Euro 2012 Soccer Championship. ITALIA plays . . . I cook! New Recipe: Potatoes Gattò

Photo courtesy of http://www.blogo.it

As some of you may know, the European Soccer Championship is underway and ITALIA is one of the contenders. You must know that every time the AZZURRI (nickname for the Italian soccer team) play in a competition, it is a serious matter in my house. As game time approaches, the air gets tense, My three men pretend to be relaxed but you can just sense how jittery they are. As for myself, no reason to deny that I get very anxious as well; lately, however, I realized that spending the hours leading up to the game cooking, put me at ease and so . . . I cook!

Yesterday, ITALIA played vs. England for a chance to advance to the semifinals, big game, a lot at stake, game time 2:45 PM . . . plenty of time for me to release the tension in my cucina.

I decided to prepare something that my mom used to make and that it also happens to be one of my favorites: Gattò di patate. This is yet another classic of the Neapolitan cuisine, perfect for sharing, great for picnic and to me a very festive dish.

It’s a sort of stuffed mashed potatoes casserole; this description doesn’t really give justice to the dish, so just trust me when I say that  “il gattò”  is divine and you will love it. I will be honest and say that it takes some prep time, but it’s worthwhile.

Since I had a lot of time on hand before the game, while the potatoes were boiling I got started on my dessert: “Semifreddo al caffe and mascarpone-zenzero” (Coffee and mascarpone-ginger semifreddo). I had never made a semifreddo before and I am super excited with the result; I will let you get a glimpse of my faboluos sweet treat but you will have to be patient and come back in a day or two for the recipe . . . sorry!

By 1:30 PM my semifreddo was in the freezer and my gattò in the oven, still one hour before kick off. Well, I thought, “I will make my self an Aperol aperitivo!”

My Aperol aperitivo

Still some time to spare… Saturday morning I had visited the local farmers market where I found squash blossoms, I love them! I thought I could quickly fry them so we could have a crispy  bite during warm up.

It’s kick off time . . . FORZA ITALIA!

Half time, still 0-0 . . . let’s calm down with a slice of  gattò.

THE FIRT SLICE

Regulation time is over, final score 0-0 and going to overtime . . . let’s have some more gattò.

Overtime is gone, still 0-0 going to PENALTY KICKS . . . I hate PKs and there is no more gattò. I can’t watch, time for me to retrieve in my bedroom, bite my nails and wait for the yelling and hopefully cheering downstairs . . .

ITALIA WINS!!!!

Let’s celebrate with my semifreddo.

MY SEMIFREDDO

That’s it until Thursday, semifinal game vs. Germany at 2:45 PM . . . more fun in my cucina.

Ricetta

GATTÒ DI PATATE

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds russet potatoes

16 tablespoon unsalted butter

10 oz. salame sopressata style cut into strips ( feel free to substitute with other cured meat of your choice)

½ pound mozzarella cut into cubes

5 eggs (2 hard boiled) 

1-1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 cup bread crumbs

salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoon fresh parsley hand chopped

1 cup of milk (to use if necessary)

DIRECTIONS:

Boil the potatoes with the skin. They should boil for approximatley 45 minutes. Test with a cake tester and make sure they are tender.  While they are still hot, peel them and pass through a ricer letting them fall into a large bowl.

It’s now time to get your hands dirty . . . Add  butter (reserve 2 tablespoon) and work with your hands until the butter is melted and incorporated into the mashed potatoes.

Add the grated cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Keep mixing with your hands.

Add the 3 eggs and keep working, if the mixture seems too dry, add some milk to soften.

Add the strips of salame and the cubed mozzarella and with your hands work the mixture so that all the ingredients are blended together.

Butter a baking dish (I like to use a medium size with taller edges) and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Arrange a layer of the potatoes mixture into the baking dish, cover with chopped hard boiled eggs and grated cheese.

Cover with the remaining mixture.

Add grated cheese. Finally top with bread crumbs and dot with small pieces of butter.

Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for one hour or until the top is golden-brown and crunchy.

Let rest at least 15-20 minutes before plating.

THE FIRST BITE . . . SOOOO GOOD!!!

Don’t forget to come back, until then . . . FORZA AZZURRI!!!

Remember to enter my giveaway for a chance to win the beautiful book “Masseria the Italian Farmhouse of Puglia”

DETAILS HERE

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My First Giveaway! “Masseria the Italian Farmhouse of Puglia”… a Beautiful Book Waiting for You!!!

THIS COULD BE YOURS!!!

I am thrilled to announce my very first giveaway!!!

Last month, I posted “A cultural evening at the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC”, an event to celebrate the publication of  the book  “Masseria – The Italian Farmhouse of Puglia“, published by Rizzoli.

At the end of that evening, I purchased a copy of the book and I have enjoyed it very much since. Not to mention that it looks great on my Italian marble credenza!

The book is full of stunning pictures by Mark Roskam – Miami-based photographer who specializes in architecture and interior design – and it is introduced by Diane Lewis – professor of design at Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture – who also provides a short description of each Masseria.

The Italian region of Puglia, on the Southeast coast,  is known as the “tacco d’Italia” , the “heel of Italy”, and “the masseria building is one element among the roads, wells, towers, walls, courtyards, and gates that collectively, comprise a refined architectural landscape across Puglia” (excerpt from book).  As I mentioned in my previous post, the masseria is a sort of fortified farmhouse and they are are mostly located along the Via Appia (Appian Way) – the ancient Roman road.

This is indeed a beautiful coffee table book, but it is more than that; it transports you into beautiful landscapes of vineyards and olive groves, takes you back in time in the Magna Grecia and the Roman Empire, and mostly, makes you wish you were there!

I love the book so much that I thought it would be awesome if I could share it with one of my faithful followers and lovers of Italy.

During the evening at the Embassy of Italy I met signora Cristina Rizzo, book’s project director, she seemed charming and kind yet I was hesitant to contact her. Finally, few weeks ago, I plucked up my courage and contacted signora Rizzo, I shared my idea of a giveaway, and asked her to donate one copy of the book for that purpose. Signora Rizzo, without hesitation, kindly agreed to donate the book and I am excited to say that I have just received the precious copy, which is now sitting right here next to me, waiting for a new home . . . it could be yours!

Would you like to be the lucky winner?

Here’s how to enter the contest:

REQUIRED ENTRIES

  1. Follow Sharing My Italy . . . The Blog by clicking on the “Join Me” icon on the homepage of this blog and enter your e-mail address to receive regular updates
  2. Leave a comment to this post and share if you have ever been to the Italian region of Puglia and/or visited a Masseria.

BONUS ENTRIES:

  1. Follow Sharing My Italy  on TWITTER and tweet this giveaway  – comment saying you did or already follow.
  2. Follow ME on PINTEREST & comment saying you did or already follow.
  3. “Like” Sharing My Italy on FACEBOOK – comment saying you did or already follow.
  4. “Share” this giveaway on FACEBOOK
  5. Follow Rizzoli book on TWITTER and tweet this giveaway – comment saying you did or already follow

Remember to leave a comment below each time you’ve done one of the above (= up to 5 comments = up to 5 bonus entries)

DETAILS:

  • This giveaway will remain open until July 21 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
  • One  winner will be selected randomly and will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize.
  • This contest is open to US residents only, my apologies to my international friends!
  • I need to be able to contact you, should you be the lucky winner, so please be sure you provide your e-mail or I will need to choose another winner.

Good Luck to Everyone!!

Grazie Mille Signora Rizzo for donating the book!

If you are not the lucky one to receive the free copy of the book, you can order your copy here.

In a meanwhile enjoy few more pictures from the book.

FTC Disclosure

I have not received any compensation for posting this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein.  I have purchased my own copy of the book and reviewed it. Mrs. Cristina Rizzo – book’s project director – has donated the book for this giveaway. I will personally pay for the book’s shipment to the contest’s winner.  My opinions are 100% my own.

Related post : A cultural evening at the Embassy of Italy, Washington DC

The Recipe of the Neapolitan Ragu` . . . Dedicated to my Father.

“Babbo” and I at the beach, Paestum 1964

Today is Father’s Day in USA and although in Italy we celebrate this holiday on March 19th, it feels appropriate to dedicate this post to my father.

It was June 5, 1998, it was a sunny afternoon and I was sitting on the sideline of the soccer field where my children were training. Unexpectedly, I saw my husband walking toward me, his expression was gloomy and when he asked me to step aside, my heart skipped and I just knew that something terrible had happened. My father, 4600 miles away, had died, suddenly, of a stroke. I don’t need to explain what or how I felt then, but today what still hurts the most, is that I could not say goodbye.

No time for tears, just let me tell you about the Ragú Napoletano,  that wonderful, comforting slow cooked meat-based sauce, synonym of pranzo della domenica (Sunday family supper). My mother was an excellent cook and she would make handmade pasta, tagliatelle, gnocchi, fusilli, strascinati, orecchiette . . . like no other, yet my father was the king of the ragú.

My father would wake up at 5:30 AM every Sunday and after his caffè and his first cigarette he would start the ragú. First he would prepare the braciole (slice of meat rolled -up), one made with beef and one with cotica (pork rind). He would season them with with garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, pine nuts, raisins and grated cheese. The braciole, along with the rest of the meat, were going in the pot with the onions, then the wine, last the passata di pomodori (tomato pureed) – which we usually bottled at the end of summer. For the next 4-5 hours, my father would tend to the ragú  like it was a work of art . . .  Letting the sauce pippiare – an onomatopoeic word that describes the sound of the sauce that barely simmer producing tiny bubbles – stirring once in awhile, tasting for salt and pepper.

My brothers and I would wake up to the aroma of the ragú and my best treat of the morning was a small slice of bread smothered with sauce.

The  sauce usually serves as condiment to the ziti spezzati – my mom used to buy the long ziti and it was my job to cut them into short pieces – or to the paccheri, or to the handmade pasta that my mom had prepared. The meat, covered with sauce,  was the second course along with the obligatory patatine fritte (fried potatoes) and  insalata verde  – just plain green lettuce – simply seasoned with olive oil and squeezed lemon.

Now, to find an original, traditional recipe of  ragú it is not easy task, so I have always relied on my memories and some research. The ragú, is prepared with large pieces of meat that are browned together with a lot of onions. The choice of  meat cuts seems to be the main issue, and not just for me . . . If you have 3 minute to spare,  you might enjoy this clip from  Sabato Domenica Lunedì, an Italian movie, starring Sofia Loren. Rosa Priore (Sofia Loren) is shopping for the perfect ingredients for ragú; in the macelleria (butcher shop), she gets into an argument  with another client about which meat cuts to use.  I am sorry the clip is in Italian – actually Neapolitan – however, tone of voices and expressions tell it all . . . and who doesn’t want to see the beautiful Sofia Loren!

Italian meat cuts have such distinctive names, cappello del prete, piccione, locena and so on, that I often find very difficult to translate them into an English equivalent. So many times, I show up at the butcher counter with a meat chart  and I point out the cuts I need. So here is a picture for you.

One of the more traditional recipe advise to use the following cuts of meat (The numbers correspond to the cuts in the picture, I also added the English equivalent):

Scamone (#14 – beef rump), annecchia (veal stew), one slice of locena (#2 – beef brisket), noce di vitello (#16 – veal sirloin), pork ribs, and one piece of cotica (pork rind).

In my recipe, I follow the traditional cooking method, however, I do not use the lard – originally used instead of olive oil – and the pork rind. For the meat cuts, on this particular day, I used what I found available – pork and beef.  Keep in mind that I often cook for only 3-4 people therefore I need to adjust my recipes accordingly.

Ricetta

RAGÚ NAPOLETANO

Ingredients for 8 persons:

1 pound rump (#14)

1 large slice of brisket (#2) not too thick.

1 pound veal sirloin (16)

1 pound veal stew

1 pound pork ribs

2 large Vidalia onions – sliced

6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon butter (I use butter-oil combination as substitute for lard)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup of red wine

1-1/2 pound tomato pureed

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil leaves

fresh parsley

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon raisins – previously soaked in water

½ cup freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

Directions:

First prepare the braciola: lay the slice of meat on a chopping board, season with salt and pepper. Add parsley (hand-chopped), pine nuts, raisins, and grated cheese. Roll-up the meat and tie with cooking twine.

Season the rest of the meat with salt and pepper. Tie the large pieces with cooking twine to keep the shape.

In a large pot heat the oil and melt the butter. Add the sliced onions and the meat at the same time.

On medium heat let the meat brown and the onion soften until almost disappear. To achieve a perfect result you must tend to each step with care. During this first step you must be vigilant, don’t let the onion dry, stir with a cucchiaia (wooden spoon) and start adding wine if necessary to keep moist and facilitate the melting of the onions.

Once the onions have dissolved and the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and a little wine to dissolve it. Stir and combine the ingredients. Let cook slowly for 10 minutes.

Time to add the tomatoes pureed, season with salt and black pepper and stir.

Cover the pot but leave the lid ajar, you can place a wooden spoon under the lid. The sauce must cook very slowly for at least 3-4 hours.

Remember, as they say in Naples, the sauce must “pippiare”.

Pippiare . . . can you see the tiny bubbles?

After 2 hours add few leaves of basil and continue cooking.

IMPORTANT: Half way through, don’t forget to dip a piece of bread into the sauce and have your first taste of heaven!

During these 3-4 hours you must keep tending to the ragú, stirring once in awhile and making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Carne al ragu`

The sauce, as I mentioned can be use as condiment for different kind of pastas. This sauce is also used in the preparation of the lasagna napoletana and the parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmigiana).

On this particular occasion, I used my ragú to make fusilli e strascicati al tegamino – my husband had just returned from Italy and brought me back these fresh homemade pasta. See in pictures the steps and final product.

Before I leave . . .HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL THE DADS!!!

Fusilli and Strascicati directly from Italy!

Oh, the small things that make a blogger’s day brighter!

Making waves . . .

This past December 6th, at 3:06 PM, after reading and rereading, and rereading several more times, I finally clicked the “publish” button of the very first post of my newborn blog page. This blog was created on the spur of the moment; few days earlier, I threw the idea to one of my students, she had a blog of her own and advised me to look into Word Press. Over the weekend, I checkout the site, created my page, and on Tuesday … voilà, Sharing My Italy . . . the Blog, was born and traveling in cyberspace! My dream of sharing my country with the world was turning into reality. Today, six months later, after clicking the “publish” button 47 more times, my little blog has received over 5000 hits!!! It might not seem a lot to some of you, but it sure seems a lot to me, and I am celebrating.

Few days past June 6th.

And look at how much color on the world map….82 Countries and counting!

On my quest to conquer the world

No, it is not the board game, Risk, but at time, it certainly feels like it! There is a total of 193 countries in the world and in almost half of those, at least one soul, has read one of my posts . . . I am exhilarated.

Who knows, may be one day one of my posts will make it to the Word Press’s “Freshly Pressed” page . . . now, that would call for a major celebration!

This past Easter, I wrote a post to express my gratitude to all my followers and readers. I rambled about the excitement and the anxiety that comes with the act of publishing each post, the staring at the stats and waiting for a comment or a “like”. It is not much different today, however, I am a lot more relaxed and when I feel uneasy, I remind myself that the purpose of this blog is the pure enjoyment of putting into words my love, knowledge and appreciation for my beautiful Country. And to be able to share it with half of the world it is pretty darn good!

To make my day as a blogger even brighter, I am honored to accept yet another award:

The  Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Doesn’t just the name sounds marvelous?

Grazie, grazie, grazie to Meg Travels for the nomination! Meg has a beautiful and inspiring blog herself and I encourage you all to visit. She has just return from a trip in Italy and you will love to read what she is sharing.

In order to accept  the award, I will dutifully follow the three rules :

  • First, acknowledge and thank the giver, link it back, and put the award on your page.

One more time Grazie Mille Meg Travels!

  • Next, list 7 things about yourself.

I suppose I should tell you something that I have not already told about myself, so since Italy is not the only thing I love, I will reveal few more of my favorites. I assume you already know that my greatest love are my amazing sons and wonderful husband. And of course, to my family across the ocean: I love you all! Wow, now it sounds like the Academy award acceptance speech; good thing there is no music interrupting me and I will never know if  by now, by boredom, you have switched to a different page.

Anyway, here we go 7 things I love:

  1. I love art . . . a day at a museum it is a good day for me.
  2. I love fine shopping . . . window-shopping would do it too.
  3. I love fashion . . . Italian, mostly!
  4. I love to travel . . .everywhere.
  5. I love to read . . . fiction only.
  6. I love to sketch my dream home . . . I have “many” sketches.
  7. I love my two dogs, Luna and Vera . . . they are the reflections of our family: fun, loving, playfully mischievous, and just wonderful.
  • Last, pass the award to 7 bloggers who inspire you.

In not particular order:

  1. A Word in your Ear
  2. Writingfeemail’s Blog
  3. The Blissful Adventurer
  4. Heart Rome
  5. Tea&Biscotti
  6. Mondomulia
  7. The Volunteer Fringe

Congratulations to all and to an even brighter tomorrow!

Maccheroni al gratte` . . . a Neapolitan dish.

When you think about the cuisine of Naples, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the traditional “ragú” – a slow cooked meat sauce – or spaghetti with fresh tomatoes sauce. Here it is an unexpected Neapolitan dish I am sure you will love:  Pasta al gratin or – as they call it in Naples – Maccheroni al gratté.

This is typically a holiday dish, however it is simple enough to become a weekday alternative to one of your pasta dishes. I have to warn you that this is not a diet friendly dish but it is sure delicious . . . I trust this could become one of your new favorites!

It is basically a baked pasta seasoned with béchamel sauce and enriched with few extra ingredients. One of the beauty of the dish is the flexibility in the choice of ingredients. Mozzarella is usually the cheese of choice – that’s what I used – but you can substitute with Emmenthal or another mild cheese of your like. At time, hard-boiled eggs are also added. Diced ham, prosciutto or mortadella are generally used. This time, however, I decided to use speck – salt cured /smoked ham – which add a smoky flavor to the dish. Beside loving speck for its intense aroma and flavor, it also brings back a very special memory: my honeymoon!

While traveling by car from Ravello to Vienna, my newlywed husband and I stopped first in San Gimignano, in Tuscany, and then to Merano, in the South Tyrol. While crossing the Alps, between Vipiteno and Bressanone, we stopped at a tiny shack by the side of the road and there, while overwhelmed by the breathtaking scenery, we had the most memorable merenda (snack): warm rye bread (Pusterer Breatl), fresh butter and…speck! How can I forget, it was August 1, 1996 . . I had been married for six days!

The South Tyrol, 08-01-86

Enough with the nonsense, here it is my ricetta. I hope you will love it!

MACCHERONI AL GRATTÉ

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)

1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 quart whole milk, at room temperature

Pinch fresh nutmeg

kosher salt

2 cups cubed mozzarella

1/3 pound thinly sliced speck, cut into strips (reserve the strip of fat from each slice)

1 pound dry ziti ( you can also use penne or rigatoni)

unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Always stirring, slowly add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy.

Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of the whisker – approximately 10 minutes.

Stir in nutmeg and salt to taste. Remove from heat, set aside keeping warm.

Add the ziti to the boiling water and cook 2 minute less than the indicated time (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Into a greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pour a little of the béchamel sauce.

Drain the pasta in a colander and transfer to the baking dish. Pour 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Mix well until all the pasta is coated with the sauce.

The ingredients: Speck and Mozzarella

Add 2/3 of mozzarella, 2/3 speck, and grated parmigiano.

Mix well, add remaining speck and mozzarella.

Top with remaining béchamel sauce. Arrange the strips of speck’s fat on top. (this is my variation to the ribbons of butter)

Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes.

Just out of the oven

A tavola!