Get to know the ins and outs of cooking with wild mushrooms in Tuscany and what to pay attention to.
The sound alone has you guessing that “funghi” mushrooms are an Italian delicacy, however cooking with these funghi is not as easy as you think. Funghi is a word used to describe all types of wild mushrooms including well-known Porcini and Chanterelles mushrooms and truffles. The Italian kitchen is famous for the use of wild mushrooms in their Pasta’s, meat dishes and Pizza’s. Cooking with fresh wild mushrooms is definitely an experience you should try at least once while cooking an Italian dish. The exquisite difference taste between the cultivated mushrooms and the wild ones is remarkable. But never go outdoors to find these funghi by yourself! Always use a guide to help you “hunt” these mushrooms that has knowledge on the mushrooms and is trained in recognizing the most sought after varieties and discerning the poisonous types. And even though you come back from the hunt empty handed; this is also part of the adventure.
The most common wild mushroom types are Porcini (known for their reddish-brown colour and woodsy flavour), Chanterelles (known for their trumpet shape), Pioppini and morels (known for their spongy look). A nice fun fact is that the ancient Romans called the Porcini mushrooms hog mushrooms as pigs were overly fond of the Porcini mushrooms as a food source. Therefore Porcini literally means “little pig” in Italian. Wild mushrooms are used in an infinite variety of dishes within the antipasti, primi piatti and secondi piatti. Even in the contorno (side dishes) Italians love to add mushrooms to increase the flavour and texture of the main dishes. But mainly the wild mushrooms are used in pasta and pasta-filled dishes such as tagliatelle, Fettuccine ai funghi and lasanga. The rich, heady and meaty mushroom flavours make the wild mushrooms a versatile ingredient for numerous dishes. As they give grace to an elegant stew or source as well. Therefore the dishes are often accompanied by a graceful red wine such as a Barolo.
Weather conditions are the key factors in producing a good mushroom season, which requires a perfect combination of rain, sun, warmth and humidity. Therefore the peak season for mushrooms hunting in Italy is from April to early November. But as it stays warmer longer in the south, areas such as Calabria and Sicily seem to have great tasting mushrooms until late December even. Different mushrooms can be found in different places in the forest and in different types of forest. For instance; porcini and chanterelles mushrooms are mostly common in chestnut, pine or oak forests as these seem to have the most ideal habitat for the wild mushrooms.
When you go out for mushroom hunting there are some things you should be aware of: always use baskets and not plastic while gathering mushrooms, mushrooms should not be washed when cooking them (just clean of the dirt), most wild mushrooms must be cooked before consumption and some even should be boiled before cooking.
In Italy, wild mushrooms are dried at home, often using wooden crates used for transporting fruits and vegetables. These mushrooms are spread out in the boxes and left to dry in sunny and warm places. Most important is to keep the mushrooms in a dry place, as humidity is the enemy of all dried mushrooms! Hope these tips help you to get your wild mushroom cooking spot on so you can amaze everyone with your new learnt skills. Want to practically learn how to gather and cook Tuscan funghi and get to know what dishes are best combined with these funghi? Try one of our Tuscan cooking classes by our Italian chefs, they will know all the tips and tricks and help you through the hassle. But do not forget; the fact that the adventure contains a whiff of danger and guessing is part of the allure.
Have fun cooking!
The Tuscookany team
Find below our delicious Mushroom risotto recipe for 6 persons:
- 400 g arborio rice
- 1 small onion
- 100 g porcini mushrooms
- 1 l chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 small bunch of chopped parsley
- 1 glass of dry white wine
- 100 g grated parmesan
- 2 Tbs olive oil
1. Soak the Porcini mushrooms in lukewarm water for half an hour. strain and reserve the liquid.
2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the mushrooms, parsley and fry gently for a few minutes. Season to taste. Reserve.
3. Heat the stock in a saucepan.
4. Chop finely the onion, brown in a skillet with olive oil, add the rice and let it toast for a few minutes, stirring.
5. Add the wine and the Porcini liquid and let it evaporate stirring all the time.
6. Add the mushrooms and a few ladles of hot stock just to cover the rice. Simmer, stirring always until the rice has absorbed nearly all the liquid. Continue to add more stock as soon as the previous addition has evaporated.
7. When the rice is cooked ( 35 minutes or thereabout ), remove the pan from the heat, mix in the parmesan and serve immediately.1 comment | Add comment
At Tuscookany, you will learn everything about coffee: from pronouncing, to preparing and of course enjoying!
Even though coffee may have been invented in Ethiopia, Italy is where the magic is at for true coffee lovers. The Italian word for coffee is ‘caffè’ and this may refer to either an espresso or a European coffee bar. The Italians are well known for their special attention to the preparation, the selection of the blends and the use of accessories when creating many types of coffee, which basically makes Italy the coffee capital of the world! Interested in the origin of the espresso, 10 ways to prepare an espresso or how you can enjoy an espresso in the Tuscan hills at one of our cookery schools in Italy? Keep reading!
As you may or may not know, coffee is made from coffee beans from a coffee plant. The most popular kind of coffee is Arabica, from the Coffee Arabica plant in Ethiopia. Did you know that Arabica coffee makes up approximately 60% of coffee production worldwide? The second most popular coffee is Robusta, which is made from the Coffea Canephora plant, which also has its origins in Africa.
There is a whole process that goes by before you can enjoy your cup of coffee. After plucking the beans from the plant they first have to be peeled, cleaned and dried before they can be being roasted. These roasted beans can then be ground. The roughness of this the grind will be determined by the preparation method. For example, Turkish or cold brew coffee have a thick grind, whereas espresso is made from the finest grind. After grinding the beans, you can use a French press, a Drip or, of course, an espresso machine, to prepare the perfect cup of coffee! At our Italian cooking classes in Tuscany, we have a great espresso machine that you can use whenever you wish!
Did you know that the modern steamless espresso machine was invented in Milan, Italy in 1938? No wonder the Italians love their espresso!
Achille Gaggia was the first to invent a machine that forced water to flow over the coffee grounds at a high pressure, which produced the unique creamy top layer of the espresso called the crema. From applying for a patent in 1938, the invention spread in coffee bars and restaurants across Italy and the rest of Europe quickly. The Italian-based company Gaggia, named after its founder, still produces espresso and cappuccino machines to this day.
Whereas most people think of filter coffee or cappuccino when ordering a cup of the black gold, the Italians have tens of sorts of coffee, all made with their lovely espresso. We’ve listed the 10 most popular types of espresso for you:
10 types of Espresso drinks
The list leader is the classic espresso, and its name means expressly prepared. Order a caffè in Italy and you will get a small cup with a very concentrated coffee. In need of a lot of caffeine? Try ordering a ‘doppio’, which means a double espresso!
Thought an espresso was small? Ristretto, which means restricted, is only 15-20 ml, which is roughly two sips! The amount of ground coffee is the same in both espresso and ristretto, only less water is added in the process.
This is a very popular drink in Italy and it means stained. You make a macchiato with 2 oz espresso and steamed milk.
Cortado is the Spanish baby brother of the macchiato and this type has equal parts of espresso and warm milk, which makes the cup ‘cut’ in half.
Probably one of the most popular espresso types is the americano: espresso with hot water. The espresso is extracted on top of the water, which gives it a milder and sweeter taste than a regular espresso. The story goes that American G.I.’s in Italy would dilute espresso with hot water during World War II, to imitate the coffee they were accustomed to at home.
At Tuscookany, we love cappuccino. The coffee, named for the color after the colour of the Capuchin monk’s robes consists of 1/3 part warm milk, 1/3 part milk foam and 1/3 part espresso.
Latte, which means milk in Italian, is made with 3 parts milk to 1 part espresso. It is regularly served in a tall glass.
- Flat white:
This is the lovechild of a latte macchiato and cappuccino and the flat white is made with espresso and warm milk. If you think a latte macchiato has a great taste but too much milk and a cappuccino has too much foam, you definitely have to try the flat white!
The mocha is the perfect drink for chocolate loving coffee drinkers. It is made with espresso, milk and chocolate and definitely worth a try when you are in Italy!
Mezzo means half and this drink combines an americano with milk. Perfect if you’re not a coffee drinker or if you like your coffee mild and with milk!
Are you excited to prepare your own espresso, macchiato or americano and drink it with a view of the Tuscan hills? Come to our Tuscan cooking vacation and enjoy your caffè all week long! Indulge in coffee at our cooking classes in Italy, whether you like yours early in the morning or after cooking classes in the afternoon! Drink coffee at breakfast, during the cooking classes or at the pool: at Tuscookany we understand that there’s never enough coffee! Especially if it’s Italian coffee J ! You will even be working on your health, as drinking coffee can also have a healthy effect on your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing!
What is your favorite Italian coffee? Let us know in the comments!
The Tuscookany Team
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At Tuscookany, we love aperitivo: it is impossible to imagine the Italian cooking culture without it!
The Italian lifestyle is all about moments with friends and the Classic Aperitivo is no exception to the rule. According to Italians, having a pre-meal drink whets your appetite and this typically bitter cocktail goes well with salty snacks. Bars and cafés offering Aperitivi will be busy from about 6.00 pm to 9.00 pm and during this time you will either be brought a plate of Italian snacks and appetizers, or you will have complimentary access to a full buffet. Although the snacks are not meant to replace dinner, they certainly can. For example, if you are having plans in the evening to go to the ballet or royal opera, you can definitely indulge in an Italian cocktail with some snacks before entering your evening program. Although Aperitivo is a traditional northern Italian phenomenon, the trend is catching on in the southern part of the peninsula as well. Florence, Arezzo in Tuscany and even Rome all have Aperitivo scenes and they are a great way to start your evening or wrap up your Tuscany cooking class!
Antonio Benedette Carpano who created one of the first types of Vermouth in 1786 is said to have invented the Aperitivo. The distiller claimed that his combination of white wine and spices stimulated the appetite and was therefore more suitable to drink before dinner than red wine. Antonio certainly marketed this aperitif effectively, as his vermouth automatically became one of the most popular Aperitivi. Did you know that in Milan they have their own version of the Aperitivo invention story? According to the Milanese, it was not Antonio Benedetto Carpano who started the tradition, but the Lombardian Gaspare Campari, the inventor of the, yes, you’ve guessed it, the famous Campari.
When walking into an Italian Aperitivo Bar you will be amazed by the displayed foods ranging from bruschetta and olives to platters full of focaccia and even quiches and pizzas. Also indispensable in the Aperitivo scene are the finest cured meats and cheeses. Curious about the different kinds of cured meats? Among the most popular are Coppa, Cacciatore, Bresaola and Prosciutto crudo. All usually smoked and cured with a variety of spices, herbs and wine. They are definitely worth a try during your stay in Italy. More into cheese? Italian cheese platters are among the best in the world, with fresh burrata, pecorino and parmigiano. Want to learn more? Our cooking classes in Italy offer the ins and outs on the most delicious Aperitivo bites!
Among the famous Aperitivo drinks is the Negroni; its strong and fruity flavour is almost an inseparable part of the Italian culture. But did you know that Aperol Spritz is also one of Italy’s most famous aperitif cocktails? The Spritz, invented in the 1950’s by the Aperol brand to increase the sales of the liquor, made its comeback in the 2000’s when actress Amanda Rosa Da Silva used the phrase “Happy Spritz, Happy Aperol” in TV commercials worldwide. Aperol is now among the best-selling liquors in Italy.
Making an Aperol Spritz is simple: fill a wine glass with ice, pour prosecco halfway up the glass, then pour Aperol to the rim of the glass and top with soda water. Garnish with orange to create the authentic Spritz. This 3-2-1 recipe is easy to make, yummy to drink and therefore perfect for late afternoon drinks in summer!
At Tuscookany, we understand the Italian kitchen but also the traditions. During the cooking classes in Tuscany, our chefs will teach you how to prepare a classic Aperitivo and even better: also, to enjoy them. Learn how to make the perfect Negroni or Aperol Spritz and accompany your cocktail with prosciutto, homemade focaccia, or bruschetta. After the Italian cooking course but before dinner there is room for a dip in the pool or time to relax and refresh. As the saying goes, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’, we know that this time is also great for some Aperitivi while watching the sun go down under the Tuscan hills.
Enthusiastic about this Italian tradition? Come and learn to cook with us at Tuscookany cooking school while enjoying an aperitif accompanied by delicious Aperitivo bites.
The Tuscookany Team
What would be your favorite Aperitivo at our cooking classes in Italy? We would love to hear from you in the comments!2 comments | Add comment
See Tuscany as you have never seen it before - combine cooking and hiking in the Casentino valley!
Immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of Tuscany. At Casa Ombuto we are now offering, for selected weeks, a combination of cooking and hiking. Learn to cook authentic Italian dishes, have fun and make friends for life, all while staying in Casa Ombuto and hiking with a professional guide in the beautiful Casentino Valley
The hikes are given by the professional, English-speaking Guides of In Quiete. They will give you more information about the landscape and its history. These Guides have known the Casentino valley since they were children and know the best spots for amazing hikes. The Hikes are organised on Monday and Friday morning and the drive to the start of the hike in the Nature Reserve of Casentino is included. The hikes are E Catergory, which means they are easy for persons who do some physical activity. Together with the group you will be able to explore the nature and history of past and present human life. The first hike will be in the surroundings of Casa Ombuto, both in Quota and Raggiolo, the second hike is a bit longer and will be in the national park of Casentino. After the hike there is enough time to grab a snack or a light lunch and get ready for the cooking lesson, given by Paola in the afternoon. We have hiking shoes, Nordic walking sticks and rain ponchos available at the villa Casa Ombuto, free for your use.
The valley is part of the province of Arezzo, which is one of the most well-known provinces of Tuscany. The Casentino Valley is rich with history, art, good food and numerous outdoor activities. Lying approximately 50 km to the east of Florence, this isolated valley offers opportunities for visitors of all ages to visiting castles, trekking through centuries-old forests, taste authentic recipes and discovering many of the best kept secrets from locals. The mountains of Casentino have attracted great saints such and St. Romuald and St. Francis of Assisi. The largest communal towns in the Casentino valley are Bibbiena and Poppi. The villa Casa Ombuto lies in a small glen above the beautiful town of Poppi.
Casentino is a narrow valley between the Apennine ridge and the hills of Pratomagno. The hilly part of the valley has been the home of the Arno River and many farms for decades. The landscape is characterised by sedimentary rock, predominantly sandstone, intercalated with marl, which in Romagna frequently appears with characteristic stratified escarpments or with bare ridges. The structure of the South-East area of the park is different: here the distinctive feature of Mount La Verna rises up with its calcareous crags from a landscape of broad, rolling hills interrupted by badland erosions, revealing the presence of clay. From a naturalist viewpoint, the Park stands out as one of the most prized forest areas in Europe. At the heart of the park is the Foreste Demaniali Casentinesi [State Casentino forest], within which the Riserva Naturale Integrale (Integral Nature Reserve) of Sasso Fratino, founded in 1959, can be found.
The territory has towns and villages which are rich in history, artistic and architectural heritage. They present themselves to the visitor in a wonderful natural frame, rich in flora and fauna, including the most important population of the Apennine wolf, as well as the exceptional presence of five species of ungulates (mammals with hooves): wild boar, roe deer, fallow deer, common deer, and mouflon (mountain sheep). Inside the park, there are two points of great interest and spiritual importance: the Sanctuary of La Verna and the Hermitage of Camaldoli. The forest has also represented the only true wealth of this territory, since it provided wood of the best quality and thus gave the mountain people a means of living. The Park includes an area in which people have always lived and worked, this is the reason for the presence of many ruins and abandoned villages within the park territory. As a result of the mass exodus that took place starting from the Second World War, the number of actual inhabitants of the Park has dwindled to about 1,500. The protected area can be visited making pleasant excursions on foot, mountain bike and horseback or, in winter, on cross-country skis along a path network of approximately 600 kilometers.
Casentino looks forward to showing you its charm!
The Tuscookany Team
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Tuscookany serves delicious Tuscan wines, but what is it that makes these wines so special?
During our Tuscan cooking courses we serve a selection of great Italian wines, with an accent on wines from Tuscany, but what makes these wines such a big global success? Is it the grapes, the climate, the knowledge or the love Italians put into producing these wines? One thing is definitely clear; you cannot eat pasta without a glass of wine to accompany it. After Piedmont and Veneto, Tuscany produces the third highest volume of quality wines in Italy. Over the last 50 years the quality and popularity of these wines has risen exponentially.
Types of grapes
Sangiovese grapes are the very soul of Tuscany. The fruity, aromatic fragrance is present in almost all of Tuscany’s top wines. 80% of all wines produced in Tuscany are produced with red grapes, the vast majority of which use Sangiovese as a grape. The white wine is produced using the Vernaccia grape, these grapes are local grapes tend to be hyper-local and are rarely grown outside of Italy. The Sangiovese wines range in flavour from tart cherry-like and jammy strawberry to more vegetal tasting, such as ripe tomatoes and roasted red peppers. After harvesting the grapes during the La Vendemmia (the harvesting of grapes) in September, the grapes are oaked (riserva) in wooden barrels, which start from two years up to ten years.
History of the Tuscan wines
Tuscany is one of twenty regions in Italy, located in the central part of the country. The History of Tuscany is known for the Renaissance including the Medici family, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The Tuscan grapes were cultivated by the Etruscans nearly 3000 years ago, grown in such wide abundance that they were often sold abroad and quickly became the areas most trusted cash crop. From the fall of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries in the region were the main producers of wines made from these grapes. During the Middle Ages the sharecropping system evolved, also known as Mezzadria, in Italian. The system took its name from the arrangement whereby a landowner provides the land and resources for planting in exchange for half (mezza) of the yearly crop. This resulted in the landowners turning half of their grape harvest into wines, which were sold to merchants in Florence. In the 14th century, an average of 7.9 million US gallons or 30 million liters of wine was sold every year in Florence and in 1685 the Tuscan author Francesco Redi wrote a 980-line poem devoted to Tuscan wines. After World War II Chianti wines became famous all over the world, as Italian restaurants proliferated. It is needless to say that the popularity of Tuscan wines is inherited in our veins.
Tuscany’s location, which contains terrains from the Mediterranean Sea to more hilly parts, is what the wines benefit from greatly. Moreover, the temperature fluctuation due to the typically warm and sunny climate to continental influences the grape’s taste. The regions Chianti, Bolgheri, Montepulciano and Montalcino are well known for their excellent wines. The hills in Tuscany serve as a tempering effect on the summertime heat with many vineyards planted on the higher elevations of the hillside. The grapes perform better when they receive direct sunlight, which is a benefit of the hillsides one can find in the vineyards of Tuscany. The majority of the region’s vineyards are found at altitudes of 500-1600 feet. Moreover, the higher elevations also increase the temperature variation, which helps the grapes to maintain their balance in sugars and acidity, as well as aromatic qualities. So the climate does indeed play a big role in the taste of the well-known red and white wines!
Variation of wines
The high quality, delicious red wines are called “Super Tuscans” and were developed by some Tuscan producers that came to believe that the legal rules governing the production of Chianti were too restrictive and decided to set up a new legal appellation giving the producers more flexibility in the 1970s. This resulted in wines becoming very modern, big and rich and have changed the wine industry in Tuscany ever since. The wines included in the Super Tuscan wines are Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. The well-known wine regions that apply these regulations are Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano and Chianti. For Tuscan white wine the most well known types are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc which are produced from the native Vermentino grape. Moreover, Moscadello, a sweet and sparkling wine, is used as a dessert wine. Not only is Moscato a famous Tuscan dessert wine; Vin Santo is too! The sweeter type of wine known from the red and rose style Sangiovese grape is a perfect paring with a Cantucci biscuit after dinner.
Wines at Tuscookany
All in all, we think it is a combination of the climate, the grapes and the knowledge learnt over the years that makes these great Tuscan wines what they are now. At Tuscookany we serve you the best wines of Tuscany, chosen by our chefs Franco, Laura, Alice and Paola. Every season the Tuscookany chefs carefully pick the best red and white wines to serve to our guests combining old favourites with new and promising wines, matching them with the weekly menu. The accent is of course on Tuscan wines, but we will also introduce to wines from other regions in Italy, both the north and the south, so that you can compare. In this way you get to see how real Italians celebrate their dinner! The white wines are often used for the aperitivo and primi piatti, whereas the red wines are served for the secondi piatti and the Vin Santo is served during dessert. As part of the culinary excursion we offer you will visit one of the best Tuscan wineries, Villa La Ripa. Villa La Ripa has a broad range of wines including red, rosé and white wines for you to taste. As you can see, wine runs deep in Tuscany, woven as it is into the cultural identity of this central Italian region. Therefore it is very important to us that you immerse yourself into this cultural identity. We can even see that the cooking skills are increased with a glass of wine and have therefore changed our 5 ‘O-clock “coffee break” into a “wine break”!!
Are you ready to immerse yourself in these fantastic wines? Come and learn to cook with us and enjoy your meals with delicious wine pairings.
The Tuscookany Team1 comment | Add comment
It requires patience to bake this Medieval leavened fruitcake, but you can really call yourself a Tuscan chef when it works out!
Have you ever been given a Panettone for Christmas? If you have, you obviously you have friends or family with good taste. This dome-shaped sweet bread loaf originated from Milan in Italy. It is usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year. It takes three days to bake this medieval cake, also known as the “tall, leavened fruitcake”. It is mostly large enough to share, but will be gone in no time because the Panettone melts in your mouth and then all of a sudden it's gone, leaving you longing for more! Its fluffiness and hints of sultanas have been around for decades and are mostly baked for Christmas and New Years dinner parties.
The history of this Christmas cake lies in a Medieval City in Northern Italy. The name “Panettone” is short for pane di Tonio, which can be translated into Tonio’s bread. Tonio was a poor Milanese baker and invented the loaf for his daughter after she fell in love with a nobleman. He needed to bake a cake to show his love, but he didn’t have enough money to bake one of the well-known desserts. Everybody loved the cake and they enjoyed it so much that the family asked for its name, this is when Tonio came up with his own bread and the name has not changed since. Due to World War II people got to know this Christmas sweet. It was cheap to produce and gave people hope during the Christmas period. The loaf was often combined with hot cocoa or liquor and its popularity brought the Panettone to the rest of Europe and even South America and Australia. Nowadays Italian food manufacturing companies and bakeries produce over 117 million Panettones and their sister Pandoro cakes every Christmas. Not only Italians, but also Americans ,have discovered this luxury Panetonne is something you want to serve at Christmas.
Variations of Panettones
There are over a hundred types of Panettones you can bake for the Christmas table. Basic ingredients added to the bread dough are sugar, butter, raisins and tender citrus peel. These are added over a couple of days, resulting in a light-as-air texture. After this the dough is left to prove for 10 hours; upside down! This is the basic mixture, but other famous flavours include; Prosecco, double chocolate, Tuscan honey, cherries and Tiramisu. We recommend you try the Finettone once; it is made with juniper, rosemary and gin-soaked olives. The saltiness from the olives is combined with an orange infused Gin & Tonic. But most of all Panettone is known from its delicious festive flavours of light and sweet dough filled with fruits and its amazing tastes. Served with a large dollop of creamy mascarpone and a splash of amaretto it is absolutely divine. During the Christmas season you can find Panettones in every grocery store or bakery, but have you ever tried to make one yourself? Note: you need some patience and baking skills to get the desired taste, shape and feeling.
We, at Tuscookany, know the smell of a great bake and all the scents that come free in the kitchen. It reminds one of a mother baking and having to be patient to unwrap Christmas presents (read: tear open!). The perfumed smell of candied citrus peel, dried fruit, butter and sugar are about to indulge in your home for three days when baking the Panettone. This fluffy and versatile Panettone is delicious enjoyed for breakfast or dessert or a mid-afternoon snack to get you through the 4pm slump. In our opinion we cannot think of a time that a slice wouldn’t be appropriate for a slice. A hint from one of our chefs of the Italian cooking classes in Tuscany is to serve this sweet bake with either a hot beverage or a sweet wine like Moscato. Serving this combination not only looks good but will also open up the playing field for some charades during the Holiday season festivities.
Now it is your turn to decide; are you going to bake it yourself or buy it in a store? One thing you should never forget is that a party without a cake is just a meeting, so get the most of the Holidays this year. We from the Tuscookany team and everyone from the cooking classes in Italy, wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and hope all your cooking wishes will come true next year. If you really want to know how to bake this Panettone please fill in the enquiry form and add your email address and Panettone in the remarks and we will send our favourite recipe to you by email. You could also ask our chefs to teach you during one of the Italian cooking courses, they would be happy to help! We hope to see you next season!
Have fun cooking!
The Tuscookany Team
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When the Greeks found Naples, they adopted a dish made by the natives, made with barley-flour pasta and water dried by the sun.
We also find references to pasta dishes in ancient Rome, which dates back to the 3rd century before Christ. In fact, the Roman Cicero himself speaks about his passion for the “Laganum”, the “laganas”, which are the long pasta (wheat-flour pasta, wide flat shaped sheets). During that time, the Romans developed instruments, tools and procedures (machines) to manufacture the pasta for lasagna. Ever since, cereals have exhibited great facilities for both its transportation as well as its storage. It was the Roman expansion and dominion which fostered the harvesting of cereals in the whole Mediterranean basin.
Look out for World Pasta Day celebrated annually on October 25th, with a plate of your favorite pasta!
The first World Pasta Congress was held in Rome, Italy on October 25th, 1995, when World Pasta Day was established by 40 International pasta producers.
Types of Pasta
There are two major classifications: pasta fresca (fresh) and pasta secca (dried). From here, there are more than 400 unique types of pasta that altogether have more than 1300 names: sheets, strips, long strands, cylinders, unique shapes, flavors, and many other local varieties.
This 14th-century Italian miniature shows two stages in pasta making. The woman to the rightis kneading the dough while her colleague is hanging cut strips of vermicelli - little worms - to dry on a rack.Much later, a thicker variation of vermicelli developed, today known as spaghetti.
Pasta vendors in 1880s Naples sell vermicelli in industrial quantities in this 19th-century hand-colored woodcut painting.
Spaghetti (at the time called macaroni) drying in the streets of Naples, circa 1895.
Photo from more than 400 years after the commercial production of pasta began (the first photography was taken in 1827 by French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.
10 Most Importand Pastas:
Three-edged spiral, usually in mixed colors. Many vendors and brands sold as Fusilli are two-edged. Variations: Fusilli Bucati, Fusilli Lunghi Bucati. Fusilli may be solid or hollow. A variant type of Fusilli is formed as hollow tubes of pasta that is twisted into springs or corkscrews and is called Fusilli Bucati. Another variant is twisted long lengths as though Spaghetti were coiled around an object known as Fusilli Lunghi. Fusilli Napoletani are flat lengths of coiled pasta formed around a spindle. From Fusile, archaic/dialect form of Fucile, meaning rifle. As the inside barrel of a gun is “rifled” using a similar screw-shaped device. Fusilli pasta as originally developed in Southern Italy, Campania, by rolling fresh Spaghetti around a thin rod and letting it dry. The "Fusillo" shape was then developed as a pasta shape in its own right.
Most common round-rod pasta.
Variations: Bucatini, Spaghettoni, Spaghettini, Fedelini, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Sciatelli, Rigatoni and Linguine.
Originally, Spaghetti was notably long, but shorter lengths gained in popularity during the latter half of the 20th century and now it is most commonly available in 25–30 cm (10–12 in) lengths.
The modern word "Macaroni" derives from the Sicilian term for kneading dough with energy, as early pasta making was often a laborious, day-long process. Spago means twine, Spaghetto means little twine, Spaghetti is plural. Sicily appears to have been the first place in Europe where pasta was made in long thin strands and subsequently dried. Durum wheat was well-suited to the soil and weather of Sicily and equally to Campania, the region around Naples. It was grown in large quantities in southern Italy. Naples also had an ideal climate for drying pasta: mild sea breezes alternating with hot winds from Mount Vesuvius. This ensured that the pasta would not dry too slowly and become moldy, or dry too fast and crack.
Ribbon of pasta approximately 6.5 millimeters wide. Fettuce - Wider version of Fettuccine. Modern Fettuccine Alfredo was invented by Alfredo di Lelio in Rome, in the early to mid-20th century. The story goes that in 1914, a man named Alfredo di Lelio was trying to cook something that would please his pregnant wife. He created a sauce made from parmesan cheese and butter and poured it over some fettuccine. Di Lelio opened a restaurant in Italy and served his fettuccine dish. Little ribbons. Originated in Lazio.
Flattened Spaghetti. A thinner version of Linguine is called Linguettine. Little tongues. Linguine originated in Genoa and the Liguria region of Italy. Linguine alle vongole (linguine with clams) and Trenette al pestoare are popular uses of this pasta.
A type of tubular pasta having diagonally cut ends cylinder-shaped pieces. Penne is the plural form of the Italian Penna, deriving from ??? Variations: Penne Lisce, Penne Rigate, Pennoni, Mostaccioli. Latin Penna (meaning "feather" or "quill"), and is a cognate of the English word pen. Originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy.
Tubular pasta. Large tubes, approximately 4 inches long and 1 inch wide, cut straight on both ends with a smooth surface, usually stuffed with a meat or cheese filling. This tube-like pasta is generally mistaken with the Italian pasta called Manicotti. Manicotti – which roughly means “sleeves” – is a filled crepe rather than an actual pasta and is traditionally prepared in a special crepe pan. Italian, literally ‘large tubes’, from Cannello ‘tube’. The origin of Cannelloni dates back to around 1907, when Nicola Federico, a well-known chef from Naples, Italy, invented this pasta. He created it while working at the La Favoria, a popular restaurant in Sorrento, Italy. Initially, this tubular pasta was called “Strascinati”, which soon came to be known by the name that is popular today – Cannelloni. It gained popularity when the residents of Naples fled to Sorrento, during World War II, which is when they got introduced to this pasta. Today, most restaurants across the world prepare various cannelloni dishes.
Ribbon fairly thinner than fettucine. Variations: Pizzoccheri, Tagliolini. From “Tagliare” – to cut. Originated from the Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions of Italy. Legend has it that the tagliatelle shape--strips of pasta about a half inch wide, was invented in 1487 by Maestro Zafirano, a cook from the village of Bentivoglio (Emilia-Romagna), on the occasion of the marriage of Lucrezia Borgia to the Duke of Ferrara. The cook was said to be inspired by the beautiful blond hair of the bride. Despite the appeal of this romantic notion, it seems likely that the invention of tagliatelle in Italy is earlier.
Bow tie or butterfly shaped. Farfalle come in several sizes, but they all have a distinctive "bow tie" shape. Variations: Farfalle Rigate, Farfallone, Farfalline Translation is Butterflies. Farfalle dates back to the 16th century in the Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna regions of Northern Italy.
Ring-shaped. Stuffed with a mixture of meat and cheese. Sometimes also described as "navel shaped", hence their alternative name of "belly button" (ombelico). In the Italian city of Modena, Farfalle is known as Strichetti. Italian, plural of Tortellino, diminutive of Tortello ‘small cake, fritter’. Originated in Emilia-Romagna.
Large and slightly curved tube. They are larger than Penne and Ziti, and sometimes slightly curved, though nowhere near as curved as Elbow Macaroni. And unlike Penne, Rigatoni's ends are cut square (perpendicular) to the tube walls instead of diagonally. From Riga, meaning line: Rigatoni is pasta with lines (large). Rigato or Rigate, when added to another pasta name means lined, or, with ridges added, as in “Spaghetti Rigati”. Originated in Southern Italy, Sicily.
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What are the ingredients? Where are its origins? Which versions do you like best? Join us in Tuscany to learn how to cook some different variations for yourself!
Parmigiana, known as Parmigiana di Melanzane or Melanzane alla Parmigiana, is a classic Italian dish made with thinly sliced, floured and fried eggplant layered with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in the oven. Parmigiana made with a filling of eggplant is the earliest and still unique Italian version.
Why not book some Cooking Classes in Tuscany with Tuscookany to find out how the Italians cook their Parmigiana?
The History of Parmigiana
A lot of regions in Italy claim the invention and all of them could be true: Sicily, Naples and also Puglia and Calabria. Each region prepares its own version, just like our chefs at Tuscookany, and all are equally delicious.
In Sicilian dialect “Parmiciana” indicates the slats of wood in the window shutters, which remind us of the overlapping eggplant and sauce layers. Some also believe Parmigiana came from Parma in the north of Italy but it is not part of Parma food so this is unlikely.
As you can see, no one knows 100% so we’ll leave it to you to decide where it really came from! However, it remains a humble dish in its simplicity.
Some suspect that the first “Parmigiana” used pumpkin or zucchini so the recipe could be older than first believed. Later it was found that using eggplant worked the best but of course it could be personal preference if you wish to make it your own.
The cheeses can also be changed, perhaps substituting a different mozzarella like Mozzarella Fiordilatte or Buffalo Mozzarella, or maybe a smoked cheese like Provola Affumicata to give a different flavour. Not all recipes use both Parmesan and Mozzarella, you can use whichever combination you prefer. Others might also add some Neapolitan sausage or spicy salami.
Whichever variation you wish to choose, enjoy this delicious Italian dish!
Variations are made with breaded meat cutlets, such as veal and chicken, have been popularised in other countries, usually in areas of Italian immigration.
In the United States and Canada, veal Parmigiana or chicken Parmigiana is often served as an entrée. It is also popular with a side of or on top of pasta. Costelette Parmigiana is another related veal dish, however, in Italy it is generally served without sauce or cheese.
Veal or chicken Parmigiana is a common dish in Australia and Argentina and in both countries often served with a side of chips or salad. In Australia, it may also contain a variety of toppings, including sliced ham or fried eggplant slices.
In Brazil, Parmigiana is a popular restaurant dish, which was brought over by Italian immigrants. There are three kinds of Parmigiana in Brazil: filé de frango a Parmigiana (chicken fillet Parmigiana), berinjela a Parmigiana (eggplant Parmigiana) and meat Parmigiana.
Three types of beef are used to make meat Parmigiana: two prime cuts, yielding, respectively, filé mignon à Parmigiana (tenderloin Parmigiana) and contra-filé à Parmigiana (sirloin steak Parmigiana), while the third type, yielding bife a Parmigiana is simply beef of an unspecified cut. In Brazil, Parmigiana dishes are usually served with either white rice, french fries or with pasta in a tomato sauce.
No matter which version you choose you will definitely need tomatoes, mozzarella and a big chunk of Parmesan!
We look forward to welcoming you to our Cooking School in Italy…….
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At Tuscookany we love bruschetta, the best Italian starter ever. Known outside of Italy, its name still confuses many. Learn how to pronounce and make it correctly.
Bruschetta is a traditional Italian starter dish, which consists of grilled bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and, very often, tomatoes. Different regions of Italy add their own “twists” to a traditional bruschetta by adding other veggies, cheeses or meat. However, the tomato bruschetta remains the most popular and the all time favourite variation.
Bruschetta is correctly pronounced as brew-sket-ta [bruËˆsketta]. Many English speakers, however, tend to turn the “sch” into [Êƒ] sound, which, quite frankly, drives most Italians mad. Therefore, if you do not want to fall out of favour with your Italian friends or, God forbid, our Italian chefs, you’d better learn it once and for all, that there is [sk] sound in the middle of bruschetta.
The name itself comes from the verb bruscare – “to roast over coals”. It is said that originally olive oil producers used toasted bread to taste their freshly pressed olive oil. While bruschetta is thought to come from the Middle Ages, it is believed that it might be a lot older, going back to the Roman or Etruscan times.
Neutral unsalted Tuscan bread is perfect for bruschetta, as it absorbs the flavours of newly pressed extra virgin olive oil, ripe, sweet and juicy red tomatoes, aromatic fresh basil and ever-essential garlic. This is a match made in heaven. Bruschetta seems easy to make, and it is indeed not the most difficult meal on earth, but the freshness of the ingredients and right proportions make a huge difference. Therefore, while bruschetta can be made and eaten all over the world, it tastes nowhere better than in Italy.
Thanks to our chefs and our wonderful garden, here at Tuscookany we are lucky to enjoy amazing bruschetta. Provided you can easily find the right ingredients, we are sharing our Chef Laura’s recipe with you here:
Laura’s Tomato Bruschetta:
6 fresh ripe tomatoes
6 slices country-style white bread
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper from the mill
10 fresh basil leaves
- Slice the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Dice into small cubes (1/2 inch). Mince the garlic cloves. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces.
- Place in a bowl, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and stir
- Grill the bread on both sides. While it is still hot, brush one side generously with garlic oil, or rub with a peeled mashed garlic clove, and drizzle a thin stream of olive oil
- Top it with the diced tomato mix. Serve while still warm
And if you want to try a true Italian bruschetta, why not to come to Italy and join one of our cooking courses? Our Tuscookany chefs will be happy to share their secrets!