The Traditional Foodie

Author: Isabella Page 1 of 3

Hello!

I'm Isabella, The Traditional Foodie.

Stories were made to be told. This site tells stories about food.

For me, food generates love and connection from the earliest childhood, like a mother who feeds us. Knowing the stories of each food product we eat makes us value it more.

In turn, passing on those stories to family, friends and colleagues is like a gift. And the memory of that story generates a bond between us and that person.

I am a food engineer with a master's degree in food identity. For 10 years I studied and travelled all over the world. Knowing the traditional food of every place I visited.

I hope you enjoy these stories that I tell you as a gift. And at the next dinner, you can share them with your loved ones so that the stories are never lost.

With Love, Isabella

Limoncello, nonna’s lemon liqueur

Limoncello is a very popular Italian liqueur made from the peel of lemons from Campania, in southern Italy. It is traditionally made with lemons typical of the Amalfi Coast: Sfusato Amalfitano or Ovale di Sorrento.

Related article Italian food: One day eating like an Italian

The history of the limoncello is full of legends and different anecdotes

His invention is in fact disputed by the cities of Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri.

The first to register the “Limoncello” brand in 1988 was the entrepreneur Massimo Canale, and in Capri, many say that its birth is linked to the history of this family. It seems that this liqueur was born at the beginning of the ‘900 as an homemade preparation of his grandmother.

The limoncello has gained great popularity since the 1980s, becoming an object of large-scale industrial production. So much so that it has become a real favourite to prepare in the Italian summer and to drink during Christmas and the New Year.

How is limoncello drunk?

It is usually taken as a digestive after meals, but also in desserts or fruit salads.

Recipe of limoncello

The preparation of limoncello is simple but requires patience. With simple steps in two months, you can enjoy this perfumed yellow liquor.

Ingredients for 1.25 L of Limoncello

  • 5 organic lemons
  • 500mL of alcohol at 95° degrees (ethyl alcohol, drinking alcohol or simply alcohol)
  • 600 g of sugar
  • 750 ml of water
  • Hermetic container: it can be a plastic bottle or a glass jar with more than 1.25 L capacity

Procedure

Day 1

  1. Wash the lemons in tap water, and rub the peel with a sponge to remove impurities ( we will use the peel), and then dry them with a cloth.
  2. Peel the lemons with a potato peeler, remove only the yellow peel and not the white part which is more bitter.
  3. Pour the alcohol and the lemon peels into the airtight container. Close the bottle and let the peels soak in the alcohol for 30 days in a dark place away from heat sources.

Day 30

  1. Today we prepare the syrup. Pour the water and sugar into a pan, and once the sugar is dissolved and reaches boiling point, turn off the fire.
  2. Wait until it cools down completely and add the syrup in the container of the lemon peel. Shake the jar to stir the syrup, then let it rest for 40 days, always in the dark, away from heat sources.

Day 70

  1. Take the container with the liquor and shake it.
  2. Pass the liquid through a sieve.
  3. Collect the liquor inside a transparent glass bottle or jar.

The limoncello is ready!

Storage

Personally, I prefer to keep the limoncello in the freezer. The amount of sugar and alcohol prevents it from freezing and every time you are going to consume it, it is frozen and delicious.

Tips!

To make the taste of limoncello more particular, you can add the peels of other citrus fruits such as tangerine or orange.

Recipe by:  Giallozafferano

Spaghetti alla carbonara and its unexpected origin

Today the Italian character of spaghetti alla carbonara is indisputable. But what would you say if I told you that it was born to delight the Americans?

In this article, I will tell you the origins of the recipe and also the recipe itself. 

Related articles

To the origins of the spaghetti carbonara 

The spaghetti carbonara and the Americans

According to an article on the Italian site Il Gambero Rosso, The strongest version about the origin of the carbonara says that it was born after the challenge of a Bolognese chef named Renato Gualandi to conquer the stomach of none other than the American army. 

A very creative chef

Renato Gualandi was hired on September 22nd 1944 to prepare the lunch for the meeting between the British and American armies in the recently liberated city of Riccione. For this, he had few resources, typical of the American diet: bacon, powdered egg yolk and cheese. Then the Italian chef came up with the idea of mixing these three ingredients and making a sauce reminiscent of the typical English and British breakfast. 

According to Renato’s testimony: 

 “The Americans had fantastic bacon, delicious cream cheese and egg yolk powder. I put it all together and served this pasta to the generals and officers for dinner. At the last moment, I decided to add some black pepper, which had an excellent flavour. I cooked them rather “bavosetti” and they let the pasta win.

Renato gualandi, creator of the carbonara

The expansion of the spaghetti carbonara

 Gualandi later became the cook for the Allied troops in Rome from September 1944 to April 1945 and this period was enough to spread the fame of the carbonara in the capital. 

Obviously, the story of the carbonara invented in Riccione in 1944 by a Bolognese cook using American army rations, may generate some perplexity in the purists of the Roman culinary tradition, but this does not make the matter any less truthful or plausible. 

However, the written recipe had to cross the Atlantic to return to Italy

The consecration of carbonara as a dish came from the United States to Italy and not the other way around.

In a 1951 film ”A maiden in distress”, there was a scene where the boss asked: “Excuse me a moment, listen a little, but can you make spaghetti carbonara”.

That same year a second quotation appears in the book “Lunga vita di Trilussa” by Mario dell’Arco: “It is difficult for our poet to attack spaghetti ‘alla carbonara’ or ‘alla carettiera’…”. 

Neither the film nor the book intended to make the dish famous, but those phrases were enough to make people start wondering what that mysterious Italian dish was. 

The first carbonara recipe is American

And seems to have been published in 1952 in the United States in a Chicago district restaurant guide entitled “An extraordinary guide to what’s cooking on Chicago’s Near North Side” by Patricia Bronté. 

The first Italian recipe for carbonara

The appearance of the first Italian recipe (but not as we know it today) is dated August 1954, when it appeared in the magazine ‘La cucina italiana’. Here the ingredients were: spaghetti, egg, bacon, gruyère and garlic.

The consecration of the recipe with varied ingredients

Guanciale

In Luigi Carnacina’s 1960 recipe book “La gran cucina”, the pork cheek was introduced for the first time, replacing bacon. This ingredient remains to this day, representing the salty part of the recipe.

Cream

The cream lasted a few decades, even in large quantities. For example, the chef Gualtiero Marchesi made a version of carbonara with one litre of cream for every 400 g of pasta. Today for purists the cream in the carbonara is extremely forbidden.

There were other ingredients that came and went from the famous recipe, such as wine, garlic, onion, parsley, pepper and chilli, showing an extreme variability of composition. 

In the versions of the carbonara of the 90’s all these ingredients will be eliminated allowing affirmation of the three classic ingredients that everyone knows today: the egg (with a clear prevalence of the yolk), the pecorino cheese and the guanciale with the more or less abundant addition of pepper.

Let’s go now to the recipe:

Recipe for spaghetti carbonara

  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Level: Easy
  • Dose: 4 persons

Ingredients 

  • Spaghetti 320 g
  • Guanciale 150 g (if not, bacon although the recipe specifies guanciale)
  • Medium egg yolks 6
  • Pecorino Romano 50 g
  • Black pepper q.b.

Procedure

Prepare the ingredients

To prepare the spaghetti carbonara, start by putting a pot of salted water on the fire to cook the pasta

Meanwhile, remove the rind from the cheeks or the bacon and cut it first into slices and then into 1cm thick strips. 

The remaining rind can be reused to flavour other preparations. 

Cook the pasta and the pork cheek

Pour the pieces into a non-stick frying pan and brown for about 15 minutes over medium heat, being careful not to burn them or they will release too strong a flavour. When they are cooked, turn off the heat and leave them in the pan.

When the meat is cooked, put the spaghetti in boiling water and cook it for the time indicated on the packet.

Prepare the eggs

Meanwhile, pour the yolks into a bowl, add most of the cheese provided in the recipe and the remaining part will be used to season the pasta.

Season with black pepper, mix everything with a hand blender. Add a spoonful of water from the cooking of the pasta to dilute the mixture and stir. Place everything in the dish where you are going to place the spaghetti, forming a base.

Mix everything

Drain the pasta al dente and place it directly into the pan with the cheeks and sauté briefly to give it flavour

Place the spaghetti and bacon mixture in the dish where the egg yolk and cheese mixture is already with a little water from the cooking of the pasta, so that the mixture will not be so dense. Stir quickly to amalgamate. The heat from the pasta and the bacon will cook the egg, so it is very important to do it quickly so that the pasta is still warm.

The spaghetti carbonara is ready!

Serve the spaghetti carbonara immediately, seasoned with pecorino cheese and ground black pepper!

It is advisable to consume immediately and not to store.

Aubergine Parmigiana (Italian Parmigiana di Melanzane)

Aubergine Parmigiana is aa recipe shared and disputed as origins from north to south of Italy: Emilia Romagna, Campania (Parmigiana ‘e mulignane) and Sicily (Parmiciana or Patrociane) with some variations of ingredients and methods of composition, but all absolutely fabulous!

Related article: One day eating like an Italian, How to be a traditional foodie?

Have you ever wondered why it is called this way? The name “Parmigiana” would derive from the Sicilian “Parmiciana”, which in dialect indicates a stack of wooden slats of shutters: think about how the slices of aubergine are arranged in the pan and you will notice the similarities.

Few ingredients, a lot of flavour for a dish that is a symbol of Mediterranean cuisine: tomato, aubergines, basil and cheese.

  • Calories per serving 562
  • Gluten free
  • Vegetarian
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Preparation: 40 min
  • Cooking: 100 min
  • Doses for: 8 people
  • Cost: Medium
  • Note + 1 hour resting time for salted aubergines

Ingredients

  • Black oval aubergines 1.5 kg
  • Tomato puree 1,4 l
  • Fiordilatte 500 g
  • Parmigiano Reggiano DOP 150 g
  • Golden onion ½
  • Extra virgin olive oil q.s.
  • Black pepper q.s.
  • Basil a few leaves
  • Salt q.s.
  • Peanut seed oil for frying aubergines q.b.
  • Coarse salt to purge the aubergines 35 g

Procedure

First we take out the water and the bitterness from the aubergines

  1. Start by washing and drying the aubergines. Then, with a knife or potato peeler, remove the stem and skin and cut them lengthwise, to obtain slices 4-5 mm thick.
  2. Place the slices one by one in a sieve and sprinkle a little coarse salt between the layers, well-distributed.
  3. On top of the aubergines, place a plate with something heavy on top, which generates pressure on the aubergines. So that they can purge the water that is bitter and enemy of frying.
  4. Leave the aubergines for at least 1 hour. Then wash the layers in running water, one by one if necessary, to remove the salt. Then dry them with a clean cloth or paper.

While waiting for the aubergines, we prepare the other ingredients

  1. Cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes.
  2. In a large saucepan pour a dash of extra virgin olive oil and add the chopped onion, stir often to prevent it from burning and leave to brown for a couple of minutes.
  3. Then add the tomato puree and little water, salt and let it cook on a low heat for 45 minutes. At the end of cooking do not forget to add the basil leaves chopping them by hand.

Now let’s fry the aubergines

  1. Heat plenty of seed oil.
  2. Soak a few slices at a time in the boiling oil at 170° and after 2-3 minutes of cooking, drain on absorbent paper; proceed in this way with all the others.

At this point you should have everything you need, then proceed to the preparation.

We gather all the ingredients and form the aubergine parmigiana

  1. Sprinkle a 20x30cm baking dish with a little sauce, then form the first layer by arranging the aubergine slices horizontally.
  2. Spread a 20x30cm baking tray with a little sauce, then form the first layer by arranging the aubergine slices horizontally.
  3. Add a little black pepper, the mozzarella, distributing it evenly, the parmesan cheese, and finally, pour a little more sauce.
  4. Repeat the same procedure, arranging the aubergines vertically; continue in this way to form the layers, inverting each time the direction of the aubergines.
  5. Between layers, remember to press gently with the palms of your hands to compact them.
  6. In the last layer, pour in the remaining tomato puree, the mozzarella cubes and the Parmesan cheese.

Bake the aubergine parmigiana

  1. Finally, bake the aubergine parmigiana in a hot oven at 200° for 40 minutes. Once ready, let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
aubergine parmigiana, my own version

Ragù alla bolognese sauce official recipe

Ragù alla Bolognese is a typical Bolognese recipe. It is traditionally used to season egg tagliatelle (tagliatelle alla Bolognese), but it is also used to season other types of pasta such as baked lasagne or fettuccine. In October 1982 a delegation of cooks from Bologna deposited the official recipe of the Bolognese meat sauce. This in order to guarantee the continuity and respect of the Bolognese gastronomic tradition in Italy and in the world. Use this ragù for traditional recipes but also as a filling for a potato pie, for savoury crepes or for a rustic puff pastry.

Related article: One day eating like an Italian.

Preparation Time

  • Cooking time: 1h 30 min
  • Ready in: 1h 30 min

Ingredients

  • 500 g minced beef
  • 150 g diced sweet bacon
  • 400 ml. tomato puree
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 1 glass of milk (optional)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small celery coast
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil q.b.

Procedure

In a large saucepan, stir-fry the bacon over a high flame until it releases some of its fat. Now add a drizzle of olive oil and finely chopped celery, carrot and onion. Fry everything gently until the vegetables are cooked.

When the sauteed is ready, add the chopped meat and brown it over a high flame for 5 minutes. When the chopped meat is well browned, blend with the wine and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Add the tomato puree, salt and pepper to taste and cook over very low heat for at least one and a half hours. My advice is not to salt too much, as the bacon already gives a lot of flavour to the preparation.

Move the ragù to the smallest stove with the heat at the minimum and put the lid on, leaving a gap open; doing so the “liquid” part of the ragù will not evaporate too much. If during preparation you notice that the cooking juices are drying out too much, add a ladle of hot water or broth, bearing in mind that at the end the ragù must be very “thick”.

After at least one and a half hours of cooking, the ragù can be considered ready. If you want you can add a glass of milk that will give it a sweet note, but this last ingredient is absolutely optional.

After adding the glass of milk, continue cooking for another 5 – 10 minutes; initially the meat sauce will take on a colour tending to orange, but after cooking it will return to its classic red colour.

The ragù Bolognese sauce is ready! Use it to season a plate of fettuccine or to make baked lasagne!

The original recipe of Neapolitan and Margherita Pizza

Although there is an infinite number of types of pizza in the world, the most classic is the Neapolitan Pizza, from Naples, Italy, whose history can be read in our article on the history of pizza. The pizza Margherita is the most famous of the Neapolitan pizzas and has a curious origin.

Legend has it that the Margherita pizza was created in Naples on an occasion when the Queen consort Margherita of Savoy was visiting. To honour her, a pizza maker from Naples made a pizza in the colours of Italy. He used tomato for red, mozzarella for white and basil for the green colour of the Italian flag.

This recipe is divided into two parts:
First, we explain the procedure to make a dough for 10 Neapolitan pizzas
and then the recipe for a Margherita pizza (click on the link to go directly there).


Dough recipe for 10 Neapolitan pizzas of 30-35 cm diameter

This recipe is based on the discipline of The Association of Neapolitan Pizza Makers (L’Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani).

  • Preparation: 30 min.
  • Cooking time: 90 seconds
  • Difficulty: Medium/low

Ingredients

The reference unit is 1 litre of water, from which the proportions of all other ingredients derive.

Therefore for 1 litre of water:

  • 1 litre of water
  • 50 – 55 gr of salt.
  • 4 g fresh brewer’s yeast (1 g is sufficient for dry yeast, but should not be used in the original recipe)
  • 1.7/1.8 kg of flour type 000

How should the ingredients be?

  • Water: There are no particular restrictions, you can use tap water, the temperature must be in the range of 20-22 degrees Celsius and the pH value must be 6 or 7. Of course, we are talking about still, clean water, without substances or microorganisms harmful to humans.
  • Flour: The flour must be soft wheat 000 medium strength, with a value between W 280 and W 320. The strength of the flour is determined by a number of properties such as the degree of water absorption and the amount of protein. Strength flours absorb more water, so the more strength the flour has, the less quantity is needed to achieve the desired effect.
  • Yeast: Fresh brewer’s yeast or dry/compressed yeast can be used. Depending on the season, you will use less yeast in summer and more yeast in winter
  • Salt: Table salt.

Procedure

Mixing

Pour all the water and salt into a bowl or the container of a kneading machine (for those who have one), stirring so that it dissolves well, to facilitate the maturing of the dough.

acqua sale

Once this is done, add a small amount of flour (about 10% or a spoon) and finally the yeast. Start spinning with a spoon (use the slowest speed with the dough mixer) until the yeast has dissolved.

Then gradually pour in the rest of the flour, and always knead with the ladle so that it is completely absorbed by the water. This process should not take longer than 10 minutes.

acqua farina

With the automatic kneader, continue to work the dough again at minimum speed for another 20 minutes or so, while for the others it is time to use their hands, as the ladle can no longer be used.

impasto farina

Kneading

Note: For kneading, the use of hands or a double speed kneader with arms or dipping fork is allowed. The automatic kneader allows for better aeration of the dough, but also for greater overheating of the dough, with the consequent risk of disintegration of the gluten.

With the left hand we keep the bowl firm (it is always better to keep one hand clean, in case we need to add other ingredients) and with the right hand we start kneading.

The movement should be circular, take the dough from below, lift it, bring it back and crush it firmly with the palm down.

Continue with this movement until all the flour has been absorbed, and the dough has come off the walls of the bowl (in the jargon it is said to be strung).

impasto mani

Prepare a floured pastry board and transfer the dough, continuing to knead with both hands this time, for at least fifteen minutes. The movement should be the same as the one used in the bowl but made with two hands, never tear the dough because it would ruin the already formed gluten net.

impastare mano

We knead until it acquires a soft and elastic consistency. The dough should be moist to the touch, but at the same time, it should not stick to the hands. If the fingers are slightly dipped in the dough and the holes are slowly recomposed, then the dough is ready.

impasto pizza pronto
Leavening

Cover it with a damp cloth and place it in a draught-free location (the air dries the dough forming a surface crust) and, if possible, at a temperature between 24 and 27 degrees Celsius.

leudado de la masa de pizza napolitana
Leavening

Note: Given the small amount of yeast used, it takes about 2 hours before the dough is well leavened.

Once the dough has doubled in size, we can move on to the next phase, which consists of “compacting our dough, working with both hands as if we had to knead it again, only this time you will have to be more delicate, as you will only have to give it the classic “bread wheel” shape.

Now we can start forming the “panetti” (or “balls”), this phase is called “staglio”, the specification of the Neapolitan pizza says that the weight of one of them can vary from 180 to 250 grams (depending on the diameter of the pizza disk we want to get, on average 30-35 cm).

cutting the pizza dough

Weigh each piece of dough that we extract from the dough and form our dough by rolling it up in our hands, and close it at the base, place it in a container, which must be covered for the next leavening phase.

formazione panetti pizza
Second leavening

The next phase is the ”appretto”: the buns must be leavened for at least another 4 hours which can be as long as 6 hours in the coldest periods of the winter. In the end, this dough can be used for the next 6 hours.

panetti lievitare
Final shaping of the pizza

On a uniform surface covered with a veil of flour, use the fingers of both hands, with a movement that gives the idea of pushing the air contained in the dough towards the edges, pressing and turning it several times.

stesure panetto pizza

Note: the central part should not be more than half a centimetre thick, while the edge should be between 1 and 2 cm high.

Remember that the original recipe does not allow the use of any tools at this stage, such as rollers or the disc pressing machine.

Preparation of the Margherita Pizza

Ingredients for a Margherita pizza with a diameter of 30-35 cm.

  • tomato puree 500 ml
  • Buffalo mozzarella or Fior di latte 600 gr.
  • 4/5 Basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil q.b.
  • Salt q.b.
  • 1 pizza dough

Procedure

  1. To start, pour the tomato puree into a bowl and season with 2 teaspoons of oil and a little salt.
  2. Spread the pizza dough with the tomato puree, then the coarsely chopped mozzarella, three basil leaves and finally a dash of oil. You will have to add it with a rather quick movement, made in a spiral, starting from the centre of the disk.
  3. Cooking: A Neapolitan DOC pizza should be cooked in a wood-fired oven for 60-90 seconds at a temperature of 485 degrees centigrade. 
  • Although the Neapolitan tradition does not (obviously) provide for the use of electric ovens if an electric oven is used a temperature of 250 degrees should be set.
  • If you use an electric oven before seasoning the pizza, place the base on a baking tray greased with a little oil so that it does not stick. 

4. In a normal or electric oven, bake the pizza for about 10 minutes.

The pizza is cooked when the edge and the middle acquire the typical leopard spot pigmentation, the real Neapolitan pizza never has a uniform colour. If this happens it is a sign of low oven temperature and/or a poor ripening/leavening of the dough.

It is important to rotate the pizza during baking, to avoid burnt areas.

  1. Once the Margherita pizza is cooked, take it out and serve it immediately.

Pizza, the most famous food in the World

No need for presentation. There is no doubt pizza is the most famous food in the world, there is no country that does not serve it (even if in its own version), and there is no person who does not know it. It is eaten by the youngest to the oldest. 

It also has no contraindications, except if you are allergic to gluten but that can also be substituted.

In the United States alone, some 3 billion pizzas are sold every year, an average of 46 slices per person. 

A pizza consists of a dough covered with tomato and cheese, although other ingredients can be added, varied or replaced.

Perhaps because of the simplicity and accessibility of the ingredients. We can find pizza anywhere in the world.

However, Naples, Italy is where the art of making pizzas was born and lives. It is not by chance that in 2017 the traditional art of Neapolitan pizzaiolo was declared a UNESCO intangible heritage.

Have you ever wondered how pizza was born, how it became known all over the world, what is the official recipe for pizza? 


Related article: Italian food: One day eating like an Italian


In this article I will tell you some stories about pizza:


Where does the word pizza come from?

  • To press, to crush

According to the etymological dictionary of the Italian language, the word pizza comes from the words pigiare, or pestare; and synonymous with schiacciare in Italian which means to push, step and crush. It probably refers to the dough that is then cooked.

In that sense the word pizza means something crushed or stepped on.

  • Pisar 

It can also come from the word in Spanish “pisar”. Naples was a port where people from many different backgrounds arrived and so constantly acquired new words. 

  • A piece of bread

Other scholars say that the origin of the word could be German. Because they compare the derivation from Old German bizzo to pizza. In modern German it is bissen and it means slice or bite. A piece or bite of bread.

  • Pita

There is also the theory that the word pizza comes from the word pita, which in many countries with Arab influence is a flattened piece of bread the size of a hand, that is eaten stuffed. 

the pizza

We do not know what the etymology of pizza really is. What we do know is that the first references to pizza speak of a cake or dough that can be sweet, salty or stuffed. Because the word pizza at that time referred to cakes in general.

History of Pizza

Probably, pizza is something that came up naturally. Agriculture began around 8,000 years ago in the geographical area known as the ‘Fertile Crescent’. This area lies between Iran and Iraq and it was here that wheat was ‘domesticated’ for the first time in history. 

the old pizza tradition

It would not be unusual for someone to have thought of putting flour mixed with water on a metal plate and that on the fire, perhaps with some ingredient on top. 

But let’s go to the facts. 

In Sardinia, Italy, the remains of 3,000 year old leavened bread were found, which could be the first attempts by mankind to bake a pizza. 

First mention in history

The poet Virgil (70-19 BC) mentions a raised bread in his poem Aeneid.

Virgil

Avean poche vivande; e quelle poche

Gran forme di focacce e di farrate

In vece avean di tavole e di quadre,

E la terra medesma e i solchi suoi

Ai pomi agresti eran fiscelle e nappi.

Virgilio

They had little food, and those few

Large forms of focaccia and spelt

They had boards and squares in place,

And the land itself and its furrows

On the rural knobs, there were fish and tassels.

virgilio

An edible dish

pizza on a stone four

From the beginning, pizza was cooked in the form of a plate so that food could be served on it. Perhaps to fight hunger and fill up with bread, as we sometimes do today.

Time passes and habits are maintained.

Why was it born in Naples?

Because the population was very poor and needed consistent and affordable food. A population that in the 18th and 19th centuries was so dense that it had to eat in the streets.

The daughter of the focaccia

Focaccia means in English ‘loaf’, which refers to a large loaf of bread. It is almost certain that the ancestor of pizza was the focaccia of Roman times. At that time it was very common to prepare focaccia made with spelt, a particular type of wheat used by the Romans (the word “flour” comes from the Latin farris, spelt). 

The poet Virgil tells us that the farmers used to grind the spelt grains, sift the flour obtained, mix it with water, aromatic herbs and salt, and grind it to make it fine, giving it the classic round shape. The libum, or placenta, obtained in this way, was cooked with the heat from the ashes of the fireplace.

Before pizza as we know it, we had to discover America

The pizza was initially seasoned with white sauce. 

“The most ordinary pizzas, called with garlic and oil, have the oil as a condiment, and on it is sprinkled, in addition to salt, oregano and minced garlic cloves. Others are covered with grated cheese and seasoned with lard, and then basil leaves are placed on top. The former are usually topped with tiny fish; the latter with thin slices of mozzarella. Sometimes we use sliced ham, pomidoro (tomato), arselle, etc. Sometimes, when the paste is folded over, it forms what is called calzone”.

Francesco De Bourcard, Usi e costumi di Napoli e contorni descritti e dipinti (1853), Vol. II, page 124

A fundamental ingredient of modern pizza is the tomato, but it arrived in Italy from Peru after the discovery of America.

When it arrived in Europe, the tomato was used as an ornamental piece and was considered toxic.

It took more than a century for the tomato to be accepted and added to the pizza. It is now the 18th century and we are approaching the birth of the Margarita pizza.

Birth of the Pizza Margarita

The extreme poverty of Naples and the fact that pizza is the local dish par excellence kept writers and food historians away from pizza for a long time. 

Everything changed with the unification of Italy. It is now 1800, with King Umberto I at the head. The King’s wife was called Margherita of Savoy.

margherita di savoia

Legend has it that in June 1889 Queen Margherita visited Naples. At that time, a pizzaiolo named Raffaele Esposito from the Pizzeria ‘Brandi’ wanted to pay her homage. And he did so with a pizza made with ingredients in the colours of the new Italian flag: green, white and red. For this he carefully chose basil or basil, buffalo mozzarella and tomato. 

Others say that this type of pizza already existed, and it was the queen who noticed that those were the colours of the Italian flag. So they named the pizza after her.

Pizza and the Three Musketeers

The French novelist Alexandre Dumas, the author of ‘The Three Musketeers’ was in Naples in 1830 and wrote that ”there are pizzas with oil, with different fats, with cheese, with tomatoes, and pizzas with different fish’’.

This is one of the first literary testimonies we have about pizza.

Worldwide expansion of pizza

While Italy was in the process of unification, and when the tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza was being named Pizza Margherita, there was a strong emigration of Italian citizens to various countries of the world, especially to the United States.

In 1905 the first American pizzeria was opened in New York. In the 1920s and 1930s, they became restaurants and spread throughout the United States. Ike Sewell and Riccardo in 1943 created a Chicago-style pizza at Pizzeria Uno. 

During World War II, the soldiers brought with them a taste for pizza from Italy, accelerating its popularity. The first commercial pizza mix was “Roman Pizza Mix”, produced in Worcester, Massachusetts by Frank A. Fiorello.

The art of the Neapolitan pizza maker, a UNESCO intangible heritage

Since 2017 the traditional art of Neapolitan pizzaiolo has been recognised as part of the cultural heritage of mankind. 

pizza in napoli

It is a culinary practice that includes several stages, including the preparation of the dough, a turning movement made by the pizza chef and baking in a wood-fired oven.

The art of the Neapolitan pizza maker was born in Naples, where some 3000 pizzaiuoli live and work. The recognition of UNESCO brings pizza, one of the most loved and consumed foods in the world, to the Olympus of national and international cuisine and identifies the art of the Neapolitan pizza maker as an expression of a culture.

Pizza reversals around the world, from chocolate to sushi pizza

There are around 500 styles of pizza in the world. The site pizzarecipe.org organised them on its website.

By looking at how many pizzas there are and how varied they are, we realise how much pizza is used around the world as an eating dish, to be seasoned with the preferred ingredients of the country where it is found.  

Africa 

Here the pizzas are usually the spiciest in the world, because at the same time as using tomato sauce, chili sauce is used. For example, the Chicken Pizza, with jam, goat cheese, chicken, hot peppers, cardamom, and fennel.

China

There are places where pizza is known only recently, such as in China, where the first pizzerias opened in the 1990s. Until then, cheese and tomatoes were almost unknown. 

Therefore, instead of tomato sauce, an Asian sauce is often used. Since 2000, pizza has become increasingly popular and more and more chains and restaurants have opened there. 

A rarity of Chinese pizza is the ”pizza with pork chili sauce” with hoisin sauce, glazed pork, roasted sesame seeds, spring onions, garlic.

United States

In America, many different variants of pizza have emerged. Some are quite similar to the Neapolitan pizza types, but use much more cheese. For example the New York Slice pizza is the most popular and most similar to a Neapolitan margarita. Other variants, however, are hardly based on their Italian ancestors. So there is the Chicago pizza, which reminds more of a cake. Pizza Hut and Domino’s are the largest pizza delivery services and restaurant operators in the US.

Japan

In Japan, pizza has been known since the 1970s. It is almost always served with tabasco sauce and seafood as a topping. Often, side dishes such as chips, salad or soup are served. Sometimes, instead of tomato sauce, mayonnaise is also used as a base. In Japan, there are also some pizzas for dessert. These are sweet and covered with chocolate, honey or strawberries.

Chashu pork pizza: Tomatoes, miso sauce, pork slices, leek.

Cheese and Honey Pizza: Cream cheese, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, Small cherry tomatoes, Parsley, Honey.

Norway

It is the country where the highest percentage of pizzas per person is consumed. Pizza is the unofficial national dish. There is also the so-called traditional pizza called “lørdagspizza“, which means Sunday pizza. Lørdagspizza is covered with tomato sauce, minced meat and lots of cheese and baked in the pan. Besides lørdagspizza, a lot of frozen pizza is eaten.

Russia

Similar to China’s example, pizza in Russia did not spread until the 1990s. Around the year 2000, the first Italian pizzerias were opened. After that, a true pizza culture was born. And more and more exotic and expensive ingredients such as truffle, caviar, dried meat and aged cheese have been used. Wealthy Russian customers became enthusiastic and fell in love with Italian pizza. One example is the salmon and caviar pizza: sour cream, smoked salmon, black caviar, golden caviar, freshly chopped dill, onion, olive oil.

Classic Neapolitan pizza recipe

Although there may be as many versions of pizza as there are pizzerias in the world, there is only one Neapolitan pizza that is accepted by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (Association of the real Neapolitan Pizza)

the pizza logo

This recipe is followed by the best pizzerias in Naples. Walking through their alleys, you often find this symbol on the windows of the pizzerias:

This logo indicates that the pizzeria follows the discipline of the real Neapolitan pizza. 

Strict rules must be followed for the preparation of the Neapolitan pizza. The association says that the slightest change of recipe could alter the quality of the final product. To be able to use the logo it is obligatory for all ingredients to be from Campana. 

A typical and international dish

Although born in Naples, the word pizza is known in almost all languages of the world and is part – with its variations – of international gastronomy, with adaptations to the preferred ingredients of all countries where it is consumed.

Pizza was born as a poor man’s meal until the 19th century and that means that we have few written records of it. With the event or legend of Queen Margherita and the pizza later baptised ‘Margherita’ changed everything. With a pizza carrying the colours of the Italian flag. 

There is a typical and official Neapolitan pizza. This recipe with the ingredients from Naples can be baked and obtain a pizza like the one we would find in the streets of Naples. 

Pizza is and will remain an everyday meal, a meal that unites and adapts to all tastes and cultures. 

Tiramisù, the aphrodisiac Italian dessert

The fifth most internationally known Italian word, and the first that refers to desserts, don’t you believe it? The Accademia Italiana della Crusca eliminates all doubt: the word tiramisù is listed as “gastronomic Italianism” in 23 languages. All the dictionaries mention it, mentioning the main ingredients. 

Related article: How to eat like an Italian

Jump to the main sections of the article

Origin of the word tiramisù
Origin of the recipe

Between legend and reality, two stories about the origin of tiramisu

Mascarpone is more than good
A must for tiramisu lovers: Restaurant ‘Le Beccherie’ in Treviso

Recipes

Tiramisù Day

The origin of the word Tiramisù

The etymology of the word Tiramisu means “raise me up, strengthen my body”. It derives from the Treviso dialect “Tireme su”, Italianised into tiramisu in the last decades of the twentieth century.

tiramisù

Tiramisù is the king of Italian desserts. Known all over the world, it is attributed with aphrodisiac, intoxicating and historical properties. Rejected only by those who do not drink alcohol. It is the perfect mix between sweet, bitter, smooth texture on the palate and the final taste of chocolate…

Available in all the world’s cuisine restaurants, which is great because you can try it in any capital of the world. But is it well-made? Is tiramisu really ‘how it should be’? The original recipe has alcohol in it? Read on. 

Origins of the recipe

The recipe would be derived from “sbatudin” a mixture of beaten egg yolk with sugar, commonly used by peasant families as a restorative or for newlyweds. To this was then added the mascarpone, coffee and cocoa that all our families remember having tasted since childhood before its prohibition during the last world war.

Between legend and reality

Tiramisù is a cultural product, the result of a mixture of simple ingredients from different places. It is the great-grandson of a Romagnolo dessert, it uses Piedmontese Ladyfingers, Brazilian cocoa, Lombard mascarpone.

It is to be expected, then, that many regions dispute their place of birth. 

Origin in Treviso, Veneto region, Italy

Tiramisù Academy claims to have all the evidence to say that the tiramisu was created in Treviso, Veneto region, Italy, towards the end of the 1700s and beginning of the 1800s.  

The brothels of Veneto

The Prodigal Son, from Jacopo de Palma, XVI century
The Prodigal Son, from Jacopo de Palma, XVI century

One of the legends about the origin of tiramisu says that the dessert was created by a courtesan from a brothel in the historic centre of Treviso, Italy. The dessert was offered to customers at the end of the evening. When giving it to them, a courtesan holding the cake warned them in this way: “desso ve tiro su mi”, which means ‘now I lift you’ / ‘now I throw you on me’, hence the origin of the name.

tiramisù ingredients

The ingredients of ‘tiramisu’ support the theory

All of them are nutritious and caloric: eggs, sugar, Lady Fingers, mascarpone cheese, coffee and cocoa (a portion of tiramisu can reach 500 calories!). Even the simple preparation of the recipe, anyone can do it without special tools.

This is how the ”Tiremesù” was born, a natural viagra from the 1800s

Over the centuries, a veil of popular shame and embarrassment has concealed the true origin of Tiramisú. In fact, it is not mentioned in books until the second half of the 20th century, with the sexual liberation. 

Other places that dispute the authorship of tiramisu

The ‘Zuppa del Duca’ the name of the Tramisù in Siena, Italy

The rivalry between the two most important cities in the Tuscany region of Italy, Siena and Florence, is well known.

Legend has it that in the 17th century the inhabitants of Siena were once expecting a visit from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de Medici. And after deliberating whether to put a snake in his bunk or give him poisoned wine to drink, the Sienese decided to open their doors without warlike purposes and be hospitable.

But how do you honor a Grand Duke? 

It was known that the Duke had just married a certain Marguerite Louise d’Orléans, a cousin of King Louis XIV, known for her airs and graces. 

So to ‘cheer up’ the new couple, a pastry chef devised a cake with energetic ingredients to warm up even the coldest nights. 

So they served the Grand Duke mascarpone, ladyfingers, coffee and chocolate. 

Duke Cosimo III de Medici was fascinated.

The Duke’s Soup or ‘Zuppa del Duca’ conquered the palate and heart of the Grand Duke and the beautiful Margherita, who decided to take the recipe with them so that they would never run out.

‘’Más que bueno’’ (Spainsh for ‘more than good’)

An important ingredient of Tiramisù is mascarpone or mascherpone. It is probably derived from the Lombard “mascherpa” which means ricotta cheese, though it is not ricotta cheese. Mascarpone is an acidified milk cream. 

Some historians say that the origin of this cheese goes back to medieval times and the name derives from an expression used by a Spanish nobleman in 1200 who called it “Mas che bueno”.

A must for tiramisu lovers

In Piazzetta Ancilotto, in the centre of Treviso, an old inn of the time, the current restaurant Le Beccherie, was the first to include Tiramisù on its menu. And it is the restaurant that claims to have invented it, saying that the dessert made the opposite journey to its origins: from houses to inns, restaurants and bakeries.

First tiramisu recipe

Roberto ‘Loli’ Linguanotto and his tiramisu
Roberto ‘Loli’ Linguanotto and his tiramisu

The first written recipe on record is that of the restaurant Le Beccherie in Treviso. In 1983, in his book “La cucina trevigiana”, the oenogastronome Giuseppe Maffioli describes the recipe for the legitimate ‘Tiramisu delle Beccherie’.

It was in that year that the dessert was first served. It was prepared by the confectioner Roberto ”Loli” Linguanotto and he called it “zuppa inglese al caffè”. Linguanotto’s work was influenced in many ways during his years in Germany. Linguanotto added the Lady Fingers, biscuits born in the Savoy of the late Middle Ages, which also appear in the French Charlotte.

The first written recipe for tiramisu

Snow-mount 12 egg yolks with half a kilo of sugar and then add 1 kg of mascarpone, obtaining a smooth cream. Wet 30 Ladyfingers with sugared coffee. Spread half of the cream on the Ladyfingers, then place another 30 Ladyfingers and dip them in more coffee, smearing with the remaining mascarpone. Sprinkle the mascarpone with bitter cocoa, and place in the fridge until serving. 

Another traditional recipe from Treviso

This recipe, as I said before, does not include Marsala wine. This was added later. 

It is almost the same as the first recipe mentioned in this article, only the proportions are slightly different, and the quantities lower. 

To prepare it according to the original recipe, the following ingredients are needed Lady Fingers, egg yolks, sugar, coffee, mascarpone and cocoa powder. 

The original recipe does not include egg whites and liquor (however, if you want to add some, the most suitable is the Marsala). 

The original shape of the cake is round, although the shape of the Lady Fingers favours the use of a rectangular or square baking dish, spreading the classic “brick” image. However, it is often also assembled inside round glass cups, showing the various layers, or in the form of a pyramid.

Ingredients for 6-8 people
  • 300g of mascarpone
  • 3 egg yolks
  • sugar (1 and a half spoons per yolk)
  • Ladyfingers
  • coffee (slightly sweetened)
  • bitter cocoa powder
Preparation
  1. Beat the egg yolks with sugar
  2. Combine the mascarpone to obtain a soft cream
  3. Soak the ladyfingers in coffee and put them in a layer
  4. Cover the cake layer with the cream and repeat the operation, ending with a layer of cream. 
  5. Place in the fridge for a few hours
  6. Finally sprinkle with bitter cocoa and serve cold.

Tiramisù, classic Italian recipe

A final version of the tiramisu, which includes the addition of liquor, preferably Marsala wine, although the recipe leaves it optional. 

The classic recipe of the Italian dessert, made with simplicity and tradition. With Marsala wine. 

Ingredients
  • 500 g mascarpone
  • 300 g lady fingers
  • 250 g of coffee (mocha or espresso)
  • 200 g of sugar 
  • 80 g Marsala (Optional)
  • 4 eggs
  • Bitter cocoa
  • Salt
Preparation
  1. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks in two different bowls. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt to the yolks.
  2. Keep the egg whites aside and beat the yolks with a whisk until they are frothy and clear.
  3. Add the mascarpone cheese to the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a spoon.
  4. Beat the egg whites with a hand or electric mixer: if you use the hand mixer, choose a large mixer to add more air. Add the beaten egg whites to the yolk and mascarpone mixture, stirring the cream from bottom to top.
  5. Pour the coffee at room temperature into a low, wide dish, mix a spoonful of sugar and the Marsala (soak).
  6. Soak 2 Ladyfingers at a time in the dish, for 1 second on each side, then distribute them side by side, in a first layer, in an oven dish (30×30 cm), not leaving any empty spaces.
  7. Cover the Ladyfingers with 1/3 of the cream and repeat the same operations to make two more equal layers.
  8. Let the tiramisu cool in the fridge for a couple of hours covered with aluminium foil, then sprinkle with cocoa just before serving.

To celebrate the tiramisu day

The World Tiramisu Day is celebrated on 21 March. It is the first day of spring in Europe and the day that recharges you for the new season. 

We do not really know how it originated. But tiramisu is certainly one of the best known Italian desserts in world gastronomy, because of its ingredients of varied origins and the ease of preparation. And I hope it will remain like that for a long time to come. 

Did you like the recipes?

If you do, don’t hesitate to share them on social networks by tagging @thetraditionalfoodie

And I’ll see you at the next article!

vitello tonnato

Vitel tonné or Vitello tonnato

”Written like this? Not ‘vitel tonné‘? Italian? It sounds French…”

This may come to mind when you see this title. Do you want to know why we call it vitel tonné? Here I explain it to you.

In some countries like Argentina and Italy this recipe is reserved only for the holidays, Christmas or New Year. In others, like the country of origin, it is an interesting and tasty entry. 

I say this because, being Argentine, the taste and aroma of vitel tonné reminds me of Christmas, and it is rare for me to eat it on an occasion other than the holidays in December. When I first saw vitello tonnato on an Italian menu I thought it was a reversion of a French recipe. Later I would understand that I was wrong, that vitello tonnato is as Italian as pizza or panettone.

Related article: Italian food: One day eating like an Italian

Few people know its real origin in Turin, Italy and its history, so here I come to tell it. And as always, I present you with the old recipe and a classic recipe for this dish.

In this article you will learn about:

The origin of the vitello tonnato

First ever written recipe for vitello tonnato 

Or I can take you directly to the recipes

Vitello tonnato alla maniera antica

Classic Vitello Tonnato


The origin of vitello tonnato

The vitello tonnato, also called vitel tonné, was born in Piedmont in the 18th century.

Vitel tonné or vitello tonnato?

Tonno means tuna in Italian, so it is sometimes believed that the name of the recipe comes from the fact that it contains tuna as if the literal meaning was: rump steak with tuna.

However, in the 18th century recipe books we find the first testimonies of “vitello tonè” (or tonné), in which the tuna is often missing. 

At that time, French and Italian were the official languages of the Duchy of Savoy and the two languages were often mixed, a dialect of French rich in Italianisms being spoken. The term “tonné” was probably understood in the sense of the French “tanné“, that is, tanned or tangled.

We owe the arrival of the tuna to the smugglers

Salt was a precious and expensive commodity at the time, even more expensive than fish. At that time the Piedmontese went to the sea in Liguria to buy sardines and tuna. However, these clever people used to hide the salt underneath the fish to trick the French and Italian customs officers into selling the salt in Piedmont. 

vitel tonné
Joaquín Sorolla ”Tuna fishing”

First the tonnato, then the tuna

According to culinary academics: “one might think that tonnato initially meant that the veal was tanned (tané) and that the tuna was added later, probably attracted by the name of the dish”.

A poor people’s recipe with a rich reputation

Unlike the contemporary recipe, in 1700 this was a poor and popular dish, cooked with the remains of meat boiled for a long time to obtain softness and to try to disinfect the raw material from the many contaminations at that time.

Between ancient and modern, the difference is in the mayonnaise

Mayonnaise was introduced in the 20th century. The success of the dish on a national and international scale, took place from the 1960s onwards by, among others, Guido and Lidia Alciati from the Da Guido restaurant in Costigliole d’Asti.

In the 1980s, it was at the top of the Italian gastronomic scene, a time of modernity and ‘culinary hedonism’, where the traditional was left aside in search of the more modern and industrial.

So between an older, local Piedmontese recipe and today’s classic recipe, the difference is in the mayonnaise, and something else. Let’s go to the recipes.

The old recipe is that of Artusi

The first recipe written for vitel tonné dates back to the 19th century, when Pellegrino Artusi formalised the recipe in his book ‘Scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene’.

vitello tonnato first written recipe
First ever writen recipe for vitello tonnato, by Pellegrino Artusi

The great gourmet of Romagna used to prescribe veal in milk, seasoned with anchovies and then boiled “with two cloves, a bay leaf, celery, carrot and parsley”. The meat was cut into thin slices and kept “in an infusion for a day or two” in a sauce made with anchovies, tuna in oil, lemon, oil and capers. Nothing was thrown away, of course: “Strain the broth and use it for a risotto”.

Vitello tonnato the old fashioned way

Some people do not know that vitello tonnato, or vitel tonné, is a pride of Piedmontese cuisine to the extent that it has two different versions: the old one and the one we all know. 

This first recipe is exactly what is made in the city of Turin: the vitello tonnato alla maniera antica, called so because one does not throw away anything that is used for cooking. 

Unlike the more classic version of the vitel tonné, here the meat is not boiled but browned first on the flame and then baked.

And instead of the classic vegetables such as carrots and onions, tuna, anchovies and capers are used, which together with the boiled eggs, will form a creamy tuna sauce without the addition of mayonnaise!

Ingredients
  • Rump steak 500 g
  • Garlic 1 clove
  • Salt up to 5 g
  • Black pepper q.b.
  • White wine 80 g
  • Whole milk 150 g
  • Tuna fish in oil 125 g
  • Anchovies in oil 20 g
  • Capers 20 g
  • Boiled eggs 4
  • Marsala 15 g
  • Vegetable broth 40 g
  • Extra virgin olive oil 40 g
Preparation
How to prepare ‘vitel tonné’ or vitello tonnato in the old fashioned way
  1. Season the meat with salt and pepper by spreading the salt on a cutting board and roll the meat like a roll for uniform seasoning.
  2. Pour 20 g of oil into an ovenproof casserole dish. 
  3. Place a clove of garlic in the pan and then add the meat. Brown the meat over a medium-high heat on all sides for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Important: This recipe is Italian, a place where the meat is eaten slightly pink. If the meat is eaten well cooked in your country, do not hesitate to double the cooking times.
  5. At this point you add the shredded rump steak or loins, anchovies and capers.
  6. Slightly break the tuna and when it is toasted and golden, add the white wine. 
  7. Once the white wine has been slightly reduced, add the milk over the mixture and not over the meat.
  8. As it is, transfer to a preheated oven at 180° and cook it for 7-8 minutes, then turn the rump steak and continue cooking for another 7-8 minutes. 
  9. Meanwhile, prepare the hard-boiled eggs, placing the eggs in boiling water for 9 minutes.
  10. Take it out of the oven, cover it with aluminium foil and let it cool down completely at room temperature.
  11. As soon as the meat has cooled down, transfer it to a cutting board and remove the garlic clove from the cooking liquid;
  12. Then pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and add the sliced boiled eggs.
  13. Process with a mixer or in a blender and add 20 g of oil, vegetable broth and Marsala. 
  14. Mix until a smooth cream is obtained, adding more broth if it is too thick. Put it in the fridge to cool down a bit.
  15. Remove the string from the meat and cut it into thin slices with a very sharp knife. 
Preparation of the dish:

Option 1: Place all the slices of meat together on a plate and add the sauce on top. 

Option 2: Place the slices of meat on a cutting board and fill every piece of meat with a teaspoon of cream, placing it in the middle of the slice. Close each slice in the shape of a half-moon and place on a serving plate.

Some lettuce leaves can be added and seasoned with salt, oil and balsamic vinegar. 

The vitello tonnato alla maniera antica is ready, you just have to try it!

Modern way vitello tonnato

This is a recipe that in the 80’s was popular on all party tables, big occasions, the first chic homemade snacks and even on cruise ships!

What makes this recipe really special is the tenderness of the meat. Ladies and gentlemen, make sure you have everything you need, today we are preparing the eternal recipe for veal with tuna sauce!

  • Preparation: 40 min.
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes
  • Dosage for: 4 persons
  • Cost: Medium
Ingredients
  • Rump steak 800 g
  • Celery 1 
  • Carrots 1
  • Golden onions 1
  • Garlic 1 clove
  • White wine 250 g
  • Water 1.5 l
  • Laurel 1 leaf
  • Clove 3
  • Extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons
  • Black peppercorns ½ teaspoon
  • Salt 
For the sauce
  • Eggs 2
  • Tuna fish drained in oil 100 g
  • Anchovies in oil 3 fillets
  • Capers in salt 5 g
  • Fruit of capers to decorate q.b.
Preparation
  1. To prepare the modern vitello tonnato, you start by cleaning the vegetables that will be used to cook the meat. Wash them, then peel the carrot and cut it into pieces. Then remove the tips of the celery and also cut it into pieces. Peel the onion and divide it into 2 parts. As you do this, collect the ingredients in a bowl and add the peeled garlic.
  2. Clean the meat by removing cartilage and fat filaments. In a large pan put the meat, the cut vegetables, bay leaves, 2-3 cloves and black peppercorns.
  3. Pour the white wine and then the water to cover everything. Add two pinches of salt and then the oil. 
  4. Turn on the grill and wait for it to boil, then gradually remove the foam that will rise to the surface. 
  5. Then close the lid and lower the heat slightly, leaving it to cook for about 40-45 minutes: remember that for every 500g of meat it takes about 30 minutes to cook. The important thing is that the heart of the meat does not exceed 65°, which can be measured with a kitchen thermometer.
  6. Once the piece of meat is cooked, drain it and let it cool down completely. Then remove the bay leaves, pepper and cloves.
  7. Recover 1/3 of the broth obtained and reduce it to a high heat for about ten minutes (the remaining part of the meat broth is useful for other preparations, such as a risotto).
  8. At the end of the cooking, drain the vegetables in a bowl. 
  9. Prepare the cooked eggs by placing them in a pan of water at room temperature, turn on the oven and count 9 minutes from the time the water comes to the boil. Then rinse them under cold water. Once they are cold, open them, cut them into 4 parts and add them to the bowl with the vegetables. 
  10. Add to the bowl the drained tuna, the anchovies in oil and the capers (remove the salt under running water) and a little broth. 
  11. Use a blender or mixer to process everything into a cream. Add more broth if necessary.
  12. Mix until you get a smooth cream with the consistency you prefer.
  13. At this point, the meat should be completely cold. Cut it into thin slices with a sharp knife. Place the slices and pour the cream in the middle.
  14. Finally, garnish with caper fruits, some whole and others cut in half.

Vitello tonnato ready!

Storage
  • It is recommended to consume the vitello tonnato within 1 to 2 days, keeping it in a hermetically sealed container. It is preferable to keep the cream separate. 
  • Freeze it if it is not consumed at the moment.
Advices
  • Use a slicer to make thin slices.
  • If you prefer a more cooked meat, slightly extend the cooking time in the oven.
  • Add or replace vegetables and spices with those you prefer, preferably in season. If you don’t like anchovies and/or capers, remove them.
  • Some versions use mayonnaise instead of boiled eggs, you can try adding as much as you like!

Pastry cream, the old and the modern recipe

Few ingredients to give life to one of the most beloved creams: Pastry Cream.

Eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla, what a lovely combination! 

This pastry cream is among the most used in Italian and French patisseries, such as chantilly or zabaglione, to fill many sweets. In puff pastry cakes (such as cannoncini, vol-au-vent, millefoglie).

And of course, the best filling for Italian brioches, here the recipe.

Loved by children and adults alike. Pastry cream is always welcome! 

In this article I will tell you stories about:

My journey in Brescia and the best pastry chef in Italy

The origins of the pastry cream

Or you can go directly to the Italian pastry cream recipe


Brescia, Iginio Massari and his cakes

In 2019 I lived in Brescia, Italy working in a sensory analysis company.

After some time, someone told me that I was living only two blocks from Iginio Massari’s bar called ‘Pasticceria Veneto’. That’s where I met one of the most famous characters in Italian cuisine.

If you ever go to the north of Italy, in the Lago di Garda area I highly recommend visiting this bar.

Iginio Massari is not the typical diva chef, he really is a passionate and perfectionist artist. His cakes are so perfect that more than just being eaten they make you want to use them as decorations, they are works of art. And when you taste them, they are exquisite!

In spite of being in the principal culinary guides of the world as one of the best cake bars, Pasticceria Veneto is a neighbourhood bar. Colourful, small, with the cakes displayed in the window, people go in the morning to read the newspaper and say hello the waiters as in any bar. 

One day when Iginio was at the bar, I greeted him and told him about my passion for gastronomy. I don’t know if he remembered me but it was a moment to remember in my life.

For that reason and because there are as many versions of pastry cream as there are cooks, today I am going to leave you with the Italian recipe for Iginio Massari’s pastry cream.

But first of all, let’s discover together what is behind this indispensable cream: its origins!

How was the pastry cream born

It would seem that the pastry cream was invented by François Massialot, a French chef born in Limoges in 1660 and died in Paris in 1733.

François Massialot was the chef of many personalities such as Philippe I, Duke of Orleans (brother of Louis XIV), the Duke of Aumont and the Cardinal of Estrées.

But he is most famous for being the author of a fundamental book of cuisine, one of the first culinary dictionaries, “Le cuisinier roïal et bourgeois” (The Royal and Bourgeois Cook).

The Royal and Bourgeois Cook book by François Massialot
The Royal and Bourgeois Cook book by François Massialot

Here is the first appearance of pastry cream in this 1691 book.

Pastry cream old recipe

As you can see in the photo, the first recipe for pastry cream on record was much more basic than the one we know today.

Do you want to cook the first recipe of pastry cream?

Here’s the recipe

Pastry cream first recipe

Creme patissiere:

If you want to do it for several times, you have to beat twelve eggs, the white and the yolk. Once beaten, you need to put in a good half-pound of flour (450g), rather more than less and beat the whole thing together. Then you add another dozen eggs, which you continue to mix with the rest. 

Have at the same time about two and a half pints of milk (1.420 litres), and put it in a large saucepan at proportion, to boil it. 

When it boils, pour it into the pot and stir. It needs a little salt, about half a pound of butter (227g), a little white pepper and cook it well, taking care that it does not stick to the bottom. Your cream being thick and cooked, you will pour it into another saucepan and let it cool.

François Massialot, The Royal and Bourgeois Cook

As you can see in this recipe, no sugar was added to the cream, because it could then be used for salty and sweet things. Adding sugar for sweet cakes, or making a millefeuille and adding meat for a salty recipe.

Now let’s go to the Pastry cream recipe.

Pastry cream recipe

INGREDIENTS FOR ABOUT 750 G OF CREAM
  • Whole milk 500 g 
  • Sugar 130 g
  • Egg yolks (about 7) 125 g
  • Rice starch 40 g
  • Vanilla pod 2
  • Lemon peel ½

How to prepare the pastry cream

Follow the step-by-step procedure with Master Confectioner Iginio Massari and discover all the tricks to prepare the perfect pastry cream!

Here is a video and then the written recipe.

  1. To prepare the pastry cream first put a glass bowl in the freezer. Then cut the vanilla seeds out of vanilla and cut the pods into pieces.
  2. Pour the milk into a casserole and add both the seeds and the vanilla pods. 
  3. Cut only the yellow part of the lemon peel, and add it to the casserole. 
  4. Light the heat and bring the milk to the boiling point, occasionally stirring. In another saucepan pour the yolks, sugar and the starch. 
  5. Using a soft whisk, stir to obtain a smooth, creamy consistency. 
  6. As soon as the milk starts to boil, transfer it into the egg yolks in times by filtering it with a strainer and stirring constantly with a whisk. 
  7. Transfer it back over the heat and stir continuously until it thickens.
  8. To cool it quickly, take the bowl out of the freezer and pour the cream inside. 
  9. Stir with a whisk very quickly, until the cream is at 50°C, below the cooking point. You will obtain a smooth and very shiny cream. 
  10. At this point the custard is ready, you can use right away it or keep it in the fridge by covering it with plastic wrap.

For it to be perfect, its texture must be perfectly smooth and lump-free.

Its consistency is also very important; it must be fairly firm.

STORAGE
  • The custard can be stored in the refrigerator covered with film for 5 days.
  • Alternatively, you can freeze it for 1 month.  
TIPs
  • It’s a very versatile preparation: you just need to change the doses or some ingredients to obtain different consistencies appropriate to your use.  Use rice starch to obtain a softer cream, otherwise if you prefer a more consistent cream use the same amount of corn starch.
  • If you don’t have a plastic wrap and you don’t want the cream to crust over, you can sprinkle it with a layer of sugar to avoid it. 
  • Never leave the yolks in contact with the sugar without stirring, otherwise, they will cook and the cream will be lumpy. 
  • By heating the milk previously the yolk will be less affected by the high temperature, giving the aromatic taste a particular freshness. 
  • With these doses you will be able to stuff a cake of 22 cm in diameter, making two layers of cream.

Cotoletta alla milanese recipe

The traditional recipe of the famous Italian dish cotoletta alla Milanese and the French influence on the words of Italian cuisine.

In the Milanese cuisine there are three emblematic traditional dishes: the saffron risotto or risotto alla milanese, the panettone and the cotoletta alla milanese. 

Being of Argentinean nationality, in my country we have the ‘milanesas’ that look similar to the cotoletta because of Milanese immigration in my country. So I was very happy when I knew I was going to try a traditional Italian ‘milanesa’.

The cotoletta traditionally consists of a slice of bone-in beef tenderloin, breaded and fried in butter, seasoned back with liquid butter when ready. Modern versions tend to avoid this last step and replace the butter with lemon slices that are squeezed by the diner once the dish is served.

In this article, I’m going to tell you some stories about… 


Italian cuisine, its French influence and the birth of the word cotoletta

According to the book ‘New Lombard Cooking Code’, the Italian language of cooking was born from a cross between French and Italian dialects. And reading the recipe books, one could say that this crossing was a bit contradictory. 

In Lombard kitchens, the two languages, the Milanese dialect and French, continued to play with the language settings during the first half of the 20th century. Also, several chefs did not speak Italian but a dialect, be it Lombard, Bergamo or Tuscan. 

After two years of elementary school, professional cooks learned Italian and French (orally) in the kitchens. Cooking terminology did not have reliable references in cookbooks, so all terms were in French. 

The case of cotolette alla milanese

An example of this crossing of languages is the case of the cotoletta alla milanese. When this recipe was described in the 1903 book Scienza in cucina by Pellegrino Artusi, great care was taken to call them costelette alla milanese or ‘milanese ribs’, specifying that by using the ribs, they have the bone. And without it they are just pieces of lean, spoiled meat. In the ear of the cooks, costelette betrayed the silly imitation of the French côtelette, and so, for the Milanese cooks, it derived in cotolette.

The history of the traditional cotoletta alla milanese

  • Cotoletta, (cutuleta in Milanese dialect, derived from the French côtelette)

According to some historians, the first indication of cotoletta in Milanese cuisine dates back to the dish of “lombolos cum panitio” contained in the menu of the Canons of San Ambrogio the patron saint of Milan during the solemn festivals of the 13th century, a description that has been communicated by Pietro Verri.

But not all scholars of the history of Italian cuisine accept this recipe. Others believe that the first mention is in the book Gastronomia Moderna by Giuseppe Sorbiatti, in 1855, in which he speaks of Milanese fried veal ribs:

“Subtly prepare six ribs with courtesy, soak them in the beaten egg, then dip them in bread, fry them over a low heat until they are golden, turn them over, salt them, and after two minutes serve them on the plate seasoned with liquid butter and lemon slices”.

Cotoletta alla milanese or wiener schnitzel, what are the differences?

The cotoletta milanese is also described by Radetzky who wrote that in Milan they ate an excellent cotoletta, which is passed through eggs, breaded and fried in butter, unlike the Viennese, with fine flour and pork, not beef. Here we see the first difference between cotoletta and wiener schnitzel, which also dispute which of the two gave rise to the other.

Perhaps there were already versions of the Schnitzel in Austria before the cotoletta, but floured and not breaded, as suggested above. 

The Austrian schnitzel is usually made with pork and several cuts of the boned meat are used, a very thin, wide meat and it is beaten in the preparation. Finally it is floured before cooking and although today lard is used for frying, in the past pork fat was used. 

On the contrary, the cotoletta is made with beef, only the sirloin is used, the famous cut is called “elephant’s ear” because by having the bone and also hitting it, it becomes wide, like an elephant’s ear. And it’s almost a centimeter high, just like the bone. In the cotoletta we use only breadcrumbs and not flour. To fry the cotoletta we use only butter. .

Recipe of cotoletta alla milanese

Preparation for 6 portions

Ingredients:
  • Veal ribs with bone 6 units, 1 cm high,
  • Bread crumbs to taste,
  • Eggs 2 units,
  • Butter 150 g
  • Salt
Preparation
  1. Cut the edge of the ribs so that they do not curve during cooking.
  2. Tap them lightly and pass them first through the beaten egg and then through the breadcrumbs, tapping them gently with your hands so that the breadcrumbs adhere well.
  3. Melt the butter in a large, heavy pan and brown both sides over low heat.
  4. Salt is added at the time of serving.
  5. When cut, it should be slightly moist inside: it should be crisp on the outside and soft inside.
Variations

Some historical recipes recommend grating a pinch of nutmeg into the breadcrumbs; others, like Artusi’s, prescribe mixing the breadcrumbs with Parmesan cheese (Artusi also adds parsley and truffle perfume).

Tradition appreciates the use of double breadcrumbs, to make them crunchy on the outside, while keeping their softness and light internal moisture.

Accompanying

As the main course it goes well with saffron risotto (risotto allo zafferano. As a second course, it goes well with fresh chicory, chips, asparagus, spinach or green beans in butter.

It requires a wine with good body and great smoothness, like the Italian Curtefranca DOC Rosso with a slight herbaceous taste. 

Italian cotoletta alla milanese

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