlic and hot peppers, so it’s worth a try, at least once. Here is the recipe.

Rapini side dish recipe


Honey Pinwheels (Also called cartellate or grispelle)
My kryptonite. Put these near me and all bets are off. Stop counting how many I’ve had because I will eat them all. Get them while they are fresh, because they won’t last long. And that’s all I’ll say about this recipe.


Turdilli (Also called tordilli, turdiddri or turtiddi)
These are strange little “cookies” that are so unique to Southern Italy. From a dough that rises, these are fried and then dunked in honey. No two recipes are the same but if these are a tradition to you, you’ll recognize them instantly. We even have two recipes, one made with wine, another done “plain.”

basic turdilli recipe

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“Promoting Italian food and culture in a Canadian way”: the 4th annual Pentola d’Oro Awards Thu, 08 Dec 2016 15:33:18 +0000

All photos by © Giulia Emanuela Storti

It’s been a while since I had the reason to dress up and celebrate. And this was a good reason. In November, the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario hosted the fourth annual Pentola d’Oro Awards Gala in Toronto. I was so pleased to be an invited guest, this great event (for which I have previously sat on the judging committee) honours leaders in the Italian-Canadian food industry – now that is something I can get behind.

My family used to own a restaurant, and now in my full-time job I work in the food industry as well, so I am very familiar with the time, effort, dedication, and pure sweat it takes to make a business grow. And to stay true to your roots, and what you believe in, to maintain traditions and the integrity of good food along the way can be tough.

But those who were honoured did just that. Most importantly to me, they strive to share the beauty of Italian living through food. And while the food and mingling was amazing that night, what struck me the most was the messages from the awards recipients.

Domenic Primucci, president of Pizza Nova, was awarded the City of Vaughan Italy-Canada Award Primucci, and spoke about the importance of culture in both food and business. “We have a void in the living legacy of our culture… Canada allows everyone to celebrate our culture but we must check our egos at the door and collaborate.”

“Italian immigrants worked very hard and significantly impacted this country. We place a lot of importance on food. Love and laughter around the kitchen table it’s where we learn right and wrong and the hard work our parents did,” said Carmine Fortino, Executive Vice President & Ontario Division Head for Metro Ontario Inc. Fortino was awarded the Jan K. Overweel Ltd. Pentola d’Oro Award.

Pentola d'Oro_Giulia Storti_MG_9326

Also, Rob Gentile, Chef at Buca Osteria & Enoteca was awarded the Pizza Nova Favourite Hotspot Award and eight Italian restaurants in Ontario were selected by the Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Development, Agriculture, Tourism, and Culture in collaboration with Unioncamere and ICCO to receive the Marchio Ospitalità Award. They were recognized for their dedication to Italian authenticity and meeting the highest standard in the industry.

The food was spectacular, the art was magical and the music from DIA was amazing. What stays with me long after these nights of awards though is the desire to strive to do better personally in living and preserving my culture. As Fortino noted, we all must “promote Italian food and culture in a Canadian way.” That’s something to be honoured.

Pentola d'Oro_Giulia Storti_MG_9249

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This year I lost my biggest fan Wed, 19 Oct 2016 01:53:27 +0000


My dad was this blog’s biggest fan. He read it religiously and phoned me to ask where the leftovers were of anything I made. If I hadn’t posted in a few weeks, he called to tell me people were expecting me to write and to get on it. He shared this blog with everyone he came across and told me to, no matter what, keep it up.

I lost my dad to complications of brain lesions (spread from what the doctors believe was a cancer they could never find) on September 9. So many events have happened in my life since I started the blog, but this one has the biggest impact.

My dad was one of my biggest supporters. No matter what recipe I tried, or what food I brought him he told me how good it was and easily ate it all. Weeks would have to pass before he could muster up any truth to me: “well, really, it needed more salt” or “no, Laura, that one wasn’t that great.” I can understand why he didn’t want to tell me anything critical since it often left me feeling as though I had let him down. My dad strived for the right thing, the right way, all the time.

Dad’s theory in life was that we can push through anything. It’s one of the lessons that will always stay with me. We all have the strength inside of us to keep pushing ourselves forward, to let fear and hesitation fall by the wayside, to make what we want to happen, happen. Dad did just that these last few months – he pushed hard to get through treatments and symptoms. He pushed us all to keep going no matter what doctors said or how he felt. So I need to keep going with this blog.

He was fiercely proud of being Italian, cherishing the language, the music, the culture and the food. In this last year he had become obsessed with righting a wrong from when he immigrated to Canada. Upon arrival, French nuns changed his name to Louis (not knowing how to spell or pronounce Luigi) and he had been given that name on all his identifications ever since. He hated it and spent hours on the phone trying to get his Italian name back. Recognizing and celebrating his heritage was, and is, important.

He taught anyone around him that family is everything. When my aunt’s kids were young, I remember him repeating to them constantly: “Who is your best friend? Your brother. Your sister. That’s your best friend.” And he meant it. He cherished having family all together, all the time. He never hesitated, not once, to help out anyone – whether it was to just fix something or to give advice. He spent hours fixing my house, tending to my newborn son and loving us however he could. He once spent three hours on the couch, with my newborn on his chest, letting us all get some sleep. He taught me in that moment what a father and grandfather, and for that matter a compassionate family man, really is. And he loved every minute of it. It is my favourite memory of dad. The memories and importance of family are why I need to keep going with this blog as well.

I know that I can never replace his presence and his love in our lives, but I can do my best to follow in the footsteps of a man who was strong, passionate, generous, driven and, in so many moments with family and friends, simply joyful. I will lead my family the same way Dad did. I hope that makes him proud. Dad, I love you. In his memory, I’ll be back to blogging shortly.

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Vegetable Tiella Thu, 14 Jul 2016 14:05:23 +0000


My grandfather used to sit out on his back patio, his legs stretched on a wobbly plastic chair, and “survey the land” (as I used to call it). After a long day working in his rather large backyard garden, there seemed to be nothing better than to enjoy the cool air of dusk, and the purple sky, while watching the garden shadows grow long.

And gardens do take a lot of work. Well, at least managing it the Italian way. We seed, prune and pluck, water diligently, tie and support, all to get the best out of our plants. My grandfather, and now me, never seemed to be the type of person to just “throw some seeds” and see what came.

And the result of all that work: a lot of vegetables. The first few tomatoes and peppers seem to come slowly and with great excitement surrounding their arrival. Then suddenly, sometime in August, it’s like the plants explode and the kitchen table is covered in vegetables and I’m scrambling to figure out what to do with them all. Here is one recipe that comes in handy during the summer bounty: tiella.

A traditional Southern Italian dish, tiella is a sort of baked casserole which, in some regions also includes mussels or some sort of seafood. In my family’s version though, vegetables are the star of the show. How else to best showcase all that hard work? Whether you just finishing picking in your own garden, or had a really successful shopping trip to the farmer’s market, break out your casserole dish and warm up the oven to have the best of summer all in one forkful.


Vegetable Tiella
4-5 medium tomatoes or 1 small can of plum tomatoes
1 eggplant
1 medium zucchini (or two small zucchini)
1 red or yellow onion
4 medium potatoes
8 ounces flat green or yellow beans
fresh parsley or basil
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil


Set aside a little time to prepare all your vegetables. Peel and slice the potatoes, trying to keep the slices thin and consistent. Using a mandolin to slice would be a good idea if you have one, if not, it’s time to practice your knife skills! In small pot of salted water, par-boil the potatoes, cooking them for 5-10 minutes before draining

Meanwhile, peel and slice the eggplant. Place it in a colander and sprinkle it liberally with salt. This will help to remove some of the water. Allow the eggplant to drain in the colander for at least 30 minutes, patting it dry at the end before adding it to the dish.


Peel the zucchini, though I like to leave a bit of skin on if they are tender and slice them. If they are too large and the seeds are large, consider scooping out the seeds. Slice into rounds. Trim and wash the beans. Peel and slice the onion. Remove the skin and seeds from tomatoes and crush them by hand. Finally, wash and roughly chop (or rip by hand) your herbs.


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Now that all your vegetables are prepared, it’s time to get this summer mix all settled together. Mix all vegetables together and salt and pepper it liberally. Add in 1/2 cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix in the crushed tomatoes.

Coat the bottom and sides of your baking dish with the olive oil. Your baking dish should be at least 2- 2 1/2 inches deep. Layer in the vegetables, sprinkling with fresh herbs (parsley or basil) throughout. You may find water at the bottom of your bowl of vegetables, be sure to avoid adding it to your baking dish, you don’t want to make soup!


Top your layered dish with the remaining cheese and cover it with foil. Bake for 45 minutes covered, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes uncovered until the water at the bottom is absorbed and the top is just crisped up.

To speed up the cooking slightly, and to ensure all your ingredients get cooked through, an alternative way of preparing this dish is to partially roast the vegetables spread out on a sheet pan for 30 minutes before assembling the dish and adding the tomatoes and cheese and baking it all together.


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Piselli Fritti (Fried Peas) Thu, 16 Jun 2016 01:37:30 +0000


I’m about to offer you one of the simplest – and best – of all my family recipes. It’s peas. Fried peas.

This recipe is so simple, and so second nature to me, I’ve been consistently forgetting to include it on the blog. But this spring, with fresh peas around the corner, I stuck a sticky note on the fridge to make sure I remembered to write this recipe down.

Now there’s two ways you can end this recipe: by making the peas juicy and moist (which most Nonna’s prefer) or by crisping up the peas just slightly for some texture (which is what my sister and I always preferred – though my mom complained we were burning them!). How you want to end it is up to you, but they will both taste great. Fresh peas or frozen will work just fine.

Fried peas were a go-to recipe for my sister and I growing up. Other than my sister’s tried and true pasta she always – ALWAYS – made when she was looking after me. We paired the peas with chicken cutlets or chicken fingers, or steaks. This is actually the only way I eat peas, other than raw, straight out of the pod which is my absolute favourite spring treat. I’ve never boiled them or steamed them, that seems rather boring. Or mashed them, what’s up with mushy peas?

At the same time, I’m aware some people might think – why fry peas? I’ll tell you why: flavour. Layered Italian flavours. Try them just once, and you’ll need to have them again. To this day, if fried peas are served at any family gathering, I always take the leftovers.

Piselli Fritti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 garlic cloves, minced or 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 cup water or chicken stock (1/2 cup if you’d like the peas a little wetter)


Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile chop your onions and mince the garlic. When the oil is heated through, toss the onions into the frying pan and cook them for two to three minutes until then soften.


Add in the peas, fresh or frozen, and sprinkle with the salt, oregano, basil and garlic. Toss to combine. Add in the water and/or chicken stock and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the peas to cook for 10 to 15 minutes until soften and most of the water as been absorbed.


If you like your peas moist, then these are ready to be served up. Or if you want a little more texture and crispiness, turn the heat back up to medium-high for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to evaporate the remaining liquid and begin to slightly brown or crisp the pea edges.

Serve up hot as a side dish to any main and prepared to be just a bit addicted. There is a lot of flavoured packed into these peas. And they are also great warmed up the next day.



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Celebrate 2016 Italian Heritage Month with me! Wed, 08 Jun 2016 04:04:15 +0000


It’s Italian Heritage Month!

Oh the events to go to!! You’ll taste, see, dance, and celebrate all things Italian this month (it should be hard to miss). Just last week I was able to attend Castello Italia at Casa Loma in Toronto, which featured Italian blown glass artists, singers, food, musicians and so much more. It was a great way to kick off the month.

And many will take the month to extole the virtues of Italian food, but also poetry, art, architecture, music, cars, innovation, fashion…and the list goes on.

I’ve done a lot of reflecting on the blog and what it means to me this year, 5 years after it’s start, and one thing that always weighs on my mind is how much it turned in to just a food blog. I used to write more about what Italian-Canadian life was like: the traditions, values, and rituals that make us what we are and, of course, the food. At first I wanted to sure not to focus just on food, to reduce “Italian-ness” to just that. But overwhelmingly, my readers told me, it was the food they really fell for. There seems to be no better way to be immersed into another culture, or reminded of your one, then feeding your senses of sight, smell and taste all at the same time.

shutterstock_100597609_01Over the past 5 years I’ve also had the privilege of working with a variety of Italia-Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs – newspapers and magazines, radio stations, food distributers, food retailers, museums and art galleries, national organizations, students and writers. I’ve gone dot events and seen Italian-Canadian celebrations of all things Italian (and Canadian) and talked to all kinds of people, of Italian-descent or otherwise, about what they love, and they speak passionately of it, about Italy and its’ people.

And going back to that list of Italian things to celebrate – cars, music, fashion, food and more – one thing becomes clear. It’s passion that sees each one of those Italian things through. Passion for speed and beauty brings us beautiful cars. Passion for simplicity, style and elegance brings us Italian fashion. Passion for family, flavours and nature brings us Italian food. We’re a people that don’t do things half-way. If we have the passion for it, we’re making it the best it can be.

So, it’s the same with this blog. Be it posts about being Italian or the best recipes I have from my family, it will be the best expression of Italian-ness that I can have. With all the passion I have.

Happy Italian Heritage Month everyone. Take the time to enjoy the blog, but also all the events happening across the country and online.

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Orecchiette with Rapini Sun, 24 Apr 2016 02:40:56 +0000


It’s been a while since I posted and for the first time, I’m re-doing a recipe. Not because the first version was wrong, but because now I can do it better. Pasta with Rapini was the first recipe I posted nearly 5 years ago and I posted it because it is my absolute favourite dish. Comfort food at it’s best. Simple Italian cooking. And it’s from my Dad’s hometown of Monteleone in Puglia. When I posted it, I had many people comment on how much they love this dish but also others that were excited to try it. And yet, it is still one that I only serve to immediate family – rapini (or broccoli rabe) can be hard to love if they are too bitter.

But mostly I’m posting this recipe re-do because back then, I was afraid to use the word “orecchiette” (the ear-shaped pasta featured in the pictures) and just called it “pasta.” I thought it would turn readers off but now I regret it – that’s the name of the dish and it’s authentic. Back then, I used a food processor to pulse together the garlic and anchovies that help flavour the recipe – partially because it was easier and partially because it was easier to explain. Now, I love doing things by hand, the way they were originally done. I don’t mind my garlic a little chunkier and I do love putting the little bit of work in. Also back then my photography skills were just emerging. I’ve come so far – and yet, am by no means professional – in showcasing the ingredients that find their way into my kitchen and it makes me much happier. This dish needed new photos desperately.


And finally, back then, my readers were mainly friends and family. With thousands of new blog readers a day and more than a thousand getting my recipes by email, it was time to make this favourite recipe a star of the show again. So if you haven’t had the chance to go back in the recipe archives, here’s the opportunity to see one of the best and give it a try. This is an Italian classic and it’s the reason I started this blog.

Orecchiette with Rapini
1 16oz package semolina orecchiette
1 bunch of rapini, coarsely chopped
3 anchovy fillets
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil as needed
grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese to taste
ground hot peppers (if desired)


Put a large pot of water on to boil. Wash, trim and roughly chop your rapini. (You can find out more about trimming and preparing rapini in this post.) Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying or saute pan over medium heat. On a cutting board, mince the garlic and anchovies together. Place the anchovy and garlic grind into the pan and allow it to saute for about 1 minute, until sardines disintegrate and garlic cooks, but does not brown. If you like your pasta spicy, toss in some ground hot peppers to the pan.


Add your washed and chopped rapini to the pan, tossing it with the garlic for 2 minutes, until it begins to wilt. Add in two large scoops of the boiling water from your pot and reduce your heat to medium-low to allow the rapini to cook. In the meantime, now that your water has come to a boil, add salt to the water, then the pasta. Orecchiette take just over 10 minutes to cook, enough time to prepare your rapini broth.


Stir your rapini occassionaly. As the water evaporates from your pan, add one cup of pasta water to the frying pan to continue to wilt and cook the rapini. Allow the rapini to simmer gently until very tender and about 3/4 of the water has evaporated.

Cook the orecchiette until al dente, or even just a bit before. Drain the pasta (reserving some of the pasta water) or scoop it out of the pot using a slotted spoon and add it to the pan with the rapini. The pasta will continue to cook once placed in with the rapini and absorb it’s flavour. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes more, adding more pasta water, as desired, to make a slightly brothy pasta dish.


Remove your pan from the heat and stir in a generous handful of grated Parmiggiano Regiano cheese. Serve immediately, with additional cheese for garnish, as the pasta continues to absorb the broth you’ve created. This dish is also great the next day, but perfect piping hot from the pan.pasta_rapini_long

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Beyond pasta: 6 traditional southern Italian dishes you should try this year Sat, 09 Jan 2016 17:24:09 +0000

I’m entering my fifth year of blogging (I started in early 2012) and it’s amazing to see how many people I’ve met online, how many things I’ve learned about Italian cooking from readers who ask all sorts of questions about ingredients and share their own recipes, and just how many of my family’s recipe I’ve gotten to write down. It’s time to look back at some of the more classic dishes I’ve served up – at least one from each year – that might have you thinking about more than just pasta when you think Italian food. Looking ahead, I’ll be taking on more of our sauces and seasonal foods, trying out some new photography techniques, and, with any luck, offering a few more contests. Most of all, for 2016, I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you. Let me know in the comments what recipes you are looking for, new or old! Happy New Year!

Eggplant Antipasto Recipe
Eggplant Antipasto
This has been by-far the most popular recipe on my blog. Considering you can buy jugs of this antipasto at places like Costco, it’s popularity is gaining but you don’t need all sort of added flavouring agents or preservatives to get the best eggplant antipasto on your table. Homemade, simple steps and lots of flavour is what you get out of this recipe. A jar of eggplant antipasto also makes an amazing gift to hosts and guests.

Recipe for Pastina
Technically this still has pasta in it, but it is not your typical carb-loaded pasta dish. This is heart-warming simplicity in a bowl, employed by every Nonna and mom to comfort kids and bellies at any other age. Homemade stock makes the difference here, but you won’t lose anything with a quick bullion cube replacement to get dinner on the table on a cold day.

Baked Risotto Recipe
Baked Risotto with Peas
Does risotto need to take hours? Does it need to have a creamy saffron sauce? Or can it be bathed in flavour-bursting tomato sauce and get baked until it has a satisfying crunchy top? Well that’s how I grew up with it. Easy to make ahead, just a few ingredients, and the ability to mix in vegetables or meat to round out your meal if you wish. Try it!

Recipe Pollo Rotollo
Rotolo di Pollo
I had to include one more complicated recipe on this list. This is a traditional preparation of chicken that is sure to impress guests. What I love about this recipe is that the chicken is treated with care and all of it’s parts are used to develop a stuffing that I often find myself craving. Learn how to de-bone a chicken, make classic stuffing and make a centrepiece for a dinner party.

Pitticelle Cucuzze (Zucchini Fritters)
Zucchini Fritters
So many of these recipes are family favourites that I find I rarely serve to non-Italian friends. Why? Maybe I think that they’ll think the food is weird or so unfamiliar they won’t try it. We make these fritters so often during the summer, I’ll definitely try sharing them this year – really, what’s not to like? Fresh veggies and herbs, batter, cheese and, in the end, a crispy snack. Make a batch for your family and friends.

mostaccioli recipe
Biscotti, those twice-baked crisped coffee-dippers, are so popular but there’s plenty of other Italian cookies to explore. Mostaccioli are as traditional as they get. Flavoured mostly by honey, these chewy soft cookies look a lot like biscotti, and are formed the same way, by baking the dough in a log, but are a nice, not-so-sweet, change to your dessert tray.

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Fritto Misto di Mare (Mixed Fried Seafood) Mon, 21 Dec 2015 03:35:11 +0000


It’s the week of Christmas and of all the things to look forward to – family, gifts, cookies and Christmas trees – I’ve got my eye on a different prize: seafood. Crazy, right? This is one of the few times of the year my family whips up a massive batch of Fritto Misto di Mare (Mixed Fried Seafood). Christmas Eve is all about fish and while I’ve heard of it called the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” by Italian-Americans recently that’s not how I’ve known it. I do know that as part of religious observance, Fridays, particularly holy Fridays, and Christmas Eve, called La Vigilia di Natale (The Vigil of Christmas, literally, or the Eve before Christmas), we avoid meat products.

I can’t say that we’ve ever had exactly seven dishes on Christmas Eve, but one we always have is Fritto Misto di Mare (and baccala (salted cod fish) but that’s a recipe for another day). Fritto Misto is by far a crowd favourite, there isn’t anyone who passes on this dish no matter how full you are from the antipasto or pasta. Pipping hot, crispy and tangy from a squeeze of lemon, it wouldn’t be Christmas without fried seafood. Below is how my family gets it to the table. I’ve done shrimp and squid here, but we would typically also have scallops. They can be prepared and cooked the same way as the shrimp. But to be honest, I strongly dislike scallops – it’s a texture thing – but don’t avoid having them at your table! If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where all this seafood can be bought fresh that should be your preferred purchase and you can just ignore my instructions on defrosting, a necessary evil for those of us who are landlocked (save for a large, great lake). Merry Christmas everyone! May your Christmas eve be full of Fritti Misti and fun!


Fritto Misto di Mare

500g shrimp (size 31-40 or the larger, the better!)
400g scallops
400g cleaned, frozen squid
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
5 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon salt plus additional for seasoning after frying
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup cornmeal
canola oil for frying
lemon slices for dressing


Prepping the seafood is the most time-consuming part of this process, but with a few hands on deck it goes quickly. This recipe feeds about six to eight people, but you can always reduce the amount. Defrost your shrimp overnight or quickly in luke-warm tap water. One defrosted, peel and devein the shrimp, if they aren’t already cleaned. If you are including scallops in your Fritto Misto, remove any side muscle that may still be attached.


The shrimps and scallops are breaded, much like how we would bread veal or chicken cutlets. Set out three pie pans or bowls on your work surface. In the first bowl, pour in the flour. In the second bowl scramble the eggs with the cool water to create an egg wash. In the third bowl combine breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, garlic powder and dried oregano. Dredge each shrimp first in flour. Then dip the shrimp into the egg wash, allowing the extra to drip off, before placing it in the bread crumb mixture to coat it. Place the breaded seafood on a parchment lined tray. If you are not frying right away – you can prep these up to a few hours in advance – refrigerate the seafood until you are ready to cook. You will have extra breadcrumb mixture left over, but it is important to have plenty to work with to ensure each piece of seafood is coated adequately.


Defrost the squid in the same manner. Most cleaned, prepared squid will come with the tentacles separate from the body. For the tentacles, using kitchen shears snip off any longer tentacles and remove any hard bits at the top. For the bodies, make sure there isn’t any remaining cartilage inside (if you feel a hard a piece inside, just reach in and remove it). Snip off the wings from the tips and slice the calamari into rings. Place in a colander to drain until you are ready to fry.

Just before frying, toss the prepared cut calamari in the cornmeal. Shake of any excess and place on a tray.


In a medium pot, pour in canola oil until it is about three to four inches deep. Heat on medium-high, or using a deep fryer, heat the oil to 180 degrees. Whether in the pot or deep fryer, use a basket to lower the seafood into the oil when you are ready to fry. You’ll want to do this just before eating: the fresher the better with Fritto Misto.


Cook the shrimp first for just two minutes each batch. Remove to a paper-towel lined tray or plate to drain. Next, fry up the calamari, which take just one minute to cook and crisp up. Also drain on paper towels and immediately sprinkle with salt. Serve while hot with lemon slices.



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Cartellate (Honey Pinwheels) Thu, 10 Dec 2015 00:58:23 +0000


So many readers write to me about “secret” family recipes, the things only Nonna made, or Mom developed from a previous recipe. Our most revered foods are often from the minds and hands of those we love, and this is even more heightened during the holidays.

This blog has been going for just over four years now and there’s still a favourite, secret recipe I haven’t shared with you…until today. My absolute-favourite-it’s-not-Christmas-without-them “cookie”: cartellate. These honey jewels originate from Puglia, the region that holds my dad’s home town of Monteleone, but it’s my mother who has perfected the recipe to the point that I cannot control myself around them. In my family we called them “crispelle,” but they are more commonly known as cartellate (or pinwheels). We coat them in honey, or sometimes a dusting of icing sugar, but other families soak them in vin cotto (cooked wine) or a combination of vin cotto and honey. Others still create ones that are rolled with a filling of nuts and dried fruits.


What just boogles my mind about cartellate, and a few other Italian cookies, is just how complicated the process of making them can be to explain. As usual with traditional Italian recipes, the ingredients are simple – flour, eggs, oil – but getting to the final, delicious product will take a few steps. So be forewarned – there’s a lot of pictures in the post so you can see the full process! And here’s an interesting tip from this recipe, the one small oz of liqueur in the ingredients can add flavour to the dough, but it’s real function is to keep the oil from foaming when cooking these treats.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 a cup for kneading
4 large eggs
1 oz Italian liqueur – Anisette, Amaretto or, if preferred, Rum. If you don’t want to use alcohol, you can substitute in vanilla.
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 tablespoon of sugar

Canola oil for frying
1 1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon water


Making the dough can be done by hand (as seen in the pictures) or in a mixer. By hand, start by making a well in a pile of flour on a wooden or marble board. In the well, add the eggs, liqueur, canola oil and sugar. Begin mixing the ingredients with a fork, scrambling the eggs and incorporating the other liquids with them. Slowly draw in the flour from the edges with your fork until a sticky dough forms. Then, using a scraper, continue to mix the dough by cutting it together until it begins to look like a jumble of large pieces. Now, you can go in by hand and knead the dough together. This is harder dough and should be the consistency of pasta dough. Continue to add flour to your board while you knead it if it feels too soft.


If you choose to do the dough in a mixer, you can add the ingredients into the bowl at once. But start with only two cups of the flour in the mixer and as the ingredients combine, slowly add the additional 1/2 cup. As mentioned, this is a stiffer dough, and may be too hard for your machine to process. If it gets so that the mixer can not longer mix the dough, you’ll need to take it out and finish kneading on the board until it develops a smoother texture. You’ll have to judge with your mixer, each one is different.

Knead the dough until it begins to look smoother. Your arms might be tired at this point, so you can wrap it in plastic, let it rest for a few minutes until it begins to soften, then begin the kneading process again. Don’t worry about getting it completely smooth – the pasta roller will help you along too.


Remove a palm-size piece of the dough, wrapping the rest of the dough ball in plastic, to begin rolling out sheets. Flatten your small piece of dough with your fingers a bit then begin to run it through your pasta roller. Start on the widest setting (1). Once the dough has been rolled though, fold it in half or thirds and run it through the pasta roller again. Repeat this process up to three times. Now move up to a thinner setting, 3 for example, and repeat the process. Work you way up the 6th setting on the pasat roller, putting it though a couple of times. You should have a nice thin (but not see-through), length of dough.


Lay the dough out flat on your board and cut in into finger-width strips with a fancy cutter. To form the cartellate, you’ll want to turn these strips up on their side and create a loop at one end, pinching the dough together to form a circle. This is the centre of the cartellate. Next, create another loop, pinching the dough to the centre circle. Repeat with a third loop. The fourth loop can be attached to the second and so forth, moving out from the centre.


Pinch each dough loop firmly to ensure the dough stays together – if not, during frying the cartellate will all unravel.

Another way to form cartellate, or use ends of the dough, is to create knots. Cut wider pieces of dough, two fingers wide, and mark a silt in the centre. Pull one end of the dough though the slit to make a knot.

With the cartellate formed, lay them on a tray, cover them with a kitchen towel and let them rest 30 minutes before frying them.


To cook them, heat canola oil in a large frying pan, at least 1 or 1 1/2 inches deep on medium heat. Fry the cartelatte until a light golden brown flipping once. This should take 2-3 minutes per “cookie”. Any faster and the oil is probably too high and the cartellate will brown too fast, taking on a burnt taste.



Remove from the oil and drain in a colander. When you are finished frying, it’s time to cover these in honey or sugar. If you cover them in honey right away, these sticky treats can last up to a week on the counter (if you don’t eat them all first).


In a small pot, mix together the honey and water. Warm it up on medium until it reaches a simmer. As soon as it begins to bubble slightly, turn the honey mixture to low. Don’t allow the honey to boil – it will thicken and burn. On low, dip and coat the cartellate in the honey mixture. Do this only one or two cartellate at a time, any more and you risk breaking them. As you remove them from the honey, stack them on a piece of parchment paper.


Alternatively, some families sprinkle powdered sugar on the cartellate for a brilliant snow-covered effect that also provides a more toned-down sweetness than the honey.


Serve on a platter with other Christmas cookies or as a gift in a parchment-paper lined tin. These honey coated cartellate are sticky so don’t even try to balance one on a napkin in between bites! This recipe makes 4-5 dozen depending on how large you make each one. We’ve been known to easily double the recipe – they are the first to go from any dessert platter.


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Castello cheese – Italian style! – and a giveaway in honour of the movie Burnt Thu, 12 Nov 2015 10:40:34 +0000

I usually need to remind myself not to go grocery shopping hungry – I buy everything! – but for this blog post, I’m introducing a new rule: don’t go to the movies hungry. Particularly if you go see Burnt, the new movie out with Bradley Cooper staring as a fallen top chef trying to recapture his career. The food in this movie will definitely make your stomach growl. I was invited to see it by Castello cheese who sent me the lovely prize pack below AND has one available for one of my readers!

Among other things in the prize pack, there is Castello Brie cheese, creamy and gooey especially when warmed up and a great base for a number of flavours. Today I’ve topped my brie with classic Italian flavours – pesto, tomatoes, olive oil and pine nuts. More about that below, but first, how to win your own Castello cheese prize pack.


I love it when I can give away something to a blog reader. I so appreciate your feedback and support (and passion!) for the recipes and postings I feature here. And if Castello wants to share some cheese to celebrate their featuring in the Burnt movie, well, let’s get you entered to win! Here’s what’s in the prize pack:

Movie tickets for two including one popcorn and two drinks;
Castello Brie cheese;
a bottle of olive oil;
Burnt movie inspired recipe cards; and
$2o in Castello cheese vouchers!

How to enter:
Leave a comment on this blog post (below) telling me your favourite Italian dish that includes cheese. Be sure to use your real first name and email when leaving a comment. You have until Thursday, November 19th at 12:00am. For a second entry, like or comment on An Italian Canadian Life on Facebook within the same time period.

This giveaway is open from Thursday, November 12th, 2015 until Thursday, November 19th, 2015 at 12:00AM EST and is only open to Canadian addresses. The winner will be chosen randomly via, contacted via email, and have 48 hours to respond. You will need to provide a street address (not a P.O. Box) and a phone number to claim the prize.

Now what to do with that prize pack when you get it? Enjoy the cheese. While my home cooking may not be as gourmet as featured in Burnt (seriously, who can design plates like that! And I need more than one bite of cheese!), we Italians sure know how to add flavour. These small Castello Brie packages are perfect for an appetizer for two. Pop it in a ramekin for baking and top it with your favourite Italian ingredients and you are ready to go. It’s that easy. Here’s what you’ll need:

1-2 teaspoons basil pesto
2 sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Olive oil
Good crusty bread, sliced and toasted

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove the brie from its’ packaging and, with a sharp knife, remove the rind from one flat side (this will be the top of your brie). Place it in a small ramekin, or other oven proof container, and top with the pesto, tomatoes and pine nuts. Cover the top with foil and pop it into the oven for five minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for another five minutes, letting the pine nuts toast, before serving. Place on a platter, drizzle with olive oil and serve with toasted bread slices.

This short baking is how I like my brie. After 10 minutes of baking your brie won’t be a bubbling mess, but poke it with a fork or tip of a knife and you’ll find it perfectly soft and gooey for spreading.

Now get to commenting to enter to win your own brie: tell me your favourite Italian dish that includes cheese below!

Disclosure: As mentioned above, this post is sponsored by Castello cheese. An Italian Canadian Life was compensated with a prize pack, however all opinions (and recipes!) expressed are our own, 100% honest and based on the interests of the blog community, as our readers are valued.

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Mushroom Risotto Thu, 29 Oct 2015 00:35:55 +0000

Mushroom Risotto Recipe

The last year has been all about change. With the arrival of our little one, everything in life changed. And then jobs changed and even how we spend our free time. I’ve been thinking about change a lot lately and find myself making small changes everywhere these days, even in cooking. And when it comes to food I’m the type of person who wanders grocery aisles to find new products and ideas. When I go on vacation, a must stop is always the grocery store. From trying something completely new to taking a twist on an old favourite, that’s the best part of cooking.

Take risotto for example: I’m used to the way we’ve always made it, like this Asparagus Risotto. Then there’s this knock-out super-traditional and ultra-technical Milanese Risotto. But small changes to either of these recipes can bring you something completely new. So when a pile of mushrooms went on sale at the store, I tried a few new ones that I wouldn’t normally use in Italian cooking, like shiitake, and went to the rice aisle for another small change: carnaroli rice.

Mushroom Risotto Recipe

You’ve seen me use Arborio rice for risotto, but there’s actually a few other types of Italian starchy rices like carnaroli and Vialone nano. Carnaroli rice is preferred for risotto is some regions in Italy. It is shorter and wider than Arborio, but can be used much the same. Trying it out for this recipe, I found that the grains held their shape more in the end dish, but it wasn’t necessarily creamier than the usual Arborio.

It’s a small change but often that’s how you find your perfect recipe. Like when Nonno started using Yukon Gold potatoes to make colluri, he claimed they made the doughnuts fluffier. A little tweak never hurts (though I wouldn’t change the colluri recipe, ever!). What small change have you made to a recipe only to find it made it even better? Let me know in the comments!

Mushroom Risotto Recipe

Mushroom Risotto
6 cups chicken stock (or 3 mushroom bouillon cubes dissolved in 6 cups of water)
2 cups cannaroli rice
4 cups mixed chopped mushrooms
1 minced onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Mushroom Risotto Recipe

Chop your onion and clean and slice your mushrooms. I’ve used a combination of button, porcini, portobello, oyster and shiitake. The right way to clean mushrooms is to wipe them with a paper towel. I’ll be honest and say I find that ineffective and a lengthy process. I wash them in a colander. I know they absorb some of the water, but I’m going to cook it out anyway and at least I know all the dirt is off in one shot.

Heat your chicken stock in a small pot, leaving it on low. Or, if using mushroom bouillon cubes, add three cubes to six cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce it to low.

Mushroom Risotto Recipe

In a large, wide pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add in the onion and cook until transparent, 1-2 minutes. Add in the sliced mushrooms and salt lightly. Stir frequently until the water has begun to release from the mushrooms and they reduce in volume to half.

Reduce the heat to medium and add in the rice, stirring constantly as it toasts, about 3-4 minutes. Don’t let the rice brown, but pay attention to the roasting smell that developed to know when to move to the next step.

Mushroom Risotto Recipe

Add in two ladles of hot stock to the pan – watch out, it will sizzle! – and keep on stirring. Keep the heat on medium and add additional ladles of stock as it evaporates, not letting the pan go dry. Continue this process until all the stock is used and the rice is tender and creamy. The rice is usually ready in 20 minutes. The risotto should be creamy and pour easily onto the plate, not lumpy or sticky. Add more hot liquid if needed to loosen it up.

Remove the pan from the heat and add in the butter and cheese, stirring vigorously. Serve immediately.

Mushroom Risotto Recipe

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Autumn Vegetable Pasta al Forno – and a CorningWare giveaway! Thu, 08 Oct 2015 10:19:28 +0000


While the trees on my street are turning colours of orange and yellow, there’s just one maple tree down the road that is a vibrant, almost neon, red. I love it. The colours are a wonder during fall and even my son, cozy in his stroller, is staring at the trees to take it all in. With the last few vegetables of the season, those colours are in the kitchen too – deep purple, vibrant reds and pinks and bright yellows. Today, I’m using all those colours to make one of my staple dishes this time of year – pasta al forno with eggplant and beans.

Of course, when World Kitchen sent me this crazy-coloured 4-Pc Bakeware set from CW by CorningWare, I thought, what a great opportunity to add even more colour into the kitchen and give my readers a chance to win one of their own! I am so happy with the colour of these dishes, practically all the bakeware I have is white (go ahead and look back at my other recipes!) and I don’t see why everything needs to be white. Certainly our vegetables and trees aren’t that boring. If you want to make your kitchen colourful – scroll to the bottom of this recipe for all the details on how to win a  2.5 Quart Vermillion Baker from CW by CorningWare (Retail value $21.99).


You might be thinking: “but autumn vegetables are butternut squash and pumpkin.” That’s certainly what you’ll see on many food blogs this time of year, but for Italians autumn is also the bounty of the season, bushels of all our favourite vegetables abound. We’re still enjoying and preserving eggplants, tomatoes and romano beans, in fact these vegetables in the photos came out of my garden just this week. This dish is kind of a take on the Sicilian traditional dish of “pasta alla norma” which involves fried strips of eggplant and ricotta. In this version the eggplant and beans add a creamy texture to the pasta, making it rich and filling. Baking pasta also means a crispy and cheesy top layer – that’s the bits we fight over at this house, everyone wants the crispy pasta.

If you haven’t tried pasta “al forno” (baked), now’s the time. And scroll to the bottom to find out how to be entered for your own colourful CorningWare!

Pasta_al_forno_for autumn

Autumn Vegetable Pasta al Forno
7 medium tomatoes, peeled and seeded OR 1 796 ml can of peeled tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Sicilian eggplant, peeled and cut into cubes
250g romano beans, shelled
500g pasta
100g mozzarella, shredded
30g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste


Put on a pot of water on high heat. When boiling salt generously and add in the shelled beans. These need to cook for 20 minutes, so in the mean time, prep the remainder of your vegetables: cut the onions, peel and remove the seeds from the tomatoes and, finally, peel and cube the eggplant. You’ll want to do the eggplant last as it will brown fast if you don’t get them cooking right away. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a wide pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high. When heated through, add in the onions and cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Toss in the eggplant and sprinkle with salt (this will help the water come out of the eggplant and keep the pan moist). Cook, stirring frequently for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add in the tomatoes and tomato paste and lower the heat to medium low, allowing the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes. At this point, the beans will have completed cooking. Drain them and add in the cooked beans to the sauce, turning it to low and keeping it hot until the pasta is cooked.


Replacing the water in your pot, allow it to come back up to a boil and add in your pasta cooking for only 3/4 of the recommended cooking time. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, removing the sauce pan from the heat. Toss until the pasta is fully coated. Stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Apply a light coating of olive oil to your baking dish, or use a spray olive oil. Spoon half the pasta into the bakeware and sprinkle on half the mozzarella. Spoon on the remaining pasta and top with the remaining mozzarella.

Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is lightly browedn and blistered. Serve hot and be prepared to fight over the crispy bits!


Want to make your own colourful dishes? You can be entered to win a 2.5 Quart Vermillion Baker from CW by CorningWare (Retail value $21.99) by leaving a comment below on this blog post (be sure to use your real first name and email) until Sunday, October 11 at 12:00am. For a second entry, like or comment on An Italian Canadian Life on Facebook within the same time period. Good luck everyone!

This giveaway is open from Thursday, October 8th, 2015 until Sunday, October 11th, 2015 at 12:00AM EST and is only open to residents of  Canada (including Quebec) — Sorry US/Intl. friends! The winner will be chosen randomly via, contacted via email, and have 48 hours to respond. You will need to provide a street address (not a P.O. Box) and a phone number to claim the prize.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by World Kitchen. An Italian Canadian Life was compensated monetarily and with product, however all opinions (and recipes!) expressed are our own, 100% honest and based on the interests of the blog community, as our readers are valued.

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Preserving Romano Beans Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:29:23 +0000


If you love Italian food and love to eat local, fresh food all year, I can’t imagine a busier season than fall. All the plants produce their last burst of vegetables and fruit and you can pick them up by the bushel-full at some farmer’s markets. That’s exactly what you’ll find Italians doing at least. Once tomato passata is packed away, it’s time to see what else we can store and freeze to have for the winter. Lately, in addition to recipes, I’m trying to record our ways of preserving and uses of those preserves like green tomatoes and eggplants.

There is some preserving we don’t do anymore, like peas. I remember going to pick bushels of peas with my parents and grandparents and spending long hours on the front porch shucking them from their pods. (Though I ate more than I contributed to the bowl of peas destined for the freezer.) Now with local farms offering flash frozen bags for just a few dollars, it’s hard to justify all the work. I’d rather just spend the time eating peas fresh. But romano beans, also known as cranberry beans, aren’t so common that you would find them already done. But they are a staple of many Italian dishes, from pasta to mashes, soups and stews. I love the deep pink hues on the pods and beans when they are fresh. Cooked up, they are creamy and hearty. Here’s how to preserve a stash for the winter…


First you’ll need to pick out your romano beans. You want pods that are a vibrant pink, but not purple (those are almost ready to be used as seeds). The pods should be full – that is you can feel each bean fully – and with very few black splotches on the outside. Take your beans home and immediately spread them out for at least two days on blankets or towels , this softens the shells so they are easier to split open after they dry a bit.


Next, get a few friends or relatives and a comfortable chair. Pop the shells open with a little pressure from your fingers and remove the beans from pods. Discard any beans that are off-colour, yellow or brown. You end up with bowls and baskets of shiny beans. Rinse the beans well.


We par-boil or blanche the beans before putting them away, for two reasons: once shelled, the beans quickly go dark and unappealing so the blanching preserves their freshness immediately and, blanched beans freeze better, making for faster cooking in the winter. In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanche for 2-3 minutes in batches. Generally, put the beans in once the water is at a boil, then when it returns to a boil you take them out. Place the blanched beans in ice water for 5 minutes to stop the cooking, then drain and spread out on towels to dry completely.


Once dry, place the beans in vacuum seal bags or resealable freezer bags (being sure to remove all the air) and pop them in the freezer. Now, what to do with them later? You can defrost the beans at room temperature or in warm water. They still need to cook for about 20 minutes, so they’ll be one of the first ingredients you add to your soups, stews and pasta dishes. My favourites: pasta fagoli and chili.

Coming up next week, I’ll have a recipe for pasta al forno, using my fall favourites of romano beans and eggplants. Plus a contest with a great prize furnished by Corningware – stay tuned!

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Jarring your own tomato sauce base (passata) – the Italian way! Fri, 04 Sep 2015 12:20:00 +0000


If you’ve seen a few neighbours toiling away late at night over a pot of tomato sauce in their garage, you know it’s tomato season.

Every year, Italian families gather together to get the key pantry staple for their house ready for the winter. Canned, or jarred, tomatoes. If you don’t do this often, this massive undertaking seems a bit mysterious and I’ve been asked by friends and neighbours, “how” and “why??” for years. Here’s a bit of insight into how it’s done:

Italians take their food ingredients seriously: freshness and seasonality are two key tenets to this. When vegetables, or meats, are in season they need to be preserved for the winter so we always have that taste of fresh tomatoes whenever we put a pot of sauce on (or the multitude of other dishes that tomatoes can be used for).

There’s a few different ways that tomatoes can be preserved in jars. My preferred method is plum tomatoes: taking heirloom tomatoes, seeding and peeling them, jarring and boiling the jars. When used later these tomatoes need to be broken down through cooking or blending. Some people also put fresh small tomatoes in jars and bake the jars. (I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m told it works).


Below though, is the most common process, using San Marzano tomatoes. These small tomatoes are treasured for their flavour and “meatiness”, that is that they have a lot of flesh so you don’t loose a lot of vegetable when you remove the core and seeds. In this process, the base to tomato sauce (passata) is made by cooking the tomatoes, crushing them and jarring. These jars can rest in a cool place for up to 2 years and when broken open are used to make sauce for pasta, though you’ll add in meat or other vegetables and continue to slow cook until you get a thick and flavourful sauce.


While Italians do this by the bushel-ful, the same process can be used for any number of tomatoes, so even if you only want to make a few jars.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– San Marzano tomatoes
– Fresh basil leaves
– sterilized glass mason jars and lids
– a large pot (and heat source like a stove or outdoor burner)
– a few large bowls
– a tomato crushing machine
– knives, funnel, ladle, jar handler
– towels, lots of towels


Wash all of the tomatoes and lay them out on old towels or tablecloths to dry a bit. Using a paring knife, core tomatoes, remove any seeds (this can add a sour taste to your sauce) and cut the tomatoes in half or quarters. The more people you have, the faster this process is.

Cook the tomato pieces in a large pot (do not add any other ingredient or any water, they will make their own as they break down), for about 30-45 minutes.



Remove the tomatoes from the heat and pour, by the ladle full into your your tomato crushing machine. This is the messiest part of the process, you are essentially crushing the tomatoes and separating the peel and any remaining seeds. The machine will pour out the crushed tomatoes, to be caught in your large bowls, with the peels coming out through the filter part (which will need to be cleaned every few minutes to keep things moving smoothly). Discard the peels.

Now that you have your crushed tomatoes, there are two options for jarring.

In the first method, line up your sterile mason jars and insert 2-4 basil leaves per jar. Using a funnel and ladle, fill the jars with the crushed tomatoes, leaving about a ½ inch empty from the top of the jar. Place on a lid (always using brand new lids that have been boiled) and ring and tighten to “finger tight”.


Line the bottom of your large pot with a dish towel (this keeps the jars from banging around too much), fill with as many jars as you can, top with water and bring it to a boil. Boil the jars in this water bath for 40-45 minutes. After this time, shut of the heat and once the boiling subsides, remove the jars from the water with a jar handler. Allow to cool, then make sure the jars have formed a tight seal: the centre of the lid is indented. You can remove the rings and store the jars in a cool, dry place.

The alternative method to the one above is similar but does without the water bath (which is recommended for all canning and some people swear by). In this method, the crushed tomatoes are returned to the large pot and boiled for up to two hours to evaporate more of the water in the mixture. When the crushed tomatoes have reduced by 1/3 to ½ in volume, line up your sterile mason jars and insert 2-4 basil leaves per jar.


Using a funnel and ladle, fill the jars with the hot crushed tomatoes, leaving about a ½ inch empty from the top of the jar. Place on a lid (always using brand new lids that have been boiled) and ring and tighten to “finger tight” and place in a cool location overnight. In this method, the heat from the crushed tomatoes is what forms the seal on the jar. In the morning, make sure the jars have formed a tight seal: the centre of the lid in indented. You can remove the rings and store the jars in a cool, dry place.


So the next time you see this typical scene in a garage near by, you know what we’re up to. Ask to join in – you’ll probably get a few jars of your own to take home!


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Mixed Summer Vegetables with Cornbread (Impanata di Verdure) Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:42:59 +0000


This dish is one hot mess. But delicious! I mean, look at it. Not exactly the most appealing thing you can cook, but it’s my favourite vegetable dish. It’s super tasty with minimal seasoning, showcasing what a home garden or farmers market can grow with love. This was a specialty of my Nonno’s – his garden yielded all the vegetables needed to get this dish in motion. And it was his cornbread he made in the early mornings that he’d add in.

“Impanata” traditionally means “breaded” or “to bread” something like meat cutlets or eggplant. In that process, the meat or vegetable is coated in flour, egg, then a breadcrumb mixture that includes seasoning and cheese. Check out my “fettini”/veal cutlets recipe for an example. However, in the case of this mixed vegetable dish, “impananta” means to mix in bread, in a way to fortify the dish and make it a bit more substantial. The bread used is “frizzini”, made when fresh hearty bread rounds (like cornbread) are sliced in two and dried out slowly in the oven. This was a method of preserving bread when ingredients were scarce. The bread can then be eaten hard or reconstituted with water, oil, soup or when added to a dish like this “impanata” I’m featuring today. You can make your own frizzini or purchase them at any good Italian food store.


For the vegetables: look for the first tender garden produce, or young vegetables to get this recipe right: shiny small eggplant, young zucchini, and flat beans where the bean itself isn’t fully grown and plump yet. Add these into a pan for a little slow cooking and it’s vegetable heaven on your plate. Nothing says “summer garden fresh” more than this dish. I eat it as a main, but it works as a side dish as well, you just might have to convince your family or guests to take a bite first. Yes, it’s not pretty but it has all the things Italians love: fresh vegetables, slow cooking, using what you’ve got (the bread!) and eating as a family. This recipe makes enough for 6-8 people, but if you have leftovers just crisp them up in a frying pan the next day.


Mixed Summer Vegetables with Cornbread (Impanata di Verdure)
3-4 frizzini (dried bread)
3/4 lb Italian flat beans
1 yellow onion (or one bunch green onions)
1 19oz can plum tomatoes (or 5-6 fresh, peeled and seeded tomatoes)
2 small eggplants
1 medium zucchini
5-6 large basil leaves, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
(optional: red peppers or hot peppers, seeded and thinly sliced)


First things first: prepare all the fresh vegetables. Choose small to medium zucchini. If the zucchini is tender, keep the skin on. Wash the zucchini and cut into thin slices (removing any large seeds with a spoon first). Look for smaller, firm and shiny eggplant to ensure there are less seeds within. Peel and cut into thin strips.


Wash and trim the bean ends. Thinly slice the onion. If using fresh tomatoes, wash, blanch, and peel the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Wash and shred or chiffonade the basil.


Warm the olive oil in a large pan. Add in the beans and onions and cook until just soft. Add in the cut eggplant and zucchini and top with your basil and salt. Don’t worry if your pan looks too full, the vegetables will reduce in volume as they cook. On medium-low heat, cook the vegetables, uncovered, stirring occasionally. As they reduce, the vegetables will release a lot of water that will need to evaporate.


After about 30-40 minutes, when there is a lot of water is in the pan, turn up to medium-high to get rid of the water. Add in the tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid is gone.

If you find the vegetables are not evenly cooked (that is, some of the eggplant or zucchini are still raw or plump), put a lid on the pan and turn it to low to slow down the cooking and cook evenly.


Meanwhile wrap the frizzini in a tea towel and smash them with a pot, hammer or meat tenderizer until you are left with a rough crumble, but not just small crumbs.

With most, but not all of the water gone from the pan, add the bread, stir,  and cover for five minutes for the bread to soak up the remaining juices. If you find the bread is still too dry after this (it should have softened significantly), add in 1-2 ounces of water.

Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese just before serving.


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Walnut Shaped Filled Cookies Wed, 15 Jul 2015 01:37:11 +0000


We ended June with a celebration: our baby boy was baptised! And after the formal ceremony, feasting – of course – was in order. My sister made the cake, my mom brought trays of cookies. I had the time to contribute just one cookie, but a fancy one – walnut shaped filled cookies.

These cookies are a constant reminder of fancy events from my childhood. They would appear only at weddings or showers. They are a bit labour intensive, so anytime someone saw them on a cookie table, they “ooh’ed” and “ahh’ed” and grabbed a few for themselves. In my memory, they are the epitome of the Italian cookie form and tradition, lovingly made and unique.

The trick for these cookies is you need special baking trays. The forms can be found in Italian grocery shops and also easily found online. Try to avoid the forms that are individual nut halves, these are tough to get into the oven without tipping over. The one I have that is a full tray (see the photos) is the easiest to work with. The dough isn’t hard to make, but you do need to dedicate some time to this project, unless you buy a lot – A LOT – of forms. Either way, they are well worth it! I’m getting compliments on these cookies even a few weeks later.

Walnut Shaped Filled Cookies
1 pound butter
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dutch-processed cocoa
4 teaspoons cold water
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
Nutella for filling (as needed)


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift the flour. Add the flour and nuts to the butter mixture. Finally, add the cold water to the mixture to smooth out and finish the dough.


Spoon out the dough by the teaspoon, or using a small ice cream scoop, to fill in the forms. The dough will puff just slightly so be sure to under-fill the forms just a bit. If you fill them right to the edge, you’ll end up with a hump in the middle (where the two middles need to be sandwiched together) and that will make for some awkward sandwiches. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown on the edges.


Overturn the form on a rack immediately to cool. The cookies should fall out easily, if not, just give the tray a little tap. Fill your forms again and repeat the baking process until the dough is finished. (This makes about 10 dozen cookies, or 5 dozen finished sandwiched cookies.)


Now for my cheater’s filling: Nutella. Once the cookies are cool, put a half teaspoon of Nutella on the flat side of one cookie and press a second “half walnut” onto the filling to make the complete sandwich cookie. You can also make a chocolate ganache (chocolate melted into warm cream) or a walnut and chocolate paste (ground together), but let’s be honest, Nutella’s going to have the best flavour. And after baking a few rounds of these cookies, this is the easiest way to finish.

Pop these beauties into mini cupcake papers for fancy serving or add to any cookie tray to impress your guests. They keep for up to a week in an air-tight container. Freeze the halves (unfilled) for use later, if desired.


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Guest Post: Rediscovering Italian family and history in Toronto Tue, 16 Jun 2015 13:35:51 +0000
 My grandmother with her father and bridesmaids outside of St Francis
My grandmother with her father and bridesmaids outside of St Francis

In honour of Italian Heritage Month, we welcome guest writer Marianne Iannaci, a Ryerson University journalism student who comes from an Italian background and loves everything about her heritage. Having just moved to Toronto a few months ago, she’s rediscovered where her family settled and grew up when they first arrived in Canada and shares her experience with us.

I may not be the most Italian girl out there. I wasn’t born on Sicilian ground- heck, I’m not even Sicilian. My parents didn’t come to Canada as kids and my grandfather didn’t grow up under Mussolini’s rule. I swear in Italian and I call a drying a cloth a mopine, but I couldn’t say more than buongiorno to an Italian who wants to hold a conversation. As a kid, I would sit alongside the men in my family who would discuss the premise of The Godfather or The Sopranos over Sunday dinner and was always told that “when you are old enough, you can watch them.” My Italian heritage was prominent growing up, to the point that I understood the danger of a wooden spoon, but getting older I’ve gotten to know what it really means to be an Italian- Canadian in my family.

My grandmother, Sandra Iannaci, walking up to St. Francis church on her wedding day.

My grandmother, Sandra Iannaci, walking up to St. Francis church on her wedding day.

As a kid who’s only ever lived in the suburbs, I viewed the city of Toronto as an actual “Little (version of) Italy.” My grandparents, aunts and uncles all grew up in the city within two blocks of each other. My grandmother lived on Bellwoods Ave. and my papa, her boyfriend at the time, lived around the corner on Henderson. They would tell stories of how they used to buy roasted red peppers at San Francesco Foods just down the street, and by the age of eight I experienced for myself, the best tasting pizza from Bitondo’s, right across the road. I would hear about mornings at Café Diplomatico on College St. in the 1970’s and by the time the Azzurri won the World Cup in 2006, it was a known fact that it was the only place to watch the game. My papa’s small house on Henderson lived to see me bust through those doors every Easter Sunday more than 15 years ago. It used to hold my entire family and a dining room table full of antipasto. And it wasn’t until my great grandmother passed away that I got to experience the beauty of St. Francis Church; the same church that held my grandparents wedding more than 45 years prior.

Through my journey to become “old enough” I understood why you should “leave the gun and take the cannoli.” I grew up learning how to make grandma’s cannelloni and memorized the Italian national anthem so I could shout it before the Azzurri took the field. I began to love Louis Prima every time my dad would play his CD throughout the house on a Sunday, and just like all of my aunts and cousins, I ALWAYS WORE BLACK. There was never a time when the front closet wasn’t full of black coats when the family came over.

Just eight months ago, I moved to the city of Toronto. I am now 19 years old and living blocks away from where my family first grew up. The most unforgettable memory of my own in this area, came from the first day in my new place. I went to lunch with my father and his sister at Café Diplomatico now, for me, just down the street. Halfway through our meal an older man rose from his table with his companions and came to ours. Before he could say a word, my aunt’s face brightened. The man was a neighbour of my grandmothers’ and happened to know my dad and my aunt as kids. For more than an hour we all talked about the things that happened on that street. And from then on, I knew the bond and compassion that Italian families hold is unlike any other. I left that lunch after giving the man two kisses on the cheek- and I can safely say, I’ve never felt so close to home.

Christmas 1957 in Toronto, with my grandmother, great aunt and great uncle

Christmas 1957 in Toronto, with my grandmother, great aunt and great uncle

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Celebrating Italian Heritage Month 2015 Fri, 12 Jun 2015 15:54:27 +0000

ihmp2015It’s Italian Heritage Month! Buona Festa!

June always has a buzz about it at our house: the weather is great, the garden is beginning to grow, there’s family celebrations everywhere plus weddings and baptisms. And it’s Italian Heritage Month which means a slew of events to celebrate, remember and share being Italian.

If you’ve never been out to an Italian event, I can assure you the food is good, it’s a bit loud and there will be some Nonni dancing somewhere, which is always fun to watch (and they’ll pull you in too!). Here’s where to start and a selection of upcoming events:

  • Check out the official Italian Heritage Month event calendar. Events launched on May 31 at Castello Italia (that’s Casa Loma in Toronto) and continue on everyday through out the city, province and country.
  • The Italian Contemporary Film Festival is on June 11-19. Roberto Benigni & Nicoletta Braschi (Life is Beautiful and other films) are in town!
  • Ready to eat? How about hitting up La Rose Italia Fest in Milton on June 7. Or the Taste of Little Italy June 19-21 in Toronto.
  • Out West? Get ready for June 14: Italian Day on the Drive in Vancouver.
  • If you’re an admirer of the arts: Books and Biscotti events, and Italian Family Story time, are on tap. Plus music and art shows (too many to list) all found on the events calendar listed above.
  • History buffs will want to get out to the Royal Ontario Museum as well where Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano is opening.

These are just a few ideas to get you going. From home you can get in on the action too. Scroll through my tours of a few Canadian Little Italy communities in TorontoMontreal and Ottawa. Or a visit to Pier 21 in Halifax, where many Italians entered Canada for the first time. In 2013 I was also invited to share my thoughts on being Italian Canadian on CHIN RADIO – have a listen.

On the blog, recipes will be on hold this month while we take a look at different views of Italy and being Italian: fun and easy reads to remind you, we’re not just about food!

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“Mini” Spring Pasta Sat, 30 May 2015 12:44:05 +0000


At the moment my life is all about small things. The little boy is seven months and he’s ready to motor. That means pint-sized shorts and mini socks. Tiny sandals and mini baseball hats for the summer. Teeny toes and fingers reaching for everything. I’m starting to cut up small bits of food and I’ve found it’s changing the way I’m looking at dinner and grocery shopping.

That’s how I ended up with “mini mini bocconcini” in my fridge. Tre Stelle asked if I wanted to take a fresh look at their cheese selection, so off to the market I went with coupons in hand. And in looking over all the options in the cheese aisle, I realized that I seem to only buy the regular size bocconcini (rounds of fresh mozzarella) when I’m having an event – tossing them into salads or on skewers for appetizers. In honour of my son, why not try the “mini mini” bocconcini and see what we can do with them? Paired up with “mini” (or cherry) tomatoes, there’s no way this cheese can lose.

Plus, chunks of cheese in pasta means my husband had his two favourite things together. For me, I wanted something fresh and spring-like for dinner. Fresh cheese, with raw tomatoes and a dose of garlic scape pesto says spring to me. For you readers, I realized I hadn’t posted a pasta recipe in a little while, so it was time to catch up.

Turns out, mini items are fun to eat. This pasta, which serves two, was devoured in minutes. And while he’s not ready for this food yet, my son was eyeing my bowl, those little fingers reaching as far as they could to get a taste!

“Mini” Spring Pasta
250g of your favourite semolina pasta
1/2 recipe of garlic scape pesto
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 container Tre Stelle mini mini bocconcini (200g)


With the pesto prepped, this pasta dish is just minutes to completion. Put a large pot of water on to boil the pasta. While waiting to get that up to a rolling boil, it’s time to drain the bocconcini from their liquid…


…and wash and slice your cherry tomatoes in half.


When the water comes to a boil, throw in the pasta and cook to the package directions for al dente. Reserve a 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.


Return the pasta to the pot (off the heat) and stir in the pesto and pasta water until the pasta is completely coated. Toss in tomatoes and cheese with a quick stir – just long enough to get the cheese warm but not melted! – and serve immediately.


If you have young kids in the house, this pasta will be fun to eat, picking out the cheese and tomatoes. It’s the right time of year too – the tomatoes are sweet like sugar. The cheese is refreshing and not overpowering. You can also try this recipe with regular basil-based pesto or parsley pesto.


Disclaimer: Tre Stelle provided me with coupons towards my cheese purchase. I don’t accept products in exchange for a positive review or placement. All of my reviews are 100% honest and based on my opinion and the interests of my community, as I value my readers..

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Fried Garlic Scapes (Scapi D’aglio Fritti) Tue, 19 May 2015 16:47:41 +0000

Fried Garlic Scapes

The tops of fresh spring garlic are popping out of the garden. I’m always so glad to see it’s survived the winter! I don’t have enough room to plant tons of garlic, but the 18-20 bulbs I do get in the ground always come in handy. The best thing about growing your own garlic – collecting the garlic scapes. But you can also buy them in bunches at local farmer’s markets.

I’ve written about garlic scapes before: scapes are the curling tops of the garlic plants. They should be picked before the developing flower opens. To eat them raw, you should pick them when they begin to emerge from between the main garlic leaves, even before they start to curl, when they are still tender. If you catch them a little later, they can always be blanched to soften them up a bit. Two years ago I posted two recipes for garlic scape pesto.

The pesto is still a favourite of mine, but with garlic scape season just around the corner, I thought I’d share another way to cook them up: lightly battered and fried. I’ve served these for dinner, over steaks or chicken, or even as an appetizer. Trimming and blanching them first removes any fibrous parts that aren’t so pleasant to chomp into. The batter makes them crisp as you bite into the light, fresh garlic taste.

Fried Garlic Scapes

Fried Garlic Scapes
15 garlic scapes (approximately)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons cold water
Canola oil for frying

First, pick or buy your garlic scapes. Make sure they are a bright green (not yellowing) and that the flower pods are not yet large.

Fried Garlic Scapes

Trim off the flower pod top and an inch off the end (or more if you find it tough). The tops are not pleasant to eat at all.

Fried Garlic Scapes

In a large pan, set a few cups of water on to simmer. When bubbling, blanch the scapes, in two or three batches, for one minute. Remove to a colander to drain. Dump the water from your pan, wipe it off and fill it an inch deep with canola oil and set it on med-high to heat. Next, mix up  your batter. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cold water. Whisk until smooth.

Fried Garlic Scapes

When your oil is heated, dunk the scapes in the batter and place directly into the oil to fry. Cook for about one-two minutes per side, or until lightly golden. Remove to a paper towel to drain and sprinkle with salt while hot, if desired.

Fried Garlic Scapes

Serve over your main course as an edible garnish or as an appetizer with an aioli dipping sauce.

Fried Garlic Scapes

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Quick and easy pasta dough (to freeze!) Thu, 07 May 2015 11:49:06 +0000


After a small dinner party last week, one guest pushed back her chair and threw up her arms. She told us that we must have some tricks to being able to whip up dinners so easily. I’m glad it looked easy – it was hard to balance with a six-month-old!- but we just love cooking and having people over.

So I usually say, no, I don’t have any tricks. But the truth is there are one or two things we rely on to get good food on the table. The first is the freezer – we do large batch preps in advance and when vegetables and meats are in season – so it’s all ready to go. The second is my FoodSaver. If you’ve been paying close attention to some posts you’ll see the FoodSaver bags in the background or note my suggestions to vacuum seal vegetables. That’s how all my freezer foods stay fresh.

Well the folks at FoodSaver noticed and sent me a new FoodSaver 4400 to try out. With it, I’ll show you a third trick – you can freeze pasta dough so you can have it fresh any day you want.

So for dinner guests that say, “I can’t believe you made fresh pasta!” Well, we did…we just did half the prep in advance! This comes in very handy when we get a few flats of eggs from my husbands’ families’  duck farm. One can only eat so much quiche and I’d hate for them to go to waste. So we make large batches of pasta dough and freeze them for later use. This was an experiment we did last year and it’s turned out pretty handy. If you ever make too much dough, want to prep for a dinner party or find eggs on sale, this is a perfect way to make your pasta in advance.

First – an easy pasta recipe:

Nonna makes pasta by eye, she knows just the right amount of flour by looking at it and when the dough is ready by the feel. I have yet to acquire that talent, so instead I use a rule of thumb: about 100g of flour to one large egg. If you want to get technical about it you can weigh your eggs since size can vary and weigh your flour as sometimes it can have more moisture in it and use a 3:2 ratio of flour to eggs. I’m not mathematically inclined, so I’ll stick to my rule of thumb.


200g all purpose flour
200g semolina flour
4 eggs

This makes about one pound of pasta, or about four servings. Stick it all in a mixer and set it to medium. When the dough comes together, stop the mixer and dump it out on a floured surface and knead it five or six times. Form the pasta into a smooth ball.


Second – the freezing:

If you’ve doubled (or tripled, or quadrupled) this recipe, measure out one pound balls of dough. Place it into a FoodSaver bag and vacuum seal! Make sure to label them and pop them in the freezer. It’s that easy.

And this new FoodSaver 4400 is slick! The look alone makes it a nice addition to the kitchen (my old one is white) and being able to regulate the uses for dry, wet or marinating makes it much more flexible. Two words of warning if you pick up a FoodSaver: it’s a little addicting – you’ll want to vacuum seal a lot of things – and my one complaint, I always find the power cord way too short. I like to work on my kitchen table, not the counter, so I’m often left scrounging up an extension cord.


Third – defrosting and making the pasta:

The night before you need to make your pasta, take it out of the freezer and let it defrost in the refrigerator. Then, about an hour before you are going to roll it out, let it come to room temperature on the counter. Unseal it, cut it into four and start rolling! You can check out this post for directions on how to cut your pasta.

Don’t forget to wipe the sweat off your brow as you hand your guests their freshly made pasta for dinner.


Disclaimer: FoodSaver provided me with a FoodSaver 4400. I don’t accept products in exchange for a positive review or placement. All of my reviews are 100% honest and based on my opinion and the interests of my community, as I value my readers.

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Guest Post: Finding Panelle Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:38:18 +0000


There’s nothing like the memories of food and emotion to mark your travels. The flavours we sample when out of our daily routine sometimes stay with us for years. And even when you think you know all about Italian food, there’s always something that will still surprise you. For this post, student Daniel Elia brings us his adventure of Finding Panelle in Italy.

During the Fall of 2012, I was given the opportunity to spend a year in Italy on exchange, attending university while teaching English at a private school. Growing up in an Italian household, food was always at the centre of any encounter or celebration. I had always associated good food with sitting down at my Nonna’s house with homemade soppressata, wine and parmeggiano. As a twenty year old in the middle of his university education in Canada, I had obviously devoured my fair share of street food after a night out drinking. I had never envisioned Sicilian street food tasting surprisingly as delicious as my family gatherings back in Canada.

A childhood friend also on exchange in Denmark and I traveled to Palermo, hoping to attend a soccer game and encounter a greasy Mafioso in his natural habitat. Upon arriving to our hostel, we were greeted by an unbelievably friendly Australian working at the front desk and were swept away with the rest of the occupants of the hostel to the area known as La Vucciria – the meat market. After seeing buildings still in ruins from WWII and interacting with friendly locals who had quite an odd interest in reggae music, we were told we had to indulge in a traditional late-night snack. We were led to a carello with a greasy man, hair greased back, and his chest hair hanging out of his shirt; the quintessential Sicilian stereotype. Without hesitation we paid for our unknown snack and were given the sandwich; Panelle.

The historical significance of this snack dates back to the French occupation of the island around 1250. The bourgouise French nobles were affluent and were able to afford fish. Lower-class Sicilians were subjected under harsh rule and taxation, therefore fish was regarded as a luxury. However, Sicilians are a very resilient and sly society. The wives would ask for the oil that the French had been frying the fish in. A chickpea flour pastry was then created and this dough was fried in the oil in order to attain a residual taste of fish.

When I returned to Canada, I looked up the recipe online and came to the conclusion that the only ingredient I was missing was the chick-pea flour. One night, driven to satisfy this craving, I set out to make my own chick-pea flour. I created a chick-pea mush out of canned chick-peas and mixed it with normal all-purpose flour. Unfortunately, the process derailed somewhere along the line as the finished product was very mushy on the inside. However, there was a slight glimmer of the delicacy somewhere in there.

I told my mother about the failed culinary experiment and she went out on the hunt for chick-pea four. After months of searching periodically, she finally got her hands on Indian chick-pea flour. I find it amazing how a simple Sicilian street food dish can incite such profound memories to continue and flourish years later. The flour awaits the next family gathering and will be enjoyed along side Calabrese cuddurieddi.


Written by Daniel Elia
Edited by Pistol Romagnoli

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Italian Lemon Twist Cookies for Easter Thu, 02 Apr 2015 12:04:49 +0000


It’s holiday season again! It’s also my sons’ first Easter. It would be slightly more exciting if he were crawling or walking and hunting for eggs but I’ll still take the opportunity to get some classic sweets on the table to celebrate. And boy, am I going classic!

Lemon twist cookies. If you know an Italian, you probably know these cookies. Tangy, dense and not-too-sweet but still a treat. Every Nonna has a recipe like this one and, in fact, this was my Nonnas’. One way to tell this for sure: it is made with oil, not butter. Also, the ingredients include lemon zest and juice. Many modern recipes ask for lemon extract, but I’m betting they didn’t have any of that in her mountain town in Italy. Dipped in a lemony glaze and decorated (usually with sprinkles – but more about that later), you can find these on many cookie tables at special events.

Since it’s Easter, you’ll find them next to Easter Ciambelle and Easter Bread and one of those large Italian chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in brightly-coloured foil. All this probably following a meal of lamb and spinach and ricotta pie. It’s a big celebration with all the family, and all the food you would expect. To tell the truth, the kids might bring Easter baskets to fill up on chocolate eggs, but these days my basket just gets filled up with Easter leftovers and I don’t mind a bit. Double up this recipe and you’ll have plenty to share too. Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua!

Italian Lemon Twist Cookies
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tsp baking powder
Zest and juice of one lemon + 1/3 cup lemon juice for glaze
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside.


In a mixer, cream together eggs and granulated sugar. Add in oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and combine. Add in flour mixture and mix together until smooth.


Remove the dough from your bowl and using a cookie (ice cream) scoop or tablespoon, scoop out your cookies. You can roll them into classic ball shapes or into twists.

For the balls: scoop them out and roll them in your palms quickly to make them smooth. You don’t want a rough or cracked top – a smooth cookie means a smooth, perfect glaze coating later.


For the twists: scoop out the same amount as you would have for the balls. Roll out a rope of dough and form a “U” shape. Holding the loop end in one hand and the loose ends in the other, twist the cookie rope together twice. If you turn from the top loop, you’ll find the twist comes out better. Press the loose ends together to make sure the twist holds during baking. This twisted shape is common, particularly at Easter for the same reason we have braided Easter bread loaves. This shape  was said to be made to look like the baby Jesus – the loop part being his head, then his body swaddled in cloth and his two feet emerging at the bottom.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, turning the cookie sheet half way through. This recipe makes approximately four dozen.

Now it’s time for the festive decorations. All these cookies get iced with a simple glaze. Mix together 2 cups of icing sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice. You can make it thicker or thinner as you like by adjusting the amount of liquid. The twists get a quick dip or drizzle along their tops.


For the balls, dip the tops in the glaze and adorn as you see fit. On the left side of the photo are the two classic ways Nonna will decorate: with multicoloured sprinkles or with one silver ball sprinkle right on the top (usually done for this cookie when made with anise flavouring).  A word about multicoloured sprinkles: they are Nonna’s favourite. I’ve seen them sprinkled on just about every dessert and even baked bread. I’m not sure what the allure is but all I know is when you are at an event and you see a cookie (or otherwise) with this tiny rainbow of colours, rest assured, Nonna made it. So take one of those cookies!! For this Easter I set about finding some Easter colours and used “flake” sprinkles and coloured the icing to keep with the pastel themes for Easter.

Happy Egg Hunting everyone!


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Classic Milanese-Style Risotto as made by Michelin-Star Chef Morelli Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:10:25 +0000


First let me tell you this was the best risotto I’ve ever tasted. But who could expect less? Presented by the “How Italy does Italian” tour in advance of World EXPO 2015 in May, Michelin-star Chef Giancarlo Morelli brought his cooking and style to George Brown College in Toronto and I was lucky enough to be part of the whole experience. Focusing on the art of simple food with pure ingredients, Chef Morelli reminded me why care in cooking and selecting products makes such a difference in your food. And now with his recipe for risotto, you can give it a try too.

Giancarlo-Morelli-Fotografo-Devid-Rotasperti-(56)Part of me was expecting complicated techniques and foreign tools from the demonstration. What I got was a reminder that the best food is cooked simply and authentically with attend paid to bringing out the flavour of each element. Care and creativity is in the process, the ingredients and the end taste. For Chef Morelli, this was his first day in Canada leading into a week-long tour by Italian product producers showcasing the best Italy has to offer. “Just because it has an Italian flag on it, doesn’t mean it’s Italian,” says Chef Morelli, reminding us to know where our ingredients come from. Among his shared cooking philosophies (which I am adopting!): he doesn’t use salt during the cooking, only to finish the dish. His reasons for this are two-fold: it’s important to avoid too much salt for a healthy life and “if you can’t get the feeling and flavour of each ingredient when you taste a dish,” he notes, “then it doesn’t work.”

Below is Chef Morelli’s risotto recipe, which you have to try as he won “best risotto in the world” in a competition of 1,100 dishes at the Concorso Premio Gallo in 2010. Yet, Chef Morelli is clear to tell us that risotto has been the same for 200 years. He doesn’t change the culture of food but perfects and modernizes how it is created. Some tips on creating this winning dish from the Chef himself:

– Choose an organic carnaroli rice, not necessarily arborio. You can find this at most Italian grocers.
– Use vegetarian stock only. Add 2kg of seasonal vegetables to 5L of water (no salt!) and cook for 2-3 hours for a rich stock.
– It’s impossible to have risotto without butter. Use butter or butter and oil to start the dish, and butter to finish it. Use frozen butter when finishing, this will help to develop the creaminess of the dish properly, instead of the butter breaking down too quickly.
– The rice will cook in exactly 13 minutes, so set your timer.
– Never leave the rice alone, it’s like a baby you have to nurture.
– Balance the dish at the end with the butter and the cheese, no additional salt, off the heat. This technique is called the “mantecatura”, finishing with fats and stirring vigorously to add air into the dish.

The recipe, below, to stay true-to-form, is in Italian and English. Use care in picking your ingredients and in your cooking and you’ll have a winner too. If you give it a try, let me know how it works out in the comments (hint: you can omit the bone marrow and wine caramel topping and it’s still amazing!).




Ingredienti per 10 porzioni al 100% (quantità netta)
Ingredients for 10 portions at 100% net quantity

800g Riso Carnaroli   Carnaroli rice
1lt Brodo di vegetale   Vegetable broth
QB Olio, sale, pepe, burro   Oil, butter, salt and pepper (as needed)
 37.5g Cipolla   Onion
300g Parmigiano Reggiano   Parmigiano Reggiano
200g Burro   Butter
2g Pistilli di Zafferano   Saffron threads
3cl Salsa al Vino Rosso Red wine sauce
200g Midollo  Bone marrow
1dl Vino Biano  White wine

Porre in una casseruola la cipolla tritata, il midollo di bue e 50 g di burro.
In a casserole place chopped onion, beef bone marrow and 50gr of butter.

Rosolare per circa 3 minuti senza far colorire la cipolla.
In another pan sauté the onion for about 3 minutes, so that the onion does not change colour (onion stays translucent).

Aggiungere il riso e lasciarlo tostare per qualche minuto, mescolando con un cucchiaio di legno.
Add rice and toast for a few minutes stirring with a wooden spoon.

Unire, successivamente, un mestolo di brodo bollente e procedere come per tradizione.   
Add a ladle of broth at a time as per classic risotto method.

Aggiungere i pistilli di zafferano.
Add the saffron threads

Aggiungendo altro brodo bollente, portare a fine cottura.
Continue adding additional boiling broth until ready

Togliere dal fuoco e mantecare con il rimanente burro e il Parmigiano.
Remove from the stove, add remaining butter and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese “to cream” the risotto

Versare in piatti caldi e guarnire con salsa al vino e midollo scottato.
Plate the risotto on warm plates and finish with wine sauce and bone marrow previously seared.


profile photo: Devid-Rotasperti


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Pezzetti di Cannella (little cinnamon cookies) Fri, 27 Feb 2015 01:55:35 +0000


Confession: I gave up sugar for lent. And I’m craving cookies.

If you know me well, you know that cookies are my downfall. And Italians have SO many good cookie recipes. The options run through my mind all day and it’s got to stop. On top of the cravings, I get emails – lots of emails – about cookies, especially during the spring.

Cost_Southern Italian DessertsSpring often means bridal showers and that means home baking for the cookie tables. I would guess this is one of the most popular times for baking each year (second only to Christmas). Have you never been to an Italian bridal shower? You can check out pictures from my own and my sisters from this previous post, then you’ll understand the allure. To help you get ready for your baking (for whatever the reason) and save me from eating cookies myself, I’ve found an easy, traditional and flavourful recipe to add to your repertoire. From Rosetta Costantino’s book Southern Italian Desserts, Pezzetti di Cannella (little cinnamon cookies) are the classic Nonna cookie. In fact, my husband’s eyes lit up when he grabbed a few off the tray the last time I made them, he hadn’t had them for years. Rosetta’s book is a recommended purchase for anyone who loves Italian desserts, I refer to it regularly! Enjoy the baking!

A foreword from Rosetta: My mother’s friend Yolanda Tateo shared her mother’s recipe for these cookies. Yolanda moved to the United States from Sava (Puglia) when she was in her twenties. This is one of the few recipes from home that she has kept over the years. These bite-sized cookies are perfect to have on hand for visitors or to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s worth splurging on good-quality cinnamon because it is the predominant flavouring. The recipe makes a lot of cookies; they can be stored for up to a month in an airtight container.

Pezzetti di Cannella
2 cups (264 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 ml) safflower or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 cups (250 g) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
5 tablespoons (75 ml) fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and baking powder into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, oil, milk, and lemon zest. Mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture with a fork until the flour is mostly incorporated, then continue by kneading with your hands in the bowl until the dough comes together into a smooth ball. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one piece and, using a bit of flour if needed, roll it with your hands on a flat surface to form a rope about 5/8 inch wide. Press down to slightly flatten the rope, then cut it on the diagonal into 1-inch diamond-shaped pieces. Arrange the cookies on the prepared baking sheets with an inch between them. Repeat to form cookies with the remaining three pieces of dough. (I form half of the cookies, then bake them while I form the second half.)

Bake until the cookies are puffed and firm to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks until the cookies are com­pletely cool, at least 1 hour.

To glaze the cookies, in a wide, shallow bowl large enough to hold all the cookies, use a whisk to stir the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice together to form a thick, smooth glaze. If the glaze is too thin, add a bit more sugar. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put all of the cookies into the glaze at once and use your hands to coat them on all sides. Transfer the cookies one at a time to the prepared baking sheets—the glaze should cling to the cookies without pooling on the sheet. Let the cookies stand until the glaze is completely dry, which can take up to 24 hours, before packing them into an airtight container.

Photo credit: Sara Remington

Reprinted with permission from Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino, copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

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Chicken Cacciatore Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:00:00 +0000


We spent the summer putting away fresh vegetables and meat products into the freezer. We like knowing where our food comes from, how it is prepared and preserved. Our freezer is well stocked for the winter and even has an accompanying spreadsheet and map (it’s needed! As are labels on everything!). But all that work means making sure we use everything too.

That can be a little difficult months later when you want to branch out to new dishes instead of the same old. There is only so much rapini one person can eat, says my husband, who, last summer, thought it was a good idea to freeze a bushel of the greens. When I pulled out what I thought was a packet of pork last week, and it ended up being chicken, it was time to break out of the go-to recipes and think about something we hadn’t had in a while.

The answer: chicken cacciatore. I’m not a huge fan of green and red peppers, which is why we don’t have this dinner often, but after making it this time, I’m not sure why not. I stuck to the recipe that my family uses, and they used at their Italian restaurant they had when I was young. This is a basic cacciatore recipe, relying on the flavours of the tomatoes, peppers and chicken, rather than wine or capers as you may see in more modern recipes. Smothering rice or pasta, it’s perfect for a workplace lunch the next day too. Now to find a way to get my husband to eat more rapini…

Chicken Cacciatore
2 pounds, bone-in chicken pieces
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 pound button mushrooms
1 large onion
1 jar or can plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste


Cut the peppers, onions and mushrooms into ½” slices. Set aside. Remove the tomatoes from the jar or can into a bowl and roughly crush them with your hand. Set aside.

Clean your chicken pieces and salt and pepper to taste. Heat a large pan with a base of canola oil. Brown the chicken on both sides, but do not fully cook it. Once browned, remove to a bowl and cover with foil. Set aside.

chicken_caccitore_4In the same pan, add in all your vegetables. Salt to taste and sautee for five to ten minutes, when the vegetables just begin to soften and the browned bits of the chicken come off the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken back in and pour in the tomatoes. Stir and cover the pan, cooking for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and half of the liquid in the pan has evaporated. Add in oregano or basil.

Serve over rice or pasta. Garnish with grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese, if desired.


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Pastina Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:30:40 +0000

Recipe for Pastina

There’s a draft coming in from the base of our sliding door. Maybe we need more insulation or a new door but for now, my feet, under the kitchen table, are getting stone cold. It’s funny how a little line of insulation, filling in the tiniest crack, can make all the difference to making you fill warm and comfy.

Protection from those icy winds of January, at least the ones we have here in Canada, can mean the simplest of things. A good warm blanket, a crackling fire. And to keep your belly and toes warm, a hot bowl of Nonna’s secret weapon: pastina.

My baby boy isn’t old enough yet to appreciate this recipe, but no doubt he will learn it soon enough. The subtle broth and simple pasta make a bowl of goodness that every Italian kid knows well from deep winter nights and those days spent home from school with a cold. Plain enough that every kid will eat it and hearty enough that even adults crave it years later, pastina is as basic as it comes and every Nonna knows it well.

This cold draft is starting to give me the sniffles, so it’s off to the stove to warm up some of this myself. Feeling chilly? Try out the recipe yourself…

1 cup pasta, any tiny kind like stars, rice shapes, or the most typical: acini di pepe
4 cups chicken broth
1 cheese rind (optional)
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste

Recipe for Pastina

Bring a pot of water to boil. When it comes to a boil, salt the water and add in the pasta. Cook the pasta as per package directions, minus three to four minutes.

At the same time, bring the broth to boil with the cheese rind in it, in a separate pot. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it (do not rinse) and add it to the boiling broth. The pasta is cooked separately to avoid making a starchy soup.

Recipe for Pastina

Boil the broth and pasta together for two to three minutes more. Remove the cheese rind and serve. Sprinkle grated cheese on top as desired.

Recipe for Pastina

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Potato and Onion Frittata Thu, 15 Jan 2015 12:18:00 +0000

Recipe for potato and onion frittata

If you follow this blog, particularly through the summer, you’ll know that I’m a huge supporter of local food and fresh food. From the garden and from the surrounding farms, we have tons of fresh vegetables to choose from when the weather is bright and sunny.

Well, it’s still sunny today but in the winter, these clear blue skies mean it’s achingly cold outside, the kind that hits you right down to the bone. And the view from my kitchen window is one of barren winter land. My backyard garden is a pile of snow. And in the kitchen, root vegetables and pantry items abound. Sigh. In the winter, I have to think long and hard about what to pull together to eat.

On a side note: I do not go in for those hothouse tomatoes in stores this time of year. They get soft on the outside but are strangely still hard on the inside and taste like water.

But a brand new cast iron pan I got in the post-Christmas sales (75% off folks!) is calling my name and may provide the solution this week. Seasoned up, it’s a good tool for making frittata. I’ve done a couple of other frittatas (spaghetti and asparagus) on the blog, but none in the oven so this is a bit new.  What’s on hand: potatoes and onions and one of my favourite cheeses: goat cheese. Put together and warm and hearty, it should make those winter blue skies look warm, at least from this kitchen window. Happy cooking everyone… (p.s: you don’t need a cast iron pan for this recipe, a oven-proof pan will do!)

Potato and Onion Frittata
12 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 medium yellow onions
2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
100g goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Recipe for potato and onion frittata

Peel the potatoes and par-boil them in salted water. Let them cool, chop into large cubes and set aside. Break the eggs into a bowl and scramble. Stir in milk, salt and pepper and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cut onions into ¼” inch slices. Coat the bottom of your pan with olive oil and warm the pan on medium heat. Add in onions and sprinkle with salt. Cook on low to caramelize the onions, letting them become a deep brown without burning them. When the onions are caramelized, add in the potatoes and sautee for five more minutes, coating the potatoes with the oil and onions.

Recipe for potato and onion frittata

Add in the egg mixture and stir in with the other ingredients until evenly distributed. Allow the frittata to cook until the egg mixture has mostly firmed up, about five to 10 minutes. Sprinkle goat cheese over the frittata and place in the oven for  20 to 30 minutes until firm and lightly browned on top.

Remove from the oven and allow the frittata to settle for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Recipe for potato and onion frittata

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Collecting your favourite (and missing) Christmas recipes Fri, 09 Jan 2015 16:07:27 +0000


What was missing from your Christmas table? What foods are part of your best holiday memories? Looking for an old family recipe?

Every year in December my blog and email inbox get really busy. In the lead up to Christmas, everyone is searching for their favourite old recipes like a cookie or treat their mother or grandmother used to make. The best emails I get are from readers who have just found old recipes on my site and tell me all about the memories they had of those foods and what a joy it was to have them again at the table.

In 2015, instead of searching at the last minute for a recipe just like Nonna’s, let’s help each other out and get those recipes together starting now.

Since the holiday season has just passed, and what was missing from the table is still fresh in our minds, now is the time to ask you: what are your favourite Italian Christmas dishes? Maybe it was something your mother used to make, or maybe a cookie an Italian neighbour used to always bring you. What recipes are you missing or searching for? Give me the English or Italian names of your Christmas dishes (and maybe a bit of a description!) and I’ll work to search them out and put together a Christmas recipe guide.

Here’s a brief list (after the jump) that I have so far of some desserts. From pasta to fish to fried treats, tell me what to add in the comments section of this post!

Anise Cookies
Ricotta Cookies

Time to add yours….

(photo from
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Panettone (or Pandoro) French Toast Fri, 26 Dec 2014 14:00:00 +0000

Recipe for French Toast made with Panettone

One, two, three, six….ten…..just how many panettone or pandoro do you have in your house this season? My current count is four, but I imagine more are on their way, especially when they go on sale. I can’t resist the chocolate ones. Of course, buying more panettone, on top of the ones you receive, is just an excuse to make panettone French toast!

As much as a Christmas tree or turdilli are traditional, piling up panettone is also an Italian tradition. (At least I think so!) You might find these breads under two names: panettone or pandoro (like the one pictured in this recipe). What’s the difference? Where they are made, the shape and the history of each bread differs. Here’s an account of the differences, but for this recipe either will work. This sweet Italian bread, studded with raisins, dried orange or chocolate is a typical gift between friends and family during the holidays. Usually served with espresso after a meal or during friendly visits, the breads are so popular they can tend to pile up in the cupboard or catina. In fact, in areas of the city where many Italians live, whole aisles in some grocery stores are dedicated to variations of this treat.

So after you’ve eaten a few with your coffee, what are you do to? Get creative! Use it in bread pudding. Try an ice cream bombe (here’s the recipe I wrote for Aurora Importing). The quick and easy way is this: the day after Christmas, my family has panettone French toast, making this sweet bread a breakfast treat. Other than an excuse to essentially have cake for breakfast, the best part of panettone French toast is it is totally Italian-Canadian: Italian sweet bread served with Canadian maple syrup. Perfect! Here’s how to do it at your house:

Panettone French Toast
1 panettone, sliced into 8 -10 servings
4 large eggs
½ cup milk or cream

Recipe for French Toast made with Panettone

Slice your panettone into eight to ten thick slices. Prepare a pie pan or bowl with four eggs, scrambled. Mix in milk or cream and spices.

Recipe for French Toast made with Panettone

Dunk each pieces of panettone into the egg mixture, allowing it to sit for up to one minute on each side. Pan fry in melted butter until golden brown on each side and firm (cooked through).

Serve hot with maple syrup, jam and powdered sugar.

Recipe for French Toast made with Panettone

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Christmas dessert recipes roundup Mon, 22 Dec 2014 13:25:00 +0000

What’s in your oven this week? After three years on this blog, I’ve been able to record a few of my family’s holiday recipes, particularly desserts. I’ve taken a moment to round up these recipes so you have them handy in the lead-up to Christmas, all in one post. From potato doughnuts to chocolate salame, it’s hard to pick one favourite. I’m going to try and bake few over the next days (if the little one will sleep!) – I hope you join me.

Click the photo, or the link below it, to get cooking or baking!

Italian Potato Doughnut Recipe

Recipe: Italian Potato Doughnuts (Colluri)

Torrone recipe

Recipe: Torrone


Recipe: Chocolate Salame

basic turdilli recipe

Recipe: Turdilli di Paolina

Italian turdilli cookie recipe

Recipe: Turdilli

Italian zeppoli

Guest Post Recipe: Zeppoli

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A new addition and a contest! Mon, 15 Dec 2014 15:33:48 +0000


Hello there readers!

You may have been wondering – where did the updates for this blog go? Despite my efforts to keep it going over the last couple of months, a new arrival has taken up so much of my time. My son, born in October, is the new addition to the Italian-Canadian Life family!

That doesn’t mean that this blog is over. Just the opposite – I have even more reasons to write down all our family recipes and try a few new ones as well. As he learns to sleep a little longer, there’s been more time to get back to cooking and I have a few blog posts ready to go for you (the next posts will be all about Christmas recipes and panettone)! There’s some holiday cookies in the oven right now and today we have a contest just in time for Christmas.

Catching up with traditions for the Christmas season and teaching my baby boy all about them is something I’m looking forward to. I want you to be involved with Italian traditions as well and author Gianna Hartwright has offered readers of An Italian-Canadian Life  some goodies to do just that.

Here’s your chance to win a pair of books from Gianna Hartwright for the kids in your life, teaching them about La Befana, a unique part of Italian traditions. This old witch, called La Befana, appears on the night of January 5 (or Epiphany Eve) and delivers gifts to children throughout Italy. Gianna has taken the traditional old witch and made a modern tale of magic and drama that would appeal to older children, 9+.  The first book, The Befana Drama is a global adventure by broomstick that sees VIPB’s (Very Important Present Bringers) pitting their wits against each other. Befana Drama 2: Capriccia’s Conundrum continues the adventure.

To win these two books, leave a comment below (just click “read more” or “leave a reply” and enter a comment) telling us about your favourite Christmas tradition by December 22nd at midnight. A winner will be selected by random draw on December 23rd and will be notified by email. Good luck everyone! I’ll be back next week with a new recipe.

The-Befana-Drama_Ebook           Befana Drama Ebook

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Sautéed Rapini with Garlic Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:55:03 +0000

Rapini side dish recipe

It’s a little sad out in my garden. The tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and beans have spent their last energy. We’ve cleaned up the leaves and started prepping the yard for winter. As much as I mourn the loss of these fresh vegetables, fall brings later harvests of squash and the dark, green, leafy  branches of rapini. Rapini thrive in colder weather, popping up in very late fall or early spring. These greens are, of course, good for you and have an interesting bitter flavour that is favoured in Italy. But don’t be afraid of the bitterness – it can be mellowed with a little blanching. Even my English/German brother-in-law has come to appreciate the flavour, when at least mixed into dishes.

Rapini are also known as rapi or broccoli di rapa in Italy, but if you are watching food shows on TV, you’ll hear them being called broccoli rabe, which may just be bad pronunciation of the actual name. The buds, which look a little like broccoli (though they’re not related), leaves and stems are all  edible and feature often in Southern Italian cooking.

Served too crunchy and raw and you might find the bitterness overwhelming. Overcook them and they are mushy and stringy. But get this simple side dish recipe of sautéed rapini with garlic down pat and you can repurpose it for a variety of dishes. Chopped up smaller and fried up with potatoes, or tossed in to pasta or served over polenta, rapini are used in multiple ways.

Rapini side dish recipe

Sautéed Rapini with Garlic
1 bunch rapini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
pinch of dried hot pepper flakes, if desired
salt to taste

Select a bunch of rapini that are a dark, vibrant green throughout. Remove any yellowing or browning leaves and the bottoms of the stems that may be dried out and tough, cutting off about an 1/2 to 1 inch.

Rapini side dish recipe

For thicker stems, you can cut the rapini in half or cut a small slit in the bottom of the stem to allow it to cook as quickly as the rest of the rapini. You may also choose to cut the branches into 3 to 4 inch lengths, depending on how you like to eat your greens.

Rapini side dish recipe

Wash the rapini well under cold water, removing any dirt or grit. If you want to remove some of the bitterness of the rapini, you can blanch them before sautéing. To blanch, set a large pot of water on to boil. Place the rapini in the boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes then remove to a colander and cool by running them under cold water or place them into ice water. When the rapini are cool, drain and squeeze out any remaining water with your hand before sautéing.

Rapini side dish recipe

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium. When heated, cook the garlic slices and hot pepper flakes (if desired) for 1 minute in the oil before adding in the rapini. Do not let the garlic brown. For a lighter garlic flavour, remove the garlic slices after they have cooked and infused into the oil. Toss the rapini in the oil, then cover with a lid for 4-5 minutes. When the lid comes off, you’ll find your rapini have begun to wilt, they will steam a bit as they release their own water. If you’ve blanched the rapini, you won’t need to cover the frying pan.

Rapini side dish recipe

Sprinkle the rapini with salt to your taste and cook for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. The rapini should be fully wilted and just cooked through. They will still be a gorgeous green – overcooked they look dull and a bit more brown. Remove and serve hot as a side dish or over polenta.

Rapini side dish recipe

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Preserving Sicilian Zucchini Fri, 12 Sep 2014 19:07:20 +0000

Preserving sicilian zucchini

The end of summer harvest is a great time to take a look at what you can preserve for winter so you can have fresh vegetables, without preservatives, year-round. This is one of the most common questions I get via email from readers: how to preserve certain vegetables and what they can be used for.  Most recently Sicilian zucchini have been gaining in popularity, particularly in urban backyards where many people from a variety of cultures, not just Italians, take on the challenge of growing the longest and largest zucchini. Check out this story from just this week from The Toronto Star – it features a 6-foot long zucchini!

These Sicilian zucchini, or cucuzza squash, need to dangle from fences or clothes lines to grow to their lengths, but the longer you grow them, the bigger the seeds get inside (and less flesh there is to eat!). They have a very light flavour, as opposed to the typical smaller, dark green zucchini you might buy at the store. The beauty of the Sicilian zucchini, other than they are always a conversation starter with neighbours and guests, is that even their leaves and shoots are edible. Check out this Tenerumi Pasta (Zucchini Shoot Pasta) recipe I posted last year. Today though, I’m featuring how to prep these monster zucchini for recipes and the freezer. Note, though, that you can use these techniques with other types of zucchini as well.

The biggest issue with dealing with these zucchini is finding a cutting board big enough! Below is our 3.5-foot zucchini getting prepped for preserving.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to chop up this giant into thirds to make it manageable. Try to keep the thinnest part, where there is the least amount of seeds, as one section. There’s two things to be aware of when dealing with these particular zucchini, as opposed to the regular zucchini you find in the store: they have a slightly “furry” skin that needs to be removed and though they are a pure white inside, once you cut them they sweat out a brown liquid. Be sure to use or process the zucchini as soon as you cut it.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

The first way to preserve some of this zucchini for the winter is to peel and slice the thinnest section, which should have little to no seeds. Slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Blanche for one minute in boiling water, drain, then remove to a bowl filled with ice water or run cold water over the slices.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

Allow the slices to cool completely and put in a freezer bag, removing all the air or vacuum seal. I use these pre-blanched slices for a quick sautee of zucchini as a side dish. Thaw them completely and lightly brown them in a frying pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Just before serving, toss with some garlic, your favourite grated cheese and, if desired for some crunch, a handful of breadcrumbs. This is a great side dish for chicken or beef.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

The next section of zucchini, we’ll prep a different way: thinly sliced and salted. This can be used for a variety of fried dishes. Again, peel the zucchini. Then using a mandolin or a food processor with the slicing tool installed, slice into very thin rounds. Place these slices in a colander and toss with a generous amount of salt.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

Allow this zucchini to sit with the salt, to sweat out its’ liquids, for 40 minutes to one hour. You’ll find a lot of water drains from the colander. After an hour, squeeze out the zucchini with your hands, removing as much liquid as you can for use in batters and drier mixtures. Freeze in sealed bags or vacuum bags. When you are ready to use these slices, defrost them completely and rinse them briefly under water to remove any excess salt. Squeeze out the water before adding them to a batter for zucchini fritters (check out the recipe for these fritters – Pitticelle Cucuzze) or fried up until crispy with potatoes (like this recipe for Patate Fritte).

Preserving sicilian zucchini

Finally, the bulbous bottom section of the zucchini needs to be dealt with. This section is filled with large seeds that are not pleasant to eat. First, peel the zucchini. Then, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and pulpy centre and discard. Chop the remaining flesh into large chunks.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

These chunks can be frozen raw. We use these chunks for stews, soups and sauces. Just throw them in, frozen or defrosted, while making your dinner to add extra vegetables. Since this zucchini doesn’t have much flavour, it doesn’t over power your dinner but adds extra vegetables and goodness.

Preserving sicilian zucchini

Label your prepped packages well and pop them freezer. You’ll be ready for a variety of dishes over the winter, with your cutting and slicing already done.

Have a question about another type of vegetable to preserve for the winter? Let me know in the comments!

Preserving sicilian zucchini

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Sausage and Polenta Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:22:09 +0000

Recipe for sausage and polenta

I had to drag out a sweater last weekend, much to my dismay. It’s starting to get chilly in evenings and, I admit, it feels as though we’ve been cheated out of a usual scorching summer. As a result, I’m still waiting for my garden tomatoes to ripen to a full red. The chilly air also had me craving a good hearty meal. When Aurora Importing sent me over a new product: Allessia Polenta with truffles, I saw an opportunity!

Polenta, most commonly made as a boiled cornmeal, is versatile but can take a little while to cook from scratch. As much as I like slow cooking (and there will be more about that next week!), sometimes you just want a substantial dinner on the table, fast. The Allessia Polenta with truffles looked like the perfect option: all natural ingredients, no preservatives or artificial flavours/colours and made with non-GMO corn. We have a winner! The best thing: just add water, stir for 10 minutes, add a drizzle of olive oil and some cheese (if desired). Quick and easy and the exotic taste of truffles was a fancy addition to dinner.

You’ll notice this is a white polenta rather than the usual yellow type made with yellow maize. Ground from white maize from the foot of the Maiella mountain in Guardiagrele found in the Abruzzo region of Italy, this type is popular in northern Italy. The finer grain also makes a creamy, soft polenta, whereas a courser grind would make a firmer polenta great for shaping and frying. Either way, polenta is a filling and healthy addition to a meal. 

Recipe for sausage and polenta

 Sausage and Polenta
4 fresh pork sausages
1 whole white onion
1 jar or bottle of plum tomatoes
1/2 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese (or your favourite cheese)
salt to taste
olive oil
Allessia Polenta with truffles

Recipe for sausage and polenta

Thinly slice the onion. Remove the tomatoes from the jar or can into a bowl and crush gently with your hands to break up any large pieces. In a large frying pan, warm up 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil. When well heated, add in the sausages and onions. Allow the onions to soften briefly while browning the sausage on both sides, about 1-2 minutes each side. Add in the tomatoes and turn the heat down to medium. Add in salt to taste and any other herbs as you desire. Simmer the tomatoes until most of the water is evaporated and the sausages are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Recipe for sausage and polenta

Meanwhile follow the directions for the Allessia Polenta, adding the package ingredients to boiling water and stirring vigourously. When you have the texture you want – I prefer it soft and creamy – add the 1/2 cup of cheese and combine. Spoon out into individual bowls or a large platter and drizzle with olive oil. Top with the sausage and tomato sauce.

Recipe for sausage and polenta

Serve piping hot and eat until you get that full belly that makes you want to sleep! A little bit of polenta with each bite of sausage, and a good glass of wine, is the best way to enjoy this family-style dish. This will warm you up when it starts to get a little chilly!

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Images from a small Italian town Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:43:13 +0000


My last trip to Italy was exactly 10 years ago now, a trip I took with my family including my grandfather who has since passed away. We’ve always travelled to Italy in August or September: August is when most Italians have their holidays and by September most of the tourists have returned home as well, leaving the beaches wide open. Hot days and cool nights, and the work of the fall harvest are all part of this time of year and I tried to capture this in memories and photos during our last trip. The photo above, of blazing red hot peppers set out to dry, was the very first photo I took on our trip. My grandfather, reminiscing with folks along our travels, can be seen in the photos as well.

If, like me, you sometimes find yourself dreaming of a trip to Italy – the small town quaintness, the abundance in the local markets, the tiny quiet streets and the history of the ageing buildings filling your mind – then you’ll enjoy these scenes from a small southern Italian town taken as part of my early photography work. They remind me that it’s time to stop my daydreaming about a trip and start my planning.
















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Pitticelle di Riso Mon, 11 Aug 2014 16:29:34 +0000


The blog has been a little slow this summer because there are some big changes for me on the way which will be revealed here probably sooner rather than later. But just because the blog postings have been slow doesn’t mean all the ingredients for a great Italian summer have been missing too. In fact, I’ve been collecting up some recipes and stories to share with you and I’m glad to be back to blogging!

Today I’m featuring one of my favourite summer foods: pitticelle di riso. Pitticelle are like “fritters” (you’ll remember I’ve featured a few on the blog already like pitticelle cucuzze and pitticelle di pane). The ingredients for this fritter aren’t so “summery” really, but I’m used to having these crispy, fried treats at family outings, fishing trips, picnics and as snacks out in the backyard since they are good hot or cold. My mother’s parents would always make these for our annual family picnics where they were treasured by everyone: a huge batch was gobbled up in no time once the Tupperware container was opened. Slow frying, making sure the rice grains stay individual and fresh ingredients are the secrets to this recipe.


I’m sorry to say, but not surprised, that I don’t have a recipe for small batch of these pitticelle. This recipe will make at least three dozen depending on the size you make. They are meant to be shared and, if you have leftovers, they are great crisped up in a toaster oven the next day too. Halving the recipe should work just fine, it’s the consistency of the batter for frying (not too loose!) that you need to watch out for.

Pitticelle di Riso
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon granulated garlic or finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup shredded mozzarella
salt, to taste
canola or vegetable oil for frying

Put on a large pot of water to boil, salting it once it comes to a boil (as you would for pasta).  Pour in the rice and boil on medium for 25 minutes until the rice is completely cooked. Each kernel will be fluffy and have an “uneven” look.


Drain the rice in a colander and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the rice into a bowl and stir in 3 cups of cold water. Allow the rice and water mixture to rest until the temperature of the water and rice is tepid or room temperature.

In another large bowl, mix together eggs, parsley, garlic, parmesan, flour, cornmeal and mozzarella.


Add in the rice and water mixture (the rice will have absorbed most of the water by this point) to the egg mixture. Mix until sticky, with the consistency of rice pudding. If you find it too liquid, add an additional 1/4 cup of flour.

Put a frying pan on to heat filled with a 1/2 inch of oil. Canola oil is preferred for frying fritters because of its’ high smoke point.


You can also test the consistency by frying one or two in advance. When scooped into the frying pan, the batter should not spread out thinly, rather it should bind together enough that it mounds in the oil.

One or two test fritters will also allow you to test for salt. There is no salt in the recipe since the rice was boiled in salted water and the cheeses are salty. If you find, however, that your test pitticelle are a bit bland, add salt if needed. Usually a 1/4 teaspoon of salt will do.


Using a large serving spoon, mound fritters into the heated oil. Fry to a deep golden brown, turning them once to get an even colour and crispiness. Be sure to stir the mixture between frying batches so the liquid of the batter doesn’t settle to the bottom of the bowl.

When golden, remove the pitticelle from the frying pan with a fork or slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel lined plate. These pitticelle are fantastic hot, but still really good cold. Once cooled they can be packed up for picnics and road trips – but be sure to bring enough to share!


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Misura Giveaway plus recipes for Mushroom Pasta and dessert Fri, 13 Jun 2014 18:14:37 +0000


Today we’re taking one of Spring’s finest ingredients – mushrooms – and pairing it with pasta (and wine!) to come up with a quick and healthy meal. Plus, a bonus dessert that replicates an old Italian bakery favourite.

Inspiration for these recipes today came in the form of a mystery box from Misura Canada on my doorstep and an offer of a contest for my readers. As you know, I love having the ability to share an opportunity for free, great food with you all. So who could refuse? Plus, Misura products showcase healthy alternatives to typical Italian pantry staples. Here’s just a few of the products Misura shared with me:


My husband broke into the Cornetti – chocolate-filled croissants that are milk and egg free – before I even had a chance to snap a pic as you can see. I grabbed a pack of pasta and the no sugar-added biscuits and got started on dinner. First up, Pasta in a Mushroom Sauce. I followed this up with jam-filled Italian biscuits! If you want to get your hands on some of these Misura products, well it’s your lucky day. Misura Canada is giving away a package of assorted goodies (see below!) valued at $100 to one lucky winner and the contest is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area. To enter, leave a comment here on my blog and make sure that you like the Misura Canada Facebook page.

Misura giveaway

I’ll be running the giveaway until midnight on Friday, June 27th. To enter, leave a comment on my blog and remember, you have to like Misura Canada’s Facebook page to be eligible to win. So get to it and get to tasting the great two recipes below featuring Misura products.

Pasta in Mushroom Sauce (for Two)
225 grams Misura Whole Wheat Pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup white wine or stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (plus more for sprinkling)

Of course, first you have to pick the best mushrooms and pasta to feature in this dish. Long pasta, like spaghetti or spaghettini, are great for oil-based or thin sauces such as this one. A good whole wheat pasta goes a long way as well, one that doesn’t have a distinct “whole wheat taste” is what I prefer and this is where the Misura products really succeed. In this case, I also selected oyster, portobello and shiitake mushrooms, but anything you have on hand is fine.


Wipe off the mushrooms and slice or roughly chopped them up. Put a large pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil.


In a pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the minced garlic for one to two minutes. Add the mushrooms and season liberally with salt. Allow them to release their water and wilt by cooking and stirring them thoroughly for five to seven minutes. At this point your water should be at a boil. Salt the water generously and put the pasta in to cook (seven to eight minutes to al dente).


While your pasta cooks, deglaze the pan with the white wine (or stock), allowing the alcohol to cook off. Stir in the butter and parsley to your sauce. Once the pasta is cooked, remove from the water and add directly to the sauce using a hand strainer (or drain in the sink first). Toss the pasta to coat and shut off the heat. Mix in the grated cheese.


Serve immediately with more cheese for garnishing.


As a bonus recipe, I also took on Misura’s reduced-sugar biscuits that are great themselves (especially dipped in milk) but I put a little twist on them. I’ve long had a fondness for cookies: cookies of any type really but the old-school Italian ones that used to line the windows of Italian bakery cases are my weakness. One of my favourites as a kid was a pair of shortbread cookies sandwiched with jam and dunked in chocolate. They usually had a shell or leaf shape and were sometimes coloured green or pink. Could I replicate these cookies with a healthier twist thanks to Misura? Turns out, yes, I can.


I used some of my homemade reduced sugar jam: strawberry lemon. I stuck together two rounds using the jam and let them sit for an hour. The jam softened up this crisp biscuits so they had the same texture as the shortbread. Then I dipped them in melted 60% cocoa chocolate chips to add a great semi-bitter chocolate taste and let the chocolate firm up.

I thought I’d have this batch all to myself but I lost half to the husband (as well as a tall glass of milk).


Don’t forget to enter to win the Misura Canada package of assorted goodies valued at $100 (contest open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area). Remember to enter, leave a comment here on my blog and make sure that you like the Misura Canada Facebook page. Good luck everyone!




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Enjoy Italian Heritage Month this June Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:00:15 +0000


Happy Italian Heritage Month! Every June Ontario dedicates a month to celebrating all things Italian and the celebrations have begun to stretch across the country as well.

In Toronto, Italian Heritage Month started off with Castello Italia which transformed Casa Loma into an Italian Piazza complete with music, art, entertainment and food samples. There’s multiple events every day in Toronto and across Ontario. In Vancouver you can celebrate this Saturday by watching World Cup games at the Italian Cultural Centre!

You can visit for a listing of events as a start but be sure to see what’s happening in your community. If you’re not in Canada, celebrate with us here at An Italian-Canadian Life. Try a recipe, share a photo, comment on a blog posting and discuss the many things there is to love about Italians and being Italian.



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Contest: Win Gluten Free Catelli Macaroni for a Year Fri, 16 May 2014 19:30:12 +0000


Late last year I started experimenting with using gluten-free pasta so that I could share some of my favourite family pasta recipes with guests who have diet restrictions. Catelli shared a sample of their new gluten-free pasta with me and I used it with a classic Sicilian Anchovy Pasta. Having just launched a new cut to their pasta collection – macaroni – Catelli has generously offered to give one Italian-Canadian Life reader one-year supply of Catelli Gluten Free Macaroni (open to Canadian residents only).

I received news of this great contest just last week with the launch of the pasta at George Brown College, hosted by Chef John Higgins, Director of George Brown Chef School, former personal chef to the Queen Mother and a judge on Food Network’s Chopped Canada. Chef Higgins demonstrated a variety of recipes that use Catelli Gluten-Free Pasta including a flavourful Ginger-Edamame Macaroni Salad and Moroccan Macaroni Bowl (pictured above, courtesy of Catelli). But the best part of the presentation, to me, was a great discussion on how to cook pasta properly. Gluten-free or not, cooking pasta well makes all the difference to a recipe. His top tips:

* For dry pastas, cook according to the directions on the pasta box. For me, an al dente consistency is preferred (an al dente consistency has some bite and a pleasing resistance to the chew – not gummy or sticky) so you can usually cut one to two minutes off the cooking time on the package.

* When cooking pasta, use a large pot.Using a large pot will give the pasta room to boil and not stick together.

* Over-seasoning the water with salt – bringing it almost to the taste of the sea – will substantially enhance the flavour profile of the dish. As a rule of thumb, use 10 grams of salt for one litre of water and 100 grams of pasta.

* Never add oil to the water when cooking pasta. It does not keep it from sticking together. In fact, the oil creates a coating that prevents the sauce from adhering to the pasta. This is undesirable because you want the pasta to soak up the sauce.

I don’t buy gluten-free pasta frequently and had heard that gluten-free pasta has a different taste and texture. But with this experience now, I can tell you that if you follow the rules above (as you should for any pasta!), you won’t notice a difference. So it’s time for you to give some gluten-free pasta a try. I’m excited to share this opportunity with my readers – the only thing better than pasta is free pasta!

What’s more – Catelli is also offering a coupon to everyone: get a $1 off coupon from Websaver. Coupons are available while quantities last. Thanks Catelli! 


Win a one-year supply of Catelli Gluten Free Macaroni (open to Canadian residents only). Keep reading…

You can enter two ways:

1. Get one entry for subscribing to this blog directly below. If you are already a subscriber or subscribe between today and May 30, you’ll be entered.


2. Get another entry by leaving a comment below about how you plan to use your gluten-free macaroni if you win!

Contest closes May 30 at midnight. Good luck everyone!

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Myths and realities about the Italian diet Thu, 24 Apr 2014 18:25:51 +0000

I shocked a friend last week by telling her that creamy Fettuccine Alfredo wasn’t really Italian. I had to point out that I don’t eat it every week (or at all actually!). It’s an Americanized version of an old Roman dish and it exemplifies just how much Italian food has changed through time and cultures. While she was taken aback, I was able to offer her more proof of “non-Italian, Italian” dishes. Recently, Panoram Italia, an Italian-Canadian publication, created an issue all about the Italian-Canadian diet: what’s typical, what’s changed, and how it differs from food in Italy. I had the opportunity to contribute the article “The Italian Paradox: Myths and reality about the Italian diet” to the magazine.

What I loved about writing this article was the opportunity to not only talk to people who had experience eating “Italian” in Italy and Canada and could describe the differences well, but also the opportunity to dive into scientific articles about why the Italian diet is healthy (or not, in some cases). In the end, I was able to see how the Italian diet has changed both in Italy and in Canada and I have a better sense myself of how I want change the way I eat. For me, it means more vegetables though that will get easier as the summer approaches and I get to plant my garden.

Here’s a snippet of the article, and you can continue on to Panoram Italia to read more….

_______________________________________________ offers 5,198 books about the Mediterranean diet. 118 of those books focus on Italian cooking and nearly all have a picture of olive oil on the cover.

It’s easy to see why there is such a demand for insight into what and how Italians eat: study after study shows Italians are healthier and live longer. Though Italians smoke more than other Europeans and spend less on healthcare, they have healthier weights and less diseases. And Italy is one of the top 10 countries in the world with the longest human longevity.

But go to an Italian chain restaurant in North America and you’ll be served heaping amounts of pasta coated with cheese, a far cry from what is considered “healthy.” Movie and TV images of traditional Italian Sunday meals suggest big portions of meat, a lot of wine and opulent desserts are the norm. How do pizza and pasta translate into a healthy diet?

“That’s not representative of Italian meals,” says Susan McKenna Grant, author of Piano, Piano, Pieno: Authentic Food from a Tuscan Farm and owner/chef of La Petraia restaurant in Sienna. “[Italians eat] less junk food, less soda, less sugar, do more natural exercise like walking and have a better understanding of what good food is,” she says. She also confirms that olive oil is one of the best foods Italians consume. Fresh vegetables, and plenty of them, are the stars of meals, not just pasta.

A 1995 study of the Mediterranean diet “Italian Style” confirmed that Italians preferred a plant-based, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. This means a high intake of vegetables, beans, fruit and cereals; medium-to-high intake of fish and unsaturated fats (that’s where the olive oil comes in); and low intake of meats, saturated fats and dairy products. The study also tracked the physiological effects of this food and found the benefits abound. For example, tomatoes, broccoli, wine, unprocessed olive oil, garlic and certain spices offer antioxidant effects. The high intake of plant-based meals also provided protective roles for health. Spanish research published in Food Chemistry magazine found that tomato sauce – the olive oil, tomatoes and garlic cooked together particularly – is loaded with compounds that have been linked to the reduction of tumours and cardiovascular diseases.

Read more at Panoram Italia…

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Traditional Italian Easter Recipe Roundup Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:32:54 +0000


As with many holidays, the demand for traditional recipes is high this time of the year. My post last week about Easter Ciambelle got a great response and my Easter Bread recipe from last year is also still very popular. This year, it was featured on news websites and newspapers all over Canada and the US as part of an interview I did on traditional Easter breads. But with these two recipes I’ve only scratched the surface of what Italian households might be prepping this weekend.

Still considering your Easter menu? I’ve rounded up some traditional Italian Easter recipes from around the web for you to try out. Did I miss a favourite recipe from your family – let me know in the comments and we can share it here next year.

Have fun baking and cooking up a storm! Happy Easter / Buona Pasqua everyone!

Italian Easter Breads

Italian Easter Bread (from The Italian Dish)

Easter Dove Bread / La Colomba di Pascua (from Mother Earth)

Easter Bread Dolls / Pupi Con L’uova (from Mangia Bene Pasta)

Sweet Italian Easter Bread (from Laura in the Kitchen)


Easter Sunday Lamb

Roman Grilled Lamb Chops (from Delallo)

Easter Lamb with Peas (from Academia Barilla)

Basil Stuffed Lamb Roast (from Mangia Bene Pasta)

Italian Easter Leg of Lamb (from The Dolce Vita Diaries)


Savoury Pies

Torta di Pasqua (from BBC Food)

Easter Meat Pie (from Mamma’s Italian Recipes)

Stuffed Pizza / Pizza Chena (from

Italian Easter Pie / Torta Pasqualina (from The Italian Dish)



Easter Grain Cake / La Pastiera (from Marcellina in Cucina)

Easter Wheat Pie (from Foodista)

Campania Ricotta Easter Pie (from Italy Revisited)

Easter cookie wreaths / knots / baskets (from Judy’s Culinaria)

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Easter Ciambelle (or Chiambrelle) Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:15:58 +0000

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

With Easter around the corner, sweets to celebrate this holiday are in order. These chiambrelle are traditional for Easter and are a perfect recipe for springtime as they feature eggs heavily in the ingredients. If you are familiar with Italian, you’ll notice the odd spelling of “chiambrelle”: the word ciambelle is used to describe any manner of ring cake and the unique spelling you see here is a reflection of the Calabrese dialect and communities that this recipe comes from.

My mom remembers these as a child at her uncle’s wedding in Italy, as people traditionally got married in the spring. My mom prepared them for my own wedding as well and they are a must-have at Easter. In Italy they were baked in outdoor stone ovens.

This isn’t a super-sweet dessert, but rather a good accompaniment to an after-dinner coffee. This recipe has a icing sugar coating, but originally, when sugar wasn’t readily available, they would have been coated with stiff-beaten egg whites mixed with a bit of regular sugar.

Easter Ciambelle (or Chiambrelle)
12 eggs
2 ounces milk
2 ounces vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking power
5-6 cups all purpose flour

6 ounces milk
2 tsp butter
4 cups of icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon zest

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

Prepare a kneading board or area with a mound of five cups of flour. Also, put on a large pot of water to boil.

Create a well in the centre of the flour and fill the well with the remaining liquid ingredients and baking powder. Use a fork to slowly combine the flour into the liquid. Switch to using a bench scraper as the dough becomes thicker. Start with five cups of flour around your well and add the sixth cup of flour if needed as you go along if you find your dough very wet. The amount of flour you need depends on the dryness of the flour and the eggs (in this instance, we used 5 1/2 cups total).

When well combined, knead for two to three minutes. The final dough with be semi-soft and still a bit sticky to the touch.

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

Cut the dough into pieces of 115-120 grams each. Roll these pieces into rope and then form them into a ring, pinching the ends together. You can use a dab of water to help stick the ends together.

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

When your rings are formed, and your pot has reached a boil, prepare a tray with a towel. Place the chiambrelle, one or two at a time, into the boiling water. Once they rise to the surface, boil them for approximately two to three minutes. Remove them, using a strainer or spider, to the towel and drain.

These chiambrelle puff up when baked and scoring the rings gets them to rise high. Using the tip of a knife, create a cut along the middle, or “equator”, of each ring. Insert just the tip of the knife and don’t go more than half way through, controlling the depth with your fingertips. Also make four to five vertical cuts around the ring, evenly spaced, again with just the tip of the knife.

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

Bake in the top third of an oven preheated to 400 degrees Celsius (375 degrees if your oven runs a bit hot). Back the chiambrelle directly on the oven grate. You’ll need to do this in two batches.

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

Bake for 15 minutes then turn the rings and bake for another five minutes. Do not overcrowd them when baking. Remove when they are an even golden brown and feel very light in weight.

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

Allow the chiambrelle to cool completely before icing. Mix all the icing ingredients together in a deep bowl and use an immersion blender, if possible, or a lot of elbow-grease with a whisk to get the icing smooth. Using your hands and a pastry brush, coat all sides of the chiambrelle with icing and allow to dry.

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

The chiambrelle can be presented whole or cut into chunks after Easter dinner or in a wedding dessert table. The chiambrelle can be frozen prior to icing. This recipe makes approximately 15 chiambrelle.

Easter Chiambrelle Recipe

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