Welcome to CiboChat!

CiboChat is the Food and Culture blog of FUA Florence University of the Arts. This blog project reflects our aim to share the cultural and especially gastronomic experiences of our students, faculty, staff, and Florentine locals. Check out our Florentine Food Guide for how to dine like a local!

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Frico’ (Traditional Potato, Onion, and Montasio DOP Cake) Served with charred black cabbage, raisins, and pine nut

By Riley Houstler

Frico’ (Traditional Potato, Onion, and Montasio DOP Cake) Served with charred black cabbage, raisins, and pine nut

Savory creams of cheese and potatoes, paired with the sweet burst of flavor from a raisin, and the seasonal flare of pine nuts make this dish undeniably comforting. With its roots in an impoverished area of Northern Italy, this recipe was originally created to recycle cheese grinds. The dish was unpopular until highlighted in the final rounds of Masterchef by Italian native Luca Manfè. It is now enjoyed by both Italians and Americans. Served hot, stringy, and gooey; this dish is perfect to warm bellies in the Fall and Winter.

Makes for 4

FOR THE FRICO:

Ingredients

500 gr Montasio Cheese, coarsely grated
400 gr peeled potatoes, coarsely grated
200 gr blonde onions, thinly sliced

Method

Begin by mixing the cheese and potatoes. Salt according to taste. Separately cook the onions until soft in a pan with little water, adding water every time it evaporates. Then, combine the onions, cheese, and potatoes. Add the mixture to a lightly greased non-sticking pan and sauté. Cook on low-medium heat. Make sure to constantly drain the fat and liquid that is produced. Cook until both surfaces are caramelized.

NOTE: The cooking of frico’ is slow and requires attention to avoid burning the surfaces.

FOR THE BLACK CABBAGE:

Ingredients

100g Cabbage
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, halved
50g Raisins, soaked in water
50g Pine nuts

Method

Remove the hardened leaves of the cabbage and clean. Then, blanch it in salted water. Chop finely. Sauté in olive oil and add whole garlic cloves, raisins, and pine nuts. Add frico’ and serve.

Trapanese-style pesto with sun-dried and fresh tomato, garlic, almonds, fresh ricotta, and aromatic herbs

By Ryley Houstler

These hand-made egg noodles get their name from the Central Italian tool, La Chitarra, better known as “the pasta guitar.” Indeed, it is a guitar. From this tool, we can create thin spaghetti noodles. Doused with savory Trapanese-style pesto that originated in Sicily, this is a cross-cultural Italian dish that offers the rich flavors that Italy is known for: tomatoes, cheese, pasta, and pesto. Offered by restaurants from border to border in Italy, it proves itself to be favored over other Italian dishes.

Makes 4 servings 

FOR THE PARSLEY OIL:

Method

Blanch the parsley leaves only. Pat them dry. Purée with evoo until parsley leaves have disappeared. Then, strain through a cheesecloth or equivalent. Reserve the green oil.

FOR PESTO ALLA TRAPANESE:

Ingredients

150 gr sundried tomato

250 gr fresh tomato pulp, skin off

10 leaves of basil

5 sprigs of parsley

5 mint leaves

5 nr garlic cloves

100 gr fresh cow milk ricotta

80 gr peeled almonds

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Most importantly, peel the garlic and blanch three times in a row, always in clean water. Then, purée all the ingredients with olive oil. The result should be a thick and smooth purée.

FOR SERVICE:

Cook spaghetti and toss with the pesto. Plate and finish with grated pecorino and parsley oil. Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings 

FOR THE PARSLEY OIL:

Method

Blanch the parsley leaves only. Pat them dry. Purée with evoo until parsley leaves have disappeared. Then, strain through a cheesecloth or equivalent. Reserve the green oil.

FOR PESTO ALLA TRAPANESE:

5 nr garlic cloves

Ingredients

150 gr sundried tomato

250 gr fresh tomato pulp, skin off

10 leaves of basil

5 sprigs of parsley

5 mint leaves

100 gr fresh cow milk ricotta

80 gr peeled almonds

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Most importantly, peel the garlic and blanch three times in a row, always in clean water. Then, purée all the ingredients with olive oil. The result should be a thick and smooth purée.

FOR SERVICE:

Cook spaghetti and toss with the pesto. Plate and finish with grated pecorino and parsley oil. Enjoy!

Caponata (Eggplant and Tomato Casserole)

By Riley Hostutler

Rich in both tradition and flavor, the Caponata serves as Sicily’s most classic appetizer and one of Italy’s most renowned recipes worldwide. However, the recipe is controversial among Sicilians as they boast 37 different varieties of the recipe and many more personal family recipes. There are influences of Greek, French, Arab, and Spanish cultures in the dish, which tell the tale of the island’s occupation by various civilizations throughout history. The minced vegetables add a fresh and clean flare, while the aubergine sauce adds a savory oriental flavor. This dish is flexible for various meals, as it first was commonly paired with Mahi Mahi, then eggplant, and, most recently, ricotta cheese and honey. This course has evolved since its first written source in 1706, but the heart of the dish stays the same: the blend that makes Sicily.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

800 g Round Eggplants
2 Red Bell Peppers
1 stalk Celery
1 Red Onion
1 Garlic Clove
2 Carrots
400 g Fresh Tomatoes
100 g Green Olives
Handful Desalted Capers and Lightly Toasted Almonds
2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Wine Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt as needed

Method

Begin by washing all produce. Then, cut the stalk off the eggplants. Reduce them into chunks and let them drain in a colander with coarse salt for about 30 minutes. Next, slice the peppers, onions, and carrots. Brown them in a pan and drizzle them with olive oil and a glove of garlic. Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and then add them to the separate pan. Add half a glass of vinegar to the pan and let it evaporate. After it evaporates, add two tablespoons of sugar to the mix. In a separate saucepan, blanch the celery for 3-5 minutes in hot water and vinegar. Then, place it in a cold bowl of water to stop the cooking. Once you are done blanching, add the celery to the pan of tomatoes. Next, rinse the aubergines and let them dry in a sheet of absorbent paper. Then, fry them in a pan with hot oil until golden brown. Then dry and drain the excess oil. Then add the fried vegetables to the bowl of tomatoes and celery. Add chopped olives, lightly toasted almonds, and capers. Gently mix with a wooden spoon so as to not flake the vegetables. Then, serve on a flat plate topped with ricotta and honey.

Condiglione Salad

By Riley Hostutler 

Tomatoes, peppers, olives, capers, eggs, and tuna served on crackers make this salad a plentiful dish that has fed Italians for years. This blend of summer vegetables has its roots in Western Liguria and has gradually evolved across Italy, becoming a recipe of rich tradition. It tells the tales of Ligurian peasants that would munch on this light course while waiting for their husbands to come home from a day of fishing. The potent smell of the olives consumes the dish, luring all noses near to come to get a taste. The salad combines fresh celery and crisp peppers with savory fish and onions to create a rich taste without a bloated belly. A local proverb attests to the flavor of this dish stating: “I don’t trust three things: Condiglione without seasoning, beautiful flirtatious women, and a peasant without a trident.” The ties to the past this salad holds make it an intimate staple to Italian culture. 

Serves 4

For the Gallette del Marinaio (Homemade crackers)

Ingredients: 

5g Yeast
1000g Flour
500g Water
1g Salt

Method: 

Start by dissolving the yeast in just enough warm water to make a sponge. Add flour in the bowl and start to knead with a hook. Let the mixer work until a dough forms. Let it develop elasticity until the surface is smooth. At the end of the kneading process, add salt. Kneading should take 10-15 minutes. After this, form 90g balls with your dough. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes. Then, use a rolling pin to flatten each ball to a 1cm thick disk. Let the disks rise for another 45 minutes under a cotton cloth. Make holes on the top of each disk with a fork. Heat the oven to 220 degrees celsius. Bake the disks in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and flip each disk. Then bake the other side for another 5 minutes and serve. 

For Condiglione Ligure: 

Ingredients 

6 Tomatoes 
2 Cucumber 
1 Celery stalk 
1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow Pepper
1 bunch Romaine Lettuce
5 Spring Onion
150g Green Beans
1 Yellow Potatoes
4 Gallette del Marinaio
100g Olives Taggiasche
50g Capers
8 Anchovies filets
Vinegar (as needed) 
Mosciame di Tonno or Fish Roe (as needed) 

Method 

First, wash and cut all produce. Next, blanch the green beans in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. Then, place the green beans into ice water to stop cooking. Next, hard boil the eggs and boil the potatoes until soft. The “Gallette del Marinaio ” then needs to be soaked in water. Moving forward, assemble the salad with all the vegetables, olives, capers, and lettuce. Season the salad with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and vinegar. Finally, add hard boiled egg wedges, anchovy filets, and shavings of mosciame di tonno to garnish the salad and it is complete to serve with crackers.

Homemade Tagliatelle with “Tocco” Genovese and Pecorino Cheese

Today we will discover a lesser known pasta specialty from the Italian culinary tradition. Hailing from Genova, the meat sauce is a Ligurian take on ragu. Rather than ground meat, larger chunks are utilized and later removed to be used for other dishes. This technique was born out of necessity as many families had restricted access to meat in the past. The name “tocco” comes from “touch,” as the meat “touches” the sauce without remaining in it.

For the tagliatelle:
500 gr semola
3 eggs
90-110 gr water

Shape the semola flour into a volcano with a large hole in the center. Crack the eggs into the middle. Lightly beat the eggs with a fork then mix in the water, a little at a time. Work the dough with the heel of your hand for 10–15 minutes until the mixture is smooth and very elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
Dust a wooden board with 1 tbsp of flour. Unwrap the dough and flatten it with a rolling pin. Roll out the dough into thin pasta sheets, less than 1mm thick, and cut into large 0.75cm strips. Unravel the cut tagliatelle strips and twirl into little nests. Dust the nests with a generous amount of flour to stop them from sticking.               

For the tocco alla genovese sauce:
1 kg lean beef (shoulder blade/shoulder)
500 gr mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery finely chopped)
3 kg canned tomato puree, strained to separate the seeds
30 gr dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in water and finely chopped
500 gr chicken stock
Pecorino romano to taste

Sautè the mirepoix with olive oil in a large pan until caramelized. Meanwhile, prepare the meat: cut into large chunks, salt it, roast it in a pan with olive oil for 5 minutes, then deglaze the pan with white wine. When the mirepoix is ready, add the wine you’ve used to deglaze the meat to the mirepoix and deglaze it again. Add the tomato puree, porcini mushrooms, and stock, and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the meat and cook on low heat for 3 hours. Separate the meat from the sauce, and use it as a main dish served with mashed potatoes, polenta, or steamed/stewed vegetables. 

Cook the tagliatelle in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Drain the pasta, transfer it to the pan, and combine with the sauce. Serve in a deep plate with a dusting of pecorino romano.