As I mentioned in the last article describing the various parts of an Italian meal, it is customary to have an aperitivo or cocktail before a formal meal. Some Italian cocktails are also catching on in the U.S. as the popularity of Italian liqueurs such as Campari or Limoncello (purchased or home made) continues to rise.
Following are some recipes for enjoyable Italian cocktails that can liven up your next get-together. The Italian words used for a toast include “Salute” (sah loo tay) or “Cin cin” (cheen cheen)!
Cocktail Americano: This drink was invented in the 1930s when the fascist regime dictated using national products, such as Campari (from Milan) or Vermouth (from Turin). It is believed the drink was named to commemorate the victory of Primo Carnera who became the world heavyweight boxing champion in Madison Square Garden in 1933. Read more
I challenge you to come up with some low cost, healthy and delicious recipes using leftovers and inexpensive ingredients – just like the Italians do. As you may know, Italians throw nothing away and utilize every part of the animals they consume (think of head cheese or pickled pigs feet)! This is true now more than ever.
Some of my favorite meals as a child resulted from my father or mother using kitchen leftovers. Most people know about the delicious Tuscan soups (like ribollita or pancotto) made utilizing breads – usually stale breads. Have you heard of polpette (meatballs made from leftovers – sometimes coated and fried) or fresh pasta ravioli with stuffing made from leftover fish or meat? Have you heard of soups or pasta sauces made with fish bones and fish heads or those flavored with parmesan crust?
Spaghetti with Dungeness crab (printable version)
My grandparents’ first stay in the San Francisco area was between 1912 and 1919. During this time, they were befriended by many other Italian-American families. My grandmother Nonna Assida, who was a wonderful cook and later ran her own restaurant, learned to make spaghetti with Dungeness crab from the wives of Sicilian fisherman.
This dish soon became my family’s traditional Christmas Eve pasta- a tradition that continues to this day. We serve the pasta as the first plate or primo and serve the cooked crab as a main course with a side dish or salad.
For this dish it is important to have the freshest possible crab. Buon appetito!
- One large red onion finely chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- (1) hot chili pepper, sliced or Chile pepper flakes (according to taste)
- 1/2 glass red wine
- 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed or chopped
- 2 large (2 1/2 pounds each) very fresh Dungeness crabs, preferably live. Clean and break the crab into pieces (or have the store do this for you). The crab should be all broken apart. For example the claws should be in separate pieces. Crack the pieces of crab with a crab or nut cracker.