How to make an edible “cheese basket” in five minutes.

Many years ago I went to a fancy restaurant in my home town and they served us an edible parmesan basked filled with a scrumptious risotto. I can recall precisely the risotto I ate that day, a delicious white wine risotto, but mostly I remember how fancy looked to me that handmade edible “container”, so elegant and simple at the same time. Not to mention that that crispy parmesan basket melted slowly with the heat of the food contained in it, giving to the risotto an extraordinary taste. So, of course I had to try to make that delicatessen at home and surprisingly I found out that it is not tricky nor difficult to be done! All you need is parmesan cheese: just bake one cup of finely grated parmesan cheese for few minutes, and the magic is done! You can make this container to serve any kind of food, like a pasta, risotto, chilly or whatever you like, and the result will be astonishing and delicious! Indeed, as I already told you, once you pour a hot food in the cheese basket, it melts the bottom, so the food will get all the flavor of the cheese…  Considering we are less than a month away from Valentine’s day,  why don’t planning to surprise your significant half with a romantic dinner with such an easy – but impressive- first course?  


1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

1 serving white wine risotto


In case you wish to fill your edible basket with white wine risotto, consider that the risotto needs to be prepared at the exact time you want to eat it. Follow the recipe here and to make sure to cook it at perfection, read these precious tips: “the ten golden rules for a perfect risotto“.

About the basket (you can easily bake at least two baskets at the time), you can  even decide to prepare it ahead of time: it will keep  its shape better if totally cooled off. Don’t worry: your basket will quickly get warm once you pour in it a hot entrée.

Cut a 9″ by 9” piece of parchment paper and arrange it in an oven sheet. Spread evenly 1 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese. Bake at 360 F. (180 C.) for about 5 minutes or until  it starts bubbling.

Take it out of the oven and wait a few minutes until it starts solidify.  At this point place it on top of a small cup, to help it get its shape.  I used four glasses for each corner, to give the cup a nice shape.

Once the basket is completely cooled off, flip it and place it in a plate… 

Fill It with an entrée of your choice and… Enjoy! And don’t forget to eat the basket as well ;-)!


TIPS:  – If by  chance your first attempt would fail, do not despair:  keep the pieces of baked parmesan aside to decorate the top of your entrée once served.

– Hypothetically you could use any kind of grated cheese for the basket, like Pecorino or Romano cheese.

– Once flipped, the basket tends to open up: do not worry, it will look nice once filled with food.

– About the filling, just remember to pick an entrée that would taste fine with the aftertaste of cheese. For instance, I would avoid any sea food entrée.

– I tried to panfry the parmesan instead of baking it, but unfortunately the melted cheese wouldn’t keep the shape.


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.


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.


I really hope you enjoyed my recipe this week, and If so, please don’t forget to like it, share it or leave a comment! And if you’ll decide to subscribe, you will be informed weekly and for free about any new recipes I will post!



If you’d like to experiment more “mushrooms recipes” you may want to have a look to:

1) Velvety dried porcini soup;

2) Butternut squash and porcini in disguise soup;

3) Butternut squash and porcini noodles.



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Rice salad (Insalata di Riso), “to go” or “to stay”, delicious anyway!


I would say, without question, that Rice Salad (“Insalata di Riso”) is the SUMMER ITALIAN CLASSIC – as much as “Italian meatballs” are a WINTER ITALIAN CLASSIC! Every Italian, from Sicily to the North of Italy, knows what an Insalata di Riso is, and all cook it in the same way (with maybe a few exceptions due to the local products of the various Regions). It is a fresh dish, super easy to prepare, and able to be prepared ahead of time. A rice salad would never be missing from any Italian summer party or picnic.

As any other rice salad, this dish is composed by a base of boiled white rice, enriched with meat (frankfurters and ham), fish (tuna), veggies (pickled, fresh, or frozen), eggs, and cheese. Very quick to prepare, perfect for picnics or lunch boxes (as is the tuna and lemon pasta salad) and particularly suitable for parties (as much as “Tartine“) not only because it can be served cool, but especially because it looks colorful and tempting.

As for all the ingredients that this salad needs, I usually make a big bowl of it, so we can consume it during all the week, and my husband loves it because is the perfect alternative to a sandwich to be eaten for lunch at the office.

Even though I usually try to be very precise with the quantities, I would suggest you make this salad by adjusting the ingredients according to your individual tastes (I mean, if you don’t like tuna, you can skip it, and add more ham instead, or viceversa). I will try to give you an idea of how I make it, using pictures, and approximate quantities.

INGREDIENTS for a big bowl

3 cups white rice cooked “al dente”

6-8 frankfurters

2 big cans tuna in oil

1 small pack ham cubes

1 small pack frozen peas, boiled

1 jar Italian mix giardiniera

1 handful cappers

1 cup green olives chopped

half jar cocktail onions cut in two

a handful of sweet roasted peppers

a handful of Asiago cheese cut in cubes

a couple of sliced eggs

mayonnaise to decorate



Cook the rice as it was pasta “al dente” (don’t forget to salt the water!), drain it, and rinse it under cool water. Be careful not to overcook the rice because if you let it cook too long, once drained all the grains will stick together, ruining both the taste and appearance of the salad.

I took a pictures of all the ingredients together, but you don’t need to dirty so many dishes, as I did! 😉


Just add all the ingredients to the rice, and mix them together!

Put the salad in the refrigerator and enjoy it when cooled.

Add to your portion some Asiago cheese cubes, few slices of boiled egg, and – if you like some extra taste – a few lines of mayonnaise.





TIPS: – If you decide to make this rice salad for a cook out (which sounds like an awesome idea), remember not to mix the mayonnaise with the salad, as to avoid it spoiling too quickly in the heat.

– If you make this salad for a party, use the eggs and mayonnaise not only as ingredients but as decorations: your dish will look gorgeously alluring!

– According to my personal experience, kids don’t appreciate this plate. My daughters like most of the ingredients of this salad separated, but once mixed all together, they just don’t want to take even a bite!

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,






White Wine risotto (Risotto al vino bianco): simple and sophisticated!



By now you probably already know that “Risotto” is one of my favorite dishes and, unusual for an Italian, that I prefer it to pasta. However, risotto requires a more complex cooking process to prepare, so many people are discouraged by this and simply give up on the idea of trying to cook it.

Well, this white wine risotto is extremely simple and quick to prepare (about 25 minutes)- perfect for beginners. It is light and tasty, and equally suited for a family meal or an important dinner.

Follow the ten golden rules for the perfect risotto and the recipe below and you will amazed by the excellent results you’ll get.

INGREDIENTS for 4 servings

2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice – 400 gr. riso Carnaroli o Arborio o Vialone Nano

1 white onion, medium sized, or 2 small – 1 cipolla media o due piccole

2 Tbs olive oil – 2 cucchiai d’olio d’oliva

5 tbs. Parmesan cheese – 30 gr. circa parmigiano

16 oz or 2 cups good quality white wine – 500 ml di vino bianco di buona qualita’

about 64 oz hot broth (better if homemade) – 1 lt e 1/2 di brodo bollente

1 Tbs butter or mascarpone cheese for the “mantecatura” -un cucchiaio di burro o mascarpone per la mantecatura

salt to taste – sale quanto basta

pepper to taste – pepe quanto basta


Prepare the broth by bringing it to a boil and then keeping it at low heat. (You will add the broth – just a little a time- to the rice in later steps).

Chop the onion and brown it in olive oil at medium heat in a pan big enough to cook the risotto.

Once the onion becomes golden, raise the heat, add the rice, stir the mix, and allow the rice to toast for a few minutes. (With the word “toast” I mean cook the rice and the onion together without any kind of liquid for few minutes- without burning it!)

Next, you will begin the process of gradually cooking the liquids into the rice. It is very important to add the liquids, just a little at a time, and wait until it is thoroughly absorbed before adding more.

So turn the heat back down to medium, add a bit of the white wine, and set your kitchen timer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally as the wine cooks in. Continue to add wine a little at a time until it is all absorbed.

Once all the white wine is incorporated, start adding the hot broth, a ladle at a time. Again, remember to wait until the liquid is thoroughly absorbed each time before adding more, and stir occasionally. Add salt, as desired.

When there are just three minutes left on the timer, switch off the heat, add another ladle of broth, the butter (or mascarpone cheese), and the parmesan to the risotto. 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 sprinkle some black pepper on the top of it, if they like.



I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do, share it, like it, leave a comment, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,