Summer is around the corner, which means BBQs, lighter foods and cool desserts. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with anything lemon! And summer is the perfect time for lemon desserts and frosty drinks. Que in the lemon sgroppino!
This is another specialty from the Veneto region, (think tiramisu). In 2018, I conducted a food and wine tour of the Veneto region. We stayed in a beautiful villa and cooked and prepared many of our meals and drinks and this drink soon became a gropu favorite. What’s not to love about this? It’s perfect any time! Believe it or not, this lemony drink is the perfect cocktail to start a meal, to end it, or even serve in between courses to cleanse the palate during heavy meals! It also makes a great dessert drink, almost like an adult shake! Pair this drink with some crunchy biscotti or Amaretti cookies and you have yourself the perfect treat to end those summer BBQs!
1 cup chilled Prosecco
2 tablespoons chilled vodka
½ cup lemon sherbet
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
Mint leaves (optional)
Is there anything more delicious than a ricotta cannoli? A classic Sicilian dessert, cannoli are tubular fried dough, filled with a smooth and creamy filling of ricotta. Purchasing pre-made shells saves hours of time in the kitchen, not to mention that by not having to fry the shells, the clean-up is a snap. There’s no shame in getting a little help in the kitchen once in a while. Let’s call it semi-homemade, shall we? Amazon has several options for different size shells; you can also check your local grocery store’s bakery department too, as they will likely have them, and sell you some empty shells to fill at home. Because the filling is only a few key ingredients, purchase the best ricotta you can find, made from whole milk only. Bel Gioioso is my preferred brand when I made them at home.
Cannoli are best filled immediately upon serving, so prepare the cream when you’re done with dinner and ready to serve dessert. Or you can prepare the cream beforehand, refrigerate it, and just hold off on filling the shells until you’re ready to serve. You can refrigerate them for up to 1 day, but expect the shell to get a bit soggy.
½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup powdered sugar, plus additional for dusting
4 cups whole milk ricotta
8 large cannoli shells
16 maraschino cherries (optional)
½ cup miniature chocolate chips (optional)
Crushed pistachios (optional)
Summer is around the corner and for many of us, that usually means travel and vacation. For me, it usually means travel to Italy, but this year, with things still a bit in the air, pun intended, a trip to Italy may not be in the cards. If traveling outside the US is in question, but you still need an Italy fix, I’d like to recommend a visit to the many “Little Italy” spots that can be found in the US. New York’s Little Italy is perhaps one of the most popular, but my personal preference is for Boston’s North End, perhaps because it’s only a few miles from my home, and a neighborhood I am very familiar with.
The North End is Boston’s oldest residential neighborhood, and one of the oldest neighborhoods in the US. While once home to Italian immigrants who couldn’t wait to move to the suburbs, it is now one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Massachusetts.
It was throughout the 20th century that Italians arrived and started making it their own by opening many businesses such as restaurants, bakeries and other food establishments. The Prince Macaroni Company was born on Prince Street in the North End. Italians also brought with them their religious customs and festivals, still celebrated today.
Summer weekends in the North End are like one giant street party. The religious celebrations are accompanied by musical bands proudly playing old Italian tunes, street vendors, food stalls, face painting for the youngsters and religious processions.
With its narrow and dense streets, the one-square mile neighborhood is home to approximately 10,000 residents. With over 100 restaurants and bakeries to choose from, visitors mostly flock to the North End to eat! Hanover Street is the “Main Street” of the North End and one can easily spend several hours strolling and stopping at the numerous shops or historical sites along the way.
What to See:
Old North Church
193 Salem Street
One of the oldest and most visited sites in Boston, the Old North Church dates back to 1723 and is one of the major stops on the Freedom Trail. Visited by over a half million sightseers annually, you can opt for a self-guided tour or one led by a guide.
The Paul Revere House
19 North Square
Built in 1860, the home of famous Patriot Paul Revere is still standing with 90% of the current structure being original, although as one might expect, it has been restored several times. Visitors of all ages are welcomed and can take part in self-guided tours.
St. Leonard’s Church
320 Hanover Street
Celebrating Mass in Italian every Sunday at 10:30AM, St. Leonard’s is where many North End Italians residents reunite for Sunday Mass. Having just completed a multi-million-dollar remodel, the church is frequently visited by visitors from near and far.
Where to go for a quick lunch or food souvenirs
289 Hanover Street
Their menu is limited, they accept cash only, the décor is rustic at best, they open only from 10:45AM to 2:30PM, or whenever they sell out, and you’ll be served wine in a plastic cup, but a visit to the North End would be incomplete without a stop at what locals simply call Umberto’s. If you are visiting right around noon, you’ll see a line wrap around the outside, don’t let it scare you, it moves quickly and their pan pizza, calzones, arancini and panzerotti are worth the wait.
11 Board Alley (Behind 241 Hanover Street)
Hidden behind Hanover Street, you’d likely walk right past Bricco Panetteria without even knowing it’s there. Owned by native Italian restaurateur Frank DePasquale, who owns and runs numerous North End eateries, Bricco Panetteria is a combination bread shop, pasta shop, salumeria, and importer of Italian meats, oils and canned tomatoes. With a few tables hidden in the alley, they serve delicious panini and a few select hot items.
151 Richmond Street
Located on the Freedom Trail, Salumeria Italiana is a staple for North End residents and visitors alike. An all-around small Italian grocer, they offer limited panini during the lunch hours. Carrying imported products such as salumi, cheeses, canned tomatoes, tuna packed in oil and Italian packaged cookies, you’re sure to find hundreds of Italian products to select from as souvenirs.
Where to go for a sit-down dinner:
24 Fleet Street
As if the handmade pasta, homemade meatballs, creamy polenta and braised meats weren’t enough to prompt a visit to Prezza, wine aficionados will certainly appreciate the 6000 bottles from more than 600 labels offered. Named after the Abbruzzese village from which the owner, Anthony Caturano’s grandmother hails from, Prezza is sure to please the most discerning eater.
Lucca Restaurant and Bar
226 Hanover Street
Serving Northern Italian delights, Lucca is a favorite among locals, tourists and local companies hosting corporate parties. Hailed as one of Boston’s best fine dining experiences, Lucca boasts a large dinner menu with handmade pastas, seafood, grilled meats and ample sized appetizers.
307 Hanover Street
If you’re taste buds are craving something a bit spicier, head over to Carmelina’s. Serving typical Sicilian cuisine, Carmelina is one of the newest North End restaurant at just around seven years old. While the menu offers various selections, some of the seafood favorites include the spaghetti puttanesca, exploding little neck clams and tuna arrabbiata.
Where to go for dessert:
257 Hanover Street
A staple in the North End for over 70 years, Modern Pastry is where all Italian and Italian Americans go to for their wedding cakes, rum cakes or any other specialty cake that requires a taste of true, authentic Italy. Be sure not to miss indulging in their filled-to-order cannoli, ricotta pasticciotto, which is a miniature of their best-selling ricotta pie, and the ever-popular lobster tail, large enough to be shared by at least two.
300 Hanover Street
With their unmistakable blue and white box, Mike’s Pastry is the go-to shop for all tourists and visitors coming from out of town. Founded by native Italian Michael Mercogliano in 1946, the bakery has Americanized its menu substantially over the years, but you’ll still find Italian classics such as Tiramisu, Parigini and Sfogliatelle. Although it offers ample seating space, those seats fill quick, so do like everyone else does and grab some goodies to go, and make your way down Hanover Street eating right out of the box, you’ll be in good company.
My first cookbook is entitled The Five Ingredient Italian Cookbook, my second cookbook is Pasta in a Pinch and my third cookbook, to be released later this year is entitled 30-Minute Italian. Do you see a theme here? I love creating and recreating recipes that are easy, ideal for week-nights and that don’t keep the home cook tied to the kitchen for hours on end. With that said, sometimes an occasion calls for something a little fancier, and requires a little more work. Que in the meat stuffed shells. Now, we all know and many of us make the ricotta stuffed shells, and those are good, but meat ones? Meat ones are, well, honestly, so much better! I recently led a Zoom cooking class where we prepared these and folks could not believe how great they were. Sure, they take a bit of effort, and you also need to prepare a homemade tomato sauce beforehand, but they’re the perfect week-end meal, when you have a bit more time and want to prepare something special.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
Yields about 3 cups of sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil
Salt to taste – about 1 teaspoon
1 28 oz can of crushed peeled tomatoes
1 cup water
Filling for the shells
1 12-oz box large stuffing shells
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1½ lb ground meat (you can use beef, beef + veal, or all turkey)
Salt - to taste
Ground black pepper – to taste (optional)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for top
½ - ¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 cup prepared tomato sauce, divided (see recipe above)
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
2. In a large sauté pan set to medium – low heat, add the oil and butter and heat for a minute. Add the onion, garlic and parsley and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes until onion is softened and slightly translucent.
3. Add the ground meat, season with salt and pepper, and using a wooden spoon, break it down to a crumble and cook the meat for 15 minutes, continuing to stir to assure nothing is sticking to the pan. If the meat is drying up too quickly, reduce the heat.
4. Close the heat and add the grated cheese and breadcrumbs and mix well.
5. Add about 1 cup of the prepared sauce and stir into the meat gently. Mixture should be moist, but neither overly wet, nor dry. If it’s too wet, add an additional tablespoon or so of breadcrumbs. If mixture is too dry, add a few additional tablespoons of the prepared tomato sauce.
6. Meanwhile, add the shells to the boiling water and cook according to instructions for pre-baking, generally about 9 – 10 minutes. Drain the shells completely.
7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a Pyrex dish or other baking pan with about 1 cup of the prepared tomato sauce. Spreading it on the pan evenly. Stuff each shell with a generous amount of the meat filling and add it to the pan. Continue until all the shells are stuffed, lining the shell tightly next to each other. Add the remaining sauce on top of the shells and using the back of a spoon or small spatula, spread the sauce. Sprinkle additional cheese on top of the shells and bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Serve hot.
Hi there, thanks for visiting my blog! Here you will find recipes, short stories, tales, rants and whatever else is on my mind with regards to food, Italy, travel and along those lines. Drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you!