01/15/08 Pasta Shells Stuffed with Spinach and Cheese from

"Il bicchiere della staffa." (The wine glass of the stirrup. One for the road.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Adriana's Italian Bakery!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Focaccia a Quattro Formaggi
  -Risotto con Pomodori Secchi
  -Pasta Ripiena con Spinaci e Formaggio

Enjoy the recipes and the complimentary news article report from "Only In".


Yours Truly,              
Adriana Ciccarello       

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 Recipe: Focaccia a Quattro Formaggi

Focaccia a Quattro Formaggi
Focaccia with Four Cheeses


A 1/4-ounce package (2 and 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
1 cup grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 1/4 lb)
1/2 cup finely crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 cup grated Fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste


In the bowl of an electric mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) proof the yeast with sugar in water for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is foamy. Add flour, salt, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 cup of Parmigiano cheese and combine the dough well.

With the dough hook knead the dough for 2 minutes, or until it is soft and slightly sticky.

Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to an oiled bowl, and turn to coat it with olive oil.

Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 1 and 1/2 hours, or until it is double in bulk.

The dough may be made up to this point, punched down, and kept, covered and chilled, overnight.

Let the dough return to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Press the dough evenly into a oiled jelly-roll pan (15 and 1/2 by 10 and 1/2 by 1 inch), and let it rise, covered loosely, in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it is almost double in bulk.

In a bowl stir together the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese , mozzarella cheese, Gorgonzola cheese, Fontina cheese, the onion, and pepper to taste and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough.

Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the cheese mixture and sprinkle the focaccia with coarse salt.

Bake the focaccia in the bottom third of a preheated 400 F oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it is golden brown, let it cool in the pan on a rack, and serve warm or at room temperature.

That's it!

 Recipe: Risotto con Pomodori Secchi

Risotto con Pomodori Secchi
Sun-dried Tomato Risotto


1 ounce sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil, about 10 pieces)
1 cup water
2 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice (available at specialty foods shops)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
Finely chopped fresh parsley leaves for sprinkling the risotto if desired


In a small saucepan simmer the tomatoes in the water for 1 minute, drain them, reserving the liquid, and chop them.

In a saucepan combine the reserved cooking liquid and the broth, bring the liquid to a simmer, and keep it at a bare simmer.

In a large saucepan cook the onion and the garlic in the olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until they are softened, add the rice, stirring until each grain is coated with olive oil, and stir in the tomatoes.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering liquid and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed.

Continue adding the liquid, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each portion be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still 'al dente'. (The rice should take about 17 minutes to become 'al dente'.)

Stir in the Parmigiano cheese and salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle the risotto with the parsley. Serves 4 to 6.

That's it!

 Recipe: Pasta Ripiena con Spinaci e Formaggio

Pasta Ripiena con Spinaci e Formaggio
Pasta Shells Stuffed with Spinach and Cheese


Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Parmigiano cheese
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried, crumbled
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper

3 and 1/2 cups marinara or tomato sauce
32 jumbo pasta shells, freshly cooked
Additional grated Parmigiano cheese


Squeeze spinach dry. Transfer spinach to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, fennel, basil and garlic to bowl. Season mixture with salt and pepper; blend.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spoon 1/2 cup marinara sauce evenly over bottom of 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish.

Fill each pasta shell with spinach mixture.

Place shells, filling side up, in dish.

Spoon remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese.

Cover loosely with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.

Serve, passing additional Parmigiano cheese separately. Serves 6.

That's it!

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 Only In Italy!

"Only In Italy" is a daily news column that translates and reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news resources in Italy. Each story is slapped with our wild, often ironic, and sometimes rather opinionated comments. And now, for your reading pleasure:

Pathetic Salaries Force Young to Stay Home With Mamma

Rome - January 31, 2008 - An increasing number of young adult Italians remain with their families because of low wages offered for entry level jobs, according to a new report.

The socio-economic think-tank Isae said that the number of young adults staying home had climbed by 6% in 13 years and today about 75% still lived with their parents. According to Isae, 68.4% of young adults lived with their parents in 1991 while in 2004 this percentage rose to 74.1%. In 1991, the think-tank pointed out, first job salaries were 83% of the average national salary, while in 2004 they were only 74%.

Last October Economy Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa sparked controversy when he referred to the young adult Italians living at home as "big babies".

"Let's get these big babies out of the home," the minister told a parliamentary committee in regard to a budget measure to set aside funds to help young adults pay the rent on a place of their own. "We need to encourage young people to leave home. If they don't, they just stay with their parents, they don't get married and they don't become independent," he said.

Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi recently has spoke on the need to improve prospects for young people in regards to both salaries and job security.

"If they expect to have a salary which is lower than in the past and have to battle continually with job insecurity, they will lower their spending permanently," he said. Low salaries and precarious working conditions also prevent young people from leading independent "adult lives", Draghi added.

The economic reality of why young adults stay at home is in contrast with the stereotype of young Italians living at home for the comfort and security. This stereotype was the basis of a successful 2001 French film, Tanguy, about a 28-year-old college graduate who fights his parent's efforts, even in court, to get him out of the family nest. The film was inspired by a real Italian court case won by a son whose parents tried to force him out of their home.

In Italian marriage vows couples promise to maintain their children until they fulfill their aspirations. This concept is recognized by the country's constitution which does not set a time limit on this obligation.

"Quanto costa? Cacchio! MAMMA!" The economics minister, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, has lost touch with reality. His comments make no sense...just like his name. It's a good name if you're traveling by covered wagon somewhere in Sardegna.

It's a fact, Tommy, many Italians do not graduate until their late 20s and end up in poorly paid internships or with short-term contracts. The average salary is 1100-1300 Euros per month.

Let's say you decide it's time to finally say goodbye and live life on your own. You kiss your Mamma goodbye and head down to the local bank to ask for a mortgage. Padre Pio is smiling upon you that day and the bank decides to give you a 30 year mortgage of 85,850 Euros.

From the 85,850 Euros make sure to subtract:
- 4,000 Euros for taxes towards the real estate purchase (only 4000 Euros because it's my first home),
- 3,300 Euros for the Notary Public who handles the purchase documents,
- 2,500 Euros for the Notary Public who handles the bank mortgage papers,
- 3,000 Euros for the utilities connections (gas, water, electric),
- 7,500 Euros for cheap indispensable furniture (kitchen, table with 4 chairs, small couch, TV, queen bed, dresser drawer and 2 night tables).

Now, after forgetting the fact that your Notary is a whore, you drive your little Vespa scooter down to your local real estate agent to see what's available.

Hmmm...with 65,550 Euros you can purchase:

- Two garages (28 sq. meters),
- Two separate storage rooms in a residential building (21 sq. meters each),
- 55 sq. meter studio apartment available 20 km outside the city (for an additional 44,500 Euros, though).

You drive back home, walk in the front door, kiss your Mamma hello, eat three helpings of her "Linguine alla Puttanesca" and promise to her you will never stray again.

The End

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