Noto is a small, beautiful provincial town in South-east Sicily, where every street, every piazza, every facade, every balcony is an ode to the baroque and its love of spectacle, dynamism and pomp. Everything outside and inside is opulent and decorated to excess – horror vacui, fear of emptiness.
The same fancifulness and richness can be found in many Sicilian dishes, cassata first of all. Continue reading →
This year’s pastiera (ricotta and wheat Easter pie). For a change, I made a lard and butter pasta frolla (italian sweet pastry): super crumbly and a nightmare to work with, but it tastes delicious (humbly, he said). Very happy to have found the original fialetta, the extra-tiny glass bottles full of excellent and powerful orange blossom water, from Naples, which gives this splendid cake its haunting perfume. The recipe is the traditional one, from Carola Francesconi. Happy Easter everyone.
Outside Italy, few know that apple strudel is actually a very Italian dessert and not just a Viennese speciality. You will find it in patisseries all over Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, all territories that, historically and culturally, have had strong links with the old Austro-Hungarian empire and (partly) share the same culinary heritage.
In Veneto and Friuli dialect it is called strucolo de pomi, whilst in Trentino Alto Adige it is called either strudel di mele or apfelstrudel, its Viennese name. In all these three Northern Eastern regions you can actually find different types of strudel/strucolo: sweet, savoury, baked or boiled. Sometimes they are based on the traditional paper-thin strudel pastry, other times on a yeasted dough or even a potato dough (like gnocchi).
Strudel di mele (apple strudel) is perhaps the most famous: crackling extra-thin pastry enclosing a cinnamon-spiked filling of apples and raisins. Continue reading →
Zaeti is Veneto dialect for the Italian gialletti, literally “the little yellow ones”. They are buttery, crumbly polenta (maize or cornmeal) biscuits, plump with raisins and you will spot them in patisseries and bakeries in Venice, Padua and other Veneto towns.
There are many versions, more or less rich, but they all share a charming culinary humbleness, which is one of the key marks of genuine Italian cooking. Continue reading →
Here’s another traditional recipe from Lombardy that honours I morti, All Souls. Pan di mort (literally “dead people’s bread”) are quintessential Lombardy biscuits that are sold in bakeries between the end of October and the first week in November. They are diamond-shaped, chocolatey, spicy biscuits, full of nuts and candied citrus peels, quite chewy but not crunchy. Continue reading →