A tavola non si invecchia. (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.)
Enjoying a meal with family and friends is the best way to spend a birthday. May is a crazy month for our families, we celebrate five birthdays in the first week. When I was younger we used to have cake literally every other day in the first week (May 6, May 8 and May 10). We had our fill of cake and now we merge birthdays to celebrate together. This year, my sister brought the best Italian birthday cake ever to the party! This beautiful chocolate cake was made to look like an old cutting board holding garlic, olives, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sliced sopressata, hot peppers and the classic Italian red and white tablecloth.
My sister starting making cakes professionally just last year after creating her first one for my bridal shower. Now through her company, Sweet Details, she makes the most amazing cakes that are unique to their recipients. No cake says “An Italian-Canadian Life” more than this one! More detailed pictures after the jump, she even got the markings on the Parmigiano-Reggiano exterior perfect!
Do you love pasta? The invariable answer is YES. I get enough questions about pasta, recipes sent to me and see tons of photos on Twitter of pasta that I decided that we should celebrate it. So I invited the loudest #italiancanadians I could find on Twitter to share their pasta favourites today, and every Tuesday, to honour our favourite, and most versatile dish. The results of day 1: 123 mention of #pastatuesday (so far) and enough photos of pasta to make your mouth water.
I learned about new recipes, weird facts and got excited about a few new types of pasta to try. Take a gander through the recipes, tips and photos after the jump (it’s just a selection!) and join us next #pastatuesday and share your favourite pasta dish with us!
And if you don’t already follow the great #italiancanadians on Twitter…please do so! Many thanks to:
@CHINTvCanada @foodfables @ilporcellino @MolisanaImports @Zeppolis @NickCooks @AuroraImporting and many others!
As spring and summer approach, my schedule gets increasingly busy. I have a number of projects that go on during the summer, plus events, the garden, etc things can get a bit stressful and I’m a stress eater. I’m trying desperately to cut down on my sugar intake and am searching for alternatives to my stress cravings to wean me off the sugar hits. (If you ever want to get rid of a bag of chocolate-covered almonds quickly, just put it near me.)
Not all desserts are meant to be tooth-achingly sweet. And old Italian recipes are prime examples of slightly sweet treats that meet the sweet tooth craving without going clowingly over the edge. As a matter of necessity of course, many of the old recipes are sweetened by nothing more than grape must or honey, like this family favourite is. Mostaccioli were made by my grandmother and great aunts regularly and while they look like biscotti, they are soft and moist as they don’t go through the second baking process.
The word “mostaccioli” can refer to cookies, although you may find a few recipes for it that include a chocolate covering, but also pasta that is commonly referred to as “penne.” For me the name refers just to these simple Calabrese cookies that have always been on our table.
1 kg honey
1 kg of flour (or just under)
6 egg yolks
1 tsp baking soda
Today I’m serving up a story about focaccia. One day back in 1992 I was jammed into the back of a tiny car, travelling through Italy, from Amantea in Calabria to Monteleone in Puglia. The trip started off scalding hot, the sun beaming down on the beaches and hills of Amantea. When we emerged on the other side in Monteleone I had to pile on every sweater and pair of pants I owned to keep out the chill. While it hadn’t appeared that we had climbed high, we were in the “hills” and the cold weather had already moved in during our trip.
My lovely relatives in Monteleone, who I was meeting for the first time, offered me two plates of food that I will never forget. They were filling, heart warming, and spectacularly simple but luscious. First was a bowl of pasta rapini (my love for it will never die!) and the second was warm focaccia (I called it pizza) from a local bakery. The crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside, dotted with roasted cherry tomatoes creation was heavenly. Something about it was love at first sight.
Since garlic and it’s health benefits has been the topic of conversation already this month, guest blogger Bridget Sandorford brings us an article on the health benefits of an Italian diet….Thanks Bridget!
A traditional Italian diet is not only delicious, it’s also very healthy. From olive oils to fresh
veggies to a wide variety of herbs and spices, the ingredients in a traditional Italian diet are
loaded with nutrients that can help you improve your health and to reduce the risk of disease.
Here are just a few of the many health benefits of a traditional Italian diet:
Traditional Italian cuisine is loaded with healthy unsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Olive oil
and pine nuts are both high in these healthy fats, which can reduce levels of bad cholesterol in
your body and help to reduce your risk of heart disease. You can also find these healthy fats in
whole olives and some other oils used in traditional Italian cuisine.
You can use these oils in pastas, on breads, or in salads. You can even cook roast some
veggies in olive oil and sprinkle them with an array of spices.
Though a traditional Italian diet has plenty of pastas, which have simple carbs, the diet is rich in
fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as rice and other grains. Complex carbohydrates provide the
fiber that you need for healthy digestion and the slow release of energy you need to maintain
your blood-sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates are low on the glycemic index, and they can
help to enhance a healthy metabolism and to reduce your risk of diabetes.
You can pair complex carbohydrates with proteins such as cheeses or lean meats in order to
help regulate your blood sugar even more.
Last week the snow melted and I was able to tip toe out into the garden to peek in on the garlic bulbs I planted last November. There’s nothing popping through yet, but I’m anxiously awaiting this year’s crop, my second. I’ve planted an “extra sweet” type of garlic and I can’t wait to add it to my recipes. I’ve been blessed by being surrounded by family and friends that love garlic as much as I do and don’t find it odd that I’m happily celebrating National Garlic Month.
My grandparents used it liberally. My university roommate and I would eat shawarma and middle eastern potatoes smoothered in a fluffly garlic sauce at least once a week and spend the night breathing the sweet odour in the apartment. Now my husband uses garlic as if it were as common place a condiment as ketchup or pepper. Peeling, smashing, grating and sauteeing the bulbs with almost every meal, he insists he does it to fight away colds but I think he’s just a product of this grandmother’s addiction to heavy garlic. Her favourite: pasta with oil and mounds (and mounds!) of minced garlic. So thick sometimes that it burns.
Pasta with oil and garlic…pasta con aglio e olio…is a classic, simple, Italian dish that everyone knows how to make. It’s the perfect late night snack and the easiest dinner “go to” when you are rushing to get a meal on the table. If you want to be delicate with your flavours, you can slice the garlic thick, sautee it in the oil then remove it so you are not eating full chunks of garlic. Or you can take it on with full force as we do.
The recipe is an easy one, but just to make it a little more interesting, I’ve paired with an unusal pasta: squid ink pasta (pasta al nero di seppia). It has a slightly fishy smell once it hits the boiling water, but prepared on your plate it’s flavour is is more of the “sea” than fish and it is unusually slippery.
Pasta con Aglio e Olio
20 oz squid ink pasta (or other pasta)
3 garlic cloves sliced or minced
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese to taste