An easy to use dictionary to understand Italian Food terms
This is an ancient sweet with the heavily spiced character of medieval cuisine. Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, citron, candied orange, raisins, honey, cocoa and a little flour are combined with ground cinnamon, coriander, and nutmeg. The batter is poured into a round pan and baked. Pan pepato can be kept for months. Freshly ground pepper appears in some versions of pan pepato, hence its name: pepato means peppery.
Literally translated, "sweet bread". Pandolce is a Genoese sweet very similar to Milanese Panettone, but denser. Like Panettone, it is a traditional Christmas dessert. The batter for pandolce is made of eggs, butter, sugar and flour, enriched by candied fruit and pine nuts, and perfumed with fennel or anise seeds and orange flower water.
See Carta da musica
A Sardinian dish made with carta da musica soaked briefly in boiling water and topped with crushed tomatoes, grated Pecorino, and a poached egg.
Even though this cake originated in Milan, panettone is enormously popular throughout Italy and abroad. Italy's best-known Christmas dessert, it is similar to Verona's pandoro but is typically studded with candied fruit and raisins. Soft and spongy, it is made with a natural yeast starter (most recipes call for at least two sponges before the final dough is made) and owes its golden color to the generous addition of eggs and butter. This sweet treat comes in both tall and short versions; some panettoni are iced with chocolate, others are enriched with nuts, and others still are filled with gelato.
A traditional sweet from Siena, panforte literally means strong bread (pan means bread and forte means strong), because the batter from which it is made is firm. It has been prepared almost the same way since the thirteenth century. Toasted walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts are stirred into a hot honey caramel, flavored with candied fruit, cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, and nutmeg, and bound with a little flour. The batter is poured into a round pan lined with communion wafers, dusted with confectioner's sugar, and baked. Panforte can be conserved for some months if well covered.
A dessert that originated in Piedmont, panna cotta is also prepared in parts of Liguria. At its simplest it is made by dissolving unflavored gelatin in milk, then whisking the milk into heavy cream that has been sweetened with confectioner's sugar and scented with vanilla extract; the dessert is allowed to set in the refrigerator and served with or without a caramelized sugar topping. Some versions of panna cotta include flavorings like espresso, fruit purées, or liqueurs.
This is the Tuscan name for a rustic dish made of stale bread and raw tomatoes dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and wine vinegar. Basil leaves are folded in, and purple onion, cucumber, and celery are sometimes added. The bread becomes imbibed with the juices of the tomato and fragrant with the olive oil. There are similar salads all over Italy: the caponata dei marinai of Sicily, featuring the local bread, tomatoes, anchovies and oregano; the cappon magro of Liguria, a complex bread creation enriched with fish, seafood, hard-boiled eggs and a multitude of vegetables; and another Ligurian specialty, capponalda, made with soaked bread, anchovies, capers, and chopped olives. Panzanella, like all other bread salads, was born as a way of using leftover bread.
These crumbly Sardinian sweets are typically prepared for Easter, Christmas, and on the first of November for All Saints' Day. They are made with flour, dried fruit, eggs, sugar, lard, and orange, and variously flavored and shaped depending on where they are made within the island.
PAHP-pah kohl po-mo-DO-ro
The quintessential country dish and one of Tuscany's most famous soups, pappa al pomodoro is made of stale bread and ripe tomatoes, flavored with garlic, onions, and basil. When the soup is served, each bowl is drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.
Long, flat, wide pasta typical of Tuscany, but also prepared in Umbria and other regions. The word pappardelle comes from the Tuscan word pappare, meaning to eat. Pappardelle are usually topped with hearty meat-based sauces; Tuscany's most famous pappardelle and sauce coupling is pappardelle sulla lepre, featuring a robust hare ragù.
A traditional first course in the neighboring regions of Romagna and the Marche, passatelli are so called because they are passed through a special iron that looks like a slotted spoon mounted on two horizontal handles. In Romagna, the dough is made with fresh bread crumbs, eggs, Parmigiano, and a grating of nutmeg and lemon zest; beef marrow can be used to make passatelli particularly rich. In the Marche, passatelli include ground beef, and the lemon is omitted. The dough is placed on the counter, the passatelli iron is pressed over it, and the dough makes its way up the iron's many small holes, ready to drop into hot broth. Once the passatelli float to the top of the broth, they are removed with a slotted spoon. Freshly grated Parmigiano is the classic accompaniment, although Pecorino is also common in the Marche.
Nearly all of Italy's delicious sweet pies and tarts, as well as a number of its classic cookies, are made with this crumbly, rich, delicate pastry base (frolla means 'crumbly'). The ingredients for pasta frolla are flour, eggs, sugar, unsalted butter, and a pinch of salt; the classic recipe calls for mixing 1⅔ cups flour with 3½ ounces of butter, ½ cup of sugar, and 3 egg yolks; vanilla extract and grated lemon or orange zest are often worked in as flavorings. When making pasta frolla, it's important to combine the ingredients quickly and to have the butter thoroughly chilled before starting, otherwise the dough will develop too much gluten and will be difficult to roll out or work, and it will toughen when baked. Allowing the dough to rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before rolling it out is indispensable: the rest allows it to relax and become manageable. Timpani, timballi, and other towering pastry confections already called for a dough similar to pasta frolla at the beginning of the Middle Ages in grand Italian kitchens.
Romagna's famous flatbread has been emblematic of the region since the Middle Ages. Also called piada or pié, the name piadina derives from the word piadena, a wide bowl or flat, low vase. Piadine are in fact round and flat. The doughówhich traditionally does not include yeast, although recent versions call for itóis made by kneading flour, lard, salt, and water together. Once the dough is smooth and firm, it is left to rest for thirty minutes, at which point it is ready to be cut and rolled out thin, then cooked over a hot surface. Piadine are always served when soft and pliable, never dried out, and they commonly accompany prosciutto, cheese, or other antipasti.
A deep fried dough typical of the Neapolitan area (pl. "pizzelle"). It is usually served plain, or can be stuffed with provola cheese, salami, or vegetables. Not to be confused with "struffoli", dough balls deep fried and mixed with honey and candied fruit, and served in the shape of a pyramid. Furthermore, there is a sweet dough, deep fried and then drenched in honey, which is made in Apulia instead, that goes by the name of carteddate.
These thick tagliatelle are prepared in Valtellina, a northern valley in Lombardy, from a mixture of buckwheat flour and all-purpose flour. They are cooked with Swiss chard (or Savoy cabbage) and potatoes, and are then topped with lots of garlic-flavored melted butter and with locally produced cheeses such as Bitto (Fontina can be a valid alternative). You should serve pizzoccheri with distinctive white wines such as Terre di Franciacorta or Valcalepio. Fresh pizzoccheri can be stored in the refrigerator, while the dried version can be stored in a cupboard in a well-ventilated and dry place.
Historically this term identified a mixture of finely ground cereals, or legumes, and water. Nowadays it is used expressly for a mixture of cornmeal flour and water. If other flours are used, such as buckwheat or chestnut flour, then the preparation is called “buckwheat polenta”, “chestnut polenta”, and so on. It is definitely a versatile preparation, and is therefore easily combined with a great variety of flavors, such as game, Gorgonzola cheese (an Italian creamy blue cheese), cod, stewed mushrooms, and also snails. As a dessert, or rustic snack, it is dusted with sugar and drizzled with milk. Although it can be found precooked in airtight packages, or in the “instant-ready” powdered form, it is still prepared, in some areas of Italy, in it’s traditional way: over wood-burning stoves, using copper cauldrons.
poh-LEN-tah eh oh-SAY
Traditionally thrush, lark, and other small songbirds (called "osei" in Veneto's dialect) were skewered and roasted, then served piping hot over polenta. A legend of the area claimed that polenta arrived in the world one day between the rivers of Oglio and Brenta and that when small spit-roasted birds were added to the dish it became food for the gods. This classic is now prohibited because the birds were killed in a slow, painful way, but the Venetians keep the concept alive in a dish called polenta e oseleti scapai (polenta and the birds that got away) made with pieces of veal, chicken liver, bacon, mushrooms, and fresh sage leaves which are buttered, skewered, and oven roasted.
Literally translated, polpettone means "big meatball". In reality, it is the Italian version of meat loaf, made differently in different parts of Italy; born out of economic hardship, it has won the hearts of cooks across Italy. Bologna's classic polpettone combines ground beef with eggs, pancetta, bread crumbs, Parmigiano, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and calls for cooking the polpettone in butter, then adding sautéed onions and stewing the polpettone until tender. Florence's polpettone relies on ground veal for its delicate taste, uses sautéed carrots, parsley, and onions as a savory base, and adds a touch of flour and a sprinkle of lemon juice to the sauce. Roman Jews, on the other hand, make polpettone with ground chicken, bread crumbs, eggs, cinnamon, and pepper, and add white wine, carrots, and celery to the pot after browning the polpettone for a more complex dish.
This pork dish is not to be confused with roast suckling pig. A whole young pig, weighing about 100 pounds, is deboned through two incisions along its back and thighs. Once deboned, the pig is stuffed with a mixture of salt, black pepper, wild fennel, and garlic. The entrails are washed, cooked, and seasoned with these same aromatic ingredients, then used as a stuffing. The incisions are sewn shut and the pig is slowly roasted in a wood-burning oven, set atop a large roasting pan which catches the juices as they melt in the heat. One of the characteristics of this dish is the pork's crispy skin. Porchetta can be eaten warm, but it is mostly savored at room temperature or cold. Originally from Umbria, the preparation of porchetta spread into Lazio, where it is made mostly for feasts, served in restaurants, or sold in shops.
pohr-CEEH-noh dee bohr-goh-TAHR-roh
Borgo Val di Taro is a small town in the Apennines (population about 7,000 inhabitants), which lies, surrounded by forests, at an altitude of about 1,300 feet (400 meters) on the Parma side of the Apennines. It is famous for its porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis), which are known locally as "Funghi di Borgotaro." The area in which the porcini are found covers the townships of Albareto, in the province of Parma, and Pontremoli, in the province of Massa Carrara, and has been awarded the status of IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta). There are four protected species of Boletus, which are picked in different periods. From the end of September to the first snows is the period of the autumn porcini (Boletus edulis Bulliard ex Fr.), a delicately perfumed mushroom with white flesh. Its natural habitat is beech and chestnut forests.
If you buy autumn porcini (Boletus edulis Bulliard ex Fr.) when they are young, they will have a hemispherical cap; older and larger porcini will have a flattened or convex cap (as specified by IGP regulations). The surface of the cap is smooth, though it will be opaque and slightly sticky in damp weather. The color ranges from a creamy white to chestnut brown, covering all the intermediate shades. The firm stalk is rounded and slightly bulging when the mushroom is young and tends to lengthen out later. The perfume is delicate and clean and there should be no hints of straw, liquorice, or fresh wood. The flesh is firm with a delicate flavor that should never taste sharp.
Young porcini are excellent served raw, shaved thinly lengthwise and seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon. A tasty way of cooking all types of porcini is to slice them thinly and then sauté them in olive oil with garlic and parsley, a process that is known in Italy as "trifolare." The caps can be stuffed and baked in the oven or larger caps can be coated in breadcrumbs and fried or grilled.
Porcini should be eaten as quickly as possible as they will deteriorate. Keep them in the most humid part of the refrigerator (which usually corresponds to the vegetable cabinet) until you are ready to use them. However, they can be frozen or, if blanched briefly in boiling water, preserved in olive oil. Porcini can also be thinly sliced and dried.
A collection of wild greens, traditionally used in the Ligurian cuisine. Its composition varies from town to town, and depends upon the season for availability of the ingredients used. In general, it includes: wild baby spinach, sow-thistle (cicerbita), Italian parsley, burnet (pimpinella), dandelion (dente di cane), and borage. It is sold in the markets of Genoa in ready-made bunches, to be used in soups and fritattas, as well as traditional fillings for pansotti (Ligurian stuffed pasta).
A soured milk product from Liguria, Prescinsoeua has become very difficult to find even in its native region. Typically made at home with milk that is purposely left to sour, it is thin and creamy. It can be consumed as is, sprinkled with a little sugar, used in the preparation of pesto, or added to the vegetable filling for Liguria's famous multi-layered pie, Torta Pasqualina.
This cake, traditionally served at Easter in Friuli-Venezia Giulia (particularly Trieste) is thought to be originally from the small town of Castagnevizza. A dough similar to puff pastry and enriched with eggs is then stuffed with a mixture containing coarsely chopped raisins, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, candied fruit, and cloves. The presnitz is then shaped into a wreath very much like gubana.
In Sicily and Sardinia, this describes a Pecorino (sheep's milk cheese) in the early stages of maturation; the name literally means 'first salt.' Today, this white rindless cheese is also made with cows' milk. Primo sale is ready to be placed on the market a few days after preparation, and it is lovely grated over pasta; Sicilians enjoy it with their pasta with cauliflower.
proh-SHOOT-toh dee san dah-NEEH-eleh
Prosciutto di San Daniele, one of Italy's most prestigious cured meats, is produced in the town of San Daniele del Friuli, a hillside town in the province of Udine, and in the surrounding area. It is a top-quality product obtained from pigs reared on a special and carefully regulated diet. Furthermore, the local climate, which is influenced by cold air from the north and warm air from the south coming together along the course of the river, is particularly suited to curing meat and salamis.
It is produced with the trotter left on, is cured for at least 11 months. During the curing process the ham is pressed to obtain its characteristic violin-shaped form. When you buy the prosciutto, the slices should have a deep pink color; it has a very distinct delicate aroma, with a full and intensely sweet taste. In 1996 it was awarded the status of DOP (or Denominazione di Origine Protetta), a European standard which guarantees its origin and production.
The memorable prosciutto of Tuscany, produced especially in an area called the Casentino near Florence and Arezzo, is quite different from the more famous Prosciutto di Parma. Typically smaller in size, saltier, and chewier, it is generously flavored with black pepper and aged for eight to ten months, somewhat less than Prosciutto di Parma. Unavailable in North America, it can be savored only locally.
A variety of chicory, puntarelle (also called cicoria di catalogna) has long, serrated leaves, similar in looks to dandelion, with a flavor that is pleasantly bitter and a texture that's tender but crisp. Puntarelle also refers to a salad made with the greens.
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