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!

Day three of My Easter Baking Marathon. . . La Pastiera

This is the last day of My Easter baking marathon, time for the sweet things.

La Pastiera is another traditional dish of the Neapolitan cuisine.

The nuns of the ancient convent of San Gregorio Armeno were considered to be master in the preparation of the Pastiera. They used to prepare great quantities for the rich families during Easter time.

Today, there are two different ways of preparing the Pastiera: the traditional one mixes the ricotta cheese to the eggs; the most recent one, adds to the mix thick pastry cream.

I follow the traditional recipe, I do however, purée half of the wheat/milk mixture to favor a creamier texture.

The Acqua di Millefiori (Literally “ Thousand Flower Water”) is the one ingredient in the Pastiera that gives it its very distinct aroma . . . It truly reminds you that it’s Primavera (Spring)!

The Pastiera has to be cooked few days in advance, no later than Good Friday, in order to allow the fragrances to fully develop.

The Pastiera is typically cooked and served in thin aluminum baking tart dish. The dough is very fragile, so it would easily crumble up if removed from the dish.

The legend narrates that Partenope, the mermaid, lived in the gulf of Naples enchanted by its beauty. Every Spring she would emerge from the water to greet all the happy people who lived there and brighten their days singing love calls.

One day her voice was so melodious that all the people were fascinated and moved by the words of love that the mermaid had dedicated to them. To thank her, they decided to give her the most precious gifts they had. Seven of the most beautiful virgin girls were picked to bring Partenope the gifts: flour, strength and richness of the land; wheat boiled with milk, symbol of the two reigns; ricotta cheese, a present of the shepherds and sheep; eggs, symbol of a new life; water with flowers fragrance; spices, which represented people who lived far away in other continents; sugar, which best gave the idea of the sweetness of Partenope’s call profusing in the sky, on Earth and in the universe.

The mermaid was happy of these gifts and decided to bring them to the gods and goddess who lived in the sea. They were all carried away by these gifts, and decided to mix them all together with heavenly art. The result was the first Pastiera.

Now let’s try to bake our heavenly Pastiera!

Ricetta Pastiera Napoletana

For the tart shell:

12 10-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature.

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

For the filling:

UPDATE: Please note that filling is enough for two Pastiera.

2-3/4 cups ricotta cheese

3 2 cups sugar

1 jar (3 cups) of boiled wheat

3 oz candied citron

3 oz. candied orange

a dash cinnamon

1/3 cup milk

2-1/8 tablespoon butter

5 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon of vanilla

1 2 tablespoon of Acqua di Millefiori or orange flavored water

1 lemon

Directions:

Start with the tart shell:

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the hook attachment, mix flour, sugar, and grated peel of ½ lemon. Add the butter and work to mix. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing slowly.

Transfer the dough to a surface dusted with flour. Quickly knead the dough to make a ball. Let rest for 30 minutes covered with a damp cloth.

For the filling:

Pour the wheat, the milk, the butter and grated lemon peel in a pan; let it cook for not less than 10 20 minutes or until the ingredients have become creamy (stir often).

Let the mixture cool.

In another pan whip the ricotta cheese, the sugar, 5 eggs, 2 egg yolks, vanilla, acqua di Millefiori, and a dash of cinnamon.

Mix everything until the dough custard is very smooth. Then add some grated lemon peel and the candied orange and citron (cut is small cubes).

Transfer half of the milk/wheat mixture to a food processor and mix until smooth. Pour back into the other half of the mixture.

Add the milk-wheat mixture to the ricotta – egg mixture. Stir to blend all the ingredients.

Preheat the oven at 360 degree.

Grease the tart dish with butter and dust with flour.

Roll out the dough until it’s ¼ inch thick.

Line the short pastry into the tart dish.

Cut the exceeding edges off leaving ½ inch overhang. Re-roll the scraps and cut into ½ inch strips to use as lattice top for the pie.

Pour the mixture of the ricotta cheese and the other ingredients in the pan, and fold the borders of the short pastry inwards.

Place the strips of dough across the filling, spaced about 1 inch apart forming a lattice top.

(The picture above is from last year and I didn’t have enough scraps to make my lattice. It’s not going to happen this year!)

 

Fold the ½ inch overhang over the edges of the lattice and with your fingers flute the border.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until the top has an amber color and the center is set.

Turn off the oven and let the pie cool for 1 hour in the oven with the door slightly ajar. Remove from oven and continue the cooling process on a wire rack.

I baked two!

Once the pie is completely cool, cover with plastic wrap (loosely) and chill until serving.

Serve at room temperature and dust with powder sugar just before serving.

BUONA PASQUA!!!

Related posts:

Easter baking marathon – Pizza con l’erba – Recipes and Memories

Day 2 of my Easter baking marathon – Pizza Piena

If it’s Friday. . . it’s Pesce!

My Risotto ai Gamberi!

Last week I had tweeted this picture and I promised that I would have followed up with a post, so here I am, as promised.

Risotto ai gamberi (Risotto with shrimp) is one of my favorite dish to prepare. It is comforting and fresh at the same time, perfect for Spring.  To me it represents the fusion of Northern and Southern Italy, a good example of Mediterranean diet and just simple goodness.

Risotto is a way of preparing riso (rice) rather than a recipe. The archetype of risotto is “Risotto alla Milanese“, you know. . .  that wonderful yellow risotto – with zafferano (saffron) – that is always married to the “Ossobuco“.

Although the Northern Regions of Lombardia and Piemonte are the capitals of rice, the use of the rice in cooking started in Naples (yes, I know I am biased!) where it was brought by the Spaniards in the fourteenth century. The Neapolitan, however, rapidly became “mangiamaccheroni” (pasta eater) and the rice soon travelled North. In Northern Italy, in particular in the wet Valle del Po (Po Valley), the cultivation of rice found the perfect environment. The immage of the flooded risaie (rice field) are quite impressive.

In 1949, the Italian movie Riso Amaro (Bitter Rice), nominated for the 1950 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Story, was shot in the countryside and rice-fields of the Po Valley. The story deals with the vicissitudes of the mondine (rice-weeders).

Yet, how can we forget the Sartù? It is one of the richest and elaborated piatti (dish), based on rice, of the traditional Neapolitan cuisine. In the ‘700, Naples was ruled by the French Royal House of Bourbons. The chefs of the Royal French Court developed this recipe; its original French name was Sur-Tout which then became Sartù.

 The Sartù is a sort of rice dome stuffed with meatballs, sausage, peas, mushrooms, boiled eggs, mozzarella and more. . . my husband’s grandmother – nonna Lucia –  used to make it and my husband still rave about it. I am not ready yet for this elaborated preparation but I promised myself that one day I shall try. I will keep you posted.

Back to the rice, there are different varieties of rice: riso tondo or comune (round rice or common), riso fino (fine-rice or rice up), riso semifino (semi-fine rice), riso ultrafino (grain rice, super fine).

The variety of rice you use will affect the recipe. The best rice for risotto is the Vialone Nano, which belongs to the semifino variety. Arborio and Carnaroli, both in the ultrafino variety, are good alternatives.

Carnaroli and Arborio

The Vialone Nano has medium long grains and it has a good ability to release the starch that ensures the creaminess of the risotto. The Arborio and Carnaroli have large and long grain and release less starch.

Once you master the art of preparing the basic risotto, you can let your imagination fly and create any combination you like. I am from Southern Italy and yet, Risotto is one my favorite dish. I make risotto with anything I fancy and anything that it is in season: asparagus, radicchio, lemon, beans, zucchini, potatoes, peas, artichokes, mushroom, butternut squash, safron, gorgonzola cheese, cuttlefish ink, seafood. . . and of course with shrimp!

In my recipe, Risotto, the most typical preparation of Northern Italy, meets the flavor of the Mediterranean Sea and the culture of fish of Southern Italy . . .what better combination!

So here it is, for yet another meatless Friday (or meatless Monday), I give you My Risotto ai Gamberi. This recipe is my own, I have experimented through the years and although it is not the canonic recipe, it is my family’s favorite. To me, that’s all that matters. I hope you will give it a try, I am sure you will love it!

Ricetta Risotto ai Gamberi

Risotto with shrimp

Ingredients for 4 people

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 cups rice – Vialone Nano, Carnaroli or Arborio (Carnaroli is what I had on hand)

20 medium/large shrimp

1/2 cup dry white wine (I also like to use Marsala wine which will make the dish slightly sweeter)

1/4 cup heavy cream

fresh parsley (or few sage leaves)

For the broth

4 -1/2 cups of cold water

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

shrimp skin and heads (also tails if you decide to remove them)

1/2 medium onion roughly chopped

1 leek sliced

2 tsp tomato paste

few black pepper grain

salt

Directions

Start with the broth.

Peel the shrimp and remove the head. I like to leave the tail but you can remove it if you want. In a sauce pan heat 2 tsp of extra-virgin olive oil and add the skins and heads (and tails) of the shrimp. Add the onion and leek, stir to coat with oil. Add the cold water, the black pepper grains, and the 2 teaspoons of tomato paste.  Stir to dissolve the tomato paste, this will give the risotto a pretty pink color. Bring to boil and let simmer for 20 minutes, add salt to taste and keep it warm.

Meanwhile devein the shrimp.

In a heavy-bottom pan, heat the oil and 2 tbsp of butter with the onion. Once the onion has softened add the shrimp and and cook on both side until they had taken on color. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set them aside keeping them warm.

Take eight (8) of the shrimp and transfer into the bowl of a food processor, add 1/4 cup of broth and purée the shrimp. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream and blend together. Set aside.

Add a 1 tbsp of butter and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the bits of shrimp. Add the  rice to the pan and toss to coat with the oil/butter. When the rice is translucent, add the wine and stir until the wine evaporates.

Strain the broth and start adding 1/2 cup at the time, stirring with a wooden spoon, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding the broth 1/2 cup at the time, stirring constantly.

After about 15 minutes, add the shrimp purée and the whole shrimp. Stir to combine and continue cooking and stirring for additional 2-3 minutes while keeping adding the broth as necessary.

Taste the rice for texture and seasoning, it should be al dente, tender but not mushy.

When the rice is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the remaining butter, this last step is called mantecare, which I cannot really translate but it makes the risotto perfetto (perfect), so don’t skip it!

Spoon your risotto into serving bowl, sprinkle with freshly grounded pepper and top it with fresh prezzemolo (parsley) – which is typical –  or, as I did, just decorate with a fresh, small foglia di salvia (sage leaf).

Isn't pretty?

Eat it right away!

Recipe: Calzoni e Panzerotti. . . Yum-Yum!!!

This past Monday, after 4 weeks of winter break, my youngest son, Mattia, went back to school. I already miss him!

To ensure that he would not forget his mom, I went on a three-day cooking marathon: Baked rigatoni with tomatoes/béchamel sauce on Friday, baked Calzoni and fried Panzerotti on Saturday and Tagliatelle alla Bolognese on Sunday!

Oh. . . he will remember me!

Even if you are not trying to impress your son, you can still treat yourself to this bontà (delicacy).

I will share with you the recipes of the calzoni and panzerotti.

The Calzone al forno (baked calzone) is a specialty of the Neapolitan cuisine, yet widespread through Central, and Southern Italy.

The dough is the same as the pizza and the filling is traditionally composed of mozzarella or provola, grated cheese, ricotta and salame.

In Naples, you can taste delightful calzoni in every Pizzeria, where they are baked in traditional forni a legna (wood fire ovens).

The Panzerotto, typical of the Italian region of Puglia, is simply a variation of the calzone. The same pizza dough is used; however, the traditional filling is a mix of tomatoes and mozzarella. The Panzerotto can be baked or fried.

Although, a specialty of Puglia, the panzerotti, just like the calzoni, are found everywhere in Italy, and particularly in the Southern regions.

The panzerotto is sometime also called calzone fritto (fried calzone).

Fried panzerotti were one of my favorite treats during my college’s years in Napoli. Friggitorie (local shop selling fried food) selling hot panzerotti, crocchè di papate (potatoes croquettes) and pastacresciuta (fried dough) are still in many corner of Naples; My favorite friggitoria was the Friggitoria Vomero, outside the stop of the Funicolare Centrale (funicular railway).

The recipes below are the typical version of calzoni and panzerotti however, you can create your own filling, based on your own likes. Get creative!

Ricetta Calzoni e Panzerotti

(NOTE: The pictures below show two batches of dough and fillings and double the amount of  calzoni and panzerotti)

Ingredients for the dough:

2 cups flour type 00 (you can substitute with all-purpose flour – see next line)

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (if you don’t have type 00 flour, increase the quantity of all-purpose flour to a total of 3 -1/2 cups)

1-1/2 cups of lukewarm filtered water (100 degree)

1 teaspoon yeast

¼ teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Dissolve the yeast in a 1/4 cup of water with ¼ teaspoon of sugar. Let the yeast foam (5-10 minutes).

In a separate small bowl dissolve the sea salt into a 1/4 cup of water and set aside.

Sift the two types of flour and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer with the hook attachment.

Add the yeast and start mixing at low-speed.

Once the yeast has blended into the flour, increase the speed and slowly start adding the water.

Once you have added approximately 3/4 cups of water, you can add the salted water. If it appears that the dough is still not coming together, add the remaining ¼ cup of water.

Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball and the sides of the bowl are completely clean.

Transfer the dough on a slightly floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes until smooth.

Form a ball and transfer to a bowl that you had previously brushed with a little bit of oil. Brush also the dough with oil to prevent it from drying, and cover with plastic film and with a kitchen towel. Keep the bowl in a dry place and let raise for 2 hours (during winter, sometime I keep the dough in the oven with the lights on, the warmth of the lights helps the raising process).

You can now start to assemble your filling.

I personally like to use both types of ripieno (filling) for both the calzoni and the panzerotti. I then bake, and fry some of each.

Ripieno di Ricotta 

Ingredients:

1 cup of good quality ricotta cheese (hand dipped is the best)

1 extra-large egg

4 oz. mozzarella cheese

3 oz. sopressata salami  or  Genova salami cut 1/4 inches thick

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano

salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup tomato purée

2-3 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Peanut Oil (Peanut oil has a high smoke point and neutral taste which makes it perfect for frying foods. Extra virgin olive oil also has a high smoke point however, you will definitely taste its flavor).

Directions:

Chop the mozzarella and the salame into pieces (I use a food processor. Using the pulse option I easily obtain small pieces).

In a bowl combine the ricotta with the egg, the Parmigiano, the pecorino, salt and pepper.

Add the mozzarella and the salame and mix well to combine.

Ripieno di Pomodoro e Mozzarella 

Ingredients:

4 oz mozzarella cheese, chopped

2 cups of canned San Marzano tomatoes, chopped

¼ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

extra virgin olive oil or peanut oil to fry

Directions:

Pour the chopped pomodori (tomatoes) into a strainer sitting over a bowl and let drain the water until ready to use.

When you are ready to stuff the calzone and panzerotti, transfer the tomatoes into a dry bowl, add the mozzarella, the oil, the salt and, the oregano and mix together.

How to assemble and cook the calzoni and panzerotti

Transfer the dough on a surface dusted with flour and knead for 1 minute. Roll out the dough, and with a cookie cutter or a glass, form 5 inches diameter disks; Placed the disks on a floured surface. Cover with plastic film and a kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven at 450 degree.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with corn meal.

With your hand and the aid of a rolling-pin, roll out each disk until very thin (less than ¼ inch thick). Put some of the filling in the center of each disk.

Brush the edge of each disk with water and close each one by folding the dough over and pressing down along the edges with your finger first and then with the tines of a fork.

Place half of the calzoni and panzerotti in the baking sheet and brush the top with tomato puree.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes then enjoy!

Buonissimi!!!

The other batch of canzoni and panzerotti will be fried.

In a large pan, heat 2-3 inches of olive oil or peanut oil to 170 degree. If you don’t have a thermometer you can drop a piece of bread without crust into the oil, if the bread reach the bottom of the pan and quickly return to surface, the oil is ready.

When the oil is ready, fry the panzerotti and calzoni, few at the time, turning them on both sides until golden.

Remove them with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and serve hot.

Sitting on top of the fried calzoni and panzerotti is something that my mom used to make. It’s the pizzetta fritta (fried little piazza), simply a thicker disk of dough with a slight well in the center. First you fry the side with the well then, flip over, and while it is frying, fill the well with a spoonful of tomatoes purée and a sprinkle of Parmigiano cheese. I loved it then, and I love it now!

I hope you will enjoy these recipes. Let me know how creative you will be with your fillings!

Struffoli and Mostaccioli My favorite Christmas desserts

Yesterday was December 21, the shortest day of the year. That means brighter days are ahead and Christmas is only 4 days away.

Time to start My holiday desserts and to share two of My favorite Christmas recipes .

You probably all know about the Panettone from Milano and the Pandoro from Verona, both delicious holiday cakes and today easily available in many gourmet grocery stores.

But, how many of you know about two delicious specialties of the Neapolitan region, the Struffoli and the Mostaccioli?

The Struffoli and the Mostaccioli are nowhere to be found in the States (or at least around my area) so I had no choice that to make My own.

The Struffoli are a true Neapolitan dolce (dessert). It appears that the Greeks brought this specialty to Naples. From there it has widespread throughout Central and Southern Italy; however, with some variations from region to region.

The Struffoli are little balls of dough fried and then coated in honey. Their flavor improves after a couple of days. That’s why it is important to prepare them a few days before the event.  I use a traditional recipe without baking powder because I like My Struffoli a little crunchy. If you prefer a softer consistency add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and let the dough rest for 60 minutes. Also, the original recipe includes the Italian liqueur Strega or Anisette but, since just few weeks ago I bottled My Limoncello (you should know this if you have been following My blog!), I am using that in my recipe.

The Mostaccioli, also called Mustaccioli are sort of large biscotti (cookies) shaped like a diamond and covered with a chocolate glaze or ganache. The name Mostaccioli comes from the peasant’s habit to use the wine must in order to develop a more  intense and sweet flavor. 

The list of traditional Christmas desserts from the Neapolitan area also include other delicacies like the Susamielli, honey based biscotti shaped like the letter S. The Roccoco`, very hard biscotti, shaped like donuts with an intense flavor of almond and citrus. The Divinoamore, prepared for the first time by the nuns of the convent Divino Amore. The almonds and lemons along with the light pink glaze give these small bites a unique Mediterranean flavor.

I have yet to experiment with these recipes, may be next Christmas I will but for now, I hope you will enjoy My Struffloli and Mostaccioli.

My Mostaccioli

Ingredients

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nut meg

2 finely crushed cloves

the zest from 1 orange and 1 tangerine

juice from 1 orange and 1 tangerine

2 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon Grand Marnier (optional)

1 pinch of salt

Warm water as necessary

For the glaze

1/4 pound semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cram

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor sift together the flower, the salt, the baking powder, the baking soda and the cocoa powder. Add the sugar and combine the ingredients at slow speed.

Add the orange and tangerine zest and the spices and process until combined.

In a measuring cup pour the required amount of  honey , add the orange juice and tangerine juice and then add to the dry ingredients (do not rinse the cup, add  ¼ cup of warm water and keep it aside).  Mix the dough at medium speed allowing all the ingredients to come together.

Add the Grand Marnier and keep processing the dough. Add the warm water as necessary to obtain a compact dough.

Mix the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl. It should be smooth with no lumps.

Damp the dough on a surface slightly dusted with flour and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven at 360 degree F.

Remove the dough form the refrigerator and on a surface well dusted with flour roll out the dough to a ½ inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath to make sure it is not sticking.

Cut the dough into diamond shape, large and/or small and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer on wire rack to completely cool.

Prepare the chocolate ganache.

In a pan combine chocolate chips and the heavy cram in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts.

With a brush cover the bottom of the Mostaccioli with a thin layer of chocolate and let them dry completely. Once they are dry, flip the Mostaccioli and pour the chocolate over the top. Work on a wire rack with a pan underneath because you will have to allow the chocolate to drizzle down the sides. The Mostaccioli need several hours to dry completely.

My Struffoli

Ingredients

4 – ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoon granulated sugar

4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

5- 2/3 tablespoon unsalted butter

zest from ½ lemon

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoon of Limoncello (options are Strega liqueur or Anisette or Rum)

Vegetable oil for frying (I use Peanut oil)

1 cup of honey

Multicolor nonpareils

Mixed candied fruit chopped into small pieces.

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor sift the flower, add the salt, the sugar, the lemon zest and the butter and combine the ingredients at slow speed.

Slowly add the eggs and lastly the liqueur and process the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl (add a little bit of cold water if necessary).

The dough should be smooth.

Damp the dough on a surface slightly dusted with flour and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

On a surface well dusted with flour knead the dough for few minutes and then divide into small balls, the size of oranges.

Working with one ball of dough at the time, roll the dough into ½ inch diameter dowels and cut dowels into ½ inch long pieces. As you cut the pieces placed them on a surface dusted with flour.

Right before frying transfer  the pieces of dough (one batch at the time) into a sieve and shake to remove excess flour.

In a deep frying pan, heat the oil to 175 degree and fry the pieces of dough in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan.

As soon as they became light gold, remove from the oil, drain and transfer into a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper.

Place a large pan on top of a pot with simmering water. Pour the honey in the pan and let melt. Remove from heat and add the fried Struffoli, add the candied fruit and stir until all the Struffoli are completely coated with honey.

To plate the Struffoli, place a glass or a round jar in the center of a serving plate and then place the Struffoli all around to form a ring. Sprinkle with nonpareils and let sit few hours before removing the glass/jar.

You still have time to make these two wonderful desserts, follow the recipes and remember I will be around if you have questions.

Don’t forget to check My blog tomorrow for My Christmas Eve Menu`!