Sunday, December 25, 2011

Buon Natale

My mother in law's pepperoni for crostini as seen here

For Christmas this year we are in Italy.  Here Christmas pranzo (lunch) is the big meal.  With antipasto, primo, secondo, etc, etc.  Traditionally in Tuscany crostini and ravioli are served for this special day.  Since this year it was a quiet Christmas at my mother in law's we had a simple, but wonderful meal that did include crostini, pasta and of course dolce!  Buon Natale!

Funghi pate made with fresh porcini,  I have made this before as seen here (but with no fresh porcini!)
Crostini bread
This is a very particular, rustic bread my husband loves I have only ever seen it in Italy
One of my husbands favorite pasta dishes, mussels with penne
One of my favorite pastas my mother in law makes, shrimp + zucchini, will have to post this recipe soon

A traditional Christmas dessert, panforte, I could compare it to a hard fruit cake, but it is so much better then fruitcake
Panforte cut open
Another traditional Christmas cake, Torta di Cecco, which is literally Cake of Francesco, this one is dipped in dark chocolate,  I found this oddly addictive
Torte di Cecco sliced, almonds and dried apricots make up this cake
The ultimate Italian Christmas cake, Pandoro, nothing else like it!
Here is a slice of Pandoro coverd with Marsala liquor, very delicious

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Presepe Search

Always before Christmas in Italy people go to see their local Presepe.  (Presepe is basically a nativity scene, but much more detailed then the ones we put up in our homes in the US for Christmas.  The Italians recreate the entire surrounding area around the barn where Christ was born.)  My husband remembers doing this growing up every Christmas.  When I came to Italy for Christmas with my husband in 2009 before we were married we saw a Presepe near the Massa castle.  So this year we went in search of this Presepe presentation again.  Come to find out it is no longer going on, because the small chapel where they would set up the Presepe has been deemed unstable, therefore it would not be possible to show it there.  Now if you saw this chapel you could totally understand why it might be deemed unstable as it is quite old.  I don't know exactly about the chapel the the castle that is very close to it dates to about 800 AD to give you an idea.

View of the chapel that is now unstable
Old sign for the presepe
View from the chapel
I couldn't resist....
As you pass the chapel and continue to walk up the path to the castle here is your view, in the distance that is the sea
From the 2009 Presepe, so you understand how detailed I mean, this scene transformed from day into night with moving people and functioning lights

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ravioli della Bruna

Boil fresh spinach in water

So I am back in Italy for a bit now, in America I did not have any pasta or pizza for 11 days and I did not miss it!  But now that I am back in Italy I have little choice but to eat pasta, but eating pasta here is good, as I know it will always be cooked correctly, unlike outside of Italy. And one of my favorite pasta dishes is ravioli.  (For all those with short attention spans, this is a long post so be forewarned.  But the subject of ravioli is not one that can be short and sweet.)  This is step by step my mother-in-laws ravioli recipe.  I don't know how long she has been making it, but dare I guess at least 40 years as that is how old my husband, her youngest child is.....This ravioli is stuffed with spinach (fresh of course) and ricotta.  Obviously you can try your own fillings and follow these basic steps.  (I personally want to try a mushroom filling, but then I would not pair it with ricotta, you get my point.)  The amount shown here makes enough for 10 people, obviously it was just the two of us eating, but Bruna saved the rest in her freezer so she could just pop them out when she wants!

Take freshly cooked spinach and chop, here Bruna is using a mezzaluna to chop
Saute your chopped spinach in olive oil
Meanwhile have your ricotta in a strainer, draining excess liquid (pictured beginning of straining)
Ricotta after straining
Grate fresh nutmeg into grated parmigiano (or grana-padano)
Mix together sauted spinach with the ricotta
Add three eggs to the spinach and ricotta mixture
Add your grated cheese and nutmeg mixture
Finished filling
Now we begin to make fresh pasta, start with your flour and add eggs (normally recipes call for an obscene amount of eggs, like 3 for every cup of flour) Bruna doesn't agree with this as she thinks having that many eggs is gross (I agree) so here we have about 8-10 cups flour with 5 eggs
This was a surprise to me when she added some olive oil!
Now the mixing can begin, no utensils used here other then her hands, she worked the dough as you would with bread
This is what she ended up with after about 5 minutes, she did add a bit of water when she felt the dough getting too dry
She put the dough in the fridge for a few hours and then we took it out to roll the ravioli sheets out (let your dough rest in the fridge at least one hour)
One of Bruna's ravioli tins (I think these are over 40 years old)
Another very important tool, the pasta roller.  This attached to the side of the table and expedited the process of rolling out the dough to be thin sheets, (you could do this by hand with a rolling pin, but really you don't want to)
The pasta sheets are ready, now prep the ravioli mold with a sprinkling of flour (by the way you must have 2 molds on hand)
Spreading the pasta sheet on the mold
Putting spoonfuls of the spinach and ricotta filling on each square (these are heavy handed spoonfuls, but do it as you like your ravioli filling to pasta ratio)
Now you see the second mold in action (remember to lay your second pasta sheet on top of the filling)
Straight from the mold
A small roller is used to separate the squares created by the molds

As usual my dog, Luna is always underfoot waiting for food to fall on the floor, in this case a lot of flour
After you cut the excess dough off the sides of the ravioli squares you have a pile of "scrap" dough combine this and run it through your pasta press and make fresh long pasta as we did here
Getting ready to cook the ravioli, lots of salted boiling water (olive oil was added to this too) and a simple tomato sauce for on top (or you could do butter and sage instead)
Large plate with sauce on top
My portion....extremely buono!  Bruna made it look so easy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sole e Luna

The pier in Marina di Massa, on most days you can see Porto Venere from here

One of my last days in Marina Di Massa before I leave for the US to visit family.  (Strange to now be vacationing in my home country.)  I haven't featured my dog, Luna in a post yet, so I decided to take a few shots of her enjoying the sun and the beach in Italy.

To some Luna may not be beautiful, but she is to me

Luna likes to get close to the water, but is careful never to get in

A view of the bagno that are closed now for the winter season and my wedding night hotel, Hotel Excelsior