Category Archives: Cheese

Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas

Peas are a great spring vegetable.  While looking for a pea recipe, I found this pasta dish from British Italian chef Antonio Carluccio in his cookbook, 1oo Pasta Recipes.  I improvised with what I had on hand and also doubled the recipe.  He used marille pasta, and I used strozzapreti.  He used fresh basil; I used dried.  He used parmesan; I used pecorino.

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Pasta with Mascarpone and Peas

1/4 cup butter

2 lbs. chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi.)

14 oz. frozen peas

basil to taste

2 8 oz. containers mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

red pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper to taste

2 lbs. strozzapreti pasta

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add tomatoes, peas, basil, mascarpone, pecorino, red pepper, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Cook pasta in salted water for 10-12 minutes until al dente.  Drain.  Serve with sauce.

Pizza Chiena or Pizza Rustica

Pizza Chiena or Pizza Rustica, or Savory Italian Easter Pie

pizza chiena, pizza rustica

Pizza chiena or pizza rustica is a savory Neapolitan pie served at Easter time.  My family is from the area surrounding Naples and they called it pizza chiena, pronounced like pizzagaina, or pizzagain, as they pronounce the hard ch sound as a hard g in Neapolitan dialect and the last vowel is often left off.

pizza chiena, pizza rustica

Pizza Chiena

For the crust:

Some people use pizza dough for the crust.  You can get it from a pizzeria or make it yourself.  There are many different ways to make the crust.  You can experiment and see what you like.  Some people use lard, butter or oil instead of the shortening.  Some people don’t use eggs.  Some people use yeast.  Some people add pepper or salt.  The dish itself is pretty salty with the meats and cheeses, so I would opt for no extra salt.

5 cups flour, not sifted

3/4 cup shortening

4 eggs

warm water

olive oil

Put your flour on your work surface.  Dot with shortening and incorporate until it becomes crumbly.

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Make a well and add eggs, incorporating them.  Add enough warm water until you have a workable dough.  Knead for about 5 minutes.  Put a little olive oil in a bowl.  Add the dough ball.

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Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for about a half hour.

For the filling:

People use different ingredients in the filling.  It usually always has ricotta, eggs, grated cheese and salami.  From there, it varies.  You can also use soppressata, capocollo, mortadella, Italian sausage or provolone.  We only used soppressata, capocollo and salami.  One of my grandmas used provolone.  Also, some provolone can be sharp and you don’t want it to be too dominant a flavor.  Some people lump all the ingredients in there, some people chunk it, some people dice it very small, some people layer it.  It’s all your preference.  My two grandmas did it differently.  This is kind of a combination of both of theirs.

1 lb. ricotta (Use a good brand with no added gums or thickeners.)

1 lb. basket cheese (If you can’t get this where you are, you can just use another pound of ricotta.  Or you can let one pound of ricotta sit in a colander or in cheesecloth the night before to drain out water.)

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1 cup salami, diced

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1 cup prosciutto, diced

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8 eggs

1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced

black pepper to taste

egg yolk for egg wash

In a bowl, mix all ingredients.  Just stir it all together.  No mixer needed.  I like it a little chunky.

Grease and flour a 10-inch springform pan or a 13×9 rectangular pan or a large cake pan or pie dish (depends on how much filling you have).

Cut off 2/3 of dough.  Roll it out into a circle and line springform pan.

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Fill with filling.

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Roll out remaining dough into a circle.  Top pie with it.  Brush with egg wash.

Bake at 375 degrees for 1/2 hour.  Lower heat to 350 for 1 more hour.  Let cool for a few hours.  Refrigerate.  We eat this at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator.

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

pastiera, pizza grano, Easter wheat pie, wheat pie

The pastiera, or pizza grano is also known in English as a wheat pie.  It’s a traditional Neapolitan dessert pie made at Easter time.  In the past, some people made these at home and other people bought them at Italian bakeries.  Unless you live near an Italian bakery, you will probably not be able to find one.  These pies have wheat but depending on where they are made, they can also have rice.  Part of my family is from the Benevento area of Italy, and they make the pie with rice.  I made an Italian Easter rice pie last year.

pastiera, pizza grano, wheat pie

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

For the crust:

2 cups sifted flour

1 cup granulated sugar

pinch salt

1 stick butter, room temperature

2 eggs

Combine flour, sugar and salt.  On your work surface, make a well in the flour.  Add the eggs.

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Dot the butter around and mix all together.  Work the dough until you have a dough that doesn’t stick (you may need to add more flour).

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Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 can/jar cooked wheat (You will find this at an Italian market.  Or you can buy wheat berries and cook them yourself.)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 lb. ricotta (Try to buy a good brand that doesn’t have added gums or thickeners.)

1 tablespoon orange blossom water (This is not orange extract.  You will find this at Italian markets.  If you can’t find it, you can use vanilla instead.)

8 oz. chopped citron (This is hard to find.  Some grocery stores carry it.  Italian markets have it too.  It depends on where you live.  The higher percentage of Italians, the more likely you are to find it.)

In a pot, add the milk, wheat, butter and 1 T sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until it’s a thick custard.  Transfer it to a bowl and allow it to cool.

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By hand or with a mixer, mix the eggs, sugar, ricotta and orange blossom water until well combined.  Mix in the cooled wheat custard.  Stir in the citron.

Grease and flour a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.  (You can also use a pie plate or cake pan.)

Take out your dough.  Cut off 1/3 of it to save to make strips for the top.  Roll the dough out into a circle and put into springform pan.

Pour the filling into the crust.  Roll out the other piece of dough and cut strips to make a crisscross design on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an 1 hour (not less but maybe a little more).

A Little Germany in Georgia

Enter the GIVEAWAY in honor of my 1000th post! The deadline has been extended until Dec. 15.
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Helen, Georgia is a quaint little Bavarian Alpine village in the Georgia mountains.  While it is most popular during October for Oktoberfest, it is worth a visit during Christmas time because of the Christmas lights and decorations.

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While December is a good time to visit, be sure to keep in mind that many of the shops and restaurants are closed on Wednesdays.  Helen is on its own time, and I wouldn’t rely on times listed on websites either.  Many of the stores we visited were closed when they were supposed to be open, so it’s best to call ahead if there’s a particular place you really want to go to make sure it will be open.   And most shops and restaurants close by six p.m.  There are few restaurants that are open past six, but you can find them.

There are stores with German, Dutch and Scandinavian imports like cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, steins and more, as well as stores selling crafts by local artisans.  There’s something for everyone here–mini golf (not open in winter season), a grist mill, antique shops, tubing, ziplining, and hiking where one can see gorgeous waterfalls.

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On this trip, we were interested in Christmas shopping and eating.  Some of the stores we enjoyed were Lindenhaus Imports owned by a friendly gentleman who happily shows you fun German and Scandinavian goods, Classics owned by a friendly woman who sells German collectibles and apparel and Windmill Dutch Imports with a good selection of Dutch food and ceramics.  Euro Food is a small shop with German foods.  There are a number of other shops, but many were not open on the Wednesday and Thursday that we were there (especially the Christmas shop which was a bit disappointing).

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Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen is a fun stop for chocolate-covered pretzels, fudge, chocolates, divinity, peppermint bark and more.

There is a plethora of German food in Helen, as expected, but not much variety for a vegetarian.  We ate at the few restaurants that had vegetarian options, so if you are a vegetarian, be prepared for that.  High on the list is Muller’s Fried Cheese.

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Breaded squares of cheddar, brie and mozzarella fried to melty perfection.  If you love cheese, you will love these.

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They also have German and Czech specialties like bratwurst with cabbage, sauerkraut and potato salad.

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Another must is Hofer’s German bakery, a cafe, bakery and deli in one.

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We had a delicious breakfast here of vegetarian hash.

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Our breakfast came with really nice assorted hard rolls.

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For dessert, really lovely cream puff and beehive cake.

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For the road, we got rye bread, jelly doughnuts and hamentaschen.  My favorite was their jelly doughnut–it was filled with ooey gooey jelly.

A restaurant that was open later in the evening was Cowboys & Angels.  We had a very good pimento cheese appetizer.

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I got the pork chop with apples and raisins and it was delicious.

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My friend got a vegetable plate with macaroni and cheese that was creamier than any I’ve had at a restaurant.  It says it’s made with real cream and I believe it.

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The food was cooked to perfection here, and the vegetables were flavorful as well.

Bigg Daddy’s is a divey sports bar that is open later and has an interesting offering of calamari tacos.  They were delicious.

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I had the spicy fish tacos which really brought the heat.

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We shared an appetizer of buffalo hummus, which looked like a mound of hummus surrounded by a moat of hot sauce.  This would have been better with a drizzle of hot sauce on top, as this was just too much sauce.

After my spicy dinner, I wanted some ice cream.  There are homemade ice cream shops in town, but they weren’t open.  The options included Mayfield (made not far from here in Tennessee) and Blue Bell.

Blue Bell strawberry cheesecake

Blue Bell strawberry cheesecake

At one shop, they had some gelato from Italy. The salted caramel was perfetto.

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A must-see attraction in Helen is Charlemagne’s Kingdom.  This is a miniature replica of the country of Germany with miniature trains and villages.  The attraction was created by a husband-and-wife team, the husband from Germany, and is still family-owned today.  It is truly awesome.  If you appreciate miniature artistry, you will love this.  The work is so detailed and there are so many wonderful nooks and crannies to see interesting things.

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Other things to see not too far outside of Helen are the nearby Indian mound and the folk pottery museum.  And of course, Babyland General Hospital, which any child of the ’80s should know.  This is where Cabbage Patch Kids are born/grown.  Yes, you check in as if you are checking in to a real hospital.  You can see the babies growing from the cabbages, with a green IV drip from a tree.  Cool yet freaky at the same time.

Helen is a fun town that’s great to visit for a day trip, a weekend or a week, depending on what you want to do.

 

Pizza Chiena

I made pizza chiena, or pizza rustica, for Easter this morning.  These are savory Italian Easter pies that I’ve written about before.  This pie is one of those recipes that everyone has a variation of.  Some people put provolone or other types of Italian meats in it too.  It varies a lot.  I put what I like in it.

I made a meatless version for the vegetarians. I used frozen pie crusts for this one. No reason, other than that’s what I had on hand. I had originally planned to make my own pie crust, but in the interests of time because I’ve had a lot going on, I used premade crust.

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For the meat version, I used a refrigerated pie crust.

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Pizza Chiena

5 eggs, beaten

1 lb. ricotta (I use Calabro brand.)

4 oz. shredded mozzarella

1/3 cup grated pecorino romano

1 cup diced salami

2 oz. diced prosciutto

salt and pepper

Mix everything together and put in prepared pie dish.  Add top crust.  Bake 350 for 1 hour.  Serve room temperature or cold.  (This pie should be kept refrigerated when not serving.)

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Italian Easter Rice Pie

This year for Easter, I made an Italian Easter rice pie.  I’ve written before about the Italian Easter pies, the pizza chiena, or pizza rustica, and the pastiera, or pizza grano.  This is a variation of the pizza grano.  The pizza grano is a Neapolitan wheat pie served at Easter.  My family traditionally made this pie at Easter time.  Part of my dad’s family is from the area near Benevento, Italy, and there they make a variation with rice instead of wheat.  So he grew up with both the wheat and rice pies at Easter.

I wanted to be ambitious this Easter/Lent and make a lot more, but I haven’t had the time.  I had wanted to make hot cross buns, but instead just got some yummy ones from a bakery.  I’m also going to make a pizza chiena.  My grandma has a variation of the pizza chiena that is vegetarian, using mashed potatoes.  I don’t think I will be making that one this year though, as I don’t have time.  Now, I do have a homemade crust recipe, but I can’t publish it or else I may get the malocchio from my aunt.

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Italian Easter Rice Pie

1 1/2 cups whole milk or 1 cup skim/1/2% milk and 1/2 cup light cream/half and half

1/2 cup rice

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 pound ricotta (I use Calabro brand.)

1 tablespoon orange blossom water  (You can find this at any Italian specialty shop like Di Palo’s or order it online.)

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 oz. candied citron  (You can find this at any Italian specialty shop like Di Palo’s or order it online.)

1 deep dish frozen pie crust

1 regular frozen pie crust

Cook rice according to package directions (with water).  Add milk and cook on low until milk is absorbed.  Cool.  Beat eggs and beat in sugar.  Add ricotta, orange blossom water, vanilla and citron and stir.  Stir in rice.  Put into deep dish pie crust and top with top crust.  (I used a regular pie crust for the top and cut strips with a pastry cutter.)  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Cool and serve.

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Two for Tuesday: Galbani

With all the Galbani commercials on TV, I had to try the products.  I found mozzarella at a lot of grocery stores but wasn’t for the longest time able to find the ricotta.  Finally, I did.  I like the fresh, creamy ciliegine, cherry-sized balls of mozzarella.  They are really nice added to a salad.

I’m not as happy with the ricotta as it has a sweet flavor that I don’t like in ricotta, and it also has added gums.  It’s made in the USA–not Italy.

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