Italian food is so much more than spaghetti and pizza. Explore Italy through soups, desserts, and a great glass of wine.
Minestrone with White Beans and Italian Sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups drained and rinsed canned white beans, preferably cannellini (from two 19-ounce cans)
- 10 cup water
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with their juice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 2/3 pound spinach, stems removed and leaves washed well (about 1 1/2 quarts)
- Grated Parmesan, for serving
1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon.
2. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine 2 cups of the beans and 2 cups of the water in a blender and puree until smooth.
4. Add the tomatoes, the bean puree, the remaining 8 cups water, the salt, and the pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Stir in the sausage, the remaining 2 cups beans, and the spinach. Simmer until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Serve the soup topped with grated Parmesan, and pass more Parmesan at the table.
Mama Luliucci’s Famous Meatballs
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 8-10 slices white bread, broken into small 1/2 inch pieces (or you can use rolls or any stale bread you have and want to use up)
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon italian seasoning (or to taste)
- 2 teaspoons parsley flakes (or to taste)
- 1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Locatelli)
- 1-2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- olive oil or vegetable oil (for frying)
- Mix all ingredients gently in a large bowl until well combined.
- Roll meatballs 1 1/2- 1 3/4″ in diameter.
- Heat about 1/4″ of oil over medium heat in a large frying pan.
- Fry meatballs in oil, rolling frequently, until evenly browned and juices run clear.
For cannoli shells:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 lb cold lard
- 2 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine
- 1 large egg, separated
- About 3 cups vegetable oil
- 1 lb fresh ricotta (2 cups)
- 2 oz soft mild goat cheese
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced candied orange peel
- 1/2 teaspoon orange-flower water (also called orange-blossom water)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (not dyed red), chopped
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped (1/2 cup)
- Special equipment: a pasta maker; a 4- to 4 1/4-inch round cookie cutter; a deep-fat thermometer; 6 (roughly 5 5/8- by 5/8-inch) metal cannoli tubes; 2 heavy-duty oven mitts; a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain tip
- Garnish: confectioners sugar
Make dough for shells:
Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Add 2 tablespoons lard and blend in with your fingertips until combined. Add wine and yolk and stir until a dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Form dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
Make filling while dough stands:
Beat together ricotta, goat cheese, confectioners sugar, orange peel, orange-flower water, and cinnamon in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed 1 minute (do not overbeat). Fold in nuts and chocolate until combined and chill.
Set smooth rollers of pasta maker at widest setting. Unwrap dough and cut in half, then lightly flour 1 piece (keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap). Flatten floured dough into an oval and feed through rollers. Turn dial down 2 notches and feed dough through rollers again. Continue to feed dough through rollers, making space between rollers narrower by 2 notches each time, until narrowest setting is used.
Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Transfer rolled dough to a lightly floured surface and cut out 4 or 5 rounds with floured cutter. Transfer rounds to baking sheet and keep covered with more plastic wrap. Roll out remaining dough and cut rounds in same manner. Gather scraps and let stand 10 minutes. Roll out scraps and cut in same manner.
Heat remaining lard with 1 1/4 inches oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until it registers 350°F on thermometer.
Meanwhile, lightly oil cannoli tubes. Lightly beat egg white, then brush bottom edge of 1 dough round with egg white. Wrap dough around a tube, overlapping ends (egg-white edge should go on top), then press edges together to seal. Make 5 more shells in same manner (keep remaining rounds covered with plastic).
Fry dough on tubes 1 at a time, turning with metal tongs, until 1 shade darker, about 45 seconds. Wearing oven mitts, clamp end of hot tubes, 1 at a time, with tongs and, holding tube vertically, allow shell to slide off tube onto paper towels, gently shaking tube and wiggling shell as needed to loosen. (If you allow shell to cool it will stick to tube and shatter when you try to remove it.) Transfer shells to paper towels to drain and cool tubes before reusing. Wrap remaining dough around tubes and fry in same manner.
Spoon filling into pastry bag and pipe some into 1 end of a cannoli shell, filling shell halfway, then pipe into other end. Repeat with remaining shells.