Italian Christmas Cooking
Why is there so much interest in Italian cooking? Because Italians love eating food, preparing food, sharing food? Well, those are key ingredients, but add family, friends, music and a particular Italian la dolce vita attitude and you will be close.
Regional cooking in Italy is as varied as regional cooking in the States. Cincinnati chili is not the same as Tex-Mex chili. New York style clam chowder looks and tastes very differently from New England clam chowder. Whether the region is Abruzzi, Tuscany, Sicily or a lesser known one called Marche, the style, the choices and the specialties will be remarkably delicious and unique.
The meatball, braciola, sauce and homemade spaghetti recipes below originated in La Marche. They are perfect for the holiday family meal. Put on some Frank Sinatra, smile and enjoy!
Ingredients: ground beef, egg, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper, water
2 lbs. ground chuck or ground round. Ground pork may be used for half the beef.
1 egg – medium or large
½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
½ cup regular bread crumbs
Tsp. chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Mix together following ingredients by hand in large bowl. Knead mixture to sticky and pliable mixture. Mixture should not fall apart from being too dry or too wet. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water to achieve consistency as necessary.
To form meatball, put mixture in palm of hand and shape into ball by rolling in palms. Warmth of hand will provide enough heat to melt meatball into rounded ball. Don’t rush this step. Meatballs should be about 2 inches across. Mixture will generate approximately 35 – 40 meatballs.
Using large frying pan, add ¼ inches of olive oil. Brown meatballs in olive oil. Flame will be medium hot for best results. Don’t crowd meatballs. Drain after frying.
Quick View Ingredients: Round steak, bacon, parsley
1 package of round steak
4 slices uncooked bacon
Pound round steak to flatten and thin. Divide round steak into 4 sections. Add ½ piece of bacon plus parsley to each section. Roll tightly and use toothpick to hold together.
Brown in olive oil. You may use same pan as meatballs, but should add move olive oil.
Quick View Ingredients: water, onion, celery, tomato puree, tomato paste,
¼ cup water
1 small onion
2 leafy celery tops
Simmer onion and celery in water in a large stock style pot. Add 3 cans tomato paste and 4 cans of tomato puree plus salt and pepper to taste. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Add browned meatballs and braciole. Insure meat is covered by sauce. Add more paste, puree or water as necessary. Simmer covered for 2 hours. Watch bottom of pan to make sure sauce doesn’t scorch.
Tips: Sausage, chicken, and/or pork chops may be added to sauce for additional flavor. Brown all meat first. Chicken tends to thin the sauce. If too thick, add puree. If too thin, add paste.
Quick View Ingredients: Eggs, Flour and Salt and pasta machine
4 cups flour
Salt to taste
Make mound of 4 cups of flour and salt mixture with hole in center (think volcano). Drop in 3 lightly beaten eggs. Mix by hand. Consistency should be firm, yet sticky. If too wet, add more flour. If too dry, add more egg. Knead until dough is soft, pliable and smooth. Smooth is important. Let dough rest for 30 minutes.
Follow directions on pasta machine. A good hand machine is Imperia which can be purchased via internet.
Tips: Flatten small balls of dough, running each one through progressively narrower tracks until desired spaghetti size is cut. As each strip of dough is flattened, sprinkle with flour. Dough should be dry before cutting into spaghetti strips.
Let spaghetti dry to brittle before cooking. To cook, place in boiling hot water until spaghetti rises to the top. Do not overcrowd. Homemade dry spaghetti cooks quickly.
Drain. Cover with sauce. Surround with meat. Serve.
Homemade food is an offering of love to your family and friends. They will be delighted that their holiday meal is da Italia.