Jan 11, 2017

Testaccio Market in Rome

Buzzing with activity, chatter and delicious aromas, the market square has historically been at the center of city life.

The Greek concept of agora – a term whose literal meaning is "gathering place" or "assembly" as the center of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city – later evolved to a place that also served as a marketplace where merchants sold their goods on stalls and small clustered shops. The agora marketplace brought people together to supply and provide sustenance for family and to foster communication, enhancing social interaction.

One of Rome's best examples of this cultural evolution is the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio: a modern-day agora sitting on nearly two millenia of history.

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Jan 7, 2017

Avanzi, Italy's glorious leftovers

You know me. I'm the one fixated with not throwing away food. I so firmly believe in recycling leftovers that I purposely cook in larger quantities than needed in order to have uneaten food to work with later.

After a sad few days of the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple, toast)––my son and I caught the stomach bug of 2016 late––I needed something to revive my depressed taste buds.

So for dinner yesterday I "made" two sensational Southern Italian dishes with avanzi. Made is actually too bold of a term, let's say I transformed leftover spaghetti into Neapolitan frittata di maccheroni and day-old green beans into Sicilian fagiolini alla muddica.

A week ago I made enough Puttanesca for 10 (there were 7 guests, 3 of which kids) so naturally I had a bowl of it sitting in the back of the fridge. The sauce made with this summer's pommarola, brined olives and minuscule capers from Pantelleria stuck to the noodles and was still fragrant. I didn't have to think twice: frittata di maccheroni. Every Neapolitan homemaker has this recipe in their repertoire.

I loosened the spaghetti from their bowl-shape and mixed in 4 beaten eggs.
I transferred the slippery mix to a heavy-bottomed pan with just a drizzle of olive oil and gently heated for about 5 minutes, until a delicious crust started forming on the bottom. My mother's trick is beating one more egg with salt and pepper and pouring it on the surface. This helps set the frittata.
I covered the pan for another 2 minutes, checking that the bottom didn't darken too much: browned frittata is dry and disgusting.
At this point of cooking frittata you have to be resourceful for the flipping portion of the recipe.
I use a lipless lid and good balancing skills to slide the uncooked side back into the pan.
On the whole, another plus is that this dish takes about 10-12 minutes to make. So while wisely thrifty, you're also budgeting time.

Cooking with leftovers — www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com

But my recycled carbs with high-protein needed a vegetal side. I glanced at the handful of yesterday's steamed green beans sitting suffocated under a plastic wrap cover. I reached in for the bowl and let the contents warm to room temperature on the countertop while I made the seasoned breadcrumbs.

I have a small fabric pouch where all my bread corners, broken breadsticks and uneaten slices fall into. This is what's known around the house as the Pangrattato Pouch. All the hardened bits of sourdough in there become breadcrumbs. I transfer the amount needed in a sturdy airtight plastic bag and arm myself with a rolling pin. I seal the bag and bash the hunks of bread to the desired powder grain. I prefer coarse. To the ziploc I then add powdered herbs, seasoned salt and a fistful of polenta (cornmeal) for crunch.

Cooking with leftovers — www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com

I toasted the breadcrumbs with olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. A salt-saving, flavor-boosting trick is adding 2-3 oil-packed anchovies and working them into the crumbs with the tines of a fork. When the breadcrumbs clumped together to a crispy crumble, I added the green beans, tossing to coat and heat through. I didn't need to adjust seasoning, so I served immediately.

A tavola!

Dec 22, 2016

Vote for Casa Mia!

As you may know, in the spring of 2015, I co-launched a new travel website called Casa Mia Italy Food & Wine.

We offer interesting food, wine and cooking experiences and inform our followers with regular updates on our blog.

After coming in "runner up" in the Best New Blog category of the Italy Magazine 2015 Blog Awards, this year Casa Mia has been shortlisted for the Best Travel Blog category!

Needless to say, we couldn't be prouder.

Want to help us win?

Vote for Casa Mia!

Easy, you don't even need to register, just click on the banner below.

PS: You helped Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino win Best Food Blog in the previous edition, so I'm asking you to work your magic again this time.


Dec 13, 2016

Italian torta rustica

Don't call it quiche.

In Italy torta rustica is a seasonal staple and a versatile dish: it can serve as an appetizer, as a side dish, or be the main entree. 

With boundless recipes and fillings, the savory rustic pies of Italy were initially intended as thrifty fridge-cleaners, adding bits of leftover vegetables to a mix of cheese, cured meats and an egg to bind it all together in a flaky shell. 

If you're looking for savory pie baking inspiration, here’s a failsafe recipe for quick and easy vegetarian torta rustica filled with spinach and punchy gorgonzola cheese.

Nov 29, 2016

Stracciata cheese from Molise

Move over burrata, hello stracciata.

Stracciata is a fresh cheese that owes its name to the Italian verb, "stracciare", for 'to tear'. The name reflects the action of tearing the stretched curd into characteristic elongated and rubbery strands. 

Snow-white and rind-less, stracciata cheese is delicate with an intense milky flavor. It is customarily eaten freshly-made, preferably with prosciutto stuffed between two warm slices of bread. This was the typical Molise antipasto served at weddings.

This traditional dairy product is made only in Molise in the towns of Agnone, Capracotta, Carovilli and Vastogirardi, in the province of Isernia.

I learned of the existence of stracciata during filming of ABCheese. My crew and I traveled to Molise and visited the actual birthplace of this original and rare cheese: the Di Nucci creamery.

After WWII, the Di Nucci family relocated from the town of Capracotta – where they owned a cow farm – to the larger town of Agnone where there were better working opportunities to continue the family tradition of cheese-making. 

Stracciata was born to celebrate this important relocation.

No two strands are alike. Every stracciata, hand-made in the family creamery using the same time-honored technique, is obtained by pouring boiling water over the natural-yeast, raw cow milk curds and pulled from a wooden basin. Every strand is therefore different. 

Generations of Di Nuccis have been making stracciata in the same way since that 1955 journey from Capracotta to Agnone.

Caseificio Di Nucci
Agnone, Isernia – Italy

Opening image & portrait ©Di Nucci, all other ©E.Baldwin