Eat Your Way Through Italy … Without Leaving the Lowcountry
October 2023 Issue
By Leslie Rohland
Photography by Lucy Rosen
October is Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month, celebrating the achievements and contributions of Italian immigrants and their descendants living in the United States. One great way to join in the celebration is by cooking up some delicious Italian food in your own kitchen. Italy is known for its diverse foods with 20 different regions of the country each producing (and known for) its unique culinary specialties. Each year, countless people travel to Italy to enjoy eating their way around the various regions for a culinary experience unlike anything else in the world.
The regional cuisines of Italy are each inspired by local ingredients, the climate and the region’s history. Much of the food Americans associate with Italian cuisine, including red-sauce dishes such as spaghetti, is predominately found in the central region of Italy. However, if you’re traveling in the the Abruzzo region (east of Rome) you will enjoy hearty, rustic dishes featuring mushrooms, lentils or lamb. The Lombardia region (northern region) focuses more on rice and polenta. Sicily, an island located just off the "toe" of mainland Italy, is home to almonds, olives, seafood and many popular desserts. The Campania region, which includes the famous food city of Naples, is well known for its pizza, limoncello and tomato-based dishes.
In honor of Italian-American Heritage and Culture month, I’ve gathered some of my most-loved Italian recipes from some of my favorite regions in Italy. From my hearty, yet light, Risotto with Asparagus and Prosecco (Lombardy) to my savory Shrimp and Tomato Cioppino Soup (Liguria), to my unique regional takes on traditional favorites with my Saltimboca alla Romana (Rome) and Gnocchi alla Sorrentina (Naples), you’ll be able to eat your way around Italy right here at home. And for dessert, my special Pignoli Cookies (Sicily) are sure to end your festive Italian meal on a sweet note!
So kick off this special month with these special Italian recipes—and enjoy them all year long! For even more authentic Italian food to enjoy at home this month, visit us at The Village Pasta Shoppe (www.villagepastashoppe.com)—the Lowcountry’s source for fresh, gourmet Italian food (including my homemade gourmet Italian food “take and bake” meals!)
Saltimboca alla Romana (Rome, Italy)
8 slices Prosciutto
2 Tbsps Olive oil
8 Veal scallopine, thinly sliced and pound
2 Tbsps Butter
1/2 cup Dry white wine
Flour (spread on a plate for dredging)
8 Sage leaves
1/4 cup Chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place one slice of prosciutto on each veal scallopine and pound in lightly with a meat pounder. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Dredge both sides of the scallopine in flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Place them prosciutto side down in pan and cook, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer to a warm plate. Drain oil from pan, place back over heat and add butter. When butter is melted add sage and sauté for one minute. Add the white wine and scrape any bits from bottom of pan, then add the chicken broth and salt and pepper.
Place scallopine back in pan, prosciutto side up and cook until sauce is reduced by half and scallopine are heated through. Transfer veal to serving plates, two scallopine per person; spoon sauce over top and serve.
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina (Naples, Italy)
1 medium Carrot peeled, cut into 4 pieces
1 small red onion, cut into quarters
4 leaves Fresh basil, plus more for garnish
4 Tbsp Olive oil, plus more for greasing
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 (17.5 oz) package prepared Gnocchi
1 tsp Black pepper
1 cup Parmesan, grated and divided
1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 (28 oz) jar Whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
In a pot over medium heat, combine the crushed tomatoes, carrot, onion, basil, and olive oil. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and maintain a gentle simmer, stirring often with a wooden spoon for 40 to 45 minutes, or until slightly reduced and the carrot is beginning to become tender. You will need 21/4 cups of sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Remove and discard all of the vegetables and herbs from the sauce.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Grease an 8-inch baking dish with the remaining olive oil. Add the gnocchi and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese to the tomato sauce. Stir well. Pour the mixture into the baking pan. Sprinkle with mozzarella and the remaining parmesan.
Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Allow the gnocchi to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with more basil.
Shrimp and Tomato Cioppino Soup (Liguria, Italy)
1/3 cup White wine
2 Tbsps Unsalted butter
1 cup Tomato puree
1/2 cup Leeks, chopped
1 Tbsp Basil pesto
1 Tbsp fresh Garlic, chopped
1 tsp Sea salt
11/2 cups Chicken stock
1/2 tsp Black pepper
1/2 lb Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lb fresh Shrimp, peeled, deveined & tails off
2 Tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped (plus more for garnish)
In a large saucepan on low heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and sauté for 10 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and sauté about 5 minutes, then stir in the white wine to deglaze. Reduce liquid by half. Add cherry tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, drop in the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2-4 minutes. Stir in the pesto, parsley, salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with more parsley.
Risotto with Asparagus and Prosecco
1 large bunch fresh Asparagus
4 Tbsps Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium Onion, minced
1½ cups Prosecco of your choice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1½ cups Arborio rice
4 cups Vegetable stock
Parmesan, grated, for garnish
1½ Tbsp Butter
2 oz Taleggio cheese (or other soft cheese like Fontina or Brie)
Cut the asparagus stems into small pieces. Then, in a skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbsps of the olive oil and brown half of the onion for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the asparagus and cook until crispy and tender, about 3 minutes. Add in a ¼ cup of the prosecco and stir, allowing it to evaporate. Add salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a heavy pot over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 Tbsps of olive oil and brown the rest of the onion. Add the rice, and let it toast for 4 minutes, frequently stirring. Add ½ cup of the prosecco, and again, allow it to evaporate as you stir. Add 1 cup of the vegetable stock and stir the rice for 6 to 7 minutes.
Risotto requires constant stirring. Continue to add the remaining 3 cups of the stock in ½-cup increments, letting each addition absorb before adding more. When the rice is close to al dente, after about 12 minutes, add the asparagus/onion mixture.
Add the cheese, butter and remaining prosecco. Stir to combine. Divide risotto among serving bowls, garnish with grated Parmesan.
Pignoli Cookies (Sicily, Italy)
8 oz Almond paste
½ cup Sugar
½ cup Powdered sugar
2 large Egg whites
½ tsp Vanilla
6 oz Raw pine nuts
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a food processor, pulse the almond paste until it is broken into small crumbs. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to do this in increments of ½ cups. Add granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt to the almond paste and pulse several more times until evenly combined. Add egg whites and pulse again until the mixture forms a sticky dough.
Place the pine nuts in a small bowl. Using a small scoop or teaspoon, scoop even balls of dough and drop into the bowl of pine nuts. Press the dough into the pine nuts on just one side, placing it onto the baking sheet pine nut side up. If some nuts have fallen off press them back into the cookie. Place the balls 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 14-15 minutes or until the cookies are puffed with a slight dome on the top and are golden brown around the bottom edges. The cookie should appear slightly shiny with some browned pine nuts on the top. Allow cookies to cool for 3-4 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Leslie Rohland, owner of the Cottage Cafe, Bakery and Tea Room in Old Town Bluffton, is an award-winning recipe creator who is known for her delicious and ever-changing menu at her extraordinary restaurant. She is also the owner of the popular healthy eatery The Juice Hive and the micro-roastery May River Coffee Roasters. For more information about The Cottage Cafe, visit www.thecottagebluffton.com or call 843-757-0508.