♦ Potato Tart ♦ Tuscan Apple Cake ♦ Sugo di Campagna ♦ Aperol Spritz ♦ Zuppa di Pasqua ♦ Zucchini Two Ways ♦ Salsa di Formaggio ♦ Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pesto ♦ Mimosa Cake ♦ Limoncello ♦ Sourdough Crackers ♦ Pici Pasta ♦ Pasta Fredda ♦ Fresh Goat Cheese Dip with Figs and Prosciutto ♦ Tiramisu ♦ Strawberry Tiramisu ♦ Peperoncini Marmellata ♦ Risotto with Vegetables ♦
Risotto with Vegetables
A highlight for our guests each week is dinner at La Botte Piena in Montefollonico where the food is as creative and inspired as the talented chefs who prepare each course. We have so much faith in their staff that we tell guests to take a seat at the table with open minds and a hunger for something unexpected. We never have any idea what they will serve. It is the only dinner during the entire week that is totally spontaneous. La Botte Piena never disappoints. Every detail, from their ultra-modern tableware to their expert wine pairings, wows. Owners Elena and Simone succeed in incorporating their own modern spin on traditional Italian fare.
Take their risotto, a colorful vegan option topped with vegetables plucked from their garden, dehydrated, and blended into vivid powders that top the risotto like a Rorschach test. (We’ve added a variation using fresh vegetables.)
For the Vegetable Powder:
1 cup fine chopped carrots
1 ½ cups fine chopped tomatoes
1 cup capers
1 cup minced green olives
1 cup chopped spinach
(If properly stored, dehydrated vegetables can last 5-10 years, but you probably want to use them faster.)
For the Risotto:
1 white onion
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
3 cups white wine
6 cups vegetable stock
3 ½ cups grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
To make the vegetable powder, spread out the carrots evenly on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high until the carrots are dehydrated, for 6 minutes. Do the same with the tomatoes, capers, olives, and spinach, cooking each one separately in a single layer in the microwave for 6 minutes. Blend them separately in a mini food processor and set them aside.
Melt one-half of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion in half the butter until translucent for 3-5 minutes. Add the rice and cook for 7–8 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Deglaze the pan with the wine.
Heat the stock until simmering. Add one small ladleful of simmering stock to the rice. Stir until absorbed. (This should take about 3 minutes per ladleful.) Continue adding remaining vegetable stock one ladle at a time, stirring and allowing the rice to absorb the stock before you add the next one. Cooking the rice should take about 25–27 minutes in total.
When all the stock has been absorbed, taste the rice and make sure it is al dente. When the rice is done, stir in the remaining butter and the cheese.
Plate the risotto and add the vegetable powders on top of the in separate patches. Garnish with olive oil.
Risotto with Vegetable Garnish
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the carrots until tender without browning, for 5-6 minutes. Set aside. Ad 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the spinach until wilted and the moisture has evaporated, for 3–4 minutes. Set aside.
Prepare the risotto and garnish the finished risotto with the cooked carrots, spinach, the chopped tomatoes, capers and olives.
5 red bell peppers, minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and finely minced
2 cups sugar
1 lemon, zest and juice
2-1/2 tablespoons low-sugar pectin
Combine red bell peppers, Serrano pepper, and lemon zest and juice. In a separate bowl, whisk the pectin into the sugar. Add to the pepper mixture and combine. Place in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender or regular blender.
Place in clean prepared jars and close tightly. Invert the jars and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. After 24 hours, flip jars back over and refrigerate.
Makes approximately 4-5 cups. Refrigerate for up to 6 months.
Serve as a spread on crackers/bread, with goat and cream cheese, and as a glaze on fish, chicken, and pork.
For the strawberries:
2 1/2 cups of strawberries, chopped
1/3 cup Alchermes liqueur,* Fragoli wild strawberry liqueur or Chambord
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons rum
1 cup orange juice
For the cream:
500g mascarpone cheese, room temperature
500ml heavy cream
5 egg yolks
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 box dry ladyfingers (Pavesini brand preferred**)
Put the strawberries, Alchermes liquor, sugar, rum, and orange juice in a bowl. Set aside. With a hand mixer or a KitchenAid standing mixer, beat the egg yolks, sugar, mascarpone, and heavy cream on medium speed for 5-10 minutes, until creamy. In a small bowl, strain the strawberries and keep the juice in a separate bowl. Dip the ladyfingers in the juice (a quick dip, you don’t want them to be soggy), and arrange cookies on bottom of a baking dish. Cover with half the cream mixture, then cover with the chopped strawberries, repeat cookies for another layer, and cover with remaining cream mixture. Decorate it top with strawberries just before serving and dust with powdered sugar. Chill for 2-3 hours before serving. It can stay chilled for up to 2 days.
* Alchermes is a scarlet colored Italian liqueur made by infusing neutral spirits with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla, and other herbs, and Kermes, a small parasitic insect.
** Pavesini ladyfingers may be difficult to find in stores. However, they are readily available online. Other brands may be substituted.
2 cups strong coffee, room temperature
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
17 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 packages ladyfingers (1/2 pound)
¼ pound dark chocolate, shaved or finely chopped
Prepare the coffee, and if you prefer, add a tablespoon of sugar. Mix egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using an electric mixture, combine egg yolks and sugar for 5-8 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Gently fold mascarpone into egg yolk mixture. Add the prepared egg whites and mix from the bottom to the top, gently folding in.
In a casserole or other decorative dish, spread a thin layer of cream on the bottom, then very quickly soak the ladyfingers in the coffee (do not submerge) and assemble in a layer covering the cream. Continue layering until pan is full. Add chocolate to the top layer of the cream mixture and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving. This will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Serves 8 to 10
Fresh Goat Cheese Dip with Figs and Prosciutto
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
12 fresh figs, halved lengthwise
12 slices prosciutto, sliced down the middle lengthwise
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, combine the goat cheese, cream, rosemary, and honey. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the mixture on top of a fig slice and wrap with a slice of prosciutto.
This is a very versatile dip and can be spread on just about anything! You can make grilled cheese sandwiches with thinly sliced apples, figs, or pears, using the dip to spread inside the bread. You can also stuff pitted dates (halved lengthwise) with a small amount of the dip, wrapped in prosciutto, and broiled about 15 minutes until prosciutto is crispy. Finally, spread on a slice of baguette or cracker with thinly sliced fruit of choice. Try with our sourdough crackers.
1 package (8 ounces) short pasta, such as farfalle or tubetti *
20 cherry tomatoes cut in half
7 ounces bocconcini (small balls of mozzarella cheese), or any size fresh mozzarella cut into 1.5-inch pieces
¾ cup black olives, pitted and cut in half
6 or more fresh basil leaves, torn into two or three pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta following the box instructions for the time, or until al dente. Drain and cool to room temperature.Combine chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, and basil in a large serving bowl. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture, combine, and drizzle with olive oil to taste.
Serves 4 to 6
* If you have small amounts of different shaped pasta in your pantry, combine them for a unique presentation.
2 cups All-purpose flour, preferably Italian “00” soft flour
3 large eggs
Make a mound of the flour on a clean work surface. Make a well in the middle of the flour. Pour eggs into the well. Mix them together with a fork incorporating the flour in the liquid. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Transfer dough to a floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin to a thickness of 0.2 inches and cut into 0.4-inch wide strips.
Wind each ribbon by hand into the shape of very long, twisted spaghetti. As they are prepared, lay them down on a surface sprinkled with cornmeal or flour and sprinkled them with cornmeal or flour so they don’t stick together. Cook in plenty of salted water.
The video shows pici pasta served with Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pesto. Pici pasta is excellent with a simple tomato-garlic sauce (pici all’aglione), hearty game meat ragus (pici al ragu di anatra), and even a simple sauce of bread crumbs, herbs, and olive oil (pici con le bricioli).
Sourdough Crackers are the perfect platform for Salsa di Formaggio and Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pesto.
¾ cup sourdough starter
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons dried herbs
½ teaspoon salt, for sprinkling on top
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
Mix the sourdough starter, oil, sea salt, and herbs into a small bowl. Use an offset spatula to spread the mixture into a thin, even layer on the parchment paper or Silpat. Sprinkle the top with salt and Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and score the crackers with a pastry wheel cutter. Bake for another 30-45 minutes or until the crackers are golden brown. Rotate pan every 10 minutes while baking.
Let cool completely before breaking into squares.
Store in airtight container.
The cake shown at the end of the video is George Geary’s Limoncello Cake. Thank you George for sharing your recipe.
10-12 large fresh lemons, peeled; skin only, no white pith
1 quart plain vodka (no fruit, herbal, or flavored) or Everclear Grain Alcohol
4 cups sugar
6 cups water
Carefully wash and dry the lemons. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons. Put the peels and alcohol in an airtight glass container, preferably one with a glass lid and rubber seal. Store in a cool dark place for 2-4 weeks. The alcohol will turn a beautiful yellow color.
Strain the alcohol, saving the lemons peels for candied lemon peel (next recipe) or other dishes.
Make a simple syrup of the sugar and water, ensuring the sugar has dissolved completely. Cool. Mix the lemony alcohol with the syrup. Decant into small glass bottles with rubber seals.
Store in freezer. Best served directly from freezer.
Candied Lemon Peel
2 cups sugar plus more to dust
2 cups water
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water, dissolving sugar completely.
In another pot of boiling water, add peels and boil
for 3-5 minutes. Drain.
Add peels to syrup and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Cool peels in syrup. Drain. Place peels on wire rack to catch excess syrup. Let dry on rack overnight or ideally 2 days. Dust the peels in a large bowl to lightly cover in sugar.
Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
This recipe requires two cakes, one for the cake and one for the “mimosa” topping. Bake the mimosa topping cake (Cake #1) first.
Ingredients for one cake:
1 cup sugar
1-¾ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Mix the eggs with the sugar until incorporated, and then slowly add the flour and the baking powder. Put in a greased 8-inch round pan and bake approximately 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cake #1. Cut into small ½-inch cubes that you will use for the topping, resembling a mimosa flower.
After you spread the ingredients on Cake #2, the “petals” will stick.
Cake #2 –Invert cake onto a plate. Slice into 2 discs.
Vanilla custard filling:
1-1/4 cup milk
1-1/4 cup heavy cream
½ tablespoons vanilla
8 egg yolks
½ cup flour
1 cup sugar
In a saucepan, warm milk and heavy cream with the vanilla. Do not boil, just warm. In another saucepan, on low heat, mix the egg yolks with the flour and the sugar until combined. On low heat, slowly incorporate the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture. Mix 5-6 minutes, until thickened. Transfer custard to a glass baking dish, cover custard with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Keep covered so as to avoid building a crust on the custard.
Whipped cream filling:
1 cup heavy cream
2-1/2 tablespoon powdered sugar
Mix the heavy cream and the powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Use immediately.
Now build the cake. Take your two cake discs. On disc #1, spread whipped cream to cover. Then cover the whipped cream with custard. On disc #2, use remaining whipped cream and custard to cover the outside of the cake. Then press the “flowers” from cake #1 all around the cake to create a beautiful mimosa!
Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pesto
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
½-cup Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves
½-cup pine nuts or walnuts
½-cup fresh basil, chopped
½-cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups boiled water
Steep the tomatoes in the water for 15 minutes or until they soften. Drain. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve on crackers or bread. Thin the sauce with water for a pasta sauce or base for soup. Thin the sauce with cream or béchamel sauce for a pasta or risotto sauce.
Salsa di Formaggio
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, cut into ¼-inch pieces
8 ounces Asiago cheese, cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 peperoncini, crushed
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse for about 10-15 seconds to break cheese into small granules. The salsa should still be chunky and not completely pulverized. Transfer to an air-tight container and store in refrigerator until needed.
Serve at room temperature on crackers, as a topping for bruschetta, or as a pasta sauce.
Yield: 2-½ cups.
Zucchini Two Ways
Stuffed Zucchini (Zucchine Ripiene al Forno)
4 zucchini, 6-7 inches long, halved lengthwise
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
2-3 sprigs rosemary, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut ends off zucchini, halve lengthwise, and with a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Place the zucchini “boats” on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Chop the flesh and return it to the bowl.
Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5-8 minutes. Add zucchini flesh and cook 10-15 minutes or until the onion starts to brown and the liquid is evaporated. Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine cooked onion, garlic, and zucchini in a bowl. Add bread crumbs, Parmesan, egg, and rosemary. Mix thoroughly.
Spoon the zucchini mixture into the boats and cook for approximately 25 minutes, until the zucchini boat is tender and the tops are browned.
Optional: Add more Parmesan on top of boats and put in a broiler to melt the cheese.
2-3 medium zucchini
Small wedge Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Slice the zucchini into thin rounds on a mandolin. Layer the zucchini, overlapping them slightly, on a platter. Add thin slices of shaved cheese to cover. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and pepper to taste.
Optional: Sprinkle with minced rosemary or any fresh herbs.
Zuppa di Pasqua
The success of this traditional Easter soup relies on the robust flavor of homemade chicken broth and good Parmesan cheese. It is fresh and delicate but still eminently comforting, especially when you are feeling a bit under the weather. Serves 4 to 6
1 lb-12 ounces (800 grams) fresh spinach, washed
4 ounces or 1 cup (100 grams) Parmesan cheese, grated
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
8 cups (2 litres) brodo di pollo (chicken broth); recipe below
Bring a large stockpot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is soft and wilted, about 1 minute. Drain the spinach through a mesh sieve, pressing it firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out the excess water. Turn the drained spinach onto a cutting board and coarsely chop.
In a small bowl, beat the Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, and nutmeg together.
In the stockpot, bring the chicken stock to a boil over medium high heat. Slowly pour the eggs into the stock, whisking it constantly with a fork to form little shreds. Stir in the spinach. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately. If you like, ladle each serving of the soup over slices of toasted bread.
Chicken broth: Half a chicken, 1 carrot, 1 rib of celery, 1 white onion, half a handful of parsley, 8 cups of water, and salt. Put everything in a large bot, salt as like as you like, and boil for 2 hours on low heat. Filter the broth through cheesecloth.
Large wine glass filled with ice
Slice of a large fresh orange
Add half slice of orange to glass. Fill glass with one-third each Prosecco, Aperol, and club soda. Mix carefully with a straw, sweeping bottom to top slowly so as not to disturb the bubbles. Add a another half slice of orange to rim for garnish.
Sugo di Campagna
1/2-cup extra-virgin olive oil
42 ounces canned peeled whole tomatoes (1.5 pound cans; in Italy, for sauces canned tomatoes are nearly always used)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 small spicy peppers (dried hot peppers, like peperoncini or red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup Parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
1/4 cup half-and-half
basil, one small fresh bunch, chopped or torn
parsley, one small fresh bunch, chopped
In a saucepan, heat the oil, then add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic, and simmer for about 30 minutes on low heat. Add the spicy peppers, sugar, Parmesan, half & half, basil, and parsley and cook for another 10 minutes.
Add to the cooked pasta of your choice. This can also be used as a bruschetta topping. Sugo di campagna freezes well for up to 3 months.
Tuscan Apple Cake (Torta di Mele)
2 apples, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1-1/2 cups flour, all-purpose
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a small bowl, mix the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, sugar, baking powder, milk, and flour. Then mix, using a hand mixer. Add the apple mixture and stir together. Butter a greased round 8-9” pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
1 pound red potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1 large red or white onion, chopped
1 pie crust, unbaked homemade or store bought
3 springs of rosemary, chopped (along with rosemary you can add a pinch of thyme, oregano, and/or dill)
2 cups grated cheese, such as cheddar, fontina and gruyère
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Boil the potatoes until they are tender, then remove and discard the skin.
Melt butter in sauté pan. Add onions, cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized, for approximately 30 minutes.
Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them. Add the caramelized onion, eggs, a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the rosemary and other herbs you have chosen and then the cheese. Stir everything together.
Spoon the mixture into the pie crust. Bake until set and lightly browned, for approximately 35 – 40 minutes.