I surely have more than 11 but here is my Italy in 30 Seconds List.
- Tagliatelle and ragu’ from Bologna
- Panzerotti from Milano
- Wild boar ragu -pappardelle al cinghiale ragu’ with a glass of Brunello from Montalcino
- Shopping at Santa Maria Novella Farmacia in Florence
- Pizza al taglio in Rome
- Bistecca alla fiorentina a/k/a the Tuscan T-bone with a glass of Chianti Classico Riserva
- A glass of Sagrantino wine from Montefalco in Umbria
- Cioccolata Calda – hot Italian Drinking Chocolate in almost any piazza in Italy
- A dip at an Italian terme (hot spring)
- Cappellacci di zucca and glass of sweet Albana di Romagna wine to end a meal in Ferrara
- A glass of Vin Santo with cantucci in Tuscany
During the holiday season I crave an Italian passito. A sweet wine made from grapes that have been dried to concentrate their juice. Festive, intense and fun to drink they are the perfect accompaniment to Italian dolci. Sometimes referred to as “pudding wines” in the UK because they are served with dessert, these wines contain high levels of both sugar and alcohol and are meant to be enjoyed as a leisurely sip after dinner. Their richness lends itself to the classic Tuscan pairing, a glass of Vin Santo to dip with biscotti or cantucci or to drink with a Milanese holiday panettone.
The excess of Italy’s pasticerria at Christmas time and the penchant for the Italian love of serving nuts and dried or seasonal fruit for dessert is a great opportunity to pair some of Italy’s other passito wines to your favorite holiday dessert. One of my favorites is Albana di Romagna from northern Italy, an Italian passito from Emilia Romagna. With an aroma of balsamic eucalyptus, dried apricots, dates and honey and shades of amber and gold it is an insensual indulgence with pastries, cakes, ricotta-filled torta and for our UK friends – pudding. Be aware that passito wines are difficult to find in the States (my last sip was in Ferrara) as most of famous brands are kept in Italy.
A picnic in the Italian countryside in your classic Fiat 500 or ______.
Just fill in the blank and your picnic basket with salumi, salame and a crusty loaf of bread. My choice would be a rustic Tuscan pane and a selection of Italian cold cuts like mortadella, capicola and finocchiona (if I could get it). Finoccchiona is a salame from Florence and the Chianti region made from finely ground pork, flavored with black peppercorns, garlic, wine and fennel seeds. Traditionally wild fennel is used and gives this salame the aroma of the Tuscan countryside. Add a few bruschetta toppings, a selection of mostarda, some fruit and formaggi (a truffled pecorino would be very nice). For dessert, a melon with prosciutto and some biscotti to dip into my flask of Vin Santo.
Tonight may be trick or treat candy but in Italy there are “bones of the dead,” ossi dei morti cookies traditionally served to coincide with All Soul’s Day, or the Day of the Dead (Nov 2nd). The cookies are called “bones of the dead” not only because of the day on which they are eaten but because their shape resembles that of bones!
Italians traditionally celebrate All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s Day (Nov 1st) in bitter-sweet remembrance of their loved ones who have passed away and honor their memory with family gatherings and fairs and cakes and sweets left by visiting spirits.
I found these ossi dei morti last week when I was in Milan but there are many variations of this intriguing confection. Most are crunchy and hard, crackling with pine nuts, darkened with cocoa and cinnamon, dusted with powdered sugar – resembling bones of the dead. Toast the memory of your ancestors during this two day festival with ossi dei morti dipped in a glass of vin santo. It certainly is better that eating leftover candy corn.
Vin Santo is Tuscany in a glass and reflects Tuscan life at its best; life that is meant to be savored not saved and lived to the fullest. Because of its name Vin Santo (wine of the saints) was thought to have originated as a sacramental wine. However there are other accounts that link the name to historical references that are less ecclesiastical. There are 2 types of this rich, amber colored medium sweet to medium dry wine typically enjoyed as a dessert wine at the end of a proper Italian meal. One is made entirely from white grapes (Malvasia or Trebbiano) and one from red varieties (Sangiovese, Canaiolo , Malvasia Nero). The latter is known as Occhio di Pernice because of a shading of redness reminiscent of the “eye of a partridge” for which it is named.
The fermenting of Vin Santo can be described as nothing short of meditative. Grapes are hung to dry in vinsantaie, a large ventilated room with many windows. The windows in the room are opened and closed to control the flow of air. Here the grapes are subjected to seasonal temperature changes which create a unique taste and texture to the wine with hints of raisins, dried fruit and the bouquet of Tuscany.
from Seeing and Savoring Italy – A Taste and Travel Journey through Northern Italy, Tuscany and Umbria