Farro Beet Soup with Greek Yogurt, Pistachios & Orange Zest

Farro Beet Soup with Greek Yogurt, Pistachios & Orange Zest

I’m obsessed with this farro beet soup with Greek yogurt, pistachios and orange zest. Mr. Italicano is too. He even forgot that that he doesn’t like beets!

This post is sponsored by Poggio del Farro. I created the recipe, photos and video—which you can also find on their website along with many other delicious farro recipes. The writing and opinions are my own.

Really, all food can be great (or bad)—it just comes down to how you prepare the dish. Just take microwaved mushy asparagus vs. melt-in-your-mouth-shaved asparagus.  The first is seriously inedible (actually, flat out gross) the second I can down in a second. I often top my frittata with shaved asparagus or serve it with delicious fresh fish.   You can also use these green veggie curls in place of fettuccine noodles like Lindsey Ostrom does on her blog, Pinch of Yum. Watch out world,  shaved asparagus is going to be the new avocado to your toast.

Now that we got my shaved asparagus obsession out of the way, let’s get back to this amazing farro beet soup. The idea for this recipe came from Maria Speck’s lovely Simple Ancient Grain Book. She makes a bright beet soup with buckwheat and spicy horseradish, while I created mine to incorporate the irresistible flavors of the Mediterranean: a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt, nutty farro from Tuscany and pistachios and orange zest that are symbols of Sicily.

Farro is a staple in my vegetarian/pescatarian lifestyle. It’s a grain that  is high in protein, fiber and antioxidants—you can read more about the nutritional benefits here — and I love it’s subtle nutty taste and firm texture. It’s so adaptable and can be transformed into a healthy salad, homemade pasta, easy crepes, and more.

I get my farro from Poggio del Farro, a family owned company in Tuscany. They are truly “farro specialists.” The passion that they put into their work to make their products made me fall in love with this grain. When I met the owner Federico for the first time I listened as he explained that this business adventure was an act of love for his family and keeping the tradition of cultivating farro alive (many fellow farmers were switching to grains that were easier to cultivate). I’ve been substituting farro for modern refined flours more and more as the reading I’ve done shows that it is a better choice for your health. And, although I don’t have problems with gluten, I like that farro has a different kind of gluten structure than modern grains. In fact, many people with gluten sensibilities (not celiacs disease) find that they can eat this grain without adverse effects. I want to limit health problems in the future by being attentive of what I’m eating today!

Farro Beet Soup with Greek Yogurt, Pistachios & Orange Zest
 
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This vibrant and healthy farro beet soup with Greek yogurt, pistachios and orange zest incorporates the irresistible flavors of the Mediterranean.
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • For the beet soup:
  • 1 cup (200g) Dehusked Organic Farro
  • 3 cups (700ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 16oz (450g) cooked beets
  • 2-3 cups cold vegetable broth
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • For the topping:
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
  • Orange zest
Instructions
  1. Add the farro and water to a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil then add the salt and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the red onion and salt; cook until the onions are translucent, but not browned. Now add the garlic and honey and cook for another minute. Remove from heat.
  3. In a blender, add: the onion/garlic mixture, beets, 1 cup vegetable broth. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour the contents of the blender into the medium sized pot and bring to a simmer.
  5. Now that the farro is ready, drain and add to the pot with the beet soup. Add more vegetable broth to arrive at a soup-like consistency. Bring to a simmer on medium heat until warm. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper--the salt really makes the flavor come out. Ladle into bowls. Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, chives, pistachios and orange zest. Buon appetito!

This post was sponsored by Poggio del Farro and their delicious farro grains!   I created the recipe, photos and video—which you can also find on their website along with many other delicious farro recipes. The writing and opinions are my own.

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini

Easter is a week away! What better way to celebrate than to serve up a beautiful green pasta dish to your family and friends. This homemade matcha pasta with spinach, lemons and zucchini is a great vegetarian meal and, if you want to add some protein, you can top with grilled shrimp. Either way, it’s delicious.

In Italy, Easter is celebrated with a 3-hour family lunch, where laughter is abundant, hand gestures are inevitable, wine is always flowing and there is enough food on the table to feed a small army.  I don’t eat breakfast before this festive meal, otherwise I wouldn’t make it past the first course, which sometimes is still hard to do. Portions in Italy are not small, by the way.

Just to give you an idea, here is the menu for Sunday’s Easter lunch that my mother-in-law Patrizia is hosting. It’s also her birthday. Buon Compleanno :: Happy Birthday, Patrizia!

Easter Menu

Various appetizers

Ricotta & Asparagus Cannelloni

Mushroom Tortelli with Castellano Cheese and Tartufo Butter

Roasted Lamb with Parsley and Lemon Sauce

Cooked Spinach

Roasted Potatoes

Raw Vegetables with Olive Oil, Lemon and Salt

Napoleon dessert

Colomba

Ricotta Crostata

Fresh Fruit

Marsala Aged for 35 years

Passito

Caffè

The Easter bunny does not exist in the small country town where I live in the region of Emilia-Romagna.  There are no pastel weaved baskets filled with chocolates and candies to find when you wake in the morning, nor are there Easter egg hunts at the local park.  When I first started living here, I momentarily felt kind of sorry for Italian children, but then again, they have something we Americans don’t: chocolate eggs filled with surprises.

Now you may be skeptical, I mean, in America, chocolate eggs are the norm. But, these aren’t just any chocolate eggs. These oval delicacies are both fun and melt-in-your-mouth-delicious. They come in all different sizes: from eggs the size of your palms to the size of your head to the size of an adult body. The surprises are relative to the size and cost of the egg: from small little plastic figurines, to dolls and cars to giant stuffed animals (and much more).

How to open one of these chocolate eggs: Remove the shiny wrapper, admire the chocolate that you are going to shortly devour, and smash the chocolate egg against the table to reveal a plastic egg. Inside you’ll find your surprise. Outside you have all of the chocolate pieces to eat and share. Or not. 🙂

Traditional American Easter desserts are filled with colored dyes. How else would you color your cakes and frosting pastel green, yellow and pink? Believe it or not, there are so many easy ways! I used natural colorings for my pasta recipes: matcha and spinach for green, turmeric for yellow and beet puree for pink. You can also use these natural colors for your baked goods.

Here’s the thing: synthetic dyes are bad for adults and children. According to Eating Well, “Research has also associated food dyes with problems in children including allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness.”

I was actually quite tentative to use real ingredients to color my food, I mean, wouldn’t it taste weird? The surprising answer is no. Usually the amount that you add to your recipe is so minimal that you can’t even detect what ingredient it is. For instance, in this homemade matcha pasta you can’t taste the flavor of the green tea but you get all of the antioxidants and heath benefits. Is matcha tea good for kids, you ask? I found this article quite interesting.

I had a lot of fun developing this recipe; it was also quite a challenge. It took me about three tries to get the pasta the way I wanted it, and about 8 tries to find the “perfect sauce” (see my video on youtube.) I am very happy with the result and the responses during the 2 week cooking show tour in America with Smeg USA. Over the course of 17 cooking shows and demos in Chicago and New York City, I showed consumers how to make this pasta dough in Smeg’s beautiful stand mixer , and how to make the raw spinach lemon sauce in their vintage style blender.

I used their vegetable attachment to cut matchstick pieces of zucchini in seconds. Not only was it fun, but I absolutely love showing people how to eat healthy with simple recipes. It’s truly easy when you have the right kitchen tools.

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini
 
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This homemade matcha pasta with spinach, lemons and zucchini is a great vegetarian dish perfect for Easter and the arrival of spring. It's naturally colored and fresh in flavor. Enjoy!
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • For the dough for spaghetti:
  • 2½ cups + 2 tablespoons (400g) semola
  • 1⅛ cup (230g) water
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) matcha powder
  • For the dough for fettuccine or tagliolini:
  • 3 cups (14oz, 400g) farro flour
  • 4 extra large organic eggs
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) organic matcha
  • For the sauce:
  • 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ onion, skin removed and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, skin removed and finely chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 6 oz (180g) organic baby spinach
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • For the topping:
  • 2 zucchini, cut into matchstick pieces
  • 2-3 lemons
  • Chives
Instructions
  1. For the dough:
  2. Attach the dough hook to the Smeg stand mixer and add all of the ingredients for either the spaghetti dough or the fettuccine/tagliolini dough. Mix on speed 1 for 3-5 minutes until the mixture comes together as a ball, adding a spoonful of water at a time if the texture is crumbly or extra flour if the dough is sticky.  Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Attach the pasta roller accessory to the stand mixer. Divide the dough into 6 pieces, press them into flat rectangles and flour each side. Pass one of the pieces through the machine on speed 1 on no.0. Fold the ends towards each other and pass it through again. Now turn it to no.1 and pass it through three times. Let the sheets dry for 20 minutes or until they are no longer moist but not too dry where they break. Now proceed with one of the following:
  4. For Spaghetti:
  5. Attach the spaghetti attachment and pass each sheet through on speed 1. Repeat. Hang the spaghetti on a pasta rack or broom handle lined with a clean cloth and let dry completely before cooking.  Cook time: 2-4 minutes in boiling salted water.
  6. For Fettuccine & Tagliolini:
  7. Attach the fettuccine or tagliolini accessory and run one sheet through on speed 1. Repeat. Pasta can be used immediately. Cook time: 2-4 minutes (fettuccine) or 1-2 minutes (tagliolini) in boiling salted water.
  8. For the sauce:
  9. Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until translucent, but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  10. Add this mixture to a blender followed by 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, water, lemon juice, baby spinach and salt. Blend until smooth, adding more salt or lemon to taste.
  11. To plate:
  12. Cook the pasta according to the directions above. Add the sauce back to the skillet. When the pasta is done add it to the skillet along with a few spoonfuls of cooking water. Stir to distribute the sauce evenly and heat over medium heat for 30 seconds. Divide into 4-6 plates, and top with zucchini, chives and ½ lemon zest for each plate. Buon appetito!

This post is sponsored by Smeg. I only work with companies whose products I use and love.

Spring Farro Salad

Spring Farro Salad

Spring is officially here! What better way to kick off this season than with a delicious spring farro salad that is easy to make and packed with flavor. Plump chewy and lovely nutty farro grains are the star of this recipe.

Spring-Farro-SaladFarro is an ancient grain high in protein that is grown in Emilia-Romana, Tuscany and other regions of Italy. I really like the farro products from Poggio del Farro, a family owned company in Tuscany. They have a range of products that are delicious, healthy and easy to prepare. Try combining flavorful farro wheat berries with seasonal vegetables and this lemon Dijon vinaigrette and you’ll surprise yourself with how simple it is to prepare a stunning and mouthwatering main course or side dish for your family and friends.

Spring Farro Salad I created this recipe for my cooking shows with Smeg in Chicago and New York City. While Spring had sprung in Italy, little did I know that a snow storm would be heading my way when we landed in Chicago last week! We arrived with sunshine and optimal temps but awoke to a flurry of snow. It was quite a sight. Luckily it was just a one day ordeal and the snow quickly melted in the following days. Thank goodness! I am so over winter…bring on spring and all the good seasonal fruits & veggies, t-shirts and light weight coats and longer days of sunshine.

Spring Farro Salad
 
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This delicious spring farro salad with lemon and dijon vinaigrette is easy to make and packed with flavor. Enjoy!
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • For the salad:
  • 1½ (300g) cups farro (emmer) grains, Poggio di Farro
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 carrots, chopped or grated
  • 1 fennel, chopped or grated
  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup packed organic spinach (1 oz, 30g), chopped
  • 3.5 oz (100g) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 2 tablespoons (6g) chopped chives
  • For the sauce:
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 organic lemon, juiced
  • Zest from ½ organic lemon
  • 2 tablespoon (30g) Dijon
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Add the farro and water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Cook according to the package instructions.
  2. In the meantime, add of the ingredients for the sauce to a bowl and stir.
  3. When the farro is done, drain and pour into a serving bowl. Add the carrots, fennel, radishes, spinach, Parmigiano Reggiano, chives and the sauce. Mix well. Serve warm or cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator and serve cold. Buon appetito!

Here are some photos of the shows in Chicago at Williams-Sonoma , Eataly, Bloomingdales and the IHHS tradeshow . We had a great time in Chicago and are now having a lot of fun at our shows in NYC. If you want to see more photos, check out my Facebook or Instagram pages.  March 26, I will be at Bloomingdale’s NY 59th from 12-2pm and will be making this salad along with beet farro crepes topped with ricotta, blood oranges, pistachios, honey and aged balsamic vinegar. I look forward to hopefully seeing you there!

Upcoming Cooking Shows: The Easy Way To Prepare Ancient Grains

Upcoming Cooking Shows: The Easy Way To Prepare Ancient Grains

Mr. Italicano and I have just arrived in the USA! Over the next two weeks we’ll be in Chicago and New York City, doing a variety of “Ancient Grain Farro Cooking Shows” with Smeg USA at Williams-Sonoma, Eataly, Bloomingdales and the IHA trade show. For complete details you can check out my event calendar. I would love to see you there! I look forward to teaching you how to make nutritious meals with this superfood grain. I’ll show you how easy and quick my recipes are to prepare, with Smeg USA’s practical and beautiful 1950’s style appliances.

Every since moving to Italy, I have adapted a Mediterranean lifestyle.  I cook simple recipes made with natural and fresh ingredients that explode with flavors. During my last cooking shows, many complaints by the audience was that they are passionate about cooking but don’t have the time to get in the kitchen. I disagree. With the right recipes and kitchen tools, making homemade meals takes less time than going to a restaurant, let alone the meal will cost a fraction of the price! I talk more about this topic in an earlier post.

The art of eating well and feeling good is simplicity. When I got this basic principal down, I didn’t mind getting in the kitchen to cook because it wasn’t a strenuous task, but a way to have fun, relax, slow down and be mindful about what I was putting into my and Mr. Italicano’s bodies. Simplicity also means having a few tricks up my sleeves for our modern lives. Just like I wouldn’t go to the nearest river stream to wash my clothes (thank goodness for washing machine’s!), I also don’t waste my time mashing, kneading, rolling out, chopping and cooking every day. In fact, to keep my life simple, these are recipes that you can make once and enjoy them the following days. I also use use a blender, stand mixer, and a variety of attachments that do a lot of the work for me in rapid time. I heart technology that supports my mission to eat healthy and homemade.

I’ll be posting these recipes soon to my blog, but in the meantime here is a sneak peak on what I will be preparing at these fun culinary demonstrations in Chicago and NYC!

1. Farro Beet Soup with Greek Yogurt and Pistachios 

2. Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Zucchini and Lemons 

3. Beet Crepes with Ricotta, Arugula, Blood Oranges and Aged Balsamic Vinegar 

4. Spring Farro Salad with a Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette 

In the meantime, you can follow along on YouTube! We’ll be posting frequent episodes of our day preparing and cooking at these events (and hopefully discovering some good restaurants as well!) I would really appreciate your feedback and support. Please leave us a comment on youtube! Thanks so much!

Ciao ciao!

Cindy

This post is in collaboration with Smeg USA, but all of my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Homemade Saffron Gnocchi

Homemade Saffron Gnocchi

So what does International Women’s Day and homemade saffron gnocchi have in common? Well, if you have ever visited Italy on this day, this dish may remind you of the mimosa spring that is given to women to celebrate March 8th,, La Festa delle Donne. All throughout Italy, you’ll find this lovely yellow blossom handed to women as a symbol of love, appreciation and when given woman to woman, as a sign of solidarity.

This lovely Italian tradition inspired me to create a dish that resembles the mimosa. Cooking a homemade meal is my favorite way to show a gesture of my love, so dear readers, this mimosa dish is for you.This is my gesture of solidarity and admiration towards women. We are stronger today than ever before, we love to share and give, we love to create, we love to cultivate and we especially love to grow. We’re like these fluffy gnocchi: simple in nature, good and each piece, is one of a kind. 

Homemade saffron gnocchi is a simple and genuine dish to make for your special group of friends. 100% handmade. In every bite your friends get a taste of your love. Here’s to equality for women, not just once a year, but every day.

Homemade Saffron Gnocchi
 
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Homemade saffron gnocchi is a simple and genuine dish to make for your special group of friends to celebrate International Women’s Day. 100% handmade. In every bite your friends get a taste of your love. Here’s to equality for women, not just once a year, but every day.
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • For the gnocchi:
  • 2.2 lbs (1 kg) potatoes suitable for gnocchi
  • 1½ to 2½ cups (150-300g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • For the saffron sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) butter
  • 8oz (240ml) heavy cream
  • 1 pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons of hot water
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Wash the potatoes with their skins on. Drop them into a large pot, fill with cold water, then bring them to boil over medium-high heat until the potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain. While hot, peel them then pass them through a potato masher, letting them fall onto a large floured workspace.
  2. In a small cup, add the hot water and saffron threads. Allow them to infuse for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add half of the flour, a few pinches of salt and work the flour and potatoes together. Make a well and add the egg and continue kneading the mixture, adding little by little more flour until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough into a large loaf, then cut into slices like you would a loaf of bread. Roll out each slice into a small looking bread stick, making sure to use a small amount of flour so it doesn’t stick to the work surface. Slice into small pieces. For regular gnocchi, you can cook right away or roll off the tins of a fork to create marks or for festive gnocchi that look like the mimosa flower, a symbol of  La Festa della Donne or Women’s Day, roll each piece into a ball.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  5. In the meantime, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a skillet and add the heavy cream. Add the infused saffron water (you can also filter the water if you don’t want saffron threads to show), salt and black pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. Salt the water with 1-2 tablespoons of coarse salt and add the gnocchi. Cook until the gnocchi float to the top;1-2 minutes. Drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water, and add the gnocchi to the skillet. Add a spoonful or two of cooking water. Mix until the sauce is the right consistency and remove from heat. Serve warm with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Buon appetito!