I don’t know about you but I’ve been busy trying new recipes and especially traditional Italian food during quarantine. It seems to be a common activity when stuck in the house. You’ve got to eat no matter what! Why not try out something new to add to your mental cooking library!
Here are some of the Italian recipes we’ve collected from our guides around Italy. Most of the recipes were written by them, or taken from their nonnas! You couldn’t get any more traditional than that. We have gathered Italian dishes from Rome, Florence, and Venice to make a 4 course Italian dinner!
To start off with let us introduce you to the Spritz! A great welcome drink when your guests walk in the door-the Spritz is used around Italy to kick off a nice evening with friends
Giorgia’s Spritz recipe
“Alessandro style as he calls it:Spriss”
A classic Spritz recipe straight from our Venice guide – Giorgia’s mixologist brother.
Giorgia is one of our fabulous guides who runs our Venice walking tours.
My brother Alessandro is a professional barman and mixology teacher. He has been working in multiple venetian hotels (Danieli, Gritti, Kempinsky San Clemente…) as well as in many bars/discos in the Veneto region.
When ordered to prepare a Venetian Spritz he would refer to the standard recipe registered by the IBA (International Barmen Association) with just a slight variation. Here it is (the quantity is for 1 Spritz):
- 4cl (1 ¼ Oz) Aperol
- 6cl (2 Oz) Prosecco wine
- Soda (i.e. very sparkling water)
- 1 Orange wedge
- 1 Lemon peel
Fill up a low tumbler glass with ice cubes. If unavailable, a wine glass filled to ¾ of its capacity is fine too.
Alessandro’s comments: many think that filling up a glass with ice cubes is a way for barmen to fraud clients by serving them a cocktail that will eventually be “watered”. This is of course not true…quite the opposite actually! The more ice cubes you have in the glass, the colder the drink will be and therefore the longer for the ice to melt. Filling up the glass with ice therefore ensures that the cocktail can be drunk “pure”. Few ice cubes won’t prevent the drink from “warming-up” for long and when this happens the cubes will melt as well, making the cocktail…watered!
Pour first the Aperol, then the Prosecco directly into the glass. Top-off with soda. Add the orange wedge.
Alessandro’s variation: in order to reduce the sweet back taste of the Aperol, use the essential oils contained in the lemon peel to “freshen-up” the cocktail Instructions below:
Cut a tiny slice of lemon peel leaving out the white part. Squeeze the lemon peel directly over the cocktail by twisting it with the yellow face down. Rub it on the brim of the glass as well.
Enjoy your Venetian Spritz!
Note: Contrary to many bacaros’ custom, no green olive should go into the Venetian Spritz. Its salty taste has in fact nothing to do with that of the other ingredients.
Note: Besides Aperol Spritz, in Venice this cocktail is also prepared with Campari Bitter, Select or Cynar. Said variations are however not recognized by the IBA. The quantities remain the same though.
Make sure to go on a tour with Giorgia when your in Venice and let her point out the best bars and restaurants for you to enjoy! Book our Strolling Venice’s Heart Tour for your next trip to Italy.
After a nice spritz you can opt for an appetiser or start on your first course meal, which in Italy is called il primo. Here is one of our favorite Roman classics from Orlando!
Orlando’s Cacio e Pepe recipe
Orlando runs our Rome markets and cooking classes. A Roman native and passionate foodie, you can find him in the kitchen cooking up savory Italian pasta dishes!
Together with the pasta carbonara, the pasta Cacio e Pepe is one of the most traditional Italian food you can find in Rome and only in Rome. It’s so traditional that most tourists don’t even know what it is and sometimes they get fooled and get something that it’s not even comparable to a proper pasta cacio e pepe like our Grandmas use to make. Let me show you the real recipe, the one Romans prepare at home.
Cacio e Pepe literally means “pecorino cheese and black pepper” and there’s nothing more delicious than these 2 ingredients to make a simple and yet lovely pasta. The cooking method and following the real recipe will allow you to prepare a perfect pasta cacio e pepe but one condition: don’t mess with the recipe and don’t add any variation to this dish otherwise you will end up with something totally different and not even close to a proper plate of this pasta.
INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE
400 grams (14 ounces) of spaghetti o tagliolini
200 grams (7 ounces) of grated pecorino romano cheese
100 grams (3.5 oucens) of grated parmigiano reggiano (my variant)
10 grams (0,35 ounces) ground black pepper
two scoops of cooking water
Cook the spaghetti in salted water and in the meantime pour into a bowl the pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano (this last one is not in the original recipe, but I prefer it because it gives a more pleasant and less strong flavor); adding two scoops of cooking water and create a cream with a fork
Remove your pasta the pan at least 2 minutes before the end of cooking (to get it al dente), being careful to set aside at least 6 tablespoons of the cooking water.
Pour the spaghetti into the cooking pan where olive oil and pepper had previously been with the cheese mixture.
Stir and serve soon the spaghetti will get cold and the cheese will start becoming sticky.
GENERAL ADVICE ON HOW TO MAKE A PERFECT CACIO E PEPE PASTA ROMAN STYLE
You can also mix pecorino and black pepper in a large pan and then strain the spaghetti in there as well BUT always remember not to cook the pasta with the cheese and black pepper.
You can avoid pouring olive oil into the salted water if you’re using a very good pasta which won’t need any help to be perfect.
Do not make the cheesy peppery cream and then add it to the pasta because the final result will not be like the one we use to make.
All the ingredients have to be carefully mixed together within the pasta to make them stick to it and form the cream.
The older the cheese the higher temperature needed to dissolve it because it contains less water so you always have to calibrate the quantity of the cooking water of the pasta to be mixed to create a perfect cream.
Come and make Cacio e Pepe with Orlando in Rome on your next trip to Italy! Book his cooking class called Cook as the Romans Do.
Next up, you’ll want to make a nice second course for your guests. Meat or fish dishes in Italy are called il secondo.
Typically in Italy when you eat eggs and cheese you wouldn’t want to follow that with fish. Italians are very particular about mixing certain foods. Fish and meat don’t mix, fish and cheese, and red wine with fish…so to follow our heavy pasta dish we’d like to share a light meat dish. Orlando has another great recipe below.
Orlando’s Saltimbocca Recipe
8 veal cutlets (scallopini)
16 – 24 slices prosciutto, thinly sliced
16 large, fresh sage leaves
½ cup flour (to coat the veal cutlets)
4 Tbsp. olive oil
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup dry white wine such as an Italian ‘Pinot Grigio’ (marsala can be substituted)
Freshly cracked black pepper
No salt is used because the salty prosciutto gives the salt needed.
Place the veal cutlets between two sheets of oven paper. Using a meat mallet, pound the veal cutlets until each piece is about 1 cm thick. Sprinkle each cutlet with some freshly-cracked pepper; salt is not necessary because of the salt that will come from the prosciutto.
Place a sage leave or two on top of the prosciutto. Lay 2 – 3 thin slices of prosciutto on top of each veal cutlet and place a toothpick between all 3 layers to secure. With flour on a large plate, dredge each veal cutlet in the flour, shake off any excess, and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add half the veal cutlets and cook, prosciutto side facing down, turning over once until the prosciutto is crisp for 2 – 3 minutes. Turn the veal cutlets over and cook until lightly golden brown, about 2 – 3 more minutes on a low-medium heat.
Place the cooked veal bundles on a warmed plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Remove and discard the toothpicks. Pour the butter and olive oil out of the skillet and save it . . . don’t throw it away.
After all veal bundles are cooked, increase the heat to high and add the wine or marsala to the skillet. Deglaze the pan and scrape up the browned bits with the wine or marsala. Return all of the butter and olive oil back into the skillet to cook a sauce. Cook the sauce until reduced by a third, for about 2 minutes.
Return the veal bundles to the skillet, cook for 2 more minutes, with an occasional flip, until the sauce thickens slightly.
Serve the veal with the sauce poured over the cutlets immediately. Serve two veal bundles per person.
Come and make this dish with Orlando in our Rome cooking class called Cook as the Romans Do!
On to dessert- il dolce. Overall desserts in Italy tend to be lighter and less sugary than what we are used to. They make light desserts to go with heavy meals, and heavier desserts to go with light meals. Italians almost always enjoy a dessert when in good company, they don’t hold back! It has to be complimentary to the flavors of the meal (you know Italians-they’re all particular about their food!) If you eat fish, you’ll often be presented with a lemon dessert to clean your palette. If you eat meat for dinner you might be presented with chocolate or custard instead.
Here is a very traditional custard recipe you’ll find all throughout Italy!
Eleonora’s Crema Pasticcera recipe
Eleonora is one of our tour guides who runs our private walking tours of Florence who said that crema pasticcera helped her get through quarantine!
There are a Few ingredients to amaze your friends and family: eggs, flour and sugar, that’s what you need to make the perfect custard!
You can eat it as a dessert or use it to improve the taste of cakes, pies or pudding.
It’s Ideal to keep your moral up during rainy winter days or to end a perfect dinner when you are in good company!
500 ml of whole milk
40 gr of flour 00 (all purpose flour)
4 eggs yolks
100 gr sugar
half lemon peel
Note: For a gluten free version, you can use 40 gr of rice starch instead of flour, you can also substitute the milk for a lactose free milk.
Put the milk in a pot. If you like lemon put the half peel (just the yellow part) inside the milk and let it rest for 5-6 minutes. It will give you a wonderful taste at the end!
Put the pot with milk and lemon skin on the fire until it starts to boil. In the mean time get another pot and add the egg yolks, the flour and the sugar and start to mix with a whisk until all the ingredients are perfectly blended together and you have a smooth cream.
When the milk is due to boil, put it in the pot where you have the eggs with sugar and flour. Use a little colander to strain it so that you can throw out the lemon peal.
Then mix together for a few minutes. After put everything on the fire, keep blending with a whisk until it becomes dense.
When it’s dense and it starts to boil again, take off from the fire and let it cool down.
Your custard is ready!!!! Eat it like it is or add it to your tiramisu and you’ll be in heaven!!
A delicious suggestion: Put the cream on a cup with some chocolate chips on top: the success is guaranteed!!! Your family will love you and your friends will ask for more!!!
We have more traditional Italian food recipes on our Facebook page! Head to our Facebook page and click on “notes” to see more. Thanks for reading! Buon appetito.