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Italian info Tips and Information

Italian info and tips will help you in your cooking and food preparation.These are very useful and quite interesting information that you learn once and then apply at any time you need it.


italian carluccio 1/2

During the last thirty or 50 years I have had the opportunity to travel widely in most parts of the world and the good fortune to sample many ethnic cuisines. This is something I take seriously firstly to satisfy my insatiable culinary curiosity and secondly to discover if there is a cuisine I might prefer to that of Italy.

However I have to admit that despite all my travels and although I much appreciate many differentways of cooking italian cuisine remains the one I feel most passionate about. The recipes and cooking methods my mother taught me and everything I have learnt during the last forty years including that which I learned during my experience as a wine merchant have reinforced my belief that italian cooking is one of the best and most loved worldwide.

During recent visits to the northern regions of Italy I have been excited to find that the cuisine has not been compromised or watered down by the temptation to cut corners. It is true that like everywhere else the hectic pace of life in the big cities has dictated a faster way of eating without necessarily improving the quality of life. And it was with great relief that on one of my journeys I encountered the Slow Food Society which was started by Carlo Pertini in 1986 and has its combined central office and restaurant in the small charming Piemontese town of Bra. Although this society is neither political nor religious it is attracting more and more worldwide attention. It simply encourages its members to enjoy thoughtfully and masterfuly produced food in peaceful and tranquil surroundings in the company of other likeminded people. We spend so much time running around trying to earn our daily bread others run even faster to earn more than they can possibly use that we often sacrifice the quality of life. This society invites you to take it easy thats what I call civilization!

Todays italian cooking has its origins in the struggle of the poor people of the last century imitating the culinary traditions of the rich and powerful. This came about because the poor having feasted on the left overs from huge banquets could appreciate the extent to which the rich would go to satisfy their appetites and promote their status. The peasants in trying to share these pleasures had to be very inventive with what they had which was often very little indeed. They made use of what grew wild and could be collected free and today the tables have turned! The peasants ingredients of dandelion rucola (rocket) oregano mint tops of hops wild asparagus and all sorts of funghi now command a very high price because of their rarity and their taste. The ingredients once used by the poor have become those sought by the rich and they now form the basis of many contemporary mouth watering specialities! The good news is that if you know about wild food then you can still collect it free when enjoying a pleasant walk in the country.

italian cuisine evolved from the influences of Roman imperialism followed by the invasion of Normans Barbarians Goths Vizigoths and Gauls and Slavs from the East as well as from Southern civilizations like the Greeks Arabs Etruscans and Saracens. Commerce thrived when the four sea ports of Venice Genova Pisa and Amalfi the socalled repubbliche marinare began to import special spices from the middle East. Saffron for instance was used as a currency and ensured that italian cuisine had an exotic side which was developed by the Venetians and Tuscans and then exported to the rest of Europe coming to rest in France where it became the famous haute cuisine. The benefits of the discoveries made by explorers including Columbus were incorporated into italian cooking and so ingredients such as the tomato and the potato became essential to it. It is this way that food travels and cultures exchange cuisines which intrigued me years ago and made me determined to become the apostle of italian food abroad.

Every aspect of italian food rich or poor is part of the culture and should be preserved while still allowing for contemporary innovation. Our modern way of life with all its technological aids allows us to feed large numbers of people but this is done at a cost in terms of taste flavour and texture. Although freezing can be used to preserve food it does not transform it in the way that in the past preserved pork became salami and milk became cheese. Food is preserved today merely for the sake of the logistics of distribution. Sadly along the way it may lose its original taste texture fragrance and sensuality.

The delights of the full panorama of northern italian food are embraced in this book. It was researched with knowledgeable people I knewwould produce outstanding food in the traditional manner. I hope this book will giveyou an idea of what authentic italian food is really about. Some of the recipes and ideas are created by me some are taken with the generous permission of people I have met on my travels.

All italians love to eat well. You do not need a lot of money to enjoy good italian food. What you need is imagination knowledge a little patience for preparation and enough of a desire to live happily and healthily. This I believe is the italian culinary philosophy.

The aim of this book is to help you achieve this by presenting traditional recipes from a contemporary and practical point of view enabling you to en joy the taste and quality of food we know existed in the past and we would like to remember. I hope you will have lots of fun preparing what is in my experience one of the best cuisines in the world.

FATS AND OILS
We use both butler and olive oil on a daily basis. Butter tends to be used more in the north of Italy and is always unsalted. It can be simply stored in the fridge but of course you should watch the sell by date. In addition I suggest you stock at least three different oils which with the recent influx of oils onto the market is not difficult to achieve.
Firstly a seed oil like sunflower oil is good for frying. If you have to fry fish or other food which has an unmistakable taste and smell it is preferable to use oil which you can discard after use. Secondly a pure olive oil should be used for the base of sauces and for frying certain foods where you want to retain the sweet taste of olives. Thirdly you should keep a really good extra virgin olive oil. italian is best because you can rely on it being really virgin and because of its aroma typical of the area it comes from. The further south you go in Italy the more intense the oil becomes in taste and texture. However good quality extra virgin olive oil should not be used in cooking as this flavour is lost. This type of oil is ideal eaten raw on salads or as a condiment on warm food. Do not keep oil for a long time. If you do not use a lot buy smaller bottles.

VINEGARS
I keep a good aceto di vino rosso Chianti red wine vinegar for use on salads and in sauces or marinades. Balsamic vinegar is more difficult to choose because the various types vary in quality and so the price ranges from moderate to very expensive. The most expensive is aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena. This is a very special vinegar which is left to age for 40 or even 50 years. It is used by the drop on very delicate steamed fish dishes on raw meat or grilled white meat. It can also be eaten on a piece of Parmesan cheese and some people I know even enjoy it on its own by the spoonful.
There are other balsamic vinegars which are 5 10 or 1 5 years old and these are not so expensive (but neither are they the cheapest which are probably not genuine) and although these cannot be called tradizionale they can be added to sauces vinaigrettes and extra fine marinades.

PASTA
I suggest that in your store cupboard you always keep a packet of short dried pasta such as tubettini or farfalline for soups or minestrone a packet of spaghetti a packet of larger shaped pasta such as conchiglie and a packet of egg tagliatelle nests. When you have leftovers of different kinds of pasta shapes this is ideal for making pasta and bean soup. Dont forget however to check the sellby dates on the packets from time to time.

RICE
The best rice for making the traditional risotto is carnaroli the Rolls Royce of rice. For Venetian risottos the best is vialone nano. Arborio rice is also good and remember only these types of rice should be used for risotto.

POIENTA
For good polenta you would use traditional farina di polenta. To cook it takes
40 minutes of constant stirring which is what italian peasants used to do every day. Nowadays you can buy quick polenta which is ready in 5 minutes and offers a good alternative. In either form you should always keep a packet in the storecupboard.

OO FLOUR
This extrafine flour is made from tender italian wheat and is mostly used to make pasta. When eggs are added it gives the cooked pasta the crunchiness much desired by italians. When they say al dense they mean that aher cooking the pasta still offers a certain resistance to the tooth which from now on I shall call dentiness. Commercially pasta is made from durum wheat semolina. When this is of good quality it offers good dentiness without using eggs. This semolina is also used in southern Italy for certain handmade pasta shapes.

TOMATOES
I have purposely not mentioned storing ready made sauces since I have discovered that industrial sauces often contain too many herbs in an attempt to make them taste Mediterranean. The use of dried oregano or even worse dried basil gives a repulsive artificial taste to the sauce.
If you cannot get hold of fresh ripe tomatoes it is better to keep some polpa di pomodoro in your storecupboard. This is the pulp of ripe tomatoes which you can flavour with the seasoning of your choice.
Please please do not use tomato ketchup on pasta! A few good tins of peeled tomatoes and tubes of tomato puree are always handy in the larder.

HERBS
The only dried herb I would keep is wild oregano and this is suitable only for certain sauces and not for everything. Otherwise fresh basil fresh mint and fresh rosemary are always part of my culinary vocabulary.

SPICES
Of the many spices used in the past 500 years in Italy only a few are still used in everyday cooking. Cardamom ginger cumin and many others were used during the Renaissance to give various dishes an exotic taste. Of those dishes only one remains almost untouched: panforte nero from Siena. This is a cake from the middle Ages which is also flavoured with pepper cinnamon cloves and nutmeg. These last four spices together with saffron are the ones I would recommend you keep in the larder.
The other spice which is vital in italian cooking is the dried porcino or cep. The addition of just a few slices of this special very italian dried funghi can alter beyond recognition sauces of any kind. Used as a spice and combined with fresh cultivated mushrooms it will impart that very desirable musty flavour typical of wild mushrooms.

FRESH GARLIC ONIONS AND SHALLOTS
These should always be available. They are an integral part of every sauce and dish and very handy be cause they keep for quite some time.

CAPERS
These are very important to italian cooking as long as they are used sensibly. They are available both in brine and in vinegar but I prefer the Sicilian ones from Lipari kept in salt.
They have a wonderful flavour and I would recommend you keep two sizes very small to use whole and large to be chopped.

ANCHOVIES
Tinned anchovies are very useful to add to sauces but I enjoy them in salsa verde or simply on a piece of buffered bread as a snack. The ones with the most flavour are the ones kept under salt but these are not easily obtainable therefore a quality brand of anchovy fillets in oil is a good alternative. In a similar way tuna in oil can be very handy for quick improvised sauces or snacks.

PARMESAN
This should never be missing from an italian larder. Parmigiano Reggiano is the best and can be kept in the fridge for quite some time wrapped in foil.I would suggest you buy a little piece at a time and always use it freshly grated.

LARDO
Years ago lardo was hanging in every italian larder. It is a type of very thick salted and air cured lard. Nearly every good sauce or dish started with a battuto di lordo crushed cubes of the preserved pork fat cooked with oil and garlic or onions. Its a pity that this is disappearing. However I always keep a piece of fatty speck its counterpart from southern Tyrol which can either be cut into thin slices and eaten on toast or used for flavouring sauces soups and vegetables.

BREADCRUMBS
Good real breadcrumbs are necessary so you can turn a piece of fish or meat into a quickly fried meal.

COFFEE
Some italian coffee should always be available. The end of an italian meal would not be complete without a strong espresso!

The Romans were fond of the antipasto the course that comes before the primo (first course). They used to eat things like preserved fish such as anchovies and shellfish washed down with a mixture of wine and honey. The point of this course is to titillate the palate and awaken the stomach to the pleasures to come. Its name comes from ante meaning before and pasto meaning meal

A respectable italian meal of any kind starts with at least a few slices of salami and some pickled vegetables. The more formal the meal the more varied and interesting the antipasto. It is also a way of showing off the host or hostesss skills of special preparation and presentation!

Antipasti can be cold using ingredients such as affettati (sliced preserved meats like salami ham speck bresaola and culatello); fish in carpione (marinated) smoked eel and trout and anchovies in various guises; preserved vegetables such as porcini in olio little artichoke hearts in olive oil cetriolini (gherkins) peppers aubergines and sun dried tomatoes; or eggs hard boiled and filled with mayonnaise or set in aspic. Not to forget the whole range of crostini toasted bread with wonderfully delicious accompaniments from simply a tomato to a sophisticated pate. Warm antipasti can be based on eggs cheese and truffles and such dishes are more in the French tradition.

Northern Italy en joys a wide range of antipasti that certainly make the best use of local specialities and traditions and Piemonte is considered to have the greatest variety. Some restaurants are renowned for their antipasto selection and in such a place I for one would definitely choose to indulge in lots of antipasti with perhaps a primo and a dessert but miss out on the secondo. However with antipasti its not the quantity but the quality that counts!

Generally speaking italian cu isine is best known for its universally popular primi piatti (first courses) such as rice dishes pastas and soups. The golden rule for a well balanced meal is to alternate light and heavy courses hot and cold to take advantage of the full range of content taste and texture. The visual side is also important but secondary. In Italy we say anche locchio vuole la sua parse the eye too wants to participate.

From Northern to Southern Italy there are hundreds of primi all mouthwateringly different according to the availability of local ingredients habits history and culture. For example all over the Po Valley water comes from the mountains to irrigate the rice fields of Vercelli and Novara in Piemonte Pavia in Lombardy and Padova in Veneto. Not surprisingly the speciality of Milan the rice capital of Italy is risotto with saffron; in Vercelli it is a risotto with borlotti beans called panissa; in Novara risotto is made with frogs; in Bergamo and other valleys it is eaten with wild mushrooms; and in Venice with fish. In Alba the rice receives the most precious of all toppings white truffle. All these specialities are different all extremely tasty and all use the best local ingredients.

Pasta came to the North this century imported from the South where it has always been very popular. In Liguria at the end of the last century the Agnesi family was making pasta and even importing durum wheat from Turkey with its own ships. I am often asked whether fresh pasta is better than dried. The answer is that they can both be very good provided they are made with the right ingredients

Pasta is a complete form of nutrition mostly based on carbohydrates but also including important trace elements. The digestive system breaks it down slowly distributing the energy over a long time which it why all athletes are so fond of it. If well cooked without too many rich and fattening sauces or other additions pasta is the perfect meal which leaves the appetite satisfied for longer than many other foods. In any guise pasta is wonderful. The proof is that there are few children (and children can be very fussy indeed) who do not adore it.

Primi also include lots of satisfying soups and broths based on rice pasta and vegetables. Minestrone is a typical example that is cooked in so many temptingly different ways with a great variety of ingredients. Gnocchi which is made with flour and potato is also used in endless tasty firstcourse combinations. Polenta likewise can be used as a first course provided the quantities are kept small and the accompanying sauce is not too rich.

With so many possibilities which in many cases can be a meal in themselves it is easy to compose a menu for any occasion. Indeed it is difficult not to overdo it when you still have a main course cheese and dessert to come. All the same for me the primi are the best part of italian cuisine. They are extremely versatile and offer endless possibilities.

Baking and frying food are relatively simple processes. The complicated part is preparing the ingredients to put in the oven or frying pan. In baking hot air cooks the food; in frying this is done by oil butter or lard. italian cooking uses both techniques to produce different temptingly delicious regional dishes.

The traditional way of baking bread has sadly now been left to idealists and a few peasant people. These lucky individuals enjoy the challenge of preparing mankinds most ancient and basic food. The smell and fragrance of a freshly baked loaf is unforgettable and the taste especially if the oven is wood fired is so unbeatably delicious that you immediately want to eat a chunk on its own undressed by anything else! life without bread would be very dull indeed and italians certainly endorse this by seeming never to enjoy a meal without it!

italian meals are prepared with the appropriate quantity of bread in mind. For example the saltiness of salamis and hams or the sharpness of preserved vegetables would be overpowering without bread and the Tuscan custom for baking bread without salt is for that very reason. In Italy the only foods you do not eat with bread are pasta dishes risottos and polenta but even then people ohen en joy mopping up the good sauce leh on a plate after eating spaghetti. This custom is called la scarpetta the little shoe. It is not good table manners but everyone does it all the same.

Bread which comes from huge bakeries is usually pretiy tasteless and boring so now italians seek out specialist bakers where they pay high prices to appreciate just how good the flavour and texture of bread can be. Grissini thin handmade breadsticks originally a speciality of Turin are now very widely available and together with ciabatta they symbolize peoples desire to experience the full flavour of good food. In my restaurant we bake focaccia and grissini daily much to everybodys appreciation.

La vita non efatta di solo pane (You cannot live on bread alone) is an old italian saying but it is also true especially in Italy that most meals are inadequate without bread as it is such a perfect vehicle for other foods. Many other foods that are baked in the oven supply that something extra for example timbale of pasta or vegetables savoury and sweet tarts and pies biscuits and of course pizza which has taken over the fastfood world.

Frying is epitomized by regional variations of Fritto Misto (mixed fry). For example on the italian Riviera as in most italian coastal areas you will find a Fritto Misto di Pesce usually named aher the area that it comes from. Fritto Misto Ligure or Fritto Misto della Laguna are the best known. They are quite different from each other and use locally caught small tender fish such as baby octopus squid shrimps and whitebait dipped first in plain flour and then crisp fried. Fritto Misto alla Piemontese is made from various meats liver vegetables and even sweet amaretti dipped in beaten egg coated with breadcrumbs and shallow fried in butter. In other parts of Italy the Fritto Misto di Verdure vegetables is popular and for this dish I particularly like to use funghi (wild mushrooms) and small artichoke hearts.

Finally in addition to the above there are deepfried courgette flowers and Fritelle di Zucchine Icourgete friHersj and I highly recommend you to try my childhood favourite fried piza.

Although italians enjoy a wide variety of meat it is rarely the focal point of a traditional meal. As a child I remember how happy we were on Sundays when we could eat roast chicken knowing that whatever remained would be used to make a stock for a flavourful soup. During the Second World War italians were introduced to canned meat that came from the United States of America. This is still made by Simmenthal today. Recently I opened a can and thoroughly en joyed the contents sliced and dressed with very thin slices of raw onion and a little oil and vinegar. It really did bring back many fond memories . . .

In my childhood special cuts of beef could only be afforded by well off families. The alternatives were pork which could be eaten immediately or preserved as sausages salami and ham (Parma being the bestknown) lamb and goat. As a result there are literally hundreds of italian regional recipes for cooking lamb and goat and these were the traditional ingredients of Easter feasts. Aher the war beef became a measure of wealth and social status and grand ladies asked the butcher for una fettina a little slice of pale tasteless veal.

With new methods of raising animals and increased standards of living the Sunday roast chicken became very common indeed as did duck goose and cacciagione (game) especially at Christmas. Game in Italy has always been an important source of meat but now it became even more so as it offered an alternative to farmed meat. italians have always been mad about hunting so much so that hunters have often shot each other and the government was obliged to introduce safety regulations.

Today Italy is able to produce very goodquality meat of all kinds. In the Val di Chiana near Florence for example they raise a small quantity of exceptional quality beef which is very sought after and a fiorentina (Tuscan Tbone steak) is something worth dreaming about. Its worth the journey to experience it yourself! Piemonte and Lombardy also produce excellent meat because the pastures of the slopes of the PreAlps are as fertile as could be.
Because the italians only want to eat good quality meat some beef is also now imported from Scotland. Rabbit rediscovered as a regional speciality and other game is popular in Tuscany liguria and Piemonte all regions where there are plenty of woods and forests.

For italian meals the meat is prepared and cooked in a great variety of ways stewed roasted fried barbecued braised and boiled. It is also included in sauces and even sometimes served raw. Because italian meals are generally made up of several courses it is not necessary to have large quantities of meat at any one time as you might in say Germany Scotland or America. For this reason italians invented the scaloppine. Take a tender piece of veal pork lamb chicken or turkey beat it flat with a mallet dust with plain flour and cook briefly in oil or butter adding a lisle taste of Marsala lemon white wine or vinegar as desired. This epitomizes italian cooking fresh fast nonfussy and exceedingly tasty.

Most of Italy is surrounded by coastal waters and it also has many lakes and rivers in the North so fish is not only easily and widely available but also very much loved. For religious reasons fish is eaten by almost everyone at least once a week on Fridays. In addition for dietary reasons it is in great demand and therefore commands a very high price. Over fishing of the sea and a consequent scarcity of fish plus pollution of the Mediterranean ensure that demand now outstrips supply so fish needs to be imported from other parts of the world where it has been caught and frozen. Personally I prefer freshly caught fish to frozen because for me frozen fish never seems to taste the same. I say this even though I am very aware that many people argue that the freshness of socalled just caught fish is sometimes questionable and that using frozen fish that has been caught and instantly shockfrozen on the boat and kept like this until the defrosting process has its advantages. As always in life food is a matter of personal choice and taste.

italians create the most amazing local specialities in whatever form they eat fish from anchovies to tuna in oil from salted and air dried mullet roe to mosciame (airdried tuna fillet) to stoccafisso (airdried cod) or baccala (salt cod) even herring. Take for example the shocking Sicilian combination of orange and salted herring salad! A delicate Fritto Misto di Pesce (mixed fried fish) from Liguria however is an absolutely delightful dish as is the fillet of lavarelli (bream) freshly caught on Lake Maggiore.

In the mountains far away from the coast where for obvious reasons the fish cannot arrive as quickly and freshly as in coastal areas there are many recipes for baccalˆ and stoccafisso. The desire in these remote regions not to miss out on the joy provided by fish dishes is celebrated in the Sagra cello Stoccafisso an annual fish festival that takes over the entire village of Badalucco in Liguria. Olga Panizi known as the Queen of Stoccafisso has become famous for making a wonderful dish using salted fish plus local olive oil and dried wild porcini. This is even more surprising when you consider that the stockfish comes from Norway!

The unique variety of the catches in the Adriatic from Grado to Chioggia south of Venice makes this the place to en joy rare fish specialities. Cuttlefish roe for example when boiled and dressed with lemon juice is a delicacy without comparison. If you want to taste such things at their very best go like the Venetians themselves to La Madonna near the Rialto bridge. I would certainly love to have daily deliveries of such ingredients to my London restaurant but I have to make do with bigger fish from northern waters.

It is a real joy to communicate the passion I feel for italian food but especially the way italians produce and use the most wonderful array of vegetables. When I am in an italian street market I visit all the stalls to locate the best offers. I would never buy everything from one stall if the quality wasnt the highest available. This shopping around is essential if you want to go home with the best ingredients for a wonderful meal; the other essential of course is knowing what to do with what you have bought!

Many people can recognize goodquality vegetables at a glance but do not know how to make the best use of them. When tender artichokes are in season its worth buying them to stuff even if this involves a little more preparation. Likewise with multicoloured freshly picked borlotti beans: pod and boil them and what a wonderful salad you can make!

In Italy it is common for markettraders and greengrocers to do the initial cleaning and sorting of the vegetables for you. This saves you preparation time but you will probably have to pay a little extra for the produce. You can for example find cleaned artichoke hearts prepared mixed vegetables for minestrone and cleaned salad mixture including wild rucola (rocketI fennel or chervil.

All the instinctive special loving marketing measures of market traders and greengrocers can never quite be matched by supermarkets. That is another reason why it is such a pleasure to buy in street markets. One can also ohen receive very good useful and inspiring tips about how to cook certain items. Many cooks or young housewives have received stimulating cookery lessons in this way. To me it is horrific that this is dying away being replaced by
distributors who buy cheap produce in foreign countries using shelflife as their criterion rather than taste or quality.

Regional individuality is what makes italian food so desirably different. For example it is interesting to note how people emigrating from the South to the more prosperous North took with them their own eating traditions specialities and produce. So during the last thirty or so years the more prosperous population of the northern regions have been able to buy many previously unknown vegetables and fruit. Now the Milanese orTorinese quite naturally buy Sicilian Pugliese or Calabrian produce freshly cut or picked and sent through the night to local northern markets.

This movement of merchandise has not detracted from quality because the produce usually comes from natural environments that produce the best taste and flavour. The same cannot be said however for local produce that is raised in greenhouses and picked unripe to allow for easier transport and storage. Such practices certainly take their toll on taste. In Italy today as in so many other places the first signs of agricultural industrialization are gradually appearing. I can only hope that this will not have too great an impact on and kill off the small producers who deliver the best traditional goods.

The many different ways in which vegetables can be served is one good reason why you should not miss the main courses on the menu. Being a vegetarian in Italy is a great pleasure indeed!

  • italian carluccio 2/2

    In traditional italian meals cheese is served before the dessert. The cheese course is called formaggio da tavola and it usually consists of a soh cheese such as Stracchino or Taleggio or as in every italian trattoria outside Italy Gorgonzola or Bel Paese. You can occasionally choose between Mozarella di Bufala or Ricotta di Pecora or even Mascarpone. It is also now very popular to have Grana con le Pere a rather young Parmigiano cheese served in flakes accompanied by fresh pears. Cheese is eaten with either grissini or bread never with butter or celery.

    Another new cheese to look out for is Crutin (not to be confused with the French goats cheese Crotin which is very different). Crutin is a cheese made with equal quantities of cows and sheeps milk to which are added pieces of black (usually summer) truffle and the aroma of the white Alba truffle. Cruta in the Piemontese dialect is the word for the cellar in which the cheeses are kept for ageing. It was found that cheese aged where Alba truffles were stored would absorb the truffles aroma. Hence the creation of a new product in search of a new market. Considering how popular it is in my restaurant and our shop it will soon be very widely enjoyed!

    italians love to finish a meal with something sweet which is why the actual dessert comes at the very end of the meal. In truth however italians are not renowned for their desserts they often prefer to finish a meal with wonderful fresh ripe fruit in season placed in a bowl filled with ice cubes. I cannot think of anything nicer than cleansing the palate with some delicious fruit fruit salad wild strawberries or frutti di bosco (mixed berries| to which lemon juice and sugar are sometimes added to sharpen the taste. It may be fashionable to put balsamic vinegar on strawberries but it is not a combination for me.

    Itlay probably has the best icecream makers in the world so not surprisingly icecreams and sorbets are very popular italian desserts. Also on offer are an array of specialities such as the very famous Tiramis (literally pickmeup) an italian version of Zuppa Inglese or English trifle which is sophisticated in its simplicity. The everresourceful italians also invented Panna Cotta a subtle version of the French Crme BržlŽe. A popular winter choice from the carrello
    (sweet trolley) are Crostate di Frutta mostly made with homemade jam and
    baked or cooked fruit such as pears peaches or apples.

    More exuberant and elaborate desserts include Semi Freddo (half cold) so called because it is neither icecream nor cream. italians never add fluid double cream to anything but a little dollop of panna montata (whipped cream) which is usually already sweetened in Italy may land if you request it on your plate.

    Other specialities such as panettone or colomba are baked for the celebration of Christmas and Easter and there are many local regional variations of these recipes for cakes or tarts.

    A very pleasant way to finish a meal especially in Tuscany is to dip some cantucci (little almond biscuits) or anicini in Vin Santo the Tuscan dessert wine. Many italians however drink Asti Spumante the very famous Muscat wine from Monferrato with dessert. There is however an infinite variety of excellent dessert wines to choose from.

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