I don’t know what it is, but pretty much everyone I know here since I moved seems to appreciate great quality food. I’m not talking about those expensive restaurant critic-type people either. Quality of food is valued highly here whether you are at that rundown building that turned rustic restaurant serving fresh carne on the grill, or a nice seafood ristorante on the sea. Moving here has taught me so much about food and how much quality and freshness is absolutely number one no matter where you are. Using produce that is in season and that is organically grown makes a huge difference. That’s what makes Italian cuisine so special.
This morning I am sitting here with my cup of tea while E sleeps away his jet lag from his two week business trip to the United States. As I walked down the street to go get some fresh bread from the panificio it seemed as if it would be another beautiful Spring day again. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think Spring is here to stay and I couldn’t be happier. As my succulents and cactus sun bath outside I decided I should start to think about what I will prepare for lunch. First thought was risotto. Risotto! “Why on earth have I not yet posted a recipe for risotto on my blog yet?!”, I thought.
Isn’t spring time just wonderful? It’s as if the world wakes up again. Flowers begin to bloom, the temperature begins to rise and of course the spring produce. I was a little too excited when I saw that asparagus was making an appearance in the grocery stores again. Believe it or not, I would pick some green veggies over a dessert any day. I’m crazy, I know.
One thing I do love almost as equally as vegetables is citrus. I love the way it looks, I love the way it smells and obviously I love the taste. We were over at E’s grandparents house for a special Sunday lunch where she made a delicious shrimp pasta and I had noticed a gorgeous kumquat tree in her front yard. I just go crazy when I spot a citrus tree, I am absolutely obsessed, maybe it’s because I grew up in Portland where it would literally be impossible to grow any form of citrus tree there. Anyway, I managed to tell her how beautiful I thought the tree was (in Italian, mind you) and two days later she came knocking on my door with a huge bag full of them. Oh happy day!
Living near the sea is a dream come true of mine. But we do lack snow topped mountains and sometimes you need a good dose of snow. Fortunately we are able to drive up North a few hours and enter a winter wonderland. Our friend’s family member has a cabin up at Canazei, Italy and we were lucky enough to be invited to join him and his girlfriend in a wintery weekend up in the Italian Alps. We had a late start driving so when we arrived I wasn’t able to see anything except black shadows caused by the moon’s brightness. I didn’t know what to except but I never doubt Italy’s ability to constantly surprise me with it’s beauty.
I woke the next morning, quickly opened the drapes and my jaw dropped…
Two weeks ago we went to Bolzano, E had work meetings and I was able to tag along this time. Bolzano is a 5 hour drive away up into the Italian Alps and the capital of Sudtirol, in the Alto Adige region of Northeastern Italy. We went last year as well and I remember it fondly and loved it. The shops are amazing so of course I had a good time. There was a lot to see but I wasn’t overwhelmed and it still felt familiar. I didn’t mind roaming the streets all day by myself.
I cannot believe it is already November because it sure hasn’t felt like autumn around here with 70 degree weather and humid temperatures. Wednesday was a beautiful day and I had taken a trip earlier to a nearby beach to collect some white sand for a project I had in mind. The beach inspired me to make something fresh and easy to prepare for lunch that day and tuna seemed to be the perfect answer. I grabbed a freshly baked loaf of pane (bread) on the way home and began preparing lunch.
A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I went to a bakery in town to have cappuccinos and pastries one Saturday morning. A few minutes later after sitting down a couple friend of ours came strolling in. They were dressed in very casual clothes that I had never seen them in before. We asked them what they were up to and they replied with telling us they had plans to go into the belora forest to find some porcini mushrooms. I had no idea people did this, especially our friends! I was very intrigued. We changed our clothes and joined them for the fun.
Because it was the middle of October the floor was covered in leaves which made it quite difficult to spot the brown-rounded tops of the funghi porcini on the forest floor. Our two friends were much more experienced than us but we got the hang of it just fine. After about three hours frolicking through the trees with our walking sticks in hand, we finally called it quits. The result was fantastic because we all had incredible luck! Our basket was full of delizioso porcini mushrooms and our friend Federico even found a couple of bubbole mushrooms. (the thin stemmed white mushroom pictured) I had no prior knowledge of mushrooms and what kind are okay to eat and what are not but luckily our friends did.
Conversation came up about how we would enjoy these beauties; I would make gnocchi with a porcini and sausage cream sauce gnocchi alla boscaiola for dinner that night and we would make an impromptu dinner party. People that know me well know that I am a major fan of entertaining so I was thrilled with the decision and also very flattered that they would trust me (the American girl) with making the meal!
Serving size; 6
6 small potatoes boiled and riced potate novelle
2 cups flour
3 Italian sausages
2 + 1/2 cups chopped porcini mushrooms
200 ml Chef Panna cream sauce ( my favorite brand to use because it’s very creamy and smooth)
salt and pepper
Fill a large pot of water, large pinch of salt and add your potatoes. Bring potatoes to a boil for 10-12 minutes until tender. Rice the potatoes and place on a well floured working surface. Add the two eggs and flour (a little at a time) to the riced potatoes and start handling it enough so that it becomes less sticky to handle. You might have to add a little more flour as you go but the less flour, the better texture. In the end it should feel semi firm to the touch. Try not work with it too much or your gnocchi will be hard. Cut the dough in eight sections and start to roll each piece into a long strip, about 1/2 inch wide. Cut them evenly into 1/4-1/2 pieces. Heat a large pot of water.
For the sauce lightly oil a large saucepan with olive oil and break the Italian sausage into bite-sized pieces. Add the chopped porcini pieces and sauté for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat. Last but definitely not least, add the cream sauce. If you don’t have access to Chef Panna then you can use any plain cream based sauce. Season with salt and cracked pepper.
Once your large pot of water is boiling add a good pinch of salt and add your gnocchi pieces. Fresh gnocchi only takes a few minutes to cook and when they float to the top they are finished. Take a slotted spoon and place them in the porcini and sausage cream sauce. Coat all the gnocchi and serve. As for the bubbole mushrooms Federico found, I sautéed them with a little olive oil and sage and seasoned with salt and pepper. My mouth is watering just thinking about how wonderful this meal was.
Autumn is here, Autumn is here! Nature’s colors changing, crisp morning air, and the moment you release those cozy sweaters out from the back of your closet. AND dun dun dun… pumpkins! I personally adore pumpkins and I thought I would make gnocchi with roasted pumpkin smothered in a scrumptious sage butter sauce. I know what you are thinking…. but gnocchi is one of those dishes that you think is really impossible to make at home, but it’s truly not. Please do your taste buds a favor and try this out at home.
I decided it was a good morning to grab a cappuccino in town and walk around aimlessly. I have always loved doing this because you can find things you would have never found before by just taking a moment for yourself to appreciate the little things in life. The darling shop full of vintage records, the lady emptying baskets full of fresh fruit and vegetables out of her truck, the pastry shops that fill the air with that indescribably sweet aroma. Ah, sometimes not saying anything at all and just observing life around you can be so fulfilling.
Have you ever been asked the question “What would you chose to be your last meal?” Well my answer would be easy, my answer would be this recipe. I remember the very first time I had this dish at a restaurant here in Italy. It was love at first bite. First of all, pasta. And let’s face it, pasta is good with everything. Then you have mussels, clams, prawns and it’s all mixed in with olive oil- tomato- garlic sauce goodness?! That my friends, is what I call a party in the mouth.
Instead of waiting until the weekend to dive into seafood heaven, I decided it was time to try it at home.