10/30/07 Crostata con Fichi e Marsala from

"Tutto fumo e niente arrosto." (All smoke and no fire.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Adriana's Italian Bakery!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Ragu' al Sardo
  -Focaccia con Patate e Rosmarino
  -Crostata con Fichi e Marsala

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


Yours Truly,              
Adriana Ciccarello       

 Cookies for Christmas

Cookies have always played an important part in Italian cuisine, whether you have them for breakfast with a cappuccino, or nibbled with a quick cup of espresso at a mid-morning or afternoon break. It is at holiday time however, particularly Christmas, when cookies truly shine.

In almost any Italian home, whether it be in Italy, or in North America, most families treat themselves to traditional cookies each Christmas, and often these cookies are from recipes that have been handed down through their families for generations.

If you are interested in ordering your own Italian cookie tray this Holiday season for your family or close friends, you might be interested in the following deadline: All orders must be placed by Wednesday morning, December 12, at noon EST. Click here to order!

 Recipe: Ragu' al Sardo

Ragu' al Sardo
Sardinian Meat Sauce


3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 lb. ground turkey
Pinch dried crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch saffron threads
1 28-oz. can imported Italian crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper


Saute onion in olive oil over low heat until onion softens thoroughly. Add garlic and parsley and raise heat to moderate. Saute for 2 minutes.

Add turkey, red pepper flakes and saffron and continue cooking. Break up meat with a wooden spoon. Cook until meat is cooked through but not brown.

Add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste and simmer partially covered for 25 minutes.

That's it!

 Recipe: Potato and Rosemary Focaccia

Potato and Rosemary Focaccia
Focaccia con Patate e Rosmarino


2 and 1/2 teaspoons (a 1/4-ounce package) active dry yeast
4 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups mashed cooked russet (baking) potatoes (about 1 and 1/4 lbs)
1 tablespoon salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 and 1/2 lbs small red potatoes


In a small bowl sprinkle the yeast over 1 cup warm water and let it proof for 5 minutes, or until it is foamy.

In a large bowl combine well 4 cups of the flour with the mashed potatoes and the salt until the mixture resembles coarse meal, add the yeast mixture, and stir the dough until it is combined well.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it, incorporating as much of the remaining 1/2 cup flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball, put it in an oiled bowl, and turn it to coat it with the 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.

While the dough is rising, in a small bowl stir together the garlic, the rosemary, and the olive oil and let the mixture stand, covered.

Turn the dough out into a well-oiled 15.5 by 10.5 inch jelly-roll pan, press it evenly into the pan, and let it rise, covered loosely, in a warm place for 45 minutes or less, or until it is almost double in bulk.

Using a mandoline or hand-held slicer cut the red potatoes into paper-thin slices, arrange the slices on the dough, overlapping them, and brush them with the olive oil mixture, discarding the garlic.

Sprinkle the focaccia with salt and pepper to taste and bake it in the bottom third of a preheated 400 F oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it is golden.

Let the focaccia cool in the pan on a rack and serve it warm or at room temperature.

That's it!

 Recipe: Crostata con Fichi e Marsala

Crostata con Fichi e Marsala
Marsala and Fig Crostata


For the filling:
1 and 1/4 lbs dried Calimyrna figs, stemmed, coarsely chopped
1 and 3/4 cups dry Marsala wine
1 and 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the crust:
2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons (1 and 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs


For the filling:
Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Cover and simmer until figs are very tender, about 1 hour.

Uncover and simmer until liquid reduces slightly, about 8 minutes.

Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Cool slightly. Refrigerate until cool, stirring occasionally (mixture will be thick), about 45 minutes.

Discard cinnamon sticks. Filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix flour, sugar, fennel seeds, and salt in processor. Add butter and 1 egg. Using on/off turns, process until dough forms.

Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Flatten each half into disk.

Wrap 1 disk in plastic wrap; refrigerate until cold, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.

Press remaining dough disk onto bottom and up sides of 10-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.

Pierce bottom all over with fork.

Chill until firm, about 10 minutes. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Roll out chilled dough disk on waxed paper to 12-inch round.

Transfer dough on waxed paper to rimless baking sheet.

Cut dough into twelve 3/4-inch-wide strips.

Chill strips while filling tart. Spread filling evenly in crust.

Place 6 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Place remaining 6 strips diagonally atop first 6 strips, forming diamond lattice pattern. Press ends of strips against edge of tart pan to trim.

Whisk remaining egg in small bowl to blend; brush over lattice.

Bake tart until juices bubble thickly around edges and crust is deep golden, about 55 minutes.

Cool on rack 1 hour. Using small knife, gently loosen tart from pan sides. Remove sides.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with ice cream. Serves 8.

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:

Italy Angered Over Racist and Clueless German Judge

Cagliari - October 19 - He is a Sardinian - ergo he is entitled to a light sentence for rape. Sardinian public figures and politicians reacted with outrage yesterday to a German court ruling which effectively stated that an Italian defendant's Sardinian origins had to be taken into account when it came to sentencing him for rape.

The Sardinian in question is Maurizio Pusceddu, 29, sentenced one year ago to six years' imprisonment in a court in Buckeburg, Germany. During his trial, Pusceddu had admitted to sequestering, raping, torturing and humiliating his Lithuanian girlfriend over a three-week period, merely because he suspected that she had betrayed him with another man.

In evidence to the police, the unnamed woman reported that not only had Pusceddu locked her up, raped and gang-raped her but that he had also covered her body with cigarette burns, poured vinegar on to her wounds and on occasions urinated on her.

Under German law, Judge Baron Burries von Hammerstein could have issued a sentence of up to 15 years. However, the judge took into account Pusceddu's partial confession, the fact that he had no previous criminal record and, controversially, his Sardinian origins. In his judgement, Baron von Hammerstein wrote: "one must take into account the cultural and ethnic characteristics of the accused. He is a Sardinian. The roles of men and women in his country certainly cannot be used as an excuse but they must be considered as an extenuating circumstance."

The case came to light only this week, one year after the trial in Germany, because Pusceddu has requested that he might serve his sentence in Italy. It was only when his lawyer, Anna Maria Busia, was preparing to present Pusceddu's prison transfer request to a Cagliari court of appeal that she received the full text of Baron von Hammerstein's original ruling.

Even though her client benefited from a reduction of his sentence, allegedly because of his Sardinian origins, Ms Busia still described the sentence as "racist". Junior justice minister Luigi Manconi, himself a Sardinian, called the ruling an "example of differential racism" whilst the president of the region of Sardinia, Renato Soru, commented: "this whole story just shows that there are idiots everywhere".

Former Cagliari footballer and modern-day Sardinian folk hero Gigi Riva expressed his disappointment, saying: "I thought that all those cliches about the island had been long forgotten. Clearly I was wrong."

"Che fortuna, che culo!" Cazzo, he could have reduced his sentence even further if he appeared barefoot in court .

"One must take into account the cultural and ethnic characteristics of the accused. He is a Sardinian." Hmmm...He does have a point. Sardinians speak a language completely incomprehensible to all other Italians, including goats, and celebrate more saints' days than the Vatican.

The drunken kraut must have been referring to another interesting cultural and ethnic characteristic of Sardinia and that is it's the home to the most beautiful witches in the world.

The witches of Sardinia are very secretive. Practically every village has a witch but outsiders can never discover who they really are. This is based on the fact that it is very difficult to reach these villages because public transportation in Sardinia is a lie.

A Sardinian witch is a beautiful woman; almost always married with children. While most sane Italian mothers pass their heirloom and favorite sauce recipes down to daughters, Sardinian witches pass their secrets down to only one of their daughters, starting from when the girl is very young. If she has no daughter, the witch takes her secrets with her to the grave.

However; her clueless husband and family come second to her wacky calling.

When townspeople of questionable intelligence and sanity seek her services, she usually gives them free of charge. She works her magic by creating special chants and dispelling homemade potions, and is paid in household and farm goods.

The "filtro di amore" or love potion is what is most sought after, especially by young ugly women. The second most asked-for service is the removal of a "malocchio" or evil eye. This incredibly mesmerizing act is performed by dropping a stone into a glass of salted water. Somehow, as the stone sinks the curse is removed or maybe it's the way in which the stone sinks that removes the curse. Either way, it doesn't compare to the performance of rocks in her head.

Another way the witch removes a curse is to have you give her some of your intimate apparel, preferably clean; she makes a chant over it in secret, gives you back the clothing and the curse is supposedly removed. If the curse is actually removed, then payment by live chicken is happily accepted.

This is white magic...funny magic!

But things can get serious if black magic is involved. How much black magic the witches perform is a mystery; it simply isn't spoken of because Sardinians have enough problems of their own.

But if the witch is willing to do black magic, she will go in her kitchen and make a doll out of cork or rags, then stick a pin in the shoulder or the leg. The person who commissioned the curse then risks illegal trespassing and breaking and entering by hiding the doll in a secret place in the cursed one's home, probably on top of a ceiling beam or beneath a floorboard. In short time, the person starts having a series of misfortunes or gets a terrible ache in the shoulder or a dreadful pain in the leg.

And until the doll is discovered and removed from the house or a couple of aspirins are taken, his problems continue.

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