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A Typical meal from Viterbo, Lazio

By Jennie Kitaychik

Jennie enjoying a gelato

The first time I ever had a full course Italian meal was in our culinary class. That day was the first time in Italy I knew what it was like to be full.

We started off our class with making desserts. I later learned this to be a common theme of making desserts first so that they would be ready by the end of the evening. For this class, we made the delicious dolce of Tozzetti. Though it was made first, it was eaten last.

1st stage of cooking the biscotti as long sausage shapes

Cutting the tozzetti, ready to be cooked again

For our antipasti, we had three different cheeses along with three different type of salumi

Locally cured Prosciutto crudo, capocollo and locally made salami

We were instructed to try some of the cheeses with honey. Though, I would never think to combine the two normally, the combination was such a pleasant surprise.

All pecorino cheese - primo sale, al cacciatore and alla Romana

local honey

For our primi, we had prepared Lombricheli alla Amatriciana which is a dish native to the Viterbo, Lazio region. The noodles were so thick and filling that it was hard to imagine that there would still be a secondi dish. It was ultimately a tasteful pasta dish with tomato sauce. It was a delicious dish that did not take too long to prepare.

Lombrichelli all'Amatriciana

For our secondi, we had made Pollo con le Olive Nere, a dish native to the Lazio region. The contorni that accompanied this chicken dish were green string beans. It was the first time since being in Italy that I finally had some form of meat in my diet. The fact that it was chicken in a delicious wine, garlic, rosemary, and onion sauce, made this dish exquisite.

pollo con le olive

After our secondi, we all had some ricotta cheese again with honey. At this time the tozzetti were already made and ready to be eaten. This dinner took a total of four hours. We did not eat for all four hours, but instead took much needed breaks in between each course. I will never forget my first full Italian meal.

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Summer pasta

By Nicole Denering and Lauren Eckworth

After our shopping cuisine class we made a delicious primo dish called summer pasta. This simple dish included only a few ingredients but it is great for warm weather when minimal stove top cooking is desired. The few ingredients create a final taste that is light and refreshing. The only ingredients were tomatoes, fior di latte cheese (mozzarella), and pasta.

Only the outer layer of the tomato was used because the pulp would have caused the pasta dish to be too watery. You can also liquidize some of the tomato to form a ‘sauce’. The tomato was cut up into small cubes and seasoned with pepper. Next, the fior di latte cheese was torn into small pieces to be added to the pasta. Fior di latte is similar to mozzarella but made with cow’s milk, so it is more chewy. This cheese is made in Viterbo in the Piano Scarano area. The pasta was cooked al dente and then added to the tomatoes and fior di latte and all was mixed together to be served.

The heat of the pasta caused the cheese to melt slightly. Once the cheese solidified again, it had absorbed some of the tomato juice to create a flavorful combination to be enjoyed with pasta. This light yet satisfying dish is a very enjoyable primo dish and summertime favorite.

Learning Young

Learning to taste wine?

Last Friday evening there was a Wine tasting of the wines produced by Tre Botte, an excellent producer of red and white wines in the province of Viterbo.  Bar San Sisto, Viterbo, hosted the launch of their new Rosè wine, which won’t be available for purchase until March.

All the wines were excellent and Bar San Sisto provided some delicous nibbles to accompany the wines.

The image above shows that Italian babies learn very young to appriciate good wine – (for those of you from different cultures I can assure you that the baby didn’t actually get to taste the wine even if from the evidence of the photo it really seems as if she would like to!

 

Cooking of the Lazio Region

By Grace Hauck
We enter the house and can smell something already cooking.  The aromas fill the air.  Today, all the cooking we did included foods and dishes from our region of Lazio. We first make Zuppa di Cecci e castagne, which is a soup with chickpeas and chestnuts a soup that is usually made for Christmas Eve.  The soup has dried chestnuts, chickpeas, tomatoes, celery, fresh rosemary, garlic, and one dried chili.  Traditionally this served on top of a slice of bread, but already having a big meal, we didn’t have our soup with bread.

While the soup was cooking, we began to make the Tozzetti cookies.  Italian baking is very different from American in that it uses olive oil rather than butter most of the time.  Tozzetti are made with toasted hazelnuts locally grown in nearby towns of Vallerano, Vignanello, and Caprarola.  The cookie contains flour, olive oil, eggs, sugar, lemon rind, baking powder, and toasted hazelnuts–a major product of this region.  This cookie is baked twice, first baked in long logs and then cut diagonally into pieces and baked again.  As we cut the cookies we can’t help but take bits and pieces to nibble on just to get a taste as we await our meal.  As the cookies came out of the oven, our feast could begin with zuppa di Cecci e Castagne. This delicious soup is slightly pureed before serving to give it a thicker consistency.  We ate our soup, momentarily filling our growling stomachs.

The Lombrichelli pasta, the classic pasta of Tuscia, came next. The name comes from the word il lombrico, or worm-like, since it is a very thick pasta.  Lombrichelli alla amatriciana is a dish using smoked pig’s cheek and pancetta fried in a pan until crispy, and tomatoes, basil, white wine vinegar, olive oil, a hot chili pepper, and topped with freshly grated pecorino cheese.  As the sauce is added to the freshly cooked pasta it squishes together combining to make a delicious dish.  With this dish we served white wine “Est! Est!! Est!!!”.

Est Est Est

Next to tastefully jump into our mouths is Saltimbocca alla Romana.  Saltimbocca literally means, “jump in the mouth” because it is simply that good of a dish.  We took the pork tenderloin (called Arista here), rolled it flat with the back of a knife, laid a piece of Prosciutto crudo (air cured ham) on top, followed by a sage leaf, and a toothpick to hold everything together.  The pan is heated first, then the oil, and is finally followed by the pork for a quick cook time of only about 2-3 minutes.  The Prosciutto gets nice and crispy.  It leaves fat in the pan to be soaked up after the cooking is done with Marsala wine to make a syrupy sauce served over the pork.  The wine to go with this dish is a white wine called “San Marco- Frascati Superiore-Secco.” We learned to smell this wine, look at something white to notice and compare the color, swish it, and finally taste it.  The dish did jump into our mouths and we enjoyed every last bite!

The excellent white wine from Frascati

The cheese course was next, in which we tried four different types of cheese.  They were lined up from least sharp to sharpest on a cutting board sliced for everyone to try.  The first cheese was caciotta, which was very mild and not very flavorful.  The second was pecorino rosso, which was the perfect marriage of sharpness and smoothness.  Following was pecorino del caciotori, which was similar to parmesan cheese to my taste and very mature.  The sharpest cheese was the pecorino Romano cheese, which we had grated over our lombrichelli alla amatriciana as well as here to taste.

Pecorino cheeses

Next we tried ricotta, which might seem in order following the cheese, but despite popular belief is not really a cheese.  Ricotta is really the remains of the true cheese making process – The whey recooked. Topped with either delicious apricot jam or coffee grounds.  Both were surprisingly good!  Lastly came Tezzotti with Aleatico di Gradoli red wine to dip the cookies in.  This wine is made just for dipping cookies in.  We all took a deep breath and relaxed after such a wonderful selection of foods.

Making Cannoli at L’Altro Gusto

By Chelsea Lysne

It was a very lovely evening in Viterbo, when I was granted the opportunity to hand make cannoli in a small Italian restaurant. L’Altro Gusto was one of the quaintest restaurants I have been to during my stay here. For my Italian cuisine class I got to cook alongside chefs and make from start to finish cannoli.

Jessica making the second batch of dough

They had already made the dough  (but a second batch was made by Jessica) and we began by rolling it out and cutting the dough into 10’ by 10’ pieces. At that point we would wrap the dough end to end around a small piece of wood or metal. It was a unique experience standing there in a restaurant in Italy learning how to make one of my favorite desserts.

Chelsea rolling the dough

I had never thought that I would be cooking in Italy let alone in a restaurant kitchen. After we finished wrapping the dough around the small sticks it was time to place them in the deep fryer.

Wesley putting the dough around the 'formers'

This was the more difficult task. I had to make sure to constantly turn the dough and try not to break the crusts. It was necessary to turn them every few seconds until all sides were brown. We all took turns because always turning the dough was a little tiring, it was very fun though.

Once we finish cooking the crusts we inserted the filling. The filling was made with ricotta, sugar, and chocolate. We squeezed the filling in by use of a small plastic bag that contained the ricotta mixture. This proved to be a rather messy process and I got this mixture all over my hands. It was a delicious mistake.

Fabiola piping the ricotta mixture into the cooled shells

Finally we placed a piece of candied orange on the very tip of the cannoli and with a sprinkle of powered sugar the cannoli was finished. The best part by far was enjoying them and watching all the others enjoy them as well. This was truly an experience I will always remember fondly.

The finished Cannoli - delicious

For the recipe in full click here.

L’Altro Gusto second class

For our second class at L’Altro Gusto we cooked food from the region of Sicily.
Though to begin we made Grissini (bread sticks), which though eaten in most regions are really from Piemonte.

Antipasti are not traditional in Sicilia but many restaurants make use of dishes from the fried foods shops which sold snacks in the past.  So for antipasto we made Arancini.

Jessica, Chelsea and Ricardo - it takes three to make Arancini

For primo we made Cous Cous with shellfish and vegetables – again not a dish you’d find in any other region of Italy but Sicilia inherited the habit of using cous cous from the Arab invaders from North Africa.  The cuisine of each region has been influenced by the invaders who ruled throughout their sometimes very different histories.
For secondo it had to be fish; Daniele the chef chose Pesce spada (sword fish).  Cooked very simply in the oven with quartered, seasoned tomatoes, it was delicious.

2nd chef Claudio checks the seasoning in the tomatoes for the sword fish

For dolce there was a difficult decision to be made; as there are so many delicious choices; Cassata, gelato, sorbets, biscotti made from almonds (another Arab influence) and Cannoli – we opted for these. (There will be a future most about making these).

Wesley folding the cannoli dough around forms before cooking

More recipes posted

As promised here are the recipes that were cooked at the L’Altro Gusto restaurant that weren’t already posted.

Olive Paté

Chicken Liver Paté (Crostini)

Mushroom Paté

Pappardelle with Wild Boar Sauce

I decided not to write the recipe for Castagnaccio.  None of the students actually liked this chestnut cake from Lucca; neither did Daniele, the chef nor I!