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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Today's Souvenir is...

copyright 2008, Maria Liberati

Take a clay pot, a pound of speckled beans (borlotti beans), 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 200 grams of fresh short pasta, can of plum tomateos, pinch of salt, 1 celery stick with leaves and you have a great pasta and fagioli meal.. Add a glass of Chianti and you have an even better meal. My clay pots are my favorite pots to cook with, but I usually take them out only in winter to make hearty bean soups or stews,etc. They are made in Italy from clay produced in Italy. They are somewhat cumbersome, and, of course, you do have to be extra careful not to drop the pot or the lid. I would never even attempt to take them on my flight back to the US-they would probably never make it back in one piece..
But if you want to experience a true pasta and fagioli soup -there is nothing like making one in these specially made clay pots.
Besides taking in the sparkling sunshine today on my stroll around town to get the beans and celery at our little farm store in 'centro'- most of the beginning of my day was spent on making the bean soup -a recipe that will also be in one of the upcoming books.
And that is my souvenir and my special memory to share with you for today, sunshine in a small mountain town and speckled bean soup with fresh pasta, and a glass of chianti...

don't forget to read all about more foods at my other blogs at:
and our new site all about coffee at

More recipes in the bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking, order your copy online or get a free chapter at

Friday, January 25, 2008

Good Food + Great Friends = Winning Combination

Just wanted to remind everyone before the week ends that I have heard from one of my good friends, cookbook author-Frankie Imbergamo- in Boston (most of you probably remember him from his appearances in Emeril Lagasse's TV show. His Italian meatball recipe is famous-especially throughout Boston.
He reminded me and sent me best wishes for National Friendship Week. Since great friends are such an important part of enjoying great food-I wanted to wish you all Best Wishes for National Friendship Week!

Here is a link for an article on Frankie Imbergamo:

By the way the photo above are two bears (Orsi) that are Marsican -a bear from this region ( Marsica-a region in L'Aquila) this picture is from Scanno in L'Aquila and is in part of the famous National Park of Abruzzo (Parco Nazionale D'Abruzzo)..even bears know the importance of good friends!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Oranges to Your Health....

Here in Italy we are getting ready for the Appointment with Oranges for your Health (L’Appuntamento con L’arance della Salute). This is held every January 26th to emphasize the health benefits of eating oranges, but not just any oranges these are the ones that are produced this time of year in Sicily.
I have been enjoying their benefits for over a month now, it is hard to have a day go by without eating an orange or two-so sweet and luscious.
But these oranges are rich in antioxidants, thanks to their vitamin C content which is 40% higher than the other citrus fruits. But their benefits don’t stop there- they help fight free radicals, are also rich in vitamins A and B and flavonoids- all the substances necessary to maintain your immune system.
In celebration of these wonderful little packages of delight, the association for prevention of cancer here in Italy jointly will be offering cases for sale in all the piazzas in Italy. A percentage of the profits go to the Cancer Society here in Italy.
And as the Cancer Society reminds us that colorful fruits and vegetables provide many health benefits and the health benefits are doubled when you eat different fruits and/or vegetables together.
If you can get your hands on an orange from Sicily it may be well worth a try. But you can use any orange for the recipe below; by the way another ingredient with many anti-aging properties is also included-sardines....
Hope you enjoy it, this will be today’s ‘pranzo’ (lunch)
Orange & Sardine
2 lbs of fresh sardines, cleaned
½ cup of green olives, pitted
2 tblsps of pinoli nuts
1 large organic lemon
2 oranges
1 small dried hot pepper
2 tblsps of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup plain bread crumbs
1 small handful of fresh Parsley (leaves only no stems)
Pinch of salt
In a small food processor or chopper place olives, pinoli nuts and half of small handful fresh parsley, hot pepper. Chop finely.
Cut lemon into thin slices.
Drizzle olive oil to coat the bottom of round pie pan.
Place one layer of cleaned sardines, pinch of salt, remaining parsley chopped finely, cover this with thin lemon slices. Repeat with another layer of sardines, but cover this layer with juice of one orange, then drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil and top with the bread crumb mixture.
Place in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Let cool before serving. Cut second orange into slices and serve with orange slices as decorations. If you would like more recipes from Italy in the winter go to:

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Today's Lunch is..

In ‘il mio laboratorio’ as we now call our cucina... filled with ingredients for testing of recipes for my upcoming books. For today’s lunch we had a choice of 4 different variations on the lentil soup that I and (my culinary assistant-Alessandra) prepared. The hearty recipe which is really more of a traditional one here in the mountains of Abruzzo this time of year- is what became our lunch..Alfonso and I enjoyed our heaping bowls with a glass of locally produced Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Read about this heavenly juice here:

Here is the chosen recipe..enjoy

2 cups of dry lentils soaked overnight in 4 cups of water
2 tblsps of extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 slice of fresh onion
1 small can of peeled tomatoes with juice or 1 lb of fresh plum tomatoes, peeled,seeded,cleaned
2 whole carrots
1 whole celery stick
Pinch of salt

4 slices of crusty bread broiled with drizzled olive oil, Sapori D’Italia spice blend on top

Saute olive oil, garlic and onion in soup pot and when just about golden add in tomatoes, lentils with water soaked in, whole carrots and celery. Cover and stir every so often. Cook until liquid just about evaporates and lentils are tender. If lentils have not finished cooking and liquid evaporates add in some water..

Arrange 2 slices of crostini bread in each soup dish, pour soup over bread and enjoy. You can even drizzle a little olive oil on top..

And if you want to know how healthy this dish is for you (too healthy for such a delicious dish) find out here:,23414,1149140,00.html

Buon Pranzo , enjoy your lunch..
Ciao for now, for more recipes go to
Get a free excerpt from the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at
Order your copy of the bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati at and receive $5 off retail price and free shipping..

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Risotto again ...but with Radicchio and Trebbiano

copyright 2007,2008, Maria Liberati, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati
As I am continuing to work on my chapters on risotto (as you have probably guessed with all this mention of risotto) today's favored risotto that we selected to eat for pranzo (lunch) was a radicchio risotto.
Sauteed with radicchio, this risotto has an interesting flavor thanks to the radicchio. It does give the dish a slightly bitter, nutty taste, but the sweet,creamy parmigiano-reggiano cheese added right before serving balances the bitter flavor.

Since I do favor working with white wines in my risottos, I used a Trebbiano D'Abruzzo from a local vineyard here in Abruzzo.
If you'd like to try this delicious but also healthy dish, I am printing the recipe here before it is published.

If you would like to see what a powerhouse of health this vegetable is, here are some great reading sources:
and if you want to know about Trebbiano white wine, go to:

Risotto with Radicchio
(for 2)
*1 tablespoon extra virgin oilive oil
*2 slices finely chopped onion
*1 cup of arborio or carnaroli rice
*4 cups of vegetable broth
*1 cup of dry white wine
*2 tblsps of freshly grated parmigiano cheese
*1 small head of radicchio, washed and pat dry, and cut into thin strips
(optional- 1 tsp of butter added when finished cooking).
Saute in saute pan- olive oil, chopped onion. When onion begins to turn golden, place in rice and toast for a minute, toss around pan with wooden spoon. Place in radicchio, 1 cup of white wine, stir until liquid is absorbed, then place in 1/2 cup of vegetable broth until all liquid is absorbed and add in more broth. Repeat this, consistently stirring with wooden spoon for approx 18 minutes or until rice is 'al dente'. Be sure all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.Place in (optional) butter and stir until melted. Place in individual serving dishes, top with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and enjoy with a dry white wine.

Buon Appetito..
Ciao for now,
Don;t forget to get your copy of the bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at and recieve $5 off retail price and free shipping now for a limited time.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Prosecco and risotto..mmmmmm

I must admit that my kitchen has turned into more of a laboratory instead of a kitchen while I am testing out and working on new recipes for my upcoming books here at my working villa in Italy. I have been testing and finding great new twists to recipes that I have already put together.
Our neighbors couldn't be happier, since we can't possibly eat all of these dishes ourselves (although I would love to be able to). But it's great because not only do we get to share great foods with great friends ..I get to hear opinions and authentic comments and critiques of the dishes from some real food aficianados and chefs that are also acquaintances.
Today.I wanted to try again my seafood risotto that I posted in my last blog.. but a chef that we know and I just happened to run into this morning ..told me that nothing is better in a risotto than a dry prosecco wine instead of a dry white wine. Luckily we have a wine cellar and sure enough found a bottle of Prosecco that we never opened during the Holidays.
He was right, I think that I will only use dry Prosecco in my risotto dishes- it was undescribably delizioso..and then we had a glass of prosecco with it.
Sorry friends, famly and others we could not share this with you for pranzo. (lunch). We ate it all and enjoyed every last bite and gulp of Prosecco..

What a wonderful and relaxed lunch it was...great food, beautiful scenery (since our dining room window faces one of the snow capped mountains here in Abruzzo) to make for the perfect setting to eat this heavenly dish..

So remember if you get to try the seafood risotto recipe in my last blog, substitute a good dry Prosecco for the white wine and don't forget to serve the same Prosecco with the risotto.

Prosecco comes from the Piedmont region and so does another favorite of mine Brachetto D'Acqui-great with desserts and appetizers..

Ciao for now it is mezzanotte (midnight) here in the mountains of Abruzzo and I am finished for today..tomorrow will be a real neapolitan treat..a recipe that has it's origins from Naples. It is called
gatto- which comes from the French word 'gateau' which means cake.
But this is main course casserole made with mashed potatoes, provolone, mozzarella, parmigiano regginao, some bread crumbs, eggs, fresh parsley.. I have a feeling this won't be shared either..
I will be posting the recipe as soon as I get to try it out for lunch tomorrow...
Buona Notte..

Thursday, January 10, 2008


(copyright 2007, 2008, Maria Liberati

I wine, I saw I conquered.. I think that any trip to Italy could best be described in these words. Each day has its own special wine and I attempt to pair every day's lunch with a new wine. I am partial to light white wines like Trebbiano D'Abruzzo and Fallenghina and the favorite of the ancient Romans- Est!Est!Est! However, I have a new favorite white wine- Pecorino. It is an heirloom wine produced from an heirloom grape. Pecorino is also the name of a cheese that comes from the same region in Abruzzo.The name Pecorino refers to sheep. The milk of the sheep is used to produce the Pecorino cheese here and flocks of sheep dot the landscape here. However, wine from the Pecorino grape was produced in the past and then phased out. But the art of producing Pecorino has been revived. The Pecorino grape is found in Abruzzo and Le Marche regions of Italy.
Pecorino is produced in small quantities. I have not been able to find it in the US yet. White wine is my favorite ingredient to add to risotto and Pecorino makes and excellent risotto. And is a great wine to pair with risotto. Pecorino has a slight citrus flavor and goes especially well with seafood-risotto, seafood and pecorino together in a recipe make an indescribably delicious delight!
Today for 'pranzo', lunch was a sublime 'risotto a la pescatore' -(risotto with seafood). Pecorino madea great ingredient. See recipe below, but here are some websites to check out for info on Abruzzo and Pecorino
And if you are interested in wines and wine tastings, see the interview I recently did in A Wine Story
Thursday's 'Risotto a la Pescatore'
Risotto A La Pescatore

copyright, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking 2007,2008, Maria Liberati

2 tblsps. olive oil

1/2 lb of cleaned squid rings

1/2 lb of cleaned shelled shrimp

5 mussels, scrubbed and cleaned

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 cup of Pecorino wine (if not available use a dry white wine)
2-3 cups vegetable broth
Place oil and onion in a saute pan, heat just until onion begins to become golden.Add white wine and reduce by half.Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth and squid, cook for 5 minutes or until liquid almost dissipates. Stir in rice, place shrimp and mussels . Add broth to cover and stir unti liquid evaporates. Add in liquid, constantly stirring and repeat until cooked -about 18 minutes
Serve with Pecorino wine or another dry white wine. If you can find a bottle of Pecorino, it will be worth the effort.

Ciao for now!!

More recipes like this can be found in the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati. Order at and receive free shipping and $5 off retail price..

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Year's Resolutions for Life

The New Year is here and it brings with it the flood of New Year's resolutions- usually to lose weight or change your eating habits in one way or the other. If you have broken your resolution already remember that the Mediterranean diet is a way of life and a no-diet diet. The Basic Art of Italian Cooking is based on eating the Mediterranean diet way-healthy and all natural and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. For the easy way to eat the Mediterranean diet way, follow the Mediterranean food pyramid at
Resolutions should be for life not just for the first week of the New Year.
Here are 6 ways to help make healthy eating resolutions easy for the New Year and for life:
1-Forget ‘Fad’ Diets
Weight loss diets that are extremely restrictive or that totally eliminates a food group or over emphasizes a food group are not healthy, too extreme and are doomed to fail. They are not long term but just very short term solutions.
RESOLUTION-Eat a healthy, well balanced diet that emphasizes healthy, unprocessed foods. Be mindful of portion sizes- especially when eating out. Incorporate more movement into your every day daily life
2-Emphasize Variety
Eat a wide variety of all food groups. Not any one food has all the nutrients you need.
RESOLUTION-Pay attention to all food groups- grain products, meat & substitutes, nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Attempt to incorporate a healthy balance of all food groups in your daily diet.
Eating healthfully does not mean giving up or eliminating the foods we enjoy. It means allowing yourself to eat moderate amounts.
RESOLUTION-Aim to eat everything in moderation. Smaller portions of foods higher in calories.
4-Plan Long Term
A single meal or food is not what makes or breaks a healthy pattern of eating
RESOLUTION- Think of healthy eating as a lifelong habit not something you do for a month and then quit. When you eat healthy balanced meals most of the time, enjoying occasional indulgences is fine
5-Breakfast is #1
RESOLUTION-Eat a healthy balanced breakfast every day. It helps control weight, improves concentration for a busy day at work and school and it provides nutrients missing in your diet.
6-Slow & Steady
One small change at a time works best for lasting change.
RESOLUTION- When modifying how you eat do it slowly. You are making changes that should last for life not just for the month. Read also :

Ciao for now!!Maria
For recipes using the Mediterranean Diet, purchase your copy of the bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at and receive free shipping on your purchase

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Buona La Befana!

And the Holidays continue here (in Italy) we are now coming to our last Holiday of the Christmas season- the Epiphany or La Befana..
La Befana, the good Christmas witch will fill your stockings with candies and fruits and little presents but if you have been bad she is more likely to fill your stocking with 'carbone' or coal.
As I have been continuing with excerpts from my upcoming book
The Basic Art of Italian Cooking-Holidays & Special Occasions (to be released in 2008)
Here is the chapter on La Befana;

I have had an unbelievable holiday season at my grandfather's vineyard in Italy. While in the USA, the Holiday Season is over. We can remain basking in the glow of the Holiday spirit for one last day.

I still have one more holiday to celebrate- La Befana.

“La Befana e propria brava” ( roughly translated means: “the Befana is a wonderful person) said Sofia as all listened intently. We had just finished a sumptuous afternoon Holiday dinner. It all began with a traditional Italian wedding soup, followed by homemade ravioli filled with fresh ricotta and spinach mixture topped with a homemade tomato sugo (sauce). And as if that wasn’t came roasted chicken with roasted potatoes, insalata russa (similar to an American potato salad- potatoes, peas, chopped carrots, mayonnaise) then came the cheese plate with locally made bread, then the fresh fruit and nut plate then dessert-oh did I forget to mention the sparkling white Prosecco.

Sofia continued recounting the story about how she had grown up overnight because La Befana came in the middle of the night to her room and took her pacifier and left her a stocking full of gifts-as it is customary to do for the Epiphany or La Befana Sofia is 3 ½ yrs old and her mother has been thinking of a way to get her to stop using her pacifier.

This holiday had come with perfect timing. Sofia was happy because she had a delightful story to tell at dinner and had gotten a stocking full of gifts. She knew that mamma and nonna were happy that she would no longer be with pacifier as well

La Befana, (The Christmas Witch) or The Epiphany is celebrated in Italy and throughout Europeon January 6th. La Befana rides through the night sky on her broom carrying presents and sweets for children

Her name is derived from the celebration of The Epiphany, which is the "climax of the Christmas season and the Twelve Days of Christmas...usually counted from December 25th through January 5th," culminating in a feast and celebration on January 6th.
Being a fine housekeeper, and having a broom with which to ride, some say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. The family, in anticipation of her arrival, typically sets out a small glass of wine and few morsels of food for their Christmas Witch.
La Befana is typically portrayed as a witch, only she is smiling and has a bag full of candy and gifts for good girls and boys. And like Santa Claus, she leaves behind "coal" for those who are bad. Except often, it's a piece of hard rock candy instead!
There is a poem about La Befana, which is well-known throughout Italy:
La Befana vien di notte (La Befana comes at night)Con le scarpe (With the broken shoes)Tutte rotte vien vestita (She comes dressed in)Alla romana (Peasant Roman style)Viva, Viva La Befana! (Long live La Befana!)
The Basic Art of Italian Cooking also makes a great gift for La Befana or any Holiday..
You can still get a $5 discount off retail price and free shipping and handling if you order at A portion of your purchase price goes to Gilda's

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Italy in Winter and a New Year!

Wishes for all things wonderful in this New Year with my first post of the new year!.

Here in Italy we still have one more Holiday to get through-the Epiphany or La Befana- on January 6th- (more on this to come).

I am sure you are 'Holidayed' out- by now. But here are some winter recipes from Italy and some great things to do here in the winter. Enjoy and relax!!