Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

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Recipe of the Week (November 16, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on November 17, 2015 at 1:45 PM

Pasticciata di Polenta con Mele (Polenta Casserole with Sauteed Apples, Speck, Fontina Cheese and Crispy Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Topping)


        This recipe takes us to the region of Trentino Alto Adige where apples and fine cured hams make their way into simple rustic dishes. Here is a polenta casserole that goes well alongside roasted or grilled pork, chicken and sausage. Be sure to make it with crisp fresh apples. The sweetness of the apple pairs nicely with the creamy Fontina cheese and smoked ham. It is something you might find at a trendy osteria in the chic ski resort of Cortina D’Ampezzo or an upscale Italian restaurant in Manhattan. Serve it as an appetizer with a glass of red Barbaresco wine from Piemonte or a red Merlot from Veneto.



Instant Polenta (1 batch)

Asiago or Fontina Cheese (¾ lb)

Speck (¼ lb slab)

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (about ½ cup)

Butter (8 tbs)

Apples (4)

Walnuts (2/3 cup)

Spanish Onion (½ large)

Garlic (3 cloves)

Sage (½ tbs -chopped, packed firm)

Cinnamon (½ tsp)

Black pepper (to taste)

Salt (to taste)


        Prepare a firm polenta following the instructions on the package. Then, transfer it to a baking tray, smooth it to ½ inch thickness, and slice it into 3 inch squares. Toast the walnuts in a preheated 375 degree oven for 5 minutes or until golden. Dice the onion, garlic and speck and chop the sage. Place the butter in a frying pan, set it on a medium low burner, add the onion and garlic, season with black pepper, and saute until soft. Next, add the speck and sage, and continue sautéing for another 2 minutes. Then peel, core and chop the apples, add them to the frying pan with the walnuts and cinnamon, and continue sautéing until the apples are tender, but still firm. If necessary re-season with salt and black pepper.


        Brush the inside of a 14 by 9 ½ inch baking dish with softened butter. Next, add a layer of polenta, fitting the pieces snugly in the casserole dish. Spoon the apple mixture and all of the sauce from the pan evenly over top. Then, add a layer of asiago cheese and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Tent the casserole with aluminum foil and bake it for 20 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven. Then, remove the foil, raise the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for another 7 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve hot. Serves 6 adults.

Categories: Appetizers, Snacks, Soups, and Salads

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Reply mariabella
12:43 AM on November 29, 2015 
Well Bill, I did try this recipe for Thanksgiving and as I thought, my family loved it. Thanks.
Reply mariabella
12:44 AM on November 23, 2015 
Hi Bill, this looks very interesting. I think I will incorporate it into my Christmas dinner. My family loves to try different dishes. They love polenta so I think they will love this recipe. Will let you know how it turns out. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

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Roll Out Pie Dough with Ease Using Plastic Wrap

This is an old trick I learned years ago from my mother. The next time you bake a pie, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin and will make it easier to transport the dough from your work surface to the pie dish or baking sheet.

Cover your entire work surface with plastic wrap and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the wrap, pat it down to 1 inch thickness, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and then cover it with a second layer of wrap. Roll out the dough to just less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the top layer of wrap. Lift the dough using the bottom layer of wrap, turn it on to a lightly greased pie dish or baking sheet, and then remove the wrap. Its quick and easy! 

Tips on Italian Ingredients

 Frying Tomato Paste Enhances the Flavor and Adds Depth to Your Dish

Many recipes direct you to stir tomato paste into a sauce, soup or stew. However, frying the tomato paste first fully develops its flavor and eliminates any raw or metallic taste. It is a quick and easy way to enhance the flavor of your dish. Tomato paste should always be added at the beginning of a recipe, rather than at the end. This allows its flavor to marry with the dish. Add it immediately after sautéing your aromatics in olive oil or rendered fat. When the aromatics are soft, push them to one side of your pot or frying pan. Place a dollop of tomato paste on the other side, tilt the pot or frying pan to pool the oil around the tomato paste, and let it gently sizzle for about 2 minutes.  After the tomato paste has fried, incorporate it into the aromatics and then add the liquid and other ingredients to complete your sauce, soup or stew. 

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