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Warm Italian recipes for fall

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Italian meals to warm you up

Italian life is centered around family and lovingly cooked meals. The table (a tovola) is the place families sit down to share the day's events, sip wine and dig into great food. Appealing to the families who want to serve meals that bring their family members together, The Culinary Institute of America offers A Tavola: Recipes and Reflections on Traditional Italian Home Cooking (Lebhar-Friedman, August 2009) and three warm Italian recipes for fall.

Spaghetti Pizza

Warm Italian recipes for fall

A compilation of signature Italian recipes from several regions of Italy, A Tavola gives you a mouthwatering tour of the country along with gorgeous food photos and easy to follow instructions for creating your very own Italian table at home. As the summer heat wanes and the crisp cool climate of fall emerges, bring your family together with these delectable Italian recipes.

Wild Greens Soup with Egg and Pecorino Romano

Zuppa di Cacio e Uova con Erbetta di Campo

Serves 4

This soup is a classic remake of the classic stracciatella, which is also quite popular all over the world. Spinach is often used in the classic stracciatella dish, but bitter greens, such as collard greens, Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens or dandelion greens are a delicious substitute.

Ingredients:
1 pound wild greens, mixed or not
2 onions, julienned
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable broth
3 large eggs
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Boil the greens in plenty of hot salty water almost cooked, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well, coarsely chop them, and squeeze out most of the water.

2. In a soup pot, sweat the onions with the olive oil over medium-low heat. When tender but not colored, after 4 to 5 minutes, add the chopped greens and mix well. Pour the broth into the onions and greens, and bring to a simmer.

3. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the Pecorino and add the egg-cheese mixture to the broth. Bring to a simmer again for 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

4. Just before serving, use a whisk to whip the broth. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti Pizza

Pizza di Spaghetti

Serves 6

A kid-friendly family favorite, this dish uses a nest of cooked spaghetti as the "crust" for the tasty toppings. This is one of those recipes your kids will anticipate as an after school dinner treat.

Ingredients:
6 ounces dry spaghetti (4 to 5 cups cooked)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, as needed
8 ounces mozzarella, fiore di latte if possible
18 black olives
6 oil-packed anchovies
8 ounces peeled San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand to break into pieces
2 teaspoons Sicilian dry oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees F. Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted water until very al dente. Drain well, sprinkle with half of the olive oil, and toss slightly.

2. Place the spaghetti into small casserole dishes for individual servings or in 2 (8-inch) casseroles that have been lightly oiled. Make sure the spaghetti is flat by lightly pressing it into an even layer.

3. Cut the mozzarella into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Pit the olives and then slice them thin.

4. Cover the top of the spaghetti with the mozzarella slices. Divide the anchovies between the casseroles, and then spread the crushed tomatoes on top followed by the olives, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with remaining olive oil.

5. Bake for 20 minutes until the mozzarella has completely melted. Serve very hot.

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Bicerino de Cioccolato alla Nocciola

Serves 4

This is a variation of the typical hot chocolate you'll find in nearly every bar in Italy during the cold weather months. It is usually very dense and super hot, made with steamed milk, like cappuccino. This rich Italian hot chocolate is perfect for sipping as you wind down a crisp fall or winter evening.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup hazelnuts, skin on
4 cups whole milk, cold
1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder, European style
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, or as needed
10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped into stiff peaks, for topping

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Toast the hazelnuts in the oven until lightly brown, about 10 to 15 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Once toasted, place them on a towel and rub well to remove the skins. Grind in a food processor until evenly ground but not floury. Set aside.

2. In a saucepan, stir together the cold milk, cocoa powder, and sugar and bring to a simmer over low heat, making sure there are no lumps. Remove from the heat and pour into the bowl with the ground hazelnuts. Let steep for at least 1 hour, until cool. You may do this the day before and let the mixture rest in the refrigerator.

3. Strain the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a saucepan, making sure you press the hazelnuts well to release the flavor. Heat the milk until it is warm, but not boiling, over low heat. Remove from heat, add the chocolate, and mix well until the chocolate is melted.

4. Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream.

Variations: Try adding a pinch of chili powder, cinnamon or a tiny pinch of sea salt before serving. A little vanilla is a nice addition as well. If you want to omit the step of steeping the toasted hazelnuts in the milk, you could use a chocolate like Valrhona Caraibe 60 percent Hazelnut or Gianduia, which will deliver the same intense hazelnut flavor.

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