My last trip to Italy was exactly 10 years ago now, a trip I took with my family including my grandfather who has since passed away. We’ve always travelled to Italy in August or September: August is when most Italians have their holidays and by September most of the tourists have returned home as well, leaving the beaches wide open. Hot days and cool nights, and the work of the fall harvest are all part of this time of year and I tried to capture this in memories and photos during our last trip. The photo above, of blazing red hot peppers set out to dry, was the very first photo I took on our trip. My grandfather, reminiscing with folks along our travels, can be seen in the photos as well.
If, like me, you sometimes find yourself dreaming of a trip to Italy – the small town quaintness, the abundance in the local markets, the tiny quiet streets and the history of the ageing buildings filling your mind – then you’ll enjoy these scenes from a small southern Italian town taken as part of my early photography work. They remind me that it’s time to stop my daydreaming about a trip and start my planning.
The blog has been a little slow this summer because there are some big changes for me on the way which will be revealed here probably sooner rather than later. But just because the blog postings have been slow doesn’t mean all the ingredients for a great Italian summer have been missing too. In fact, I’ve been collecting up some recipes and stories to share with you and I’m glad to be back to blogging!
Today I’m featuring one of my favourite summer foods: pitticelle di riso. Pitticelle are like “fritters” (you’ll remember I’ve featured a few on the blog already like pitticelle cucuzze and pitticelle di pane). The ingredients for this fritter aren’t so “summery” really, but I’m used to having these crispy, fried treats at family outings, fishing trips, picnics and as snacks out in the backyard since they are good hot or cold. My mother’s parents would always make these for our annual family picnics where they were treasured by everyone: a huge batch was gobbled up in no time once the Tupperware container was opened. Slow frying, making sure the rice grains stay individual and fresh ingredients are the secrets to this recipe.
I’m sorry to say, but not surprised, that I don’t have a recipe for small batch of these pitticelle. This recipe will make at least three dozen depending on the size you make. They are meant to be shared and, if you have leftovers, they are great crisped up in a toaster oven the next day too. Halving the recipe should work just fine, it’s the consistency of the batter for frying (not too loose!) that you need to watch out for.
Pitticelle di Riso
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon granulated garlic or finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup shredded mozzarella
salt, to taste
canola or vegetable oil for frying
Today we’re taking one of Spring’s finest ingredients – mushrooms – and pairing it with pasta (and wine!) to come up with a quick and healthy meal. Plus, a bonus dessert that replicates an old Italian bakery favourite.
Inspiration for these recipes today came in the form of a mystery box from Misura Canada on my doorstep and an offer of a contest for my readers. As you know, I love having the ability to share an opportunity for free, great food with you all. So who could refuse? Plus, Misura products showcase healthy alternatives to typical Italian pantry staples. Here’s just a few of the products Misura shared with me:
My husband broke into the Cornetti – chocolate-filled croissants that are milk and egg free – before I even had a chance to snap a pic as you can see. I grabbed a pack of pasta and the no sugar-added biscuits and got started on dinner. First up, Pasta in a Mushroom Sauce. I followed this up with jam-filled Italian biscuits! If you want to get your hands on some of these Misura products, well it’s your lucky day. Misura Canada is giving away a package of assorted goodies (see below!) valued at $100 to one lucky winner and the contest is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area. To enter, leave a comment here on my blog and make sure that you like the Misura Canada Facebook page.
I’ll be running the giveaway until midnight on Friday, June 27th. To enter, leave a comment on my blog and remember, you have to like Misura Canada’s Facebook page to be eligible to win. So get to it and get to tasting the great two recipes below featuring Misura products.
Pasta in Mushroom Sauce (for Two)
225 grams Misura Whole Wheat Pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup white wine or stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (plus more for sprinkling)
Happy Italian Heritage Month! Every June Ontario dedicates a month to celebrating all things Italian and the celebrations have begun to stretch across the country as well.
In Toronto, Italian Heritage Month started off with Castello Italia which transformed Casa Loma into an Italian Piazza complete with music, art, entertainment and food samples. There’s multiple events every day in Toronto and across Ontario. In Vancouver you can celebrate this Saturday by watching World Cup games at the Italian Cultural Centre!
You can visit italianheritagecanada.ca for a listing of events as a start but be sure to see what’s happening in your community. If you’re not in Canada, celebrate with us here at An Italian-Canadian Life. Try a recipe, share a photo, comment on a blog posting and discuss the many things there is to love about Italians and being Italian.
Late last year I started experimenting with using gluten-free pasta so that I could share some of my favourite family pasta recipes with guests who have diet restrictions. Catelli shared a sample of their new gluten-free pasta with me and I used it with a classic Sicilian Anchovy Pasta. Having just launched a new cut to their pasta collection – macaroni – Catelli has generously offered to give one Italian-Canadian Life reader one-year supply of Catelli Gluten Free Macaroni (open to Canadian residents only).
I received news of this great contest just last week with the launch of the pasta at George Brown College, hosted by Chef John Higgins, Director of George Brown Chef School, former personal chef to the Queen Mother and a judge on Food Network’s Chopped Canada. Chef Higgins demonstrated a variety of recipes that use Catelli Gluten-Free Pasta including a flavourful Ginger-Edamame Macaroni Salad and Moroccan Macaroni Bowl (pictured above, courtesy of Catelli). But the best part of the presentation, to me, was a great discussion on how to cook pasta properly. Gluten-free or not, cooking pasta well makes all the difference to a recipe. His top tips:
* For dry pastas, cook according to the directions on the pasta box. For me, an al dente consistency is preferred (an al dente consistency has some bite and a pleasing resistance to the chew – not gummy or sticky) so you can usually cut one to two minutes off the cooking time on the package.
* When cooking pasta, use a large pot.Using a large pot will give the pasta room to boil and not stick together.
* Over-seasoning the water with salt – bringing it almost to the taste of the sea – will substantially enhance the flavour profile of the dish. As a rule of thumb, use 10 grams of salt for one litre of water and 100 grams of pasta.
* Never add oil to the water when cooking pasta. It does not keep it from sticking together. In fact, the oil creates a coating that prevents the sauce from adhering to the pasta. This is undesirable because you want the pasta to soak up the sauce.
I don’t buy gluten-free pasta frequently and had heard that gluten-free pasta has a different taste and texture. But with this experience now, I can tell you that if you follow the rules above (as you should for any pasta!), you won’t notice a difference. So it’s time for you to give some gluten-free pasta a try. I’m excited to share this opportunity with my readers – the only thing better than pasta is free pasta!
What’s more – Catelli is also offering a coupon to everyone: get a $1 off coupon from Websaver. Coupons are available while quantities last. Thanks Catelli!
— CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED —
Win a one-year supply of Catelli Gluten Free Macaroni (open to Canadian residents only). Keep reading…
I shocked a friend last week by telling her that creamy Fettuccine Alfredo wasn’t really Italian. I had to point out that I don’t eat it every week (or at all actually!). It’s an Americanized version of an old Roman dish and it exemplifies just how much Italian food has changed through time and cultures. While she was taken aback, I was able to offer her more proof of “non-Italian, Italian” dishes. Recently, Panoram Italia, an Italian-Canadian publication, created an issue all about the Italian-Canadian diet: what’s typical, what’s changed, and how it differs from food in Italy. I had the opportunity to contribute the article “The Italian Paradox: Myths and reality about the Italian diet” to the magazine.
What I loved about writing this article was the opportunity to not only talk to people who had experience eating “Italian” in Italy and Canada and could describe the differences well, but also the opportunity to dive into scientific articles about why the Italian diet is healthy (or not, in some cases). In the end, I was able to see how the Italian diet has changed both in Italy and in Canada and I have a better sense myself of how I want change the way I eat. For me, it means more vegetables though that will get easier as the summer approaches and I get to plant my garden.
Here’s a snippet of the article, and you can continue on to Panoram Italia to read more….
Amazon.com offers 5,198 books about the Mediterranean diet. 118 of those books focus on Italian cooking and nearly all have a picture of olive oil on the cover.
It’s easy to see why there is such a demand for insight into what and how Italians eat: study after study shows Italians are healthier and live longer. Though Italians smoke more than other Europeans and spend less on healthcare, they have healthier weights and less diseases. And Italy is one of the top 10 countries in the world with the longest human longevity.
But go to an Italian chain restaurant in North America and you’ll be served heaping amounts of pasta coated with cheese, a far cry from what is considered “healthy.” Movie and TV images of traditional Italian Sunday meals suggest big portions of meat, a lot of wine and opulent desserts are the norm. How do pizza and pasta translate into a healthy diet?
“That’s not representative of Italian meals,” says Susan McKenna Grant, author of Piano, Piano, Pieno: Authentic Food from a Tuscan Farm and owner/chef of La Petraia restaurant in Sienna. “[Italians eat] less junk food, less soda, less sugar, do more natural exercise like walking and have a better understanding of what good food is,” she says. She also confirms that olive oil is one of the best foods Italians consume. Fresh vegetables, and plenty of them, are the stars of meals, not just pasta.
A 1995 study of the Mediterranean diet “Italian Style” confirmed that Italians preferred a plant-based, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. This means a high intake of vegetables, beans, fruit and cereals; medium-to-high intake of fish and unsaturated fats (that’s where the olive oil comes in); and low intake of meats, saturated fats and dairy products. The study also tracked the physiological effects of this food and found the benefits abound. For example, tomatoes, broccoli, wine, unprocessed olive oil, garlic and certain spices offer antioxidant effects. The high intake of plant-based meals also provided protective roles for health. Spanish research published in Food Chemistry magazine found that tomato sauce – the olive oil, tomatoes and garlic cooked together particularly – is loaded with compounds that have been linked to the reduction of tumours and cardiovascular diseases.