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There’s a draft coming in from the base of our sliding door. Maybe we need more insulation or a new door but for now, my feet, under the kitchen table, are getting stone cold. It’s funny how a little line of insulation, filling in the tiniest crack, can make all the difference to making you fill warm and comfy.
Protection from those icy winds of January, at least the ones we have here in Canada, can mean the simplest of things. A good warm blanket, a crackling fire. And to keep your belly and toes warm, a hot bowl of Nonna’s secret weapon: pastina.
My baby boy isn’t old enough yet to appreciate this recipe, but no doubt he will learn it soon enough. The subtle broth and simple pasta make a bowl of goodness that every Italian kid knows well from deep winter nights and those days spent home from school with a cold. Plain enough that every kid will eat it and hearty enough that even adults crave it years later, pastina is as basic as it comes and every Nonna knows it well.
This cold draft is starting to give me the sniffles, so it’s off to the stove to warm up some of this myself. Feeling chilly? Try out the recipe yourself…
1 cup pasta, any tiny kind like stars, rice shapes, or the most typical: acini di pepe
4 cups chicken broth
1 cheese rind (optional)
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste
If you follow this blog, particularly through the summer, you’ll know that I’m a huge supporter of local food and fresh food. From the garden and from the surrounding farms, we have tons of fresh vegetables to choose from when the weather is bright and sunny.
Well, it’s still sunny today but in the winter, these clear blue skies mean it’s achingly cold outside, the kind that hits you right down to the bone. And the view from my kitchen window is one of barren winter land. My backyard garden is a pile of snow. And in the kitchen, root vegetables and pantry items abound. Sigh. In the winter, I have to think long and hard about what to pull together to eat.
On a side note: I do not go in for those hothouse tomatoes in stores this time of year. They get soft on the outside but are strangely still hard on the inside and taste like water.
But a brand new cast iron pan I got in the post-Christmas sales (75% off folks!) is calling my name and may provide the solution this week. Seasoned up, it’s a good tool for making frittata. I’ve done a couple of other frittatas (spaghetti and asparagus) on the blog, but none in the oven so this is a bit new. What’s on hand: potatoes and onions and one of my favourite cheeses: goat cheese. Put together and warm and hearty, it should make those winter blue skies look warm, at least from this kitchen window. Happy cooking everyone… (p.s: you don’t need a cast iron pan for this recipe, a oven-proof pan will do!)
Potato and Onion Frittata
1/2 cup whole milk
2 medium yellow onions
2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
100g goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
What was missing from your Christmas table? What foods are part of your best holiday memories? Looking for an old family recipe?
Every year in December my blog and email inbox get really busy. In the lead up to Christmas, everyone is searching for their favourite old recipes like a cookie or treat their mother or grandmother used to make. The best emails I get are from readers who have just found old recipes on my site and tell me all about the memories they had of those foods and what a joy it was to have them again at the table.
In 2015, instead of searching at the last minute for a recipe just like Nonna’s, let’s help each other out and get those recipes together starting now.
Since the holiday season has just passed, and what was missing from the table is still fresh in our minds, now is the time to ask you: what are your favourite Italian Christmas dishes? Maybe it was something your mother used to make, or maybe a cookie an Italian neighbour used to always bring you. What recipes are you missing or searching for? Give me the English or Italian names of your Christmas dishes (and maybe a bit of a description!) and I’ll work to search them out and put together a Christmas recipe guide.
Here’s a brief list (after the jump) that I have so far of some desserts. From pasta to fish to fried treats, tell me what to add in the comments section of this post!
One, two, three, six….ten…..just how many panettone or pandoro do you have in your house this season? My current count is four, but I imagine more are on their way, especially when they go on sale. I can’t resist the chocolate ones. Of course, buying more panettone, on top of the ones you receive, is just an excuse to make panettone French toast!
As much as a Christmas tree or turdilli are traditional, piling up panettone is also an Italian tradition. (At least I think so!) You might find these breads under two names: panettone or pandoro (like the one pictured in this recipe). What’s the difference? Where they are made, the shape and the history of each bread differs. Here’s an account of the differences, but for this recipe either will work. This sweet Italian bread, studded with raisins, dried orange or chocolate is a typical gift between friends and family during the holidays. Usually served with espresso after a meal or during friendly visits, the breads are so popular they can tend to pile up in the cupboard or catina. In fact, in areas of the city where many Italians live, whole aisles in some grocery stores are dedicated to variations of this treat.
So after you’ve eaten a few with your coffee, what are you do to? Get creative! Use it in bread pudding. Try an ice cream bombe (here’s the recipe I wrote for Aurora Importing). The quick and easy way is this: the day after Christmas, my family has panettone French toast, making this sweet bread a breakfast treat. Other than an excuse to essentially have cake for breakfast, the best part of panettone French toast is it is totally Italian-Canadian: Italian sweet bread served with Canadian maple syrup. Perfect! Here’s how to do it at your house:
Panettone French Toast
1 panettone, sliced into 8 -10 servings
4 large eggs
½ cup milk or cream
What’s in your oven this week? After three years on this blog, I’ve been able to record a few of my family’s holiday recipes, particularly desserts. I’ve taken a moment to round up these recipes so you have them handy in the lead-up to Christmas, all in one post. From potato doughnuts to chocolate salame, it’s hard to pick one favourite. I’m going to try and bake few over the next days (if the little one will sleep!) – I hope you join me.
Click the photo, or the link below it, to get cooking or baking!
Hello there readers!
You may have been wondering – where did the updates for this blog go? Despite my efforts to keep it going over the last couple of months, a new arrival has taken up so much of my time. My son, born in October, is the new addition to the Italian-Canadian Life family!
That doesn’t mean that this blog is over. Just the opposite – I have even more reasons to write down all our family recipes and try a few new ones as well. As he learns to sleep a little longer, there’s been more time to get back to cooking and I have a few blog posts ready to go for you (the next posts will be all about Christmas recipes and panettone)! There’s some holiday cookies in the oven right now and today we have a contest just in time for Christmas.
Catching up with traditions for the Christmas season and teaching my baby boy all about them is something I’m looking forward to. I want you to be involved with Italian traditions as well and author Gianna Hartwright has offered readers of An Italian-Canadian Life some goodies to do just that.
Here’s your chance to win a pair of books from Gianna Hartwright for the kids in your life, teaching them about La Befana, a unique part of Italian traditions. This old witch, called La Befana, appears on the night of January 5 (or Epiphany Eve) and delivers gifts to children throughout Italy. Gianna has taken the traditional old witch and made a modern tale of magic and drama that would appeal to older children, 9+. The first book, The Befana Drama is a global adventure by broomstick that sees VIPB’s (Very Important Present Bringers) pitting their wits against each other. Befana Drama 2: Capriccia’s Conundrum continues the adventure.
To win these two books, leave a comment below (just click “read more” or “leave a reply” and enter a comment) telling us about your favourite Christmas tradition by December 22nd at midnight. A winner will be selected by random draw on December 23rd and will be notified by email. Good luck everyone! I’ll be back next week with a new recipe.