Jalapenos Popper Dip: add a spicy kick to your kick-off!

I know this blog is supposed to be all about Italian food and culture, but let me say this: I love food, I live in the USA, and I, of course, appreciate traditions and food from other country!    I have no idea where this amazingly good appetizer finds its origin, but when I tasted it at a friend’s party, I couldn’t help but ask for the recipe so I could share it with you!

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What mostly impressed me about this super easy and fast cheese dip (besides the facts that it makes a great  impression on the table, with very little effort),  is that its spicy taste goes wonderfully along with tortilla chips, but turns out VERY good even with celery! So you can feel less guilty when you snack with a high fat & calories appetizer, if combined with a bunch of veggies 😉 (or at least, that logic works for me, LOL).    So, be sure to make this snack for your Super Bowl fun day, and your friends (and YOU) won’t be disappointed!

INGREDIENTS for a 9” ROUND PAN

For the mix:

2 blocks (2 x 8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 cup (200 gr.) mayonnaise

1 cup  (100 gr.) shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup (100 gr.) Parmesan, Asiago, Reggiano shredded cheese blend

1 small can (4 0z.) diced jalapeños (drained)

1 small can (4 oz.) diced green chilies (drained)

For the topping:

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup Parmesan, Asiago, Reggiano cheese blend.

TORTILLA CHIPS and

if you like the a idea of a little “healthy touch”

remember to wash your celery sticks and arrange them in a nice dish

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DIRECTION

Mix cream cheese, mayo, shredded cheddar, Parmesan/Asiago/Reggiano blend, drained diced green chilies, and jalapeños in a bowl using first a spoon and then an electric mixer.

Grease the round pan and pour in the mixture.

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Mix Panko bread crumbs with Parmesan/Asiago/Reggiano blend and sprinkle over the dip.

Bake at 375 F. for about 20-25 minutes, or until it’s bubbling on the sides and looks golden brown.

Serve it warm with tortilla chips and/or celery sticks and enjoy the game!

Learnt it, made it, loved it!

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TIP: – You can moderate the spiciness of the dip, by choosing between hot or medium jalapeños. I am usually not a person that likes too spicy food, but I don’t mind this dip even in it hottest version..

          – As you have probably noticed, this recipe contains Parmesan and Asiago cheese.. Indeed,  I would say that it can be considered a “little bit Italian” !

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment and subscribe to receive a new recipe each week for free,

and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

 

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Chocolate and Ricotta Tart: let’s try to sweeten the end of summer!

Here I am, posting for the second week in a row, a cake recipe! I blame the approach of summer’s end, the shortening of the daylight, and the turning of tree’s leaves, that lately I have been really craving comfort foods! Or perhaps, making this recipe, which has been in my mom’s recipe book as long as I can remember, is my way of overcoming my recurrent homesickness. This ricotta tart is, without a doubt, a fond memory of my Italian youth. It’s the cake my mom use to make for my birthday, since it was (actually, it still is) my favorite. This is the cake that, on my birthday, I now prepare for myself!! I know the recipe by heart, and I can not help but make it at least one a month… because it’s that good!

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The combination of crust pastry and sweet, creamy, intense ricotta cream make this seemingly simple and frugal  tart a real surprise to the palate.  And here is a bonus… I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but occasionally I forget a package of ricotta in the very back of the refrigerator, only to find it once it’s already expired. Super frustrating, if you hate to waste food as much as I do. Well, this tart is the perfect solution. If the ricotta hasn’t really gone bad yet, but you don’t trust eating it raw, make this tart, and not only will you avoid the food-waste guilt, but you’ll also be guaranteed a delicious outcome! And that is a WIN-WIN!! Absolutely easy to be prepared, it takes very little “hands-on” time. However, the crust pastry needs to chill in the refrigerator at least half hour before assembling the tart, and it does need to bake for about 40 minutes.

INGREDIENTS for a 9″ round pan

FOR THE PASTRY

1 stick room temperature unsalted butter – 100 gr. burro a temperature ambiente

1 egg – 1 uovo intero

4 Tbs. sugar – Quattro cucchiai di zucchero

1 Tbs. vanilla extract – 1 fialetta aroma alla vaniglia

2 cups all purpose flour – 300 gr. di farina

FOR THE RICOTTA CREAM

15 oz. (1 small package) ricotta cheese – 500 gr. ricotta

1 yolk – 1 tuorlo

1 tbs. melted unsalted butter – 20 gr. burro fuso

1/2 cup (4 oz.) sugar – 100 gr. zucchero

FOR THE DECORATION

dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips

SUGGESTION

If you can, use a springform cake pan.

DIRECTIONS

At least half hour before assembling the cake, prepare the crust pastry: In a bowl, combine the butter and sugar first until they are well mixed. Then add the egg and keep stirring. Add now the flour. Stir until all the egg, sugar, and butter have been absorbed into the flour and the mixture has a crumbly texture.

THE MIXTURE WILL BE LUMPY and that is right and normal. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (no covering is needed).  Now you can go for a thirty-minute walk (so you will gain the right to eat a piece of this delicious cake :-)!). Whenever you are ready, in a food processor mix together the ricotta cheese with the sugar and the vanilla extract. Then add the yolk, and finally the melted butter (be careful not to add a too-warmed butter: you will cook the yolk!). You will obtain a velvety and dense cream (absolutely good to be eaten raw!).

Now arrange the pie: Butter the pan and sprinkle with flour (or breadcrumbs). Spoon 3/4 of the crumbly dough mixture into the prepared pan (you will keep the rest to decorate the top of the cake). Spread the dough evenly, completely covering the bottom of the pan. Then, using your fingers, press the dough to create a firm crust. Be sure to press the dough up the sides of the pan at least 1/4 inch. This is important to contain the ricotta cream while it bakes.

Pour the ricotta cheese cream on top of the firmed crust, then sprinkle the top with chocolate chips or dark chocolate shavings. Decorate the sides of the cake using the tines of a fork. Crumble the remaining dough on top of the cream.

Bake at 365 F. (180 C.) for about 40 minutes. It will be ready when the crust becomes golden and the ricotta cream changes color.

Let the cake cool off before taking it out of the springform pan infact, even if the temptation to eat a piece right away is strong, this tart tastes better at room temperature (not too warm or too cool).

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LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, and subscribe to receive a new recipe each week for free,

and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

Tips: – If you want to make a less fat tart, you can use partskim ricotta cheese. Of course the taste would not be as delicious as the regular cream, but good enough to be enjoyed;

– This cake can last up to one week, even if not refrigerated.

Spaghetti alla CARBONARA: one of the most famous Italian pasta dishes

Although the target audience of this blog is intended to be Americans and those not already familiar with Italian cooking and customs, a consistent part of my audience is, in fact, Italian! And it has been a while since my Italian followers made fun of me because I haven’t yet published the recipe of Carbonara Pasta. You see, together with “Spaghetti al pomodoro, bucatini all’amatriciana, e tagliatelle al Ragu”, Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of the most famous pasta dishes in Italy! So now that the taunting has subsided, 😉 I will share with all of you the recipe for this Italian classic!

Like many other popular Italian dishes, this pasta dish requires just few fresh ingredients (bacon or better- pork jowl, eggs, spaghetti and parmesan cheese).  It’s super-easy, quick to prepare (ready in 20 minutes), and would be perfect for any kind of occasion. It is absolutely “kid friendly” (my daughters love it), appealing to even the pickiest eaters. I mean, who- especially in the U.S.- doesn’t love bacon and cheese?!?

Just like the Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, the main ingredient of this sauce should be pork cheek or jowl (“guanciale”). However, it could be hard to find or a bit expensive. So since bacon here in the U.S. is really DELICIOUS, you have my blessing to go ahead and make it with bacon! Even Italians often make it simply with bacon! Whichever you choose, I assure you that by making this spaghetti sauce you will for sure bring a breeze of Italy to your table!

Since this recipe is pretty popular, before writing my post, I pried on some American cooking websites to see how knowledgeable the American audience is of how to make an authentic Carbonara. Well, no matter what you may read, Italians don’t use any parsley, onion, peas or tomatoes in this recipe. The only variant I’ve known (typical from Rome’s area) is that you can use Pecorino cheese instead of Parmesan.

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4 serving INGREDIENTS

1 package spaghetti

3 egg yolks (of medium-sized eggs)

1 medium sized egg

about 10 slices bacon (approximately half a pound)

1 tsp. black pepper

3 handfuls of parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Start heating a pot of salted water to cook the spaghetti (if you want to be sure to cook your pasta in the authentic Italian Style, follow these easy directions).

In the meanwhile, cut the bacon into small cubes.

When the water reaches boiling, toss the spaghetti in to cook. Then move the bacon into a pan (no oil or butter, just let the bacon cook in its own grease) and saute at medium heat for about five minutes, or until it looks crisp and the fat is rendered.

Drain the fat from the bacon, throwing away the grease.

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In a good sized bowl (you will need to fit all the spaghetti and bacon in it) beat the yolks and the egg. Add the parmesan cheese and the black pepper and mix altogether, stirring very well. Honestly, when I cook for my family, I avoid the black pepper at this stage, and instead my husband and I just add it on top of our spaghetti once it’s plated.

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain well. Then, while the pasta is still very hot, mix it into the bowl with the egg mixture using a fork. The heat of the pasta will cook the raw eggs into a creamy sauce. (Be sure you do NOT do this in the pot or on the stove or you will be eating “Spaghetti alla Frittata” 😉 instead of Carbonara!) Add in the bacon and continue mixing quickly, until the eggs thicken.

That’s it!

Serve your Carbonara with some extra parmesan cheese and black pepper on the table (in case somebody would like to add a bit more) and Enjoy!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

Tips:

– Prepare the dressing while the pasta is cooking,  to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready at the same time as the dressing.

– It is very important that the pasta is still very hot when you add it to the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs, and just as important, that the beaten eggs are never combined with pasta on the stove because the eggs would cook too quickly on the bottom of the pot, ruining the creaminess of the sauce. The eggs MUST be mixed with the drained pasta, in the bowl where they were beaten.

– This pasta is very rich- both in taste and calories- so it would work perfectly as a complete meal.

– If you enjoy having a breakfast of bacon and eggs, this could also be considered as a “parachutes” choice when you have no idea what’s for dinner, or a way to use some leftovers.

 

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

 

Italian Style Cheese cake

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You are probably thinking, “How are you writing about cheese cake on an Italian food blog, considering that the most famous cheese cakes were created in New York?!? In the USA!”  The answer is: “YOU ARE RIGHT!”… but the first cheese cakes were actually made in ancient Greece, before the time of Christ by the Romans. Regardless, even if it never occurred to you, many Italians look around to pick up on other countries’ food traditions (and  I, for sure, am one of those Italians!). And as I have already mentioned, I think Italians have many things to learn from Americans!

By the way, this recipe has been in my recipe book forever, so I’m not sure exactly where it comes from or its true historical origin.

What I know for sure is that once you really like a certain dish, you try many alternative ways to make it, and become a connoisseur of sorts. So even if I believe this cheese cake is SUPER DUPER DELICIOUS,  I don’t have the vanity to say that it is the best of all cheese cakes ever. But, if you enjoy cheesecake, I humbly beg you to try out this recipe- you will not be disappointed! And, if you would leave me feedback after trying it, I would greatly appreciate it!!

Making this cheese cake takes three steps, and about one hour of cooking: first preparing the base; second, preparing the cheese cake batter, then last to bake it. Easy, pretty fast, and foolproof!

 

INGREDIENTS for a 12″ round cake (10-12 servings)

2 packs graham crackers (or other plain butter cookies)

2 blocks of cream cheese (8 oz each, softened)

1 pint (473 ml) heavy whipping cream

4 oz. or 1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 stick melted unsalted butter

3 tbs. all-purpose flour

canned cherries (or chocolate or caramel) for garnishing

 

DIRECTIONS
For the crust :
Put the crackers or cookies into a food processor bowl, and pulse until finely ground.

Move the ground crackers into a mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Knead by hand to allow the butter to be evenly absorbed, but expect the mixture to remain grainy.

Line a 12-inch diameter round pan with parchment paper. (Ideally, use a spring-form pan, where the sides release from the base.) Then press the cracker-crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, flattening it evenly.

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For the cream:

Whip the whipping cream and save it for later (remember to keep it refrigerated!)

Separate the three eggs yolks from the whites and, using an electric whisk, whip the whites until stiff (keep the whites aside for later).
With the same electric whisk (no need to rinse), beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they become fluffy and shiny.

Incorporate the cream cheese using an electric mixer. (I use a hand mixer with a rigid wire whisk/ beater, like those in the picture below, but if you are using a flimsy/ flexible electric whisk, you will need to switch to a more rigid whisk/ beater.)

Now fold in the egg whites- by hand, always gently and from the bottom to the top, to avoid the cream becoming watery.

 

Finally fold in the whipped cream, always stirring gently. Finally- only at the end- you stir in the sifted flour.

 

To arrange the cake:

Spread the cream evenly on top of the graham cracker crust.

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Bake in preheated oven at 320 F. (160 C.).
After 20 minutes, increase the temperature to 365 F (180 C.) and bake until the cake rises and becomes golden.

Before serving:
Let the cheese cake cool completely. Release the sides of the spring-form pan, then carefully peel off the parchment paper and arrange the cake on a nice dish.

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Garnish it with whatever you like- canned cherries or other fruit, jam, syrup, caramel, or melted chocolate.

Refrigerate at least a couple of hours before serving.

Serve the cake cold or at room temperature, according to your taste (my family likes it better cold).

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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Tips: –  Since this cheese cake is rich in taste and calories, I suggest serving it in small slices.  You may have the occasional friend who asks for a second slice, but most will be satisfied with just a little bit of this decadent dessert.

–  This cheese cake, if kept refrigerated, tastes even better the day after (so don’t hesitate to make it in advance) and can last up to a week. I would discourage freezing it, because the cream cheese tends to change consistency and ruin the taste.

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

Savory Cheese and Bacon Pie: puff pastry makes it SO easy!

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Puff pastry is something that usually everybody likes (even kids), and honestly, the one you find at the store is absolutely tasty and so easy to use that it isn’t even worth considering making it from scratch.

In my opinion, using puff pastry could be a good way to approach “cooking” even for those who think they are disaster in the kitchen! It’s the perfect ingredient to use to get beautiful and savory dishes, with a very minimal amount of talent and arduousness.

I use puff pastry relatively often, like to make tasty appetizers (puff pastry and bacon hearts) or to make salted pies.

Salted pies, in fact, are usually fast, delicious, and addictive appetizers/entrees. They are crunchy outside, tender inside, and the one I’m describing here is just a cheesy heaven with a delicate bacon aftertaste.

So get ready by simply taking out of your freezer a puff pastry sheet, mix together any kind of cheese that will otherwise soon be going bad in your refrigerator (don’t forget some ricotta cheese to make the mix less heavy), stuff the pastry with the cheese mix, lay some bacon slices on the top, bake and … VOILA’!

INGREDIENTS for 4-5 serving

1 thawed puff pastry sheet

1 lb. ricotta cheese

a handful (or more) of asiago cheese cut in small cubes

a handful of shredded parmesan cheese

a handful of blue cheese (or better, real “Gorgonzola“)

5-8 slices provolone cheese

1 beaten egg

5-8 slices bacon

(Truth be told, you can use any kind of cheese you like, as long as it melts easily, and the result will not change… BUT mozzarella cheese will ruin your pie by making it watery!)

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees F.  Then take out of the freezer the puff pastry sheet and let it thaw until it is easy to roll out, and lay it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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In a bowl, mix all the cheeses together evenly.

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Spread the cheese mix on the puff pastry sheet, being careful to leave the sides free.

Arrange the bacon slices on the top of the cheese as evenly as you can.

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Close inward the sides of the pastry so the cheese doesn’t run out while baking. Then brush the pastry with the beaten egg.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the pie rises and becomes golden.

Enjoy it still warm!

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LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

Tip: – If you have guests and decide to make this pie, consider that it needs to be served warm, and would not be an easy “finger food”, so be ready with some plates and silverware.

– This pie is really, really rich in flavor and calories, so opt for a light side dish when you serve it!

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia