GlossaryAn easy to use dictionary to understand Italian Food terms
This is the Tuscan name of cime di rapa, broccoli di rapa, or broccoletti, better-known in this country as broccoli raab (also spelled broccoli rabe). Rapini belong to the turnip family (rapa means turnip) and are picked while still young during the spring and summer, before their flowers bloom. The stems, tender leaves, and buds are all eaten, and are usually boiled before sautéing to attenuate their bitterness. Southern Italians are especially fond of rapini: Apulians, for instance, cook them with ear-shaped pasta, flavoring the dish with anchovies, garlic, and chili.
A sweet liqueur made from bitter cherries (amarene, from amaro, or bitter) in Abruzzo, ratafià is traditionally prepared with summer-sweet cherries at their peak. Every June, the cherries are stemmed, dried in the sun for a day, then macerated in red wine (preferably Montepulciano d'Abruzzo) with cinnamon and vanilla for forty days in the sun. The liquor is then strained, the cherries squeezed to extract the most flavor, and sugar and alcohol are stirred in; the longer ratafià ages the better it is. Other regions too make ratafià, and Piedmont is one of its biggest producers. Apricots, oranges, plums, walnuts, lemons, and marasca can also be used to make the liqueur.
The very name of this Tuscan soup says it all: literally translated, it means "reboiled," and reflects how this ancient soup came about. Leftovers of thick Tuscan minestrone (full of Swiss chard, Savoy cabbage, white beans, potatoes, leeks, tomatoes and onions) are reheated, then layered over stale bread and drizzled with the finest extra-virgin olive oil. In some versions, the leftover soup is simply poured into an ovenproof casserole, topped with a layer of thinly sliced onions and drizzled with olive oil, then baked at 375° until the onions form a light crust. There is some disagreement as to whether ribollita originally hails from Florence or Siena, but everyone who tastes it agrees that it is one of Tuscany's great soups.
The area near Rome known as the Agro Romano (Latium), is famous for being the home of Ricotta Romana. Ricotta Romana, like all ricottas, is not actually a cheese in that it is not made by fermenting curds, but with whey. In particular, Ricotta Romana is produced using the whey obtained from sheep's milk. It is sold in conical forms, whose surfaces are crisscrossed with the lines left by the basket in which it was left to drain. It is pearly white in color, with a delicate and characteristic smell. It has a "sweet" taste and a particularly soft and melting consistency; when you taste it, you feel its pleasantly fine-grained texture. When buying it, you should check that it is white and firm, and not straw-colored or watery. The Agro Romano, which was once a marshy area that only began to be reclaimed after the Unification of Italy and was not fully reclaimed until the 20th century, extends around Rome, between the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Monti Sabatini (Lake Bracciano) and the hilly area known as the Colli Albani.
This cheese hails back to ancient times. Originally from the Valsassina and other pre-alpine valleys, it is also produced in the plains of Piedmont and Lombardy. Made mostly from cow's milk (sheep's and goat's milk were more common decades ago), robiola is mild and buttery when fresh (aged only 8 to 10 days) and sharper when matured (aged 40 to 50 days). Fresh robiola is used in numerous dishes both sweet and savory, from pies to pasta to antipasti, and is sometimes marinated in extra-virgin olive oil with herbs and spices. (1 recipe)
A pastry shaped like a strudel filled with a rich fruit stuffing, rocciata is common in the pastry shops of Umbria.
One of the glories of liqueur-making, little known outside Italy, is rosolio, made by macerating rose petals in an alcoholic infusion. Legend has it that a mysterious physician who worked in fifteenth-century Italy had prescribed an alcohol-based treatment to one of his female patients and, in an attempt to mask the unpleasant flavor of the alcohol, the good doctor added honey and rose oil to the mixture, thereby inventing rosolio. Rosolio is moderately alcoholic, between 22% and 24%, with a sweet taste and delicate bouquet that make it an excellent dessert liqueur.
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