Italian Food Glossary A abruzzese or all'abruzzese(adj.) From or in the style of the Abruzzo region of Italy; usually spicy. acquacotta A vegetable soup, generally spiced with peppers and thickened with bread, at times containing egg and cheese. A dish typical of coastal Tuscany and upper Latium, but one that varies widely depending on the location. affettati cold cuts, sliced meats agliata A garlic sauce, sometimes containing crushed walnut meats. Comes in numerous regional variations, most notably from Piedmont, Abruzzo, and Liguria. aglio dolce Garlic that has been previously chopped and soaked in milk to make it "sweet" (often used in Piedmont). agnolotti A Piedmontese stuffed pasta which was born as a way of using left-over meats, agnolotti are made differenly depending on the meat available, local habits, and the preferences of the cook. To prepare the stuffing, various kinds of roasted and boiled meats are used separately or in combination, and a cured meat is always included; escarole is the vegetable of choice, although Swiss chard or spinach are sometimes used, and rice cooked in mild is often added for a lighter texture. Agnolotti can be served in a broth, tossed with melted butter and fresh sage, or lavished with a truffle sauce or gravy from roasts. ajada garlic, walnut, and bread-crumb sauce albese (adj.) prepared with truffles alzata tiered fruit or cake stand amaretti Dry cookies made of ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar, ideal in the creation of stuffings and dessert but also excellent eaten on their own. amatriciana A pasta sauce, originally from the town of Amatrice in the porvince of Rieti (in the region of Latium) and a variation on the original Abruzzese version which contains no tomatoes. Amatriciana is made bu sautéing a cured meat called guanciale(from the pork cheek) in olive oil, then adding minced onion and cooking until golden. Tomatoes are stirred in, as well as a pinch of chili pepper or black pepper. The pasta that is typically used is long pasta: either perciatelli or bucatini. SInce guanciale is rarely available outside Italy, pancetta is frequently used instead. ammiscato (adj.) Mixed; alludes to an assortment of pasta shapes usually added to bean soup. amorosi (pl.) elongated, tubular, twisted pasta animelle sweetbreads anolino A filled pasta traditionally prepared in Parma and other neighboring cities. The filling is generally made with bread crumbs soaked in a very dense meat gravy, to which egg and grated cheese are added. They are cooked and served in a strong beef broth or consommé. In Italy, this ancient dish has many variations. Parma and Piacenza are the principal cities where anolini are made, and are sometimes called "anvein." aranciata orange drink, orange soda arancini Deep-fried rice balls from Sicily, also popular in Naples and Rome. These "little oranges" (the literal translation of their name) are made of boiled rice mixed with eggs and grated cheese, and filled with a spoonful of ragù or a piece of melting cheese. Each ball is covered with flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs. Finally it is deep-fried in olive oil until golden. aretina, all' Arezzo-style; typically contains duck, ham, vegetables, and nutmeg. avemarie (pl.) Literally "Hail Marys"; a small pasta for soup, named after and resembling the beads in a rosary. B babà al rhum This yeasted sweet is baked and soaked in a rum syrup until it is entirely imbued with the rum's aroma and flavor. The most famous are from Naples, where it was prepared for the aristocracy. baccalá This is dried codfish, either salted or sundried, often present in the menus from Veneto. A legacy of the Norwegians, and found in the cuisine of any Mediterranean countries, it can be prepared in a variety of ways beginning with a long soak in cold water (24 to 48 hours). The water should be frequently changed during the softening process. Though baccalá can be fried in strips or even eaten raw, the most familiar version involves cooking the cod very, very slowly in milk. baccalá mantecato A common dish native to Venice, consisting of salted cod cooked very slowly with milk, onion, olive oil, garlic, anchovy filets and parsley for at least four hours. bistecca alla Fiorentina The epitome of steak, Florentine steak is a hefty T-bone cut of Chianina beef, named after the Val di Chiana where these cows are raised. The meat is not fatty and more flavorful than other types of meat. To prepare the steak, the meat is grilled quickly over charcoal and seasoned with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. For best results, it should be 2" thick. bagna cauda Literally translated, "hot bath", this is a typical sauce of Piedmont. Flavor from crushed, sliced or minced garlic is underscored by a generous amount of minced anchovies; these are skillfully incorporated into olive oil and unsalted butter, which are melted and kept hot at the table in a fondue pot. Raw vegetables like radishes, peppers, cabbage, carrots and cardoons are used for dipping in this sauce, and cooked vegetables like turnips and potatoes are often served as well. bagnapan seafood soup thickened with bread bagnèt In a dialect of Piedmont, this means sauce. A red and a green version are common, and both are used to accompany bollito misto, a typically Piedmontese assortment of boiled meats. The red bagnèt features tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic that are cooked for hald an hour, to which wine vinegar and sugar are added; the sauce is simmered for two more hours. The green bagnèt is a piquant blend of anchovies, hard-boiled egg yolks, parsley, galric, capers, bread that has been soaked in milk and squeezed dry, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. bagozzo hard, sharp Grana cheese, otherwise known as Bresciano bagnomaria / bain-marie Known as a water bath in America, this refers to the technique of immersing a pot of food in a hot water bath to cook it gently and evenly, much like a doubleboiler. The technique is often used for chocolate dishes, custards, mousses and other delicate dishes. The water in the lower bowl or pan should be hot, but never boiling. balsamico extravecchio Real balsamic vinegar is always vecchio (old), but the most flavorful and aromatic is extravecchio (extra-old). To get its seal of extra-old approval, an extravecchio must be aged at least 25 years, and sometimes up to 100 or more years (as opposed to the 12 years required of a regular balsamico tradizionale). bastarda, salsa butter sauce, thickened with egg bastoncini small, stick-like pasta for soup batufolli polenta balls prepared with meat sauce and Parmesan, traditionally placed in a pyramid bavette pasta similar to Linguine bel paese a variety of well-known mild, soft, pale yellow cheeses from Lombardy besciamella / béchamel, a white sauce bigoli A type of pasta from the Veneto region in which the dough (flour, eggs, melted butter, salt, milk) is worked until pliable, cut into small stick shapes, and extruded through a special instrument called a bigolaro. The resultant rough texture gives a surface that is excellent for absorbing sauces. Egg noodles are a suitable substitute. bisna polenta made with beans, sauerkraut, and onion bodino (budino) baked veal stuffed with layers of vegetables and prosciutto bolognese, alla Outside Bologna, and especially outside Italy, the term refers to a meat sauce for pasta. (In Bologna, it's known simply as "ragú.") bonarelli thin ribbons of pasta bonet This dessert is a specialty of many trattorie and home cooks in Piedmont. First, a caramel is prepared and poured while hot into the bottom of a baking dish. An egg custard typically flavored with crumbled Amaretti di Saronno, rum, and melted chocolate is poured over the caramel base, then the while is baked in a water bath. bottarga Made from salted and pressed fish roe, bottarga is an orange hued bar with an intense flavor. Most commonly identified with Sardinian and Sicilian cooking, Bottarga is made with grey mullet in Sardinia and tuna in Sicily. bresaola Made from lean beef (top-round, rump, or filet) bresaola is a savory cured meat native to the Valtellina area in Lombardy. The meat is lightly salted, marinated in wine and herbs, and drycured. Bresaola can be aged for long periods of time or very briefly. Its flavor intensifies as it ages. The best way to savor Bresaola is raw, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with pepper. brovade A peasant food that is virtually unknown outside the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, based on sliced turnips macerated fro a month or so in grape skins. They turnips are most often served as an accompaniment to meat dishes, but they can also be folded into pasta e fagioli or other soups. bruschetta toasted bread seasoned with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, at times served with tomatoes or other various toppings brutti ma buoni Literally "Ugly But Good," these light almond macaroons from Northern and Central Italy may look ugly and irregular but taste absolutely delicious. bruz Sometimes called bròs, this is a cheese preparation typical of Piedmont and Liguria. It is made by mixing together left-over bits of robiola or goat cheese, adding grappa or brandy, olive oil, vinegar, chili pepper or peppercorns, and salt, then placing the mixture in hermetically sealed terra-cotta pots to ferment and become spicy. The fermented cheese is slathered on warm toasted bread and grilled polenta. bucatini A dried pasta that looks like spaghetti but is hollow. Typically, bucatini are served with tomato- or meat-based sauces. buccellato A traditionally wreathed-shaped sweet of Lucca in Tuscany, buccellato was often prepared to celebrate confirmations. It is a simple dessert, made of leavened dough enriched with eggs, sugar, and butter or lard; dried citron or Marsala are sometimes folded in. There are endless variations of buccellato, and every baker has his or her special touch. burrata Basically a soft mozzarella whose soft center is a combination of cream and finely chopped mozzarella curds. Traditionally made from buffalo's milk, today Burrata is made with cow's milk. Highly perishable due to its creamy center, Burrata lasts only a couple of days in the refrigerator. Pair with fresh tomatoes, crisp basil, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. burrida This Sardinian specialty is not a soup like the similarly named burridda of Liguria, but rather a way of dressing fish from the shark and skate family. The fish is poached in an aromatic broth with onion, carrot, celery, parsley and a wedge of lemon, then served with a flavorful garlic sauce stretched with mild vinegar and thickened with crushed pine nuts or walnuts. C cacciatore, alla Literally "hunter-style"; alludes to the varying methods of stewing lamb, chicken, veal, and rabbit. Northern ingredients typically include tomatoes, while those of central and southern Italy predominantly use rosemary, garlic, and vinegar. cacciucco A Tuscan stew made by the Etruscans as long as three thousand years ago, cacciucco is made either with fish and seafood or with meat. In both cases, many varieties of meat or fish are cooked with vegetables and given an especially sharp flavor by a generous quantity of garlic and chili pepper. The seaside town of Livorno is famous for its fish and seafood cacciucco. caciocavallo A type of hard cheese, typical of Sicily, somewhat similiar to provolone, which is made of whole milk, processed without cooking, and aged for at least two months. Though it is often smoked, its flavor is also affected by the amount of time it is aged. cacio e pepe pasta, usually spaghetti or other long pasta, topped with grated pecorino romano cheese and black pepper cacioricotta A hybrid between caciocavallo and fresh ricotta, cacioricotta is a hard cheese made from sheep's milk and cow's milk in Southern Italy. A specialty in Apulia and Basilicata, cacioricotta is excellent grated over pasta, especially orecchiette, or even shaved over salads. calamari (pl.) squid calzone A savory turnover made with pizza dough, folded over itself, and then baked or fried. Traditional stuffing for calzone involves the use of tomatoes, mozzarella or fresh ricotta, and salami. The types of stuffing vary in different Italian regions. canavesani agnolotti pasta stuffed with rice, beef cooked in red wine, cheese, truffles, cabbage, and garlic canederli Dumplings made with cubed leftover bread soaked in milk, water, or broth then enriched by speck and/or cheese and herbs. Canederli are served to accompany hearty, flavorful dishes like stews, boiled meat or soup. canestrini (pl.) small pasta for soup (may also allude to anything shaped like a small basket) cannoli A Sicilian specialty, named for its pipelike shape and intended as a treat at Carnevale, cannoli spread through Italy and were eventually a fixture in almost every pastry shop. The elaborately flavored dough is rolled and shaped around a metal cylinder, then deep fried. When cool the crisp cookie-like tubes are filled with a sweetened ricotta mixture enriched with candied fruits and small bits of chocolate. The origins of cannoli, also called Turkish hats, can be traced back to the Saracens or even to pre-Christian times. cannoncini A belligerent name for a harmless, sweet pastry shell. Cannoncini literally means little cannons, a reference to the pastry's slim, tubular shape. Cannoncini are made by rolling a single strip of puff pastry dough around a thin metal cylinder, then baked. Most connoncini are filled with something sweet, such as pastry cream, whipped cream, sugary almond or pistachio paste, or fruit jam. cantucci, cantuccini (pl.) Tuscan almond cookies that resemble small biscotti; traditionally dunked in Vin Santo. capellini fine strands of pasta (literally "fine hair"), usually used in soup capocollo The name of both a cut of pork and a cured meat obtained from the upper part of the neck and the shoulder of pork, mostly prepared in central and southern Italy. Meat and fat are cut into large chunks and flavored with different spices in different regions, and cured for four months to one year. The cured meat is thinly sliced and eaten raw in delightful antipasti platters. caponata Sicilian dish featuring cubed eggplant, celery, and onions- previously fried- paired with tomatoes, raisins, pine nuts, olives, vinegar, and sugar. Usually caponata is enjoyed as an antipasto, as a side dish or a topping for bruschetta. cappelletti A ring-like band of stuffed pasta with a peaked point in front and a pinch in the back. Different fillings are used to stuff cappelletti, but the two most typical are a delicate meat purée or cheese. This delicious pasta is usually served in meat broth or in tomato sauce. caprese (adj.) literally "of Capri"; mozzarella and tomato salad with basil carbonara, alla A delectable sauce which is typically paired with spaghetti in the region of Lazio. This sauce is prepared by sautéing cubed guanciale in lard and adding it to beaten eggs and Pecorino Romano. carbonara, pasta alla Pasta (generally spaghetti) with egg yolks, bacon (guanciale), pecorino romano or (less traditionally) Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. carbonnade This robust stew hails from the northern region of Val d'Aosta but is also common in France, where it is called carbonade. (In the rest of Italy, it goes but the name of carbonata.) To make carbonnade, lean stewing beef is cut into strips, dredged in flour, and browned in hot butter; onions are stirred in and browned, the shole is deglazed with a full-bodied red wine, and salt is stirred in. As the meat cooks and the sauce reduces, more wine and a generous amount of pepper are folded in; the end result is a rich, densely sauced stew best accompanied by steaming hot polenta. carpaccio Raw beef filet in paper-thin slices seasoned with olive oil, mustard, lemon, and pepper, but today carpaccio can also be of raw fish or vegetables. To make paper-thin slices, place the filet in the freezer for 15 minutes before slicing it with a sharp knife. carpione A treatment for freshwater fish, particularly carp, trout, and eel. To prepare in carpione means frying the fish in olive oil, then marinating it with vinegar and aromatic vegetables for up to one week. Carpione is usually presented as an appetizer. carta da musica A staple in Sardinia, carta da musica is an extremely thin bread that owes its name to its parchment-like appearance. Its preparation is lengthy and complicated, indeed a yeasted dough is prepared with durum flour and all-purpose flour, left to rise, kneated, stretched repeatedly with a rolling pin, left to rise again, baked, cooled, and baked again until dry and crunchy. D dado bouillon cube denti di cavallo literally "horse's teeth"; an industrial pasta shape similar to rigatoni but smaller dentice snapper (fish) diavolillo The super hot chili from Abruzzo and Molise. Diavolillo nearly defines the cooking of these two regions. Since Abruzzo and Molise are fond of spicy food, you'll find minced chili infusing in local olive oil, ready to pour on soups, marinades for meat or poutry, and most commonly to sauce spaghetti: spaghetti al diavolillo is a signature dish of the area. digestivo a liqueur (e.g., amaro or grappa) consumed after eating to aid the digestion ditali Literally "thimble"; short tubes of pasta; ditalini are smaller versions, usually for soup, while ditaloni are larger. dolce (n. and adj.) sweet; dessert dolceforte or dolce e forte sweet and sour (Tuscan); a game sauce made with vinegar, sugar, spices, raisins, and chocolate DOP Abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Protetta meaning "Denomination of Protected Origin." An official seal given to outstanding foods with an exclusively regional importance. dragoncello tarragon E eliche helical pasta elicoidali A short, curly, tubular pasta erba cipollina chive erbazzone pie made from spinach, pancetta, eggs, and Parmesan; pizza with herbs; dessert version made with beets, ricotta, almonds, and sugar etto A unit of measure, used for many different kinds of food purchases. Equivalent to about ¼ pound. eugubino (adj.) Of Gubbio or Gubbio-syle; cappelleti all'eugubina an egg pasta, said to be the richest in Italy (traditionally made at Christmas and eaten until Epiphany). F fagiolini (pl.) string beans, green beans, haricots, or any bean eaten along with its casing fagioli (pl.) beans farfalle literally, "butterflies" or "bowties"; bowtie pasta farro One of the oldest grains in Italy, farro is similar in appearance to spelt. Appreciated since the time of the Ancient Romans, farro is still successfully cultivated in Italy, particularly in the central regions of Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio. fedelini a very thin, spaghetti-like pasta fettucine Literally, "little ribbons"; the basic flat egg noodles as they are known in the southern half of Italy (known as tagliatelle in the northern half). finocchio fennel finocchiona Made from finely ground pork flavored with fennel seeds, garlic, salt, and pepper, finocchiona is a flavorful Tuscan salami that will enhance any antipasto platter. Finocchiona is aged for a period between 7 months to 1 year before being put on the market. fiori di zucca The golden blossoms found at the ends of zucchini. These flowers can be eaten stuffed or sauteed. They can can also be battered and fried as a tasty snack. With their vibrant color, they're also excellent as garnish. focaccia a flat bread, usually flavored with oil and herbs, but seasoned, filled, and topped in a variety of ways fondente flourless cake; baking chocolate, bittersweet chocolate fontina A cow's milk cheese used as the main ingredient for Fonduta. Originary of Val d'Aosta, Fontina is also used in to make delicious dishes with Polenta and Crespelle. formaggella Found formaggella Found throughout Italy, Formaggella is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese used as a table cheese or as a filling for savory pies. Formaggella has a delicate, buttery flavor, a cylindrical shape, and a crumbly texture. fregola An ancient form of pasta made from semolina flour combined with water. A staple of the cuisine of Sardinia, fregola looks like many little pellets that are dried and then are boiled in seafood soups or seasoned with tomato sauce or even served cold in salads. fresina flat pasta strands, wider than tagliatelle friselle Large, round breads with a hole in the center. Very dry and crisp, because baked twice, Friselle need to be soaked in or sprayed with water to let it soften up. Friselle are a good accompaniment for any meal or just topped with fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil. frisuli pork parts stewed with spicy peppers and used to enrich soup or stuff pitta frittata Delectable dish made from eggs that are lightly beaten with salt and pepper and fried in a pan. Sometimes frittatas are seasoned with cheeses, herbs, vegetables, and cold cuts. frittelle Hot, deep fried or pan-fried fritters, either sweet or savory. Sweet frittelle are eaten during Carnevale. Savory frittelle can be made with almost any ingredient on hand, including anchovy and tuna, chickpea flour, chunks of cheese and-in Sicily, at least-even jellyfish. fritto fried, deep-fried frollini shortbread cookies frullato (n.) Italy's version of the milkshake, made with milk and fresh fruit (not to be confused with a thick shake). fruttini marzipan fruits (Tuscan) fungetiello pasta sauce made with black olives and capers funghi (pl.) mushrooms fusilli Corkscrew-shaped pasta made with semolina flour and water. The name derives from the word fuso which means "twisted", due to its spiral shape. Fusilli are served with tomato or meatbased sauces. G galletta cracker gambero shrimp (or crayfish) garganelli a handmade short pasta whose dough consists of ribbed, rolled squares made of flour, water, and Parmesan gelato (n.) ice cream genovese, alla Genoa-style; typically a style of preparation using olive oil, garlic, and herbs genovese, carne alla Neapolitan beef stew made with onions and tomato sauce (often used as a pasta sauce) gianduja A hazelnut-chocolate confection from Piedmont. Used in countless chocolate desserts, cakes, and pastries. giardiniera (1) pickled vegetables; (2) vegetable soup made without beans or lard; (3) mixed vegetables grana padano Produced in Lombardy since the turn of the millennium, grana padano is one of northern Italy's greatest cheeses. Made from cow's milk with the addition of serum, rennet, and bacteria, grana is briefly soaked in salt brine and aged for two years. Younger wheels are best eaten at the table in small chunks, while older ones are best for grating. granita A sweet, refreshing drink that has the consistency of a grainy ice cream. Granita is obtained by chilling fruit juices or other flavored syrups. The mixture is stirred several times during the freezing process in order to break the ice crystals and to obtain a homogenous mass of fine, icy grains. Usually Granita is served in long juice glasses with a spoon. gricia, alla This sauce is the "white" version of amatriciana, another Lazio sauce that hails from the town of Amatrice in the province of Rieti. Guanciale is first sautéed in olive oil, then minced onion is added and cooked until golden; a pinch of chili pepper or black pepper gives a little kick. Some versions include garlic, which is cooked down with the onion. grolla A cup made of wood or earthenware, grolla is also known as "the cup of friendship" because it is used to share warm drinks, usually spiked with grappa or other liqueurs, with friends. Grolla is native of Val d'Aosta. gröstl A combination of potatoes and onions, typically cooked in a skillet with beef or speck. There are numerous variations on gröstl. Some are flavored with garlic, others with chives, oregano or cumin. Gröstl is oftern serve as a cake to be cut into wedges, either hot or at room temperature, and is an ingenious way to use leftover meat in Trentino-Alto Adige. gnocchi (pl.) Essentially dumplings of any kind, but typically small potato and flour dumplings (though the term also includes dumplings made of semolino, polenta, or other ingredients). guanciale The meat from the cheek of the pig which gets lightly rubbed with salt, freshly ground black pepper or chili peppers, then cured for three months. gubana A sweet in the shape of a spiral or wreath commonly baked in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, gubana is often confused with presnitz. A version made in the town of Civiale boasts a puff pastry made with egg and brandy and a filling of nuts, almonds, raisins, pine nuts, candied citron and orange, Malaga wine, stale bread cooked in butter, sugar, egg yolks, and beaten egg whites. gulasch One of the most noted Hungarian dishes, gulasch was originally a soup of thinly sliced meat cooked with onions. Friuli-Venezia Giulia, as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, incorporated gulasch into its cooking repertoire. I imbrecciata thick soup made with mixed vegetables and grains imbrogliata of eggs, "scrambled" impastoiata polenta with beans cooked in tomato sauce incapriata A simple presentation of fava beans and bitter chicory. The fava beans are boiled, puréed, and topped with sautéed bitter chicory. The two are then doused with fruity olive oil and eaten together. Incapriata is native of Apulia. indiana, all' with curry indiavolato (adj.) deviled (i.e., spicy) indugghia A typical Calabrese sausage, Indugghia is made with a combination of the meat, lard, liver, and lungs of the pork and is eaten raw as part of an antipasto platter. inglese, all' English-style-usually meaning boiled or poached-with the possible addition of butter and cheese insalata salad, also meaning lettuce insalata russa Russian salad; cooked vegetables prepared with a large amount of mayonnaise and sometimes gelatin integrale (adj.) literally, "whole", "complete"; whole wheat, whole grain irinate unsweetened doughnut-type dough filled with meat (ragú) and peas, and then deep-fat fried italico a soft, mild, white cheese similar to Bel Paese J jàccoli Thick spaghetti, always handmade, and usually served with hearty sauces. jota Friulian minestrone whose ingredients include beans, sauerkraut, and port K kaiserscharrn A simple dessert from Trentino-Alto Adige, made both in restaurants and at home by filling crespelle with stewed fruit, cutting them into thin strips, and serving them hot with fresh cream. Given the region's heirloom apple varieties, they are often stuffed with local apples, prunes and cherries. kaminwurzen This is a smoked pork sausage from Trentino-Alto Adige, usually served accompanied by an assortment of cured meats, sauerkraut, and steamed potatoes for a filling, hearty main course. kanostrelle type of waffle knodel (Canederli in Italian) These dumplings evolved as a way of using leftover bread in Trentino-Alto Adige. Most versions begin with rye or dark bread that is cubed and soaked in milk, water, or broth, then enriched by speck, liver (leberknodel), or cheese. Knodel are served as accompaniments to hearty, flavorful stews like gulasch or boiled meat, or as a filling garnish for clear broths. krapfen Sweet yeasted fritters filled with vanilla or lemon pastry-cream or fruit jam then dusted with confectioner's sugar. kuscus sweet semolina and pistachio cake L laberinto literally, "labyrinth"; hollow, helical pasta laccato (1) lacquered; (2) coated with a honey-based sauce prior to roasting (to produce a "lacquered" crust) laganelle narrow lasagna noodles, usually served in soup with beans, hot peppers, and pecorino laianelle ricotta-filled, moon-shaped ravioli made entirely by hand, without even the use of a rolling pin; usually stuffed with ricotta and covered with goat meat ragú lampascioli A plant cultivated exclusively in southern Italy whose edible bulbs are eaten raw or pickled. Similar to the onion in appearance, the bulbs are bitter and can be found in greenmarkets throughout the country. lanache homemade Pugliese hard-wheat pasta resembling thin tagliatelle and often sauced with stuffed mussels and pecorino lancette small pasta for soup lardo An aged, cured pork fat made to be eaten as an antipasto, or used as a flavoring. It's classified as a cold cut rather than a cooking fat, and comes in white slabs resembling bacon. For a perfect antipasto, lardo can be sliced paper-thin and eaten on toasted crostini. lasagna, pl. lasagne Broad ribbon-shaped pasta, usually in plural; while width of ribbons can vary, narrower ones are often served in a bowl with sauce. latte di mandorle literally, "almond milk"; milky liquid extracted from almonds to be used in sweets latte fritto fried custard dessert lattemiele sweetened whipped cream drink, or whipped cream latticini fresh cheeses; milk products leberknodelsuppe A filling soup that combines a rich meat broth with leberknodel. It is a traditional first course in Trentino-Alto Adige. leccarda, alla drippings; served with the sauce made from the drippings of a roast lepudrida vegetable soup with pork or beef lesagnetes type of tagliatelle sauced with cheese or butter, or with ground poppy seeds licurdia spicy vegetable soup of Calabria; spicy Calabrian pepper sauce limonata lemon soda, lemonade linguine thin, flat, spaghetti-like pasta strands (literally, "little tongues") lombrichelli thick, handmade spaghetti lucanica Light pink in color, lucanica is a type of sausage from Basilicata that can be eaten raw or cooked. Lucanica can be found throughout Italy but in different versions. Lucanica is prepared with both the fat and the lean parts of pork shoulder, then is seasoned with salt, pepper, and spices. The spices that are used are what differentiates one lucanica from another. lumellu dried pork with hot peppers lunetta, pl.lunette half-moon ravioli (potentially referring to anything small and moon-shaped) M macche (pl.) baked polenta slices prepared with sausage or other toppings maccherone tubular pasta known in English as "macaroni" maccheroni alla chitarra This is the quintessential pasta dish of Abruzzo. Fresh pasta is made using semolina flour and eggs, rolled thin and pushed through steel wires arranged in a wooden frame. The pasta is typically served with a chili pepper-laced tomato sauce or a ragù of lamb or beef. macedonia fruit cocktail or salad, a dessert machetto paste of salt-preserved anchovies and sardines malfade long fluted noodle mallegato Tuscan blood pudding malloreddus Tiny dumplings made of semolina flour, flavored with saffron, shaped into inch-long pieces, and rolled over a sieve to form their characteristic grooves and indentation. Usually Malloreddus are served with simple tomato sauce or a rich lamb ragù. maltagliati Sometimes made from the trimmings of lasagna and other homemade pastas, maltagliati are an irregularly cut egg-and-flour pasta native to Emilia-Romagna. This type of pasta is most often eaten in vegetable-based soups. mandorlato almond cake, almond paste, nougat manfrigul chopped pasta for soup mantecato ice cream; literally "whipped" (alludes to bulk ice cream scooped from a tub) maraschino This clear, dry liqueur is made from the marasca cherry. It can be sipped as an afterdinner drink or used in Italian pastries and frozen desserts. Candied maraschino cherries are named after this liqueur, which used to be an ingredient in their manufacture. marzotica A ricotta aged for a few weeks until it obtains its characteristic aroma and pungency. It tastes delicious grated over pasta, as it is done in Apulia. mariconda, minestra soup of egg, bread, milk, cheese, and stock mariconde (pl.) little pasta dumplings for broth marille twin-tubed rigatoni marinara, alla "Sailor-style"; the name given to various methods of preparation, though typically tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, olives, parsley, oregano, basil, and capers are used. merca A type of salami made of grey mullet. The fish is first cooked in salted water then is pressed and wrapped in an aromatic herb called salicornia that grows in the Cabras swamps in Sardinia. messicani No one knows why these thin, lightly stuffed meat rolls are named "Mexicans." We do know that they are related to Milanese polpette, or meat rolls, and consist of thin slices of pork slathered with chicken livers, salami or prosciutto, garlic, egg, Grana Padano, parsley and nutmeg. They are rolled, tied, dredged in flour, browned in butter, and simmered in wine. messinese very large macaroni slit partway lengthwise for filling mezzani long, tubular pasta mezze maniche literally, "short sleeves"; a short, tubular pasta similar to rigatoni migliaccini crepes migliaccio black pudding, blood pudding milanese, alla Of meats, breaded and sautéed in butter; or of risotto, made with butter, onion, beef marrow, and saffron; or of ravioli, stuffed with roast or stewed beef, prosciutto, amaretti, and cheese. minestrina light or clear soup minestrone hearty, mixed vegetable soup (exists in many varieties) mocetta Mocetta is a flavorful cured meat from Val d'Aosta which resembles Bresaola closely. It used to be made from the deboned leg of wild goat, now a protected species, but nowadays it is made with domesticated goat or beef. Mocetta is prepared like Prosciutto and aged for only a couple of months. mohnnudeln sweet lasagna with butter, sugar, and poppy seeds mollane a salted cheese mollica crustless bread or soft bread crumbs monzese, risotto alla risotto with sausage morellini (pl.) purple artichokes (potentially referring to anything small and dark) mortadella Made from 60% lean pork and 40% pork fat, Mortadella is a delicious cured meat that has origins in the Emilian city of Bologna. The pork meat is stuffed into a casing, shaped into a long, fat cylinder, and studded with peppercorns or pistachios. Savor Mortadella thinly sliced in sandwiches or cubed in meatballs or pasta sauces. mostarda When pears, apples, cherries, apricots, plums are candied in a syrup spiked with mustard powder, they make up mostarda, a perfect sweet and pungent accompaniment to boiled and roasted meats and sausages. mosto (must) Must is pure, unrefined fruit juice used in wine and liquors. Grape must is used for winemaking as well as for flavoring many Italian sweets and meat dishes. There are other types of must too: malt must can be used to make beer, apple must for cider, and cherry and prune musts for brandies and liqueurs. mozzarella soft, fresh white cheese, properly made from water buffalo milk, but often from cow milk murseddu An old specialty from Calabria, this dish combines tripe cut into thin strips, with slices of calf's and pork's liver, red wine, bread dough, tomatoes, chili peppers, aromatic herbs, and olive oil. Cooked until the lard is tender, Murseddu is served inside a warm loaf of bread. murstica A favored antipasto in Calabria, mustica is otherwise know as rosamarina. musetto A gelatinous Friuli-Venezia Giulia sausage, consisting of lean cuts of pork as well as the pigs head and seasoned with various spices. Mustica - Also known as "Calabrese Caviar", Mustica is prepared with salted newborn anchovies, strewn with black pepper or chili, and packed in olive oil for a couple of months before serving. mustica tiny salted anchovies in peppery oil N napoletana, alla Neapolitan-style; typically implies the use of rich tomato sauce necci Crepes or waffles made from chestnut flour, often stuffed with cheese or accompanying ricotta; chestnut cakes; sausages formed in the shape of such cakes. nero di seppia Black ink from the cuttlefish, or squid. Used to flavor and color pasta and risottos. nidi the little bunches in which long egg pastas, such as fettuccine, are packaged nocchette bow-tie pasta noce Walnut (generically, nut). It can also refer to a walnut-sized piece of butter (as in noce di burro). nochette ring-shaped pasta (Abruzzo) nockerln noodles; small gnocchi nonna, alla Literally, "grandma-syle"; torta della nonna is a plain yellow cake filled with crème custard inside and topped with pine nuts. novarese, alla From Novara, in Piemonte; insalata di riso alla novarese is layered rice and white truffles prepared with an oil, lemon, and anchovy dressing. Nutella® proprietary name of a popular hazelnut and chocolate spread, similar in consistency to peanut butter O olandese (adj.) Hollandaise, or simply Dutch onto, in preserved under fat, e.g., goose or duck orecchiette Ear-shaped pasta (orecchie in Italian means "ears") made of durum flour and water. Their thumb-sized indentation makes them ideal for rich sauces. orzata a drink made of water, malted barley or almonds, and orange water orzo barley; name for a small pasta used in soup ossobuco One of Italy's favorite dishes, ossobuco is made of braised veal shanks. The meat is first browned, then cooked with vegetables and aromatic herbs until it is extremely tender and falls off the bones. The marrow is the most delicious and prized part, it can be scooped out with a teaspoon. ossolana, all' Gnocchi all'Ossolana are small boiled potatoes that are cooked in butter and garlic and accompanied by a meat sauce and cheese. ovini the whole category for sheep and goat meat P paglia e fieno literally "hay and straw"; mixed green and yellow pasta strands pagnottella literally "little loaf"; a kind of brioche pancarré Sliced bread; also, a packaged bread used for canapés and sandwiches when there is a preference for regularity of shape over flavor and texture. pancetta The section taken from the fat belly or cheek of a pig, consisting of alternating layers of fat and lean tissue. It can be rolled, aged, salted or smoked. pancotto bread soup, literally "cooked bread"; usually contains bread, olive oil, and cheese pandoro (or, pan d'oro) type of pound cake widely sold at Christmas time, along with panettone pangrattato dry breadcrumbs panettone Italy's best known Christmas dessert originated in Milan. Soft and spongy, it is made with a natural yeast starter, eggs, butter, candied fruit, and raisins. Shaped like a dome, variations include chocolate or vanilla icing or gelato filling. pane carasau A typical thin bread of Sardinia. pane frattau Sardinian dish made with Carta da Musica bread briefly soaked in warm water and topped with crushed tomatoes, grated Pecorino, and a poached egg. panforte- A traditional sweet from Siena, panforte is a firm sweet bread. Toasted walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts are stirred into hot caramel, flavored with candied fruit, cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and flour. This batter is poured into a round pan lined with communion wafers, dusted with confectioner's sugar and baked. panna cotta A dessert of Piedmontese origins, Panna cotta is made by dissolving unflavored gelatin in milk, then whisking the milk into sweetened heavy cream (sweetened with confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract). Panna cotta is refrigerated and served with a caramel or strawberry topping. pan pepato gingerbread (pepato itself as an adj. means "peppered" or "spiced") paparot spinach soup (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) papassine Crumbly Sardinian sweets that are typically prepared for Easter, Christmas, and on the first of November for All Saints' Day. Papassine are made with flour, dried fruit, eggs, sugar, lard, orange, and various flavors. Their shape varies depending on where they are made within the island. papazoi bean soup with barley and corn pappa mush; soup thickened with bread; babyfood pappa al pomodoro One of Tuscany's most famous soups, pappa al pomodoro is made with stale bread and ripe tomatoes with the addition of garlic, onions, and basil. Before serving, the soup must be drizzled with olive oil. pappardelle broad, flat noodles; similar to tagliatelle but much wider parmigiana, alla Parma-style, but not necessarily made with Parmesan cheese passata (di pomodoro) tomato purée (typically sold in bottles or conserved in bottles, and liquid in consistency) passatelli homemade soup noodles made from a mixture of eggs and bread crumbs pasta frolla Crumbly, rich, delicate pastry base made with flour, eggs, sugar, unsalted butter, and salt. Pasta Frolla is used in the making of sweet pies, tarts, and cookies. pasticciato (adj.) with ragú, cheese, and butter pavese, zuppa alla Broth made with bread, egg, and cheese; similar to French onion soup, but with egg used in the place of onion. (Though its name suggests an origin in Pavia, this dish belongs to the classic repertory.) penne literally, "feathers"; pasta "quills," with a hollow tubular form cut short on a slant (thinner than rigatoni) penne all'arrabiata penne topped with tomato, garlic, and peperoncino piccata slices of boneless veal, sautéed in butter with parsley and lemon pici handmade pasta resembling spaghetti, but thicker and slightly more dense (Tuscany) pignolata fried or baked balls of dough, which are coated half with chocolate and half with sugar glaze (from Sicily) pilota, risotto alla risotto prepared with sausage and cheese pizzichi tiny, square-shaped egg pasta pizzoccheri Thick tagliatelle from Valtellina made from a mixture of buckwheat flour and allpurpose flour. They are boiled, then layered with blanched cabbage, sautéed onions and garlic, and cheese and butter. polenta A thick porridge, best known for its preparation from cornmeal, though other grains (or potatoes) may be used. There are many different ways to prepare polenta, and in certain regions it can even be found as a dessert. polpettone- Literally translated as "big meatball", in reality Polpettone is the Italian version of meat loaf. Polpettone is made differently in different parts of Italy; in Bologna it combines ground beef with eggs, pancetta, and bread-crumbs while in Florence ground veal is used. porchetta A real treat, porchetta is roasted pork stuffed with a mixture of salt, black pepper, wild fennel, and garlic. Porchetta can be eaten warm, but it is mostly savored at room temperature or cold. It can be purchased in chunks or slices. primo sale A sheep's milk cheese in the early stages of maturation that tastes excellent grated over pasta. primizie (n. pl.) the first fruits or vegetables of the season Prosciutto di Parma The first step in the making of a Prosciutto di Parma consists in the careful selection of a prime-grade hog. The pork must then be treated and seasoned using traditional methods carried out in a strictly delimited area of production within the province of Parma in Emilia-Romagna. The ham is aged for at least 10-12 months. Just one single ingredient, salt, may be used in the treatment of the meat. Prosciutto di San Daniele The salty yet sweet flavor and velvety texture that characterizes Prosciutto di San Daniele hams is the result of a drying process that dates back to the second century B.C. All types of prosciutto are cured through the application of salt, exposure to sunlight, and aging. While the ingredients and conditions that go into the production of Prosciutto di San Daniele are identical to other types of Prosciutto Crudo, the use of pork thighs, salt, and aging, it is the unique climatic conditions of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, with its higher altitudes and drier air, that give Prosciutto di San Daniele its unique flavor and texture. Another feature that distinguishes Prosciutto di San Daniele from other types of prosciutto is the fact that it is cured with the bottom part of the leg bone in, a feature that makes for a very rustic looking ham. prosciutto cotto Made from the hind legs of meaty pigs, prosciutto cotto is ham cooked in steam ovens. Prociutto Cotto can be sliced paper-thin and served in sandwiches, on top of salads or pizzas, or diced in pasta sauces. puntine small pasta for soup puttanesca, alla Puttanesca sauce is made by cooking tomatoes with olives, capers, garlic, chilies, anchovies, and olive oil. This sauce originated in the Isle of Ischia, near Naples, and was considered a poor dish, not good enough for high society. Fortunately for our taste-buds, now we can all enjoy this delightfully piquant sauce Q q.b. (quanto basta) a term used in recipes to mean "as needed," or "to taste"; literally "as much as is enough" quadretti small, square egg pasta generally used in broth quaresima The period of time in the liturgical calendar known as Lent, meals that are served during the quaresima are by necessity meatless and spare. quartiretto roast young goat, stuffed with vegetables quattro stagioni This term literally means "four seasons" and is usually applied to a kind of pizza with four distinct toppings. Although these toppings can vary, they usually include artichokes, pancetta, and mushrooms. R rafano horseradish ragú Meat sauce used with pasta or polenta; sometimes refers in spoken language to other hearty sauces. (While the meat in ragú is generally cooked in one piece in southern regions, in northern regions it comes finely chopped and is prepared with less tomato.) rapini This is the Tuscan name for broccoli di rapa, know in the United States as broccoli raab. The stems, tender leaves, and buds of these vegetables of the turnip family are all eaten, and are usually boiled before sautéing to decrease their bitterness. raviolo, pl. ravioli small stuffed pasta prepared in a variety of ways, but most traditionally filled with ricotta (with or without greens) reginelle (pl.) pasta strips with curly edges ribollita Tuscan soup made with leftover minestrone layered over stale bread and drizzled with olive oil. ricciarelli (pl.) Sienese almond cookies, typically covered with a layer of powdered sugar ricotta salata Ricotta cheese that has been drained, cured in brine, and aged for a few days and then grated like Pecorino Romano. rigatoni short, hollow pasta with a large hole in the middle, and whose name derives from the ridges found around the sides of the noodle rinforzo, insalata di A salad prepared mainly in the southern half of Italy containing cauliflower, olives, pickled vegetables, anchovies, and other ingredients; the word rinforzo literally means "reinforcement." risaia rice paddy riso, insalata di a rice salad, typically containing small pickled vegetables and pieces of meat or fish risotto Rice, usually but not necessarily Arborio, which is slow-cooked in broth until creamy and to which meat, vegetables, cheese, and additional seasonings are often added. robiola A mild and buttery cow milk's cheese used in numerous dishes like pasta, appetizers, and salads. Learn more. rocciata di Assisi mixed-fruit roll with nuts romana, alla Rome-style, a term whose definition varies depending on the individual dish rocciata di Assisi mixed-fruit roll with nuts romanello very hard skim-milk cheese whose main purpose is for grating rosolio A delicate liqueur made by macerating rose petals in an alcoholic infusion. Moderately alcoholic, Rosolio has a sweet taste and a unique bouquet. Serve with dessert. rosumada Milanese eggnog, traditionally prepared with red wine, but for which water or milk is sometimes substituted rotelle wheel-shaped pasta rotini wheel-shaped pasta roventino typical Tuscan blood sausage ruote literally, "wheels"; wheel-shaped pasta S saba A grape syrup commonly produced in Emilia-Romagna by boiling and reducing white grape must. It is used to make thirst-quenching drinks as well as sweet toppings for desserts. sagne (pl.) short broad strips of pasta made from chickpea or spelt flour; knickname for lasagna sagne chine The Calabrese version of lasagne, sagne chine are stuffed with a combination of ground pork, fresh peas, diced mozzarella, mushrooms, artichokes, and sliced hard-boiled eggs. saltimbocca A classic Roman dish that consists of slices of veal topped with prosciutto and a leaf of sage and held together by a toothpick. The meat is sautéed in butter until golden then deglazed with white wine. Saltimbocca literally means "jump in your mouth." salto, al' sautéed, lightly-fried salumeria A shop dedicated only to the retail of cold cuts and cured meats. salviata sage custard sambuca Anise-flavored liqueur customarily served "con le mosche," a term that, though literally meaning "with flies," actually refers to the three coffee beans floating inside the cup sanguinaccio blood pudding, balck pudding, blood sausage; sweet pudding made from pig's blood and chocolate santo, olio extra-virgin oil in which hot pepper has been left to dissolve and be absorbed; used as a condiment or dressing for meat, fish, vegetables, and salads savoiardi Long, think, ladyfinger cookies with an airy, delicate bite. Savoiardi measure about three inches long, 3/4-inch wide and 1/2-inch tall, ballooning outward slightly at both ends. A thin layer of sugar is sprinkled on top before baking. They are also known as biscotti al cucchiaio. scaccia pasta pie baked with tomato and broccoli scachi tiny "crackers" for soup scafa peas, artichokes, fava beans, and potatoes stewed lightly in white wine scamorza One of the most beloved plastic curd cheeses, scamorza is an ivory-colored cheese, made with sheep's or cow's milk, cinched with a string, giving it a characteristic pear shape. Scamorza can be either fresh or smoked and can be consumed within one or two days of production. scarcedda sweet Pugliese bread decorated with whole eggs and prepared during Easter scarpetta, fare la The practice of wiping one's plate with a piece of bread in order to soak up any remaining sauce. (Note: Though the practice is not considered polite at the finest of tables, its omission in certain situations can run the risk of offending the cook, especially if she is somebody's mother.) scremato (adj.) literally "uncreamed"; skimmed segato (adj.) finely shopped and mixed with cheese semifreddo literally "half cold"; a term used to allude to ice-cream-based desserts; type of soft ice cream made from meringue and whipped cream semini literally "little seeds"; small pasta for soup resembling literal meaning seppia This cephalopod (called cuttlefish in Italian) is a close cousin to the squid, or calamare. Seppia and squid can be used almost interchangeably in cooking. Cuttlefish meat is generally more tender than squid and is often cooked with its ink, nero di seppia, an edible brown-black liquid very similar to squid ink. (the color sepia, a dark reddish-brown, takes its name from the cuttlefish ink that used was once use to make the pigment.) sfoglia (1) rolled sheet pasta; (2) millefeuille, phyllo (filo) pastry sgonfiotti pastry puffs, fritters soffritto Soffritto is a combination of vegetables -carrots, onions, celery, and garlic-that are chopped and slowly cooked in butter, olive oil, or lard until they wilt and become aromatic. Soffritto is the starting point in building layers of flavor in most Italian dishes and is often added to meat, fish, pasta, or rice. sopresine small pasta for soup soppressata In northern Italy the term Soppressata refers to a cured meat made with parts of the pig's head. In central and southern Italy it is a cured meat that goes by the name of coppa in the rest of Italy, a lean and fatty pork meat combined and pressed together to yield a sliceable salami. sospiri di monaca literally "nun's sighs"; cookies made from chocolate-covered almond or hazelnut paste (Sicily and Sardinia) Spagna, fagioli di literally, "beans from Spain" or "Spanish beans"; large, white beans speck A smoky cured meat of Trentino-Alto Adige obtained from smoking the boneless haunch of a pig then curing it for a long time until it takes on a rosy hue and a delicate flavor. Speck is chopped and folded into the batter for dumplings or is sliced and layered over pizzas or salads. spongata 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, orange and citron peel, pine nuts, white wine, brandy, cinnamon, pepper, mace, and coriander. s.q. (secondo quantitá) literally, "according to quantity"; term appearing on menus in lieu of price for variable-quantity items, such as those ordered from the buffet squarciarella, alla in a mushroom sauce stelline small star-shaped pasta for soup stiacciata flat bread, similar to focaccia stinco shank of veal or pork, often roasted, though also braised stivaletti literally, "little boots"; small, curving pasta tubes stracciatella an ice cream, similar to chocolate chip, in which the chocolate is said to resemble the eggs in the soup, stracciatella all romana stracciatella all romana egg-drop broth, where the eggs supposedly resemble "stracci," meaning "rags" strangolapreti, or strozzapreti A thin, slightly curled pasta, usually handmade with water, eggs, and flour. In southern Italy the same name applies to gnocchi. Literally translated, the word strangolapreti means "priest stranglers" due to the pasta's historically heavy texture, too tough for the palate of priests, or to the fact that they are so good, even priests eat too many at a time! strangozzi short, hollow, eggless fettucine strapazzate, uova scrambled eggs strascenate shell pasta stricchetti pasta in the form of two bow-ties strigolo, pl. strigoli wild, spinach-like greens used in salads or for boiling stringhetti egg pasta similar to tagliolini stronghe long maccheroni struffoli small balls of fried pasta held together with honey and decorated with candied fruit suppa quatta A Sardinian soup made by layering rustic bread with sliced Pecorino. Meat broth is then added and the dish is baked until the broth is nearly all absorbed by the bread. supplí Rice croquette made and sold in pizzerias; found all over Italy, but most popularly found in Rome. The word, which is Roman, comes from the French for surprise, and owes its name to the glob of mozzarella hidden inside. The snack's full name, supplí al telefono, is derived from the strings of mozzarella that form as the cheese melts and that are said to resemble telephone cords. T taconelle pasta squares tacconi past squares taccozze puff pastry for noodles tagliata A very fine slice of beefsteak; in general, the steak is very rare and multiple slices are served. tagliatelle flat noodles, usually made with egg taglierini A thinner version of tagliatelle, taglierini are a thin, ribbon pasta with a flat, rectangular cut. Made with semolina flour and water, taglierini are good with any vegetable or fish based sauces. taralli Crisp, black pepper-laced, pretzel-shaped snacks made in southern Italy. There are sweet versions where sugar and cinnamon are added to the batter. tarantello a Pugliese cured-tuna salami tardura fresh bread crumbs held together by egg and cheese, and cooked in broth tartar a type of non-sweet pudding, made from egg, milk, cheese, onion, and spices tartufo (1) truffle, the tuber; (2) a chocolate ice cream dessert molded into the shape of a truffle, and covered in chocolate tigelle Rounds of bread dough that are cooked over a burner in a special 2-sided metal pan called a "stampo per tigelle." Crunchy on the outside but soft and doughy on the inside, they are sliced open at the table, filled and eaten like a sandwich. Though the traditional filling is a pesto made from garlic, rosemary, lard and Parmigiano cheese, it is also common to eat the dough rounds stuffed instead with sliced, cured meats such as salami, prosciutto or mortadella. tiramisú Literally "pick me up"; a rich, layered dessert made from sponge cake, brandy, espresso, mascarpone, egg, and chocolate. (Note: A variety of different recipes for this popular dessert exists.) tonnarelli Long, slightly square handmade spaghetti most commonly served with amatriciana sauce. torrone Nougat made with beaten egg whites into which honey, vanilla, almonds, and hazelnuts are stirred in. Torrone is most associated with Christmas and its ingredients vary depending on the region where it is produced. tortelli small pie or omelet, which is sometimes sweetened; filled pasta rectangles, often twisted at the ends and resembling pieces of wrapped candy tortellini small rings of pasta filled with meat; generally found in broth, but sometimes served topped with a sauce tortelloni Large, triangle-shaped pasta filled with ricotta, grana padano, eggs, parsley, and a hint of nutmeg. Usually served before Christmas because they do not contain meat. Tortelloni can also be stuffed with pumpkin purée. tosella slices of fresh cheese sautéed in butter tramezzino is the Italian name for sandwich, created by the fascist regime to replace the foreign expression. The word tramezzino means "in the middle" and it refers to the ingredients that are placed between the two bread slices. Typically, tramezzini are triangular shaped and are stuffed with cold cuts, tuna, or vegetables. trenette long pasta, similar to linguine tripolini small egg-pasta bow-ties used in soup troccoli Rustic tagliatelle made of durum flour and eggs then cut with a special tool, called troccolo, which looks like a grooved rolling pin. Usually served with meat sauces. trofie Tiny dumplings from the region of Liguria made with water, salt, and flour. The dough is kneaded by hand for 10 minutes then cut into tiny pea-size bits and rolled under the palm to create an elongated shape with curling ends. tuffolone large tubes of pasta, typically stuffed and ultimately placed in the oven for baking U uardi e fasui bean and barley soup ubriaco Literally "drunken," it refers to dishes containing large amounts of alcohol. uccelletto Indicates the dish has been cooked with sage or bay leaves. This is the traditional method of preparing small game birds (uccelletto in Italian), and has lent its name to dishes like fagiolini all'uccelletto, which is comprised of cannellini beans, tomato, and sage. umbrici fat, handmade spaghetti from Umbria V valigini (pl.) literally, "little cases" or "purses"; meat rolls filled with parsley, garlic, egg, cheese, and bread crumbs vanillina vanilla-flavored sugar used in baking and sold in little envelopes vermicelli The word most commonly used in Campania and in Calabria to describe spaghetti. The two pastas are basically the same. Vermicelli are usually tossed with tomato-based or seafood sauces. verzata (di riso) (rice-) cabbage casserole veste verde wrapped in vine leaves vianda dried, homemade pasta from Genova viccillo ring-shaped pasta filled with salami, mozzarella, and hard-boiled egg vignarola a Roman dish served in the spring containing braised fresh peas, fava beans, artichokes, and possibly bacon (guanciale) vin santo Tuscan dessert wine, with a nutty-caramel flavor and a deep golden color, traditionally served with cantucci vinello a light table wine (i.e., the type of bottle brought on picnics) violini goat prosciutto, sliced by hand with a long blade (as if playing a violin) vitú, le springtime soup made of greens, beans, meats, pastas, and cheese (most traditionally containing seven legumes and seven vegetables) vuotazucchine long corer used to make a cylindrical hollow in zucchini so that they can be stuffed Z zabaione Also spelled zabaglione, this luscious dessert is made by whisking egg yolks with sugar and dry Marsala wine in a double boiler until a rich cream forms. Variations include the use of other sweet wines like Moscato, Vin Santo, Prosecco, and port. zaleti Sweet cookies from the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna known for their characteristic flattened shape. Zaleti are made with white flour, cornmeal, butter, eggs, and sugar. Sometimes raisins or candied fruit are added. zappatora, alla literally "digger's style" (zappa means "hoe"); most likely indicates a hearty sauce made with spicy peppers and/or sharp cheese zeppole Sweet fritters made with a simple batter of flour and sugar. Zeppole are traditionally prepared during Carnevale, particularly in the southern regions of the country. Different regions feature different variations. zigar type of ricotta made from buttermilk zimino A mix of tomatoes, olive oil, parsely, spinach or chard, and hot pepper used for braising; fish stew; zimino di ceci is a soup prepared with chickpeas and other vegetables. zite (or ziti) long, hollow pasta zuccotto A type of semifreddo dessert molded into a hemispheric shape; its name probably derives form the slang meaning of zucca (literally, "pumpkin" or "squash"), which is "head." zuppa angelica a sponge cake dessert topped with a chocolate cream sauce, and similar to zuppa inglese zuppa inglese A desert of English origin, consisting of wedges of sponge cake or ladyfingers dipped in sweet wine or liquor. Whipped cream, candied fruit and chopped bittersweet chocolate is then layered in between. Zuppa Inglese is similar to the English trifle. Food Herbs & Spices Whether delicate, savory, pungent or sublime, herbs and spices lend personality to your food, teasing out nuances that might otherwise go unnoticed. Learn how to cook with them in order to maximize their flavor. Basil Bay Leaf Capers Chives Dill Marjoram Mint Oregano Parsley Peperoncino Rosemary Saffron Sage Tarragon Thyme Food Essential Ingredients Explore the elemental flavors of Italian cuisine and learn how they all combine to create a diversity of dishes. Cheese Asiago Caciocavallo Gorgonzola Mozzarella Ricotta Scamorza Belpaese Caprino Grana Padano Pecorino Ricotta Salata Stracchino Burrata Asiago Fontina Mascarpone Provolone Robiola Taleggio The next time you're rolling out dough for a homemade pizza, or simply don't know what cheese to stuff your strudel or saltimbocca with, try reaching for a wedge of Asiago. Asiago, a cow's milk cheese, has been produced for centuries on the foggy plains of the Veneto region. This DOC cheese is made in the provinces of Vicenza, Padua, and Treviso, as well as the Trentino-Alto Adige region. Young or aged, Asiago is used extensively in Italian kitchens. Young, sweet Asiago, known as Asiago Pressato , can be used to stuff pasta or savory pies, or to top pizzas. It is aged less than 6 months, and is prized for its creamy yet delicate flavor. Aged Asiago is firm and slightly spicy-perfect for grating over pasta or green vegetables, or simply for savoring with a full-bodied, robust red wine. Asiago that is aged for at least 6 months to 1 year is known as Asiago d'Allevo , and is characterized by a more pronounced, sharper flavor than its younger version. There are ways to detect whether your Asiago is simply middle-aged (matured 6 months), or stravecchio (aged between 1 1/2 and 2 years): The color of the cheese changes from a creamy shade of white to a pale straw hue as it ages, and the sweet flavor intensifies and becomes more pungent with time. Buying Tips Keep the above-mentioned color differences in mind when buying Asiago; young Asiago should definitely be lighter in color than aged Asiago. Neither should be yellow or at all brown in color. When sliced open, a fresh wedge of Asiago should also reveal an abundance of tiny pocks; if there are no holes, an undesirable, highly acidic milk was likely used in the production process. Caciocavallo Easily the most popular and widely used cheese in southern Italy, Caciocavallo has been produced throughout the area once known as the "Kingdom of Naples" since medieval times. One of the pear-shaped cheeses, Caciocavallo is tied at the neck with a cord and hung up to dry and ripen. Its name, which literally means " horse-cheese ," is said to derive from the way the cheese was originally slung in pairs over the back of a horse during transportation. The cheese's composition, meanwhile, actually consists of whole or partly-skimmed cow (not horse ) milk, with the possible (though more unlikely) addition of milk from sheep or goats. Creamy yellow on the inside, Caciocavallo has an external crust that ranges in color from eggshell yellow to pale brown depending on the length of the aging process. Its flavor can be dolce ("sweet") when the cheese is young, piccante ("piquant") when aged for around two months, or affumicato ("smoked," to acquire an aromatic and slightly bitter taste). When the cheese is made from whole milk, ripening can last up to 3 or 4 months. Young Caciocavallo makes an outstanding table cheese, while aged versions are used both for the table and for grating. Also an ideal cooking cheese, Caciocavallo melts swiftly and evenly into pastas or pies, and will create a smooth, savory blanket over baked or grilled vegetables. For a speedy appetizer with long-lasting appeal, drizzle a few sizeable slices with olive oil, and sprinkle with a dusting of black pepper. Or, for a forkful of velvety goodness, try grilling up some Caciocavallo all on its own. Storing Caciocavallo should be kept in the lower part of the refrigerator or in a cool pantry. It should be wrapped in paper, or sealed inside polyethylene bags. (Make sure to punch a few well-placed holes into the bags to allow the cheese to breathe. Gorgonzola Thanks to a boy and a girl, and a little coincidence, we now have a cheese called Gorgonzola-at least, that's how the legend goes. Part of the Stracchino family of cheeses native to Lombardy, Gorgonzola was created when a cheese maker's apprentice decided to forego separating the curd from the whey one evening. His goal was to leave work early and have a few more precious moments with the woman he desired. The next morning, out of that passion, Gorgonzola was born. Named after the town where it was founded, Gorgonzola was cultivated by monks in the Lombardy region, who used the excess milk the cows provided to make cheeses like Grana Padano and Gorgonzola, two of Lombardy's signature cheeses. While Grana is harder, more akin to a Parmigiano in consistency and flavor, Gorgonzola is creamier and different in both flavor and color. The secret is pennicillium, a mold inside the flesh of the milky-white cheese. This mold imparted the cheese with s signature flavor and color that is hard to forget. Blue, and sometimes green, veins of mold give Gorgonzola a robust, full, piquant flavor all of its own. Gorgonzola is created both aged and young. The young Gorgonzola, called Dolce, is creamier than the aged version, and milder in flavor. It lends itself more to cooked dishes, sauces, and spreads. The aged variety, known as Piccante , is more crumbly, making it perfect as a pairing for fruit at the end of the meal or savored on its own at the beginning. Mozzarella Italy and mozzarella are practically synonymous. The creamy cheese from Southern Italy has won fans all over the world, and its versatility in the kitchen has assured it a starring role in Italian cuisine in both Italy and North America. The Production Process In Italy, buffalo's mozzarella is made mostly in the southern region of Campania, near Naples, but also in nearby Apulia and Basilicata. Like many cheeses, mozzarella was invented as a way of saving sour milk. Today, only the freshest milk is used to produce mozzarella. The milk is heated and natural rennet is added; the curds separate from the whey as coagulation occurs. The curds are left in the whey to ferment so that lactic acid develops. Then they are broken up into smaller pieces and the whey is drained off. Traditional cheesemakers reserve the whey and use it as a "starter" for the next day's batch of mozzarella. The curds are transferred to a large tub of boiling water, where they are stirred with a large wooden stick. Mozzarella is a malleable, or "plastic," curd cheese, and it is this step-the addition of hot water to the curds-that gives the cheese its elasticity, or its melting characteristic. (Other plastic curd cheeses are Provolone, Scamorza, and Caciocavallo, all typical of Southern Italy.) The resulting mass is stretched and pulled until it is smooth and elastic using this same wooden stick. The next step is cutting the mozzarella ( mozzare in Italian means "to cut", hence the name "mozzarella"). Like all the preceding steps, this step is carried out by hand in a traditional dairy. Industrial mozzarella is cut by machine, and looks perfectly smooth and round as a result; artisanal mozzarella, on the other hand, is irregular, and you can still see where each cheese was severed from the mother batch. The mozzarella is then stretched into a taut shape, formed into a ball, oval, or braid, and immersed in cold water, where it firms up. Once it is firm, it is left to soak in brine until it is packed in liquid and sent to market. Mozzarella made from buffalo's milk is tangier and less sweet, than that made from cows' milk; its texture is richer, owing to the fact that buffalo's milk is three times as fatty as cows' milk. (It also has more calcium and protein). In 1979, mozzarella became a DOC cheese; however, the DOC covers only mozzarella made entirely from buffalo's milk. This same DOC decrees that buffalo's milk mozzarella must have a smooth, shiny surface, "a very thin skin the color of porcelain," and an elastic consistency. Mozzarella is sold in a variety of shapes: small balls called bocconcini (little bites), plump spheres, and braids. These shapes can weigh anywhere from one ounce to twenty ounces. Since it should be eaten within a few days of its production-some people think a within a few hours is better-it is especially important to have a reliable mozzarella vendor in your area. Look for the following characteristics, which indicate freshness. First, the consistency should be elastic, and the surface should be tight, smooth, and humid, neither too dry nor too wet. There should be no yellowish marks or spots, and the cheese's texture should be neither soft nor rubbery when pressed with a finger. Once you slice into the mozzarella, it should have a grainy surface and appear to be composed of many layers, like an onion, especially near the surface. As time passes (within ten hours of the cheese's production), these layers gradually disappear and the cheese loses some of its elasticity. This is another reason why it is best not to buy mozzarella that is close to its expiration date (check the package for an expiration date stamp). Pearls of milky whey should seep out when you cut into mozzarella; upon tasting, you should notice the liquid separating from the solid, almost as if the mozzarella had been soaked in milk. Good mozzarella should simply melt in your mouth. Cooking Ideas When you have a reliable source of fresh mozzarella, the culinary possibilities are endless. At its simplest, all mozzarella needs is a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a grinding of aromatic black pepper, and it's ready to eat. Mozzarella is ideal combined with tomatoes, basil, or oregano, and can be stirred into cold or hot pasta or vegetable dishes. In the classic insalata caprese , it is paired with ripe tomatoes and sweet basil and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil (but no balsamic vinegar or lemon, as many recipes suggest). A delicious dish called spaghetti caprese combines the flavors of this salad with the satisfying texture and taste of pasta, making the mozzarella melt lusciously on contact with the hot pasta. In Campania, mozzarella is served in carrozza (literally, in a carriage): sandwiched between two slices of bread, battered, and fried. It is also essential to melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant parmigiana), deep-fried half-moon pastries called panzerotti that also feature salami, and calzone. And, of course, pizza wouldn't be the same without mozzarella. When using fresh mozzarella to top your pizza or fill your calzone, it is best to cut the cheese into cubes and allow it to drain for several hours in a colander so that the crust doesn't become soggy. Some pizzaioli swear by packaged "dry" mozzarella for pizza, saying it yields a crisper crust. In Italy, though, this isn't a problem, since there is a special variety of fresh mozzarella with a lower moisture content meant especially for topping pizzas. Mozzarella is also delicious sliced and grilled; cubed, skewered with bread, and grilled, then topped with a warm anchovy sauce (a traditional Roman antipasto); or stuffed into focaccia. When it is stirred into tomato sauce, it gives rice, pasta, or gnocchi a meltingly rich and delicious consistency. Mozzarella's delicate flavor is best accompanied by white country bread, which doesn't overwhelm its flavor. Pair it with fresh white wines such as Locorotondo, Verdicchio, or a Riesling Italico from Oltrepò Pavese. Ricotta Ricotta, whose name literally means "recooked," is made by reheating or reboiling the watery whey left over when curds are removed. During this reboiling process, tiny particles form, which are subsequently drained off and pressed into molds. Italian cheese makers prefer to use sheep's milk, which has proven to yield the tastiest and most flavorful ricotta. Creameries often enhance the whey by adding a bit of whole milk, whose quantity renders the ricotta either "whole" or "part-skim." Ricotta is naturally low in fat. In the Kitchen In cuisine, ricotta blends well with both savory and sweet aromas. Therefore, the cheese appears in combination with an array of other ingredients, and has acquired a variety of uses as a filling, stuffing, spread, and dessert auxiliary. Famous for its role in ravioli and lasagna, ricotta also fills its share of focaccia and traditional Italian pastries. Mixing ricotta with sugar, cream and vanilla creates the delicious filling used in cannoli, a deep fried Sicilian pastry. For a light appetizer, serve a dollup of ricotta alongside green salads or sliced vegetables. Ricotta can also stand alone, its soft texture contrasting well with fresh, crusty bread. When dusted with cinnamon, coffee or chocolate and drizzled with honey, the cheese is a culinary triumph in and of itself. Storing The desire to store this perishable delicacy has lead to the pressed, salted and dried variety of the cheese, known as ricotta salata . A milky-white hard cheese ideal for grating over pasta or shaving onto pizza, ricotta salata is sold in wheels, which are shaped like flattened volleyballs and decorated by a delicate basket-weave pattern. In several regions of Southern Italy (Sardinia and Sicily in particular), a baked form of ricotta, ricotta infornata , is produced by placing a large lump of the soft cheese in the oven until it develops a brown, lightly charred crust. Occasionally, the cheese is baked so long that its inside becomes sandy brown in color. Buying Tips In Italy, ricotta is traditionally sold in straw baskets lined with paper. In cheese shops, it can also be purchased by weight and wrapped in parchment paper. When fresh, ricotta will be white, firm, and rather moist; however, a wet ricotta is far from desirable. To correct a watery consistency, drain the cheese in a cheese cloth for 30 minutes prior to use. Scamorza Just like a good number of delicious foods, scamorza was created by accident. Legend has it that a dairy worker left the curd for caciocavallo cheese out for so long that it turned sour. To avoid losing the curd, he dipped it into scalding water to get rid of the acidity so that the cheese could be eaten. The result is what we now call scamorza, a cheese tangier than caciocavallo and higher in water content. A plastic-curd cheese, scamorza tastes like a cross between caciocavallo and mozzarella, and is aged for a very brief period-from six days to a maximum of fifteen days. Southern Italy produces most of the scamorza that is on the market, in two kinds-normal or smoked. Scamorza looks like an antique money bag: it is hung to smoke until its skin is light brown and the flesh has taken on a woodsy, smoked aroma. The way to distinguish between the two kinds is by the skin color, and the slightly rounder shape of the smoked type. Scamorza tastes great melted on pizza, focaccia, or grilled vegetables (fresh scamorza melts better and more uniformly than the smoked kind). It is also lovely savored fresh with crisp bread, cubed in pasta or rice salads, with sliced prosciutto, mixed into warm pasta dishes like the famous pasta ai quattro formaggi , and in frittatas . Scamorza pairs perfectly with white wines like Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. Belpaese The history of this mild, buttery cheese has a highly personal flavor. Born in the early 1900s, Bel Paese traces its origins to Egidio Galabani, an Italian cheesemaker who had recently opened a factory near Milan. His quest was to cultivate a radically different Lombard cheese that would allow him to compete with the luxurious French brands of his time. His answer: Bel Paese. A refined and creamy cheese that eludes the more aggressive odor of its French competitors, Bel Paese was given a name meaning "beautiful country," a title borrowed from a book written by the cheesemaker's friend, Abbot Stoppani. Growing conspicuously in popularity, the cheese-and its production process-became standardized. Today, the process traditionally includes pasteurized cow's milk, enzymes (to stimulate aging), Rennet (to form curds, ultimately the source of the cheese), a four-hour drying period, brining, and 42 days of storage. In the Kitchen Although it bears a different shape (appearing as wheels or medallions), Bel Paese actually acts and tastes quite similar to Mozzarella. Melting evenly in smooth ivory blankets, it is often used on top of pizza and focaccia, or over vegetables and potatoes to make them au gratin. Bel Paese is delicious in pasta sauces or melted in a little milk and tossed with risotto. Try using it in fillings for rolls, herbed ravioli, or meatloaf. Raw Bel Paese works well in salads, accompanied by nuts, avocados, and celery. It can also comprise a dish in and of itself, where it is topped with a few cooked peppers (causing partial melting), a pea purée, or some green beans and buttered asparagus. Sliced over uncooked vegetables (such as carrots, cucumbers, or radishes) and decorated with a light drizzle of olive oil, Bel Paese will make a subtly flavorful garnish. Caprino Classic Caprino, as its name implies, is made using solely the whole or partly-skimmed milk of goats (or, "capre" in Italian). Nowadays, however, most industrially produced versions of the cheese are made from either cow's milk or a blend of both milks. Caprino can be eaten fresh or aged. Perfectly fresh Caprino should be delicate in flavor with only a trace of tanginess; while aged Caprino, ripened anywhere from 20-40 days, will prove saltier and offer a slightly sharper acidic bite. The two most well-known varieties of Caprino come from Roccaverano, where the cheese is wrapped in walnut leaves, and Sardinia, where piquancy in product is encouraged. Caprino Fresco (Fresh Caprino) Fresh Caprino is manufactured in round or cylindrical shapes. It has no crust or outer layer, and is generally sold in a paper packaging. A soft, creamy cheese, Caprino Fresco is typically served warm over a bed of wild greens, or preserved in oil and shipped abroad in small jars or bottles. While both the cow's milk and dual blend varieties are delicious, an authentic goat's milk Caprino will be worth sampling every time. Caprino Stagionato (Seasoned Caprino) Aged Caprino comes in small squarish or marshmallow shaped rounds. It has an outer layer, which is pale yellow in appearance and rather thin. At times, the cheese is covered in herbs prior to aging. Depending on how long it is left to ripen, the cheese itself will range from soft to creamy to compact. Several smoked forms of Caprino are also produced. In the Kitchen Caprino is spectacular as an appetizer, a table cheese, or roasted or grilled. Frequently served fresh in salads, the cheese can also be used to add savory undertones to sauces. Storing Fresh Caprino should be eaten within a week or two of being made. Buying Tips Due to its perishability, fresh Caprino is not widely available outside of Italy. However, bocconcini (or bite-sized pieces) of the young cheese can be found in their bottled form, where they are preserved in olive oil that is often infused with herbs and spices. (For an extra "zing," drizzle a little of the flavored oil over the bottled Caprini before serving.) Grana Padano Trana Padano debuted in the twelfth century, when Lombardian monks began using excess cow's milk to produce cheese with a long lifespan. Grana may have originally been enjoyed as a soft cheese, but it eventually evolved into the firm, sweet, and nutty wheels we love today The texture of Grana Padano is somewhat grainier than that of Parmigiano Reggiano. The slight variations in color and flavor are due to the differences in the diet of the cows whose milk is used to produce the two cheeses. Grana is produced in Lombardy, where indigenous grasses allow for a slightly denser, paler cheese than Emilia-Romagna's Parmigiano. Shaved or grated over risotto, soup, pasta, or polenta, Grana Padano never disappoints.. The Production Process Grana Padano is a semi-fat, hard, pasteurized milk cheese, and is produced by stirring rennet into a vat of partially skimmed cow's milk. Curds appear and settle at the bottom of the vat, where they separate from the whey and begin to harden. The hardened mass is halved and shaped into wheels. When the excess moisture is eliminated from the wheels, the wheels undergo a rest period, first in plastic sheaths, then in steel cases. Next, the wheels are soaked for 20 to 25 days in salted water. The cheese is now ready for an aging period, which can last between 16 months and two or more years. Buying Tips The first step towards enjoying perfectly sweet, fragrant Grana Padano is to buy a wedge of cheese and grate it yourself at home, rather than buying it already grated. A great deal of aroma and flavor is lost when the cheese is grated in advance. The outer rind should be firm, smooth, and thick. You can tell immediately if Grana is of good quality if the center of the wheel has a pale straw color, which intensifies near the rind. Also, look for the four-leaf clover chiseled into the rind; this symbol guarantees DOP certification and ensures that the product is genuine Grana Padano. Grana Padano's sweet flavor and buttery aroma only improve with time, so do all you can to preserve its freshness. Try wrapping your wheel or wedge of Grana in a moistened cloth and keeping it refrigerated at around 40° F. Pecorino I From the renowned pecorino romano to the sharp Sardinian pecorino sardo , Italy boasts a mouth-watering array of at least a dozen pecorino cheeses to choose from. Here are the most noteworthy ones. Pecorino Romano Pecorino Romano's long and lustrous history began with the ancient Romans. Legend has it that a Roman shepherd filled his flask with sheep's milk before heading out on a long trip. The rocking motion during his trip caused the milk to naturally ferment and he was left with a primitive version of pecorino romano. Today the cheese is made somewhat more systematically throughout most of south central Italy. The process begins with whole sheep's milk that is coagulated with sheep's rennet. The resulting cheese is rubbed with salt and punctured in order for the salt to be fully absorbed while it ages for at least 8 months. With its slightly spicy flavor, pecorino romano is the perfect cheese to grate over leafy cooked vegetables like broccoli raab and is delicious as a table cheese paired with bitter, raw vegetables such as radishes, watercress or arugula. And, of course, pecorino romano gives a lively kick to classic pasta dishes like Spaghetti all'Amatriciana and Spaghetti alla Carbonara . Pecorino Sardo Pecorino Sardo is the Sardinian cousin of the ancient roman version. Produced on the wild and beautiful island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea, pecorino sardo can be both spicier and milder than pecorino romano, depending on how long it is aged. This semi-cooked cheese is made from fresh, whole sheep's milk coagulated with calf rennet. After heating the curds, the cheese undergoes a brief soaking in brine. It is then dry-salted and aged. When aged for more than two months, Pecorino Sardo develos spicy notes and is perfect grated over potatoes, zucchini, and pasta dishes. Barely aged Pecorino Sardo is a mild table cheese. Its sweet, delicate flavor makes it an ideal ingredient in vegetable casseroles, baked pasta dishes, and raw vegetable salads. Pecorino Toscano Pecorino Toscano has been the pride of Tuscany for over 2,000 years. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder made a reference to the region's flourishing pecorino trade in his book Natural History , written in the 1st century A.D. Tuscans even use an ancient term to describe the age-old cheese. They call it cacio -from the Latin word caseus, meaning cheese-instead of the more modern Italian term formaggio . Wheels of this sheep's milk cheese are lauded for their distinctively mild flavor, herbal fragrance and smooth texture. Both young and aged pecorinos are used as table cheeses to be eaten by the slice, while extra-aged pecorino is grated over pasta, risotto and soups. The young cheese has a smooth, mild white interior and a light golden rind. Aged, the inside of the cheese darkens to straw-yellow. The color of the rind depends on what flavoring agents are applied to itTuscan pecorino can be matured in wine, flavored with peperoncino (chili pepper), or even aged under ashes. The flavor of aged pecorino is full and intense, but with a mellower aroma than aged pecorino from other regions such as Latium or Sardinia. The best way to enjoy Tuscan pecorino is in thick slices with crudités and fresh, crusty bread, or drizzled with honey. Pecorino Siciliano Pecorino Sicilano is yet another age-old cheese, produced and enjoyed on this Mediterranean island for centuries. Homer writes about Sicilian pecorino in the Odyssey, which means the cheese was a presence even in 800 B.C. Sardinia is the only region to raise more sheep than Sicily, and pecorino is widely produced throughout the region. It is often flavored with pepe nero or rosso , or whole black or red pepper, giving the cheese a characteristic spicy and sharp taste. Without salt, this cheese is called Tuma ; then, after the first salting it is referred to as Primo Sale , which is aged for 4 months. These cheeses have a softer, more delicate flavor and are consumed as a table cheese. The Secondo Sale is produced after 2 months of maturation and has a stronger, spicier flavor-this Sicilian pecorino is mostly used for grating. Ricotta Salata This snow-white variation of Ricotta originated in the summery climate of the island of Sicily. Spongy and smooth, Ricotta Salata is a rindless cheese made from lightly salted sheep's milk curd that is pressed and dried, then aged for at least three months. Supple in texture and mild in taste, Ricotta Salata is (despite its name) not at all overly salty or "sheepy." Instead, it boasts a mellow blend of nutty, milky and sweet flavors, which along with consistency afford the cheese an impressive versatility in the kitchen. In the Kitchen Perfect for tossing, Ricotta Salata works well in either salads or pasta dishes, and is also occasionally used for grating. The cheese is at its best when served atop fresh or grilled vegetables (spinach is a favorite sidekick), alongside beans, or with a side of fruit. For cooked dishes, try Ricotta Salata crumbled over a garlicky veggie sauté or into tomato-based sauces. Storing Due to its perishable nature, Ricotta Salata requires overnight shipping. Stracchino JOnce a generic term for an array of Italian cheeses, today stracchino refers almost exclusively to crescenza -like fresh, cow's milk cheese with a washed rind and a soft center. Present in diverse forms in Lombardy since the 12th century, the stracchino family of cheeses was originally made in the fall from the milk of cows migrating south to avoid the cold of winter. The herds tended to produce a thinner milk, owing to fatigue endured during the trip. As the cows were " stracche ," or "tired," the diminutive " stracchino " was used to describe the cheese their milk produced. Taleggio, robiola, and quartirolo (or stracchino quadro ) are just several of the cheese varieties that fall under this heading. In the Kitchen Generally appearing in small squares or rectangles, the milky-white stracchino cheeses are highlyspreadable, and almost always have a supple, completely edible skin. There is even a skimmed, low-fat variety. At Christmas time in Lombardy, this particular variety is traditionally eaten accompanied by " mostarda ," a special Cremonese preserve of candied fruits in a white mustard syrup. Superb on pizza, in risotto, or baked into focaccia, stracchino cheeses can also be more simply enjoyed alongside slices of toasted bread or high quality crackers. Storing This cheese is at its best when used within a few days of purchasing. For optimal flavor, serve at room temperature. Buying Tips Currently, stracchino and the nearly identical crescenza are produced almost solely on an industrial basis, and are available all over Italy. Though not widely circulated, in the United States they can be found in specialty cheese shops or Italian markets. Burrata A relatively modern specialty from Puglia , Burrata was invented in Andria at the beginning of the 20th century. A cow's milk cheese and mozzarella variety, Burrata has a thin spun casing and a soft and buttery center, which is made from fresh cream and unspun mozzarella curds. Wrapped in the protective blades of local Pugliese asfodelo (an herb-like plant similar to leeks), Burrata is an incurably creamy cheese with a delicate hint of sweetness in its flavor. In the Kitchen Young Burrata is a magnificent cheese, and must be consumed fresh, no more than 48 hours after production. Its marvelous liquid center can be scooped up with slices of crusty bread, and is excellent when enjoyed in the company of a bottle of Montepulciano. Try tossing Burrata into pasta, such as drained penne or spaghetti. For a truly rich caprese salad, encircle fresh Burrata with slices of ripe red tomatoes and torn basil leaves, and drizzle with olive oil. Storing Burrata should be eaten as soon as possible after purchase. Since the cheese won't hold up long in the fridge, it's best (and highly tempting) not to leave any leftovers. Buying Tips To judge the freshness of a bundle of Burrata, just examine its leafy packaging. As long as the asfodelo leaves are green, the cheese inside is still fresh, and will gracefully ooze out at the touch of a knife. Once a challenge to find in the United States, Burrata has recently become more widely available. Recognized as one of the best fresh cheeses in the world, it is currently imported from Puglia as well as distributed domestically by the Gioia Cheese Co., an Italian cheese producer in southern California. Some variations of Burrata may incorporate porcini mushrooms or black truffles into the cheese's creamy filling. Fontina Cheese Sometimes called "Fontina Land," Val d'Aosta is the small northern Italian region responsible for this sinfully rich cheese, one of Italy's most beloved fullfat cheeses. A delicacy of medieval origins, Fontina is legendary for being made first by a mysterious man called Sarvadzo, who revealed the secrets of turning milk into cheese to the inhabitants of Val d'Aosta. Fontina is made exclusively in the region of Val d'Aosta according to an age-old recipe, as established by a DOC decree.The rather mild climate of this peaceful valley, nestled between idyllic snow-capped mountains, is ideal for making Fontina's faintly nutty, buttery, and incomparable flavor. A pillar of the region's economy, the production of Fontina is regulated to ensure quality. It must be approved by the Consortium of Fontina to distinguish it from other cheeses made in Denmark or France. When shopping for Fontina, always choose one piece stamped by the Consortium. A light brown rind indicates that the Fontina has not aged long; the darker the rind gets, the older it is. This is an exceptional table cheese, but is also excellent cooked. It is a star in regional dishes like bistecca alla valdostana , the local steak with melted Fontina, and fonduta , a rich cream of melted Fontina garnished with white truffle shavings and poured over polenta or toasted bread. Fontina is also superb over a warm plate of pasta. Order Fontina cheese directly from Val d'Aosta in our Store. Mascarpone Thick, creamy, and lick-ably luscious, mascarpone is a dense cheese definitely not for the faint of heart. With a reputation for being as spreadable and spoonable as it is addictive, mascarpone is a must-try indulgence. .And, if you're ing for the crème de la crème of experiences, bare in mind imported Italian brands rise above their domestic cousins. The Production Process Made from cream-instead of whey or milk, like most other cheesesmascarpone is heated in a double boiler until it reaches 190 ºF, when an acid is stirred in, causing the appearance of fine lumps. After a few minutes of continuous stirring, the lumps form a mass, which is then separated from the whey and left to drain. Fresh and soft, the cheese is ready to be sampled after only one day. In the Kitchen Mascarpone can be used to enrich a wide variety of fare. Any food typically calling for cream cheese (the all-American bagel included) can be kicked up a notch with a single schmear of the velvety goodness. More majestic uses for the rich cheese involve stirring it into steaming risotto in place of butter, tossing it with pennette and tomato sauce to produce a pink cream, layering dollops of it over potato or squash gnocchi, or combining it with grated parmesan over a plate of fresh pasta. For a paradoxical-sounding "hearty salad," try sandwiching mascarpone between colorful slices of summer vegetables. Or, savor the cheese all on its own, alongside crunchy bread or crisp breadsticks for dipping. In Desserts Indeed, a separate paragraph must be dedicated to describe how mascarpone graces a dessert. The most illustrious example is, of course, tiramisu. No low-fat cottage cheese or non-fat sour cream can successfully act as substitute. As a topping for trifles or a filling for pies and cakes, mascarpone is also at its best. Can't wait to dig in? Grab a goblet, ladle in spoonfuls of the sweet cheese, and sprinkle with sugar or cocoa. Provolone An all-purpose delicacy used for cooking, grating, and even in desserts, provolone (like provola ) is a typical Italian cheese produced in the southern half of Italy, especially in the provinces of Cremona, Brescia, and Piacenza. Provolone comes in an incredible number of sizes, shapes and varieties: tronco-conica (a pear-shaped form created when the cheese is hung by a cord to dry), round, spherical, ovular, parallelepiped, and sausage-shaped, to name a few. Even the ingredients can vary, depending on artisan and origin. The differences between provola and provolone are, in fact, slight. Provola is a soft pasta filata (pulled or stretched curd cheese), characteristically produced with one weight and form-that of a typical ball (or tronco-conica ) of mozzarella. It can be made from whole cow's or buffalo's milk, or from a mix of both. Like mozzarella, it can also be lightly smoked. There is no mention of aging. Provolone, on the other hand, is defined as pasta filata housed in a thin, smooth crust, which is golden-yellow in color. It is often coated in a layer of wax. On the inside, the cheese is creamy white or straw-colored (based on time spent aging), slightly flaky, and hole-less. It is generally made from whole cow's milk, and less often from buffalo milk. The Two Main Types of Provolone There are two main types of provolone: dolce , aged for 2 months, and piccante , aged for about 12 months. Provolone dolce , or "sweet" provolone, is milder and paler in color. Generally made from 100 percent cow's milk, it tends to have a smooth, almost silky texture and a delicate flavor, making it an ideal table cheese. Its external yellow crust is frequently marked "dolce ." Coagulation occurs using the rennet from a calf only. Provolone piccante is a spicy cheese, with a sharper taste and a stronger, more pungent aroma. It is coagulated primarily by using the rennet from a goat or lamb, and is aged longer (as evidenced by its darker appearance). Although 12 months is the most common upper limit for aging, some cheese sleuths swear they have sighted piccante varieties aged as long as 2 years. In the Kitchen Provolone makes a wonderful addition to gnocchi, omelets, small tarts, or gratin, and can also be served al naturale over salads dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pizza and bruschetta both benefit from a melted smothering of grated provolone. The piccante variety is at its best when savored alongside slices of fresh pear. In the United States, provolone has become a classic ingredient of submarine sandwiches. Buying Tips Though the most authentic (and accurate) provolone varieties are Italian-made, provolone is also currently manufactured in the United States. Robiola Robiola is a cheese from the Stracchino family that is thought to have originated in Lombardy. It resembles cream cheese in color and texture and has a pleasingly tangy flavor. Common throughout the Middle Ages, Robiola was made using many different flavorings and aging methods. Traditionally, it has been made from unskimmed milk from cows or goats. Sometimes, the milk from both animals is mixed to produce this cheese. The aging process yields a rather pinkish-red to reddish-brown color; the depth of this color often indicates of how long the Robiola has been aged. There are different versions of Robiola, each with unique characteristics that enhance its appearance and taste. Usually Robiola is aged for about 20 days, but it can be eaten fresh as well. Robiola di Roccaverano DOC lacks a rind and has a sweet taste, while Robiola della Valsassina is aged in caves and has a fattier texture and stronger flavor. Other varieties, like the Robilini in the Lecco region of Lombardy, are made into small cork-like shapes and served after aging only a few days. Typically, Robiola is served with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sometimes as part of a sauce consisting of puréed tomato, garlic, parsley, bread, and anchovies. Like many other cheeses, Robiola is high in protein, and contains vitamins A, B, and D, as well as the minerals zinc, calcium, and selenium. It is common practice to serve it as a regular table cheese. Most Italian delis, specialty food stores, or supermarkets will carry Robiola. It must be stored properly after being purchased, and will keep fresh for up to one month. Follow the same guidelines in storing this cheese as you would any other cheese. Taleggio Smooth, nutty Taleggio takes its name from one of the valleys in Lombardy, where it was originally prepared to help use up excess milk. Now a highly acclaimed DOC variety, Taleggio is heralded as a singular, semi-soft cheese and the creamiest member of the Stracchino family. Made from raw cow's milk, Taleggio is fermented and then coagulated with rennet to achieve a rich, buttery consistency and a fruity, subtly pungent flavor. Salted, and then aged for approximately forty days, the cheese acquires a pale golden inside, which tends to be runnier near the rind and firmer in the center. Is the crust a must? Taleggio is easily recognized by its square shape, external grooves, and rough, rosy-brown crust. Dubbed everything from "inedible" to "an integral part of the cheese experience," this thin rind is where Taleggio's most intense flavor can be found. Though decorated by the occasional spot of blue or grey mold, the naturally-formed rind is perfectly safe, and indeed edible. However, rind consumption is entirely a matter of taste. Cheese fans preoccupied with possible issues of hygiene can easily scrape off the crust with a serrated knife before indulging. In the Kitchen Taleggio tastes best when its truffle-like aroma is paired with a simple country loaf or warm, toasted bread. Mild lettuces, dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, prove extra delectable when draped with a few slices of the cheese. For cooked dishes, consider adding Taleggio to potato gratins, polentas, and risottos. It is also superb melted atop pizza or stuffed into focaccia. As a dessert cheese, Taleggio should be served alongside fresh fruit, such as figs or grapes. Cured Meats Bresaola Coppa Mortadella Pancetta Salami Speck Prosciutto Bresaola Prosciutto Cotto This cured meat is so lean that it is typically doused with olive oil! Sliced paper-thin, bresaola is Italy's famous air-dried beef. The country's two northernmost regions, Piedmont and Lombardy, can claim responsibility for the delicacy. More specifically, Valtellina (an area bordering the Cantons des Grisons in Switzerland) excels in bresaola production, turning out prime specimens thanks to an ideal climate that inhibits the deterioration of the meat as it ages. Deep red in color, bresaola offers a light smoky flavor though it has never been subjected to smoking. Ironically, the nature of its rich taste stems from a strict trimming process, where legs of beef are thoroughly defatted and left to macerate with a dry rub of coarse salt and spices. Swathed in a natural casing, the beef then sits to dry for ten days. A curing period follows, lasting between one and three months as determined by the particular bresaola's weight. During aging, up to 40% of the meat's original weight is lost. In the Kitchen Much like other standard cured meats, bresaola is best served at room temperature or slightly chilled. It should be sliced as thinly as possible-so as to escape an abnormal leathery appearanceand should be allowed "to breathe" briefly before being served. For a classic presentation, drizzle slices with a combination of olive oil and lemon juice (in roughly equal parts), and top with shards or fresh shavings of Parmesan cheese. For a more complex dressing, blend Dijon mustard and olive oil with a few minced shallots or, instead, try mixing the mustard with mayonnaise and a handful of minced capers. Either way creates a perfect antipasto, or an excellent follow-up dish to a steamy plate of pasta or a warming bowl of soup. Bresaola also makes a fitting accompaniment to salads (try raw slivered mushrooms or celery) or to garlicky sautés of broccoli or broccoli raab. Serve with a crusty white (or buckwheat) bread, and pair with either a red or white wine. Buying Tips An optimally-crafted bresaola will remain tender even when aged for significant periods of time, resisting the dried-out, crumbly texture typical of some other cured meats. However, unsurprisingly, the less bresaola is aged, the softer and more buttery its quality. N.B. Several popular bresaola varieties exist that are unavailable in the United States. These are made from horse meat, which is soaked in a red wine brine before being dried and cured. Coppa Characterized by its tenderness and special flavor, coppa also known as coppa crudo is a typical Italian sausage made from the cured, raw collar or loin of a pig. The pinkish, red meat is marinated in a blend of garlic and red wine, and then compressed inside a large sausage skin and secured. It is distinguished from coppa cotta, or cooked coppa, which resembles brawn and is a highly seasoned meat prepared from remnants of a pig's carcass. In the Kitchen An unsmoked, yet flavorful pork product, coppa is always eaten raw, and should be carved thinly, as with prosciutto or Parma ham. In fine, sweet slices, it makes the perfect antipasto. Rather dry and hard in texture, coppa slices can also be used as sandwich meat or bacon. Buying Tips Most coppa comes from parts of Central Italy and Corsica. Though a little roughseeming around the edges, coppa is a highly esteemed Italian delicacy and can be quite expensive. In the United States, coppa should be sought in the multifarious displays of delicatessens and Italian specialty markets. Occasionally, the meat will appear under its other alias, capicollo. Mortadella A deli meat great for the gourmet and the every day? The fragrant, pink salume mortadella promises a slice of satisfaction for both 4-year-olds and professional chefs alike. This white-speckled cold-cut originated in Bologna over 500 years ago, and gave rise to the American spin-off baloney. Traditionally, authentic ingredients include top-quality cuts of pork, finely ground to a smooth, silky texture, plus salt, white and black pepper, mace, coriander, crushed garlic and other additional seasonings. Cubes of pork fat are kneaded into the mixture, optionally accompanied by pistachios for a more festive, fullyflecked look. The mixture is then stuffed into long, round casings, and cooked in a special brick oven. In the Kitchen Like prosciutto, mortadella maintains a wide variety of uses in the kitchen. Ranging from brownbag basic to elegant party fare, the salume works well in a simple fresh roll, as well as alongside hunks of Parmesan and washed down with a cocktail. Mortadella is a key component of the classic filling for tortellini, and suavely spices up a hearty polpettone (meatloaf). Julienned strips of the meat beautifully complement potato dishes, savory tortes, and stuffed vegetables. When cut into cubes, mortadella can also be served with raw fruits and vegetables or tossed into salads. Freshly sliced mortadella should be consumed as soon as possible for optimum flavor and preferred texture. Any leftover slices should be wrapped tightly in plastic, and promptly refrigerated. Buying Tips Up until the year 2000, authentic Italian mortadella was unavailable in the United States. Now, with the ebbing of trade restrictions, it can be easily acquired at gourmet delis and neighborhood Italian markets. Pancetta Pancetta is considered a "universal" pork product because it is available wherever pigs are raised throughout the world. Italian pancetta is very similar to the bacon of Anglo-Saxon countries and to the Spanish tocino; depending on the region, pancetta can be smoked, seasoned with aromatic herbs, or aged. In the Kitchen Pancetta is a fundamental element in Italian cuisine. Pasta sauces such as Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Spaghetti all'Amatriciana are studded with small cuts of pancetta. Pancetta also adds a hearty element to vegetable soups, stews, and meat skewers. Buying Tips When buying pancetta, look for the meat with the least fat, and a healthy pink color. Salami Uncooked, but safe to eat raw thanks to an extensive curing process, salami is the most beloved of all Italian sausages. Each Italian region makes salami in a different way, flavoring it with different seasonings and curing it according to local customs. Generally, unique salami produced in any one area is available throughout Italy. Some examples include: Finocchiona A thick salami typical of Tuscany. Fennel seeds, garlic, and wine are added to lean meat from the pork shoulder and fat from the cheeks. Finocchiona is aged to develop flavors for as long as five months. Genoa Salami A rich, fatty salami named after Genoa, flavored with white peppercorns. Cacciatori Produced mainly in Lombardy, small Cacciatori are aged briefly and have a mild flavor. They are mainly made with pork and beef mixed with pork fat. Their scent is very appetizing. Neapolitan Salami This sausage is unique because spicy chili flakes are added to the mixture of pork meat and fat. The salami is smoked and cured for two months, causing it to develop a sharp, spicy flavor. Generally, salami is made of ground pork meat and fat, and seasoned with ingredients that give it a unique taste, such as fennel seeds, black or pink peppercorns, or hot chili flakes. It is enclosed in a casing to lock in flavor, then air-dried in a cool place, where it is left to age and deepen its flavor. The curing period can last as long as one year for big, thick salami, or just a couple of weeks for smaller ones. A good salami is characterized by an intense aroma, a reddish color, and a slight saltiness. In addition, it should feel compact yet tender; if it is too soft, it is too young and needs to be matured to the right point, while salami that is too hard has lost too much moisture. With the casing intact, salami will keep for a long time, but once it has been cut, it should be kept refrigerated for two to three weeks or it will dry up. Salami is best served at room temperature in antipasti platters, soups, pastas, and sandwiches. Prosciutto When it comes to cured Italian hams, the choice can be bewildering. Most people know and love Prosciutto di Parma, but there is competition on the horizon in the form of Prosciutto di San Daniele. This ham that has been cured in the northeastern region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia for centuries, and is prized for its pink meat, its creamy, smooth texture, and salty-sweet flavor. The word "prosciutto" tells us a great deal about the production of this type of cured meat. Prosciutto is derived from the Latin perexuctus, which translates to "deprived of all liquid." The salty yet sweet flavor and velvety texture that characterizes Prosciutto di San Daniele hams is the result of a drying process that dates back to the second century B.C. All types of prosciutto are cured through the application of salt, exposure to sunlight, and aging. Prosciutto di San Daniele is cured in the same fashion as Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di Carpegna, and the Tuscan Prosciutto Crudo. Pork thighs are selected and suspended in wellventilated or refrigerated rooms for 24 to 36 hours. The fat and hide is then trimmed, and the salt curing process begins. Prosciutto makers massage and apply salt to the meat, repeating the procedure once a week for a month. The hams are then washed, brushed, and dried either in sunlight or indoors, where temperatures never exceed 59° F. Once the prosciutti are dried, they are inspected for flaws and are coated with a mixture of flour, lard, water, and pepper. The next step is the aging period: San Daniele hams must be aged for at least 12 months, but some are aged for up to two years. During this time, the Prosciutti lose up to 30% of their original weight. While the ingredients and conditions that go into the production of Prosciutto di San Daniele are identical to other types of Prosciutto Crudo, it is the unique climatic conditions of the Friuli region, with its higher altitudes and drier air, that give Prosciutto di San Daniele its unique flavor and texture. Another feature that distinguishes Prosciutto di San Daniele from other types of prosciutto is the fact that it is cured with the bottom part of the leg bone in, a feature that makes for a very rustic-looking ham. You can use Prosciutto di San Daniele in any recipe that calls for Prosciutto di Parma, but remember that cooking will alter Prosciutto di San Daniele's delicate flavors. You should opt for recipes that celebrate Prosciutto di San Daniele in its simplest state: Prosciutto di San Daniele is delicious when served raw on crusty country bread with salad greens and a soft, sweet cows' milk cheese like Taleggio or Montasio. Balance its saltiness with wedges of cantaloupe or fresh figs, or serve as a salad, topped with radicchio and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano. Avoid pairing Prosciutto di San Daniele with other powerfully flavored foods so that none of its delicate flavor is lost. Accompany Prosciutto di San Daniele with a dry but not-too-aromatic white wine, such as a Friulian Tocai or a Prosecco Valdobbiane-Conegliano. Speck Produced in Alto Adige (or Südtirol, the German-speaking province of Bolzano), Speck received its name from the German word for bacon. An utter misnomer, Speck is a variety of cured ham that proves leaner and denser than its fatty, friable cousin. Produced in succulent rectangular blocks (known as baffe in Italian), Speck is brined in a perfect blend of garlic, black pepper, juniper berries and bay leaves. After being cold-smoked with sweetscented maple and beechwood shavings, the hunks of meat are aged for a several months to give them a firm, yet moist texture. Less pungent than pancetta and more flavorful than prosciutto, Speck has a scrumptious array of uses in the kitchen. Its savory slices will add a mysterious hint of smoke and salt to any dish. In the Kitchen A delicacy with a host of diverse culinary uses, Speck is either sliced paper thin and draped over sugary fruits like melon, pears and figs; or, cut into thick strips, and added to pasta sauces, risottos, or any dish beginning with a soffritto of olive oil and chopped vegetables. Unique salads are often constructed around the meat, which pairs undeniably well with apples, sprouts, mushrooms, and hearts of celery. Typically appearing in pastas, on pizzas, and alongside hearty whole-grain breads, Speck can also be seen in the company of shellfish, sometimes wrapped around scallops or rolled about breadsticks and served with lobster salad. Buying Tips Speck from Alto Adige is currently unavailable in the United States. However, the delicious Austrian versions of the meat are found in specialty stores Rice & Grains Arborio Arborio Carnaroli Farro Polenta Vialone Pearly-looking, plump and round, Arborio is a short-grained white rice variety grown in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of northern Italy. Italy is Europe's largest producer of rice, and Arborio is Italy's most famous rice export to the United States. Since it easily absorbs the flavor of other foods-and is nearly impossible to overcook-Arborio is the optimal rice for preparing risottos. Its secret is a higher than normal amount of soluble starch, which is released during cooking. This starch is what gives a risotto its velvety, characteristic creaminess. Baldo, a large compact offshoot of Arborio, is also well-adapted to risottos. However, with its consistent and crystalline structure, the parallel grain also does well in dry dishes and in soups prepared with ample amounts of broth. In The Kitchen Arborio's covetable creamy texture makes it ideal for Italian risottos, soups, Greek dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), puddings, desserts, and other classic Mediterranean dishes. As almost any ingredient can be incorporated into a risotto, Arborio appears in the eclectic company of cheeses, herbs, shellfish, sausage, strawberries, and a wide array of vegetables. Some of its popular vegetarian cohorts include mushrooms, truffles, spinach, asparagus, and artichokes. Cooking Tips Do not rinse Arborio before cooking, as the layer of starch coating the grains is responsible for giving the rice its creamy texture. Constantly stirring the rice while it cooks will increase creaminess by allowing the grains to swell and absorb stock (or water) at a steady rate. Arborio rice takes approximately 18 minutes to cook. When done al dente, it should remain tender on the outside and subtly firm at the center. Buying Tips Arborio is the most widely available risotto rice in the United States. Easily found in the packaged grain section of supermarkets and health food stores, it is also often sold in bulk. When buying bulk Arborio rice, look for intact kernels and avoid any appearing broken, damaged, or scratched. There is also a California-grown variety of Arborio, which is popularly marketed and nearly as esteemed as its Italian cousin. Carnaroli "A" is for Arborio, "B" is for Baldo, and "C" is for.Carnaroli! Though all three white rice varieties make a good risotto, Carnaroli ranks highest among Italian chefs-as well as on the price scale. While the crescendo in cost can be traced back to challenges in cultivation and small yields, what accounts for the grain's current prestige and allure? The clue is in Carnaroli's gentle but firm disposition. Its grains remain distinct and creamy even as they absorb large amounts of liquid. Once cooked, the core of each grain emerges al dente, while the outside of the rice is left delectably supple and soft. Superior in size and plumpness than its cousin Arborio, Carnaroli rice has a shorter window of perfect doneness, but is arguably finer in flavor. Grown in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions, it is used primarily in the Italian dish risotto, often considered the pasta of Northern Italy. In The Kitchen Among Italians, Carnaroli has won a reputation for being the most fashionable and recherché choice for risottos. Its firm, snow-white grains will beckon even the most bashful of forks to risotto platters filled with seasonal baby vegetables, mushrooms, or seafood. Carnaroli's size and length also make the rice exceptional for use in salads and timbales. Buying Tips Although less well known in the U.S. than Arborio rice, Carnaroli has been recently nicknamed "the caviar of rice." Along with this increase in renown, Carnaroli has earned a place on the shelves of Italian specialty food stores here in the States. Various brands are also available online. Farro A little grain with a long history, Farro has been discovered in Egyptian tombs, amongst Roman legionnaires' provisions, and is now a noted essential in homes and renowned restaurants all over the world. Farro is a highly nutritious fully-flavored grain that has been cultivated for millennia in the Middle East, North Africa, and Italy. A member of the wheat family, it is often confused with spelt (Triticum spelta), a similar wheat, and Triticum monococcum , a less flavorful, single-spiked wheat variety. True Farro, Triticum diococcum (or "emmer wheat"), has two distinctive spikes and a rich taste that lends itself beautifully to hearty soups and sustentative stews. Italian kitchens, especially those in Tuscany, Latium, and Umbria, have been creating classic dishes with this gratifying grain for thousands of years. In the Kitchen Today's kitchens have brought back this healthy, high-energy food by refining old recipes with a little modern day sophistication. In addition to in soups and stews, Farro elicits appeal in both salads and risottos, and can add a playfully chewy texture to a miscellany of dishes. The grain's nutty taste blends perfectly with mushrooms, herbs, and seafood. When combined with more glutenous ingredients, such as wheat flour or eggs, flour from Farro can be used to make excellent pastas and breads. Try partnering semolina and Farro flour to make terrific pasta dough. Cooking Tips For best results and even cooking of Farro in risotto, rinse the grains first and remove any floating bits. Then, soak the Farro overnight in cold water (enough to fully cover the contents). Cooking time will be approx. 45 minutes. Buying Tips To be sure of purchasing the real thing (rather than spelt or the one-spiked Triticum monoccocum ), look for Farro ( Triticum dicoccum ) imported from Italy, and steer clear of the unlikely packages found in health food stores. Specialty markets should also carry "the good stuff," but if the ones in your area prove without, orders can be placed with Buon Italia at (212) 633-9090. Polenta The so-called "cornmeal staple of Italian country cooking," Polenta is (along with gnocchi) a quintessential Italian comfort food. Once regarded as rustic fare for the less wealthy classes, this pleasant maize mush has become a stylish addition to the menus of top Italian restaurants worldwide. In Italy, every region that produces corn has both its own particular method of grinding cornmeal for Polenta as well as its own particular corn varieties. Cornmeal can be ground less finely to form a thicker, coarser Polenta, or more finely for a smoother, silkier Polenta. The Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions prefer to use white cornmeal, while in Lombardy and Val d'Aosta buckwheat flour is added to the mix. The primary goal is to maximize taste while creating a harmonious balance in texture between Polenta and other ingredients. In The Kitchen A non-fat, no cholesterol food that is naturally high in fiber, Polenta makes a wonderful alternative to bread or other less dietetic carbs. One of Italy's most versatile foods, Polenta can be firm or creamy, grilled or fried, or even allowed to solidify and then sautéed. Polenta can be eaten alone as a separate dish, or served as a side and paired with roast meats, fowl, mushrooms, or other vegetables. It often appears topped with a diversity of sauces or baked under layers of ragú. While still soft, Polenta will readily enfold a number of diced, sliced, or crumbled ingredients. Cooking Tips Cooking Polenta-much like cooking pasta-requires vigorously boiling water. Italians sometimes substitute broth for water, and will often stir a little butter, cream, milk, or grated cheese into the mixture to enhance Polenta's already creamy flavor. To fry, grill, or bake polenta, pour it (while hot) onto an oiled tray, level the top with a spatula, and let cool. Next, use a sharp knife or cookie cutter to cut the Polenta into whatever shape is desired-then fry, grill, or bake! Buying Tips Look for packages of Polenta or cornmeal in local supermarkets and Italian specialty food stores. Recently ground Polenta-though a bit tougher to find-will prove the best tasting. If even the basic recipe for Polenta seems a trifle too scary, try your hand at instant "Polenta logs," readily available in supermarkets in both the United States and Italy. But, be certain all packaging is air-tight: if not, after long periods of storage, the Polenta may begin to develop a slight bitterness. Vialone Nano The rolling flatlands in the southern half of the province of Verona have been home to rice for as long as anyone there can remember. At least since the 17th century, farmers in the area have been working to develop better and better strains of rice-until, in the 1930s, the illustrious Vialone Nano was born. Truly excellent for creating creamy risottos and delicate, broth-filled first courses, Vialone Nano is a round half-long, semi-fine grain, with a central wide pearl and an outstanding absorbancy. A hybrid strain grown by a handful comuni (municipalities) in both the Veneto and Mantua regions, Vialone Nano, or "Dwarf Vialone," is actually a cross between traditional Vialone rice and the smaller Nano ("Dwarf") variety. Growers of Vialone Nano can proudly declare their rice chemical-free. And-thanks to modern-day advances in agrarian technology-any imperfect grains are scanned, identified, and discarded before ever hitting the marketplace. In The Kitchen While Carnaroli and Arborio are designated "superfino" (or "extra fine"), Vialone Nano is a "semifino" rice whose grains are capable of absorbing twice their own weight in liquid condiment. For this reason, Vialone Nano is ideal for preparing incredibly creamy risottos, to which vegetables, mushrooms, and/or meats can be added. Cooking time is typically about 15 minutes; but, overcooking is rarely a problem for this "forgiving" rice. Buying Tips The Consortium for the Protection of Vialone Nano Veronese was first created in 1979, and since 1996 the rice has been vigilantly supervised by the European Economic Community with the mark of I.G.P. (i.e., Indicazione Geografica Protetta, or "Protected Geographic Classification"). To be called Vialone Nano Veronese, the rice must be a white medium-large, semi-long grain, with an extended central pearl and no stripe. Locating approved Vialone Nano in the States is a relatively easy task: simply look for clearly labeled bags or packages of the rice in better gourmet stores or shops specializing in Italian ingredients. More Italian Essentials Truffles Porcini Espresso Balsamic Vinegar Truffles Egyptians cooked them wrapped in parchment, and Greeks and Romans believed them to be good aphrodisiacs and medicines. Costly and rare, truffles have been celebrated by epicures throughout the centuries. Although they are rather unattractive, these irregularly shaped, wrinkled, rough fungi have an intense, delectable taste and an aroma that escapes definition. The less accessible-yet most popular-are the white truffles. Found only in Piedmont, Italy, they are best savored uncooked. First, they should be brushed and wiped with a cloth, then sliced over salads or risottos. Remember, the slices should never be submerged in the dish, which would drown their aroma. The black truffle is the most commonly eaten type. It grows in Southern France, Spain, Tuscany, and Umbria. Unlike white truffles, black truffles release their aroma when they are cooked. They should also be brushed and wiped before use. Some people also peel them and save the peel to flavor stuffings and broths. Truffles grow underground near the roots of trees-usually oak, but also beech and hazel-and never grow beyond the range of the trees' branches. The only efficient method of finding these hidden treasures is using animals that have been trained for several years. Usually truffle hunters are accompanied by hounds, but pigs have a keener nose than dogs. Once the hound has scented a truffle, the hunter digs a hole, being careful not to touch the fungus before confirming its ripeness. If it isn't ripe, the hole is closed; if it is ripe, the truffle is dug up. This slow, intense harvesting process is part of the reason why truffles are so prized-and so expensive. Porcini Mushrooms Known as cépe de Bordeaux in France and king boletus in North America, Italy's favorite mushroom, the Porcino, has won worldwide fame for its earthy flavor, meaty texture, and versatility in the kitchen. Prized by ancient Roman emperors and by the more prosperous classes during the Middle Ages, Porcini were as indigenous to nobility tables as to their natural habitats in Europe, North America, and Australia. Though there are twenty or so edible varieties of this elite mushroom (donning caps from a spectrum of brown, yellow, reddish, pink, whitish, and grey hues), Boletus edulis is Italy's Porcino genus of choice. This plush mushroom requires a temperate climate that can sustain evergreen forests and deciduous woods, and is most often found at the foot of oak, beech, and chestnut trees. Porcini have thick, fleshy stalks that grow up to 10" tall, and are crowned with russet caps that may be up to 10" across. However, in this mushroom's case, bigger does not necessarily mean better: the best Porcini are the young, smallish ones with short, barrel-like stalks, firm caps, and tight pores on the caps' underside. Though they sprout in spring and early summer, Porcini are at their peak in flavor during the fall season. Nevertheless, the drying process can now allow Porcini-aficionados to indulge their sophisticated craving all year-round. Included in stews, soufflés, and pasta sauces (both red and white), as well as with pastas and even atop raw salads, fresh Porcini have a nearly infinite number of uses. Recipes feature the mushroom alongside meats and fish, as well as on its own, deep-fried, as a side dish. One caveat to be aware of: Porcini dried are a completely different fare than fresh. While equally savory and flavorfuleven in combination with the fresh variety-dried Porcini are rather different in taste, and will add a delicious but distinct dimension to sauces, soups, and risottos. Cooking Tips Dried Porcini should be soaked in cool water for 1 to 2 hours and rinsed prior to cooking. The water used in soaking the mushrooms may be strained through a cheesecloth-lined sieve and incorporated into dishes to deepen and intensify flavor. Rinsing fresh Porcini can make them watery once they hit the pan; therefore, most cooks prefer to clean the cap, stem, and underside of each mushroom by wiping them gently with a damp cloth. The base of the stem should be trimmed, as it is usually dirt-covered (and quite possibly nibbled by worms). Buying Tips When choosing Porcini, select ones that are firm in texture and without damp spots, blemishes, or blackened areas. Porcini are available in most upscale greengrocers or specialty food shops. Though more easily found in the fall, some stores will have them in stock year-round. Distributors like Urbani USA [www.urbani.com] will ship fresh porcini mushrooms anywhere in the country, and may offer the mushroom in its dried and flash-frozen forms. (Frozen Porcini will keep in the freezer for months if left undisturbed.) . Storing Do not wash your fresh mushrooms before storing, as they will soak up water and spoil rapidly. Instead, store them in a paper bag at the bottom of your refrigerator for up to three days, maximum. Balsamic Vinegar There's an old expression that says, "You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." The expression means that a "sweet" personality and attitude would take you a lot farther in life than a "sour" one. While the expression itself may hold true, it also overlooks an ingredient that is widely used and prized in Italian cooking. Vinegar's sharp, pungent aroma can be disagreeable, but when it is added to the right dish, it can be a delightful ingredient to work with. Originally, vinegar was used to treat ailments and as a folk remedy for curing coughs and healing cuts, in addition to disinfecting ship decks and alleviating sunburn. It has been used for centuries to pickle or preserve food, and can also be used for deglazing cooking pans. Varieties of vinegar include balsamic, distilled, rice, honey, and apple, to name a few. Of these, balsamic vinegar is most widely used in Italian cooking. Balsamic vinegar is sharp-smelling and blackish-brown variety. Its trademark sweet and tart taste partners well with everything from salads and sauces to desserts. The traditional balsamic vinegar, or tradizionale , originated in an Italian province of Modena. Trebbiano grapes are used to make this type of vinegar, and the Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar oversees all production and exporting aspects. First, Trebbiano grapes are juiced. As fermentation begins, the juice is boiled down to a concentrate and left to slowly acetify, or become acidic. For anyone who has had a bottle of fine wine turn sour, the chemical process is something similar to what happens when one makes vinegar. The main factor separating tradizionale and tradizionale extra vecchio ("traditional very old") from all other balsamic vinegar is the aging process. Traditionalists will also argue that the terroir of the Trebbiano grapes produced around Modena is vital for the end product. Balsamic vinegar aged up to 12 years is called tradizionale , while the vinegar that undergoes extra aging (25 years) will produce tradizionale extra vecchio . Typically, the vinegar is aged in various wooden casks, all of which are made from different types of wood. This allows the vinegar's aroma and flavors to develop, since the vinegar is transferred each year from one type of cask to another. Also, it allows the vinegar to take on the subtle aromas and flavor of the particular wood. A bottle of tradizionale or extra vecchio can cost you $100 or more. This vinegar is almost syrupy in consistency and has a complex aroma and flavor. An incomparable treat is strawberries glazed with this kind of balsamic vinegar. Frugal consumers need not worry: A bottle of generic balsamic vinegar is readily available in grocery stores or supermarkets for under $10. But be warned: The less expensive varieties are sometimes just regular vinegar with caramel coloring added. We recommend that you investigate the age of the balsamic you are purchasing in order to determine its quality and authenticity. Typically, vinegar can be stored at room temperature or kept refrigerated. Espresso Coffee, the world's most popular beverage, can be traced back to Ethiopia, where the plant was originally consumed whole in its berry form. It was not until the 11th century that the Arabs made coffee into a beverage by creating a rather bland drink from the raw beans. Then, in the 14th century, beans were first roasted in Istanbul, transforming the drink from insipid to rich and full-bodied. Venetians imported coffee beans to Italy in the early 17th century and brought them to the Americas in 1723. Espresso, a fairly new form of coffee, was created in 1905 in Italy. Over the years, the method of making espresso has changed from using stream to high-pressure brewing. With a high-pressure system, it takes only 30 seconds to brew a serving of espresso-while greatly improved its flavor and aroma. When the hot water goes through the ground coffee, it takes with it soluble solids and lipophilic elements. Espresso contains oil droplets, which are responsible for the opaqueness and the foam on top, as well as preserving the aromatic components. The name "espresso" comes from the fact it is brewed for an express request, because it has to be consumed immediately. If it is not, the foam dissipates, the acidity increases, and the smoothness gives way to saltiness. Espresso is usually brewed using beans roasted medium dark to dark brown. There are two requirements for making good espresso: The grind must be fine yet gritty, and the dribble needs to be stopped at just the right moment before the oils are depleted. There are more than 200 thousand espresso bars in Italy alone, and more than 50 million cups of espresso are consumed daily worldwide. Glossary created with the help of "Dictionary of Italian Cuisine", written by Maureen B. Fant and Howard M. Isaacs. (The Ecco Press: New Jersey, 1998).
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