(above: a scene from the movie Big Night, where the timpano is revealed)
Happy #pastatuesday! If you haven’t joined us for a #pastatuesday yet, this is our fourth week of sharing pasta tips, dishes, photos, recipes, ideas and more on Twitter, all to do with pasta! To celebrate our fourth week, I’m running a little pasta contest.
I got the contest idea from a movie I watched only fairly recently: Big Night. Many people will be shocked to know that I only learned about the existence of this movie just last year from a family friend, who, after reading this blog, told me I needed to see it. For a really popular movie about Italian food, it isn’t the easiest to find at a decent price. It hasn’t been rereleased since the first VHS copies were sold so getting a copy is pretty steep. I prevailed, watched and was wowed.
Big Night is about two immigrant Italian brothers whose restaurant in New Jersey is failing. In an attempt to save this restaurant, they host an over-the-top dinner with their last bit of money to show a few VIPs the beauty of their food. The brothers stay true to traditional Italian food, refusing to “Amercianize”, and put on a plate-after-plate extravaganza. The meal culminates with the timpano, a pasta dish shaped as a drum. Wrapped in sheets of pasta, the “drum” holds meat, eggs, sauce, pasta and more. Once removed from the oven, the brother tap on the drum/timpano to ensure it is done. It’s a great movie. I had never heard of a timpano!
A tavola non si invecchia. (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.)
Enjoying a meal with family and friends is the best way to spend a birthday. May is a crazy month for our families, we celebrate five birthdays in the first week. When I was younger we used to have cake literally every other day in the first week (May 6, May 8 and May 10). We had our fill of cake and now we merge birthdays to celebrate together. This year, my sister brought the best Italian birthday cake ever to the party! This beautiful chocolate cake was made to look like an old cutting board holding garlic, olives, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sliced sopressata, hot peppers and the classic Italian red and white tablecloth.
My sister starting making cakes professionally just last year after creating her first one for my bridal shower. Now through her company, Sweet Details, she makes the most amazing cakes that are unique to their recipients. No cake says “An Italian-Canadian Life” more than this one! More detailed pictures after the jump, she even got the markings on the Parmigiano-Reggiano exterior perfect!
Since garlic and it’s health benefits has been the topic of conversation already this month, guest blogger Bridget Sandorford brings us an article on the health benefits of an Italian diet….Thanks Bridget!
A traditional Italian diet is not only delicious, it’s also very healthy. From olive oils to fresh
veggies to a wide variety of herbs and spices, the ingredients in a traditional Italian diet are
loaded with nutrients that can help you improve your health and to reduce the risk of disease.
Here are just a few of the many health benefits of a traditional Italian diet:
Traditional Italian cuisine is loaded with healthy unsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Olive oil
and pine nuts are both high in these healthy fats, which can reduce levels of bad cholesterol in
your body and help to reduce your risk of heart disease. You can also find these healthy fats in
whole olives and some other oils used in traditional Italian cuisine.
You can use these oils in pastas, on breads, or in salads. You can even cook roast some
veggies in olive oil and sprinkle them with an array of spices.
Though a traditional Italian diet has plenty of pastas, which have simple carbs, the diet is rich in
fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as rice and other grains. Complex carbohydrates provide the
fiber that you need for healthy digestion and the slow release of energy you need to maintain
your blood-sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates are low on the glycemic index, and they can
help to enhance a healthy metabolism and to reduce your risk of diabetes.
You can pair complex carbohydrates with proteins such as cheeses or lean meats in order to
help regulate your blood sugar even more.
April is National Garlic Month (well, at least in the United States). But I’m adopting in my house too. I LOVE garlic and if there’s a way to add it into a recipe, I probably will. Look out for a garlic-filled recipe soon on this site!
I never though much about my love affair with garlic until a few years ago when I read that the Toronto Transit Commission had an old rule on the books about garlic. What does the supplier of buses, subways and streetcars have to do with garlic? Well apparently, the old rule was this: It is illegal to ride a street car in Toronto on a Sunday if you have been eating garlic.
My mind immediately went to my Italian family. This rule had to have been made to address the many new Italian immigrants to the city in the 40s and 50s. My mother, even as a young girl, remembers riding the streetcar in downtown Toronto and being told by other riders that she stunk. In fact, she was told all Italian smell because they ate garlic, onions and other flavourful food.
Sadly, the stereotype that “all Italians smell like garlic” is still prevalent today (don’t believe me? Google the phrase). And garlic’s role in the rich/poor divide is shocking as well. This NPR story on garlic from 2007 outlines the plan of some Italian chefs to ban the bulb and brings up the historical stigma of using garlic. It suggests that garlic was introduced, or at least became heavily used, during a time of poverty in Italy as the poor added it to flavour the meager meals they had to live on. It’s not surprising then, that many of the Italian dishes that have garlic are from southern Italy, where poverty was experienced widely, like pasta with garlic and olive oil, meat dishes where garlic flavours the oil and so on. Here’s a quote from the story:
“There are lots of prejudices that people who eat and smell of garlic are second class, backward, unsophisticated. It’s a class thing for many people.”
(Photo by Kyle Bruggeman, Nebraska News21)
“Naples invented zeppole and all Italians licked their fingers.” Buon Festa del Papà! It’s Saint Joseph’s Day (San Giuseppe)!
If you live or work anywhere near an Italian community, you may be acutely aware of a wave of cream-filled pastries lining bakery shelves today. This is all in celebration of St. Joseph. In the Catholic religion most saints and holy people have specially designated feast days. Italians are never ones to shy away from a feast – any reason to celebrate with food really – and Saint Joseph/San Giuseppe is a special one because it celebrates the father of Jesus. As such, this day is typically also known as father’s day in Italy (Buon Festa del Papà!). Also, in Italy you typically celebrate the day dedicated to the saint you were named after as well as your birthday. Finally, there’s this crazy delicious pastry assigned to March 19 – fried, cream added and a cherry on top. So, if you are religious, have a father, are named Joseph or just plain like Italian desserts – today’s the day to celebrate!
The snack of choice today is zeppole. That’s zeppoli if you are from the south of Italy and zeppola for the singular form. Today’s zeppole (as that word is applied to a few different types and shapes of fried dough) is a light dough or choux pastry formed in either a circle or a dough-nut shape, cut in half and stuffed with cream or decorated on top with cream and bits of candied cherry. Zeppole are also known by other names, including Bignè di S. Giuseppe and sfinge.
So how do you get from celebrating a Saint to eating fried dough?