August 2009

Lasagna Napolitana (Recipe)

 

Lasagna Napolitana

Lasagna brings about images of indulgent layers of mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and sauce!

It doesn’t mater whether it is Lasagna Bolognaise, Lasagna Napolitana or your own spin on the classics, Lasagna is sure to please your family, guests and friends.

  Flashback:  The table was set with hand crochet table cloth and the "special" china that was passed on from generation to generation.  Seated at the table were every relative that you knew and some that you never knew you had!

  On the table was a gallon of Piasno or it could have been some  Dago Red that grandpa made? Copious glasses of  wine being drunk from fancy wine glasses which I now know as Murano glass from Venice.

The room was packed, the table and its guests were too large for the room, and three people would have to get up in order for you to leave the table.

  We were all called to sit down; there was a level of anticipation!  I knew it was time to eat because all the adults died out their cigarettes! 

 

Here, entering the room as if it was a royal procession was my grandmother Selvaggio beaming as if she just painted the Sistine Chapel.

  I looked over to my father and could see the excitement on his face because he knew what was about to come!  Grandma had a pan of Lasagna!

My eyes gazed on the pan that seemed at least a foot thick and full of pasta and what every child loves, cheese! She set the pan onto the table, the aroma of the melted "Scmotz", and Romano was intoxicating as if I was in some Italian Shaman's spiritual ritual.

  She cut into the Lasagna and lifted the mile high slice of joy!  There was so much cheese that it stretched and would not let go as if it was in defiance of being eaten!

 

Wait, what is that inside, there are tiny mini meatballs!  As if the cheese, ricotta "gravy" and pasta layers were not enough!

 Each tiny meatball was rolled by hand and fried in lard till its crusty goodness came thru! I took a sip of my "Wine mixed with 7up"(Italian Benadryl) smiled and realized that I do have a Guardian Angel!

The recipe I chose to share with you is one I personally make for my family. It uses many of the recipes that are found on Cook-Italian.com!

 

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How To Make Mozzarella (Recipe)

Streching

 

 

 

 

I have to confess that making fresh Mozzarella Cheese may seem intimitating, but I assure you it is a rewarding task!

 

How to make Mozzarella Cheese is a question that many have searched for on Cook-Italian.com!

 

Flashback:  I remember opening a large walk in refrigerator door, I could barely reach the handle.  The door was made of wood and cork.

 

  The inside of the refrigerator smelled sweet, of citrus and yeast doughs waiting for the next days creations.  In this dimly lit refrigerator there was a wooden barrel which my father told me not to go into.

 

 

 I moved over the lid and there they were these white round mounds of what I now know as fresh Mozzarella Cheese , Dad called it, "Scamotz" they were floating in this milky salty liquid.

 

  I reached into the cold whey and grabbed one!  I've seen this practiced before by my father and like him, I took a bite into the chilled salty and creamy ball of Mozzarella Cheese.  The brine running down my cheek, wiping it quickly with my sleeve.

 

 

This is my first me memory of eating Fresh Mozzarella Cheese!

 

We take for granted these days the time and effort it takes to make cheese.  Everything is done for us!

 

  In our instant society no one has the time to prepare food, because of this our food is made for us, especially cheese.

 

  I have personally tasted many a Fresh Mozzarella, especially true Mozzarella di Bufala with its salt brine flavor and distinctive taste it is indeed the true Mozzarella cheese.

 

Cows milk Fresh Mozzarella has a slightly sweeter taste and soft texture, but when I made my own Fresh Mozzarella I was excited and proud!

 

 After all, I was now able to boast that the cheese my family and friends were enjoying was made by me! (it's a Chef thing)

 

 This by far is one of the most rewarding culinary tasks that you may do akin to bread baking!

 

Many restaurants and Chefs are conducting cooking classes on how to make Mozzarella Cheese as well. 

 

 I feel it's exciting that people have gained an appreciation of artisan cheese making!

 

 

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Cannoli (Recipe)

Cannoli_siciliani

 

I love Cannoli, it doesn't matter how you make them, I love them!

It has to be the best known Italian pastry ever, especially in southern Italy!

  My first experience with Cannoli would have to begin as a child, my father had a bakery in South Chicago where I have early memories of eating frozen Cannoli!

  They were like rich creamy ice cream cones to me with lots of crunchy pistachios on each one! These Cannoli were the real thing they had diced Citron and Candied fruit.  They were made with Rose Water, chocolate and real pistachios on the ends not green colored almonds!

Flashback - My father teaching me how to make Cannoli filling telling about the most important thing being that you're ricotta cheese is drained well and run through a food mill so it's smooth!

 He also shared with me his secret that he had, which was using oil of cinnamon. He explained to me as if this was a secret flavor and If I told anyone I would be betraying a family secret!

 The way he would put it into the Cannoli filling was by dipping a toothpick into the oil of cinnamon and then flicking it into the mix.

He would then take a dollop of the ricotta cheese and put it on top of the oil of cinnamon and make sure it was incorporated into the mix and not just sticking on the sides of the bowl.

 It was as if this was the magic secret ingredient that he put in and only he knew about it.

Well least that was my impression is young man.

The recipe I'm giving you here for the Cannoli shells uses Marsala wine which will give it a little bit of sweetness and wine flavor to the shell. My grandfather Salera used red wine vinegar and ammonium carbonate this would help in the leavening and flakiness of the shells.

This recipe uses more common ingredients found in your kitchen.  If you choose to use red wine vinegar instead of the marsala wine your Cannoli shells will be little tart in flavor but have a very reddish brown color.

I recommend making your Cannoli shells in advance putting them in a sealed container in a dry place and or in the freezer so when you need them you can fill them as needed like they do in the pastry shops. As far as the Cannoli filling, it may certainly keep it in the refrigerator and freezer as well.

I've searched on the Internet and found a few videos showing how Cannoli are made, frankly if you haven't made them before they can be a little tricky. Especially when you're trying to make the shells, it's always helpful to have a little visual aid. See Cook-Italian TV

The image seen above is from a Sicilian bakery, they are true authentic Cannolis. In this instance the baker took the Cannoli shells and lined them with dark melted chocolate so the filled Cannoli would not get soggy.  They then dip the edges of the Cannoli shell into chopped pistachios and use the decorative maraschino cherry as well.

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Fettucini Alfredo Recipe - Fettuccini at Alfredo's in Rome, Italy (Recipe)

 

Fettuccini at Alfredo's, originally uploaded by photop0t.

 

 

 

Here is a classic Alfredo recipe everyone needs to master!

Let me know if you have made the classic version or the cream version and which one you prefer!

Basically Fettuccine Alfredo is a pasta dish made from freshly boiled Fettuccine Pasta tossed with Imported Parmesan Cheese and Whole Unsalted Sweet Butter.  It was named by an Italian restaurateur, Alfredo di Lelio, at Alfredo alla Scrofa Restaurant in Rome.


According to Wikipedia the story goes like this, the dish was invented by di Lelio in 1914 as a variation of Fettuccine al Burro. When butter was added both before and after fettuccine was put in the serving bowl, the butter was known as doppio burro (double butter).

Di Lelio's original contribution was to double the amount of butter in the bowl before the Fettuccine would be poured in, thus a triplo burro (triple butter) effect instead of double.

 

He started doing this for his pregnant wife, who was having difficulty keeping food down.

When his wife began eating again, Alfredo added the new dish to his restaurant's menu.

A long-time customer recounted that di Lelio's restaurant became famous when Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks stopped into his restaurant and fell in love with the dish while on their honeymoon in 1927.

 To express their gratitude, they gave him a golden fork and spoon along with a photo of them eating in his restaurant. He proudly displayed the photo on the wall of his small restaurant.

When Pickford and Fairbanks returned to Hollywood, they served his dish to their friends and associates. Word about that new meal quickly spread.

Alfredo di Lelio finally retired in 1938 and sold his restaurant, photos and all, to Mario Mozzetti's grandfather. He kept the restaurant's name, menu, and everything else. That restaurant is still in business today, run by Mario Mozzetti.

When Rome prepared for a large religious celebration in 1959, some local businessmen tracked down Alfredo di Lelio and offered to build him a new restaurant.

 He was retired, but he agreed to show up and act as a greeter there. When the religious holiday arrived, old customers showed up and had their photos taken for the walls of the "new" restaurant located at 30 Piazza Augusto Imperatore, a few blocks north of his original location.

That expansion continued in 1977 when Alfredo II and Guido Bellanca opened a new "Alfredo's" by Rockefeller Center in New York City to serve it.

 The walls of that restaurant are plastered with drawings by Al Hirschfeld - including the rest rooms. Another Alfredo's opened in the Epcot at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista. As of September 2007, the Epcot branch is closed.

 

 

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