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Pasta alla Pio (Pasta al forno con melanzane e mozzarella)
From Lavender to Wild Spinach: Flavors of Italian Gelato

Easter in Rome

A Photo Exhibit of Dishes from Restaurants in Milan, Italy
Nicoletta’s Menu

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Do you have menu and recipes to share? Or photos of food?
Contact Christine with your ideas for a Banquet Hall feature.

January 2009
Pasta alla Pio
(Pasta al forno con melanzane e mozzarella)

PioFlagYou have received an invitation for dinner at the home of Pio and Silvia. They live in the Roman suburb of Spinaceto. The table is set. Pio is preparing his favorite pasta dish for you. Silvia’s brother Carlo and his wife Betsy will also be joining you.


While the pasta is baking in the oven, Pio will serve you a few slices of prosciutto with melon. He usually buys a whole prosciutto and slices it himself at home. Please notice the colorful plates in the photo. Many restaurants in Italy sell plates to collectors like Pio. A lovely plate is a wonderful souvenir of a special dinner.

Pasta al forno con melanzane e mozzarella

The English translation of this recipe follows below.

Questo piatto di pasta al forno è tipico del sud d’Italia. Le melanzane sono usate molto in questa maniera in Sicilia, ma l’aggiunta della mozzarella è più tipica della zona di Napoli. Pio è romano, ma la sua famiglia viene originariamente da Napoli. A lui piace cucinare una varietà di piatti, ma qui si vedono le sue radici del sud. Mentre qualsiasi mozzarella va bene, lui utilizza la famosa mozzarella di bufala, tipica della Campania. Questa ricetta è per 4-6 persone.

Pasta al forno con melanzane e mozzarella

  • 2 melanzane grandi o 3 medie
  • 1 scatola di pomodori pelati
  • 1 mozzarella fresca di circa 250 grammi, o di più, secondo il gusto sale
  • olio d’olivo
  • basilico
  • noce moscata (facoltativo)
  • 500 g. ziti o penne

Tagliare la mozzarella a dadini e mettere da parte. Tagliare le melanzane a dadini e, mettendole in uno scolapasta, cospargerle con del sale. Lasciarle per circa 20 minuti in modo che si toglie un po’ della loro acqua amara. Asciugarle un po’ con la carta assorbente. In un tegame con olio d’oliva, rosolare le melanzane. In un’altra padella, preparare un sugo con i pomodori, un po’ di sale, basilico e volendo, un pochino di noce moscata. Quando il sugo è metà cotto, aggiungere le melanzane e continuare la cottura. Cuocere la pasta in abbondante acqua salata, per almeno 3 minuti meno del tempo indicato sulla scatola. Scolarla e poi aggiungere la pasta al sugo, mescolando bene. Mettere il tutto in un tegame e aggiungere ¾ della mozzarella, seguitando a mescolare. Spargere il resto della mozzarella sopra, e se vuoi, un po’ di parmigiano. Cuocere al forno medio per un quarto d’ora.


Pasta alla Pio
Baked pasta with eggplant and mozzarella

PastaYou have received an invitation for dinner at the home of Pio and Silvia. They live in the Roman suburb of Spinaceto. The table is set. Pio is preparing his favorite pasta dish for you. Silvia’s brother Carlo and his wife Betsy will also be joining you.

While the pasta is baking in the oven, Pio will serve you a few slices of prosciutto with melon. He usually buys a whole prosciutto and slices it himself at home. Please notice the colorful plates in the photo. Many restaurants in Italy sell plates to collectors like Pio. A lovely plate is a wonderful souvenir of a special dinner.
This dish is typical of southern Italy. Eggplant is often used in Sicily in this manner, but the addition of mozzarella would be more typical of the Neapolitan region. Pio is Roman but his family originally came from Naples. He enjoys cooking a variety of dishes but his southern roots show here. Although we can use any mozzarella, he used mozzarella di bufala, typical of the Campania region. This recipe is for 4-6 people.



2 large eggplants or 3 medium
1 can Italian tomatoes
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, or more if desired
olive oil
nutmeg (optional)
1 lb. ziti or penne

Cut up the mozzarella into small cubes and set aside.
Cut up the eggplants into small cubes, put them in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Leave them for about 20 minutes to remove some of their bitter liquid. Blot them with paper towels.
Sauté the eggplant in a skillet with olive oil.
In another pan, prepare a tomato sauce with the tomatoes, a little salt, basil and, optionally, a little nutmeg. When the sauce is about half done, add the eggplant and continue to cook.
Cook the pasta in abundant salted water, for at least 3 minutes less than that indicated on the box. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, mixing well.
Put the pasta and sauce in an oven casserole and mix in about ¾ of the mozzarella. Spread the rest on top and, if you wish, add a little parmesan.
Bake in a medium oven (350°) for about 15 minutes.


- Many thanks to Carlo and Betsy Mignani for this contribution to the Culture Club’s Banquet Hall.

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From Lavender to Wild Spinach: Flavors of Italian Gelato
By Candice Michalowicz and Christine Meloni, NCLRC

When one thinks of the culinary delights of Italy, what comes to mind?
The list would definitely be long but let’s go immediately to the most delicious, the most refreshing, and the most satisfying of all – gelato!

Gelato in Italian means frozen or very cold, and it is usually translated in English as "ice cream." Gelato and ice cream are not really synonymous. Gelato is softer and has a more intense flavor. And, believe it or not, it has half the fat and calories of ice cream. While Italians used to eat gelato almost exclusively in the summer months, they now enjoy it throughout the year. It can still be considered a seasonal treat, however. Seventy-five percent of the gelato eaten in Italy today is consumed between May and September, according to the latest statistics of the Associazione delle Industrie Dolciarie Italiane. While Italians can now easily find pre-packaged gelato in their local supermarkets, they still prefer to enjoy the treat while seated in a gelateria (ice cream parlor) rather than in their own homes. The number of flavors has increased dramatically over the past few years, but most Italians still prefer the traditional flavors. According to a recent poll, the most popular are the following:

Table 1. What is your favorite flavor of gelato?

Flavor Percentage Responding
cioccolato (chocolate) 27%
nocciola (hazelnut) 20%
limone (lemon) 10%
fragola (strawberry) 13%
crema (cream) 9%
stracciatella (chocolate chip) 12%
pistachio (pistachio) 8%
Poll conducted by Eurisko

While in Italy recently, we decided to carry out a mini-research project. How many different flavors of gelato could we discover? We visited gelaterie in four Italian cities - Rome, Milan, Turin, and Florence - and listed the flavors. We encountered exotic flavors such as lavanda (lavender), ricotta in salsa di fichi (ricotta in fig sauce), and profumi di Sorrento (perfumes of Sorrento) as well as unusual ones such as parmigiano (Parmesan cheese), pomodoro (tomato), cioccolato al peperoncino (chocolate with hot chili peppers), and spinaci selvatici (wild spinach). Italians divide flavors into two categories, gusti di frutta (fruit flavors) and le creme (the creams). We found 48 fruit flavors and 131 creams for a total of 179 flavors. Click here for a Word document with a listing of all of the flavors divided into four tables: I. Fruit Flavors II. Chocolate Flavors III. Vegetable Flavors and IV. Cheese Flavors. You are welcome to print out this listing for use in your Italian-language classroom.

For another complete list of the 179 flavors, go to Candice’s blog at

If you go to Italy and discover additional flavors, please send an e-mail to Christine


Candice is an art history major at the George Washington University. She spent a semester in Rome studying art, learning Italian, and eating gelato. She works at the National Capital Language Resource Center in Washington, DC.

Christine lived in Italy for many years and returns there often. She is the editor of the Culture Club, an online environment with cultural resources for teachers of Italian and other foreign languages, at

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Easter in Rome


What a happy coincidence! Andrea’s birthday fell on Easter this year. To celebrate the two special events, he invited family and friends to his apartment overlooking Piazza Navona. He served his favorite birthday dessert, Crema di Zio Nicola, along with the traditional Italian Easter cake, La Colomba. The dessert was an original creation of his favorite uncle, Zio Nicola. The Easter cake, which is in the shape of a dove, is available in stores throughout Italy during the Easter season and is now appearing in many stores in the U.S. Before his guests left, he served Cantucci (hard almond cookies) which the adults dipped in glasses of bubbly Moscato.

Un Dolce Italiano: Crema di Zio Nicola


(per 4 persone)

  • mezzo chilo di ricotta
  • 4 cucchiaini di caffe macinato molto fino (per esempio, Lavazza o Jiffy)
  • 4 cucchiai di zucchero
  • 2 cucchiaini di sciroppo di mandorla o di Amaretto di Saronno

Queste quantitá possono essere cambiate leggermente secondo i gusti personali.
Mescolate la ricotta, il caffe, e lo zucchero fino a renderla cremosa. Poi aggiungete lo sciroppo o il liquore. Servite subito. Non la mettete nel frigo perché diventerá troppo asciutta.

An Italian Dessert: Uncle Nicola’s Delight

(for four people)

  • 1 pound of ricotta
  • 4 teaspoons of finely-ground coffee (e.g. Lavazza or Jiffy)
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of almond extract or of Amaretto di Saronno

These quantities can be changed according to individual taste.
Combine the ricotta, coffee, and sugar until you have a smooth, creamy paste. Then add the almond extract or the Amaretto. Serve immediately. Do not refrigerate as the dessert will become too dry.

cantucci colomba

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A Photo Exhibit of Dishes from Restaurants in Milan, Italy

Eating in Italy is almost always a delightful experience. If you are a traveler, you will find that food is consistently excellent whether you go to a humble tavola calda, a cozy trattoria, or an elegant ristorante. We present a photo exhibit of dishes from three restaurants in Milan, Italy.

Pastarito is part of a chain of moderately-priced restaurants that lets diners mix and match pasta and sauce types. Here are examples of three pasta dishes. Click on the title to see their website, or go here to see all types of pasta!


Trussardi alla Scala is an upscale restaurant on the second floor of a building situated next to the famed Scala Opera House. Here are examples of their exquisite desserts. Click on the title to see their website.


Ribot is a restaurant located near Milan’s famous race track San Siro. It takes its name from Ribot, a great racing horse, and contains photos and memorabilia related to this champion. Here is a sampling of a variety of courses, two antipastos, a pasta dish, and an entrée.


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Nicoletta’s Menu


This meal was planned for you by Nicoletta Meloni and Francesco Sasso, high school teachers in Rome, Italy. The English translation of this menu follows below.
Nicoletta and Francesco would like to invite you to join them and three Roman friends for a special dinner. It is a lovely spring evening, and a gentle breeze is blowing through the open windows of the Banquet Hall. The table is set, and your Italian friends are waiting for you.

See the recipe in ENGLISH or ITALIAN




MENÚ (in Italiano)
Antipasto: polpo lesso condito con olio e limone
Primo Piatto: Spaghetti alla caprese
Secondo Piatto: Trote alla vernaccia
Broccoletti di rape
Dolce: Cantucci con Vin Santo
Frutta: Assortita di stagione
Bibite: Acqua minerale e vino bianco

RICETTE (per 6 persone)

Spaghetti alla caprese

500 grammi di pomodori maturi
Olio q.b. (q.b. = quanto basta)
50 grammi di acciughe diliscate
100 grammi di tonno sott’olio
50 grammi di olive nere di Gaeta snocciolate
600 grammi di spaghetti
Sale e pepe q.b.
150 grammi di mozzarella tagliata a dadini

Scottate per un minuto in acqua bollente i pomodori, tagliateli a pezzi e privateli dei semi. In un padellino fate scaldare bene tre cucchiaiate d’olio, versatevi i pomodori, salate leggermente e lasciate cuocere a fuoco vivo per un quarto d’ora. Lavate le acciughe, sgocciolatele bene e mettetele in un mortaio con il tonno e le olive. Pestate il tutto finemente, poi passatelo al setaccio e diluite questa profumata purea con qualche cucchiaiata d’olio crudo; fatela poi scaldare leggermente a fuoco molto basso. Portate all’ebollizione abbondante acqua salata in una grossa pentola; versatevi gli spaghetti e cuoceteli al dente. Scolateli e conditeli immediatamente con la salsa di pomodoro ben calda, la mozzarella, la saporita salsetta e una bella spolverata di pepe. Mescolate ben bene e portate subito in tavola.

Trote alla vernaccia

6 trote
3 cucchiaiate d’olio
1 spicchio d’aglio tritato
Un rametto di rosmarino tritato
Un cucchiaio di origano
½ carota tritata
Sale q.b.
Pepe q.b.
1 litro di vino vernaccia

Pulite le trote, lavatele bene e fatele sgocciolare. In una padella, mettete l’olio con il trito di aglio, prezzemolo, rosmarino, l’origano, e la carota; fate ammorbidire un poco le verdure a fuoco basso, poi sistematevi le trote, ben stese, salatele e pepatele. Versate poi la vernaccia fino a ricoprire completamente i pesci e fate cuocere a fuoco moderato per una ventina di minuti, fino a quando il vino sarà tutto evaporato. Servite le trote bollenti con la loro salsa calda ben ristretta.


Broccoletti di rape

1 chilo e mezzo di broccoletti di rape
2 spicchi d’aglio schiacciati
1 bicchiere d’olio
Sale q.b.
Pepe q.b.
Brodo q.b.


I broccoletti di rape sono una verdura molto usata nella cucina romana. Togliete le foglie dure, i torsoli e le parti filamentose e lavateli bene. Fate imbiondire gli spicchi d’aglio nell’olio caldo, toglieteli e unite i broccoletti, salate, pepate e lasciate cuocere, ben coperto, a fuoco lento per circa mezz’ora, bagnando di tanto in tanto con un poco di brodo.

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MENU (in English)
Appetizer: Boiled octopus seasoned with olive oil and lemon
First Course: Spaghetti Caprese style
Second Course: Trout Vernaccia style
Sautéed Rapini

Dessert: Cantucci Italian cookies with Vin Santo (a sweet dessert wine)
Fruit: Assorted fruit in season
Beverages: Mineral water and white wine

RECIPES (for 6)

Spaghetti Caprese Style

500 grams of ripe tomatoes
Olive oil to taste
50 grams of skinned anchovies
100 grams of tuna in oil
50 grams of pitted black Gaeta olives
600 grams of spaghetti
Salt and pepper to taste
150 grams of cubed mozzarella

Scald tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, cut into pieces and remove seeds. In a small frying pan, heat well three tablespoons of oil, add tomatoes, salt lightly, and let cook over a high flame for 15 minutes. Clean and drain anchovies well, and place in a pestle with the tuna and the olives. Crush all ingredients finely, pass mixture through a sieve and dilute with a few tablespoons of uncooked olive oil. Heat mixture over a very low flame. In a large pan, bring to a boil a large quantity of salted water. Add the spaghetti and cook al dente. Drain and immediately add the tomato sauce which should be very hot, the mozzarella, the tasty anchovies, tuna and olive mixture, and a healthy sprinkling of pepper. Mix well and serve immediately.

Trout Vernaccia Style

6 trout
3 tablespoons of oil
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 branch of rosemary
1 teaspoon of oregano
chopped carrot
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 liter of vernaccia wine or another white wine

Clean the trout, wash, and drain. In a frying pan, add oil, crushed garlic, parsley, rosemary, oregano, and chopped carrot. Sauté very briefly over a low flame, add trout, spread out carefully, then salt and pepper. Add wine until it completely covers the fish and cook over a medium flame for about 20 minutes, until all of the wine has evaporated. Serve immediately.

Sautéed Rapini

1,5 kilos of rapini
2 crushed cloves of garlic
1 cup of oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 cup of bouillon broth

Rapini are a very commonly used vegetable in Roman cuisine. They can be easily found in most American supermarkets. Wash the rapini thoroughly after removing the dry leaves, stalks, and stems. Brown the garlic in hot oil and remove from pan. Add the rapini, salted and peppered, and let cook, covered, over a low flame for about 30 minutes, occasionally adding broth to keep moist.

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If you wish to send your comments, feedback, suggestions or opinions about this column / section, please do so by sending an email to Christine.
Make sure you specify which section or column you are referring to!!! We appreciate your feedback!!!

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