Panini Girl

My obsessions-Italy and Cooking


April 17, 2018


Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo


What to do on our first night in Rome after a very long travel day of trains, planes and automobiles? Why-pizza, of course! Last year while in town we spent a morning eating our way through the Testaccio area of the city with the Eating Rome walking tour. It was our first time venturing into this part of the city and we were immediately enamored with this untouristy neighborhood located across the river from the better known Trastevere. Right then we agreed that we would make this our home base on our next visit to Rome.



Testaccio is known for its food and there’s no shortage of places to eat. I had originally planned on heading to the well known Da Remo, but changed my mind to Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo after reading about it on Natalie’s blog, An American In Rome. Seeing that we were tired and starving  I was hoping that we might be seated quickly and we were.



There are pasta and other dishes on the menu, but pizza is the focus here. I have a soft spot for suppli-the fried rice ball similar to Sicily’s arancini- and this was the perfect starter. We are pretty much traditionalists when it comes to pizza, especially on the first visit to a pizzeria and ordered a margherita and a funghi. The pizza was thin and crispy with just the right amount of toppings. Initially I thought I would never finish the whole pie, but before I knew it my plate was empty.



Looking at these photos I think next time I would order a pizza with zucchini blossoms or maybe what looks like spinach and sausage in the first picture. And here’s the man who makes it all happen-Nuovo Mondo’s pizzaiolo.


Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo
Via Amerigo Vespucci, 15
Rome, Italy


April 3, 2018


Pizza Rustica di Pasqua



torta 2

another slice

Without fail my grandmother made her version of this torta  every spring during Easter week. I remember her packing up a piece for me to take on the train ride back to college. We always called it Easter Pie. After she passed away it was years before I attempted to recreate this specialty from Campania. One day while perusing the LA Times food section I saw the following recipe.  When I made it  I was transported back in time to my grandmother’s kitchen. I wish I had her actual recipe (she never wrote anything down) but I have to admit that this one comes pretty close. I hope your Easter was wonderful.

Pizza Rustica Alla Napoletana (adapted from the LA Times)

Pasta Frolla (Crust)
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in bowl of food processor and pulse to mix. Evenly distribute butter over mixture and pulse until very finely powdered, about 10 times. Add eggs and continue to pulse until dough forms ball.
Remove dough and press into disc. Wrap and chill. Dough may be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen. If frozen defrost in refrigerator overnight.

1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 pound shredded prosciuitto
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 egg beaten with dash salt (for egg wash)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place ricotta in mixing bowl and stir in eggs, 1 at a time to make a smooth mixture. Stir in pepper, cheeses, prosciutto and parsley.
Butter 9 inch springform pan. Cut off 1/3 of dough and roll into a disc and set aside. Roll remaining dough into large disc (about 14 inches) and ease into prepared pan. Spoon in ricotta mixture and spread evenly. Top with smaller piece of dough and fold down edge (of dough in pan) to seal. Brush with egg wash. Make 4 small slits in top of dough.
Bake on bottom rack set on lowest level for about 45 minutes until filling is set and top is golden. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before unmolding. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes about 10 servings.

March 17, 2018


Biscotti di Greve


I am of the sort for which breakfast constitutes a cappuccino and something sweet, preferably a cookie. I’ve been known to have a piece of chocolate with that morning coffee if nothing else is available. I really try to have a tin of homemade cookies on the counter at all times and if J. had his way, it would always be filled with these biscotti. They are incredibly crunchy, very nutty, yet not too sweet-the perfect way to start the day.

Biscotti di Greve

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups whole almonds,toasted and coarsely chopped
egg wash-1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

In bowl of electric mixture fitted with paddle, blend flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and combine well. In small bowl whisk together eggs, yolk and vanilla and add to flour mixture, blend until dough is formed and add almonds. If your dough seems too dry, add the remaining egg white.

Turn dough onto lightly floured board, knead several times and halve . With floured hands form each piece into a flattish log, about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide and place on parchemnt lined baking sheet. Brush logs with egg wash.

Bake the logs on 300 degree oven for 50 minutes and the let them cool on a baking sheet for 10 minutes.
On a cutting board cut the logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices, arrange cut sides down on baking sheet and bake them for 15 minutes on each side.

Transfer to cooling racks and cool. Store in airtight container. Makes about 48 biscotti.
You can vary this recipe by changing the nuts (I love them with hazelnuts) or by adding freshly grated orange zest or chocolate chips. Use your imagination!


February 20, 2018




The first time I’d ever heard of “posole” we were in Santa Fe having dinner at the home of a friend. It was cold and snowy and she wanted us to taste this stew she had prepared. It was the perfect meal for a winter evening-warm and spicy, filled with chunks of pork and this white corn which is similar to hominy. I enjoyed it, but J. was completely won over and from then on made it a point to search for posole every time we went to a Mexican restaurant.

It turns out that outside of New Mexico, this really isn’t the easiest dish to find in a restaurant, which means I had to start making it at home. Armed with my cook book from the great Cafe Pasqual in Santa Fe, I set out to recreate this stew. The hardest part was finding the “posole” which is white field corn that has been processed to remove its hard outer husk. If you use dried posole, it takes about five hours to cook. Fresh-frozen cooks in about two to three hours. I’ve made it both ways, but in recent years I’ve resorted to using canned hominy which is the closest thing I’ve been able to find.

Posole Stew (adapted from Cafe Pasqual cookbook)

1 28 oz. can hominy
10 ounces pork shoulder (I use more) trimmed of fat and cut into cubes
Green chile sauce (recipe below)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, finely diced
4 dried new Mexican chiles
2 tablespoons chile powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups water

Green Chile Sauce

About 1-1/2 pounds fresh, mild green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups)-I used Anaheims
About 3/4 pound fresh, hot New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)-I used poblanos
4 cups water
1/2 white onion, cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour

Make the green chili sauce:

Place all the ingredients, except the oil and flour, in a large saucepan over medium heat. Simmer uncovered, until juice has thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In a small bow whisk together oil and flour. Place in a saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and whisk constantly until the roux is slightly brown and has a nutty flavor. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup green chile mixture to the roux and whisk until smooth. Add the roux to the remaining chile mixture and cook over low heat until the sauce thickens and the flour taste disappears, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Make the “posole”:

In a frying pan warm dried red chilies over medium heat for about 6 minutes, turning over once or twice. Remove chiles, remove the seeds and stems and place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. After the chiles are softened place in a blender with a little of the smoking liquid and puree.

Place all of the ingredients (except the hominy), including the green chile sauce, in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Add water as needed. I usually cook this for about 3 hours and add the canned hominy during the last 45 minutes. When the stew is ready it should have the consistency of a thick soup.  Adjust seasoning and serve with traditional garnishes of slced radish, avocado chunks, lime wedges and tortilla strips.

Want to get a group together for one wonderful week in Lucca? Contact me at





February 11, 2018


Spinach and Chard Nudi


gnudi 2

Looking for a vegetarian dish that packs lots of flavor, well look no further. It’s been ages since I made these and they are just as good as I remember. Think spinach ravioli without the pasta wrapper. Once again I was a little concerned that they might fall apart in the boiling water, but rest assured they didn’t.  The nudi are a perfect combination of leafy greens and creamy cheese. They are delicate, incredibly light and a simple tomato sauce is all you need to finish the dish.

Do you know Domenica Marchetti? She’s the author of a variety of cookbooks on Italian cuisine and this recipe is from her The Glorious Vegetables of Italy. I have quite a few of her books and have had great success with everything I’ve made from them.

Spinach and Chard Nudi

1 pound swiss chard, stems removed and reserved for another use, leaves shredded

8 ounces  fresh spinach leaves

12 ounces fresh sheep’s milk or well-drained cow’s milk ricotta cheese

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 cup  freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

1/4 cup flour, plus more for coating the nudi

3 cups of your favorite simple tomato sauce, heated to a simmer

Rinse the shredded chard leaves in cold water. Place the leaves, with the water still clinging to them, into a large saucepan, cover, and set the pan over medium heat. Cook the chard, tossing it from time to time, for 12 to 15 minutes, until tender and most of the water has evaporated. Turn off the heat, and using tongs, transfer the chard to a colander and let it cool. Rinse out the saucepan and return it to the stove.
Rinse the spinach leaves in cold water. Place the leaves, with the water still clinging to them, into the saucepan, cover, and set the pan over medium heat. Cook the spinach, tossing it from time to time with tongs, for 5 minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat and transfer to the colander with the chard to cool.
When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze as much excess water from them as you can. Transfer them to a cutting board and chop finely. You should end up with about 1 packed cup of freshly chopped greens weighing between 7 and 8 ounces.
Place the greens in a large bowl and add the ricotta, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a generous grinding of pepper, the nutmeg, the Parmigiano, and the egg yolks. Mix together gently but thoroughly. Sprinkle in the flour, and gently fold it into the mixture.
Pour some flour into a small shallow bowl. Have ready a large rimmed baking sheet lined with waxed paper or dusted with flour. With your hands, pinch off a piece of the greens mixture, form it into a ball about the size of a chestnut, roll it in the flour, and set it on the baking sheet. Continue to form the nudi until you have used all of the greens mixture.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and salt generously. Carefully drop in 8 to 10 nudi. Within 1 or 2 minutes, they will begin to float to the surface. Continue to cook the nudi for another 5 to 6 minutes, until they have floated to the surface and are puffed up. With a large skimmer, remove the nudi and transfer them to a warmed serving bowl.
Spoon about 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the nudi and mix very gently. Continue to cook the nudi until you have cooked them all. When they have all been added to the serving bowl, spoon additional sauce over the top and sprinkle with Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

January 26, 2018


Winter Vegetable Tart


Over the past week I spent more than a few hours pouring over cookbooks and thumbing through my ever expanding file of recipes looking for an idea for a lunch I was preparing for a few friends. I thought I had settled on a hearty soup paired with crusty homemade rolls, but I kept coming back to this recipe from Gail Simmons (of Top Chef fame) that I had torn out of Food & Wine a few months back.


One of the things I love about this type of  rustic tart is that the crust is really stress free. The dough is made in the food processor and simple to roll out. Since it’s “free form” you don’t have to worry about making it look perfect. Top the dough with a ricotta and herb spread, pile on the shaved vegetables and fold up the dough.

I followed the recipe as written, but you can substitute whatever you might have on hand-carrots, fennel, shaved brussel sprouts or sweet potatoes. Paired with a green salad and you’ve got lunch. Serve a small slice with a glass of wine as a starter at your next dinner party.


Winter Vegetable Tart


3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 
plus more for dusting

3/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


2 tablespoons extra-virgin 
olive oil

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

Kosher salt


1 cup whole-milk ricotta

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 large garlic clove, finely grated

1 teaspoon thyme leaves, plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon minced oregano, plus leaves for sprinkling

1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary, plus leaves for sprinkling

1/2 pound acorn or butternut squash—seeded, peeled and shaved into ribbons

1/2 pound celery root, peeled and shaved into ribbons

1 small baking potato, peeled and shaved into ribbons

1 large egg beaten with 
1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 teaspoons honey, warmed

Make the dough In a food processor, combine both flours with the salt and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until pea-size pieces form. Add the sour cream, ice water and lemon juice and pulse until the dough starts to come together. Transfer to a light floured work surface, gather any crumbs and knead until smooth. Pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Make the filling Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the shallot, season with salt and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 
5 minutes. Let cool.

In a small bowl, mix the ricotta with the lemon zest, garlic, the 1 teaspoon of thyme and the minced oregano and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss 
the squash with the celery root, potato and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

On a lightly floured work 
surface, roll out the dough to 
a 13-inch round. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Spread the ricotta on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Pile the squash mixture on the ricotta and scatter the shallots on top. Fold 1 1/2 inches of the dough edge over the vegetables. Sprinkle with thyme, oregano and rosemary leaves. Brush the dough edge with the beaten egg.

Bake the galette for 15 minutes, until starting to brown. Sprinkle the Parmigiano over the filling and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the crust is golden.

In a small bowl, mix the honey with the lemon juice. Drizzle the lemon honey 
over the galette. Serve warm 
or at room temperature.

January 13, 2018


Chicken Thighs With Fennel


If I had to choose my favorite one dish dinner, this may just be the one.  I was introduced to this recipe and to the pleasure of fennel many years ago in a cooking class I took with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who until last year was co-host of the popular Splendid Table radio show.  As a young enthusiastic cook I had the opportunity to spend six weeks with Lynne studying the basics of cooking and I credit her for giving me a strong foundation in the culinary arts.

The original recipe for this dish calls for rabbit and although I have eaten it various times in Italy, I’ve yet to prepare it myself. I’m a big fan of chicken thighs and the long roasting  results in a meat that is falling off the bone.

I have made many a convert to fennel with this dish. If you’ve tasted raw fennel you know that it has a very distinct licorice-like taste. It is crisp and so flavorful and I love it dipped in a little coarse salt. When roasted with olive oil it becomes meltingly tender and its flavor mellows out and it hardly resembles its original form. Along with roasted onions and garlic, the fennel is a wonderful counterpoint to the roasted meat. Each bite is better than the next and I’ve yet to serve this dish to anyone who wasn’t thrilled by it. If you happen to have fennel pollen in your pantry go ahead and sprinkle some over the  chicken and the vegetables.

chicken w:fennel

Pollo Al Forno Con Finnochio
(Chicken Roasted With Sweet Fennel)

8  bone in chicken thighs
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 branch fresh rosemary (about 1 inch), chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 bulbs fresh fennel (I like to use more), cored and cut into wedges
1 large onion, cut into wedges
3 ounces pancetta, minced
3 cloves garlic, split
1 teaspoon fennel seed, coarsely ground
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh fennel leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pan Sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup stock

Make a paste of 1 clove garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and rub over chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least a few hours, but better if you do it the night before.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the meat in a roasting pan (large enough to hold meat and vegetables in a single layer). Scatter the vegetables and garlic around the meat, and add fennel seed, pancetta and fennel tops. Sprinkle with olive oil. Roast 1/2 hour, basting often with juices. Pour in the wine and roast for about an hour, basting often and turning pieces. Add a little water if the juices are drying up. Lynne’s recipe calls for turning the oven to 450 for 15 minutes but I’ve never felt the need to do that. My chicken always seems to have a nice brown color and I think more time would dry it out a little. Maybe with rabbit, the extra time would be better.

Remove meat and vegetables from pan. Quickly make a sauce by setting roasting pan over burners and adding wine and stock. Scrape up the brown bits from the pan, boil liquid down to about half, pour into a small pitcher and serve with meat. Many times I forgo the sauce and just scrape everything form the pan onto the meat when serving!