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Posts Tagged ‘Italian food on Blogfinger’

Parmagiano cheese wheel at Mario's Italian market in Fort Myers, Fla. 1/27/16. Blogfinger.net photo. ©

Parmigiano cheese wheel at Mario’s Italian market in Fort Myers, Fla. 1/27/17. Blogfinger.net photo. ©

 

By Eileen Goldfinger and Paul Goldfinger,  Editors  @Blogfinger.net.  Photography by Eileen Goldfinger.

 

If you think that you can’t get authentic Italian cuisine in Florida, you haven’t visited Mario’s Meat Market and Deli in Fort Myers (southwest Fla).  This remarkable food store has customers taking numbers and  lining up at the counter where you can get incredible breads, meats, sauces, homemade sausage, cheeses, wines, desserts, and custom sandwiches.

For example, one of their specialty heros is called  “The Italian” and consists of salami, pepperoni, capicola, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, hot peppers, oil and vinegar on a superb role with sesame seeds.   Some people can’t wait to get home, so they chow down at tables arranged outside.

The people at the counter were remarkably helpful and cheerful.  Some of them are professional cooks, so they will tell you how to prepare, for example , an authentic meat dish “braciole.”

We were there picking up supplies for an Italian dinner that Eileen was planning and we stumbled on a “rare” culinary event.  Representatives from a large cheese manufacturer (“Leone”) from the mountainous Verona region of Italy were preparing to “open” one of their huge wheels.  They were readying a parmigiano cheese called Monte Veronese, made from cow’s milk,  specially prepared for Mario’s.

 

Getting ready to open the wheel. Mike Tuccillo (sales manager for Leone L.) Mario Pica store owner, Gabriele Leone R.) © Blogfinger.net photo. Ft. Myers, Fla. 1/27/17

Getting ready to open the wheel. Mike Tuccillo (sales manager for Leone L.) Mario Pica (store owner,) and  Gabriele Leone R.) © Blogfinger.net photo. Ft. Myers, Fla. 1/27/17

What was unique about this wheel was that it had been aged for five years, much longer than most cheeses from that northeast region where much of the Italian cheese-making occurs.  The storage facility is kept at 80% humidity and 61 degrees F.

No one knows how long wheels have been the motif for storing cheese, but this variety has been made for nearly 900 years.  To open the wheel requires great skill and experience if it is done in the traditional way—- manually with knives.  Usually they use machines.

Gabriele Leone, the owner of the Leone company, brought out some special tools.  He worked very carefully, but after watching this demonstration, I was amazed that he still has all his fingers. He was cheered on by the company’s bilingual American representative Mike Tuccillo and by Mario Pica, the owner of this remarkable store.

 

Eileen Goldfinger photo. Blogfinger.net 1/27/17 ©

Eileen Goldfinger photo. Blogfinger.net 1/27/17 ©

 

When he finally opened the wheel, it was a very special event and the performance received a round of applause.  Then Gabriele began to offer chunks of the parmigiano, which is a hard cheese that tends to crumble. It is usually sold as wedges or grated.  It should be stored in the refrigerator where it can last for up to 6 months. If a little mold begins to appear, just cut it off.  We tried some, and it was delicious:  fragrant and tasty.

 

Photo by Eileen Goldfinger. Blogfinger.net/ 1/27/17 ©

Photo by Eileen Goldfinger. Blogfinger.net/ 1/27/17 ©

 

Mike explained that the company is beginning to export their unique aged products to America.  Thanks to Mike, Gabriele and Mario for giving Blogfinger access to this very special event.

 

DEAN MARTIN:

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Baked ziti, before baking. Eileen's recipe. © Photo by Eileen Goldfinger

Baked ziti, before baking. Eileen’s recipe. ©
Photo by Eileen Goldfinger

 

Baked ziti after baking and after Attila the Hun sampled the merchandise. Eileen Goldfinger photo ©

Baked ziti after baking and after Attila the Hun sampled the merchandise. Eileen Goldfinger photo ©

INGREDIENTS

 

Tomato sauce:

1 28 ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

 

Béchamel sauce:

1 stick butter

½ cup flour

3 cups whole milk

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

 

Remaining ingredients:

1 pound box ziti

16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese

½ cup seasoned bread crumbs

4 ounces grated mozzarella cheese

8 ounces mozzarella cubed

¼ cup fresh basil

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

 

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 13X9 inch baking dish.

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a rapid boil.

 

PREPARATION

Tomato sauce:

In a 5 quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium low heat, add garlic, and cook for 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and crush them with your hands or a potato masher. Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and stir. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat.

 

Ziti:

Cook according to box instructions. Drain.

 

Béchamel sauce:

In a 2 quart sauce pan melt the butter over medium low heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add milk whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Whisk until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup grated parmesan.

 

 

Topping:

In a small bowl combine ½ cup parmesan and breadcrumbs.

 

Assembling:

 

Remove ½ cup of tomato sauce and set aside.

Add béchamel sauce to tomato sauce and stir. Add ricotta cheese to the pot with the two sauces and combine. Add basil and cooked ziti and stir.

 

Place half the ziti with sauce on the bottom of the 13X9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cubes. Pour the remainder of the ziti and sauce mixture on top. Pour the ½ cup reserved tomato sauce on top, sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese, sprinkle breadcrumb mixture next and then scatter remaining mozzarella cubes on top.

 

Cover dish lightly with a piece of tin foil and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until the mozzarella has melted and the sauce is bubbling.

 

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes and enjoy.

Serve with a green salad

DEAN MARTIN

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