An easy to use dictionary to understand Italian Food terms
sah-LAH-meh DEL-lah DUH-jah
The production of "salam d'la duja," a pure pork sausage preserved in fat, is limited principally to parts of Piedmont, though it also includes the area of Lomellina in Lombardy. The Piedmontese provinces involved are those of Novara and Vercelli. These areas are damp because of the presence of numerous waterways and rice fields and thus do not constitute a favorable environment for the traditional methods of curing meat, which require dry conditions. Therefore, the type of sausage produced here is first cured for a brief period and then left to mature in a "duja," a special container which was originally in terracotta, though nowadays it is often made from materials such as steel. The sausage is placed in the "duja" and covered with a layer of melted leaf lard which, when solidified, allows it to mature without becoming hard.
The best "salame della duja" is made with pure pork from pigs that have been fed primarily on cereals. The best cuts are the shoulder, the leg, the loin, the neck and the belly. The meat is ground relatively coarsely and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and red wine (sometimes also with cinnamon and nutmeg). It is then packed into skins to form a sausage of about 10½ ounces, whose weight decreases as it is cured. Curing takes about 5 weeks, and then the "salame" is immersed in lard in the "duja" for a period of up to a year or even more. When you buy "salame della duja," it should be soft in texture, and the inside should be pink and not dark in color; the perfume is delicate and the taste, which can sometimes be almost spicy, has a subtle flavor.
To serve it, remove the sausage from the lard, clean it using a sheet of rough paper and take off the skin. Slice it and serve at room temperature.
sah-LAH-meh dee VAHR-zee
Varzi is a village in the area of Lombardy known as the "Oltrepò Pavese," which is famous for its salami. This salami, which has been awarded a "DOP" (Denominazione d'Origine Protetta), an Italian standards scheme similar to the DOC scheme for wine, is one of the most highly-esteemed cured meats in Italy. It is produced exclusively with top-quality pork; fat represents 30 to 33 percent of the filling, while an infusion of garlic and filtered red wine is added during the production process. The salami can weigh from 1.1 pounds (500 grams) to 4½ pounds (2 kilos); in general the biggest salamis are the most highly prized and need to be matured for longer.
When you buy the salami, it should feel firm and compact to the touch. The inside should be compact, bright red in color, with pure white fat distributed evenly throughout. The taste should be sweet and delicate. The matured salamis have more complex aromatic overtones and, depending on how long they have been seasoned, can give off a perfume reminiscent of the autumnal scents of the forest floor, and even sometimes of truffles.
Cut the salami in oblique slices just before serving it, so that it has time to release its aromas. To open the salami, you should start from the bottom end, that is, from the rounder end, removing the string that surrounds it. Very matured salamis should be first washed quickly in water and vinegar and then dried thoroughly. Serve the salami with white bread; it can also be topped with peas cooked in butter whereby the distinctive taste of the salami and the delicacy of the peas give rise to a pleasantly harmonious taste; it also goes well with cooked cabbage.
Literally, "jump in the mouth," an indication of just how good this classic Roman dish is. Slices of very young milk-fed veal are topped with prosciutto and a leaf of sage (held together by a toothpick), sautéed quickly in golden butter, and deglazed with white wine or a little water. Sometimes saltimbocca are rolled into plump little bundles.
This pork blood sausage is a specialty of Northern Italy. There are numerous variations of sanguinaccio. Val d'Aosta calls it boudin and mixes in boiled potatoes, lard, and spices, and sometimes combines the pork blood with ox blood. In Friuli bread crumbs, marjoram, cracklings, lemon zest, and garlic are folded in. Tuscans call it biroldo, buristo, or mallegato, depending on the area. Abruzzo adds cooked must, pine nuts, candied citron, walnuts, sugar, and chocolate to the ingredients, and the Neapolitans make it into a rich, thick cream to be eaten cold with ladyfingers. In Sardinia, where it is made in a similar fashion, sanguinaccio is eaten after it is warmed lightly on the grill.
A traditional Ligurian focaccia, sardenaira was created by Admiral Andrea Doria and was initially called Pizza dell'Andrea. A simple olive oil-enriched yeasted dough is prepared and allowed to rise, topped with a cooked mixture of onions, tomatoes, and basil, flavored with anchovies, garlic and olives, then baked. In some variations, the onions are left raw and capers are added to the topping.
Made using sheep's milk or cows' milk, or even a combination of the two, Scamorza is one of the many delicious plastic curd cheeses that Italians have justly become world-famous for; other plastic curd cheeses are Mozzarella and Provolone. Native to Southern Italy, Scamorza is produced industrially in the North as well, in fresh and smoked varieties. This ivory-colored (unless smoked) cheese is cinched or "strangled" with a string, creating its characteristic pear shape. Appreciated for its delicate taste, Scamorza can be consumed within one to two days of production.
Fresh pasta filled with sauerkraut, potatoes and herbs, or cheese, a typical first course in Trentino-Alto Adige. Not all schlutzkrapfen are fried: some are boiled.
This chewy, handmade rustic pasta hails from the Amalfi Coast, south of Naples, and resembles short fettuccine or tagliatelle. The traditional recipe calls for a semolina flour dough laced with parsley and grated Grana Padano; milk and eggs are often added to lend a golden color and sumptuous taste. Scialatielli made only of semolina flour and water are less typical. This hearty pasta is best paired with seafood sauces; on the Amalfi Coast, small, plump cherry tomatoes are usually tossed whole into a pan along with clams, resulting in a simple yet intensely tasty sauce for scialatielli.
Sometimes called black or Spanish salsify, scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica) is a thin root about a foot long with a black-to-brown scaly skin. It has been know for over 400 years, and is thought to have originated in Spain, where its name means "black bark." Originally it was used for medicinal purposes, but in time it earned itself a position in many kitchens, especially as it grows easily (it can be found in the wild as far as Siberia). It is usually puréed, napped in a velvety cream sauce, roasted, fried, or baked, but can also be eaten raw as today's varieties are sweeter than in the past. As opposed to plain salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius), it is considered to have a superior flavor.
Traditional sweets of Sardinia, seadas are large, round ravioli. The dough is enriched with lard, and the filling is made of Pecorino and grated lemon or orange zest, sometimes cooked with flour and water until dense. The ravioli are fried, drizzled with warm, slightly bitter honey from strawberry plants, and served hot.
Essentially a frozen mousse made throughout Italy with separated and beaten eggs, sugar, whipped cream, and various flavorings.
Also called torciglione, this is a famous Umbrian pastry traditionally served for New Year's as a symbol of luck. It looks like a long coiling snake (serpente means snake). The dough is enriched with olive oil. It is rolled out thin and stuffed with a delectable combination of chopped walnuts, figs, apples, and almonds soaked in sweet wine. The version called anguilla (meaning eel) is a specialty of the Capuchin nuns of Perugia.
The soffritto is the starting point and the first step in building layers of flavor in most Italian dishes; it is a combination of vegetables - carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and sometimes herbs - that are cut more or less finely and cooked slowly in butter, oil, lard, or less commonly in the fat from pancetta or Prosciutto, until they wilt and become aromatic. After the soffritto cooks, more ingredients are added - meat or fish, pasta or rice, other vegetables as the case may be - and they pick up the flavor of the soffritto as they release their own. The word soffritto comes from soffriggere, meaning 'to cook at a temperature just below frying' (friggere means 'to fry').
In Northern Italy, the term soppressata refers to a cooked cured meat made using parts of the pig's head and other edible bits; in Emilia, it goes by the name of testa in cassetta (the equivalent of our head cheese). In central and southern Italy, on the other hand, this sort of cooked cured meat goes by the name of coppa, and soppressata refers to various salami instead. The latter is the version of soppressata we find in North American gourmet stores: lean and fatty pork meat combined and pressed together (hence the name) to yield a sliceable salami.
Molise makes one of the most delectable soppressatas in Italy, and the town of Martina Franca in Apulia is also known for its version of this delicious salami: the lean meat and lard are diced as in Molise, then doused with wine and spiked with a generous dose of chili pepper. In Calabria the meat is chopped by knife rather than machine, and chili pepper isn't added. In the Tuscan city of Siena, soppressata is made by cooking the meat from the head of a pig and flavoring it with the same spices that are used in panforte: cloves, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, and nutmeg.
This hauntingly smoky cured meat of Trentino-Alto Adige, made from the boneless haunch of a pig, is slowly smoked, then cured for a long time until it takes on a deep, rosey-red hue and a delicate flavor. Speck is chopped and folded into the batter for dumplings and sauces, and appears on most tables as an antipasto to be savored with the local rye or multi-grain bread.
Described in some cookbooks as a sweet bun and found in many regions, spongata dates from Ancient Rome, where it was born as an unleavened pastry dough filled with honey. In classic versions from Parma and Busseto, the pastry is a rich cookie dough and the filling has been embellished to include almonds, toasted hazelnuts, walnuts, raisins, candied orange and citron peel, pine nuts, white wine, brandy, cinnamon, pepper, mace, and coriander. It can be stored for weeks successfully. Marzipan can also be used as the filling.
Yet another of the dishes made differently in different regions of Italy. In Northern Italy, strangolapreti are a thin, slightly curled short pasta made by hand with water, eggs, and flour; in the South, however, the name applies to gnocchi. In Campania, strangolapreti are made with potatoes, flour, and eggs, and in Basilicata there are two different dishes called strangolapreti: the first is a pasta made of flour and water and shaped like cavatelli, then sauced with a meat ragù; the second is an ear-shaped pasta prepared with flour, eggs, and lemon zest which is deep-fried, then served unadorned with a sweet wine.
Literally translated, the word strangolapreti means 'priest stranglers.' It's believed that the dish owes its name to its historically heavy texture (strangolapreti were often made with ground millet bread rather than flour, and were thought to be too tough for the delicate palates of priests, who might choke on it). They are also known as strozzapreti.
Strangozze are a pasta typical of Umbria, especially the city of Terni, where they are called ciriole or ceriole. Made with only flour or semolina and water in true peasant tradition, since eggs were too costly to "waste" in pasta dough, the dough is rolled out by hand, then cut into short strips that are rather thick and not too narrow. Sometimes the strips of dough are rolled around a special tool to obtain a sort of maccheroni with a hole in the middle. Strangozze are traditionally sauced with a sauté of abundant garlic (kept fairly light in color) and olive oil, but some cooks prefer a tomato-based sauce fragrant with basil or parsley, or, in the city of Spoleto, a hint of rosemary. Locally made fresh ricotta is frequently combined with tomato sauce to top the pasta.
The name strangozze originates from the cord, called a strangozza, used by medieval peasants who didn't wish to pay their taxes to strangle the tax collector. Strangozze also go by the name stringozzi.
A specialty of Basilicata, where pasta tends to be made only of flour and water without the addition of eggs, strascinati means 'dragged,' perhaps a reference to the manner in which the pasta is shaped. After flour, lard, and water are mixed into a dough, squares of pasta are dragged across a grooved wooden board called cavarola, pressing grooves onto one side of the dough. The grooves then catch the sauce with which the pasta is tossed after it is boiled.
Similar to the sopa coada of Treviso (in Veneto), this soup (from the Galluria area of Sardinia) is made by layering rustic bread with sliced Pecorino and pouring a rich meat broth over all, then baking the dish until the broth is nearly absorbed by the bread.
© 2013 Quadratum USA. All rights reserved.