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.



Read more →

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.


Vatican in Italy on EasterThe 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. 

Happy Easter!





Recipe | Pana di Pasqua

Makes 6 breads

Easter breadThis 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.


Ingredients: 

  • 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 Pairing


For 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.



Read more →

Renew and Refresh: The Spring Table

Julie Jurden

spring or easter table setting

“And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.” 
― Percy Bysshe Shelley


Spring is almost here and the promise of renewal, new growth, and a fresh perspective blissfully come with it. There’s joy in the softness of the warmer weather and sweet smell of the air. Trees are erupting with young growth and flowers break through the hardened ground of winter. You can almost hear the song of birds in musical harmony.  


The season of change gives us the opportunity for something fresh. Our Primavera collection is just that. It’s classic spring in a symphony of soft pastels and playful patterns. This handmade Italian dinnerware is the perfect guest at your spring table.

In the beautiful setting above, we’ve complemented our Primavera pieces with several of our soft and sophisticated accessories. We love the idea of layering to bring both depth and drama to a setting, and even with a serene and muted palate it works.


The addition of texture with Biancheria linens balances the subtle tone of the table. We’ve chosen a neutral selection in ivory and pale beiges so the dinnerware doesn’t contrast too harshly. This allows us to top it off with a pop of natural color in the yellow Paperwhite Narcissus planted in our Intrecci Cachepots. These handmade ceramics are woven to mimic traditional baskets, perfect for spring.


With the new season comes the promise of fresh fruits and vegetables. We enjoy serving up colorful carrots straight from the garden. Below we offer a quick and easy way to prepare the bounty of your own garden, or what you might pick from the local farmer’s market. Get your veggie on and get dinner cooking.


Recipes

roasted carrots on handmade ceramic plate


Roasted Spring Carrots

In this photo, we’ve used a mix of thinner carrots in a variety of colors. Feel free to use what you have access to. So if simple orange carrots from the grocery store are all you have, that works perfectly.

  • 8-10 carrots (feel free to use more based on number of servings needed)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of good virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh dill sprigs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If your carrots are on the thinner side, you can keep them whole or cut them down the middle. If you’re using thicker carrots, you can quarter them into long strips. Note that carrots shrink when you cook them, so ensure they aren’t too thin or you may overcook them.


Lay the carrots across a cookie sheet and cover with the olive oil. Add the salt and pepper and then use your hands to toss ensuring full coverage. After you toss them, lay the carrots across the sheet in a single layer.


Cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on the texture you like -- testing for softness or the level of al dente you prefer. You should see the carrots slightly caramelizing, which enhances the sweetness of the dish.


Plate the carrots on our Primavera Oval Platter and sprinkle with a little chopped dill or dill sprigs and serve.

smoked salmon on handmade dinner plate

Smoked Salmon with Capers

This isn’t a recipe as much as a set of instructions. If you’ve ever had a wonderful smoked salmon appetizer at a restaurant but weren’t sure how to serve it at home, it’s incredibly easy. Smoked salmon brings decadence to any Sunday brunch or spring dinner.

  • 1 package smoked salmon
  • Capers, drained
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • A few radishes, thinly sliced

If you’ve never purchased smoked salmon before, ask your local market for help in deciding what’s best. You can get great quality options of Scottish, Pacific, and Nova Scotia versions at most grocery stores.  Depending on how many people you’re entertaining, you may need to purchase two packages. What you’re looking for is a clean, silky, buttery taste.


Tear the salmon slices into 2-3 inch pieces and lay out on a nice platter. Sprinkle the salmon with capers, as many as you like, sliced red onions, radishes, and lemon.  


Serve your salmon platter with your best crusty loaf of bread and watch it disappear.

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Villa Medici With A Side Of Pea Soup

Julie Jurden

Villa MediciOne of our favorite Modigliani collections is our Villa Medici handmade dinnerware. The simple elegant look means it goes well with everything, for just about any occasion. It’s classic yet modern. You can dress it up, or you can dress it down. On the holiday table or with Tuesday night takeout, its versatility is limitless.

We’ve showcased this sophisticated Italian dinnerware with a wonderful spring soup—the recipe is shared below.


This collection was named for one of the most historically significant locations in Rome – The Villa Medici.

Not far from the Spanish Steps, this 16th century building was named for one of its first owners, Ferdinando de' Medici.

It’s an architectural complex with beautiful gardens that connect to the larger Borghese gardens nearby on the Pincian Hill. One of the first of the Medici properties in Rome, it later housed the French Academy of Rome, thanks to the instruction of Napoleon Bonaparte, in order to house the winners of the Prix de Rome. The competition was later interrupted during World War I when Mussolini confiscated the Villa, forcing the Academy to withdraw until it was restored in 1945. The competition was eventually eliminated entirely in 1968.

With its grand gardens, sweeping city views, ancient Roman sculptures, and peaceful fountains, many have called this historical treasure home, by choice or by force. The Villa's most famous resident was Galileo, who was imprisoned here in 1630 during his trial for heresy. But even the likes of Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones and famous Italian actress Anita Pallenberg stayed here in the 1960s.

Today, the Academy has continued its program by inviting young artists, musicians, and performers to spend twelve months in residence exhibiting their work. Known as pensionnaires, these young and gifted individuals are given room and board to pursue their many talents and to eventually showcase them to the public.

When these artists or other important guests aren’t using the number of rooms on the Villa premises, the space is open to the public for guided tours and numerous events. For the right price, interested parties can even spend the night in the Villa.

And if tourists get a bit hungry as they walk the grand halls or intricate gardens, there's a cafe on site that serves plenty of Prosecco with a delicious Panini lunch. They won’t have our stunning Villa Medici dinnerware to serve it on, but no one’s perfect.

 

Recipe and Wine Pairing

pea soup in Villa Medici dinnerwareOur fresh springtime soup was adapted from an original recipe on Epicurious. We decided to eliminate the dairy here, but it was still satisfying without all the extra calories. We think you’ll enjoy this herb and pea infused version, however, if you’d like to try the original, here’s a link to the recipe.

 

RECIPE: Minty Pea Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 6 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 6 pounds of pods) or frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned—about 6-8 minutes. Add 2 cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Add the peas, reduce heat, and simmer gently until tender, about 5 minutes for fresh peas and about 2 minutes for frozen.

Remove the pot from heat. Add the parsley, mint, and the remaining 2 cups of broth to the pot. Purée the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender, thinning with water if soup is too thick, until nice and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can top with fresh chives or another complementary herb of your liking. Or you can add the dairy back in by topping with a little dollop of crème fraiche. 

 

WINE PAIRING: Ruffino Pinot Grigio

white wineFor this recipe, there’s a mix of flavors. You have the stronger mint combined with a more earthy flavor from the parsley. Then you have the sweet of the peas combined with the onion, vegetable broth, and salt and pepper components. While it’s a simple spring soup, it still has a complexity of flavors coming together. But the dominant flavor is the aromatic mint.

If you prefer a red, we’d suggest your favorite pinot noir. But if you like white, we suggest a good Italian Pinot Grigio.

Perfect for pairing with a medley of fresh herbs and veggie options, Pinot Grigio's often laid-back style allows a variety of foods to steal its spotlight. At less than $15 a bottle, Tuscany’s Ruffino Pinot Grigio bouquet is fresh and complex, showing refined notes of sage and mint accompanied by an elegant minerality typical of Pinot Grigio. It is medium bodied, lively, and elegant. A touch of minerality lingers in the finish, with notes of lemon peel. Perfect for pairing with our Minty Pea Soup.

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Special Carnevale Recipe | Jasper Mirabile’s Zeppoles

Julie Jurden

We’ve been talking about Carnevale for the past week. By now you may be wishing you were there, but missed your window to book the trip this year.  

Well, if you can’t make it to one of the many spectacular events throughout Italy, celebrate your own Carnevale at home.

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Carnevale: Masked Balls, Orange Throwing, and Paper Maiché – Oh My!

Julie Jurden

carnevale person wearing a mask in veniceCarnevale in any country is a brilliant experience, filled with theatrics, vibrant pomp and circumstance, and maybe a little mayhem. There are colorful and exuberant celebrations all over Italy, but a few stand out as the ones not to miss. Each has its own traditions making them memorable and something to try at least once.

VENICE
As the most well-known and beloved Carnevale in all of Italy, Venice hosts a two-week long festival under the freedom of le maschere, or the masks. About 3 million people travel to Venice every year just for Carnevale.


After hours of walking through the streets showcasing their costumes and graciously posing for all photo op requests, participants are likely attending one of the many masquerade balls hosted across the city. These festive balls are hosted by most of the higher-end hotels, which means they can get expensive and also require booking a reservation well in advance. But events are hosted in every sestiere, or district, with the main events centered in the Piazza San Marco or nearby Piazzetta.

The actual date of the Carnevale is the last day of the festival, Shrove Tuesday or the day before Ash Wednesday. During the entire two weeks, there are all sorts of events and entertainment every day and night, and the costumes aren’t reserved just for the final evening; they are front and center throughout the carnival.

If you plan to bring the kids, they will love the parades along the Grand Canal with all sorts of boats and gondolas decorated and filled with those in costume. Or head to the Carnevale created just for children in the Cannaregio district.

And on the very last night, there’s an incredible fireworks display shot from the waterfront near the Piazza San Marco, making it visible from just about any spot you choose.

If it’s the food you’re most interested in, you have to try the frittelle, or fritters. These irresistible fried pieces of dough can either be served plain or filled with something decadent like custard, chocolate, or, heaven help us, nutella. And they won’t be hard to find – street vendors will be selling them all over town.  

IVREA

ivera men in orangeIn a small city in the northern part of Piedmont, they host one of the more unusual events. In the town of Ivrea they celebrate with what is called the Battle of the Oranges.

According to legend, a miller’s daughter named Violetta refused to spend the night with the duke and instead chopped his head off which sparked a civil war. So now on the last day of the carnival festivities, a young woman is selected to play Violetta and lead the townspeople in a parade through the city center where her triumph is celebrated by orange throwing at the end of the parade.

If getting knocked about with a sticky citrus ball is not on your bucket list, you can don a red hat letting participants know you won’t be throwing oranges and hopefully can steer clear of any collateral damage. Instead, you can cheer them on from a comfortable distance.

At the end of the battle, they erect and burn a scarli, which is a big pole covered in dry bushes, to mark the end of the carnival season.


VIARREGIO

If pummeling fruit at one another isn’t your thing, you can make your way to Viarregio in northern Tuscany for one of the biggest Carnevale celebrations in all of Italy.

On several days throughout the entire month, they host parades that feature enormous animated floats with huge paper maiché caricatures that depict political and cultural figures of both past and present. A feast for the eyes, these incredible and artistic displays are quite imposing as they drift across the skyline one by one.

Apparently, they are so serious about their famous event that they start planning for next year’s floats the day after.

The town is filled with a variety of cultural and entertainment events, music concerts, masked balls, and an enormous fireworks finale. Restaurants offer special menus just for Carnevale, and street vendors provide specialty items such as fritters and custard to satisfy the sweet tooth.

Have we enticed you to book a trip for next years Carnevale?

See more of our series on Carnevale:
Shake off your Inhibitions, It's Carnevale

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