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How to make meat sauce: a traditional Italian Sunday lunch

italian sauce with meatIf you look at Italy on a map you immediately realize how small it is. That’s why I often ask myself: how it’s possible that in such a small country you can find hundreds of different ingredients and tens of different traditions. Let’s talk for example of the Sunday lunch: that’s a super classic, something that assemble the entire family together but it’s not the same lunch in every house. In some houses, especially in the centre of Italy, spying on the Sunday table you will find lasagne, in other houses you will find pasta al forno (baked pasta) with almost one hundreds different ingredients. In the northern part of Italy polenta with meat or agnolotti (that is a particular kind of ravioli) with broth… In southern Italy, together with pasta al forno, it’s pretty common cook pasta with sugo di carne (meat sauce). I’m from the northern part of Italy, but trust me if I say that, one you’ve learned how to cook this particular sauce, you will never forget it and you will cook it quite every week. The point is not only that is incredibly good, but it’s super easy to do and the most important ingredient is time. Let me explain: to make this sauce you will need around 3 hours and a half but you need to work or actively cooking just for less than half an hour. For the other 3 hours you can watch tv, read a book, or whatever you like to do: the magic is done by low flame and the fat of the meat that slowly melt till create a magical fusion with sauce. I do it with different kind of meat (you can use pork, veal, lamb, even chicken drumsticks, the important thing is to chose a kind that has some fat) almost once a week: that’s because it’s a great way to flavor pasta (and we are Italian so we eat a lot of pasta!) and it’s a complete dish that doesn’t require too much work. Just try it and let me know! Buon appetito!

italian sauce with meat

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Clam chowder (my way), San Francisco & an honeymoon in New England

clam chowderWhen I hear someone say “Oh, the Americans, they don’t know what good food is” my first reaction is to say “Shut up, you idiot!” then I calm down and I think “ok, maybe this poor thing was never lucky enough to eat a clam chowder….” Now, you don’t have to be a genius to guess that my very favourite American dish is… CLAM CHOWDER! I still remember my very first one, at the pier in San Francisco… we arrived there after hundreds of miles and 5 States. Our eyes were full of desert and mountains and endless landscape, while we were driving it seemed impossible that something could border US, but in San Francisco there it was: the sea! That was the limit that also US had to face! And another view filled our eyes, and the sound of a big city after the silence of the desert filled our ears, and the salty scent of the air exploded in our nose. I’m sure that I fell in love with clam chowder exactly in the same moment I fell for San Francisco. Few years later we decided to spent our honeymoon in New England and what was just love became a real addiction. I’m not joking: we traveled New England for 2 weeks and I eat clam chowder and lobster every day for lunch and for dinner (I suppose is not such a big surprise that my scale wanted to died when I came back in Italy!!). I remember waitress asking me: “do you prefer a cup or a bowl” and myself think “oh my god, do I have a cup face?! Why they don’t ask me if I want the entire pot?”. A very special dinner was the one at The Black Cat Tavern in Cape Code: a romantic place is nothing without very good food! Unfortunately I don’t live in the US so I had to learn how to cook a clam chowder (the alternative, meaning don’t eat clam chowder at all, never crossed my mind) and here you find my recipe. It’s quite good and I like it even if it lacks the most important ingredients that makes the original one so good: the view and the smell of the sea! Enjoy!

clam chowder

Ingredients: (serves 4)

- 1 diced carrot

- 1 minced onion

- 1 diced celery

- 50 g diced bacon

- 450 g cubed potatoes

- 150 ml cream

- 3 kg clams + their liquid

- salt & pepper

- 4 scallops

- olive oil

- parsley for decoration Read more

Baked rice, a popular song & an ancient job

baked rice with meat

baked rice

“Sciur padrun da li belle braghi bianchi fora le palanche, fora le palanche”. These words are in Italian dialect and I’ve learned them when I was 8. I still remember them because they tell a story that could easily have been that of my grandma’s mother: this song talks in fact about the “mondine” who are the women that, at the end of the spring, went in the fields to harvest rice. This kind of job became common in the second half of 1800 and it was a big cultural change: these women faced for the first time the job market as independent subject, earned an individual salary and, considering that often the job was far away from home, they had more freedom. Together with these positive changes there were the negative consequences: they were paid less then men and the job was exhausting. To harvest rice they bent for hours with cold and insane water up to their knees, in June and July they were surrounded by insects and it was common to take malarial fevers. But this strong work experience gave them also the opportunity to develop a consciousness of themselves as a group: in the second half of 1800 there were some strikes and they succeeded in increase their salary. After 100 years everything seems so poetic but this is a story about hard work, misery and constant fight to improve, something that makes me proud to be a woman: it’s great see that if 150 years ago the only choice for a poor peasant girl was to break her back in a rice field today we have so much opportunities. The simple possibility to choose is a gift. I hope you enjoyed this little piece of Italian cultural history and hope you will like the recipe. Of course Italy is famous for risotto, but it’s quite common to cook rice also in the oven like in the recipe that I propose you today. Buon appetito!

mondine

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Eggplants, tomatoes & pecorino: the last taste of summer

eggplant pecorino tomatoesIt’s always sad come back from holidays and it’s even sadder if you leave sand, sea and sun and find yourself already in autumn! So, even if outside it’s raining, I love to cook something that keeps my mind on the beach, that reminds me of blue sky and lazy afternoons. One of my favourite summer ingredient is eggplant: my love for them is quite an addiction! They are so full af flavors that it’s enough to mix them with simple ingredients, like tomatoes and pecorino, to get a dish able to surprise everyone, like this one… hope you like it!

Ingredients:

- 2 eggplants

- 5 tomatoes

- 2 cloves of garlic

- 2 tablespoon of oregano

- extra virgin olive oil

- salt and pepper

- 3 tablespoon of pecorino cheese, grated Read more

White chocolate & blueberries panna cotta: dessert for desperate housewives!

white chocolate blueberries panna cottaAs far as I can remember, I’ve always been a bookworm, totally happy when I feel the sensation of the paper under my finger and when I can lose myself in a story, fall in love with the characters… a special place among all the book I’ve read in my life is taken up by books related to food. The funniest thing is see how the people in these books stay in the kitchen: there’s no place for hurry and stress, they always cook like they have all the time in the world. Then, of course, I close the book and I find myself catapulted into reality: people coming for dinner, a daughter jumping and screaming around, a husband that has no time to make grocery shopping…. I’m sure you know the picture. So, keeping in mind how beautiful it would be have 5 or 6 hours to spend in the kitchen cooking without hurry, I find myself composing a menu with dishes that I can cook the day before, so that I don’t have to spend all the time before the dinner running around arriving at the table looking like a mad witch. For this reason panna cotta is often a good choice for me: terribly simple to do, FAST, and always good to strike the guests. Here you find my version with white chocolate and blueberry, hope you’ll like it! Buon appetito!

white chocolate blueberries panna cotta

Ingredients:

- 250 ml milk

- 250 ml fresh cream

- 50 g white sugar

- 150 g white chocolate

- 4 g jelly sheets

- 250 g blueberries

- 2 tablespoon of white sugar

- juice of 1 lemon

Put the gelatine to soak in cold water for the time indicated on the package. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, put the coarsely chopped white chocolate with milk,  cream and sugar. Let them reach a light boil, stirring to completely melt the chocolate. Combine the gelatin and stir again, putting on the fire until it dissolves completely. Filter the mixture and pour into the glasses . Make cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or until the panna cotta you will be solidified.

Now you’re ready for the coulis: pour the blueberries, the sugar and the lemon juice in a saucepan, cook at low flame for around 10 minutes, blen with a hand blender and pour on the solified panna cotta.  Enjoy!

 

Plum & yogurt muffin, a birthday and a walk at Mariastein

plum and yogurt muffinA birthday is always a special occasion but, since we left our country, we consider the possibility to celebrate with our family a great gift. During the last years it has been difficult to have the family together in these special occasions so I was incredibly happy to have my mother here in Switzerland for her 59th birthday. I decided to celebrate with a “mother&daughter” afternoon and I organized an excursion in a special place called Mariastein. My mother has a strong faith, so I was sure that she would love the place, but Mariastein is a very special place, able to communicate at everyone heart. The legend says tha a young mother fell asleep while her son was playing on the hill and the boy fell from the cliff. When she woke up and realized what happened she was sure to find her baby dead, but her son was miraculously save. He told her that a beautiful woman saved him and told him that she wanted to be venerated in that place. Read more

The Ritz Carlton Lemon Pound Cake: a luxury experience starts in the kitchen!

ritz carlton lemon pound cakeI’ve always been fascinated by luxury hotels, especially by the oldest ones. It’s not a matter of being a chick with expensive tastes (which undoubtably I am!) but it’s more related to the stories these places tell. Sometimes, sitting there and watching around, you can feel yourself thrown in another time. Every hotel has its own story and contributes to draw a picture of the social life of a city (so it’s normal find in the latest Ken Follett’s book, set during the II World War, few scenes inside the Claridge’s: the aristocracy meeting point, the right place to have a decent Martini even under the bombs!), but among the luxury hotels of the world, the Ritz-Carlton is a chapter on its own. It was Mr. Ritz that redefined the entire concept of luxury accommodation starting from the Ritz hotel in Paris and the Carlton hotel in London. A very important part of the new luxury experience offered by Mr. Ritz started in the kitchens, thanks to work of one of the biggest chef of its time: August Escoffier.

Mr. Ritz’s hotels became the “place-to-be” and the suites of the Ritz in Paris todays have the names of some its unforgettable clients. In the first part of the 20th century it was common see there Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo, Marcel Proust, Charlie Chaplin, … Coco Chanel lived inside the Ritz for more than 30 years! How can you resist the charm of a place like that?

So today in this blog we celebrate the never-ending charm and the high level cooking of the Ritz, not only a luxury hotel chain, but a “concept” and a piece of living history. We do that cooking (and eating of course” this incredibly good lemon cake. A special thanks to Stephanie of the plein chicken‘s blog that shared the recipe and her experience at the Ritz Carlton cooking school.

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