Most Italian restaurant tables always feature grissini (breadsticks), a very traditional crunchy bite to munch on whilst going through the menu. Originally from the Piedmont region, they were invented in the 17th century as a remedy to Duke Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoia’s digestion problems. Struggling to come up with solutions, his doctor asked the court’s bread maker to come up with a crunchy and very light bread variety. The baker took a piece of the bread dough commonly used for “ghersa”, a typical bread from Turin, shaping into thin crispy strips thus eliminating the soft inside part which was the hardest one to digest. For the first time the Duke could comfortably eat bread, and the legend goes that thanks to this recipe he recovered his health entirely, becoming the first King of the Savoia dynasty just a few years later. Some say the ghost of the Duke still roams the halls of his castle wielding a grissino.
Since then they boomed in popularity, even becoming a favorite of Napoleon who established a dedicated postal service to have them delivered to France. They come in all shapes and flavors, and are quite easy to make at home. So dive into the following recipe of this Piedmontese classic:
Grissini alle nocciole
Breadsticks with hazelnuts
Yeast, 1 ounce (2 tablespoons)
“00” flour, 2 pounds (1 kg)
Luke warm water, 2 ½ cups
Sea salt, 2 tablespoons
Sugar, 1 tablespoon
Extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoon
Hazelnuts, 1 pound
Place the yeast, sugar and a splash of warm water in a bowl. Let it sit for a few minutes and let it do its thing. Add all ingredients in the bowl and mix (electric mixer) or kneed until smooth and uniform. Cover the bowl with a damp clean tea towel and let sit for about 2 hours, or until the dough has roughly doubled in size. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1” thick rectangle. With a knife cut it into 1” thick strips. Place on an oven tray with greaseproof paper.
Bake at 375°F for about 15 minutes or until light brown.
Try serving wrapped with prosciutto crudo.
In need of some inspiration for creating balanced, healthy yet tasty meals for your kids? Here are some quick Italian inspired recipes.
4 mozzarella ovoline
4 cherry tomatoes
4 cocktail sticks
2 tablespoons of basil pesto (check our blog to learn how to make your own at home or find it already made at Bellina’s Market)
Roll the mozzarella in the pesto.
Carefully thread the tomato half way through the cocktail stick and top with the mozzarella.
1 large zucchini, trimmed and shredded
2 tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shred zucchini , and squeeze excess water with your hands, Mix with flour in a medium size ball. Mix in the cheese. Add egg, salt and pepper.
Heat oil of choice in frying pan over medium heat. Using a spoon scoop a spoon of the batter into the hot oil.
Using a spatula, flip the pancakes after the first side has browned.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Great to serve with a scoop of Greek yogurt as a snack or light lunch.
Focaccia is an Italian flat bread that comes in many variations throughout the country. Try this easy traditional recipe from the northwestern region Liguria. All you need is a little time.. plan to make it when you are at home for a few hours, like on a Sunday afternoon. We choose to use a whole grain unrefined, unenriched and unbleached flour, stone ground made from only Italian wheat. Whole flours are rich in nutrients and taste and will make a darker and more flavourful bread. Usually local farmer’s markets will offer local good quality, possibly organic wholewheat flours. We also love natural fermentations and love keeping a sour dough starter.. it’s a great excuse to have to make bread, pizza and focaccia at home every week or so. It sounds scary but once you get into the habit, it’s a piece of cake. If this is one step to far for you, fresh yeast will work just as well.
Yield: Makes a large tray
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking and leavening time: 3 hours
Mother yeast starter, 3 ounce (6 tablespoons)
or fresh yeast from store, if so 2 ounces are enough
Whole grain flour, 1 pack (1 kg)
Luke warm water, 2 ½ cups
Sea salt, 2 tablespoons –
Sugar, 1 tablespoon
Extra virgin olive oil, 9 tablespoons–
Oven, oven tray, electric mixer or bowl, tea towel, rimmed baking sheet
Place all ingredients but the oil in the electric mixer or in a bowl and mix or knead until smooth and uniform. Add 4 tablespoons of oil and mix. Cover the bowl with a damp clean tea towel and let sit for about 2 hours, or until the dough has roughly doubled. Preheat oven to 390 F. Grease the tray with a little oil (1 tablespoon). Now knead lightly and gently press into the baking tray, flatten to fill whole tray and obtain a sheet no higher than 1 inch. If the dough is too sticky use some flour on your hands. Drizzle the whole surface with the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of water. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust looks crispy and light brown.
Enjoy with some delicious spreads, cheeses and salumi (cured meats).
Pasta is Italian’s favourite fast ‘ready’ meal. All you need to do is cook it in boiling water and add it to a sauce, whether you cook your sauce from scratch or find it ready-made.
Good quality pasta takes a little longer to cook, but you will be rewarded with its great flavour and texture. Your attention in cooking this great product is crucial. The average serving of pasta per person is 100g (3 ½ ounces) and an average size pack has five servings.
For perfect cooking:
- Boil water in a large pot
- Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of salt
- Don’t add oil to water – it is a pointless myth
- Pour pasta in boiling water (1 quart of water per 100g of pasta more or less)
- Keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick
- Cook for the suggested time on pack, but our tip is to always try one before draining, you want to cook it ‘al dente’. Dente means “tooth” in Italian, the texture must be firm and have a bite to it. After you cook pasta regularly, you will just know when it is ready
- Drain and add to sauce immediately and stir together
- Eat straight away