Italy: Pass on the Pasta

Pasta is the first dish that comes to mind when most people think of Italian cuisine. But the country’s diverse landscape makes for a palate as rich as its culture. From lush countryside vineyards to beautiful beaches where pesce (fish) governs the menu, you can experience some of the best—and most varied—Italian specialties on our Italy: Tuscany, the Alps & the Riviera vacation. Regional associate Simona Salvatori shared two recipes, both pasta-free.


Ribollita Tuscan soup

Literally meaning “reboiled,” ribollita is a rustic Tuscan specialty usually made with cannellini beans, leftover bread, and a variety of vegetables. It’s tasty year-round, although it’s appetizing to think of savoring it as we approach the chill of early fall. You can add more vegetables, such as zucchini, to your taste.

Ingredients:

1 head kale
1 head Savoy cabbage
1 onion of your choice, sliced
2 potatoes of your choice
2 celery stalks
2/3 c. cannellini (white) beans
2 glasses water
extra-virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/2 loaf stale white Italian bread, cubed


Preparation:

  1. If using dried cannellini beans, pre-soak for about 8 hours before boiling them in water according to package instructions.
  2. Chop the vegetables into large chunks, and slice the onion.
  3. In a pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add most of the onion (reserve a few slices) and cook until slices soften, stirring often. Add the other vegetables and cook for 10 minutes. Add water and half of the beans. Puree the other half, and add to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking on lowest heat setting for about 2 hours, stirring every so often.
  4. Just before serving, put the bread in a large pot and heat in the oven until crispy and warm. Add sauce over the bread, place your extra onion slices on top, and drizzle with olive oil from Umbria—or, even better, the Umbrian town of Montefalco! Place in the oven for 10 minutes, and serve hot.

Serves: 4


Risotto with Nero D’Avola wine and taleggio cheese

This dish has strong flavors, combining two products typical of two different regions: Sicily in Southern Italy, and Lombardy in the north. The flavors go well together, and satisfy a hearty appetite.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup carnaroli rice
1/2 glass Nero d’Avola wine
1/2 green onion, chopped
1 Tbs. butter
3 glasses water
1/3 cup taleggio cheese
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 glasses of broth


Preparation:

  1. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and cook over low heat for a few minutes, until softened. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, bring broth and water to a boil.
  2. Stir rice into the saucepan and cook for a minute or two before adding the wine and, after this has evaporated, keep cooking the rice with the boiling broth. Add broth a ladleful at a time, pausing after each to see if the rice absorbs it. Keep adding broth until the rice will absorb no more. The rice should be tender and creamy. This process should last about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir rice continually, adding broth and tasting as you go, adding salt and pepper to your liking.
  3. In the meantime, dice taleggio and place in a small pan with the cream. Melt on very low heat, only when the rice is almost done.
  4. Place the risotto on warmed plates, pour on the taleggio and serve with the rest of the bottle of Nero D’Avola.

Serves: 4