12/03/13 Tuscan Beef Stew with Polenta

"Ridi, ridi, che mamma ha fatto i gnocchi." (Laugh, laugh, for Mom made gnocchi. Usually said to someone who is laughing for a silly reason, or for something that is annoying.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Adriana's Italian Bakery!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Broccoli Gratinata with Pecorino
  -Linguine with Radicchio, Leeks and Walnut Pesto
  -Tuscan Beef Stew with Polenta

"La vita ?bella!" Did you enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday? Thank you again for finding those precious minutes for our bakery family. The wonderful Holidau Season is coming soon so...cook slowly, laugh out loud, live truly and try to forgive quickly. After all, life is too short to be full of regrets.

Arrivederci and grazie again!

Yours Truly,              
Adriana Ciccarello       

 Italian Cookies for the Christmas Holidays

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, please keep in mind our ordering deadline: All orders must be placed by Thursday, December 6, at 12:00 PM EDT. Click here to order!

 Recipe: Broccoli Gratinata with Pecorino

Broccoli Gratinata with Pecorino
Broccoli Gratinata con Pecorino


2 bunches broccoli (about 3 pounds)
2/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (1 and 1/2 to 2 ounces)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Trim the stalks of the broccoli and break the tops into 2 to 3-inch florets.

Cut the butter into very thin slices (plus more for the dish).

Cook broccoli in boiling salted water until crisp-tender but still bright green, about 5-6 minutes.

Drain and cool.

Cut the florets lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Coat large oval gratin or 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with butter.

Arrange broccoli slices, overlapping tightly, in rows in the dish.

Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper.

Dot with 1/4 cup butter.

Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese.

Preheat oven to 425?F.

Bake the dish uncovered until cheese is melted and broccoli tops brown, about 15-20 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Linguine with Radicchio, Leeks and Walnut Pesto

Linguine with Radicchio, Leeks and Walnut Pesto
Linguine con Radicchio, Porri e Pesto di Noce


4 cups thinly sliced leeks (including some dark green parts)
2 cups thinly sliced radicchio
1/4 cup walnut pieces (about 1 ounce) plus additional for garnish
1/2 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
8 ounces linguine
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese plus shaved Parmesan for garnish
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until 'al dente', stirring occasionally.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.

Add leeks.

Season with salt and pepper.


Cook until tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes.

Puree parsley, 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese, 1/4 cup walnuts, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a processor until coarse puree forms.

Season pesto with salt and pepper.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

Add pasta, pesto, and radicchio to leeks.

Toss, adding cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry.

Garnish with walnuts and shaved Parmigiano cheese. Makes 2 servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Tuscan Beef Stew with Polenta

Tuscan Beef Stew with Polenta
Spezzatino di Manzo Toscano con Polenta


For the Stew:
2 pounds stew beef, such as boneless chuck
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 medium tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, cut into medium dice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 and 1/2 cups dry red wine
8 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Polenta:
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
4 cups vegetable stock or broth
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


Prepare the Stew:
Trim the excess fat off the beef and cut into 1-inch cubes.

In a heavy, large saucepan over moderately high heat, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking.

Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Add beef and saute, stirring occasionally, until brown on all sides, about 5-6 minutes.

Add wine and thyme, stir well, and bring to a boil.

Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, then lower heat to moderately low, cover, and simmer, stirring every 15 minutes, until beef is tender, about 2 hours.

Prepare the Polenta:
Pour olive oil into large serving bowl and swirl to coat.

Set aside.

In a heavy, large pot over moderately high heat, bring stock to a boil.

Lower heat to moderate and slowly add polenta, stirring constantly.

Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until polenta thickens and pulls away from sides of pan, about 10 minutes.

Transfer to oil-coated serving bowl and keep warm.

When beef is tender, use tongs to remove tomato skins and thyme sprigs.

Transfer stew to large serving bowl.

Serve polenta alongside. Makes 4 to 6 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:

Italian Tax Chief: "I Think Italians Are Evading, But I Don't Really Know"

Rome - October 7, 2013 - The chief of the national inland revenue agency told radio listeners that he believes tax evasion for economic survival exists in Italy and added that if taxes were lowered the country would see less cheating.

When asked whether evasion for economic survival exists, Revenue Agency Director Attilio Befera responded, '"I believe so, but I don't really know, not being an evader (myself)'".

"There are various kinds of evasion. We try to tackle all of them with maximum intensity. In Italy, one must pay taxes, and if it weren't for (tax-collection agency) Equitalia, no one would pay,'' Befera said.

Befera also admitted that fewer taxes would lead to less evasion.

"Without a doubt. There would be less evasion (than now happens) due to lack of liquidity," he said. Nevertheless, Befera said tax evaders should not be treated leniently. "It is a fact that a tax cheat is a parasite on society," Befera declared.

Befera complained that, despite progress toward stamping out the problem, "evasion is still part of the Italian culture, and it must change. Evasion is not shrewdness. We have to teach this to new generations".

When it comes down to money we Italians love talking long as it's someone else's (preferably another Italian). But when it comes to giving out numbers to our own wealth, we are not going to be so liberal with the info.

Why the secrecy? Well, there are several reasons why we don't like to talk about money:

1) We have to always be on the lookout for who might be listening.
2) We fear destiny...which shouldn't be tempted.
3) We fear other Italians...who shouldn't be provoked.
4) And we fear Italy's tax authorities, especially when we declare laughably low incomes.

So, when it comes to money, the golden rule is very simple: speak quietly, deal in cash, and miscalculate on the side of caution.

Look, our hesitation on Italian tax matters is infamous. Whispering your income in a caffe' could attract more attention than double parking your mule outside. The sentiments that motivate the rest of the world to pay their taxes are obligation, habit and mistrust. Hmmm...that won't cut it here in Italy. No-no, we need much more convincing.

For example, take the United States: if an American declares a low income he could become shunned from society or looked down upon. When an Italian in Italy does so, 6 neighbors would come over to ask how he pulled it off, 4 relatives will get offended for not being consulted beforehand, 17 more would despise him in silence and one might tip off the authorities...but only if he is 100% sure it can be done in complete anonymity (after all, you don't want to risk your hard earned reputation of being known as "such a lovely person who minds his own business").

We evade taxes because we find a moral justification in doing so. Of course, the Italian state helps with its ludicrous and grotesque fiscal regulations and tax pressure. So, the Italian taxpayer has a whole arsenal of excuses: wasted public money, Mafia, state privileges for politicians' families, friends, lovers, whores, etc.

With all this evidence at hand, the Italian tax evader turns into Yul Brynner in the "King of Siam" and conducts his own defense, assisted by his accountant and the bank friend which supply him with regulatory, practical and psychological support.

Like a speeding sign, we Italians will decide when the general rule is applicable to our special case (and we consider 99.8% of our cases as being "special"). The same is for our taxes. We are our OWN tax authorities and almost always honorably decide not to collect.

"Only In Italy" Subscribe today and you'll discover why the last improvements to Italy were made by Julius Caesar and why it's been downhill ever since!  Click Here to Subscribe!

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