Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pasquetta and Tortano Napolitano

Every year, on Monday after Easter, Italians head to the mountains or the beach for the Pasquetta: the first picnic of the year. It is an Italian national holiday and there is not work or school that day. The tradition is to celebrate the arrival of spring with friends and family without the formality of a family meal. There is no fuss or stress or clean-up on the Pasquetta. This is probably why it has always been my mom’s favorite holiday of the year. Although she recalls how in the old days nonna and her friends, all very experienced cooks, got a little bit competitive with their homemade breads, crostatas (savory and sweet tarts) or finger foods. They later spent the afternoon complimenting each others dishes and sharing recipes. One of my favorite Easter breads is Tortano, a Napolitan bread filled with salami, hard-boiled eggs and cheese. It is usually served on Easter day but the leftovers, if there are any, are taken to the Pasquetta picnic. The bread is rich and fulfilling. So delicious!


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried yest
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup parmegiano Reggiano (cubed)
  • ½ cup pecorino romano (grated)
  • 1 cup salame napoletano (cubed)
  • 2 eggs (hardboiled and cubed)

Sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup of warm water (110° F) in a large bowl; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes). Add 1/3 cup of the flour without stirring. Let it rest (covered with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the flour and water and mix until combined. Add the butter cut in pieces. Mix in a stand mixer until the dough pulls from the sides of the bowl (around 10 minutes). Add the salt and continue mixing at medium speed until the dough is soft, shiny and elastic (7 to 10 minutes).

Let it rest, covered, until doubled in size (about 1 ½ - 2 hours).

Punch down the dough. Roll the dough with a rolling pin into a rectangle about 1- inch thick.

Arrange the cheese, salame and eggs, leaving 1 inch at the end, so you can seal the bread.

Roll it up like a Swiss roll (my assistant helped with this).

Place the bread on a baking sheet and let it rise, covered with plastic wrap, until doubled in size (about 2 hours).

Brush the bread evenly with the glaze and prick with a fork on the top. Bake at 370° F for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool slightly before slicing.

Slice into 1-inch thick pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Pizzelli: Anise Waffle Cookies from Abruzzo

My mom always made big batches of these anise -scented wafers, typical of the Abruzzo region, with the hope that we had enough of them to enjoy for morning breakfast and to offer to her friends when she invited them over for coffee and gossip in the afternoons. But pizzelle never lasted for more than a day in our home, and my mom always complained that she didn’t have anything to offer her guests to go with their coffee. We just love to eat pizzelle straight from the ferro (waffle iron) with marmalade or Nutella. This is my family recipe for pizzelli:

Makes 2 dozen wafers

• 2 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon anise seeds
• 2 large eggs
• Pinch of salt
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon rum
• 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• Zest of 1 lemon, grated

• Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Mix flour, baking powder and anise seeds in a bowl and whisk to blend. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and salt until foamy, then gradually whisk in the sugar. When mixture is smooth, whisk in the rum, followed by the oil and lemon zest. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the dry ingredients. Let it rest in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for 1 hour.

Preheat the pizzelle iron, and grease or spray it if suggested in the manufacturer's instructions. Using about 2 teaspoons of batter for each pizzelle, pour batter in the center of the iron, close, and bake about 1 minute (the time required to recite an "Ave Maria”). Then flip the iron over and cook the other side. Open the iron and, if the wafer has a beautiful golden color, it is cooked..