Pasta alla Carbonara: a traditional Italian recipe with an American twist

Pasta alla Carbonara: a traditional Italian recipe with an American twist

According to Taste Atlas, Pasta alla Carbonara directly ranks n. 2 in the top ten World famous Italian pasta dishes, just after Tagliatelle al Ragù , or best known as “Tagliatelle alla Bolognese”.

Like many other traditional dishes, a veil of mystery is wrapped around the origins of this tasty dish. 

Let’s unveil the most popular stories on the creation of this masterpiece of  Italian cooking.

Unveiling the mystery throughout history and traditions

It is hard to establish the “Carbonara sauce” origin because there is no written record until 1950. 

Still, a similar sauce was mentioned already in 1839 in Ippolito Cavalcanti’s Neapolitan cookbook: cheese, raw eggs, and melted lard. 

Furthermore, in the nearby Region of Lazio, a very popular way to eat past was with Cacio cheese and eggs (Cacio e ova).

Could our beloved sauce be an evolution of those two well-known regional recipes until someone found the perfect balance among all the ingredients?

And by perfection, we mean that the ending result must be when the eggs embrace the pasta without getting sticky and dry, neither without being runny and raw.

Could “Carbonara” be linked to the name of those who were consuming it the most? 

In Rome, Coal workers are called “Carbonari,” hence the rich sauce made of cheese, eggs, and “guanciale” would have been perfect for sustaining them during a long day in the mine. The dash of black pepper on the top could remind the soot stains on the workers ‘clothes.

Or could it be the first attempt of an Italian-American fusion kitchen?  

It was 1944 during the Allied liberation of Rome, and fresh food was scarce at the time, and often pasta was served with very few ingredients, if not straight.

American GI’s started adding their K ration ( a ration of bacon and powder egg) to plain Spaghetti. The combination was immediately a hit for both the Americans and the Italians, and it became famous all over the territory. 

The National Newspaper LA STAMPA published in 1950 the first article mentioning a host in Trastevere who welcomed American officers serving them spaghetti carbonara. 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara became an international success, as in 1954 British author Elizabeth David described them in her book “Italian Food.”

Once again, the recipe got adjusted throughout time by substituting fresh ingredients and finding that perfect balance mentioned previously.

How to make the perfect Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Nowadays, there are several versions of Carbonara Sauce, and many chefs around the World are trying to come up with new combinations to cherish everyone’s palate, including vegetarians.

However, if you want to taste the original Italian Carbonara, there are a few strict rules to follow! 

  1. Choose the right pasta, such as Spaghetti or Linguine. 
  2. Use only guanciale (an Italian cured meat from pork cheek) 
  3. Use only yolks 
  4. Use only Pecorino cheese. 
  5. Black pepper must be freshly grounded.
  6. It’s strictly forbidden to use onions, garlic, mushrooms, or cream! 

Now that you know the rules, let’s go to the kitchen to put them into action and delight our taste buds.

Ingredients

  • 350 g (12 oz) of spaghetti
  • 200 g (7 oz) of guanciale
  • 4 yolks 
  • 100 g (3,50 oz) of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Black Pepper

DIrections:

  • Put a large pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt. Once the water is boiling, throw in your Spaghetti. Set your timer to a couple of minutes earlier than the suggested cooking time so that you can have your pasta “al  dente.” 
  • Meanwhile, dice your guanciale and fry it until it gets really crispy. 
  • Grate your pecorino cheese and mix it with the raw yolks, salt, and a dash of fresh pepper. 
  • Drain your Spaghetti, leaving some boiling water on the side. 
  • Pour the Spaghetti into the pan with your fried guanciale,  for a maximum of 2 minutes, then take them off the fire. 
  • Now add your mixture of yolks and cheese and some boiling water and keep on stirring very fast! 
  • Serve immediately with some extra grated Pecorino and a dash of freshly grounded pepper.

Buon appetito!! 

Did you know that since 2017, on April 6th, the Italian Association of Confectionery and Pasta Industries and the International Pasta Organization created National Carbonara Day? 

Now that you know the history, the right ingredients, and the know-how, you can surprise your family and friends and celebrate this fantastic World loved pasta! 

The secrets of an excellent Italian risotto are revealed!

The secrets of an excellent Italian risotto are revealed!

When you think of Italian food, we are sure that you will think immediately of  Pizza and pasta. However, Italian Restaurants’ majorities will have on their Menu a surprising variety of rice or better “risotto.” 

Italy produces 1,6 million tons of rice every year, therefore is the top producer in Europe.

So how did rice end up on the Italian tables? 

Chinese domesticated rice about 8000 years ago, but it was only in 320 BC that Alexander the Great introduced it to the Greeks on returning from the Asia expeditions.

Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, rice was considered very precious and used only as a medicine to settle upset stomachs. 

The Arabs then introduced it to Spain in the Thirteen centuries, but it reached Italy only in the Sixteen century. Rice landed first in the Kingdom of Naples and then in the river Po’s plain, where the crop became definitively established.

The fertile swampy plains in the Po Valley, covering the Regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Veneto, were soon homes to a new variety of rice still available today, such as Carnaroli, Arborio, Roma, Sant’Andrea, Baldo, and Vialone Nano. 

Each variety can be processed to become white, brown, or parboiled rice.

Risotto is not simply boiled rice to accompany your vegetable or your meat and fish dish. Risotto is the loving process of toasting your rice and adding broth and other ingredients until you reach a unique creamy consistency.

First of all, you need to pick the correct variety, the Italian ones such as Carnaroli, Arborio or Vialone Nano. Their grain is plump and starchy, hence perfect to deliver the creaminess of an impeccable risotto. Do not rinse it as the water will wash away the starch that keeps the grain firm without overcooking. 

Whatever you choose to make your risotto with, you will always need the following ingredients:

 Extra virgin Olive oil, butter, white wine, and a good broth. 

Step 1: make a nice and light soffritto with a thinly sliced onion, and then pour your rice for a light “tostatura” (toasting). Just a few minutes on low heat will be enough.  Step 2: Depending on the recipe you are following, either add in gently the needed quantity of broth or a splash of wine.  You do not need to stir it very often as the starch will work better its magic when left untouched. 

Step 3: Let it cooked the right time. Unless you use wholegrain, it will be done in under 20 minutes. 

Step 4: The Mantecatura: although it sounds complicated, this last step merely means adding butter and parmesan to your risotto to reach that final unique creaminess

Step 5: Serve with an extra sprinkle of shaved parmesan, and enjoy!

10 recipes for amazing Risotto

“Rice is born in water and dies in wine” (Lombardy saying)

If you wonder why there is such a saying in Italy, you will understand with one of the top risotto’s recipes.
However, most recipes always have a splash of white wine to enrich the final result.

Risotto al Barolo

Barolo is a typical wine from Piedmont (which, by the way, you can try from our Wine Menu). Only the best quality rice will be cooked in this extraordinary wine, turning the risotto in an exquisite rich red plate. 

Risotto allo Zafferano

Typical of the Region of Lombardia. In particular to the city of Milan, where allegedly it was created. It was 1574 when the glassmaker Valerio de Flanders, obsessed with Saffron, decided to use it in rice as a joke. However, the yellow risotto turned out to be a great success from the very first moment.

Risotto radicchio e speck

The bitterness of radicchio meets the smokey flavor of Speck, a typical cured meat from Trentino.

Risi e Bisi

Or simply Rice and Peas! A traditional dish from the Veneto region: peas have to be fresh to give the risotto full flavor. Fresh Pancetta is often added to the mix for extra tastiness.

Risotto al Pomodoro

A very simple version of risotto with tomato sauce.  A beautiful reminder of those long summer days, where tomatoes were ripening under the hot sun.

Risotto alla pescatora

Seafood rice, a typical dish from our beloved region of Campania. The rice is slowly cooked in fish broth, and then seafood will be added: the best of the Mediterranean Sea on a plate!

Risotto al nero di seppia

Another specialty from the Veneto region, it is made with cuttlefish cooked with their ink-sacs intact, leaving the risotto black.

Risotto agli asparagi

A spring favorite. Asparagus season starts in early spring, and it is very short, so you better take advantage when it comes. This unusual vegetable has a robust earthy flavor, and it is combined with white wine and parmesan. 

Risotto ai funghi

Another unmissable dish as Fall approaches, especially in Northern Italy. The texture of the mushroom will just add even more creaminess to the risotto. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you will be lucky to have some shaved truffle as an extra topping. But remember, truffles are sold by weight, so be sure to ask for the price first!

Risotto al Castelmagno e noci

Back to the Region of Piedmont where the cheese of Castelmagno is DOP. The risotto is amazing only with the Cheese, but pears or nuts are often added for an extra twist.

So now that you know the secrets of an outstanding risotto, all you need is to get the correct main ingredients and unleash your fantasy with the vegetables available now. 

Let us know in the comments how you prepared yours! 

Buon appetito!

Artichoke: an exquisite flower bud on your plate!

Artichoke: an exquisite flower bud on your plate!

Artichokes are those refined vegetables that are unmissable in winter in any Italian kitchens.

Here in the USA, you have most likely tasted this delicacy on a pizza topping or salads. 

However, fresh (either raw or cooked) artichokes taste quite different from those you find in a jar. Although it is classified as a vegetable, an artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is the immature flower bud of a thistle, and it is harvested before it can blossom.

Artichokes are among the world’s oldest food in the world, and originated in the Mediterranean basin: the exact region is uncertain, but many facts lead to Sicily, in Italy. 

Greek and the Roman empires then introduced them to the rest of Europe and even to Northern African regions. In the 18th century, the French then started growing crops in their colonies in the United States.

The French artichoke, also called globe artichoke, is the world’s most known variety. As the noun suggests, its thornless outer leaves (called bracts) form a green round flower. The base of the bracts is tender and edible. One after the other, they lead you to a soft hairy center (called choke), sitting on top of the most scrumptious and delicate part: the heart and the top of the stem.

However, there is another variety of this unique vegetable, and it is cultivated in Italy and only in Sardinia: the Spiny artichoke ( PDO: Protected Designation of Origin). Once again, as the name suggests, its bracts and stem have big thorns, and its flavor is slightly more intense. It is usually available from late November to early March, but not always nationwide.

According to FAO, artichokes are produced only in 31 countries. Italy is holding first place with more than 20% of the world’s harvest, followed by Egypt, Spain, and Peru. In regards to the States, 80% of our domestic crops come from Castroville, in California. The “Artichoke Center of the World” has even been holding a Festival in June since 1959! (https://artichokefestival.org/)

This delicious vegetable is not only a delicacy to our palate but also to our entire body.  According to a USDA study, among 1000 different types of food, artichokes are ranked 7th in antioxidant content. 

They are low in saturated fat and cholesterol while being a rich source of fibers and vitamins such as vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K. 

They also provide minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, sodium, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.
FOOD DATA CENTRAL

Why are artichokes so good for your health?

Here are the top 3 reasons why: 

  1. Two special antioxidants found in their leaves and stems, cynarin and silymarin, can detox the liver. 
  2. The high content of potassium can regulate blood pressure.
  3. Being a rich source of fiber, they can improve the digestive system’s health and functionality.

Let’s jump to the fun part: how to eat them! 

As we previously mentioned, artichokes can be eaten raw or cooked in different ways. 

Whatever you decide, make sure to pick fresh ones! Check out the outer leaves: if they are extremely hard or spread out too much, the artichoke could be old or overmature. If you hear a squeaking sound by pressing the leaves against each other, just place them in your caddy and take them home!

You will need to wash them, remove a few of the outer leaves, and cut off the top so the tender heart will be revealed. Leave a few centimeters of the stem, and peel off the skin. 

Then let your fantasy run wild!

You can boil them, stew them, grill them, back them, stuff them, make a delicious risotto, and so much more. 

If you need a little inspiration, you can check out some of these delicious recipes.

Not only eaten, but drunken too!

Artichokes can be made into a herbal tea: an excellent way to detox your liver, soothing your digestion and getting your skin to glow. 

In the fifties, Italy launched a very particular digestive liquor called Cynar: an artichoke-based liquor enriched by a special mix of 13 herbs and plants.  

This distinctive beverage is still produced today and can be easily found in bars and restaurants today, to drink at the end of a meal, or as part of a few original cocktails. 

We do hope you can find some fresh artichokes at your local market. Otherwise, come by and taste the most delicate Italian artichoke hearts in our Carciofo salad, Pizza, or Salmone Fantasia.

Panettone: the traditional Christmas cake in Italy

Panettone: the traditional Christmas cake in Italy

A slice of Panettone and a glass of bubbly (either Prosecco or Moscato), and you know that the Christmas season is right upon you. Even the most adverse person to Christmas festivities will not give up on a slice of this moist and delightful cake.

From legend to history

Like many other food and traditions, the Christmas cake could be an ancient Roman invention, as they used to bake a soft bread sweetened with honey.

However, the history of how this deliciously sweet loaf was born is wrapped around several legends, all going back to Renaissance times.
Nonetheless, the most popular took place at the Castle of the Duke of Milan: Ludovico il Moro.
While the cook was preparing Christmas dinner for the Duke and its noble guests, he forgot the cake in the oven and burnt it. The young kitchen helper tried to help by mixing leftover from the pantry: flour, eggs, sugar, butter, citrus peel, and raisin. The result was a delicious, soft, and sweet cake that won all the guest’s palate.

Ingredients to make an original Italian Panettone

When the Duke and its invitees asked the name of the delicious pastry they had, the cook said: “El pan de Toni” (Tony’s bread). And from “pan de Toni,” a legendary cake was born: Panettone.
But it was only in 1919 that Panettone became widely available in Italy, thanks to Angelo Motta that started producing it on a large scale.
Furthermore, he introduced the triple leaving, giving the cake the tall dome shape. A few years later, his competitor Gioacchino Alemagna adapted the recipe, turning the artisanal sweet bread into industrial production.
Panettone became cheaper, allowing everyone to have one on the table for Christmas in Italy and to all those Italians who started seeking a new life in other countries worldwide.

Today majorities of bakeries and pastry shops still take pride in making their masterpieces and personalizing them. Instead of regular candied fruits, you can find the most luxurious creams such as chocolate or pistachio or even limoncello cream, or a combination of chocolates and fruits such as white chocolate and pears, or chocolates and cherries. The options are endless!

The whole process is very long but necessary to get top results, and all ingredients must be of excellent quality.
Instead of regular baking powder, “Mother Yeast” is used to get the typical fluffy and texture, with a tanginess hint. But the critical step is refreshing the dough every 12 hours, for at least two times, if not three, before getting it to the oven.
No wonder the price for a hand-made Panettone will start at about € 25 compared to an industrial one at around € 5, but it will be worth it.

Do you want to know a few more curiosities about it?

  • Panettone takes three whole days to make. Mixing, leaving, baking, and resting.
  • When Panettone has finished baking, it is flipped upside down to prevent the top from falling and keeping its fluffiness. Some bakery hangs them down on a rack, and some others have unique baskets.
  • Every year for Christmas, Italian factories and bakeries produce around 120 million Panettone and Pandoro. Just a little bit less than 600 million Euros.
  • The most expensive Panettone was made in 2017 under the specific request of a Russian billionaire. The Italian Pastry chef, Dario Hartvig, topped it with edible gold leaf and a crown of diamonds and sold it for $ 90,000
  • December 2018: Panettone enters the World Guinness Record. Pastry Chef Davide Comaschi with six people prepared the largest Panettone ever: 332,20 kg (732 lbs). The huge Christmas cake took about 100 hours of work.
    Check out the amazing ingredients list:
    49.5 kg flour, 37.8kg butter, 25.2 kg of sugar, 25 kg dark chocolate, 22.5 kg raisins, 22.5 kg candied orange, 22.5 liters water, 18 kg egg yolks, 15 kg cream, 7 kg ruby chocolate, 5.1 kg honey, 2 kg white chocolate, 810 g salt, 540 g natural orange flavor, 360 g natural lemon aroma, 225 g vanilla!

Make your Christmas a little exotic this year!
Search for a Panettone to share with your friends and family.
If you cannot find it in your nearest store, there are plenty of websites from which you can get it.

A slice in one hand, a glass of bubbly in the other, and BUON NATALE! (in real Italian style).

The history of Italian cold cut meats

The history of Italian cold cut meats

All around the world, Italian cold cut meats (called “salumi”) are considered an incredibly delicious ingredient. They can be used in gourmet recipes or to be enjoyed by themselves while sipping a glass of rich wine.

Even their story is part of what makes them so unique. Let’s take a step back and explore the fascinating history that preserved them throughout times.

Selection of cured meats served with grissini

From Prehistoric Times to our tables

Cold meats make themselves known starting from Paleolithic times, as sun-dried meats for longer conservation times. However, the concept of deli meats, as we think of them today, goes back to about 500 B.C. with the Etruscan and Roman populations.
In fact, there are some references to cold cut meats even in the book “The Odyssey” and in the medicinal recipes of Hippocrates.

During Etruscan times, the prosciutto was a popular item among merchants.
For the Romans, ham and prosciutto were often among the main courses during a banquet or even served with fresh bread as street food.

Little by little, the need for a better way of conserving meat became different from area to area. During the Renaissance, these variations created several specific cured or cooked meat recipes, with additional seasoning that varied from region to region.

Finally, during the 1800s, deli meats started to be a common ingredient for everyday foods. Specialized stores began to populate the small and large towns all around Italy.

The most commonly known “salumi” use veal or pork meat, though you can also choose poultry nowadays.

Bresaola

This delicate food is a super lean cured veal cut, typical of the northern regions of Italy. It is salted and dried, not cooked nor smoked. This process ensures a gentle and refined flavor, with a rich taste that is not pungent. It is often used in dietetic menus, as it keeps the calories to a minimum.
The bresaola is a perfect choice to accompany wine and cheese during wine tasting events, as its taste is so subtle that it does not overwhelm any other foods.

Coppa (also known as Capicollo)

Prepared in Center Italy’s regions, the coppa has many variations, depending on the spices used to make it. Prepared with pork, it presents a rounded shape of intense red lean meat, marbled with some fat meat lines. The mixture is the perfect balance for this food, especially because it remains very soft once cooked.

Delicious organic homemade Italian meat coppa, also known as capicollo

Mortadella

The mortadella is one of the Italian children’s all-time favorites, mostly when used to prepare sandwiches with fresh cheese. From its look, this cold cut meat resembles the American bologna, though its flavor is very different.
The mortadella is made with finely ground and cooked pork meat with small black and green peppercorns and pistachios.
Just the right amount of twist!

Fresh mortadella in Italian rosetta bread

Pancetta

Who has been to an Italian restaurant without ever trying the fantastic pancetta?
To become perfectly sweet-salty, it needs to follow precise steps: salted, then spiced, rolled onto itself, and finally dried. A little bit of pancetta’s unique flavor will enhance any pizza, pasta, or even side dishes.
Many recipes around the country prepare this pork deli meat, varying from one region to another. The pancetta can be smoked, or it can have a kick of hot red peppers.
However you find it, you will never be disappointed.

Traditional italian cheese tomino wrapped in freshly sliced pancetta

Prosciutto

We could never skip the most known Italian “salumi”: the prosciutto!
This food is prepared through a precise and lengthy drying process. Furthermore, it takes on many slight flavor differences depending on the provenience. In this particular case, it varies from city to city. One of the most famous prosciutto types is the Prosciutto di Parma, which is considered the number one in the entire Italian deli meat family.
You can read all about its process in our previous blog.

Prosciutto can be enjoyed in so many recipes, one of the most Italian favorites is next to a fresh cantaloupe melon slice

Salame

Let’s not forget about the smallest one of them, though the most flavorful: the salame. It offers endless recipes and spices to try, and it is perfect for eating cold as a snack, accompanied by a few cheese pieces and maybe a glass of good wine.
It is also perfect for adding flavors to any recipe, pasta, and pizza for the most, but also panini and casserole dishes.

Most of these cured meats are our favorite ingredients, and we include them in many of our recipes to prepare the most authentic Italian food for our patrons.

If you are curious to know more about our ingredient list, look at our menu, and find the perfect dish for you!

Celebrating Fall exploring the magical world of Pumpkins

Celebrating Fall exploring the magical world of Pumpkins

We are now halfway through Fall, and trees are turning into a gorgeous and vibrant palette of yellow, orange, and red.
Just like trees, crops are following the same flow, and Pumpkins are undoubtedly letting us know that the cold season is approaching.

Indeed, you have seen the carved vegetables on the night of Halloween, but did you know that this vegetable is very versatile
in the kitchen and super healthy too?

Conquering tables around the world, one dish at the time!

Pumpkins, also known as Squash (Cucurbita’s family), are remarkably close relatives to cucumbers, zucchini, melons, and watermelons and originated in the area of Mexico and Central America.
They have been cultivated for thousands of years, even before beans and corn. Columbus took the seeds back to Europe, where they were mainly grown in the mildest southern climates. Still, nowadays, they are harvested all over the 6 continents, excluding Antarctica.

The varieties of pumpkins are amazing in colors, texture, size, and flavor! From white to yellow, to oranges, red, green, and even almost blue: these are only some of the shades you might be able to spot!

And we can talk about the texture of the skin, sizes, and shapes: spotty, stripey, smooth, or bumpy! From miniatures to giants, from round to oval, evenly long or squatty. A wonderful reminder of the beauty that Mother Nature is offering us.

Something else unique about this beautiful vegetable is that you can use more than just the flesh! Seeds can be dried out and roasted to make an excellent and nutritious snack, or pressed to produce an exquisite oil.
Asian countries, such as Korea and India, use leaves while some European countries also utilize flowers in cooking.

Moreover, pumpkins are packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, sodium. Low in calories and high in fiber, they make excellent and delicious food for your everyday meal or special occasions such as Thanksgiving.

And what about recipes in Italy? Let’s have a look at a few typical Italian recipes with this delightful veg.

Sciurilli (fried pumpkin flowers)

One of the most delicious street foods you can get in Springtime while walking around Naples.
Freshly picked flowers, stuffed with ricotta and provolone cheese, salt, and pepper, dipped into a light batter and then deep-fried!

Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cheeses.

Risotto alla Zucca

Traveling to the North of Italy, we can find a delicate and tasty risotto alla Zucca. The choice of the right pumpkin and rice type is essential for this creamy and fulfilling dish. While the original version includes only vegetables and spices, you might be able to discover some other enriched with cheese or even bacon and sausages.

Portion of pumpkin risotto decorated with slices of parmesan

Tortelli di Zucca

It is a traditional recipe that goes back to the Renaissance times when pumpkin arrived from the Americas for their first time! Tortelli is a type of filled pasta mainly made in the Northern Regions of Italy, such as Lombardy, Emilia- Romagna, and Tuscany. However, the most famous is from Mantova, as it is a delicate balance between sweet and savory flavors. The original recipe will have a rich filling made of cooked pumpkin, Amaretti cookies, parmesan, and lightly spicy “fruit Mustard.” It will be served with a light butter and sage sauce and a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Tasty hand made italian tortellini for autumn season

Roasted Seeds

Being so versatile, you can use Pumpkins in the entire menu, from appetizers to desserts, but whatever you do, keep the seeds!!
Wash them properly and put them in a pre-heated oven for around 15-30 minutes, depending on their size, until golden.
Remove from the oven, cool for a minute or two, enjoy them plain, or be creative with spices!


We cannot talk about pumpkins and not mentioning Jack-o-Lanterns!
This custom originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes were carved and decorated to warn off Jack’s wandering soul. But who was Jack?

Stingy Jack was a drunken man who tried to trick the Devil, and once he died, his soul couldn’t go either to Heaven or to Hell. Doomed to walk around the Earth only with a hollowed vegetable to light his way.

You can read more about the legend here.

Irish immigrants took the tradition to America, where the original root vegetables were substituted by the native pumpkin.

So next time you are buying a pumpkin, let your fantasy run wild. See if you can find different varieties, and get creative in the kitchen, not only by carving it!