Mozzarella made me do it

Friday morning. The alarm goes off and I ignore it for about 6 times, the snooze button and my lazy person have been best friends for years now. Then, all of the sudden, the revelation: it is homemade pizza day! Time to jump off the bed and think about how many lovely ingredients I have in the fridge for my pizza. Spoiler alert: I had lots of little savory treats, and I wasn’t afraid to use them.

But this a story for another post, today we will talk about what happened after the pizza.

To make pizza, I usually cut the mozzarella and put it in the blender: once I get a nice cream, I put it in the sieve and I leave it to drain a couple of hours, as the last thing I want on my margherita is a swimming pool of mozzarella water. This time, as I said, I was planning to be naughty and have ALL the treats on my pizza: gorgonzola cheese, nduja (we talked about it in this post: https://theparmigianawhisperer.blog/2020/06/18/hot-stuff/), red onion and obviously mozzarella. However, I don’t think I planned my quantities very well: with all those ingredients, I clearly needed less mozzarella than a margherita would require. I still wanted my naughty pizza, so I ended up with a gorgeous dinner and an entire blended and drained mozzarella in the fridge.

What to do? The finest intellectuals would suggest to go wild and make another pizza, and to be honest with you this was my plan A. Then I remembered that in the most hidden corner of my freezer, almost ashamed to be there between my monthly stock of cornettos and my bone broth, I had a pack of frozen peas, obviously in mint condition.

Disclaimer: To be 100% transparent, in the same drawer I had frozen ragù, that made my life even easier for this recipe (evil laugh).

This was the perfect occasion to make a dish that I didn’t have in ages: timballo di riso! And for once, my Saturday lunch wasn’t going to be crackers and cheese, yay!!

In Italy timballo is usually made on a Sunday or during family gatherings. The name probably derives from the arab word “atabal”, which means “timpani” , the percussion musical instrument. This is due to the fact that once cooked, the timballo looks like a timpani.

Here is the recipe. I hope you like it as much as I do!

Ingredients for 4 people:

-Carnaroli rice, 250g

-mince beef meat, 300g

-ham, 3 slices

-carrot, 1

-white onion, 1/2

-celery stick, 1

-olive oil, 3 tablespoons plus some to grease the tray

-tomato passata, 200ml

-red wine, half a glass

-mozzarella, 1

-grated parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons

-peas, 150g

-breadcrumbs, enough just to spread it on top (I didn’t use it)

Steps:

  1. Chop the onion finely
  2. Put the oil in a pan and add the onion, let it cook at medium temperature until soft
  3. In the meantime, chop finely the carrots and the celery, and add them to the onion
  4. Add the meat and let it cook
  5. Add the wine and keep stirring until it evaporates
  6. Add the peas and the tomato sauce
  7. Let it cook for 90 minutes at low temperature
  8. boil the rice (or use a microwaveable one)
  9. one the rice is cooked, mix it with the ragù
  10. preheat the oven to 180° fan assisted
  11. grease a tray with olive oil
  12. cut the ham in squares
  13. add the majority of the mozzarella, the ham and parmesan cheese to the rice
  14. top the rice with the remaining mozzarella
  15. now if you want, you can add the breadcrumbs on top, I personally don’t like it
  16. cook for 20 minutes
timballo di riso

Tiramisu and its dirty secrets

Who knew that the key for paradise were a few ingredients and a brothel? Very random, isn’t it?

Savoiardi, mascarpone, eggs, coffee: this is what comes to mind when thinking about Tiramisu.

What the majority of non-italian speakers dont know, is that its name literally translates as “pick me up”. It is a curious name for an innocent dessert, uh? Well, as it turns out, Tiramisu is not very innocent (allegedly).

Today we are in Northern Italy, where 4 different regions are still disputing to determine where Tiramisu was originally invented: Toscana, Piemonte, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.

Toscana

According to this theory, Tiramisu was invented in the 17th Century in Siena, to celebrate the visit of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III de’Medici. For this special occasion, they invented “La zuppa del Duca (Duke’s soup). Coffee had been introduced in Italy around that time, so it is possible that a coffee based dessert was made to honour the Grand Duke, however it is unlikely that it was Tiramisu: savoiardi were originally invented in the Savoia region, and they were not commonly used in Toscana. Additionally, mascarpone is a cheese from Lombardia, and again it wasn’t used very much in Toscana at that time, especially because it is a very delicate cheese that it would be impossible to ship from Lombardia to Toscana at that time.

Piemonte

Some people believe that Tiramisu was invented to honour Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour to energise him during the estenuating job to unify Italy. This story is not very credible for the reasons above, and also because the use of raw eggs (essential ingredient for tiramisu) was almost impossible at that time due to the risk of contracting salmonella.

Veneto

It is commonly believed that Tiramisu has aphoradisiac effects, and for this reason it was served in to the personnel and the clients of Treviso brothels to “keep the money flowing”. In particular, it is believed it was originally served in the 1930s in the “Cae de Oro”, a brothel particularly famous in Treviso. According to this story, the brothels had proper contracts with nearby farmers, to make sure fresh eggs were delivered every day. At that time, what was served to the clients was called sbatudin, a mixture of egg yolks and sugar served not only to energise the clients and the employees, but also to invigorate the men that were heading home, to avoid any issues with the wives that were waiting for them and would have noticed they were “tired”. When the government shut down the brothels and made them illegal, sbatudin started appearing in restaurants, the most famous of which is “Alle Beccherie”, where the chef “updated” the recipe adding mascarpone cheese. In the 1950s, 3 different restaurants started serving a dessert containing the ingredients of Tiramisu as we know it, but none of them was called Tiramisu.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

It is Friuli-Venezia Giulia that can pride themselves with the invention of the most loved Italian dessert: “Il vettorino” restaurant used to serve, in the 1940s, “La coppa Vettorino” – a sponge soaked in Marsala wine, covered with chocola” hotel in te mousse, zabaione and cream. The restaurant changed the name of Coppa Vettorino in ‘Coppa Vetturino Tirime su’ and then 10 years later, it was just called ‘Tirime su’. Around the same time, the “Rome” hotel, owned by Norma Pielli, started serving their own version of Dolce Torino, a layered dessert originally made of savoiardi soaked in alchermes, butter, egg yolk, milk, sugar and dark chocolate. The dessert served in Norma’s hotel was quite similar, but mascarpone replaced the butter and coffee replaced the alchermes liqueur. This is what historians believe was the first tiramisu ever made, and in 2017, Tiramisu was entered by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies on the list of traditional Friulian and Giulian agri-food products in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.

Traditional recipe

Here is the original recipe for Tiramisu, in Italy we still use raw eggs and every time I mention this abroad, I get very funny looks from people. Sorry guys, it is tradition!

Ingredients:

-Savoiardi, 300g

-cold espresso coffee with sugar as you like, 300 ml

-Mascarpone, 500g

-eggs, 4

-sugar, 100g

-cocoa powder

Steps:

  1. Separate the egg yolk from the white
  2. Take half of the sugar, mix it with the egg yolk and whisk it until you get a super foamy cream
  3. Add the mascarpone
  4. Take the remaining sugar and mix it wil the egg white.

5. Whisk until you get a firm mixture, and add it gradually to the mascarpone cream, folding everything together using a spatula

6. Put the coffee&sugar in a bowl, and dunk the savoiardi for 3 seconds for each side

7. Start making your first layer of savoiardi: dunk a biscouit and put it in a tray

8. Once the first layer is completed, cover it with a layer of cream

9. Add another layer of soaked savoiardi and add another layer of cream

10. Dust with cocoa powder and leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours

Did you know all these stories about Tiramisu? Do you have your own recipe? Let me know!

Hot stuff

Picture this: you are living by the sea, kissed by the sunshine almost every day of the year and gifted with the longest summers you can ever imagine. All you want is something refreshing, that can help you cope with the heat, and this is exactly the type of food your area is famous for. WRONG!

Today we are in Calabria, a spectacular hidden gem in the south of Italy, the “toe” of the Italian boot.

In here, temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees in summer, even more – people are still talking about that summer in 1983, when they spent most of their days bathing in the sea, hoping for those 46 degrees to drop a little bit.

In such a hot environment, you would expect gelato or granita to be the most popular food – they are surely very much appreciated, but what Calabria is famous for is nduja.

Nduja is a spreadable salame, made of ground pork and pork fat mixed with super hot peppers, that give a chili heat and a bright red color. It originated in Vibo Valentia, and as of today it is still mainly produced in Spilinga. In the old days people couldn’t afford to waste food, so they came up with a very clever way to take advantage of the peppers offered by the environment, and combine them with the cheapest cuts of meat, that would otherwise be discarded. It is still not clear what inspired the creation of this spreadable delight: one of the theories is that ‘nduja was brought in Italy during the Spanish domination in the 1500s, while others think that it was inspired by the French andouille sausage, brought by Napoleon’s soldiers when they occupied Calabria in the early 1800s.

Today, the quality of the meat used to make nduja is obviously improved, and it is getting more and more popular worldwide – you will probably find some in your local supermarket!

If you want to try Nduja and are not very used to spicy flavours, I would suggest mixing a little bit of it with ricotta or burrata, they should “soften” the heat a little bit.

If you love bold flavours, and can handle the little fire in your tongue, you can go absolutely wild: nduja can be used in pizza, pasta, bruschetta, veggie roasts, sandwiches…the sky’s the limit!

What do you think, are you brave enough to try nduja? How are you going to eat it? Let me know! My favourite combination is bruschetta with Nduja and burrata, so simple but still very tasty (and hot)!

When life gives you lemons

New Year’s Eve 2019, 23:59. Ready to celebrate the new year with a glass of prosecco and a resolution list longer than usual (this is what happens when you carry the same goals since 2014), I promised myself this would have been my year. AHAHAHA. Well so far it didn’t quite go as expected.

But what do they say? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I am not a massive fan of lemonade, so let’s step up our game with something more tasty and satifsying: sorbello!

I am not sure sorbello is an actual word, with this name I mean a mixture of sorbetto and limoncello that I came up with during the last few weeks, when my favourite gelateria was shut down – If it hasn’t been trademarked yet, I call dibs on the name.

Sorbetto is a frozen dessert usually made of water, sugar and fruit. The main difference between sorbetto and gelato is the water component, replaced by milk or cream in the gelato.

It is not clear when the sorbetto was originally created: there is reason to believe it dates back to the Arab occupation of Sicily, during this time the Arabs introduced their sherbet – an iced drink made with fruit juice flavored with rose water. Using the snow from the Etna, the Italians created their own version of the frozen dessert. The modern version of sorbetto that we all know has been introduced only in the 17th century , and since then it has become a summer classic or a fantastic in between courses at weddings and dinner parties.

Ingreditents for 3 people:

-lemon juice, 100ml

-lemon peel, 2 lemons

-water, 250ml

-sugar, 200g

-limoncello, 3 tablespoons

Steps:

1.Put the water in a pan, and add the sugar and the lemon peel

2. turn the heat on and bring to boil for 3 minutes or until it gets a “syrup-y” consistency (not too thick, it will thicken more once cooled). Leave it to cool

3. Remove the lemon peel

4. Add the lemon juice and limoncello, and mix everything together

5. Put the mixture in a freezer box, and leave in the freezer 1 hour

6. Remove from the freezer and mix everything with a fork, and put it back in the freezer

7. Repeat every hour for 5 hours or until completely frozen

And they say romance is dead

Have you ever heard of maritati pasta? It is a special pasta combination, made of orecchiette and maccheroni (also known as minchiareddi), particularly famous in Puglia, one of the most beautiful regions in Italy.

Maritati in italian means “married”, and this pasta basically represents the marriage between orecchiette pasta (the woman), and maccheroni (the man).

Fun fact: the other name used for maccheroni, “minchiareddi”, literally translate as “small penises”.

Historically, maritati pasta was served during weddings in Puglia, to wish a happy union to the newly weds. Today, it is the pasta choice for Sunday lunch, generally with ragu or tomato sauce.

The dough for the orecchiette and maccheroni is usually made of semolina flour and water, no eggs or additional ingredients: in the old days, pasta was food for the poor people, who couldn`t afford eggs or fancy ingredients, so we are going to stick to the original recipe! I am also uploading two videos to show you how to make orecchiette and maritati, it is a very relaxing process and I am sure you will love to have a go at it!

Ingredients for the dough – 4 people:

-400g semolina flour

-200ml water

-pinch of salt

Steps:

  1. combine the ingredients together, adding just half of the water at the beginning, and then incorporating it gradually while kneading
  2. if you feel the dough is very hard, put your hands under fresh water and dont dry them, just keep kneading with wet hands
  3. leave the dough to rest for 30 minute

How to make orecchiette:

  1. take 1/4 of the dough and roll it until you have a “sausege” of 1cm diameter
  2. cut the sausage in little squares of 1cm
  3. put a knife on one square and drag it towards you
  4. take the pasta off the knife, and put your finger in it to turn it inside out – video below
  5. you will need to repeat this process with another 1/4 of the pasta – you cant start just rolling 1/2 of the dough because by the time you finish, your squares will be too dry

How to make maccheroni:

1.take 1/4 of the dough and roll it until you have a “sausage” of 1cm diameter

2.cut the sausage in strings about 5cm long

3. using a thin wire (usually in Italy we use a wire called “paduro, but I couldnt find one, so I disassembled my cake syringe) press the strings against the wire and roll them, like in the video below

4. you will need to repeat this process with another 1/4 of the pasta – you cant start just rolling 1/2 of the dough because by the time you finish, your strings will be too dry

And here is the final result!!

I had them with a tomato and mushrooms sauce, topped with grated salted ricotta

Autumn risotto

Picture this: it is a nippy day, it is raining, you are super annoyed with work, your dog chewed your favourite chair, your hair is super frizzy, basically it is a disaster. You have two choices here:

  1. Be super grumpy and start arguing with everybody to have an even worse day tomorrow + go to bed with a super size pack of crisps and 2 chocolate bars
  2. Give yourself a treat wiht a super tasty risotto that will make you forget about everything

Option 1 looks easier and more satifsying, obviously – but trust me, sometimes option 2 is a life saver!

Even if I am the great master of grumpiness, I am sure nobody needs a recipe or instructions for that, so I will move on with the risotto recipe!

Ingredients for 5 people:

-Risotto carnaroli, 320g

-white onion, 1

-sausage meat, 150g

-beef stock, 1.5L

-mushrooms, 150g

-aubergine, 1

-olive oil, 4 tablespoons

-red wine, half a glass

-mascarpone, 150g

-grated parmesan cheese for topping, if you like

Steps:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan at medium temperature
  2. chop the onion finely and put them in the pan, let them cook for 3/4 minutes
  3. chop the mushroooms and the aubergine
  4. add the sausage meat in the pan, let it cook for 3/4 minutes or until done
  5. add the mushrooms and aubergine, and let them cook for 3/4 minutes
  6. add the rice and the wine, and keep stirring until the wine evaporates
  7. keep stirring,and once the wine evaporated, start adding the beef stock and keep doing it any time it dries out
  8. once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off and add the mascarpone
  9. if you like it, add the parmesan on top and stir

No eggs? No problem!

Sundays for me are the treat day, there is no Sunday without a cake, cannoli or frolle!

Yesterday I found some beautiful lemons at the market, and I thought I could make a lovely lemon cake, like the ones I used to have in Italy.

So this morning I woke up, already thinking about my lovely treat: I started arranging my ingredients and guess what? No eggs! NOOO! I couldnt bear the thought of getting dressed, put the mask and gloves on, queue in the supermarket, swearing because there are no eggs, queue in another supermarket, finding only quail eggs, and so on until lunch time. So it was time to improvise!

I came up with a fantastic alternative that is going to replace my usual cake sponge forever, it is so fluffy, easy and full of flavours! Just a word of warning: while making it, you will think all the time “this is not looking right”, “this cant be right”, “this recipe is useless” etc…And that is perfectly normal because I thought my cake was going directly in the bin, where it belonged to. I uploaded a picture below, to show you what the cake looked like before the oven, it was basically very thick and hard to fold, I literally had to knead it to incorporate all the ingredients! So dont worry if yours looks the same, it is ok and it will taste lovely, promise!

Ingredients for a 18cm diameter tray:

-Flour, 290g

-yogurt, 300g

-sugar, 150g

-seed oil, 110g

-baking powder with vanillina, 16g (I used pane degli angeli)

-zest of one lemon

-icing sugar to decorate

Steps:

1.Preheat the oven to 170° fan assisted

2. Mix the flour, yogurt, oil, lemon zest and sugar together. The mixture will be super thick and hard to manipulate, I ended up kneading it as I would do for a pizza dough

3. once these ingredients are amalgamated, add the baking powder and keep kneading

4. line a tray (or grease it with butter if you prefer), and put your mixture, spreading it evenly with your hands

5. leave it in the oven for 45 minutes

And this is the cake before the oven, as you can see it doesnt look promising whatsoever!

Red onion focaccia

Baking is not my forte, I admit it, but focaccia is one of the few things that I can successfully bake.

For this recipe I used fast action yeast, so proving times are not too bad – you only need a couple of hours, so I usually make the dough and then I move on with my life: I watch an episode of my favourite programme, call a friend, question my life choices, as you can see the list is endless!

Ingredients for the focaccia- 8 people:

-strong flour, 500g

-fast action yeast, 1 sachet

-water, 370 ml

-salt, 3 teaspoons

-olive oil, 6 tablespoons plus abundant oil to grease a bowl

For the topping:

-red onion, 1/4

-flaky salt

-olive oil

Steps:

  1. Mix together all the focaccia ingredients, except the salt
  2. once you get a smooth texture, add the salt and keep kneading for 10 minutes
  3. the texture will be very sticky, dont worry about it
  4. grease a bowl with abundant oil, and put your dough in the bowl, covering with a damp towel, and leave it to prove 1 hour
  5. line a tray (or grease it with abundant oil) and transfer your focaccia there, spreading it evenly
  6. leave it for 30 minutes, covered with a damp towel
  7. preheat the oven to 200 fan
  8. chop the red onion finely
  9. take off the towel, make the dimples with your finger and spread oil evenly
  10. spread the red onion and the flaky salt evenly
  11. put it in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden

Your new favourite risotto

Here we go again: you open the fridge and you have that sad little courgette, that will probably end up in the bin unless you find a glorious way to use it. Glory is always in a risotto, everything in a risotto looks, sounds and tastes better especially “boring” veggies!

Ingredients for 3 people:

-arborio rice, 250g

-courgette, 1

-frozen peas, 150g

-vegetable stock,1l

-white onion, 1

-smoked pancetta cubes, one pack

-white wine, half a glass

-butter, 2 tablespoons

-olive oil, 4 tablespoons

-mascarpone, 70g

Steps:

  1. Chop the onion finely
  2. melt the butter in a pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion
  3. let it cook 3-4 minutes at medium temperature, and add 3 tablespoons of stock
  4. grate the courgette and add it to the onion, add 3 tablespoons of stock
  5. leave it to cook for 3 -4 minutes ad add the rice
  6. add the wine and let it evaporate
  7. add the frozen peas
  8. keep adding the vegetable stock any time the rice becomes dry, and keep stirring all the time
  9. in the meantime, take another pan and warm up 2 tablespoons of oil
  10. add the pancetta and let it cook until golden and crispy
  11. when the rice is done, mix the mascarpone and stir until spread evenly in the risotto
  12. serve it in the plates and top with the pancetta

Cannoli siciliani

Sicily: sunshine, sea and obviously cannoli! These little pieces of heaven need some patience, cannoli moulds and a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil – but it is definitely worth it!

Ingredients for 15 cannoli

To make the shells you need:

-flour 130g

-sugar 15g

-marsala wine 30g

-egg yolk 10g, but keep the rest of the yolk to seal the cannoli

-cocoa powder 3g

-lard 15g (you can replace it with butter, but your cannoli wont be as bubbly)

-salt 3g

-white wine vinegar 5g

-sunflower oil to fry the shells

For the most delicious filling you need:

-ricotta 350g

-sugar 50g

-vanilla extract 3g

-pistachio crumbs, chocolate chips or dried oranges, pick what you like!

Steps

  1. Mix together the dry ingredients, and then add the liquid ingredients
  2. keep mixing everything together until you get a smooth consistency, it might take a while because the quantity of wet ingredients is considerably less than the dry ones
  3. wrap your dough in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 45 minutes/1hour
  4. take it out the fridge and leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes
  5. wiht a rolling pin (or a pasta machine) start work your dough until it is super thin, 1mm or less
  6. cut some squares, about 10cm x 10cm, and wrap them around the moulds
  7. seal them with the remaining yolk, press the edges firmly or the cannoli will open when you fry them!
  8. let the cannoli dry a little bit around the mould before frying them
  9. put your oil in the pan, it has to be enough to drown the cannoli
  10. using the thermometer, check the oil reaches 180° and using a metal sieve, fry the cannoli: it will take less than one minute to be ready, just turn them all the time
  11. using the sieve and a fork, take the cannoli shells out and leave them to cool on a plat wiht some kitchen paper
  12. in the meantime prepare the cream mixing together the ricotta, sugar and vanilla
  13. you can fill your cannoli using a pipe or a teaspoon and decorate with pistachio, chocolate chips or dried fruit
  14. eat them immediately! if you are not planning to eat them as soon as they are done, dont fill them with the ricotta until the very last minute, otherwise they will absorb the liquid from the ricotta and will get all soggy!