Summertime Popsicles

Julie Jurden
Summertime may be winding down, but the hot weather still calls for cool beverage and treats. Here is our favorite popsicle recipe that is so simple, yet so delizioso!
  • Thinly slice a couple of lemons and limes.
  • Place 4-5 citrus slices and a few fresh mint leaves in each popsicle mould.
  • Fill with lemonade.
  • Freeze.
  • When ready to serve, place popsicle in a glass and top with your favourite bubbly.

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Simple Pasta with On The Vine Roasted Tomatoes

Julie Jurden

We believe pasta is a delightful dish, even in the heat of summer. Our team threw together this beautifully simple main dish that is sure to please every palate. 

INGREDIENTS
  • Several tomatoes still on the vine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • kosher salt & coarse ground pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces angel hair spaghetti
  • ÂĽ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ÂĽ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ÂĽ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Toss the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and spread them out on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining the spaghetti.
  3. Put the pot back on the burner over medium high heat. Add the last tablespoon of olive oil and the seasoned bread crumbs. Cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic, lemon juice, and other seasonings and cook for another minute. Put the pasta back in the pot and toss to coat. Add the pasta water just a tiny bit at a time to keep things moving. You won't need the whole cup.
  4. Add the roasted tomatoes and sprinkle with a little more seasoning to serve.

To make this dish extra special, serve on our Porto Venere Fish Dinner Plate. This entire collection brings a whimsical flair to any meal.

Recipe slightly adapted from Sugar Dish Me.

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Summer Escapes: Italian Beaches and the Deep Blue Sea

Julie Jurden

italian beachSummer is here, and the climbing temperatures have us obsessed with thoughts of lazy, sun-soaked beach days and crystal blue water for miles. Whether you’re lucky enough to live near an oceanfront destination, a lakeside retreat, or maybe a sparkling swimming pool, the draw of lounging by the water with a great book and a refreshing cocktail is a luxury in and of itself.

If you love the beach, Italy has some of the most exquisite of oceanside oases in the world. From the more popular locations such as the Amalfi Coast, the Island of Capri, and the entire Cinque Terre, to the less traveled, more secluded spots like Calabria, Gargano, and the Argentario Peninsula—Italy is surrounded by seaside magnificence. With the Mediterranean as it’s canvas, the beaches and seaside communities become treasured masterpieces for Italian visitors to explore.


While we celebrated our Independence Day here in the U.S., we immediately pulled out the wide variety of Italian dinnerware Modigliani has that evoke the wistfulness of long summer days and mounds of freshly caught seafood. Just browsing these fun collections and imagining the many meals we could serve gets us excited for alfresco dining and beach worthy picnics.


One of our favorites is the Panarea collection. Named for the smallest yet prettiest of the Aeolian Islands just off the coast of Sicily, Panarea is a chic little spot that attracts the wealthy and famous, yet it’s still an affordable option for the rest of us.

The backdrop of this idyllic location are whitewashed adobe cottages draped in bursting bougainvillea flowers against the deepest blue of the sea. A respite for relaxation and quiet, this peaceful island offers romantic views, majestic rocks and cliffs jutting from the sea, and boasts one of the few sandy beaches in the Aeolian Islands to embrace it all.


It’s namesake collection brings a touch of relaxed whimsy and fun to the table with its coral colored sea creatures in playful display. Filling one of the larger bowls with mounds of freshly caught crab or a luscious lobster salad would be a great summer treat for friends and family and would get anyone into summer mode.


If your table needs more color and a hint of nautical inspiration, our Porto Venere collection might be more your speed.  


Portovenere is a sweet little village that sits between Cinque Terre and the Gulf of the Poets. Despite this seafront location, it isn’t considered a beach resort like other towns in Liguria. But it does offer a few lovely beaches and bays where you can sunbathe on land or on a boat.


This handmade ceramic dinnerware reflects the vibrant colors of this lovely coastal village and gives a nautical nod to the quaint harbor in the center of it all. We can almost taste the sea as we imagine a fresh grilled fish, or some briny oysters presented on a piece from this happy collection.

We hope all of you in our Modigliani community can enjoy a few good days and nights at your favorite waterfront destination. Don’t let the season whisk by. Grab your shades and head to your favorite beach before the summer months are but a distant memory. And don’t forget to pack a picnic!

 

iStock Credit: Cristinatrif - photo of Amalfi Coast

 

 

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Love, Life, and Luck - It's Wedding Season

Julie Jurden

Photo of italian wedding with bride and groomIt’s June and that means wedding season is in high gear. For many of us, save-the-dates and wedding invitations have made their way to our mailboxes. The cadence of shopping, planning, traveling, toasting, celebrating, dancing, and drinking has just begun. While our heads spin with those inevitable years when everyone seems to be getting hitched around the same time, making it difficult to simply enjoy a celebration, it is fun to witness familiar traditions, sometimes reinvented for modern brides.

We talk a lot about traditions here at Modigliani because they mean so much to Italians. For Americans, traditions more often come from something started in our own families, whereas Italian traditions are steeped in religion, history, culture, and even superstition. And many incorporate symbolic meanings. Weddings are a great example where superstition and symbolism are significant in Italian traditions. While today’s modern Italian bride may not carry over many of these traditions, there are some that remain.

Grooms used to be the ones that selected and paid for the bridal bouquet as a final gift for his beloved and would often present it to her at the church. Today the bride likely selects the bouquet, but they may still continue with the tradition of the groom presenting it to her as a gesture of love.

Small but meaningful actions to bring luck and abundance to the couple were prominent in the past. Brides used to wear something green the night before the wedding for good luck and grooms were known to carry a piece of iron in their pockets to ward off evil spirits. The bride would never wear anything gold on her wedding day, other than her wedding ring, as that too would bring bad luck.

While in the U.S. we say it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her dress before the wedding, in parts of Italy it was seen as bad luck for the bride to see her own reflection in the mirror. If she really wanted to see herself in her gown, she would have to remove a shoe or glove before gazing in her mirror. And in some cases, a bride would even rip her veil for good luck.

Speaking of shoe removal, the tradition of the groom removing the brides garter is also a tradition in Italy. However, if the bride did not wear a garter, one of her shoes would be removed and tossed to the crowd for luck instead.

Another tradition that has mostly gone the wayside is the cutting up of the groom’s tie. Once destroyed, the pieces would then be passed to guests in exchange for money.

And one tradition that has been mostly upheld is the carrying of la borsa, or satin bag, by the bride during the reception. The purpose is for guests to place envelopes of money into the bag to help pay for the wedding and the couple’s new life together.

 

italian wedding favors that looks like leavesThe giving of bomboniera is also something that continues. These are small pouches or boxes of candy coated Jordan almonds meant to symbolize the bittersweetness of marriage. Each pouch must contain an odd number, usually 5 or 7, which are considered lucky numbers.

During the reception, there is a dance called La Tarantella, or the tarantula, which again, is how guests wish the couple good luck. Participants stand in a circle surrounding the couple while holding hands and moving in a clockwise direction. As the music plays, it eventually kicks up tempo which signals reversing the direction and repeating until everyone collapses together at the end – very popular even today.

There are a number of other traditions that Italians across various regions have upheld over the years or have modernized for today’s world, but the importance of celebration and bringing luck and love to the couple continues in a myriad of ways.

One thing that never changes is marking the occasion by showering gifts on the happy couple. If you’re a bride-to-be or buying for one, Modigliani offers a gift registry for unique items anyone would love. Starting a new life together with beautiful, handmade Italian dinnerware is perfect. Preparing meals and hosting dinners for family and friends is something many look forward to as a new couple. Let us help make that experience even greater with the art and artistry of our distinctive ceramic dishware, flatware, and one of a kind pieces.

And to all the soon to be and recent newlyweds, buona fortuna e auguri (good luck and best wishes)!

Register with our Gift Registry today!

 

Photo credits:
Bride and Groom:  iStock Photo Credit: Hreni
Wedding Favors:  
iStock Photo Credit: budrio

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Carpets of Blooms, It’s Infiorata!

Julie Jurden

Spring turns to summer and blooms and buds are bursting with life and growth. No matter where you live, flowers are making their grand entrance and the air is filled with a lovely fragrance. From daffodils to hydrangeas, and roses to peonies, the season is flush with color. It’s time to celebrate the flower.

carpet of flowers in ItalyItalians welcome the beauty of the season with a brilliant and artistic flower festival called Infiorata. Introduced by Catholics in the late 1700s to mark the Sunday of Corpus Domini, this feast for the senses is celebrated throughout Italy. 

Infiorata means “decorated with flowers,” and Italians do just that. Stretching more than a mile in many cities and consisting of hundreds of thousands of blooms and seeds, locals put their artistic skills to great use as they create incredible flower panels that carpet the streets. A competitive tradition, these patient artisans spend months producing the designs and then sketch them on the ground with chalks, coffee grounds, and soil. Then comes the meticulous effort of filling in these mosaic masterpieces with mounds of flower petals and greenery.

Designs are typically themed, and the creative result is brilliant. Teams consisting of anyone from students and coworkers, to families and friends, everyone gets in on the fun. Gathering the day before and working feverishly through the night, often shrouded in tents for secrecy, they are removed by Sunday morning for the visual reveal.

Once complete, tourists and locals along with official judges gather to walk the long stretch and view the lush petal-filled streets taking in the artistry and aromas. End-to-end, the vista of a thick petaled floor is fantastic. The blanketed streets can be seen for what feels like miles and the perfumed air transports you to a lush meadow.

Later in the morning, and after all that hard work, the official religious procession departs from the town church walking through the flower panels. A long-held tradition, the children race through leaving petals scattered and skewed to the winds before the final cleanup.

And sadly, that’s the end to a fantastic, albeit short-lived, annual custom.

We love the thought of filling our own surroundings with loads of fresh flowers, but we’d rather keep them around for just a few more days.

If you feel the same as we do, why not peruse our handmade Italian vases and bring a bit of Infiorata Spring living into your home. No need for back-breaking work here, just insert your lovely stems into one of our many colorful handmade vases or exquisitely hand-crafted pitchers. Both are perfect for a brilliant floral display. Mix and match with our other ceramic dinnerware, open the windows and doors, and welcome the warmth and freshness of this glorious season.

 Infiorata Photo Credit: alessandro0770

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The Camogli Fish Festival: Fish, Frying Pans, and Fireworks!

Julie Jurden

One fish, two fish, red fish, fried fish. Well, if you’re in Camogli, it’s fried fish. And lots of it.

Camogli is a stunning seaside village in the Liguria region of Italy. The Camogli Fish Festival, or La Sagra del Pesce in Camogli, began during World War II as a dedication to St. Fortunato, the patron saint of fishermen. Each year on the second Sunday in May, in the Piazza Colombo near the marina, tourists and town folk alike flood the plaza for some of the tastiest fried fish delectables…and they’re free!

Besides the draw of free food, you won’t want to miss the center of attention – a giant frying pan that weighs 28 tons, is just over 13 feet in diameter, and has a handle, get this, of almost 20 feet long!

For the better part of the day, locals fry up over 30,000 dishes, which includes about 3 tons of fresh fish and about 800 gallons of oil. I wonder how they clean the pan once  their done?

A few days before the giant fish free-for-all, visitors gather to enjoy live music to ease into the weekend festivities. The next day, their marina is host to fresh markets and food stalls where visitors can sample all the fresh local produce and cuisine. Later in the evening you can play witness to a traditional religious procession followed by some spectacular fireworks displayed over the waterfront.

After all the sparks and flash are over, locals partake in another interesting tradition. Residents from two of the Camogli districts, Porto and Pinetto, engage in a bit of a competition. Large bonfires are ignited by a firewire that descends from a nearby church steeple, onto the beach where wooden and paper sculptures await, each year with a different theme. The day before, local residents fill these massive structures with items they want to get rid of, like old furniture, wood remnants, or anything else that will safely burn bright. No worries, the fire brigade is close at hand managing and maintaining with a regular dousing from a firehose.

The next day, Sunday, May 13th this year, the fish festival officially kicks off with a blessing of the giant pan, and by noon the frying frenzy begins!

All of this fishy fabulousness has us thinking about summer getaways and beachside picnics.

As we finally get ready to shed the last of the cooler temperatures, we relish starting to plan the first big outdoor spread with family and friends. Putting some of our finest summer ceramic dinnerware at the center of our seaside table décor, we mix it up with items from our Mediterraneo, Panarea, and Porto Venere collections. Just because we’re dining al fresco is no reason not to make the event a special experience. Forgo the paper plates and plastic forks and incorporate a bit of beauty that ensures your guests feel as special as the moment.

 


How do you like to adorn your seaside table setting? Is it blankets and baskets or popup tables and a beautiful table setting? Is fried fish on the menu or do you have other traditions that conjure up ocean views and summer fun?

No matter how you spend your summer moments, we hope they are filled with the special people in your lives and, of course, good food and wine, and maybe a bit of Italian travel.

Buon appetito!



 

 

Camogil Image Credit: nevio doz

 

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day: Respect for Nonna and Madre

Julie Jurden

a mom and her mother cooking togetherYou know the stereotype. A grey-haired grandma busy in her Italian kitchen, small in stature but big in voice and vigor. She moves about in her apron and sensible shoes like a conductor directing a Puccini opera. From stove top to pot, and spoon to mouth, everything is orchestrated with rhythmic precision. This is her domain. This is her purpose. She is nonna.

The importance of family in Italy is inherent, and the reverence and respect paid to the matriarch of the family is profound. But she plays a much greater role than cooking and feeding her tribe.  She is the dominant force that rules and reigns over the generations below her. She dictates the tone and traditions of the family and plays a heavy hand in rearing the children. In return she is forever honored and adored.

Mother’s Day has become more globally recognized and not just a celebration here in the west. La Festa della Mamma was introduced in Italy in 1957, some 50 years after the U.S., by an Assisi priest who wanted to find a way to celebrate women and their ongoing contributions to the nurturing of family and community. While less pomp and circumstance are on display from the Italians, they do ensure they spend the day with their Madres and Nonna’s, or they at least call and send cards if they are unable to be present. After all, these are the women that shaped and cared for them their entire lives. Italians never forget this.

The increased role of mothers and grandmothers in our own lives here in the U.S. may seem too intrusive, but we still find the tradition of showering our maternal women with gratitude and gifts for Mother’s Day to be an important one. We wouldn’t be who we are without them.

One of our favorite ways to celebrate the women in our lives is to host an easy Sunday brunch where mom doesn’t have to cook and instead can just enjoy some pampering. A simple but filling frittata is a wonderful way to feed a larger group without dragging out a ton of pots and pans and dirtying up mom’s kitchen. This one-dish wonder is a classic that can be turned into a family tradition.

Below we’ve shared a tasty recipe using Italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, and mounds of fabulous cheese. Served up in our new Roccia collection, these handmade Italian gifts make a wonderful present for mom or grandma.

 

To top off the celebration, whip up a tray of sparkling Bellini’s and let mom kick off her shoes and relax. We’ve included a recipe below, straight from Harry’s Bar. And don’t forget to tell her how much you appreciate everything she does for you and how much respect you have for the role she plays in keeping your family humming along.

From all of us at Modigliani, we wish a heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day to all the Madres and Nonnas out there, and we want you to know that you are valued, respected, and loved!

fritatta in a ceramic baking dish from Modigliani

RECIPE:

Breakfast Frittata with Italian Sausage, Mushrooms, and Cheese

yield: 8 - 10 servings

total time: 50 - 55 minutes

prep time: 20 minutes

cook time: 30 - 35 minutes

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. uncooked pork Italian sausage (ground if you can find it)
  • 1 lb. sliced baby portobella mushrooms (pre-sliced mushrooms make it easy, but rinse them before you slice if you’re not using those)
  • 2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese (pizza cheese that’s a blend of Mozzarella, Provolone, Romano, and Parmesan is also good in this)
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions, plus more to sprinkle over the top (optional but good)
  • 10 eggs, beaten until whites and yolks are well combined
  • 1 tsp. Spike seasoning (optional but recommended, can also use any other spice blend you like with eggs)
  • ½ cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Spray a large casserole dish (about 9″ x 13″) with non-stick spray.
  • Place sausage in a nonstick frying pan and cook about 5 minutes or until the sausage is just cooked through. Drain and place in a layer in the baking dish.
  • Wash mushrooms if needed, spin or pat dry, and slice (or use pre-sliced mushrooms). Heat another 2 tsp oil in the same frying pan and cook mushrooms until all liquid is released and evaporated and they’re starting to brown slightly. Layer mushrooms over the sausage in the casserole dish.
  • Sprinkle 1 cup grated cheese and 1/4 cup sliced green onions over the sausage and mushrooms.
  • Break eggs into a medium sized bowl or large glass measuring cup, then beat with a fork until yolks and whites are well combined. Add salt and pepper and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and stir together.
  • Then pour the egg mixture over the ingredients in the casserole dish. Use a fork to gently stir so all ingredients are coated with egg and well-combined.
  • Sprinkle the other cup of grated cheese over the top.
  • Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the center is completely set and the top of the breakfast casserole is starting to lightly brown.
  • Serve hot, garnished with more green onions if desired. This is also good served with sour cream. Egg casseroles like this can be kept in the fridge for up to a week and reheated quickly in the microwave. Be careful not to microwave too long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COCKTAIL RECIPE:

Harry’s Bar Bellini

The Bellini is one of Italy’s most famous cocktails and it all began in Venice at a place called Harry’s Bar. There are variations of this recipe all over the internet, but essentially, it’s a white peach puree with Prosecco poured over the top. Some add sugar and lemon, some add a raspberry puree for more color. We like the original version below.

You could use yellow peaches, but we highly recommend using only white peaches. When you can get them in season, create the puree by running the pitted peaches through a food mill and then through a fine sieve for just the right consistency. Chill the puree in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.

  • ½ cup chilled white peach puree
  • 1 ½ cup chilled Prosecco

You can either divide the puree up into the four glasses and pour the Prosecco over the top of each one, or you can combine it all in a pitcher, stir, and then serve.

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Vinitaly: A World of Wine and Wisdom

Julie Jurden

Case filled with Italian WineWine maker Robert Mondavi once proclaimed, “Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living.” 

Perfectly articulated, we completely agree. There is something about the communal experience of sharing a great bottle with people you care about that is so pleasurable and comforting. And if you love good wine as much as we do, there’s no better place to experience it than this month at Vinitaly. 


The largest event of its kind, this is more than another wine boondoggle or indulgent festival. This important event attracts every segment of the wine business from all over the globe. On April 14 – 18, thousands of industry professionals will converge on the city of Verona to share in the latest market trends, technology, and innovations aimed at connecting supply and demand for this massive industry.

Italian vineyardIt’s no secret, we love our Italian travel. And spending a week in this beautiful city with the opportunity to attend 400 plus events all about wine, including some of the best tastings in the world, is a long-time dream at the top of our travel bucket list.

To give you an idea of just how large this event has become, there will be approximately 128,000 visitors. 48,000 of them are international buyers and 80,000 are Italian trade attendees. In addition, there are approximately 4,300 exhibitors from 30 countries, and about 3,000 journalists for an impressive blitz of media coverage from every angle.

Our head is spinning just thinking about it all. And we haven’t had a single glass of wine yet!

In addition to this world-renowned event, Vinitaly has other platforms offered year-round to entice and engage the wine expert or connoisseur. For starters, there’s a wine club where you can discover Italian wines and learn more about each one and how they were made. Then there is the Vinitaly International Academy, launched to educate the world on the complexity of the Italian wine growing regions and now offers certification courses. In partnership with Wine Spectator, they’ve also launched OperaWine, an exclusive event aimed at “appraising the distinctive characteristics of Italian wine.” They have wine business networking events, and they host prestigious wine judging events for 5 star and international wines. 

If you haven’t heard of Vinitaly before, we encourage you to check out their website to see the breadth of their support for the entire wine industry as well as their commitment to wine education. It’s an impressive organization, to say the least. We salute our Italian friends for making their impressive mark on the industry.

 

wine glass with amber colored cupFor our own inspiration and education, we took a trip to one of our local wine merchants and made a beeline for the Italian section. In celebration of this prestigious event, we’ll be pairing some of our favorite wines with our exquisite hand-blown Italian glassware from the Villa d’Este collection. These stunning glasses are treasured works of art, yet perfect for sampling and savoring the rich and fruity palate of a Super Tuscan red, or even a crisp, sparkling prosecco before dinner.

 

Plate up a beautiful cheese and charcuterie platter on one of our many Italian dinnerware collections, and in no time at all, it’s wine o’clock!

If you’re lucky enough to be in Verona during Vinitaly, and to actually attend, you’re in an envious position indeed. We hope to indulge in the coming years, but meanwhile, we raise our glass to you. Saluti!

 

Wine Recommendations

In honor of Vinitaly, we have a couple of Italian wine recommendations to explore. And if neither of these sounds right for you, ask your wine merchant for a great suggestion. Italian wines are some of the best wines in the world and spending the time to educate yourself on the various regions and grape varietals is a pleasure in and of itself. 

 

wine bottleZardetto – Prosecco Brut NV, $17
This sparkling prosecco is made from Glera grapes sourced from various vineyards in the hilly part of the DOC region, northeast of Conegliano. 

Its lemon-yellow color offers elegant bubbles and a hearty white froth. Enjoy the aromas of white flowers, apricot, and herbs with slight honey notes. The palate is comprised of citrus, orange blossoms, and stone fruits which linger on the finish. It's an ideal apertif and a perfect choice for any type of celebration or a quiet night at home. 

 

 

italian wine bottleTenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2015, $28
Wine Spectator gives this earthy Tuscan blend a 90. “Fresh and enticing, with cherry, raspberry, tobacco and spice flavors. Firms up on the finish, where vegetal accents and tannins linger. Sangiovese and Merlot. Drink now through 2023.”

It has a deep ruby color and a fruity yet spicy bouquet, with cherry and berries on the palate. There is a vivid acidity which is typical of Sangiovese, with well-integrated tannins and an earthy finish.

This Tuscan pairs well with full flavored meats and roasts.
Blend: 90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot

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Peach Croissant Pudding with Maple Sauce

Julie Jurden

croissant bread pudding in a handmade italian baking dish

This is a delightful treat! The fluffy interiors and buttery layers of croissants add rich flavor and light texture to bread pudding.

Ingredients

  • butter for baking dish
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 c. half-and-half
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 8 large bakery croissants
  • 1 can peaches
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 c. pepitas
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 c. whipping cream
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • powdered sugar for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 3-quart baking dish; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, granulated sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.

3.Tear croissants apart into bite-size pieces; place pieces in prepared baking dish. Add peaches; toss to mix. Pour egg mixture evenly over the top. Let soak for 8 to 10 minutes, pushing croissant pieces down into liquid so each piece is soaked.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and pepitas. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on top of croissant mixture.

5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. If desired, sift with powdered sugar just before serving.

6. For maple sauce, in a small saucepan combine whipping cream, 1/4 cup brown sugar and maple syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until sugar dissolves and mixture almost boils. Remove from heat. Serve over warm bread pudding.

Adapted from this recipe.

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The Celebration of Pasqua in Italy

Julie Jurden

Easter is one of the most important holidays in Italy, and one that incorporates religious symbolism as well as traditions and customs celebrated by even those outside of the Christian faith. As is the heart of this culture, Holy Week is another reason to embrace family, friends, great food, and plenty of celebration.

Easter is known as Pasqua in Italy and it falls on April 1 this year. Festivities across the country typically begin on Good Friday with church service attendance and continue through Easter Monday, or Pasquetta.

The most famous celebration takes place in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. The sitting Pope conducts evening mass, which is then followed by his walk with a large candlelit procession that starts at Palatine Hill and continues to the Colosseum, making 14 prayer stops along the way. These coordinated stops mirror the last walk of Christ. Religious or not, there is a lovely harmony that is experienced with onlookers lucky enough to participate in this sacred tradition.

Over the course of the weekend there are celebrations across the country in the form of parades and festivals. You’re more than likely to see a procession of people carrying statues of either Jesus or Mary with olive branches in hand as they make their way through town.

Most Italians are spending Pasqua Sunday enjoying large meals with those they love. Traditional meals include some sort of egg dish in the morning such as a frittata. The egg represents new life and new beginnings, symbolic of the resurrection of Christ. And while you won’t see the Easter Bunny hopping around Italy, they do color eggs and indulge in chocolate hollowed eggs filled with small treasures. If you walk the streets to browse shop window displays, you’ll likely see some very intricate and beautiful chocolate eggs created by the many master chocolatiers in Italy. These small works of art tend to make their way to the Easter table, along with the colored variety.

Intrecci basket with candy eggsWe have our own tradition to incorporate spring on our Easter table with the addition of our favorite handmade Italian dinnerware. These Intrecci handmade ceramics filled with candy egg treats and paired with spring plantings inside our Primavera flowerpots definitely make the table feel like Easter.

Beyond all the sweet treats, Italians feast on lamb for their main Pasqua meal. Every region may prepare it in their unique way, but at the center, lamb is the meal of choice. Roast lamb, lamb stew, grilled lamb, lamb skewers, lamb with sauce – it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s lamb.

Artichokes are also common across the country given spring is when they are harvested, but they are definitely a significant tradition in places like Rome. There are even artichoke festivals in some areas to celebrate the harvest season. A grouping of raw artichokes in a large Intrecci basket would be beautiful on the spring table!

Other traditional foods include Easter soups, rice balls, sweet breads, as well as specialty cakes like the dove-shaped treat called colomba. We’ve shared a recipe for the most popular Easter bread, or Pana di Pasqua, below along with a nice wine suggestion for your Easter meal.

After a full weekend of quality time with the family, Easter Monday is typically the time Italians spend with friends. Since it’s the first opportunity for a spring outing, the Pasquetta tradition is to find a favorite outdoor destination and have a picnic. You’ll find Italians flocking to seaside beaches, mountains, vineyards, parks, and country villas to celebrate the start of the season steeped in Mother Nature.

Whatever your plans this Easter, we hope you can spend it with those that mean the most to you. Don’t forget to fill the table with the bounty of the spring season and embrace the intended spirit of renewal and new life. 

Recipe - Pana di Pasqua

Makes 6 breads
This recipe is from one of our favorite bloggers, The Italian Dish Blog. It’s an easy version of this traditional Italian sweet bread and we think your family will really enjoy. You can either follow the instructions below, or visit Elaine’s site and see more photos along with the instructions to help you along.

  

  • 1 package Rapid Rise (instant) yeast, about 2-1/4 teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (approximate)
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
  • 6 dyed Easter eggs *
  • sprinkles or pearl sugar

Instructions:

* Tip:  the Easter eggs do not need to be hard-boiled. They cook when the bread bakes. So just dye the eggs uncooked, but be careful they don't crack.

In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter together, till butter melts. In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, salt, eggs, and sugar.

Add the warm (not hot - it will kill the yeast) milk and butter. Add about half the flour and beat until smooth with dough hook. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore.

Knead until smooth with either dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Punch the dough down and divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 14 inches long and, taking two pieces, twist to form a braid, pinching the ends, and loop into a circle. (See Elaine’s images for visual instructions.)

Place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpats. Cover and let rise until double, about an hour again.  Brush each bread with beaten egg wash. Add the sprinkles or sugar on the top. In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden - about 20 minutes. Cool on rack. You can eat the eggs, but if you leave the bread sitting out for a few hours, don't eat them. Common sense.

Wine Paring


italian wine for easterFor an easy wine pairing, we suggest this Italian Pinot Grigio made by the Candoni De Zan family in the Veneto region of Italy.  

Their tasting notes suggest it’s “Crisp, well-structured and sophisticated. It has a rich, pear-like nose, which is followed by crisp acidity, a medium body and a delicious mouth feel.”

Sounds like the perfect pairing to your Easter meal and our Pana di Pasqua recommendation. You can usually find it for less than $14, so why not pick up a few bottles.



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