Discover Southern Italian Cooking

The food in southern Italy is not only different in itself, but quite varied from the food of northern Italy. I’ve traveled to three of the the southern Italian regions, including Campania, where pizzas are served hot from from wood-fired ovens, often bathed in local mozzarella. Puglia, the “heel of the boot”, is a gorgeous area heavy with olive trees. It’s where orechiette pasta is hand-formed by family members while sitting outside their homes on cool mornings, and milk is made into the finest cheese, including burrata which should be consumed within 24 hours to be most appreciated. I’ve been to Sicily where I learned to make cannoli, the shells formed from dough that has local Marsala wine, and the filling is made from sheep’s ricotta and pistachios from Mt. Etna. My favorite snack in Sicily is arancini, named after the abundant oranges on the island. They are fried risotto balls filled with cheese, and sometimes meat sauce.

I love to teach what I’ve learned in my travels around the world, but one of my favorite cooking classes is the foods from southern Italy. My most recent class this summer was attended by twenty people eager to learn (and taste) the delicious recipes I learned on my Italian travels. We started with Arancini filled with Pecorino and fresh herbs, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried to a golden color like that of a ripe orange. We made tomato bruschetta with fresh market tomatoes and basil on grilled bread with garlic.

One of the favorite dishes of the night was Capanata, a dish I learned in Sicily which is a dish made from chopped eggplant, squash, olives, and peppers. It is topped with aged balsamic vinegar, and can be served on grilled bread, fish, or meat.

My favorite pasta, Orecchiette was boiled and served with Italian pork sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, and burrata cheese. Because so much of southern Italy has miles of coast, we baked fresh whitefish in olive oil and wine with capers and potatoes.

Cannoli, the most laborious dish of the night, but well worth it.

Cannoli, the most laborious dish of the night, but well worth it.

The most laborious dish of the night was hand-made Cannoli, but I could not resist sharing this delicate and absolutely delicious dessert from Sicily. It was my first taste when I arrived on the island, and I knew I had to learn to make it. Unfortunately, I can’t get sheep ricotta where I live, but I can sweeten cow ricotta nearly the same. I make my own candied orange peel and finely chop it for the filling. The shells are made from a slightly sweet dough with cocoa and Marsala wine, then rolled through a pasta machine before being formed over cannoli molds and fried to perfection. Most people don’t want to make their own cannoli shells, but I promise it is worth the effort. If you’re planning a holiday in Italy, and want to travel where there aren’t as many crowds, and the food is a bit different from what you’re use to, I encourage you to visit southern Italy for beautiful scenery, lovely people, and a culinary experience you will never forget.

Meanwhile, please try my recipes and let me know how much you enjoy them!

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