11/01/11 Penne with Sausage, Turkey, and Spinach

"Il tempo un gran medico." (Time is a great healer.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Adriana's Italian Bakery!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Potato Gratin with Mascarpone and Porcini Mushrooms
  -Penne with Sausage, Turkey, and Spinach
  -Cranberry and Chocolate Tart

"Buongiorno!" I'm grateful for every day we can spend together. Thanks for being part of the newsletter and part of my larger community. You matter to us. If ever I've missed sending you a reply and you want to be sure you're seen, just hit reply to this or write to me here. I never mean to miss your messages. I get buried sometimes, and it takes a bit of effort. But you're worth it. Enjoy the autumn season and this week's recipes!

Arrivederci and grazie again!

Yours Truly,              
Adriana Ciccarello       

 Italian cookies for your Thanksgiving

Italian Thanksgiving? According to the fine pilgrim tradition, our Italian ancestors went over to the New World, America, celebrated and gave thanks for their new found fortune, freedom and prosperity. However, they were very reluctant to give up the traditions of their own, that is why they still serve manicotti, lasagna or stuffed shells prior to the turkey. Afterwards, they topped off the feast with fine Italian pastries and cookies with espresso.

Why not order a scrumptious batch of Italian cookies for your Thanksgiving feast? They're perfect to adorn any Thanksgiving table and delicious to enjoy.

If you would like to order in time for the Holiday, please keep in mind the following deadline: All Thanksgiving orders must be placed by Thursday morning, November 10, at noon EDT. Click here to order!

 Recipe: Potato Gratin with Mascarpone and Porcini Mushrooms

Potato Gratin with Mascarpone and Porcini Mushrooms
Gratin di Patate con Mascarpone e Funghi Porcini


4 ounces dried Porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano cheese
1 and 1/2 cups Mascarpone cheese (from about 1 and 1/2 seven-ounce containers)
1 cup whipping cream
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 and 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 5 large), peeled, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices


Place porcini and 1 cup boiling water in medium bowl.

Place small bowl atop mushrooms to keep submerged.

Let soak 20 minutes.

Drain and coarsely chop mushrooms.

Melt butter with olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat.

Add mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat.

Whisk 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese and next 4 ingredients in small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Butter wide shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Arrange 1/4 of potato slices in bottom of dish.

Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Scatter 1/4 of mushrooms over.


Spread half of cheese mixture over, shaking dish to settle.

Repeat with remaining potatoes and mushrooms in 2 layers each; spread remaining cheese mixture over.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons Parmigiano cheese over.

Place gratin dish on rimmed baking sheet.

Bake gratin until top is brown and sauce is bubbling at edges, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Let gratin rest 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Penne with Sausage, Turkey, and Spinach

Penne with Sausage, Turkey, and Spinach
Penne con Salsiccia, Tacchino e Spinaci


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound spicy sausages, casings removed
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup whipping cream
1 pound Penne pasta
Two 6-ounce bags fresh baby spinach leaves
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, divided


Heat olive oil in large deep skillet over medium-high heat.

Add onions and saute until beginning to brown, about 7 minutes.

Add ground turkey and sausages.

Saute until cooked through and beginning to brown, breaking up with back of spoon and occasionally scraping bottom of skillet, about 10 minutes.

Stir in nutmeg, then cream; bring to simmer.

Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until 'al dente'.

Drain, reserving 1 and 1/2 cups cooking liquid.

Add pasta to sauce.

Cook over medium heat, adding spinach in batches and tossing until wilted.

Stir in 1/2 cup cheese and enough cooking liquid to moisten.

Transfer to large bowl.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese; serve. Makes 6 servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Cranberry and Chocolate Tart

Cranberry and Chocolate Tart
Crostata di Mirtilli e Cioccolato


For the Cranberry Topping:
1/2 cup cranberry juice, divided
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
One 12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

For the Crust:
1 and 1/4 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (made from about 6 and 1/2 ounces cookies, finely ground in processor)
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Mascarpone Filling:
One 8-ounce container Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chilled whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Thin strips of crystallized ginger (optional garnish)


Prepare the Cranberry Topping:
Pour 1/4 cup cranberry juice into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over.

Let stand until softened, 15 minutes.

Combine 1/4 cup cranberry juice, cranberries, and next 5 ingredients in medium saucepan; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Reduce heat to medium; simmer until cranberries are tender but still plump, 5 minutes.

Strain into bowl; set cranberries aside.

Add gelatin mixture to hot juice in bowl; stir until gelatin dissolves.

Stir cranberries back into juice.

Chill until cranberry mixture is cold and slightly thickened, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Stir chopped crystallized ginger into cranberry mixture.

Prepare the Crust:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350F.

Combine chocolate wafer cookie crumbs, sugar, and salt in medium bowl; add 5 tablespoons melted butter and stir until crumbs feel moist when pressed together with fingertips, adding remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter if mixture is dry.

Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom.

Bake chocolate crust until beginning to set and slightly crisp, pressing with spoon if crust puffs during baking, about 14 minutes.

Transfer tart pan to rack and cool crust completely before filling.

Prepare the Mascarpone Filling:
Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients except ginger in medium bowl just until thick enough to spread (do not overbeat or mixture may curdle).

Spread filling in cooled crust.

Spoon cranberry mixture evenly over mascarpone filling.

Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

Garnish with crystallized ginger strips, if desired.

Cut tart into wedges and serve cold. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

That's it!

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 Only In Italy!

"Only In Italy" is a daily news column that translates & 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:

How Pasta Conquered the Universe

Rome - June 15, 2011 - Pasta has topped a global survey of the world's favorite foods. So how did the dish so closely associated with Italy become a staple of so many tables around the globe?

While not everyone knows the difference between farfalle, fettuccine and fusilli, many people have slopped over a bowl of spaghetti bolognese or dove into a plate of lasagne.

But now a global survey by the charity Oxfam has named pasta as the world's most popular dish, ahead of meat, rice and pizza. As well as being popular in unsurprising European countries, pasta was one of the favorites in the Philippines, Guatemala, Brazil and South Africa.

And figures from the International Pasta Organization show Venezuela is the largest consumer of pasta, after Italy. Tunisia, Chile and Peru also feature in the top 10, while Mexicans, Argentineans and Bolivians all eat more pasta than the British.

Global sales figures reflect the world's love affair with pasta - they have risen from $13bn USD (8bn BP) in 2003 to $16bn USD (10bn BP) in 2010. The analysts at Datamonitor predict it will hit $19bn USD (12bn BP) by 2015, despite rising wheat costs.

So how did pasta become so popular? It's because it is cheap, versatile and convenient, says Jim Winship, from the UK-based Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association. A sauce to go with it can be made from simple ingredients.

"You can create lots of different dishes with it. It tastes good and it's filling. It also has a long shelf life, so you can keep it in the cupboards until you need to put a meal together."

But that's only part of its success. Pasta is also relatively easy to mass produce and transport around the world, making it a popular product with food companies as well.

"It's always been an industrial product," says John Dickie, professor in Italian Studies at University College London and author of Delizia! A History of the Italians and their Food.

"It is definitely one of the things that has contributed to its success - it's easy to transport and has a long shelf life. It has commercial genes."

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University London, says technological advances in the 19th Century allowed pasta to be produced on a big scale. But the Industrial Revolution did that for everything else, he adds, and the reason pasta had been particularly successful was because people liked it and the Italian way of life.

"It's a cultural phenomenon, not an industrial phenomenon," he says. "People like the Italian way of life and their simple, staple foods."

Pasta has always had a global aspect as its origins are not purely Italian, which is unsurprising considering it can be made with just wheat and water.

The Greeks and Romans had pasta-like foods but they tended to be baked, not boiled. Ancient China had dumplings, but it's a myth that the Venetian explorer Marco Polo returned from China with pasta in 1295.

The most accepted theory is that the Arab invasions of the 8th Century brought a dried noodle-like product to Sicily. This early pasta was made using flour from durum wheat, which Sicily specialized in. Under Italian law, dry pasta (or pasta secca) can only be made from this type of wheat, and the vast bulk of pasta is still made in Italy.

And despite being considered a cheap meal now it was the preserve of the rich in the very beginning, says Prof. Dickie.

"We tend to think of pasta like potatoes but it has never been viewed as a bland staple. It's been associated with prestige. People used to buy votes with pasta."

The first reference to pasta in Italy was noted in 1154 and it was about an export factory in Sicily, he says.

He says its breakthrough as a common food came in Naples in the 1700s, when it was recognized as "a good way to feed a large part of the populace".

But pasta popularity outside of Italy really took off at the turn of the 20th Century with large-scale Italian immigration to the New World. This is when it started to become known as Italy's national dish, he says.

Italian restaurateur Antonio Carluccio said pasta may have a long history, but the Italians made it their own by eating it with tomatoes.

He says most pasta is spaghetti outside of Italy but there are actually 600 different types and shapes and each region cooks it differently. He says its appeal is in the taste and its nutritional value.

"It is pleasurable with a good sauce, but it should just be coated, otherwise you lose the taste of the pasta. It is a complex carbohydrate which releases all the goodness slowly and you feel satisfied for a long time.

"I don't know one person who doesn't like pasta. It is very similar to bread - both are made with flour and water and they both need an accompaniment."

He's clearly not met food critic and broadcaster Giles Coren, who described pasta as "overrated gloppy stuff" that appeals only to children.

"Ask a footballer what they can cook and they always say spaghetti. It is what you reach for when there is nothing else left in the cupboard. It's poor people's food and it's unsophisticated. It's the same as bread - you just boil it instead of putting it in the oven."

So as popular as it is, pasta hasn't conquered everyone in the universe.


- The dried noodle-like food the Arabs introduced to Sicily in the 8th century is most likely the origins of dried pasta and was being produced in great quantities in Palermo at this time. Today with the invasion of the Mafia, the mass quantities of pasta produced has been replaced with that of cement, threats, and bullets.

- Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing pasta to the United States. It appears that he fell in love with a certain dish he tried in Naples, while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France. In fact, he quickly ordered crates of "macaroni," along with a pasta-making machine, to be sent back to the States before the garbage crisis prevented his ship from leaving port.

- Whether you like it or not, it takes about a half a gallon of water to cook pasta, and about a gallon of water to clean the stupid pot.

- Cook pasta until it is 'al dente', firm to the teeth yet tender. Many Americans cook pasta until it is too soft. It does not have to resemble Chef Boyardee pasta. A minute or two less of cooking time will do wonders for your pasta dishes and create less embarrassment. By the way, Chef Boyardee canned pasta products is named after its founder, Italian-American immigrant Ettore Boiardi.

The pasta line began production in the United States in the 1920s as a practical joke...unfortunately, many Americans took the joke seriously.

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