I've always wanted to be Italian... I've always thought I was sort of Italian.
I love all kinds of pasta, robust olive oil, hunks of Parmigiano Reggiano, tiramisu, limoncello and many more Italian things. The Sopranos was my favorite show for a long time... I drink espresso quite often... I shout "grazie!" randomly throughout the day.
That still doesn't make me Italian, though.
Much to my dismay, I didn't grow up eating panettone, spoonfuls of ricotta cheese, amaretti cookies and Nutella... I did have my fair share of Flamin' Hot Cheetos, Ramen Noodles, Peanut Butter, and Pizza Rolls.
How I envy to be Giada De Laurentiis, but I'm not; she's Prosecco and I'm Cook's Champagne.
I hadn't even tasted cannoli until I visited New York City last fall, and I'm pretty sure that all Italians taste cannoli right out of the womb.
My mom and I were lucky enough to attend San Gennaro, which is a festival in Little Italy. There was a ton of food around, and we didn't get to try as much as we wanted to, (mainly because this was right before I went in for my first Food Network interview) but we did try cannoli. It was EVERYWHERE and I knew that we had to try some.
Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with sweet, creamy ricotta cheese, blended with some combination of vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio. Sometimes candied fruit and liqueur is added in.
I have yet to make cannoli, because I don't own a cannoli tube, and I'd hate to buy the pre-made shells. I did make some biscotti, which are Italian and my favorite type of cookie, using the flavors from cannoli.
These were very good and I'd definitely make them again, because I love all those flavors together. What's kind of interesting is that I used cake flour to try and produce a more tender biscotti, and I think it worked.
Here are a few pictures from my trip to Little Italy. I didn't show these or talk about the trip, because I thought everyone was getting sick of me talking about New York, but I had a great time when I was there. It's probably the closest to Italy I'll ever get.
Sausage anyone? Heh, heh. Sorry. That question was kind of risqué.
Look. It's Vinny's Nut house! Look at all those hot nuts.
I never said this blog was clean, people.
Torrone. I'm going to have to try and make this Italian candy.
Look at all the different kinds of food the festival had... if I lived in New York, I would spend the entire week there and eat and eat. That is until I threw up zeppole and torrone everywhere. But then I'd pick myself up and go at it again.
My life won't be complete until I make zeppole. There's nothing better in the world than fried dough.
Okay, so here's the recipe. These are perfect served with a big Food Network mug full of coffee.
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus an additional tablespoon, melted, divided use
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios, toasted
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a large sheet pan with cooking spray.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup melted butter, ricotta cheese, egg, amaretto and vanilla until well combined; whisk in granulated sugar until combined. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until combined; stir in chocolate chips and pistachios until combined. Lightly knead dough together on a floured surface, form into a 10X4-inch log, and place on prepared sheet pan.
Bake for 25 minutes or until set and slightly golden. Cool 10 minutes before transferring to a cutting board; slice very ends off, and diagonally slice log into 12 equal pieces (about 1/2-3/4-inch thick). Place slices onto sheet pan, cut side down, and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until slightly crisp; transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Melt the additional 1 tablespoon butter, and brush onto outer edge of biscotti; dip biscotti into confectioners' sugar to coat completely.
Makes 12 big delicious biscotti