Milanesa style thin cut beef (Cotoletta alla milanese): enjoy a non processed fried food. So easy and so good!

The Cotoletta alla Milanese – also called “costoletta” or “fettina panata“- is an exquisite, ancient recipe, appearing in all famous Italian cuisine books and restaurant menus, but also traditionally used in families especially to make meat tasty for children (as meatballs and beef rolls). The Cotoletta is, together with Milanese risotto, ossobuco and panettone, among the most typical dishes of Milanese cuisine. The dish is typically a thin cut (fettina) of milk-fed veal (according to the classic Milanese recipe), but lamb and pork are also common meat alternatives. The beef I use normally, is called “beef top round, extra thin cut for milanesa” which I easily find weekly at Walmart. Honestly, as all the other typical Italian recipes, every family has developed a slightly different way to prepare this dish. While one person may use only eggs yolk, another might fry in butter instead of oil. Others prefer to use just bread crumb for coating, and so on. So, the version I am sharing with you is the one my grandmother and my mom always cooked for us. The beef is quick and easy to cook, absolutely appealing to adults and kids, and not particularly unhealthy (aside from the fact that is fried food)  😉  if you pick a good quality oil for frying (my favorites are olive oil or peanut oil), you use your home-made breadcrumbs (suggested but not required) and a fresh cut of meat. Most of the time I prepare “cotoletta alla Milanese” when I have beef leftovers from  beef and ham lava cheese rolls.

4 servings INGREDIENTS:

4 big slices beef top round, extra thin cut for milanesa, cut in two pieces

1 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/2 cup corn bread flour

1 beaten egg

Vegetable oil (to fry)

black pepper to taste

sea salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

Usually the “milanesa style thin cut” is sold in very big slices of meat. Before starting cooking, cut the slices in two, it will make dredging the meat in the egg and the frying part much easier and less messy.  Beat the egg and add a pinch of black pepper.

Dredge the meat into the eggs beaten in a deep bowl. You can do this many hours in advance if you like, so the egg will get absorbed by the meat evenly and will keep the breading better.

Mix the bread crumbs with the corn meal, and coat evenly the beef slices on both sides. Again, if you need to get dinner ready quickly, once coated, the meat can stay (covered and well stored) in the fridge for about 24 hours (that means you can prepare the slices coated the night before cooking them).

Heat the oil in pan, and when it reaches the cooking point (try with a little piece of crumb or a wooden tool to check) start frying your beef slices. Pay close attention to the color of the crumbs, that should turn golden but not brown. If the oil is hot enough, it would take not more that few minutes per sides.

Drain the meat on a paper towel as you normally do with fried food, dust with sea salt, and serve still warm.

LEARTN IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS: – Serve with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes or vegetables, as preferred, but even French fries would be a delicious choice!

– Many people like to sprinkle few lemon drops on the meat before to eat it, but I don’t since the lemon make the breading become soft and no more crunchy.

– If you like to try the butter instead of the oil for frying, go ahead: the taste will be stronger, and you may like it even better…

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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PIADINA ROMAGNOLA: like a tortilla bread filled with delicious cheese and deli

Piadina is an Italian flatbread which comes from the Romagna region of Italy. It is sort of like an Italian version of fast food, as they are often sold at kiosks or roadside stands, even if some Italians – of course – prefer to make it from scratch. I am not from Emilia Romagna Region (but from Veneto), so it was not in my family tradition to make “piadina” from scratch. But my mom used the pre-made ones to make us happy when we wanted something appealing for dinner that did not require more than two minutes to make- and since “piadina” somewhat resembles a tortilla filled with a variety of cheese and deli meat, it is a simple go-to. Today I’ll share with you the version I make here in US for my family, but, if you prefer to stay close to the “made from scratch” version, here is the link to a very good piadina bread recipe. There is one very important point to make: Piadina was born as a frugal food and its deliciousness depends first and foremost on the variety of delicious cheese (especially fresh varieties like stracchino and squaccherone) and deli meat (prosciutto cotto, prosciutto crudo, speck, mortadella, pancetta etc.) that Italy can offer. By using tortilla bread and local cheese and deli, you can obtain a pretty great taste, but promise me: if you ever get the chance to go to Italy, don’t miss the opportunity to sample this simple but scrumptious meal! And better if you get to sample them while visiting the Emilia Romagna Region, which has a lot of Historical places (among them, Bologna and Parma), and is particularly famous for the great beaches, entertainment, night life, and “movida”.

I will give quickly the directions to make a piadina filled with mozzarella cheese and prosciutto. But some other nice combo would be for sure: – provolone and capocollo;  – ham, cream cheese and mayo (or ham and stracchino if you can buy it online); – pepperoni and asiago cheese; – grilled veggies and cream cheese (or squaquerone if you are lucky to find it around!), or any other ingredients that you could imagine (my daughters also like using Nutella… but let’s keep this option for the most glutton eaters :-).

INGREDIENTS

tortilla breads

shredded mozzarella cheese

prosciutto slices

(Be aware: to fill the belly, I recommend at least two “piadine” per person)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat a skillet on medium to low heat, and place one tortilla. Be very careful just to warm the tortilla, watching it closely to avoid burning it.  Flip the tortilla (to warm up the other side) and arrange neatly the mozzarella cheese on a half of it.

 

When the mozzarella cheese looks melted, switch off the heat, and arrange the prosciutto slices on top of the mozzarella cheese.

 

Fold the tortilla, and serve it still warm!!!

YUMMMMM, so so easy, so so good!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS: depending on how you most like the tortilla cooked, I would keep it longer on the heat if you want to obtain a crispy piadina. On the opposite, if you like the bread to be soft, just warm it up long enough to melt the cheese, and take it away from the heat as soon as possible. This is an example of a “crisp” Piadina.

I am seriously curious to  know if this Italian “fast food” would be liked by my American followers… do you mind letting me know what do you think about this recipe? And if you try it, why don’t you leave a comment and possibly a picture of your Piadina? That would be awesome!

Thank you so much,

Silvia

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAM AND WHITE CREAM FUSILLI: a fast, easy, tasty and family friendly Italian style pasta

My American friends often ask me how it is that we never get tired of eating pasta. The truth is that of course during the week I try to alternate “pasta dinner” with “alternative meals” (meat, seafood or cheese), AND we have such a variety of dressings and so many different shapes of pasta that it is really hard to get bored eating it. A few of these different kinds of dressings have already been mentioned in my blog (pasta all’amatricinana , pasta alla carbonara, pasta with vegetables, fresh tomatoes sauce pasta, pasta aglio olio e peperoncino, prosciutto and tomaotes sauce pasta) and many more will be the subject of my future posts: ragu’ pasta, leeks and sausage pasta, tomato sauce pasta, tuna and tomatoes sauce pasta, ricotta and parmesan pasta, four cheese pasta, pasta with eggplant, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, and… well, I could just keep going on and on!!!

Today I would like to share with you one of my “SAVE DINNER” recipes, one of those meals you can fix in 20 minutes or less, and for which I always keep the few necessary ingredients in the pantry! I have to be clear that, in Italy, we have an ingredient called “panna da cucina” which is a kind of cream used very often for pasta sauces, risotto, and other dishes, and that, here in the U.S., I have learnt to substitute with something quite similar called “MEDIA CREMA” that can easily be found in the Mexican food department of any groceries store.

As I’ve already mentioned, this meal requires not more that the cooking time of the pasta (I would say between 15 to 20 minutes), it’s very rich, and is usually loved by kids. The flavor of the ham is amplified by the “crema”, and the pasta is creamy and appealing to even the pickiest eater.

 4-5 servings INGREDIENTS

1 pack fusilli (about 1 lb.)

1 pack boneless ham steak

3 tbs. olive oil

1 small can (225 ml. or 7.6 Fl. oz.) Crema Media

optional: 2 cloves of garlic peeled

black pepper

grated parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Start heating a pot of salted water to cook the fusilli (if you want to be sure to cook your pasta in the authentic Italian Style, follow these easy directions).  In the meanwhile, cut the ham into small cubes.

When the water reaches boiling, toss the fusilli in to cook. Then, in a pan, add the olive oil and the garlic cloves. When it looks warm, add the ham cubes and sauté at medium heat for about five minutes, or until it looks lightly browned.

At this point, take away the garlic cloves, and add the “media crema”, stir and let it cook for a couple of minutes, always at medium heat until it gets dense. Switch off the heat and wait until the fusilli are completed cooked.

When the fusilli are cooked, drain them very well in the colander, but set aside a few tbs. of the hot water to mix with the sauce if, in the mean time, it has became too thick or dry (it must keep a creamy consistency). Then add a handful of grated parmesan cheese.

Pour  the fusilli in the sauce pan, mix very well to dress all the pasta evenly, and serve it, suggesting your guest to sprinkle a pinch of black pepper and another dust of parmesan cheese!

Easy, isn’t it?

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS: for my post I picked the fusilli shaped pasta, but every kind of short shaped pasta (penne, farfalle, maccheroni etc.) would fit perfectly with this sauce.

Here how penne would look like:-)

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

Butternut Squash and Porcini risotto

In the five years I’ve lived in eastern Iowa, I’ve never found dried porcini mushrooms anywhere. So, I hesitated to post this recipe, since it felt wrong to be publishing a recipe that not all my followers could cook. However, the other day at the grocery store, while I was walking trough the veggies department I found many varieties of dried mushrooms, porcini included!

So finally I can share with you this amazing recipe, absolutely delicious and perfect for the fall (both in taste and in color!). And just to make it clear, even if your kids don’t like mushrooms, they will love the delicate sweet taste of this risotto (even if they will probably eat it by setting aside on the plate the porcini 🙂 ).

Just to satisfy some curiosity you may have, in Italy finding mushrooms is pretty easy: mushrooms love moist, temperate climes, and since Italy has plenty of mountains (Alpi and Appennini) we can proudly grow about a large variety of mushrooms. Aside from porcini, other famous species are chiodini (honey mushrooms) and finferli. Plus there are many more! If you like risotto, I definitely suggest you try this one; you’ll be pleasantly surprised with its “goodness.” 🙂  It takes not more that 30 minutes to make, with the only foresight to dump the dried mushrooms in water at least 20 minutes before you start cooking.

4 servings INGREDIENTS

2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice

1 pack or 60 gr. dried porcini mushrooms

1/2 medium sized butternut squash peeled and chopped in small cubes

1/2 medium sized white onion

4 tsp. rosmary (better if fresh)

1 cloves garlic

about 5 tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. nutmeg

5 tbs. parmesan cheese

pepper to taste

salt to taste

about 64 oz. hot chicken broth (better if homemade) or vegetable buillon

optional: 1 Tbs. butter or mascarpone cheese and 1 handful of parmesan cheese  for the “mantecatura” (click here for the meaning)

Grated Parmesan cheese for dusting.

DIRECTIONS

Soak the porcini in about 1 cup of warm water at least 15 minutes before to cook them. Or, if the directions on the packaging indicate something different, it is best to prepare them accordingly.

Clean the butternut squash, removing the skin and the seeds, and cut it into very thin cubes.

 

Drain the mushrooms, but keep some of the water used to soak them. Strain it through a fine mesh sieve or even coffee filter to avoid sand. If some mushrooms looks too big in size, feel free to cut them in two with a kitchen scissors. Warm up the broth for the risotto (or the water, in case you decide to use a vegetable bouillon).In a skillet heat 2 tbs. of olive oil, then add garlic, rosemary and the chopped onion and cook them until the onion becomes translucent (be careful not to burn). At this point, add the porcini, a pinch of sea salt and 1 tsp. nutmeg. Let the mushrooms cook for about ten minutes at medium heat, being careful not to burn them, stirring once in a while. You’ll know they are cooked once they become tender.

In the meanwhile, in a pan, add 3 tbs. olive oil and when the oil gets hot, add the chopped butternut squash, 2 tsp. rosemary and a pinch of sea salt and cook until  becomes brownish and tender. It would take about  ten to fifteen minutes at medium heat, stirring occasionally, and always be careful not to burn.

(At this point the broth in the other pot should have reached the boiling point. Lower the heat and keep it on hand, you will use it soon!). Now that mushrooms and squash are cooked, move the squash into the mushrooms skillet. Start the heat, and when it seems the mix is hot, add the risotto rice and let “fry” for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Try  not to stir immediately. Only when it seems like the mixture starts sticking to the pan, add 1 ladle of porcini soaking water. As a rule for a perfect risotto “al dente” I start the 20 minutes cooking timer in the precise moment I add the first ladle of liquid to the rice. Once that water has been absorbed, add salt as desired, and keep adding broth (best 1 ladle at a time until liquid has been absorbed by rice.) and  repeat until there are just three minutes left on the timer. At this point, switch off the heat, add another ladle of broth, the butter (or mascarpone cheese) and the parmesan. Stir ingredients together and then cover the pot with a lid until the end of the 20 minutes, for the MANTECATURA phase. This process will make your risotto creamy and dense, in other words “all’onda”. At the end of the twenty minutes, serve your risotto still warm, and suggest your guests to sprinkle some grated parmesan on the top of it, if they like.

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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

 

Witch’s fingers: you are still in time for a creepy but cool Halloween treat!

Although I usually have a lot of Halloween spirit (no pun intended!) 😉 this year I have been quite indifferent to it all, a little bit as if I still lived in Italy. I think it is because we’ve been seeing Halloween decorations, costumes, and candy in the stores since the day after “unpack your backpack” night at the kids’ school. Lucky my little girls brought me back to reality, reminding me that in the next few days there will be Halloween parties at schools and daycares.  And although treats are not expected, they’re definitely welcomed!

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So, I decided to give this very popular recipe a try (I bet you have  already seen these cookies in  Halloween articles, blogs or magazines.)  After picking this one from my favorite Italian cooking blog (giallo zafferano),  I created these (BELIEVE ME!) super fast, easy, and awesome creepy butter cookies! Well, truth to be told, I should not take all the merit, since Letizia (6 years old), Livia (almost 4 years old) and Lorenza (almost 2 years old) helped a lot! Because this recipe requires very few steps, and the modelling part (I mean to give the dough a finger shape) is really easy, the kids loved helping! Plus, the pastry doesn’t need to rest in the refrigerator before to be worked: you can start making the cookies right away!

If you’d like to to refresh your memory on how Italians celebrate Halloween, take a quick look at my past post about Black cats and Ghosts Halloween pastry cookies.

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INGREDIENTS FOR ABOUT 20-22 FINGERS

1 stick of butter (cut into pieces)

14 oz. (or 1 and 3/4 cup) all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 medium sized egg

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

1 pinch of salt

22 blanched almonds

1 Tbs. light colored preserve (apricot, orange or peach) to attach the almonds to the cookies

strawberry preserve for the pretend “blood”

DIRECTION

In a big bowl, mix the sifted flour with the baking powder, powder sugar, butter pieces, egg, salt, and vanilla or almond extract. USE YOUR HANDS!

Once the dough reaches a compact and uniform consistency, form a loaf and make small balls of dough, using about 0.8 (25 gr.) of dough for each one. I have to be honest: since it was the first time I’ve tried this recipe, I use the kitchen scale to make balls of the right weigh/dimension.. ERGO, my daughters helped me ONLY in the next steps.

Now, you (and your kids!) can start rolling the dough balls into fingers. With the palms of the hands, roll each ball until it creates a tube shape of about 4 inches (10-12 cm). I have to be honest again: I didn’t have the patience to take out the ruler, so I used MY index finger as a model! To make the fingers look lifelike, I suggest making them thinner just before and after the knuckle joint and then, to add detail, using the dull edge of a knife to create the wrinkles in the knuckles. Again: I used my index finger as model. You can do the same!

To finish the fingers, take one of the peeled, blanched almonds and dip one side in the light colored preserve of your choice, and apply it to the tip of the cookie finger with a little pressure: it will look like a fingernail.

Pre-heat the oven to 365 F. (180 C.).  Cover a baking sheet with parchment and arrange the fingers at least one inch apart.

Cook for no more than 12 minutes…. and before serving, dip the end of the fingers in strawberry preserves to make it appear even more horrific!!!

HOW COOL! YOUR KIDS WILL ADORE THESE COOKIES!!! Now it will be even more fun deciding how to present your cookies… Arranged next to a skeleton skull? Covered with creepy spiders? Your choice!

LEARN IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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 Tip: – These cookies can last a week if stored in a cookie jar or in a dry and cool room.

          – My favorite way to enjoy these cookies is soaking them in warm milk or tea, for a perfect SPOOKY HALLOWEEN TEA PARTY!

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