Zucchini Vegetable Soup
When the long warm days in the Tuscan sun melt into cool evenings, the air punctuated by smoke from a wood fire, our friends in and around Montefollonico prepare zuppa. It is something our guests find restoring, a warm bowl of freshly prepared zuppa, after a day of exploring.
At Agriturismo Belagaggio, Ada and her daughter Antonella have perfected the art of soup-making. They impress Tuscan Women Cook guests with deceivingly simple preparations that deliver flavor and comfort. Take their Zuppa di Ceci, Chickpea Soup. It looks so modest, a plateful of golden purée. But the flavors meld into a warm hug in a bowl. First, they soak dried chickpeas overnight. (No canned chickpeas used here.) Then they simmer them until tender. They thoughtfully cook thinly sliced aromatic vegetables, lots of garlic, and fresh sage in olive oil until translucent. Once all the ingredients are combined, they purée the mixture using a high-powered immersion blender. When eating this soup, hints of spice and garlic pop.
Such soups echo ancient traditions in Tuscany where large families could be fed from humble ingredients such as leftover bread, dried beans, and bountiful in-season vegetables. A splash of extra-virgin olive oil made from the fruit of the valley enhances their flavors. (You’ll find several zuppa recipes such as Ribollita in our Tuscan Women Cook cookbook.)
We are grateful that this season, the Bernardini’s shared their recipe for zucchini zuppa. When making this recipe, select tender, small to medium size zucchini. They have the brightest flavor. Cut all the vegetables into ¼-inch-size pieces. Small pieces help the vegetables cook evenly. Be sure to cook the vegetables until they are uniformly tender. To get a creamy purée, use a high-powered blender or food processor.
Enhance the taste of this bowl of pale green velvet with a grating of Parmesan cheese. Herb or Parmesan croutons would contrast nicely too. Or reserve a half cup of the cooked vegetables to sprinkle on top of the zuppa before serving.
Zucchini Vegetable Soup from Agriturismo Belagaggio
Yield: Approximately 2-½ quarts
2½ pounds zucchini, 5 to 6 medium-sized
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
2 cups finely diced onion
1¼ cups finely diced celery
2 cups finely diced carrots
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, optional
Trim the ends from the zucchini. Cut them into long ¼-inch slices. Cut each slice into thin strips, then chop the strips into ¼-inch dice.
Heat the olive oil in a wide deep skillet over medium low heat. Add the diced onion, celery, carrots, and zucchini. Cook over medium low heat, stirring from time to time for 20 to 25 minutes until softened. Add more olive oil if needed to keep the vegetables from sticking or browning. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Purée the cooked vegetables until smooth and creamy in a high-power blender or using an immersion blender. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Serve in warmed bowls drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and a grating of fresh Parmesan cheese.
Insalata Tomate dell’Orto br>
Tomato Vegetable Garden Salad
Pisanello, Gigante di Rotonda, Perino Giallo, Pomodoro Fregola Giallo di Pitigliano. It’s tomato season in Tuscany. We have arrived just in time to sample so many astonishingly flavorful dishes that highlight the warmth and delicious sun of Tuscany on the plate.
Pomodoro means golden apple and suggests the early stages of the fruit’s ripeness. (Yes, tomatoes are botanically fruits because they grow from the blossom of a plant that contains seeds.) You see so many kinds of tomatoes in Tuscany. The squat deeply ribbed Pisanello tomatoes work well for Bruschetta because they are balanced in taste and not too juicy. Pointy-tipped Roma tomatoes are used for fragrant sauces, but they also make their way into Panzanella. Because the seeds and gel of tomatoes contain the most acid, plum-style Roma tomatoes are mostly flesh thus sweeter. (Find a recipe for Bruschetta and Panzanella on pages 11 and 15 respectively of the Tuscan Women Cook cookbook.)
Tuscans are bean eaters (mangiafagioli). But beans and tomatoes make great partners. You’ll see slices, wedges and chunks of ripe tomatoes tossed with beans of all kinds in Tuscany. And there is pasta fredda, what we call cold pasta salad. When dressed with puréed raw tomatoes, it is a dish to remember. Watch Tuscan Women Cook’s Arianna Moldovan make pasta fredda on our YouTube Channel.
Some of the fresh tomato ideas we’ve seen in Tuscany that don’t need a recipe:
• Chop a favorite local tomato variety. Season it well with salt and pepper. Drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil. Serve it on a plate with a wedge of aged pecorino, sardines, and crusty bread.
• Grill ripe plum tomatoes until their skin chars on all sides. Toss them with grilled onions or scallions and white beans. Drizzle with olive oil, anchovies too if desired.
• Sauté chopped yellow cherry tomatoes in garlic and olive oil. Purée and season with salt and pepper to make a bright yellow and intensely flavored sauce to serve over spaghetti with shaved Grana Padano cheese.
• Toss wedges of yellow and red tomatoes with cooked fava or lima beans. Season and scatter with fresh oregano leaves. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
• Grill slices of summer squash and zucchini until charred and tender. Toss with chopped plum tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, and dress lightly with vinegar and olive oil.
Here is a recipe to bring the spirit of Tuscany to your kitchen.
Insalata Tomate dell’Orto (Tomato Vegetable Garden Salad)
This simple salad highlights the quality of your tomatoes. Use whatever herbs you have in your garden that are fresh and tender. Carpet the fresh tomatoes with a generous layer of these herbs. Serve with crusty bread and red wine.
2-3 large ripe tomatoes
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-2 fat cloves garlic, minced
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 – 1/3 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped small capers
Fresh basil, marjoram, oregano, and savory leaves, torn
Fresh chives and parsley, chopped
Wash, core, and slice the tomatoes thinly. Shingle them in a circle on a large flat serving plate.
Combine the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and stir in the capers.
Right before serving, drizzle the tomatoes with the dressing. Scatter a generous layer of the torn and chopped fresh herbs over the tomatoes.
Fiori di Zucca Farciti con Ricotta e Fritti br>
Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Ricotta
16-18 zucchini flowers, washed, dried, and stamens removed
32 ounces sunflower or peanut oil
For the Batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup beer, chilled
3/4 cup sparkling water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Ricotta Filling:
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese, strained if necessary
3/4 cup well-drained cooked, chopped spinach, excess water squeezed out
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To make the Batter, combine the flour, egg, beer, sparkling water, salt, and pepper in a bowl until smooth. It should have the consistency of thin pancake batter. If needed, add a little more beer or water to achieve the proper consistency.
To make the Ricotta Filling, combine the ricotta, spinach, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Stir until smooth. Spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip. (A small sealable plastic bag with a bottom corner cut off can be used or you can fill the flowers using a small spoon.)
Pipe approximately 1-2 tablespoons of the filling into each flower, depending on the size of the blossom. Leave a bit of space at the top to twist the flower closed. Twist the petals together at the top to help contain the cheese mixture.
Select a frying pan deep enough to accommodate several flowers at once. A wok is a good choice. Heat enough oil to cover the flowers by three quarters.
Dredge each zucchini flower in the batter, shaking off the excess, and carefully place in the hot oil. Fry the flowers for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the batter begins to brown. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to gently turn them over.
Carefully remove the flowers from the oil to a large platter lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.
Pollo ai Profumi della Toscana
Dania Masotti is a famed chef and one of Montefollonico’s treasures. Memories of her inventive Tuscan Women Cook classes linger with our guests. A favorite teacher, she is known for transforming classic peasant dishes into elegant renditions that retain their soulful quality.
Abundant fresh herbs are the hallmark of Dania’s vegetable garden (orto). Here they amplify the flavor of a quality farm-raised chicken. Dania browns then gently simmers a cut-up chicken in a soffrito of spring onions, carrots, and celery. She tosses in a generous handful of fresh herbs from her garden. She uses what is available, often a mixture of rosemary, sage, thyme plus parsley, which we find works well as vegetables and herbs picked fresh from her garden enlivened with a burst of lemon.
Serve this chicken as a main course after a light pasta primo. At room temperature, Dania’s savory dish makes saucy picnic fare. Consider this finger licking meal for your Pasquetta and bring lots of napkins.
You will find her recipe for Risotto dell’Orto in our cookbook. Like this chicken recipe, her risotto relies on vegetables and herbs picked fresh from her garden enlivened with a burst of lemon.
1 free-range chicken
4 ounces olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 spring onion or 3 scallions, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
½ celery stalk, finely chopped
2 small ripe tomatoes, diced
½ cup mixed chopped herbs including rosemary, sage, thyme, tarragon and parsley
5 fluid ounces white wine
1 pint (16 fluid ounces) chicken stock
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Wash the chicken. Pat it dry with paper towels. Cut it into 8 or 10 pieces.
Heat half of the olive oil in one large skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken pieces until golden brown turning them from time to time.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and herbs.
Tartufi di Marzipane
Marzipan is a delectable mixture of ground almonds and sugar, like edible modeling clay. It’s especially popular in and around Naples and on the island of Sicily where its formed into realistic miniature fruits.
The combination of marzipan and dark chocolate is a natural. The rich toasted notes of good-quality bitter chocolate balance the sweet almond flavors. When spiked with a little espresso coffee, you’ve got a sophisticated candy made from very few ingredients. And best of all, there is no baking required.
For best results, wear disposable gloves when making these candies. The mixture is sticky when kneading. Use marzipan or almond paste, for a slightly less sweet filling. Adding coconut oil to the dipping chocolate helps keep the chocolate from developing white streaks when it cools. Rolling the dipped truffles into cocoa powder or other decorations helps too.
Yield: Approximately 24 truffles
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon boiling water
10 ounces quality marzipan or almond paste, 50% or more almonds
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon coconut or vegetable oil
Espresso beans, as needed
Freeze-dried raspberries, candy hearts, mini chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and other decorations as desired
1. Dissolve the espresso powder in a small bowl with the boiling water.
2. Place the marzipan in a large bowl. Break it up then add the melted unsweetened chocolate. Knead in the chocolate until it is uniformly distributed throughout the marzipan. Add the espresso solution. Knead until the espresso solution and chocolate are well distributed.
3. Working on a silicone mat or on a work surface lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar, roll the chocolate marzipan into a log. Use measuring spoons to portion it into 1 ½ teaspoon-sized portions.
4. Roll each portion of the chocolate marzipan into a smooth ball. To make the domed shape, take one ball of chocolate marzipan. Gently press down to flatten the bottom. Pat the top of the chocolate marzipan between your fingers into a smooth domed shape. Repeat with each portion of chocolate marzipan.
5. Line a half-sheet pan with a silicone mat or with parchment paper.
6. Combine the bittersweet chocolate and the coconut oil in a small glass bowl. Place it in a microwave oven. Melt the chocolate in 20 second bursts, stirring between until the chocolate is melted. Or melt the chocolate and coconut oil over gently simmering water.
7. Insert a wooden skewer into the bottom of one chocolate marzipan dome. Dip it into the melted bittersweet chocolate. Hold the dipped truffle over the bowl so that the excess chocolate drips off. Scrape any excess chocolate from the bottom using a paring knife.
8. Place the dipped chocolate marzipan onto the prepared sheet tray. Repeat with all the marzipan truffles.
9. Press an espresso bean into each truffle. Decorate with a piece of freeze-dried raspberry or other candy garnish as desired. Or roll each dipped truffle in mini chocolate chips or cocoa powder.
10. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more until the chocolate coating is firm.
11. Serve immediately. Or keep refrigerated until ready to serve. These candies will keep for up to 2 weeks when refrigerated.
Roasted Pears with Vin Santo Zabaglione
Yield: 8 servings
4 firm pears, such as Bosc
1/3 cup Vin Santo
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Vin Santo Zabaglione, recipe follows
¼ cup toasted slivered almonds
Anise seeds, as needed for garnish
Butter cookies, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Peel and quarter the pears lengthwise, reserving the stems if possible.
3. Combine the Vin Santo, olive oil, sugar, and ginger in a large bowl. Toss the quartered pears in the mixture.
4. Transfer the coated pears to a half-sheet pan. Spread them out into an even layer. Roast them in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the pears are tender and lightly brown around the edges.
5. Prepare the Vin Santo Zabaglione while the pears cool slightly.
6. Divide the pears between 8 glasses. Spoon the Vin Santo Zabaglione over the pears. Garnish with toasted slivered almonds, anise, and a cookie, if desired.
Vin Santo Zabaglione
Yield: 2½-3 cups
4 egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
½ cup Vin Santo
1. Bring a several cups of water to boil in a saucepan set over high heat. Reduce the heat until the water simmers gently.
2. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium size stainless steel bowl that fits on top of the saucepan.
3. Whisk in the Vin Santo.
4. Position the bowl over the gently simmering water. Whisk the egg yolk mixture constantly until the mixture increases in volume and turns a light pale yellow, for from 6-10 minutes.
5. Use immediately.
Risotto with Vegetables
A highlight for our guests each week is dinner at La Botte Piena in Montefollonico where the food is as creative and inspired as the talented chefs who prepare each course. We have so much faith in their staff that we tell guests to take a seat at the table with open minds and a hunger for something unexpected. We never have any idea what they will serve. It is the only dinner during the entire week that is totally spontaneous. La Botte Piena never disappoints. Every detail, from their ultra-modern tableware to their expert wine pairings, wows. Owners Elena and Simone succeed in incorporating their own modern spin on traditional Italian fare.
Take their risotto, a colorful vegan option topped with vegetables plucked from their garden, dehydrated, and blended into vivid powders that top the risotto like a Rorschach test. (We’ve added a variation using fresh vegetables.)
For the Vegetable Powder:
1 cup fine chopped carrots
1 ½ cups fine chopped tomatoes
1 cup capers
1 cup minced green olives
1 cup chopped spinach
(If properly stored, dehydrated vegetables can last 5-10 years, but you probably want to use them faster.)
For the Risotto:
1 white onion
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
3 cups white wine
6 cups vegetable stock
3 ½ cups grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
To make the vegetable powder, spread out the carrots evenly on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high until the carrots are dehydrated, for 6 minutes. Do the same with the tomatoes, capers, olives, and spinach, cooking each one separately in a single layer in the microwave for 6 minutes. Blend them separately in a mini food processor and set them aside.
Melt one-half of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion in half the butter until translucent for 3-5 minutes. Add the rice and cook for 7–8 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Deglaze the pan with the wine.
Heat the stock until simmering. Add one small ladleful of simmering stock to the rice. Stir until absorbed. (This should take about 3 minutes per ladleful.) Continue adding remaining vegetable stock one ladle at a time, stirring and allowing the rice to absorb the stock before you add the next one. Cooking the rice should take about 25–27 minutes in total.
When all the stock has been absorbed, taste the rice and make sure it is al dente. When the rice is done, stir in the remaining butter and the cheese.
Plate the risotto and add the vegetable powders on top of the in separate patches. Garnish with olive oil.
Risotto with Vegetable Garnish
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the carrots until tender without browning, for 5-6 minutes. Set aside. Ad 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the spinach until wilted and the moisture has evaporated, for 3–4 minutes. Set aside.
Prepare the risotto and garnish the finished risotto with the cooked carrots, spinach, the chopped tomatoes, capers and olives.
5 red bell peppers, minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and finely minced
2 cups sugar
1 lemon, zest and juice
2-1/2 tablespoons low-sugar pectin
Combine red bell peppers, Serrano pepper, and lemon zest and juice. In a separate bowl, whisk the pectin into the sugar. Add to the pepper mixture and combine. Place in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender or regular blender.
Place in clean prepared jars and close tightly. Invert the jars and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. After 24 hours, flip jars back over and refrigerate.
Makes approximately 4-5 cups. Refrigerate for up to 6 months.
Serve as a spread on crackers/bread, with goat and cream cheese, and as a glaze on fish, chicken, and pork.
For the strawberries:
2 1/2 cups of strawberries, chopped
1/3 cup Alchermes liqueur,* Fragoli wild strawberry liqueur or Chambord
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons rum
1 cup orange juice
For the cream:
500g mascarpone cheese, room temperature
500ml heavy cream
5 egg yolks
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 box dry ladyfingers (Pavesini brand preferred**)
Put the strawberries, Alchermes liquor, sugar, rum, and orange juice in a bowl. Set aside. With a hand mixer or a KitchenAid standing mixer, beat the egg yolks, sugar, mascarpone, and heavy cream on medium speed for 5-10 minutes, until creamy. In a small bowl, strain the strawberries and keep the juice in a separate bowl. Dip the ladyfingers in the juice (a quick dip, you don’t want them to be soggy), and arrange cookies on bottom of a baking dish. Cover with half the cream mixture, then cover with the chopped strawberries, repeat cookies for another layer, and cover with remaining cream mixture. Decorate it top with strawberries just before serving and dust with powdered sugar. Chill for 2-3 hours before serving. It can stay chilled for up to 2 days.
* Alchermes is a scarlet colored Italian liqueur made by infusing neutral spirits with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla, and other herbs, and Kermes, a small parasitic insect.
** Pavesini ladyfingers may be difficult to find in stores. However, they are readily available online. Other brands may be substituted.
2 cups strong coffee, room temperature
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
17 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 packages ladyfingers (1/2 pound)
¼ pound dark chocolate, shaved or finely chopped
Prepare the coffee, and if you prefer, add a tablespoon of sugar. Mix egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using an electric mixture, combine egg yolks and sugar for 5-8 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Gently fold mascarpone into egg yolk mixture. Add the prepared egg whites and mix from the bottom to the top, gently folding in.
In a casserole or other decorative dish, spread a thin layer of cream on the bottom, then very quickly soak the ladyfingers in the coffee (do not submerge) and assemble in a layer covering the cream. Continue layering until pan is full. Add chocolate to the top layer of the cream mixture and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving. This will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Serves 8 to 10
Fresh Goat Cheese Dip with Figs and Prosciutto
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
12 fresh figs, halved lengthwise
12 slices prosciutto, sliced down the middle lengthwise
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, combine the goat cheese, cream, rosemary, and honey. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the mixture on top of a fig slice and wrap with a slice of prosciutto.
This is a very versatile dip and can be spread on just about anything! You can make grilled cheese sandwiches with thinly sliced apples, figs, or pears, using the dip to spread inside the bread. You can also stuff pitted dates (halved lengthwise) with a small amount of the dip, wrapped in prosciutto, and broiled about 15 minutes until prosciutto is crispy. Finally, spread on a slice of baguette or cracker with thinly sliced fruit of choice. Try with our sourdough crackers.
1 package (8 ounces) short pasta, such as farfalle or tubetti *
20 cherry tomatoes cut in half
7 ounces bocconcini (small balls of mozzarella cheese), or any size fresh mozzarella cut into 1.5-inch pieces
¾ cup black olives, pitted and cut in half
6 or more fresh basil leaves, torn into two or three pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta following the box instructions for the time, or until al dente. Drain and cool to room temperature.Combine chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, and basil in a large serving bowl. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture, combine, and drizzle with olive oil to taste.
Serves 4 to 6
* If you have small amounts of different shaped pasta in your pantry, combine them for a unique presentation.
2 cups All-purpose flour, preferably Italian “00” soft flour
3 large eggs
Make a mound of the flour on a clean work surface. Make a well in the middle of the flour. Pour eggs into the well. Mix them together with a fork incorporating the flour in the liquid. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Transfer dough to a floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin to a thickness of 0.2 inches and cut into 0.4-inch wide strips.
Wind each ribbon by hand into the shape of very long, twisted spaghetti. As they are prepared, lay them down on a surface sprinkled with cornmeal or flour and sprinkled them with cornmeal or flour so they don’t stick together. Cook in plenty of salted water.
Pici pasta is excellent with a simple tomato-garlic sauce (pici all’aglione), hearty game meat ragus (pici al ragu di anatra), and even a simple sauce of bread crumbs, herbs, and olive oil (pici con le bricioli).
¾ cup sourdough starter
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons dried herbs
½ teaspoon salt, for sprinkling on top
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
Mix the sourdough starter, oil, sea salt, and herbs into a small bowl. Use an offset spatula to spread the mixture into a thin, even layer on the parchment paper or Silpat. Sprinkle the top with salt and Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and score the crackers with a pastry wheel cutter. Bake for another 30-45 minutes or until the crackers are golden brown. Rotate pan every 10 minutes while baking.
Let cool completely before breaking into squares.
Store in airtight container.
The cake shown at the end of the video is George Geary’s Limoncello Cake. Thank you George for sharing your recipe.
10-12 large fresh lemons, peeled; skin only, no white pith
1 quart plain vodka (no fruit, herbal, or flavored) or Everclear Grain Alcohol
4 cups sugar
6 cups water
Carefully wash and dry the lemons. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons. Put the peels and alcohol in an airtight glass container, preferably one with a glass lid and rubber seal. Store in a cool dark place for 2-4 weeks. The alcohol will turn a beautiful yellow color.
Strain the alcohol, saving the lemons peels for candied lemon peel (next recipe) or other dishes.
Make a simple syrup of the sugar and water, ensuring the sugar has dissolved completely. Cool. Mix the lemony alcohol with the syrup. Decant into small glass bottles with rubber seals.
Store in freezer. Best served directly from freezer.
Candied Lemon Peel
2 cups sugar plus more to dust
2 cups water
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water, dissolving sugar completely.
In another pot of boiling water, add peels and boil
for 3-5 minutes. Drain.
Add peels to syrup and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Cool peels in syrup. Drain. Place peels on wire rack to catch excess syrup. Let dry on rack overnight or ideally 2 days. Dust the peels in a large bowl to lightly cover in sugar.
Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
This recipe requires two cakes, one for the cake and one for the “mimosa” topping. Bake the mimosa topping cake (Cake #1) first.
Ingredients for one cake:
1 cup sugar
1-¾ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Mix the eggs with the sugar until incorporated, and then slowly add the flour and the baking powder. Put in a greased 8-inch round pan and bake approximately 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cake #1. Cut into small ½-inch cubes that you will use for the topping, resembling a mimosa flower.
After you spread the ingredients on Cake #2, the “petals” will stick.
Cake #2 –Invert cake onto a plate. Slice into 2 discs.
Vanilla custard filling:
1-1/4 cup milk
1-1/4 cup heavy cream
½ tablespoons vanilla
8 egg yolks
½ cup flour
1 cup sugar
In a saucepan, warm milk and heavy cream with the vanilla. Do not boil, just warm. In another saucepan, on low heat, mix the egg yolks with the flour and the sugar until combined. On low heat, slowly incorporate the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture. Mix 5-6 minutes, until thickened. Transfer custard to a glass baking dish, cover custard with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Keep covered so as to avoid building a crust on the custard.
Whipped cream filling:
1 cup heavy cream
2-1/2 tablespoon powdered sugar
Mix the heavy cream and the powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Use immediately.
Now build the cake. Take your two cake discs. On disc #1, spread whipped cream to cover. Then cover the whipped cream with custard. On disc #2, use remaining whipped cream and custard to cover the outside of the cake. Then press the “flowers” from cake #1 all around the cake to create a beautiful mimosa!
Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pesto
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
½-cup Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves
½-cup pine nuts or walnuts
½-cup fresh basil, chopped
½-cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups boiled water
Steep the tomatoes in the water for 15 minutes or until they soften. Drain. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve on crackers or bread. Thin the sauce with water for a pasta sauce or base for soup. Thin the sauce with cream or béchamel sauce for a pasta or risotto sauce.
Salsa di Formaggio
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, cut into ¼-inch pieces
8 ounces Asiago cheese, cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 peperoncini, crushed
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse for about 10-15 seconds to break cheese into small granules. The salsa should still be chunky and not completely pulverized. Transfer to an air-tight container and store in refrigerator until needed.
Serve at room temperature on crackers, as a topping for bruschetta, or as a pasta sauce.
Yield: 2-½ cups.
Zucchini Two Ways
Stuffed Zucchini (Zucchine Ripiene al Forno)
4 zucchini, 6-7 inches long, halved lengthwise
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
2-3 sprigs rosemary, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut ends off zucchini, halve lengthwise, and with a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Place the zucchini “boats” on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Chop the flesh and return it to the bowl.
Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5-8 minutes. Add zucchini flesh and cook 10-15 minutes or until the onion starts to brown and the liquid is evaporated. Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine cooked onion, garlic, and zucchini in a bowl. Add bread crumbs, Parmesan, egg, and rosemary. Mix thoroughly.
Spoon the zucchini mixture into the boats and cook for approximately 25 minutes, until the zucchini boat is tender and the tops are browned.
Optional: Add more Parmesan on top of boats and put in a broiler to melt the cheese.
2-3 medium zucchini
Small wedge Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Slice the zucchini into thin rounds on a mandolin. Layer the zucchini, overlapping them slightly, on a platter. Add thin slices of shaved cheese to cover. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and pepper to taste.
Optional: Sprinkle with minced rosemary or any fresh herbs.
Zuppa di Pasqua
The success of this traditional Easter soup relies on the robust flavor of homemade chicken broth and good Parmesan cheese. It is fresh and delicate but still eminently comforting, especially when you are feeling a bit under the weather. Serves 4 to 6
1 lb-12 ounces (800 grams) fresh spinach, washed
4 ounces or 1 cup (100 grams) Parmesan cheese, grated
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
8 cups (2 litres) brodo di pollo (chicken broth); recipe below
Bring a large stockpot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is soft and wilted, about 1 minute. Drain the spinach through a mesh sieve, pressing it firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out the excess water. Turn the drained spinach onto a cutting board and coarsely chop.
In a small bowl, beat the Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, and nutmeg together.
In the stockpot, bring the chicken stock to a boil over medium high heat. Slowly pour the eggs into the stock, whisking it constantly with a fork to form little shreds. Stir in the spinach. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately. If you like, ladle each serving of the soup over slices of toasted bread.
Chicken broth: Half a chicken, 1 carrot, 1 rib of celery, 1 white onion, half a handful of parsley, 8 cups of water, and salt. Put everything in a large bot, salt as like as you like, and boil for 2 hours on low heat. Filter the broth through cheesecloth.
Large wine glass filled with ice
Slice of a large fresh orange
Add half slice of orange to glass. Fill glass with one-third each Prosecco, Aperol, and club soda. Mix carefully with a straw, sweeping bottom to top slowly so as not to disturb the bubbles. Add a another half slice of orange to rim for garnish.
Sugo di Campagna
1/2-cup extra-virgin olive oil
42 ounces canned peeled whole tomatoes (1.5 pound cans; in Italy, for sauces canned tomatoes are nearly always used)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 small spicy peppers (dried hot peppers, like peperoncini or red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup Parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
1/4 cup half-and-half
basil, one small fresh bunch, chopped or torn
parsley, one small fresh bunch, chopped
In a saucepan, heat the oil, then add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic, and simmer for about 30 minutes on low heat. Add the spicy peppers, sugar, Parmesan, half & half, basil, and parsley and cook for another 10 minutes.
Add to the cooked pasta of your choice. This can also be used as a bruschetta topping. Sugo di campagna freezes well for up to 3 months.
Tuscan Apple Cake (Torta di Mele)
2 apples, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1-1/2 cups flour, all-purpose
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a small bowl, mix the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, sugar, baking powder, milk, and flour. Then mix, using a hand mixer. Add the apple mixture and stir together. Butter a greased round 8-9” pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
1 pound red potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1 large red or white onion, chopped
1 pie crust, unbaked homemade or store bought
3 springs of rosemary, chopped (along with rosemary you can add a pinch of thyme, oregano, and/or dill)
2 cups grated cheese, such as cheddar, fontina and gruyère
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Boil the potatoes until they are tender, then remove and discard the skin.
Melt butter in sauté pan. Add onions, cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized, for approximately 30 minutes.
Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them. Add the caramelized onion, eggs, a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the rosemary and other herbs you have chosen and then the cheese. Stir everything together.
Spoon the mixture into the pie crust. Bake until set and lightly browned, for approximately 35 – 40 minutes.