Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

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Some of the best things in life are the simplest things. A simple gesture of love, a simple word of appreciation, a simple day off, a simple meal.

What is it that makes simple, special? The intent, or quality behind the simpleness. A simple gesture of love done with purity of heart, a simple word of appreciation that is genuine, a simple day off with no stress to go and be, a simple meal with quality ingredients.

It’s this last idea that I’m honing in on today. A meal so simple it almost seems boring. Until you eat it, and all you want for dinner is the same thing. And lunch again the next day. This happened to me this past week with a fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwich on focaccia.

You know when you’re so hungry and everything tastes extra amazing? Then it keeps coming to mind, even if it was a humble meal, until you eat it again? One time, I think it was last summer, I unexpectedly had to go into the city center and didn’t have time to eat lunch beforehand. I live about a half-hour bus ride outside of the center, then when you add in the time spent waiting for a bus, walking all around the center to accomplish errands, then waiting and getting a bus back home, simple 1 or 2 errand runs can easily end up being 3+ hour ventures. Having missed lunch and still needing to go to the other side of town, my husband and I decided to get a quick sandwich from a bar. This is a very common lunch, with all the bars (where you eat breakfast, lunch, get a coffee) replacing their morning pastries with fresh sandwiches starting around 10:30am. These are a hot option for Italians on lunch break or as a quick snack. There are usually two sizes, and they often have just 2-3 ingredients each. Probably a slice of meat and cheese, like mortadella (which is the cooked prosciutto/ham) and mozzarella, or tuna and boiled egg, prosciutto and cheese, etc. They’re simple, and maybe because I’m used to the super stuffed American sandwiches they seemed a bit measly to me. (But much more affordable and realistic for a lunch on the go, costing between 2.5-4euro usually, where an American sandwich would probably run you $6-10.) Until this particular day, and it suddenly became the best tasting sandwich ever. Fresh mozzarella and tomato with a bit of dried oregano sandwiched between two fluffy piece of salty, oily focaccia. I immediately wanted another. Alas we were already on the bus to the other side of town.

So the other day I was thinking, what’s for lunch? And this tomato and mozzarella sandwich kept haunting my thoughts. A run to the grocery store produced all the necessary missing ingredients, and within a matter of minutes I was devouring this dream of a sandwich. And it was so much better than I remembered. I had it again the next day for lunch. And maybe again tomorrow, using up the last of the cheese and tomatoes.

In fact, it’s very similar to caprese, it's simply in sandwich form without the fresh basil. To read up on using the best ingredients for caprese salad (that also apply to today’s sandwich), click here.

I feel weird calling this a recipe because it’s so simple, so I shall say, here is the recreation of the Italian bar Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich!! Quality of ingredients is of utmost importance. Quantity and exact measurements are not.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, Jennyblogs may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Jennyblogs. For further information see the privacy policy. Grazie!

Inspired by the Italian bar sandwiches


Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

Makes 2 sandwiches

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces of focaccia

  • 1 large heirloom tomato

  • 200g fresh mozzarella

  • dried oregano

  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Slice each focaccia to make halves for a sandwich.

  2. Core tomato and slice. Slice the mozzarella.

  3. Arrange tomato and mozzarella slices on two of the focaccia halves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with oregano. Voila! Buon appetito.


Jenny’s Notes:

  • I used schiacciata the first time I made this (the Tuscan variant of focaccia, usually with a bit more oil that renders it crispier), but a slightly softer focaccia would be best for sandwiches, easier to slice and eat. Buy or make your own at home!

  • Other Italian bar sandwich ideas include: Prosciutto and asiago, mortadella and asiago, bresaola with arugula and gran padano, tuna with hard boiled eggs, mayo, and tomato, smoked salmon with arugula and mayo. Some of these ingredients might be harder to find outside of Italy, but if you live or visit here, these are great ideas for a quick lunch and readily found in grocery stores.

sandwich, panino, mozzarella fresca, pomodoro cuore di bue, Italian recipe, oregano, extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella di bufala
lunch, sandwich
Italian
Yield: 2
Author:

Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

A sandwich inspired by the typical Italian bar: Thick slices of fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of oregano stuffed between two soft slices of focaccia.
prep time: 10 Mcook time: total time: 10 M

ingredients:

  • 2 pieces of focaccia
  • 1 large heirloom tomato
  • 200g fresh mozzarella
  • dried oregano
  • extra virgin olive oil

instructions:

How to cook Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

  1. Slice each focaccia to make halves for a sandwich.
  2. Core tomato and slice. Slice the mozzarella.
  3. Arrange tomato and mozzarella slices on two of the focaccia halves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with oregano. Voila! Buon appetito.

NOTES:

I used schiacciata the first time I made this (the Tuscan variant of focaccia, usually with a bit more oil that renders it crispier), but a slightly softer focaccia would be best for sandwiches, easier to slice and eat. Buy or make your own at home! Other Italian bar sandwich ideas include: Prosciutto and asiago, mortadella and asiago, bresaola with arugula and gran padano, tuna with hard boiled eggs, mayo, and tomato, smoked salmon with arugula and mayo. Some of these ingredients might be harder to find outside of Italy, but if you live or visit here, these are great ideas for a quick lunch and readily found in grocery stores.

Calories

462.69

Fat (grams)

29.57

Sat. Fat (grams)

12.13

Carbs (grams)

26.07

Fiber (grams)

2.33

Net carbs

23.74

Sugar (grams)

4.25

Protein (grams)

23.83

Sodium (milligrams)

834.01

Cholesterol (grams)

64.09
Nutritional information is approximate. Based on 2 servings.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Caprese Risotto

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You know risotto, right? That creamy Italian rice dish, usually cooked with a splash of wine? And you also know Caprese salad, the traditional Italian salad consisting of just tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil? (I gave you a nice preface to today’s recipe by sharing the recipe for Insalata Caprese Tradizionale last month on the blog.) Do you know what happens when you combine these two ideas into one dish?

You get a delicious creamy, rice dish with flavors of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil! Risotto is usually a pretty hearty, comforting dish, better for cooler months, but this one has delicate summer flavors so you can have a risotto for every season. Because It’s mid September, my family back home in Michigan has been wearing jackets and pants for weeks, meanwhile it’s still in the mid 30’sC / 90’sF here in Florence. I’m dreaming of cooler weather, breaking out the sweaters and cozy socks, lighting candles, and making hearty chilis, soups, and everything pumpkin spice and nice. And risotto. So I compromise with a taste of summer, the remnants of summer Italian produce, and a comforting cooler month recipe.

This Caprese Risotto is a bit of a mix between Italian and American cuisines. It’s a risotto and involves all the ingredients from Caprese, but that doesn’t necessarily make it Italian. It’s one of those dishes stuck in the in between, and that’s ok. If it’s anything, it’s American. And I thought I should let you know that, so I don’t give you the false impression that I’m giving you some nonna’s recipe passed down for generations. Nope, this is me being American, taking one thing and combining it with another to create something that doesn’t fall into any category really. That’s one of my pet peeves actually, when I see recipes labeled Italian this or Tuscan that…just because something has oregano, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, or parmesan, does not make it Italian. Especially if it’s a meat, usually chicken is what I see, mixed with pasta. That’s a big no-no in Italy. Pasta is a primo piatto, or first course, and chicken and proteins are always a secondo piatto. You will also never find chicken on pizza. Or pineapple. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t do these things, of course you can, but just keep in mind that it is not Italian. After that, call it as you wish. Oh, and hand me a nice slice of pizza with pineapple, ya? Thanks.

Back to this summery risotto. When I first was making this I wanted to make sure the tomato flavor was closer to a fresh, sun-ripened tomato as it would be for Caprese, and not pungent and salty/sweet like we associate with a lot of canned tomato soups. I love tomato soup, just not the flavor that I was going for here. By using fresh tomatoes and getting saltiness from just the low-sodium broth, this turned out quite nicely. Add the creamy, pull-apart cheesiness from the mozzarella and the sweet, nutty basil, you’ve got a winner summer dinner! If you like, although not traditional to the Italian Caprese salad, add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar at the end. This dish isn’t traditional, so I feel ok about adding it. ;)

Bonus, this dish is also effortlessly gluten-free.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, Jennyblogs may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Jennyblogs. For further information see the privacy policy. Grazie!


Caprese Risotto

Serves 4-6

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Ingredients:

  • 6 cups / 1,422g low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 2 Tbsp / 28g olive oil

  • 1/2 onion, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 cups / 278g arborio rice, uncooked

  • 1/2 cup / 119g white wine, optional

  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped

  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried

  • about 16 fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons

  • 1/2 cup / 50g grated parmigiano reggiano

  • 200g fresh mozzarella, sliced into chunks

  • extra virgin olive oil, more cherry tomatoes, basil leaves for garnishing, and balsamic vinegar if desired

Directions:

  1. Heat broth in a pan over low heat.

  2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and simmer for a few minutes, until starting to turn translucent.

  3. Add garlic and rice, stirring occasionally, until rice is toasted and just starting to turn translucent on the edges; about 3-4 minutes.

  4. Add the wine slowly, stirring all the while, until mostly absorbed by the rice.

  5. Add all of the tomatoes, stir until heated through.

  6. Begin adding heated broth to the rice mixture, 1/2 cup / 119g at a time, stirring and allowing broth to be mostly absorbed before adding the next bit. As you near the end of the broth, start checking the rice every minute or two. When it looks cooked and is al dente when tasted, remove from heat. You may not need all the broth, but make sure it’s not too dry or thick. You’ll want to pull it from the heat when it still looks a bit soupy, as it will continue to cook and absorb liquid. (Thick, moundable risotto is a technically overcooked risotto. It should lazily settle back into the plate if you try and mound it.)

  7. Add oregano, basil, parmigiano, and mozzarella. Stir until parmigiano is melted and mozzarella is stringy.

  8. Spoon risotto into plates, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic, if desired. Serve immediately.


Jenny’s Notes:

  • In a pinch you can use a 14.5oz / 411g can of diced tomatoes instead of the 3 medium tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes will always be better but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

  • If using wine, try using a dry white wine, nothing too aged or overpowering, as this is a risotto with more delicate, summery flavors. Think Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, a young Riesling, etc. Whichever wine you use in your cooking should ideally be served with the meal. Because of this, it is mistaken to use the “cheap” wines in cooking and then bring out the nice stuff for the meal. Remember, you’re cooking out (most of) the alcohol, not the flavor.

    In fact, because of the delicate flavors of this risotto I don’t add wine, but it’s up to you if you do! Wine is traditional in risotto so you may think me odd that I don’t add it. :)

  • If you have only bouillon cubes or normal-sodium broth on hand, you can substitute part water for the broth to keep the sodium levels down. I recommend using 4 cups / 948g worth of broth/bouillon broth and 2 cups / 474g water.

  • Using heated broth speeds up the cooking time so you’re not waiting for the broth to simmer and be absorbed between each addition. I have, however, made risotto many a time before I learned this trick, and although it takes a bit longer to cook when adding cold or room temp broth, it won’t in any way ruin your risotto.

  • Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese) is another ingredient typically used in risotto. It’s not used in caprese but it lends a cheesy hand to the mozzarella which is quite mild.

  • Another idea I’m drooling over right now, would be to add a nice portion of burrata on top of the plated risotto right before serving. Burrata is very similar to mozzarella, except it’s softer. It usually comes in round form, and the moment you cut into it the super soft, creamy center oozes out. Oh yes. Oh yes please.

    If you don’t live in Italy chances are burrata and even fresh mozzarella will cost you, so you may opt for one or the other in this recipe. If your budget allows, go for both!! Here in Italy fresh mozzarella can be found easily for 2-3euro a pound.

gluten-free caprese, risotto, rice, tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, parmesan cheese, parmigiano reggiano, burrata, Italian recipe, oregano, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine, which wine to use in risotto
dinner, vegetarian
Italian, American
Yield: 4-6 servings
Author:

Caprese Risotto

Creamy risotto playing off the classic Italian summer dish of caprese; tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, parmesan cheese and a hint of oregano.
prep time: 45 Mcook time: total time: 45 M

ingredients:

  • 6 cups / 1,422g low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp / 28g olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups / 278g arborio rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup / 119g white wine, optional
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried
  • about 16 fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • 1/2 cup / 50g grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 200g fresh mozzarella, sliced into chunks
  • extra virgin olive oil, more cherry tomatoes, basil leaves for garnishing, and balsamic vinegar if desired

instructions:

How to cook Caprese Risotto

  1. Heat broth in a pan over low heat.
  2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and simmer for a few minutes, until starting to turn translucent.
  3. Add garlic and rice, stirring occasionally, until rice is toasted and just starting to turn translucent on the edges; about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the wine slowly, stirring all the while, until mostly absorbed by the rice.
  5. Add all of the tomatoes, stir until heated through.
  6. Begin adding heated broth to the rice mixture, 1/2 cup / 119g at a time, stirring and allowing the broth to be mostly absorbed before adding the next bit. Keep an eye on the rice; when it starts to look cooked and is al dente when tasted, remove from the heat. You may or may not need all the broth, but make sure it’s not too dry or thick. You’ll want to pull it from the heat when it still looks a bit soupy, as it will continue to cook and absorb liquid. (A thick, moundable risotto is a technically overcooked risotto. A correctly cooked risotto should lazily settle back into the plate if you try and mound it.)
  7. Add oregano, basil, parmigiano, and mozzarella. Stir until parmigiano is melted and mozzarella is stringy.
  8. Spoon risotto into plates, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic, if desired. Serve immediately.

NOTES:

In a pinch you can use a 14.5oz / 411g can of diced tomatoes instead of the 3 medium tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes will always be better but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! If using wine, try using a light white wine, nothing too aged or overpowering, as this is a risotto with more delicate, summery flavors. Think Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, a young Riesling, etc. Whichever wine you use in your cooking should ideally be served with the meal. Because of this, it is mistaken to use the “cheap” wines in cooking and then bring out the nice stuff for the meal. Remember, you’re cooking out (most of) the alcohol, not the flavor. In fact, because of the delicate flavors of this risotto I don’t add wine, but it’s up to you if you do! Wine is traditional in risotto so you may think me odd that I don’t add it. :) If you have only bouillon cubes or normal-sodium broth on hand, you can substitute part water for the broth to keep the sodium levels down. I recommend using 4 cups / 948g worth of broth/bouillon broth and 2 cups / 474g water. Using heated broth speeds up the cooking time so you’re not waiting for the broth to simmer and be absorbed between each addition. I have, however, made risotto many a time before I learned this trick, and although it takes a bit longer to cook when adding cold or room temp broth, it won’t in any way ruin your risotto. Another idea would be to add a nice portion of burrata on top of the plated risotto right before serving. Burrata is very similar to mozzarella, except it’s softer. It usually comes in round form, and the moment you cut into it the super soft, creamy center oozes out.

Calories

423.93

Fat (grams)

21.69

Sat. Fat (grams)

8.54

Carbs (grams)

36.34

Fiber (grams)

2.31

Net carbs

34.03

Sugar (grams)

7.25

Protein (grams)

16.20

Sodium (milligrams)

714.71

Cholesterol (grams)

42.80
Nutritional information is approximate and based on 4 servings.
Created using The Recipes Generator
IMG_0982.jpg

Jeannie's Healthy Breakfast Cookies

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What could be better than a cookie? How about a cookie that’s packed with nutrients and can be eaten anytime, especially for breakfast, guilt free?

I love cookies. They are my go-to when I want to whip up something with limited time, or don’t have much energy for other more entailed desserts. I’m sure this has NOTHING to do with the fact that cookies are also one of my favorite things to eat. It ends up turning into a win-win-win situation because I’m having fun, being productive, get to eat some of the ingredients while baking, get to eat some dough while baking, and BONUS if there is enough dough to actually be baked into cookies! So many wins.

I have to bring up the negative, however, to classic cookie baking. They’re kinda calorific and not very good for you. I’m all for eating cookies for breakfast, but that usually goes along with a sugar crash later on. What to do?

Bake healthy cookies! They have to be delicious of course, and not gross. I have just the recipe for you, made up by my mom many years ago when we needed a portable nutritious breakfast for a trip. This recipe has been in my recipe box ever since as “Jean’s breakfast cookies”, made with many adjustments because the add ins are very versatile depending on your tastes. My mom likes to be called Jeannie (not by her kids of course) so I adapted the title accordingly.

One thing this recipe is not is a taste-alike recipe to say, chocolate chip cookies with a surprise twist that it’s healthy. Nope, these cookies have a satisfyingly healthy look and taste and are upfront about it from the get go. They get positive feedback and recipe requests wherever they go!

The recipe that follows is just one version of many, many possibilities. Just keep in mind that major adjustments may need other adjustments. For example, if you don’t have any honey or maple syrup on hand for the sweetener, you could use raw or regular cane sugar. Substituting a liquid for a dry ingredient, however, will mean you may need more liquid from elsewhere. Maybe add another egg, a bit more oil, or even water until you get a cookie dough consistency once again. Other ideas to make the recipe your own:

  • Use any kind of flour you wish instead of wheat flour. Oat flour, almond flour, coconut flour…I often use wheat germ in place of part of the flour or flaxmeal, usually 1/4 cup.

  • If you want these cookies to be gluten-free, ensure that your oats are gluten-free, and use a gluten-free flour.

  • Change up the spices. Sometimes towards fall I also add a bit of ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Cardamom is also nice.

  • Beyond dried fruit and walnuts, get creative with your add-ins! Just try not to go too far beyond 1 cup, otherwise there might not be enough dough to hold everything together. In the photos on this post I used dried apples, dried cranberries, and walnuts. I’ve also added various combinations of dried cherries, prunes, dried apricots, raisins, dates, dried figs, dried pears, fresh apples, grated coconut, pecans, hazelnuts, dark chocolate, crystallized ginger, and anything else I had on hand!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, Jennyblogs may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Jennyblogs. For further information see the privacy policy. Grazie!

Recipe adapted from my mama


Jeannie’s Healthy Breakfast Cookies

Makes about 18-22 cookies

Ingredients:

2019-02-17 14.45.17.jpg
  • 1/2 cup / 112g olive or coconut oil

  • generous 1/3 cup / 120g maple syrup or honey

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 cup / 120g all-purpose or whole wheat flour

  • 1 1/2 cups / 135g rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup / 90g flaxmeal

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

  • 3/4 cup / 105g nuts, roughly chopped

  • 1/2 apple, diced

  • 1/4 cup / 50g dried fruit, chopped if necessary

Directions:

Oven 375°F / 190°C. Baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.

  1. In a large bowl combine wet ingredients: oil, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla; beat with a spoon until smooth.

  2. In another medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients: flour, oats, flaxmeal, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

  3. Add dry ingredients, nuts, apple, and dried fruit to wet ingredients, mix until well combined.

  4. Spoon generous tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly as they won’t spread much, leaving at least 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges turn lightly golden brown and centers are no longer doughy.

Jenny’s Notes:

  • you can make flaxmeal at home by simply processing some flaxseeds in a coffee or spice grinder.

  • olive oil has a rather strong taste so if you prefer to avoid that, try going with the coconut oil option or even a neutral oil like peanut oil.

  • 3 egg whites can be substituted for the 2 eggs for cholesterol-conscience people.

healthy, nutritious, cookies, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, dried fruit, apple, fall spices, oats, nuts, coconut, portable
breakfast, dessert, snack
American
Yield: 12-16 cookies
Author:

Jeannie's Breakfast Cookies

Healthy cookies packed with nutritious ingredients that make for a great breakfast or anytime snack. Dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and can easily be made gluten-free.
prep time: 20 Mcook time: 10 Mtotal time: 30 M

ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup / 112g olive oil or coconut oil
  • generous 1/3 cup / 120g maple syrup or honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup / 120g all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups / 135g rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup / 90g flaxmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup / 105g nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 apple, diced
  • 1/4 cup / 50g dried fruit, chopped if necessary

instructions:

How to cook Jeannie's Breakfast Cookies

  1. Oven 375°F / 190°C. Baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine wet ingredients: oil, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla; beat with a spoon until smooth.
  3. In another medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients: flour, oats, flaxmeal, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Add dry ingredients, nuts, apple, and dried fruit to wet ingredients, mix until well combined.
  5. Spoon generous tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly as they won’t spread much, leaving at least 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges turn lightly golden brown and centers are no longer doughy.

NOTES:

you can make flaxmeal at home by simply processing some flaxseeds in a coffee or spice grinder. olive oil has a rather strong taste so if you prefer to avoid that, try going with the coconut oil option or even a neutral oil like peanut oil. 3 egg whites can be substituted for the 2 eggs for cholesterol-conscience people.

Calories

265.40

Fat (grams)

15.87

Sat. Fat (grams)

2.49

Carbs (grams)

27.23

Fiber (grams)

3.34

Net carbs

23.89

Sugar (grams)

9.53

Protein (grams)

5.72

Sodium (milligrams)

188.36

Cholesterol (grams)

31.00
Nutritional information is approximate and based on 12 servings.
Created using The Recipes Generator
2019-02-17+15.36.02.jpg

Insalata Caprese Tradizionale - Traditional Caprese Salad

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Insalata Caprese, often just referred to as Caprese, is by now known the world over and has been adapted into many different dishes and styles. In today’s post we are going to cover the traditional Italian Insalata Caprese, unaltered and in its purest form. How the Italians make it. Leave aside the Caprese grilled cheeses and Caprese pasta for just one second.

Insalata Caprese (EEN-sah-lah-ta cuh-PRAY-zay), or Caprese Salad is an Italian dish consisting of merely 5 ingredients: fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a touch of salt, maybe pepper. Oregano is also added sometimes. That’s it, simple and fresh.

Because there are so few ingredients, no cooking required, and little spice, the quality and freshness of the ingredients are of upmost importance. This is one of the golden rules of the Italian kitchen. In fact, I would say that any caprese salad you’ve eaten in the States is probably a far cry from the shining beacon that it is here in Italy. This is not through any fault of your own, but Italy has certain protected regions and methods for making foods, with rigorous control checks and rules, which holds the product to high standards.

You may be familiar with some of these rules, especially if you seen some Italian wine bottles. You might have noticed special seals that read DOC or DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata or Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita), which basically act as a quality seal. One such wine, considered one of the kings of Italian wine, Brunello di Montalcino, will always have the DOCG seal because it can only be grown in the Montalcino region near Siena which has ideal soil and climate for this particular wine. If it doesn’t have the seal, don’t buy it. Hazelnuts, mozzarella, how to make a Neopolitan pizza, and many other food items and processes, sometimes connected to a specific region, are protected by law in Italy.

I just mentioned mozzarella, so you may be understanding how I managed to go on that long spiel and still connect it today’s subject matter. :) Suffice to say, Italian mozzarella, the good stuff, is in a class of its own.

That’s the beauty of Italian summers, where lunches are made up of ripe tomatoes, a slab of cheese, a drizzle of olive oil. Maybe with a hunk of fresh, salty focaccia. Or maybe just prosciutto and melon.

But maybe you aren’t IN Italy, and you’re wondering how you can make the best Insalata Caprese possible? Let’s dissect the ingredients real quick before getting into the recipe.

Suggestions for selecting ingredients for the Insalata Caprese

  • Tomatoes. You want the freshest, tastiest tomatoes available. The most widely used in Italy would probably be the tomato variety “cuore di bue” or literally, “ox heart,” which originated in America. There are two prinicipal varieties of cuore di bue, Arawak and Albenga. These tomatoes are ideal for salads because they have a thin skin, great flavor, and very few seeds and water inside. They are not usually very round, but fall into the ugly tomato category with lots of ridges. As they say, the uglier the tomato, the more delicious it will be. If you can’t get your hands on a cuore di bue, use your favorite, fresh tomatoes.

  • Mozzarella. You’ll want the freshest mozzarella possible, which might not be that easy to find unless you know a cheese producer. Traditionally the mozzarella di fiordilatte is used (normal cow’s milk mozzarella), but if you want to up your game, go for the more expensive mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) which can also be protected by one of the laws we were talking about earlier, this time the DOP.

  • Basil. Fresh basil, torn into pieces if desired and ideally added just before serving so it can’t even think about wilting.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I cannot stress enough to you the importance of having a good bottle of olive oil on hand. In Italy there are usually two kinds of olive oil, those used for cooking, and those use for drizzling just before serving. Select your oil carefully, paying attention to where it is produced, when, and when it expires. Olive oil generally has a best if used by date of two years from being bottled. So if you find a bottle that expires in a year or less, you know that bottle has already been sitting on the shelf for too long and is best used for cooking. Also pay attention to wording like “produced in” or “bottled in.” The latter may mean that olives were brought in from elsewhere and merely bottled in Italy so they could write that on the bottle. No really, there are so many shady practices when it comes to olive oil, it can be hard to decipher the great ones, especially when dealing with imported bottles. My mom used to order bottles straight from Italy to get some of the high quality stuff. Basically, you don’t want to pay less than $15 for a bottle in the States. Frantoio Franci and Laudemia are two very high quality brands. If you know your EVOO’s, select a light and fruity oil.

  • Salt and Pepper. Usually just the tomatoes are salted, and pepper is completely optional.

  • Oregano. Oregano is also optional, but a bit of fresh or dried is a nice touch!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, Jennyblogs may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Jennyblogs. For further information see the privacy policy. Grazie!


Insalata Caprese

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • about 1/2lb / 200g fresh mozzarella

  • 2 medium tomatoes

  • a few fresh basil leaves, whole or torn into pieces

  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • fresh or dried oregano, optional

Directions:

  1. Slice the mozzarella and the tomatoes into equally sized slices and place on a plate.

  2. Drizzly lightly with olive oil and sprinkle tomatoes with salt. Sprinkle with a bit of pepper, if desired.

  3. Garnish with basil leaves and oregano; serve.

Jenny’s Notes:

  • It may seem strange, but some recommend to serve the mozzarella at room temperature. If the mozzarella is cut while cold it may lose more water, interacting with and changing the flavor of the tomatoes. If the mozzarella is losing lots of liquid regardless, it may not be as fresh as desired.

  • You can use a paper towel on both the mozzarella and tomatoes to absorb any excess liquid, dabbing or letting them sit on the paper towel if they are very wet.

  • Contrary to American belief, Caprese Salad does not traditionally have balsamic vinegar. Nor mayonnaise, olives, eggs, or other non-Italian inventions.

Gluten-free, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, mozzarella di bufala, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, fresh oregano, Italian recipe
Side, Lunch
Italian
Yield: 2
Author:

Traditional Caprese Salad

This classic Caprese Insalata is bursting with summer flavors. Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil, just as the Italians would make it.
prep time: 5 Mcook time: total time: 5 M

ingredients:

  • about 1/2lb / 200g fresh mozzarella
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • a few fresh basil leaves, whole or torn into pieces
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh or dried oregano, optional

instructions:

How to cook Traditional Caprese Salad

  1. Slice the mozzarella and the tomatoes into equally sized slices and place on a plate.
  2. Drizzly lightly with olive oil and sprinkle tomatoes with salt. Sprinkle with a bit of pepper, if desired.
  3. Garnish with basil leaves and oregano; serve.

NOTES:

It may seem strange, but some recommend to serve the mozzarella at room temperature. If the mozzarella is cut while cold it may lose more water, interacting with and changing the flavor of the tomatoes. If the mozzarella is losing lots of liquid regardless, it may not be as fresh as desired. You can use a paper towel on both the mozzarella and tomatoes to absorb any excess liquid, dabbing or letting them sit on the paper towel if they are very wet. Contrary to American belief, Caprese Salad does not traditionally have balsamic vinegar. Nor mayonnaise, olives, eggs, or other non-Italian inventions.

Calories

326.94

Fat (grams)

25.15

Sat. Fat (grams)

11.64

Carbs (grams)

7.00

Fiber (grams)

1.73

Net carbs

5.27

Sugar (grams)

4.09

Protein (grams)

19.14

Sodium (milligrams)

663.60

Cholesterol (grams)

64.09
Nutritional information is approximate and based on 2 servings.
Created using The Recipes Generator
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Tzatziki Cucumber Salad

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Fresh, cool, crunchy, creamy, and delicious Tzatziki, which is basically a Greek cucumber salad made with thick, strained yogurt, and seasoned with dill and garlic. Uh, yum, right? If you’ve ever had tzatziki, you know what I’m talking about!

It’s funny because I’ve known about tzatziki for a long time, enjoying it at restaurants and such, that wonderful Greek yogurt sauce dip wonder. I’ve seen several cucumber salad recipes around this summer on some of my favorite recipe sites like foodgawker; German cucumber salads, normal cucumber salads, and others. It got me hungry, so I decided to make my own. And let me tell you, I got right on it because zero cooking or baking in a recipe is a wonderful thing when the summer here in Florence has been between 90-106°F / 32-41°C since June.

I noticed most of the recipes I came across used sour cream, but I used plain greek yogurt because it’s more nutritious. Once I found a nice balance between the flavors, I wrote down the recipe and decided to share it with you guys! Then I recalled that tzatziki has very similar flavors, and although I’ve never made it nor even looked up a recipe, my curiosity got the best of me to see just how similar they would be. What do you know, I basically made tzatziki and didn’t even know it! So much for making an original recipe, haha!

So what I’m sharing with you today is my accidental take on tzatziki, similarly enough to be called so, but not THE original. If you make the changes listed below, however, you can have yourself a delicious and authentic Greek tzatziki!

What are the differences from a traditional tzatziki and the one you see below?

  • The cucumber is usually grated and drained (either by squeezing or letting sit in cheese cloth over a bowl overnight) instead of sliced. I also use more cucumber to make a creamy salad rather than a dip that features cucumber. if you want to make real tzatziki, use a half of a large cucumber or a smallish one.

  • Traditional would have more yogurt so again, more of a sauce or dip rather than a salad. For real tzatziki, double the yogurt to 1 1/2 cups / 340g.

  • For the acidic element, I used lemon juice, but vinegar of some sort is usually called for. I’ve read in Greece they most often use red wine vinegar.

  • I added more fresh dill! Because I love dill. If you think about it, this is like a creamy dill pickle dip. It has the cucumbers, the garlic, the dill….no wonder I like it so well! For original tzatziki, use about 1 Tbsp chopped.

If you eliminate the cucumbers (or shred them like the traditional way), it makes an excellent and much healthier alternative to most veggie dips. I might even like it better than Ranch!


Tzatziki Cucumber Salad

Serves about 2

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Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup / 170g plain greek yogurt or vegan yogurt

  • generous 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

  • 2 tsp / 10g lemon juice

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1/4 tsp garlic powder

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1 large cucumber, chopped with skin/seeds removed as desired

  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling, optional

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl combine yogurt, dill, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

  2. If serving immediately, add cucumber and stir to coat; drizzle with olive oil. Otherwise, refrigerate until ready to serve, adding cucumber and drizzling with oil at the last minute.

Jenny’s Notes:

  • For optimal creaminess, I would use full fat greek yogurt. If you are vegan or dairy-free, use a thick/Greek dairy-free yogurt alternative!

  • In an ideal world the dressing would be made a day ahead of time and the cucumber added just before serving. This helps the flavors meld together and cuts the sharpness of the garlic a bit, without the cucumber sitting in the dressing for a day and losing its liquid. However, this makes a great last minute dish and it tastes just fine if eaten right away!

vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, veggie dip, cucumber, garlic, fresh dill, Greek yogurt, Ranch substitute
Side dish, lunch, sauces and condiments
Greek
Yield: 2
Author:

Tzatziki Cucumber Salad

Creamy salad form of the classic Tzatziki sauce: Cucumbers, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh dill.
prep time: 10 Mcook time: total time: 10 M

ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup / 170g plain greek yogurt or vegan yogurt
  • generous 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp / 10g lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large cucumber, chopped with skin/seeds removed as desired
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling, optional

instructions:

How to cook Tzatziki Cucumber Salad

  1. In a medium bowl combine yogurt, dill, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  2. If serving immediately, add cucumber and stir to coat; drizzle with olive oil. Otherwise, refrigerate until ready to serve, adding cucumber and drizzling with oil at the last minute.

NOTES:

For optimal creaminess, I would use full fat greek yogurt. If you are vegan or dairy-free, use a thick/Greek dairy-free yogurt alternative! In an ideal world the dressing would be made a day ahead of time and the cucumber added just before serving. This helps the flavors meld together and cuts the sharpness of the garlic a bit, without the cucumber sitting in the dressing for a day and losing its liquid. However, this makes a great last minute dish and it tastes just fine if eaten right away!

Calories

123.72

Fat (grams)

7.21

Sat. Fat (grams)

1.05

Carbs (grams)

5.89

Fiber (grams)

0.61

Net carbs

5.28

Sugar (grams)

3.78

Protein (grams)

9.30

Sodium (milligrams)

181.86

Cholesterol (grams)

4.25
Nutritional information is approximate.
Created using The Recipes Generator
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A Beginner's Guide to Italy: 20 1/2 Things the Guide Books Might Not Tell You

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This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something using these links, Jennyblogs may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Jennyblogs. For further information see the privacy policy. Grazie!

Welcome to my first "All Things Italy" post!  I'm glad you're here.  I'm glad to be here, too.  In fact, let's take a moment and be thankful to be on this earth.  Great.  It's good for the soul to be able to talk or write about things, and in this instance, hopefully helpful to whomever may come across this blog!  Whether you have been, are planning to, or are still dreaming of traveling to Italy, I hope my trial/error, observances, and gleanings from friends both national and international will be of use to you; or if nothing else, an insight into what the folks on the other side of the globe are up to, more than just the politics on the news.  

If you're anything like my mom and I while planning trips, you've probably read every edition from the last decade of The Backpacker's Guide, Rick Steves, Planet Earth, and Forbes, exhausted every airline website for cheap tickets, booked all your airbnb's, and compiled endless lists of what and how to pack, language cheat sheets, top sights to see in each city, foods not to miss, directions for the subway/train/bus to get from A to B, what NOT to wear, what souvenirs to buy, and a list of the local emergency phone numbers and services.  And if this not how you plan your travel experiences, well, let's just say you probably save a lot of time, spend more money, are less stressed, and might miss out on some of the little experiences.  But that's why I'm writing this, to share some of the things learned with endless hours of research, reading, traveling, and now living in Italy.  So if your brain is spinning with information and Rick Steves left you with more questions than he answered, hopefully this list will help you navigate smoothly in Italia by pointing out some of the little, albeit important things. 


1. First things first: 911 won't work in an emergency

You're in a foreign country and someone just stole your purse or you tripped down some stairs while staring at some ancient building.  What do you do?  

Call 112.  The European Union has a universal number of emergency (this is a great idea) however, it's taken some countries longer to adopt it than others, and in some provinces in Italy it still isn't completely integrated.  In these instances, it will connect you to the police emergency line, which in theory should be just as effective.  Thankfully I've never needed to call.  Listed below are all the emergency numbers in Italy that will connect you to specific departments:

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  • 112 for the general number of emergency or carabinieri (para-military) - for all emergencies or cases of danger, criminal activity, etc.

  • 113 for polizia di stato (state police) - crime, neighbors are making too much noise, the stoplight is broken, etc. (I know everyone keeps their eyes peeled for malfunctioning stoplights while on vacation.)

  • 114 emergenza infanzia (child emergency) - for young people until the age of 29 in peril, bullying, kidnap, etc. (I know, you had pictured a 2 year-old who accidentally drank some bleach, but instead it's a 29 year-old who says somebody's picking on him at the bar.)

  • 115 vigili del fuoco (Firefighters) - for FIRE!

  • 116 soccorso stradale/carro attrezzi (road rescue/tow truck) - for car troubles

  • 118 emergenza sanitaria/ambulanza (health emergency/ambulance) - for yes, any health emergency.

2. Theft is common

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You've read it once, you've read it a million times.  Because it's true, and it does not discriminate.  It's happened to friends while I was with them, famous celebrities, and people I know have prevented it from happening.  Stay vigilant and smart about your belongings at all times and you should be fine.   

Women, across the body purses are wonderful, although be thoughtful of your strap.  If someone could tug your purse hard and break the strap, consider wearing something different.  The backpack purses are nice, too.  Men, wherever it is that you keep your wallet that's hard to get.  

And those flesh colored under-the-clothes purses for your most preciouses and extra cash?  Don't bother.  Uncomfortable, lumpy, hot.  What if you don't want to leave valuables or cash in your hotel or apartment?  Let's put it this way:  You should really only have as much cash on you as you're going to use in a day or two, a credit card, and your passport, and all those things should stay on you.  Everything else probably shouldn't be with you on vacation, anyway.  

Be extra vigilant on buses, while dining (no purses on chairs), busy areas, and wherever there are begging gypsies, the more correct term being the Roma people.  They are easy to spot, dark skin and hair, usually have bright colors on, the women with long skirts and often heels, and layered shirts.  They have various tactics for getting money, shaking cups at you, laying on the street or feigning handicaps to evoke sympathy, or sometimes, downright stealing.  The Italians in general (around 80%) are unfavorable towards them, but they are humans and should be treated as such, even if they have lamentable habits.  But don't we all?

Keep these tips in mind and again, you should be fine! 

3. Those bracelets and trinkets offered to you for free are never free

Speaking of theft, the cons are not alway so obvious as purse snatching.  The tactics or objects vary by city, but a common one has to do with a bracelet. 

My first experience was in Rome, in Piazza del Popolo, where a seemingly friendly man approached me and insisted on tying a thread bracelet around my wrist.  I said no, thinking I would have to pay, but after he repeatedly insisted and wouldn't leave me alone, smiling all the while, I finally allowed him, partly so he would go away.  I told him numerous times I didn't want to pay for it, I didn't have coins to pay him, etc., but he continued to tie the bracelet, taking his sweet ol' time and complimenting me and my mom the whole time.  As soon as he finished I thanked him sincerely but he wasn't about to let us go.  He started out quietly, asking for anything, just a coin, 50 cents, 1 euro, but we repeatedly told him no, he had told us it was free.  Then he got angry and insisted I give the bracelet back, cursing and insulting us all the time it took me to unknot it. (Why did it have to be a TIE bracelet?!?) Then he sulked away.  

Similar things happen in Florence, but usually the bracelets are beads, and the person will be very cordial, shake your hand (in fact, they often grab your hand and won't let go) and ask you all kinds of information making small talk, but ending in asking for money: they need to eat, have to feed their babies, etc.  Of course, you feel bad taking the bracelet off and it makes it harder when they don't want to accept it back while pleading with you, so then you feel pressured to give them a euro or two.  All part of a tactic, and I'll tell you this from experience, it's usually best to avoid them if you don't want to give money and don't like saying no a million times.  

It's not fun to refuse, I feel bad for the situation so many of the immigrants are in, but I also don't like some of the tactics they use.  I know several people who have tried to help, stopped and talked long whiles with some of the people begging on the streets.  Then, the next day, they see them again, shaking their cup or sitting on the street, but they act like they don't know them.  Or, sitting by signs that say "Help, I'm hungry" and they refuse perfectly delicious food.  Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol play a big part and a few will even be up front about it if you ask them.  

4. Don't trust a restaurant that has "greeters" standing outside 

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You're tired, feet hurt, sunburned, and starving after spending the day sightseeing.  All you want is a nice sit down restaurant with a giant bowl of pasta and a glass of wine.  A smiling man in black with a red bow tie and apron smiles and greets you with a "Buonasera!" as you pass, then continues to offer you something to drink, pizza, pasta, or anything else you might like in fluent English, gesturing to the menu written neatly on a blackboard next to him, also in English with choice Italian words anyone would understand.  If anything like this happens to you, simply reply with "no grazie" or "no thank you" and walk away.  This is not a place that will give you authentic or even good Italian food.  If the greeter proceeds to advertise that none of their food is frozen or microwaved, please turn your walk into a sprint.  If the restaurant is in full view of a major landmark of that city, there's a good chance it's tourist food and the high prices reflect that.  You want to take your time strolling in some smaller streets, often away from the historic city centers and crowds, and find the places that have mostly Italians at them and might not seat a lot of people.  Stay away from catch phrases such as "authentic," "cucina Italiana," or anything that tries to indicate its Italian-ness; Authenticity doesn't need advertising.  

5. Water is not free

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I'm not just talking about that bottle of water to carry around with you, any restaurant you go to you're going to have to pay for water.  Italians don't drink tap water or serve it in restaurants, and with good reason.  The water here is hard, very much so in Tuscany; I've seen the pebbles of calcium and who knows what else stuck in a friend's kitchen sink water filter after just a few hours and heard how the water will run gunky and brown at times.  Then think how old some of the pipes are under these ancient cities, and you can understand why the Italians consume so much bottled water.  If the idea of paying for water in restaurants seems ridiculous, as it did to me for so long, just make sure to drink plenty of (cheaper) water before and after the restaurant, and order a bottle of wine with your meal instead. :)

An exception to the rule would be the taps around the city, the water is usually pretty tasty from there and great to fill up water bottles.  Some are quite deluxe because they are connected to underground springs.  There's one in Piazza della Signoria where you can choose from natural or sparkling water.  ("Wis gas")

6. Expect a cover charge at most restaurants

Known as "Il coperto," this fee usually hovers between 1.50-2.50 euros per person, and covers that "free" bread they brought you at the beginning of the meal, napkins, silverware, and tablecloth.  If you notice on your bill that the "pane" or bread is listed separately from Il coperto, as I once noticed indignantly, that often happens when the bread is made in house, or "produzione propria."  Nothing is free in Italy, and if someone insists on giving you a gift, you should be highly suspicious.  (see #3 above) 

6 1/2. Really, it's not necessary to tip

I know, I know, if you're American, you're going to feel like a real jerk not leaving a tip.  Honestly, no one is going to think you are a tight wad.  There just isn't a tip culture here.  You can think of the money that went toward paying for the water and cover charge as your tip, if that makes you feel better.  If you really want to leave a tip because of exceptional service, leave a couple euros.  But don't feel guilty if you don't!

7. "To Go" and Doggy-bags aren't common  

Taking away and eating in are two very separate categories for the Italians.  Either you eat at a restaurant without taking home a doggy bag, or, for certain places, like bakeries and pizza places, you can get your food to go.  Even when the portions are large, like when one pizza is considered one serving, they don't ask for to-go boxes.  They eat the whole pizza.  Their dinners are usually long and sociable, with plenty of time for eating and digesting.  It always impresses me how even the kids and petite women can pack away a whole pizza.  Those who are watching their figure, however, usually leave the crust.  Of course, if you want a to-go box, go ahead and ask for it, just expect some weird looks and tinfoil instead of a box.  And coffee to go?  Better not, unless you're at Arnold's Coffee, the "American" coffee experience.   

8. Coffee = Espresso

Espresso, or as they more commonly call it, "caffé normale," is the most common coffee beverage here, usually drunk at the counter in a matter of minutes.  If you prefer a touch of steamed milk in your espresso, order a "caffé macchiato." Don't forget to try a cappuccino in the country where it was christened, or my favorite sweet coffee, caffé al ginseng.  Really, it's sweet and delicious and nutty and ginseng supposedly has some health benefits.  If you really miss American coffee, order the americano, which is just water added to an espresso.  Drip coffee is becoming more of a thing here, and a select few places do a pretty decent Chemex or V60.  

Most of the typical coffee choices come unsweetened (I'm a fan).  Oh, and remember if you order a latte, you're just going to get a glass of milk.  (Latte means milk.)

9.  Ice? What's that? 

Ice isn't a given here, so if you can't stand drinking a soda without ice, you might want to request it.  If you are in a place used to dealing with tourists, then they might ask.  Otherwise, your soda/drink will *probably* come cold, but no ice.  Or maybe just cool.  Italians think abrupt temperature changes are unhealthy, so an ice cold beverage on a hot day? That's a no-no.  You might come down with a cold.  

10. The bar is not just a place for alcohol and adults

The word "bar" in Italian means much more than a place to congregate later in the evening and throw back a few drinks.  My friends and family may think I've turned into a lush for as often as I talk about "going to the bar."  It's true they serve alcohol any time of day, no one ever has to say "It's 5 O'clock somewhere," but bars are so much more than beer and mixed drinks. 

The bar is an integral way of life here.  You can find one just about on every corner, open from 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning where the Italians linger a few minutes to throw back an espresso, eat breakfast and sometimes their lunch break, discuss the latest soccer (calcio) match, read the newspaper, talk about the weather, gossip about the neighbors, and people-watch.  They might return several times throughout the day to the bar nearest their home or workplace, or the elderly generation might just sit and watch passers-by for hours.  Then, somewhere around 6:00pm, the bars magically turn into what I grew up knowing as a bar and they no longer serve coffee.  All around, bars are quite magical.  

11. Sitting down at a bar or cafe may double the price of your hot chocolate

There are three types of caffès here: The type that charges more if you sit down to enjoy your beverage, the type that charges more only if you order sitting down instead of first ordering at the bar, and the type that charges the same no matter what you do.  

If you're not sure, order at the bar and then, ideally after you've paid, ask if you may sit down.  That way they won't surprise charge you 5 euro for the hot chocolate you thought was 2.5.  This usually happens in more upscale locales rather than your humble local bar, but nevertheless, it's always better to ask and be safe than sorry.   

Another thing to note is that some bars and caffès don't care whether you pay as you order or after you've enjoyed your treats, while others require you to pay first and then show your receipt to the barista.  If the latter is the case, there will probably be a sign, so keep your eyes open, or, just ask.  (I'm a big fan of drawing as little attention to myself as I can, and prefer to observe how the locals do it or read signs before proceeding.)  

12. Italians will faint if you drink cappuccino after 12:00pm. Or will they?

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After reading in just about every guide book and blog that Italians will all but have a heart attack if you drink a cappuccino after noon, you can imagine my shock when one time my Italian language partner ordered a big ol' cappuccino at 4:00pm.  After scraping my eyebrows off the ceiling I asked her how she could betray her country like that (I'm sure I didn't phrase it that way) and she kindly explained to me the logistics. 

You see, drinking coffee with milk in it together with food is wonderful for breakfast, but for lunch and dinner, espresso is what you drink after the meal to help aid digestion.  Milk would upset your digestion with any meal heavier than breakfast, so that's why you should stay clear "after 12:00pm," or the usual cutoff for breakfast hours.  But.  If you are drinking the cappuccino in the afternoon at say, 4:00pm, or any time you're not eating food, you're in the clear.  At that point there is no food digesting to be messed up.  You'll only see the Italians fainting and throwing evil glares if you order a cappuccino with that pasta and truffles.  Seriously, they don't go together.  

13. You can drink anytime, anywhere

If you exit early in the morning, the evidence of last night's partying might not be swept away yet. Boxed wine, how classy.

If you exit early in the morning, the evidence of last night's partying might not be swept away yet. Boxed wine, how classy.

Yes, I'm talking about alcohol.  Due to open-container laws in the States, you have to think twice about where to pop open that beer.  There is no such law here, and you can take along that bottle of wine and wine glasses to any piazza, park, or romantic spot you'd like.  As I mentioned above, there is no 5 O'clock social rule here, and have seen people drinking beers before 9:00am while I'm still finishing my cappuccino, or opening bottles of wine at 11:00am for a little pre-lunch.

Drunkenness is frowned upon here, and so even while the land may be flowing with Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, all but the younger generations know how to drink responsibly.  Drunkenness usually occurs on special occasions such as soccer matches and holidays.  If you stay out later at night, the sloshed you see are probably American students and the younger generation of Italians out partying and clubbing. 

14. Kids' menus aren't common

This one was brought to my attention by friends with kids.  After it was brought up, I realized how right they were.  It's rare that I've ever seen a kid's menu.  Children here usually eat whatever the parents eat, and once they are older, get their own plate.  Makes a lot of sense to me, rather than getting some completely non nutritious mac n' cheese or chicken tenders that they probably won't end up eating anyway.  

15. Don't touch the fruit!

Or a nonna might scold you.  My mom and I wouldn't know that by experience, nope.  Really, they're very touchy about their fruit.  Plastic gloves are provided in every grocery store and at markets, where the person at the stand might not let you touch the fruit at all but put the fruit and vegetables in bags himself as you point out what you want.  

One time while at the grocery store, I didn't want to waste a plastic glove to get just one apple, so I decided to sneak over and snatch an apple sans glove before a nonna saw me.  While I was standing there a woman came up next to me to get some peaches, and actually apologized to me that she wasn't using a glove.  She obviously hadn't noticed that I was in no place to judge, also without a glove.  Two rebels touching the fruit, lalala.   

16. Use free bathrooms when they are available to you

The free services of a restroom in your hotel, the bar where you just drank a cappuccino, or the restaurant you just ate in should all be utilized when possible.  The moment you step out the door of your hotel you will be at the mercy of the Italian city centers, where there are fewer public bathrooms than you'd like, hard to find when you need one, and consequently, if easily found or advertised, probably not free and more likely not sparkling clean.  Train stations and near popular tourist sites there are bound to be some but almost always at cost.  It will depend on which city you are in how much you might pay, I believe I've seen the bathrooms near the Florence train station cost 0.70-1.00 euro and smaller Tuscan cities such as Siena 0.50, whereas Rome will be 1.00 or 1.50, and Venice, the only place I was desperate enough to pay, and ended up paying 2. whole. euros.  I think it's low to make people pay for bathrooms, and as a rule, will suffer until seconds before wetting my pants until giving in to paying for a bathroom.  But Venice got the best of me.  Not to mention constantly looking at water.  Yikes.  

Refusing to pay for a toilet has led me to know where the nearest free bathrooms are around Florence.  As I mentioned above, you could just pop in the nearest bar or caffè, check to make sure they have a bathroom, and then order something so you can make use of their services.  However, if you weren't already planning on buying anything, well, it's basically the same thing as paying for the bathroom, now, isn't it?  So, for free bathrooms around Florence, go to

  1. Mercato Centrale, second floor (primo piano). Attention, the bathrooms on the ground floor are NOT free, but go up one flight and tada, free.

  2. Biblioteca Oblate in Via dell'Oriuolo (it's a bit of a maze in there, so after "browsing" for a few minutes, you might want to ask)

  3. Coin in Via dei Calzaiuoli, just south of the Duomo. I know for sure there are bathrooms on the top floor in the lingerie section, but I'm sure there are others if men don't want to pass through there.

  4. La Rinascente, off of Piazza della Reppublica. Again, I can vouch for the bathrooms on the top (home goods) floor, but not sure where the others in the building are located.

  5. Most of the larger grocery stores outside of the city center, such as Coop and Esselunga

Note: Because of the lack of free public restrooms many of the people who have lost some inhibition from alcohol after a certain time at night take to peeing on the streets.  If it hasn't rained recently, don't step in the puddles.  It's probably man or dog-made.  

Also note: European toilets frequently have two buttons, one big and one small.  If you're a man and only went #1, press the smaller.  It's a less potent flush, saving energy.  But if you went #2 or used toilet paper, please press the larger button.  Thank you and have a great day.

17. Public Transportation

I get conflicting feelings on this subject.  Speaking of Florence, the public transportation here is plentiful, but somewhat unreliable.  You can rent a car, take a bus, take a train, or rent a bike.  I mean, the buses are Mercedes Benz.  The only problem is they frequently don't come on time, at least judging by the paper schedules at each stop, and especially on Sunday or holidays.  Unless you're at a bus stop with an electronic screen, and then those are 85% of the time correct on predicting when the buses will show up.  But here's what you really need to know about buses and trains in Florence:

  • bus tickets as of July 1, 2018 cost 1.50 if bought ahead of time (available at any tabacchi, some pasticcerie, and train stations) and is valid 90 minutes. If you plan on traveling by bus frequently, you might consider getting a "carnet" of tickets for a slightly better deal. Check at the train station to see what your options are. There are usually machines and some teller windows dedicated to the bus line.

  • bus tickets can also be acquired by SMS for 1.80 if you have an Italian SIM card. Write "ataf" and send to 4880105.

  • as a last resort bus tickets can *usually* be bought aboard for 2.50. Sometimes the drivers run out.

  • once aboard any bus or before getting on your train, you must validate your ticket. There will be a yellow machine near the front of the bus to stamp it or the green machine near the front door if you have a bus pass to scan. For trains there are machines on the wall or posts, usually not on the platforms. This is important, because having an unvalidated ticket will result in a fine. It varies on the train, but the bus almost always results in a 50 euro fine.

18. Road rules are more like...guidelines

IMG_8535.jpg

This goes for driving, biking, or walking.  The lane lines are to be driven on, the blinker is all but nonexistent, and there are way too many one ways.  I have never driven here, only been passenger, and that's about the maximum of my ambitions.  Biking is also hazardous, because you can never predict what the cars will do, and even when the cars are stopped in traffic or at a light, the vespas are weaving in and out of the lanes to get to the front.  Compared to the US, driving in most other countries I've been to feels like Nascar.  

Thankfully I adore walking, but even as pedestrian your life is in peril wherever cars or bikes are present.  Just because it's a crosswalk doesn't mean the cars are going to stop and let you pass!  Just when you think you're safe on the sidewalk, there's a big van driving up onto the sidewalk to park.  Cars park on sidewalks, the sidewalks are full of tourists, and then you're forced to walk on the road.  Whatever it is you are doing, just be sure to have all senses on high alert! 

19. Either the weather or the weather app is very unreliable

This is mostly applicable to rain and bad weather.  All the days it says it's going to rain, sun.  And the days it's supposed to be sunny, random rainstorms.  You just can't win.  So, carry on with your vacation, learn to sing in the rain, and keep that umbrella nearby, just in case.  

20. Souvenirs

You probably don't need much help with this one, take one step into any city and you'll see a million things you want to take back with you.  (Will this city fit in my suitcase? How about this restaurant? No? I'll settle for the chef.)  But in case you're wondering, here are some things you shouldn't forget:

  • Wine - Chianti Classico, Super Chianti, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Vin Santo, and so on and so forth)

  • Olive Oil - Tuscany is known for its oil with spicy notes. Honestly, the good stuff is like wine tasting, you can pull out all the different notes and flavor profile! If you come in October/November, lucky you! Be sure to grab a bottle of Nuovo Raccolto, the fresh harvest...sooooo goooood. If you want the king of Tuscan olive oils, grab a bottle of Laudemio.

  • Cheese - You want to get your hands on some Parmigiano Reggiano, aged anywhere between 8-120 months (the older it is the more crumbly and pronounced the taste will be, and also costly), Pecorino (sheep's milk cheese; there are many different varieties with various names but always starting with "pecorino", young, aged, aged in oak leaves, etc., but don't get too young or TSA won't let you bring it into the States), Caciocavallo young or aged, Gorgonzola for the blue cheese fans, Asiago young or aged, Provolone young or aged, or Taleggio. Indulge the younger varieties during your trip, take the aged back with you. Others to be enjoyed during your stay include fresh ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella di bufala (on your pizza or just eat a big ball of it; yolo Italian edition!), and stracchino. There are many more, but those are some of the staples and favorites!

  • Truffles - Watch out for fake ones or oil that's just "essence." The real ones will be expensive, but if you don't want to spend 10-20 euros for a few tiny truffles try some truffle honey or the truffles in a jar that's mostly mushrooms, but still delicious.

  • Honey - There are many different varieties here, ranging from acacia to sunflower, chestnut to million flower. You can find smaller bottles at some markets, great for gifts! Just remember to pack in your checked bag.

  • Cookingware - For those who love to cook and bake, enter in any kitchen store and you'll be sure to find fun new gadgets to play with at home! Wander around some of the outdoor markets and you'll find fun things too, looong rolling pins for cheap, and beautiful artigianally crafted olive wood pieces.

  • Leather - So many leather stores around Florence! If you go around the San Lorenzo leather booths or near the bronze warthog, you can haggle the prices down. I recommend the purses, but you might want to splurge on that leather jacket you've been dreaming of for awhile, or maybe just a nice journal. Probably a more ethical option would be the leather school just behind the church of Santa Croce, "Scuola del cuoio", where you can not only buy leather goods but see the craft in process as the traditional methods are being handed down. Prices will be higher here, but so will the quality.

  • Scarves - Always a nice gift, and in Florence you can find copious quantities for good prices in the same area as all the leather booths. I love the wool ones for winter. You'll be great at haggling by the end of your trip!

  • Stationary - Florence has beautiful stationary if you or someone you know enjoys sending mail the good old fashioned way! Not to mention calendars, journals, booklets, bookmarks, etc. Pair it off with a feather quill and ink (can be found for 16 euro), and wax and stamps!


Whew, feel ready for Italy yet?  If you don't, that's ok.  Visiting any new country is always filled with adventure and mishap, but the more reading and researching you can do, the better.  You'll not only be prepared, but you'll probably save some money and enjoy things you otherwise might not have noticed!  

Until next time, fellow adventurers, I hope you found this article helpful!  And as always, if you have any questions, I would love to help!  You can find my contact by clicking on "contact" above.

Pappa al Pomodoro

IMG_4924.jpg

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I remember clearly the first time I ate Pappa al Pomodoro.  It was DELICIOUS, and at the time I had absolutely no idea what it was.  I had recently arrived in Italy for the second time in my life, and my friends took me to a local pizzeria.  The owner, who knew my friends by sight, brought us each a little plate of this red...mush...with olive oil drizzled on top.  I took one bite, might have closed my eyes and had a Ratatouille moment, then wasted no time in devouring the rest. The flavors seemed such ordinary everyday ingredients, but each took their turn on the tongue, twirling and waltzing together in such harmony as to become a dish not quickly forgotten, and leaving the palate wanting more.  One of my friends can't have gluten, and asked if any of us wanted her mush.  "Really, there's gluten in this?  That stinks, I'm sorry you can't try it...I'll TAKE IT."  Actually, the rest of us probably split it, I don't really remember.  

After this first encounter, I needed to know what that magical substance was.  What is it called?  What are the ingredients? How do you make it?  I'll save you all my searching and wondering: Pappa al pomodoro has a base of bread, tomatoes, and broth, and where there are tomatoes there is usually basil, and round it out with some garlic and good extra virgin olive oil.  That's it!  And I bet, you probably have all or most of those ingredients on hand.  

Pappa al Pomodoro is a traditional Tuscan "poor" dish, and once I knew what it was, saw it everywhere on restaurant menus around Florence.  It's normally eaten as a primo piatto, or first course, but I like to make it the MAIN course.  At home, of course, away from the overly inquisitive eyes of the Italians.  The genius of it is, it uses stale bread, reducing food waste.  Hence it being a "poor" dish, in which the Tuscans back in the day found tasty ways to recycle every food bit. 

If you've been to Tuscany and tried Pappa al Pomodoro, hopefully this recipe will bring a bit of its exuberance back into your life.  If you've never tried it, give this recipe a go for a taste of Tuscany!  Because the ingredients are simple and each flavor really shines through, I recommend being a little extra picky on the quality and freshness of ingredients you use.  (But, I'll give you some cheats, see "Jenny's Notes" below.)

Pro tip:  As you're pronouncing "pappa" really lay on those p's.  If you say it too quickly, your Italian friends or Italian wanna-be friends might think you're talking about the Pope, whom they call "Papa."  And a tomato Pope, at that, because, ya know, pomodoro means "tomato."  :)

Recipe adapted from the cookbook "Toscana in Cucina The Flavours of Tuscany."  Click on the link to the right for more delicious Tuscan dishes, with recipes in both English and Italian!  


Pappa al Pomodoro

Serves about 4

Ingredients:

IMG_4931.jpg
  • 6 Tbsp / 84g olive oil

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

  • crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

  • 1 lb. / 500g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

  • 1 pint / 1 liter vegetable broth

  • 10 oz / 300g stale, crusted white bread, sliced thinly

  • several basil leaves, plus more for the garnish

  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Sauté the garlic and oil in a large pan over medium-low heat, until sizzling and fragrant, ensuring it doesn't burn.  Add a bit of crushed red pepper, then the tomatoes and basil.  

  2. Bring to a simmer; after a few minutes add the broth.  

  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the bread.  

  4. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

  5. Remove the pan from the heat and leave covered for about an hour.  

  6. When ready to serve, stir gently and drizzle with olive oil, dust with pepper, and top with a basil leaf or two.  

Buon appetito! 

*Wine Pairing from Toscana in Cucina: Muraccio - Parrina DOC Rosso - La Parrina, Albinia (Grosseto) 

Jenny's Notes:

  • I know the bread description is a little vague, but you probably won't find the 1 kg hunk of unsalted Tuscan bread in your local grocery store in the States. You want a bread with a nice crust, if possible. You could look for a good ciabatta, or, that bread labeled "Italian" at the grocery store could always make do.

  • You could also use chicken or beef broth, but vegetable seems to be most commonly called for in the Italian recipes I've seen.

  • This freezes well for quick meals, simply bring to room temperature and heat before serving!

  • I do confess I've made this once very much modifying the freshness rule, and to my surprise it didn't turn out half shabby. Just promise me one thing. Make this the real way before going for the modified version. What follows is for emergency situations only. ;)

  1. 1/2 tsp garlic powder instead of garlic cloves

2. 16 oz jar tomato sauce instead of 1 lb. tomatoes (I've used sauces with grilled eggplant and even olives added to them for a satisfying twist.)

3. Plain ol' water instead of broth. You'll probably need to add extra salt and pepper, though.

Italian
Yield: 4-6 servings
Author:

Pappa al Pomodoro

A classic Tuscan "poor man's" dish that utilizes stale bread, tomatoes, basil, and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve as a main dish or side.
prep time: 25 Mcook time: 15 Mtotal time: 40 M

ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp / 84g olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 lb. / 500g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pint / 1 liter vegetable broth
  • 10 oz / 300g stale, crusted white bread, sliced thinly
  • several basil leaves, plus more for the garnish
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

instructions:

How to cook Pappa al Pomodoro

  1. Sauté the garlic and oil in a large pan over medium-low heat, until sizzling and fragrant, ensuring it doesn't burn. Add a bit of crushed red pepper, then the tomatoes and basil.
  2. Bring to a simmer; after a few minutes add the broth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the bread.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and leave covered for about an hour.
  6. When ready to serve, stir gently and drizzle with olive oil, dust with pepper, and top with a basil leaf or two.

NOTES:

I know the bread description is a little vague, but you probably won't find the 1 kg hunk of unsalted Tuscan bread in your local grocery store in the States. You want a bread with a nice crust, if possible. You could look for a good ciabatta, or, that bread labeled "Italian" at the grocery store could always make do. You could also use chicken or beef broth, but vegetable seems to be most commonly called for in the Italian recipes I've seen. This freezes well for quick meals, simply bring to room temperature and heat before serving!

Calories

456.41

Fat (grams)

27.38

Sat. Fat (grams)

4.01

Carbs (grams)

45.34

Fiber (grams)

3.71

Net carbs

41.63

Sugar (grams)

8.94

Protein (grams)

8.48

Sodium (milligrams)

1153.02

Cholesterol (grams)

0.00
Nutritional information is approximate; based on 4 servings.
Created using The Recipes Generator
IMG_4928.jpg

Ratatouille

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Rat patootie.  Ratatouille.  Only one of my favorite Pixar films AND one of my favorite foods.  A cartoon that takes place in Paris, is all about cooking, French accents, chefs, crispy baguettes....ah yes.  Never fails to make me hungry for cheese, saffron (although let's be honest, I've never actually had saffron that I am aware of, even though I bought some in Florence for a steal - UPDATE: as of 2018 I’ve now had saffron and learned how to tell if it’s real!) bread, and maybe some wine.  From the day I first saw it, in the theatre in New York City with my mom back in 2008, I wanted to make ratatouille.  I didn't know what it was before the movie, but Pixar animation made it look delicious.  

After some research and googling, I soon learned that there were many different versions of ratatouille, originally a hearty peasant dish from the region of Provence, France.  (Remember Igor's flashback to his mother's cooking and country home when he firsts tastes the ratatouille?) One source likened it to stew in America.  What kind of stew you ask?  This is exactly the point, as every region and cook in America has their own version of stew, and it can vary widely.  Apparently this is also true of ratatouille.  

After making this many times over the years, I came down to two favorite recipes.  

One involved sautéing the eggplant first for 10 minutes with the spices, then adding it to the bottom of the baking dish. The remaining vegetables were then layered over the eggplant, with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese between each layer of vegetables.

The second involved spreading a seasoned tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and then alternating the vegetables around the dish in a pretty spiral, like it’s served in the film.

I could never decide which version I wanted to make, so finally I combined the two for the best of both worlds.  I omitted sautéing the eggplant, kept the tomato sauce on the bottom, and kept the cheese and the pretty spiral.

That combination is what follows.

Looking for an oval baking dish? I used this pan and couldn’t love it more for casseroles and baking! It’s prettier than a 9x13 rectangular pan and is so easy to clean, even the baked on cheese from this dish!

That combination is what follows.

Looking for an oval baking dish? I used this pan and couldn’t love it more for casseroles and baking! It’s prettier than a 9x13 rectangular pan and is so easy to clean, even the baked on cheese from this dish!


Ratatouille

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

IMG_4690.JPG
  • 1 1/2 cups / 355g tomato purée or sauce (unseasoned)

  • 1/2  onion, finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tsp fresh oregano or 1/4 tsp dried

  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 Tbsp / 28g olive oil

  • 8 oz / 240g mushrooms, thinly sliced

  • 1 medium eggplant

  • 1 medium zucchini

  • 1 medium yellow squash

  • 1 bell pepper, optional

  • 1 cup / 110g shredded parmesan cheese

  • fresh or dried thyme

  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Oven 375°F / 177°C.  Ungreased oval baking dish, about 10in / 25cm long, or 9x13in / 23x33cm pan. 

  1. Add tomato purée to a small bowl.  Stir in onion, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon of oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread in the bottom of the baking dish.

  2. Layer sliced mushrooms over tomato sauce.

  3. Using a mandolin or chopping by hand, slice eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell pepper into 1/4 inch slices.

  4. Working in concentric circles, alternate and arrange the vegetables over the mushrooms.  You may have a small handful of misfit vegetables left over.  Save for another use (stir fry!) or lift a layer of your vegetables in the pan and sneak the excess underneath where the eye can't see. 

  5. Drizzle vegetables with remaining tablespoon of oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle cheese evenly over top.  Sprinkle thyme over cheese. 

  6. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until tomato sauce is bubbling around edges of the pan and vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife.  

  7. Eat as is, or served over quinoa, rice, couscous, or with some crusty French bread!

Jenny's Notes:

  • 1 6oz can / 170g tomato paste mixed with 3/4 cup / 170g water can be substituted for the tomato purée.

  • Sometimes I omit the red pepper flakes and use a spicy oil in place of the plain olive oil.

  • If you want to save time assembling the vegetables you can layer them instead of alternating and making circles.  i.e. layer all the eggplant slices, then squash, zucchini, etc.  

  • You could add an extra layer of cheese between the mushrooms and vegetables.  

  • Feel free to add or substitute vegetables! 

Hello, World!

ratatouille, Pixar Ratatouille, thyme, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, vegetables, healthy, gluten-free, parmesan cheese, tomato, mushrooms, peasant dish
Lunch, Dinner, Side Dish
French
Yield: 4-6 servings
Author:

Ratatouille

A classic French peasant dish made famous by the Pixar animated film "Ratatouille." This version has a tomato base, plenty of eggplant, zucchini, squash, and mushrooms, with thyme and parmesan cheese. Naturally gluten-free.
prep time: 40 Mcook time: 55 Mtotal time: 95 M

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups / 355g tomato purée or sauce (unseasoned)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano or 1/4 tsp dried
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp / 28g olive oil
  • 8 oz / 240g mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium yellow squash
  • 1 bell pepper, optional
  • 1 cup / 110g shredded parmesan cheese
  • fresh or dried thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste

instructions:

How to cook Ratatouille

  1. Oven 375°F / 177°C. Ungreased oval baking dish, about 10in / 25cm long, or 9x13in / 23x33cm pan.
  2. Add tomato purée to a small bowl. Stir in onion, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon of oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in the bottom of the baking dish.
  3. Layer sliced mushrooms over tomato sauce.
  4. Using a mandolin or chopping by hand, slice eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell pepper into 1/4 inch slices.
  5. Working in concentric circles, alternate and arrange the vegetables over the mushrooms. You may have a small handful of misfit vegetables left over. Save for another use (stir fry!) or lift a layer of your vegetables in the pan and sneak the excess underneath where the eye can't see.
  6. Drizzle vegetables with remaining tablespoon of oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle cheese evenly over top. Sprinkle thyme over cheese.
  7. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until tomato sauce is bubbling around edges of the pan and vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife.
  8. Eat as is, or served over quinoa, rice, couscous, or with some crusty French bread!

NOTES:

1 6oz can / 170g tomato paste mixed with 3/4 cup / 170g water can be substituted for the tomato purée. Sometimes I omit the red pepper flakes and use a spicy oil in place of the plain olive oil. If you want to save time assembling the vegetables you can layer them instead of alternating and making circles. i.e. layer all the eggplant slices, then squash, zucchini, etc. You could add an extra layer of cheese between the mushrooms and vegetables. Feel free to add or substitute vegetables!

Calories

319.11

Fat (grams)

15.92

Sat. Fat (grams)

6.00

Carbs (grams)

33.75

Fiber (grams)

9.15

Net carbs

24.60

Sugar (grams)

15.12

Protein (grams)

16.35

Sodium (milligrams)

571.85

Cholesterol (grams)

19.80
Nutritional information is approximate and based on 4 servings.
Created using The Recipes Generator
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