Great Tiramisù Recipe

Probably the most famous Italian dessert (maybe after the ubiquitous gelato), tiramisù can be found at Italian restaurants in Italy and abroad.

It’s considered a semifreddo layer cake because it uses ingredients you might find in gelato, but without the freezing preparation and the zabaglione cream is whipped up, then spread over layers of ladyfinger cookies. The origins of this classic are a topic of great debate, many people claiming it to be a recent invention, with even the place of origin disputable, either in Tuscany or Veneto. Its name literally translates to “pick me up,” probably because of the pretty high caloric content, the presence of caffeine in the coffee and chocolate and a bit of sweet liquor in the cream.

And, guess what? It’s actually pretty easy to make at home! Just follow the recipe below and you can be enjoying delicious tiramisù at home in no time!

Cooking time: 15 minutes (plus at least 2 hours for chilling)

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar (100-120 grams)
  • 500 grams mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ cup sweet Marsala wine (rum, port or brandy can also be used)
  • Around 400 grams savoiardi cookies (Pavesini brand cookies also work)
  • ½ – 1 cup any kind of coffee or espresso
  • Sprinkling of bitter cacao powder
  1. Make the zabaglione cream. First whisk the egg yolks with half the sugar until the yolks have lightened in color and expanded in volume. It’s very important to whisk enough because the eggs undergo a transformation during this process. Then mix in the rest of the sugar and the mascarpone cheese. Lastly, add the Marsala. (It’s a good idea to make the cream by hand so the eggs stay fluffy.)
  2. Prepare the first layer of cookies in a cake pan. Lay cookies flat in one layer covering the pan, then spoon just enough coffee or espresso to wet the tops of the cookies, making sure not to soak them in coffee!
  3. Spoon a hefty layer of zabaglione over the cookies, covering them completely. Continue with 1-3 more layers of cookies and cream (depending on the size of the pan), just make sure you have enough cream to completely cover the final layer of cookies.
  4. Generously sprinkle cacao powder over the top. It’s important to use bitter cacao to provide a nice contrast to the sweet cream.
  5. Put in the fridge to chill for a few hours.
  6. Arrange candles and sing happy birthday to a lucky birthday boy or girl. (optional)
  7. Si mangia! Enjoy your homemade tiramisù with your friends!

Please note: The recipe calls for raw eggs, so you should be aware of the salmonella risk involved with eating raw egg products. It’s best to make sure the eggs are as fresh as possible (the date of when it was harvested is usually printed on the packaging or directly on the egg itself) and that they come from a trusted source.

Italian New Year Culinary Tradition

Every country has its own New Years’ traditions especially when it comes to food – black peas and bread in United States, beans and legumes in Brazil and Argentina, boiled cod and preserved fish in Scandinavian countries, grapes in Mexico, soba or buckwheat noodles in Japan, fish and challah in Israel, and pork in countries like Spain, Hungary, Cuba, Poland, Sweden, Germany and Italy. Pigs are traditionally thought to represent progress, development and wealth.

Italy is well known for having very different traditions in different regions of the country during Christmas and New Year, but one of the few that is generally followed in the country is that of having lentils for New Years dinner. Lenticchie e cotechino is one of the rare Italian dinner traditions that is unanimously celebrated all over the country.

Cotechino is a special type of pork sausage originating from Modena that is 3 inches in diameter and 8 inches long. The lentils represent coins and therefore wealth. The more you eat of them, the better it is. They will bring prosperity to the coming year. If you are planning on cooking the dish for your dinner party, click here for a sufficiently simple recipe.

Having lentils at New Years especially at midnight is said to bring good luck and money, and we can all do with some more luck and fortune for the next year. Don’t forget to combine the meal with a glass of prosecco or red wine!

Italian Christmas Sweets

For those of you who are spending their first Christmas season in Milan, the traditional Milanese Christmas desserts of panettone or pandoro are a must to be tried out.

Panettone is a spongy fruitcake usually filled with butter, eggs, raisins, candied orange bits and orange and lemon zest and can be purchased in any supermarket or pasticceria in the city during the holiday season. Panettone, meaning “big bread,” got its origins here in Milano and has been around since Roman times. There are several industrial brands, such as Alemagna, Bauli, Motta and Tre Marie, which are cheaper than their handmade counterparts and may come in variations to the traditional panettone.

There are several legends behind the creation of the panettone, one of the more popular ones concerns a young Milanese nobleman, a member of the Atellini family, who fell in love with the daughter of a baker named Toni. To impress the girls father, the young man disguised himself as a baker and invented a sweet, bread of an unusual size with a top shaped like a church dome. This new, fruitcake-like bread enjoyed enormous success, with people coming to the bakery from all over Italy to purchase the magnificent Pan de Toni (Panettone).

Pandoro is a specialty from Verona and is similar to panettone, but without the fruit bits and is generally topped with icing sugar and vanilla powder. The recipe follows closely a production formula in the Venetian tradition. Tall, distinctive and shaped like a Christmas tree, it is topped with powdered sugar reminiscent of snow, or a twinkling star. And indeed, if cut horizontally, each slice is a star.

Want a Home Cooked Meal? Why Not DIY?

Autumn is here already and before you even have time to realize it you are right back into a busy semester. Don’t we all have those days where you just want to go home and stay in for the evening? If you ever feel like having a relaxed evening at home while still wanting to eat Italian food, why not try cooking something yourself? It might seem like a daunting process at first, but fear not! With a few ingredients and some simple instructions, you can prepare a tasty home cooked Italian meal for yourselves and even call your friends over to try some.

To keep up with the autumn traditions in the country, we suggest you try cooking risotto with funghi porcini. Risotto with funghi porcini is a well loved classic Italian dish, and we hope that you enjoy it as much as we do.

 

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • Italian risotto: 180g to 200g
  • Porcini mushrooms (dried): 50g
  • Vegetable broth: about 1 litre
  • White Wine: ½ glass
  • White onion: ½
  • Garlic Clove: ½
  • Butter
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Parsley (either fresh or dry)
  • Parmigiano reggiano (grated)

Soak the porcini mushrooms in water before starting the cooking. Do not throw the water away, as it can be subsequently added to the risotto. In the meantime, prepare the vegetable broth and make sure that it is hot.

Then, in a saucepan heat a bit of oil and butter together. Finely chop the onion and garlic and sauté them for a few minutes until the onions are cooked. Drain the mushrooms from their liquid and squeeze them well. Chop into chunks and add them to the saucepan. Cook together for a few minutes with the sauce.

As soon as the mushrooms start becoming soft, add the rice to the pan. Let the rice cook in the sauce, use the white wine to mix all the ingredients together and stir well. Lower the heat slightly and add the vegetable broth to this mixture slowly when the risotto looks dry. Also, at this point add some of the water in which the mushrooms were soaked. This will help give an added flavor to the risotto. Make sure to keep mixing the rice and sauce together without keeping it still.

Once all the water is evaporated, turn off the heat. Add a little more butter and plenty of grated Parmigiano cheese and mix well together. Let it sit for a few minutes before garnishing it with finely chopped parsley and serving it.

We recommended to serve the risotto with white wine.

Recipe for Milano-Style Asparagus

If you’ve ever had a Bismarck pizza in Italy, you know that this particular kind of pizza is served with a fried egg; and while enjoying your pizza, you might have asked yourself what eggs have to do with the German name of Bismarck. Legend has it that Otto von Bismarck was infamous for enjoying heavy food like meats and eggs and that he could eat several eggs in one sitting. That’s why to this day in Italy almost anything that’s served with a fried egg on top is called “alla Bismarck”. And, this kind of pizza usually also comes with an excellent pairing with fried eggs, the springtime vegetable of asparagus.

The following recipe is not for pizza, however, but rather asparagi alla milanese, a simple dish of asparagus and fried eggs, just like the famous pizza toppings. But first, a little background about this delicious veggie.

Not everyone likes the unique taste of this vegetable (or the unique smell it adds to urine after eating it!), but it is considered something of a delicacy in some parts of the world, and it was especially so in the Renaissance due to the complicated method of cultivation. Originally grown in Asia Minor and brought to Europe and the Mediterranean thousands of years ago, asparagus was eaten by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. And today, Lombardy is a great place for growing asparagus.

Both white and green versions of the vegetable can be found in Milano, though the green is perhaps more popular and it’s the kind used in this recipe for asparagi alla milanese. Asparagus season is now through May or June, so now is the perfect time to try out this springtime dish.

When buying your asparagus from the supermercato or open-air market, be sure to get it fresh: choose firm, straight, round spears, with compact green tips and white or light-colored ends. The spears should snap easily when bent. And don’t get wet, slimy or smelly asparagus, a sure sign it isn’t fresh.

Cooking time: about  20-30 minutes

Ingredients (for 6 people)

  • 1kg asparagus
  • 120g butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 20g grated or slivered cheese (parmigiano-reggiano or grana are both good options)
  1. Prepare the asparagus by washing it. You can break off the fat end which can be woody, or simply peel the end to get rid of some of the tough portion of the veggie.
  2. Then tie the asparagus together, and place it in a saucepan filled with 5-8cm water so that the green part (including the leafy tips) are outside the water. This method steams the tops and boils the tougher bottoms. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Cook the eggs in a frying pan with a little oil, preparing as desired (over-easy is the classic order).
  4. Plate the asparagus in a circle with the leafy tips pointing in, then put the egg in the center. Finish with some grated or slivered cheese.
  5. Enjoy!

For a complete Italian dinner, you can serve your asparagi alla milanese with a primo or side dish of rice or risotto.

A Sweet Fall Tradition in Milano

Desserts in a shop window

Desserts in a shop windowWalking around the city around the end of October (close to Halloween), you might see some little chocolaty long and narrow cakes in bakery windows. And you just might ask yourself what this dessert is all about, after just maybe giving in to temptation by buying a few to snack on. So here’s a little background about the delicious Milanese treat, pan dei morti.

Like many of the culinary traditions in Italy, these desserts are made and eaten for a holiday connected to the Roman Catholic calendar. All Soul’s Day (also known as the Day of the Dead and il Giorno dei morti in Italian) is celebrated each year on 2 November. Eating and making pan dei morti is connected to the traditions of the holiday, which is celebrated to commemorate the spirits of the dead as they enter heaven. One of the practices of celebrating is to use the day off from work or school (which is actually All Saint’s Day on 1 November) to go to the cemetery and leave flowers on the graves of family members. In addition, there are traditional sweets all over Italy (either homemade or found in local pasticcerie) that were traditionally left out on the night of 1 November as an offering to the dead or as a symbol of the gifts the souls bring to the living.

A lot of these traditions (including the ingredients used in today’s sweets) date back to before the arrival of Christianity, and may be based in Judaism, Roman, Greek and other peoples of the area. The desserts vary from region to region and include fave da morto, ossa di morto, dita di apostolo and pupi di zucchero. A lot of the times they’re in the shape of bones or fingers reminiscent of the spirits they honor. Here in Milano, pan dei morti, made of chocolate, spices, pine nuts, almonds, ground-up cookies and powdered sugar (and sometimes candied oranges, raisins and hazelnuts) has been around in the area for quite some time and today it can even be found in parts of Tuscany.

A little-known fact about the Italian tradition this time of year is that in some regions, children used to go door to door, singing or requesting sweets or treats in the name of the dead. Doesn’t that sounds a little like the Anglo-Saxon tradition of Halloween?

So why not head to your local pasticceria and try this traditional Milanese dessert? Yum!

Risotto Time

Risotto with saffronI’m talking to you very openly: I’m not a good chef at all. But… I am a very good risotto-maker, but it’s the only dish that seems to be impossible to burn!

Now, I wanna let you know HOW I became the best risotto chef of Milan, just describing you my two own specialties!

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (600g) short grained rice, e.g. Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
  • 1 1/2 quarts (1.5 l) good meat broth, boiling hot
  • 2/3 cup (120 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 ounces (70 g) beef marrow (get this from your butcher, or an oriental market), minced
  • A small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white (not oaky) wine, warmed if possible
  • A packet of saffron pistils (about 0.1 g — powdered will do, but pistils are much better)
  • 2 1/3 cups (120 g) grated Parmigiano (half this if you are using the risotto as a bed for ossibuchi)
  • 6 sheets real gold leaf (quite optional, as garnish for a truly extravagant meal) – another option for garnishing is 6 chives

Preparation:

Place the saffron pistils in a bowl to steep with some of the meat broth.

In a casserole, simmer the finely sliced onion and the beef marrow in half the butter over an extremely low flame for about 10 minutes; the onion should become translucent but not brown. Remove the onion and marrow with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Sauté the rice over a moderate flame for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly lest it stick and burn. About a minute before the rice is done, return the onion mixture to the pot. Stir in the warmed wine, and cook, stirring, until it has completely evaporated. Then stir in a first ladle of the hot broth, and once most has been absorbed, another, stirring and adding liquid until the rice is almost at the al dente stage.

Stir in the saffron pistils, the remainder of the butter, half the cheese, turn of the flame, and let the risotto sit covered for a minute. Then serve it, either as a bed for ossibuchi alla milanese or as a first course, with the remainder of the cheese on the side. If you are serving the risotto with the gold leaf, divvy it into individual portions in the kitchen and carefully lay a sheet of gold over each. Or, you could go with a chive, as is shown here.

Note: When you add the wine, it is very important that it be warm, because the addition of cold liquid will shock the rice and make it flake.

Risotto al salto

It’s hard to believe one could ever have leftover risotto alla milanese. However, stranger things have happened, and this is a traditional way of reworking it. The term, al salto, means toasted; Alessandro Molinari Pradelli says “the tossing is best left to expert cooks who know how to handle a skillet.” The less expert may want to cover the skillet with a lip-free lid, flip everything, and then slide the rice back into the skillet to brown the other side. Dont worry if you will scatter rice all over the stove..just normal procedure!

Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Leftover Risotto alla Milanese
  • Unsalted Butter

Preparation:

This said, to make risotto al salto you will need leftover risotto alla milanese, unsalted butter, and a broad skillet. Melt enough butter to coat the bottom of the skillet and add the rice, spreading it over the skillet to form a flat cake. Cook until the bottom of the cake is gilded, then cover the pan with a lid that doesn’t have a lip. Flip pan and lid, so the risotto comes to rest on the lid, return the pan to the burner, and carefully slide the risotto from the lid back into the pan to sauté the other side as well. If the rice has absorbed all the butter, you may want to add a little more butter to the pan before you return the rice to it. In any case, the rise is done as soon as it has gilded on the other side too.

Serve hot, with a lively white, for example a Bianco di Lugana, or a zesty red, for example a Valpolicella Classico.

Wake Up Smiling

“I like cappuccino, actually.
But even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all.”
David Lynch

Coffee beans

Milan is the city in which Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz first formulated the concept of launching US espresso bars, where the public can work, meet and relax. Italy’s cafés already fulfill this role with zeal: local baristas remember your name and usually start preparing your usual beverage the moment you walk in. But forget the tall frappuccino; you can expect your caffè lungo macchiato or cappuccino scuro to be served fast and short. Around the Duomo, there’s a clutch of elegant cafes at which to relax. Fashion-conscious shoppers should try the bustling Trussardi Café and Caffè Miani (aka Zucca), whereas opera fans should stop by the quietly dignified Cafè Verdi. Around the Castello Sforzesco complex, the Bar Bianco is a popular place to drink a caffè macchiato while planning your itinerary on a sunny weekend.

Cafè Trussardi
Half of Trussardi is made up of a huge glass cube jutting into via San Dalmazio, so you’re sure to be ‘seen’ here. This very up-market café is popular with the area’s young banking and fashion set. Salads and Aberdeen Angus burgers grace the short lunch menu.
Address:Piazza della Scala 5
Transport: Metro Cordusio or Duomo/bus 61/tram 1, 2, 20.
Telephone: 02 806 8829
Open: 7.30am-11pm Mon-Sat.

Caffè Milani (aka Zucca)
Most bars in the Galleria are tourist traps, but this place, which has been in the arcade since it opened in 1867, is an institution, once frequented by Verdi and Toscanini. The interior is spectacular, with an inlaid bar and mosaics by Angelo d’Andrea. Many people who come here order that most Milanese of aperitifs, the rhubarb-based Zucca. You might want to stand and drink at the bar: prices rise sharply once you sit down and have a waiter come to your table.
AddressGalleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Transport: Metro Duomo/bus 61/tram 1, 2, 19, 20, 24.
Telephone: 02 8646 4435
Open: 7.30am-8pm Tue-Sun.

Cafè Verdi
This quietly dignified caffè may be on the touristy side, but it remains a must for opera fans. Situated across the road from La Scala, it’s a convenient coffee-break spot for company members. But even if you don’t run into Placido Domingo, you can soak up the atmosphere, surrounded by busts and photos of composers. It also serves food, and is popular with bankers at lunchtime.
AddressVia Giuseppe Verdi 6
Transport: Metro Cordusio or Duomo/bus 61/tram 1, 2, 20.
Telephone: 02 863 880
Open: 7am-8.30pm daily

Bar Bianco
Bar Bianco is an island of fine drinking and free aperitivo snacks, shipwrecked in the middle of Parco Sempione. Although popular for its caffè macchiato on a sunny weekend in winter, Bianco comes into its own in June, July and August when its freestanding structure is shaken to the rafters by a late-night, clubby crowd. There’s also free Wi-Fi!
AddressViale Enrico Ibsen 4, Parco Sempione
Transport: Bus 57, 61/tram 1, 4, 7, 19.
Telephone: 02 8699 2026
Open: June-Aug 9am-11.30pm Mon-Wed; 9am-1am Thur, Sun; 9am-2am Fri, Sat. Sept-May 9am-11.30pm daily.