Fall Recipe: Risotto alla Zucca

Fall is right around the corner and while that means the end of beach days, the end of swimming outdoors, the end of long sunny evenings, it also means the beginning of fall traditions, including those involving warm, filling comfort food.

If you like you like the savory-sweet taste of pumpkin, this recipe is perfect. Risotto alla zucca, pumpkin risotto, is a typical dish in the Lombardy region. If you’re already an expert risotto chef, this will be an easy upgrade to the traditional risotto giallo, which uses just saffron as a flavoring. If not, the instructions below will walk you through the basic steps for making a risotto, with the addition of tasty pumpkin and nutmeg.

This recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free and can even be made vegan (just get rid of the butter altogether and use a cheese substitute instead of the cheese). Whether you make the vegetarian or vegan version, we’re sure you’ll like it as much as we do!

Risotto alla zucca, serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small Mantovana or Delica pumpkin (c. 700g)
  • 1 small onion (c. 150g)
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp butter
  • 350g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 700ml broth
  • 2-3tsp nutmeg
  • 80g grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • Salt (to taste)

Preparation

  1. Cook the pumpkin. It can either boiled by cutting it up (after removing the rind and seeds), but a tastier way of cooking the pumpkin is to roast it. Do this by carefully cutting it in half, removing the seeds and baking in a pan at 200°C for about 30-40 minutes, until the pulp is soft. Let cool, spoon out pulp and discard the rind.
  2. Dice the onion. Saute onion in the olive oil and butter until transparent, then add the pumpkin. Cook for about 5 more minutes, then remove from the pan.
  3. Heat the broth in a separate pan. Add the rice to the original pan and “toast” it by cooking on high, stirring often. Then add the white wine. Turn down the heat. Begin adding the broth as the rice cooks.
  4. After about 15 minutes (or halfway through the rice’s cooking time depending on the variety used) add the onion and pumpkin mixture. Continue adding broth until the rice is al dente (more or less broth may be needed to cook the rice). Remove from heat.
  5. Add the nutmeg to taste, the grated cheese and any additional salt if necessary. Buon apetito!

What’s Happening in Milano in September 2016

If August in Milan is the month for mass exodus, September is the month for reentry for students, young professionals, families and pensioners. So it’s no wonder that tons of events are planned for the months that marks the start of the school year. Here we’ve put together the best the city has to offer, whether you’re interested in music, video gaming, film, fashion, good eats or wine. The hard part will be deciding where to go!

MITO logoFor Classical Music Lovers
What: MiTo Music Festival
When: 2-22 September
Where: Various venues around Milano
This music fest, in its 10th edition, features classical music concerts at all the main auditoriums and concert locations around the city. Many performances have free admission and the other have ticket prices ranging between €5 and €20. Tickets can be purchased online, at Teatro Dal Verme or at the concert location 90 minutes before the performance. One of this year’s main events is MITO Open Singing, in the Piazza del Duomo this Saturday, where the audience is invited to sing along with 1,000 choir singers.

Milano Game Fest logoFor Video Game Nerds
What: Milano Game Festival
When: 8-12 September
Where: IULM University, Via Carlo Bo 7 (M3 Romolo)
Much like a film festival provides a shared experience of viewing a newly released movie, the Milano Game Festival allows participants to experience one brand new video game together. Everyone plays the same game at the same time for about two hours, sharing a common experience to discuss and remember. Held as part of the XXI Triennale “Design after Design,” game creators will be available to meet attendees. Registration is required online.

Milano Film Fest logoFor Movie Buffs
What: Milano Film Festival
When: 8-18 September
Where: The Tortona area and other locations in Milano
Emerging film-makers from different parts of the world are featured at this annual event, now hosting it 21st edition. Some of the more well-known projects to check out are “Lo and Behold” (2016) directed by Werner Herzog, a documentary about the digital era and the internet, and “Gimme Danger” directed by Jim Jarmusch, with Iggy Pop talking about his band The Stooges. You can buy tickets or the MFF Card at the BASE Milano infopoint, online or at the venues. Tickets range from €5 to €8 and a MFF Card is only €10 for students and provides discounts on all screenings.

13901605_615408035303987_8422224077917196079_nFor Fashionistas
What: Vogue Fashion’s Night Out
When: 20 September
Where: Shopping areas in and near the city center
The fashion magazine Vogue has been organizing this event every year since 2009, to kick off the start of Fashion Week. This year, the only city in Italy with activities will be Milan (it was previously also held in other cities like Florence and Rome). The whole city comes out to check out shops, get freebies from various stores and companies, go to cocktail parties, support charities and attend concerts and other cultural events.

What: Women’s Fashion Week
When: 21-26 September
Where: Various venues around Milano
Want to paparazzi the VIPs and fashion models going to and leaving the biggest fashions shows? Or just get the latest on all the new Spring/Summer 2017 looks? Then you can’t miss Milano Fashion Week! Though the fashion shows are often reserved to industry insiders and celebrities, there are several events open to the public. In Piazza Gae Aulenti, you can hit up the Fashion Hub at UniCredit Pavilion, where 14 brands will be featured. You can watch the shows on jumbo screens in the same area, as well as Piazzetta Croce Rossa, or online. Finally, Franca Sozzani has curated the exhibit, “Crafting the Future: Stories of Artisanship and Innovation,” at the recently opened MUDEC museum.

Food Truck Fest logoFor Foodies
What: Streeat – Food Truck Festival
When: 16-18 September
Where: Carroponte, Via Granelli 1, Sesto San Giovanni (M1 Sesto Marelli, M5 Bignami)
The best food trucks (and food Ape Piaggios and food bikes and food carts and food motorcycles) in Italy will be in Milano for you to enjoy. There will also be plenty of craft beer, wines cocktails and smoothies to choose from and good live music while you’re eating and drinking. There will be lots of regional Italian options, international fare, and vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and lactose free choices.

Bottigile Aperto locationOctober Bonus Event: For Wine Connoisseurs  
What: Milano Wine Show – Bottiglie Aperte
When: 1-3 October
Where: Il Palazzo delle Stelline, Corso Magenta 61 (M1-M2 Cadorna)
Want to experience a full day of wine tasting excellent DOC and DOCG Italian wine from all over the country? Then this is the event for you! Tickets aren’t cheap (they start at €36.50 for a one-day pass) but you’ll get your pick of all the varietals from all the different regions in Italy from more than 100 producers. Sommeliers will also be on hand to explain the wines you’re tasting. Get more info on their website and a link to buy tickets.

Keywords for Cracking the Expo Milano 2015 Code

With an area covering 1.1km² and over 140 countries involved, it’s no wonder the 2015 Expo has created something of its very own language. To help you navigate the event, we’ve put together a list of keywords that will guide your visit to the unique celebration that is the Expo!

Rendering of Decumano
Photo from Expo2015 website

Cardo – a 350m axis that is the central pathway for the Italian Pavilion. It runs north-south, as the term was originally used for the main road in this direction in ancient Roman cities. Find out more about it in the Cardo section of the Expo website.

Casa dell’Acqua – 32 free water kiosks where you can drink still or sparkling water, provided by Gruppo Cap.

Cascina Triulza – one of the many Expo pavilions, it’s an old farmhouse that’s been renovated for the event. It houses civil society organizations and focuses on sustainable food practices and part of the UN’s Zero Hunger Challenge installations. More information can be found in the Triulza section of the Expo website.

Cluster – there are 9 pavilions hosting multiple countries or regions, but focused on a particular food topic located throughout the site. These include: Rice, Cocoa and Chocolate, Coffee, Fruits and Legumes, Spices, Cereals and Tubers, Bio-Mediterraneum, Islands, Sea and Food and Arid Zones. Find out all about these areas on the Expo website.

Decumano – a term originally used in ancient Roman cities to describe the road running east-west, this is the main drag at the Expo site. Also called World Avenue, the street is 1.5km long and flanked by the national pavilions and clusters. It symbolizes the connection between where food is consumed (the city) and where food is produced (the countryside). More information is available in the Decumano section of the Expo website.

Expo – also known as the World’s Fair, World Exposition and Universal Exposition. These events are held every few years at a different location around the world and generally have a main theme that participating countries focus on in their pavilions. The first Expo was held in London in 1851.

Expo Gate and Castle
Photo from Expo2015 website

Expo Gate – a location in downtown Milan (in Piazza Castello) where information is available about the Expo and where you can also get tickets. It’s open every day from 10am to 8pm. More information is available on the Expo website.

Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life – this year’s official motto and theme for the Expo. Participants are asked to focus on food, farming, resources and culinary traditions. Read more about the theme on the Expo website.

Foody – the Expo’s mascot, loosely based on Giuseppe Arcimboldi’s portraits made of different kinds of food. Before the inauguration of the event, the mascot traveled around the world promoting the Expo. Now, there’s a Foody Parade two times a day along the Decumano at 11:30am and 4:00pm. Learn more in the Foody section of the Expo website.

Pavilion – exhibition area for participating countries, international organizations, civil society organizations and corporations. Each pavilion has been funded, built and managed by the participating partner and hosts itineraries, exhibits, events and food tastings. Find out all about the 96 pavilions on the Expo website.

Pavilion Zero – located right at the main entrance of the Expo, this is meant to be a general introduction to the site. It has a few cool exhibits focusing on the theme and it’s definitely worth a visit! Find out more on the Expo website.

People Mover – the name of the environmentally-friendly shuttle that is available to get around the Expo area. They run every 5-7 minutes in a clockwise direction around the area. If you need to get from one end of the Decumano to the other, you might want to think about using the bus!

Rho – the name of the city just outside the Milan city limits where the Expo site is located. Remember that because it’s in Rho, which is technically not Milan, public transport tickets cost more than travel within the city.

Thematic Area – these are pavilions that feature topic-based itineraries with a specific focus. The areas include: Pavilion Zero, Future Food District, Children’s Park, Biodiversity Park and Art & Food (the latter is not located at the Expo, but at the Triennale building). Get more info in the Thematic Areas section of the Expo website.

Tree of LifeAlbero della Vita in Italian, an installation designed by Expo Artistic Director, Marco Balich. The wood and steel structure is based on designs from the Renaissance. It’s located in the center of Lake Arena, next to the Italy Pavilion. You can periodic water shows in the fountains surrounding the tree. Word on the street is that the sculpture will be relocated to Piazza Loreto in Milan after the end of the Expo, but a final decision still hasn’t been made. Read more about the structure on the Italy Pavilion website.

Zero Hunger Challenge – a UN supported initiative that was launched in 2012 with the objective of allowing all people to have access to nutritious food. The UN has created 18 installations representing this challenge, located in various locations around the Expo site, instead of in one pavilion. Get more info about this topic in the dedicated section of the Expo website.

Everything You Need to Know About EXPO Milano 2015

A few weeks have gone by since the official opening of the Expo, definitely the event of the year (or perhaps decade) for Milano. All the VIPs came out for the inauguration on April 30-May 1 and now the dust has settled, both literally and figuratively, on the Expo site. The last pavilions are being finished and the volunteers and workers have had time to get into their routines welcoming and assisting visitors. That makes now the best time to go!

So you’ve decided to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. But before you go, you need some basic info on when to gowhere to buy tickets, how to get there and how to plan your day. All these details are available on the Expo website, of course, but we’ve put together a one-page summary for easily access, just for students!

Avoid the kids and wait a few weeks (or go at night)
The Expo is open every day 10am to 11pm, from May 1-October 31. That gives you lots of options for when to go. One thing to keep in mind is that during these first few weeks lots of local schools are bringing schoolchildren to the site for a field trip. Want to avoid the throngs of kids? Just wait until school is no longer in session: the last day of class is June 8. Keep in mind that school will start up again in the fall in mid-September.
If you can’t wait that long, by all means, brave the crowds. Or just go on an evening ticket, which is super-cheap (see info below). The field trips will be over long before 7pm!

Egea sign for Expo ticketsSkip the ticket line and get tickets in advance
Student tickets can’t be purchased online because you need to show your ID to prove that you’re a student in order to get the discounted price. The official Expo price for students up to 25 years old is €29. You should buy your tickets at a the ExpoGate (in Piazza Cordusio, near the Castle Sforzesco fountain) or another authorized vendor in order to avoid waiting in line at the Expo site. (Be aware that even if you skip the ticket line at the Expo, however, you’ll still have to wait to pass through the airport-like security, so be prepared to queue up!)
All students enrolled at a Milan university have an even bigger discount for one ticket: €10! And Bocconi students get a bigger reduction still, with a price of just €7. Bocconi students should go to the Egea bookstore between 10-25 June to get this discounted ticket.
Another low-cost option is the €5 evening price for admission after 7pm. This a good option to get a feel for the Expo itself, but keep in mind a few important caveats: lines can be long for buying tickets (so, again, buy tickets in advance either online or at a ticket reseller in Milan) and some pavilion activities may be closed in the evening. Restaurants, of course, will be open, so you can choose one of the many international cuisines for your dinner. This is also a great way to enjoy the famous installation the Tree of Life, designed by the Expo’s artistic director Marco Balich, because the artwork features a spectacular lights show. Also, a few of the pavilions put on music and entertainment during the later hours, so it’s a pleasant way to the spend the evening. Turnstiles for entrance close at 9pm and the site closes at 11pm, but there’s talk of keeping the Expo open until midnight on the weekends. Yet another reason to take advantage of the cheap evening ticket!

Photo from Expo2015 website

Leave the car, take the subway
If you happen to have a car in Milan or if you’re subscribed to one of the many car sharing services in the city, you might be tempted to drive to the Expo. Resist the temptation! Parking is super expensive (€12 per car), advance reservations are required and you’ll need to take a shuttle to get from the parking lot to the pavilions.
The best way to get to the Expo is by taking one of the subway lines that stop there. Coming from the city, the red line (M1) in the Rho Fiera Expo direction is probably the easiest option. Other less-used lines are part of the Regional Rail Service, just look for S5, S6, S11 and S14. Remember, however, that Rho is outside the city limits and your usual monthly pass to use the public transportation won’t cover your trip. You’ll still need to get another ticket to get to the Expo: a round-trip ticket is €5. Complete info is available on the ATM website.

Internal scene with net
Photo from Expo2015 website

Channel your inner Indiana Jones and choose wisely
There are a total of 96 pavilions representing 143 countries at the Expo. That means that you absolutely won’t be able to see everything in one day. So choose wisely! You can visit the pavilion of your home country or that of your friends. Or maybe go to the places representing countries you may not get a chance to actually visit in the near future. Or make your choice simply based on the attractions at the pavilions: a full-on forest in Austria, a fun net walkway in Brazil, a slide in Germany, an immense plant wall in Israel, the scarcity project in Switzerland or the sand-like architecture in the United Arab Emirates. You can study up on everything the Expo has to offer by checking out their website.
Remember, the area is open from 10am to 11pm every day, so you can certainly pack in a lot during that time… but not everything!

Skip breakfast and come hungry
Remember how there are a total of 96 different pavilions? There are just about that many choices of where and what to eat, as most countries also offer a few options for visitors to taste the local cuisine. Prices vary greatly, from a few euros for a sandwich to a full meal of €40-50 euros. Some highlights: empanadas in Argentina, arepas in Columbia, foie gras in France, fish burgers in Holland, satay in Indonesia, kimchi in Korea, margaritas in Mexico, arancini at the Mediterranean cluster, lobster rolls in the US . Of course, this is just a small taste of all the Expo has to offer. So bring a few extra euros and an empty stomach and you won’t be disappointed!

Easter Recipe: Torta Pasqualina

Europe welcomed spring this year with a partial solar eclipse (and in a very small area a full one) just a few days ago. In Italy, the coming of spring means that Easter must be just around the corner. This year the Christian/Catholic holiday will take place on Sunday April 5th. But how do Italians celebrate Easter? Like many other holidays around here, there are some unique Easter traditions, including mouth-watering traditions for the young and old!

The logistics
Easter is always on a Sunday and the day after – Easter Monday – is a holiday. So that means no school for the kids, no work for the adults and most shops will be closed. Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, is a normal working day.

The traditions
Lots of Italian families get together for a big meal on Easter Sunday, but the day after is often reserved for an outing with friends. The saying, Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi (literally meaning Christmas with your family, Easter with your friends) makes it clear that the day after Easter (or if you want to make a long weekend) is up for grabs and you don’t necessarily need to celebrate with your family. That means a lot of people take advantage of the spring weather and take a train or go on a road trip for a day out of town.

The food
Traditional Easter foods include lamb, pasta dishes and lots of recipes with eggs. What about desserts? The most common cake is the colomba, which is a lot like Christmas’s star, panettone, but with the addition of crunchy pearl sugar and almonds on top and shaped into an abstract dove shape, a religious symbol.
Easter is a great time for chocolate lovers, too. Kids usually receive large, hollow chocolate eggs to open on Easter, which contain a small surprise gift. You can also find smaller chocolate eggs, sometimes with a candy shell and hollow inside or with a creamy hazelnut filling.

The recipe
Want to take part in an Italian Easter food tradition? You can make this classic dish: it’s tasty, vegetarian, budget-friendly and not too complicated to put together. This spinach and ricotta savory Easter pie (torta pasqualina) is originally from the Liguria area and versions of it are popular throughout Italy this time of year. The whole eggs inside the pie are what makes it especially perfect for Easter.

Torta Pasqualina: Spinach and ricotta savory Easter pie

 

Puff Pastry
If you don’t have much experience working with pastry, you might want to save some time and buy puff pastry (pasta sfoglia) from the grocery store. Two 230g packages, preferably the round version, should suffice.
If you’re feeling adventurous and have some time on your hands, you can make your own puff pastry. Use your most trusted recipe website or video recipe channel for ingredients and technique.

Filling ingredients

  • 1kg fresh spinach (or 400g frozen spinach)
  • 1 small onion (about 100g chopped)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 500g ricotta
  • 130g parmigiano reggiano (or grana padana)
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 sprigs marjoram
  • 1tsp nutmeg

Preparation
1. Start by preparing the puff pastry if making from scratch. While the pastry is chilling, prepare the filling.
2. Clean (if fresh) and cook the spinach in boiling, salted water. Drain water and set aside.
3. Dice the onion and saute in a large frying pan with a thin layer of olive oil until soft. Add spinach to onion, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for about 10 minutes.
4. Clean marjoram leaves and discard woody twigs. Add ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, 2 eggs, marjoram leaves and nutmeg to spinach. Mix well.
5. Place layer of puff pastry in a 30cm round baking pan. Fill with spinach and ricotta filling. Create six indentations for remaining eggs and carefully place each egg, being careful not to break the yolk. Cover with puff pastry and crimp the edges.
6. Bake in preheated oven at  180 degrees for 45 minutes. Crust should be golden when removed from oven.
7. Buon appetito!

Celebrating “Fat Saturday” in Milano

Streamers in front of Palazzo della RagioneWhat is Carnevale?
The holiday of Carnevale is celebrated all over Italy (and in many historically Catholic countries), a few weeks before Easter Sunday. Lent starts right after Carnevale ends, which is a period of sacrifice, so the idea is to  have fun before starting a time of religious reflection.
These days, traditions are mostly geared towards children, who can wear costumes, get a few extra days off school and throw confetti and streamers.
University students can get in on the action by taking a day-trip, going to a club or discoteca in a cool or sexy costume, or just enjoying the holiday’s sweet treats.

Famous Carnevale locations
Italy’s most famous Carnevale celebration is held in Venice. You’ll see people with very elaborate costumes and beautiful masks in the main streets and Piazza San Marco. The city is packed, face painters and vendors selling souvenirs are everywhere. Visitors come from all over the world to experience Venice during this time of year.
Students in Milan can take a train to Venice, even just for the day! By leaving early in the morning and taking the last train back to Milan, you can get the full experience of wandering the city for a day, taking breaks for snacks and drinks along the way, without having to look for a hotel. The train takes about 2.5 hours, check the Trenitalia website for times and prices.
In Venice and other cities around the world, festivities culminate on Mardi Gras – Tuesday 17 February this year – which is the last day before Ash Wednesday.

Why is the date different in Milano?
The last day of Carnevale is on Tuesday all over the world, except in Milano.
That’s because a different liturgical rite, called the Ambrosian Rite – named after a fourth century bishop of Milan – is used here. The legend goes that Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, was out of town on a pilgrimage; when he announced he’d be back in time for Carnevale, the locals decided to wait to celebrate with him. So now the holiday lasts four days longer than any other Carnevale: until Saturday, called sabato grasso (Fat Saturday). So Lent starts on Sunday instead of Ash Wednesday.
This year, “Fat Saturday” will take place on Saturday 21 February.

Carnevale desserts in a shop windowEvents in Milan
There are tons of events scheduled for the days leading up to and on Fat Saturday, here are just a few:

  • Fabbrica del Vapore, Via Procaccini 4: 18-21 February. Music and dancing, digital art and street art. All to celebrate Carnevale.
  • Milano Clown Festival, Isola neighborhood: 18-21 February. Over 100 events featuring 70 performers at various locations in the Isola area. Check out their website for more info.
  • Tunnel Club, Via Sammartini: 21 February. Orient Express is the theme for the party that will be held on Carnevele.

Carnevale sweets
Baked or fried, filled with cream, fruit, chocolate or nothing, leavened or unleavened, covered in powdered sugar, chocolate or plain, there is a seemingly endless variety of Carnevale treats to choose from around Italy. Milan’s specialty are chiacchiere, which literally means chatting, because that what you’ll be doing while your eating this dessert.
You can find these sweets in any pasticceria in the city, and at the supermarket for a lower-cost treat.
Our advice to get into the spirit of Carnevale: why not organize a taste-testing party to find your favorite dessert? Or just try a new version every day!

2014 Christmas Markets in Milan

With the holiday season almost here, the time has come to think about exchanging gifts with friends and family and maybe decorating your apartment or dorm room with some festive trimmings.

As a predominately Catholic country, Italy celebrates the several important holidays in December and early January. In Milan, the season official kicks off on 7 December, the Feast of St. Ambrose, the patron saint of the city. That’s immediately followed by a national holiday on 8 December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Then of course Christmas is on the 25th, and the day after, St. Stephen’s Day, is also a holiday. Winter vacation usually ends right after 6 January, which celebrates the Epiphany.

So now that you know more about the calendar, you can understand why Christmas shopping usually revolves around 7-8 December: everyone has some extra time to think about presents and seasonal decorations! Milan may not be as famous for its Christmas markets as some other northern European cities, but the Milanese do enjoy taking part in some annual holiday shopping. Find out more below!

Crowds at holiday marketL’Artigiano in Fiera
This huge event has been hosted in Milan for almost 20 years – it seems to get bigger each year. With over 3,000 stands (!), you really need at least a full day –and a lot of stamina – to see everything. Your best bet is to make a game plan beforehand so you can hit the countries or Italian regions you’re most interested in. And don’t forget to come hungry: this market is also a great place to taste some good food from all over the world.
Open daily from 10am to 10:30pm through 8 December. Take the red line (MM1) to the Rho Fiera stop, but make sure you buy a €2.50 transport ticket since Rho is outside the city limits. Admission is free.

Fiera degli O’Bej O’Bej
This traditional market reportedly dates back to the 13th century. It’s held on and around the city’s saint’s day, 7 December, and lasts about one week. For the past few years, the market is located in Piazza Castello. Crafts and other items are on sale, as well as typical winter foods like chestnuts and sweets.
This year the market will be held from 5 to 8 December. Located at the Cairoli Castello stop on the subway (MM1).

Corsa dei Babbi Natale
On 13 December at 3:30pm, hundreds of people dressed up as Santa Claus will take the streets on a 5km run starting and ending in Piazza Castello. The registration fee is €15, and all participants will receive a Santa hat, bag, a race number and a few coupons from sponsors. The website is in Italian so you might need a native speaker to help you navigate the online registration.

Other Markets
Various other outdoor markets around the city will also start springing up during the weekend of December 7th, and should last until Christmas. Locations include Duomo, Paolo Sarpi, Piazza Gae Aulenti, Affori, Portello, Isola and others!