January 12th , 2010 → 5:48 am @ admin

Recipes from L’Academia Italiana della Cucina (The Academy of Italian Cuisine)

MINESTRONE – A Typical Tuscan Vegetable Soup

(For 6 people)

5 tbsp. olive oil
2 oz. pancetta, diced
½ medium onion, finely sliced
½ cup chopped basil
½ lb. potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carrot, diced
½ lb. Swiss chard, chopped
1 celery stalk, cut in small pieces
1 head lettuce, chopped
2 or 3 small zucchini, diced
4 oz. string beans
2 or 3 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2/3 cup fresh borlotti beans
Broth
½ lb. short pasta

In a deep pot, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil and sauté the pancetta, onion, and basil, then add all the vegetables except the tomatoes.  Add salt to taste, cover, and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and beans, then add enough broth to cover.  Cook slowly for about 2 hours, stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking and adding water or broth as needed.  Add the short pasta and cook for 10 minutes; when the pasta is done the soup is finished.  Finish with the remaining olive oil and serve hot.

PANZANELLA – Marinated Bread Salad – A family favourite!

This dish is typical of Florence.  It makes a nice summer salad to be enjoyed with a local Vino di tavola.

1 lb. stale peasant-style bread, cut into slices
2 plum tomatoes not overly ripe, chopped
2 medium red onions, chopped
1 cucumber (optional), chopped
½ bunch basil, chopped
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Soak the bread for a few minutes in cold water.  When sodden, take pieces of bread a little at a time and squeeze them between your hands to remove the liquid.  Rub the pieces between your hands to form small cubes of bread.  Put these in a salad bowl, add all the vegetables and basil; season only with olive oil, salt, and pepper and put in a cool place.  Just before serving add the vinegar.

RAGÙ TOSCANO – Pasta with Meat Sauce

This sauce is typical of the Pistoia region of Tuscany.

1 medium onion
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¾ lb. choice lean beef chuck, diced
¼ cup red wine
1 tbsp tomato paste, diluted in 3 tbsp. water
Salt and pepper
Pasta of choice

Finely chop together the onion, carrot, and celery.  Heat the olive oil at very low heat, add the vegetables, and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the beef and cook for a few minutes, then pour in the red wine; add the tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook slowly for at least another 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened considerably.

ARISTA ALLA FIORENTINA – Roast Pork Loin

(For 6 people)

1 pork loin with bone (about 3 ½ lbs.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs rosemary, minced
1 tsp. Cloves (optional)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bone the pork loin.  Combine the garlic and rosemary (and cloves if using) with salt and pepper and insert half of the mixture into the space left by the bon.  Tie up to reform the loin.  Massage the rest of the mixture into the meat and put it in a baking pan.  Pour the olive oil over and roast for about 1 ½ hours.  When the meat is cooked, untie it, slice it, and serve in its cooking juices.  Cubed potatoes can be cooked together with the pork.  The cooking juices can also be used to flavour turnips or cavolo nero (black kale) boiled and roughly chopped.

ORECCHIE DI AMMAN – Fried Wine Knots

This recipe is typical of Livorno.  For the wine, use Vernaccia di San Gimigniano, Vermentino, or Orvieto.

2 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. Sugar
¼ cup white wine
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil plus olive oil for frying
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or 1 tsp. grated lemon or orange zest)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
Vanilla sugar
Salt

Beat the eggs and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale, then mix in the wine, olive oil, vanilla (or lemon or orange zest), a pinch of salt, and as much flour as necessary to form a smooth dough.  Roll out the dough to form a sheet and cut it into strips about 6 inches long.  Twist them between your hands to form twists or shape them into knots.  Heat 2 inches of oil in a saucepan and fry until golden.  Drain completely on paper towels, then dust with vanilla sugar.  Can be served with vanilla ice cream or gelato.

BISCOTTI – Almond Biscuits

This recipe is typical of the province of Prato.

1 ¼ cups almonds
Unsalted butter
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
½ tsp. baking powder
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. grated orange zest
½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, beaten
Salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Toast the almonds until fragrant and lightly golden, then chop them.  Leave the oven on, grease a baking sheet with butter, and sprinkle it with flour.  Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and orange zest.  Stir in the vanilla and eggs.  Knead in the almonds.  Pat out the dough to form long, flat loaves about 3 inches wide.  Place them on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cut the “fingers” in diagonal slices ½ inch thick.  Return them to the sheet and bake until crisp, about 25 minutes.  Serve with espresso and a glass of Grappa or Vin Santo (Sweet wine typical of the region).

For more Tuscan recipes, take a look at:

La Cucina, The Regional Cooking of Italy by L’Academia Italiana della Cucina, translated by Jay Hyams, Rizzoli Publications, 2009.

Tasting Tuscay: Exploring and Eating off the Beaten Track, by Beth Elon,
Bantam Books, 2006.

Twelve: A Tuscan Cookbook, by Tessa Kiros, Murdoch Books, 2005.

Jamie’s Italy, by Jamie Oliver, Penguin, 2005.

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