Zaeti (polenta and raisin biscuits from Veneto)

Zaeti (polenta biscuits)
Zaeti (polenta biscuits)

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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

Pan di mort (All Souls spiced chocolate biscuits from Lombardy)

Italian spiced chocolate biscuits
Italian spiced chocolate biscuits

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

Ricotta al caffè (coffee ricotta cream and tips on home-made “ricotta”)

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One of the foods I miss most from Italy is fresh ricotta – the real deal of course, not the  industrial type which I can get also here, a tasteless and pappy substitute. Fresh ricotta is another thing altogether: sweet, milky and light, creamy and yet not insubstantial: with a sprinkle of sugar or with a drizzle of olive oil, it is culinary nirvana. Here in the UK, even in London, fresh ricotta is still very hard to come by: I tried the Neal’s Yard’s one (made in England) and I was not impressed, but I also saw beautiful looking Italian fresh ricotta at Gastronomica, in Borough Market (I was told it is flown in every few days).

Because it’s so hard to find good ricotta in the UK, many years ago I started making “home made ricotta” – though it is actually nothing more than fresh cheese: milk coagulated with some acid (lemon juice, vinegar, rennet, citric acid the most common) . Continue reading