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Pistachio Gelato

  • May 15, 2015

 This pistachio gelato has its genesis in Rome, at Nonna Vincenza’s, a beautiful bakery and shop that features decadent Sicilian pastries and other sweet treats. 

My favorite are the mini cassata cakes filled with a ricotta mixture and covered in a pistachio and almond paste.
The shop sells cookies, liqueurs and almond and pistachio pastes too, and two years ago I bought a jar of their pistachio paste. Having only carry-on luggage, though, I was thwarted at check-in, because I had forgotten you can’t bring in liquids or gels over a certain weight. It got confiscated, despite my pleas. So last year when I went to Rome, I checked my luggage upon departure for the U.S., just so I could pack a jar of this dreamy paste, made from the best pistachios in the world — those of Bronte, Sicily.
 Having come back two weeks ago from another visit to the eternal city, and eaten a fair share of pastries at Nonna Vincenza’s, I decided to finally make gelato using the jar that’s been sitting in my cupboard for nearly a year. What a revelation! Now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bring in any of this wonderful product from this most recent trip.
There are other sources of pistachio paste or cream that you can find on the internet, but I can’t vouch for any of them since I haven’t tried them. If you decide to buy some, please let me know the results.
Even if you leave out the pistachio paste, this recipe makes a delicious vanilla gelato – and would be a great base for other flavorings too.
I added the pistachio paste at the very end, but you could add anything, including almond paste, crushed strawberries or coconut cream.
 Don’t confuse this with that neon green pistachio ice cream you see at commercial ice cream shops. This is not even related in the least to that product. If you’ve never liked pistachio ice cream, it’s understandable if those are all you’ve tried. Give this a go, topped with a few chopped pistachios, and you’ll easily become a convert to the real thing. And if you’re in Rome (or Catania, Sicily and now Bologna), don’t miss a chance to go to Nonna Vincenza’s. Find out more about them here.

Pistachio Gelato
printable recipe here

2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 T. vodka
1 cup pistachio cream (I used Nonna Vincenza’s, but you can’t find it in the U.S., so substitute another brand that you might find here or here.)

Split the vanilla bean in half and add to the milk. Simmer just below the boiling point, then set it aside to infuse for about 15 minutes. Remove the bean. A little “skin” may have formed while it was cooling, so just lift it off and discard. Beat the egg yolks until creamy, then pour a couple of tablespoons of the hot milk into the eggs to slowly raise the temperature so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. Keep adding the milk a little at a time, then stir in the sugar and place the mixture in a double boiler. Cook over a very low heat, stirring all the while, until the mixture heavily coats the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to cook it too long or to let it boil, or you’ll end up a with curdled mess.
Remove the mixture from the heat, place the mixture into the refrigerator to cool for a few hours (or overnight), stir in the cream, the vodka and process in an ice cream maker. While it’s churning, add the pistachio cream.Place it in the freezer to harden a bit more.

More Reasons To Fall In Love With Rome

  • April 30, 2015
Roman doorway
No other city in the world tugs at me the way Rome does. Yes, New York is electric, Paris is romantic, and London is hopping. But Rome….well, Rome for me is in another whole category. It may not have the wide boulevards of Buenos Aires, the orderliness of Singapore or the canals of Amsterdam, but none of that matters.
Porta Settimiana
Yes, it’s got graffiti-splattered walls, high rents and a Byzantine bureaucracy if you’re trying to get any official work done.
graffiti in Rome
 But walk anywhere in the central part of Rome and you’re assaulted by sights, sounds and flavors that I wouldn’t trade for anywhere else in the world.
arco degli’acetari
Walk by an open air market on a Spring morning and find three different kinds of artichokes, flavorful strawberries the size of a baby’s nail, or a cappuccino to swoon over.
Roman artichokes
While you’re on your jaunt, you might easily step outside your 18th apartment building and walk by some ancient Roman columns from the first century B.C., into a piazza decorated with a 16th century baroque fountain, before stopping to say a prayer in a 15th century Renaissance church. You’re practically tripping over layers of history throughout the city. They all have a unique beauty that could easily jade local residents, but that never fails to make me wish I were once again living in Rome.
statue inside entryway to apartment building on Via Arenula
Although I’m not a resident now, I consider myself extremely lucky to travel to Rome occasionally, including last week. In the past, I’ve posted some of my favorite things to do and eat in the Eternal City that you can click on here. 
Ponte Sisto and St. Peter’s
You won’t find places like the Vatican, the Colosseum or the Forum on the post —  they’re too obviously at the top of most visitors’ list, as well they should be, for me to write about. Don’t miss them. But aside from my “Twenty Reasons To Fall In Love With Rome,” I’m giving you now a few other suggestions of places to eat that are a little lower on the radar to first time visitors.
Rome reflections
Aside from the tangible, physical, evidence of Rome’s beauty, it’s also the Roman people who draw me in as well. Like the vegetable seller who always remembers your name, and throws in a couple of stalks of celery and a few sprigs of parsley for free. Or the goldsmith who demonstrates how he hammers the 21-carat gold chain he’s making, then shows you pictures of his adorable grandchildren. Or the chef who allows you into his kitchen, then showers you with sample after sample of extra dishes you didn’t even order.
tagliolini with truffles at Le Mani in Pasta
So here are just a few more of my favorite places to stop for a bite to eat or drink in Rome. Buon Appetito.
La Prosciutteria
Oozing with atmosphere, it’s great place to grab a panino or a board of salumi and cheese. Located in Trastevere on via della Scala, it’s been in Florence for a while, but is fairly new to Rome. The porchetta sandwich I ate at La Prosciutteria beat any I’d ever eaten in the past, hands down, including in Ariccia, a town outside Rome known for its porchetta. I considered it my duty to return to La Prosciutteria the night before departing Rome to buy one for the plane ride home. It was late at night and they had run out of my favorite round foccaccia bread. “Oh Dio,” I said. “Isn’t there even one more foccaccia hidden somewhere?” I asked. The salesgirl pointed to an already prepared prosciutto crudo sandwich and said “That’s the last one.” After I mustered up the nerve to ask her if she could take out the prosciutto and replace it with porchetta, she winked at me and complied. Let it be noted that the tray of “food” offered by United Airlines was left untouched as I inhaled my porchetta sandwich instead. Via della Panetteria, 34A.
porchetta panino


at La Prosciutteria
I have Beatrice Ughi of to thank for learning about this place. Her friend Antonio suggested it to her years ago and she finally met him there last week, and invited me to come along too, since she was in Rome at the same time I was. Panella has been in business for nearly 100 years and it’s not only a fabulous resource for breads, pastries and specialty foods, but a great place for “happy hour” with its prolific buffet dishes, ranging from chickpea farinata to fried zucchini flowers. It’s in the Esquiline neighborhood, not too far from the church of San Giovanni in Laterano. Via Merulana, 54.
buffet at Panella
Fish Market
This recent addition to Trastevere’s dining scene is an informal place for seafood with a hip vibe, but it’s not just 20-somethings who eat here. You’ll feel comfortable no matter what your age and there’s indoor and outdoor seating. You can pick out the fish you want from the counter for a simple preparation, choose a cone of fried calamari or shrimp, or one of the several more elaborately prepared dishes. Gaze at those painted arches inside too, and stop to wonder how many centuries they’ve been there. Vicolo della luce, 4/5
Inside “The Fish Market”
Da Enzo
Another casual and tiny Trastevere restaurant that seats only about 25 people. It’s tucked away on a small vicolo on the east side of Viale Trastevere – away from the noisier, more trafficked part of the neighborhood. If it’s artichoke season (and it is still is for a very short while), make sure to order them, either fried alla Giudia, or seasoned and in oil, alla Romana. Both were exceptional, as was their pasta alla gricia, made with guanciale. Via dei Vascellari, 29
artichokes alla Giudia and alla Romana at Da Enzo
Le Mani In Pasta
I almost hesitate to mention this place because it’s my favorite restaurant in Rome and they’re always lined up to get in – with good reason. The food is exquisite and the waiters are terrific, even while working at breakneck speed. They’re known for their pastas, and rightly so, but the other dishes are fabulous too. I always order the mussels and clams sauté as a starter, the best anywhere. This time I also ordered the steak served with a green peppercorn sauce, a perfectly cooked piece of tender beef, resting in an unctious puddle of winey goodness. If broccoli romano is on the menu, it’s the perfect accompaniment, and is perfectly prepared, with a hint of peperoncino. If you can, reserve the table near the window facing the kitchen. It’s practically theater! Chef Ivano will keep you mesmerized with his deft skills, when you’re not sighing over the unbeatable food delivered to your table. Watch the short video below and you’ll see what I mean. Via Dei Genovese, 37
Nonna Vincenza
I can’t resist a good cannolo when I find one and once I stumbled onto Nonna Vincenza a few years ago, I thought I had found the mother lode. There are a couple of locations in town, including one near the campo dei fiori. It’s elegantly appointed, with beautiful armoires displaying pastries, cookies, and almond and pistachio pastes in jars for sale. As much as I love cannoli, I can’t resist digging into Nonna Vincenza’s mini cassata, covered in a layer of marzapan. You can have your purchases boxed to take home if you like, but they’ve also got a few tables and serve coffee if you want to sit and linger. Two locations in Rome – at Arco del Monte 98 (near campo dei fiori) and Piazza di Montecitorio, 116.
Le Levain 
Caffé Giselda
 Yes, the name Le Levain is French. Yes, they serve French croissants and that’s why I love the place. The owner, Giuseppe Solfrizzi, is originally from Puglia and studied with celebrated chef Alain Ducasse. Italians eat cornetti with their breakfast, and while I like them, to me they don’t hold a candle to the crunchy, buttery croissants that the French are famous for. Everything here is excellent, from the croissants with walnuts to the small domed pastry dipped in white icing, to the multi-grain bread.
Stop in for a few croissants, then take them down the street and around the corner to Café Giselda, where you can order an espresso and sit down, assuaging any guilt you may have had about betraying your Italianness with a French croissant.
My friend Kathryn, who’s living in Rome and is the writing teacher for our writing retreat in September, “Italy, In Other Words,” (still some spaces left, so join us in dreamy Varenna on Lake Como!) introduced me to both places on this trip, and I was grateful every morning when I dug into that croissant that’s unparalleled in Rome, accompanied by my wake-up cappuccino from Caffé Giselda.
pastries at Le Levain
Cafe Giselda itself, at the corner of Viale Trastevere and San Francesco a Ripa, will also impress you with its own pastries, cakes, and salumi. Unlike most caffés, you don’t get charged extra for sitting at a table rather than standing at the bar. And the cappuccino goes down easy.
 Le Levain – Via Luigi Santini, Giselda, 22 Viale Trastevere, 52
Caffé Giselda
Have enough ideas for your next trip to Rome? I hope I’ve enticed you to visit this beautiful corner of the world. I could go on and on about my love for the Eternal City, but as the saying goes, when it comes to discovering Rome’s treasures, “Non basta una vita” – meaning “One life is not enough.”
Temple of Hercules Victor

Sauteed Squid

  • June 21, 2012
I’ve mentioned before that “Le Mani In Pasta” was our favorite local restaurant when my husband and I lived in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood. It has remained so on all my visits back in the last six years.  I’ve never had a disappointing dish there – from the fish to the meats to the pastas and desserts. Their mussels and clams in a winey broth is hard to beat and I always order it as a first course, not just because it tastes so great, but because it also takes me back to an idyllic time in my life.
 On this last visit, I went with a couple of friends, and one of them – Kathryn  – ordered the sauteed squid. Of course I had to have a taste, and that was all I needed to know that it was perfect – not tough, not undercooked, just simply and expertly cooked. I love battered and fried squid rings as much as the next gal, but it’s nice to eat squid a different way too. One of my favorite methods (a Christmas eve requirement) is stuffed squid baked in a tomato sauce. You can find that recipe here.  At Le Mani In Pasta, the squid was neither deep fried nor baked in tomato sauce – just prepared with a light coating of fine bread crumbs and a quick saute in olive oil. A squirt of lemon juice at the end imparts the perfect acidic touch. I tried to duplicate the dish at home, and while it wasn’t exactly the same, it was close, and it did bring back a little bit of la bella Roma for a brief moment.
Start with the squid. It’s easy enough to find already cleaned at the fish market. I cut it into small pieces, but you can choose to leave the bodies whole if you like.
Place the pieces on a plate smeared with olive oil and some salt. Flip the squid pieces to coat with the olive oil, then sprinkle some fine bread crumbs all over.
Heat a heavy skillet, place a few tablespoons of olive oil into the pan, then add the squid pieces, cooking briefly for a few minutes on each side. Don’t worry if the pieces curl as you’re cooking. It’s hard to avoid that so just press it down with a fork or spatula.
Serve with a squirt of lemon juice and a sprinkling of minced parsley.

Missing Italy

  • June 11, 2012
 I’ve been back for only a few days and I’m already missing all the places I visited in Italy — from the mountains of Abruzzo … to the beaches of Anzio…
From Rome’s well-known tourist sites…
to some hidden gems shown to me by a curator friend at the Palazzo Barberini…
From working with a serious but fun-loving group of writers at the “Italy, In Other Words” workshop…
To shopping time with them at the ceramics town of Castelli…
From the dazzling mosaics at Santa Maria in Trastevere of Christ the shepherd and his sheep…
To an encounter along the ancient sheep trails in Abruzzo with a modern-day shepherd and his dogs tending his flock…
From all the kitsch-y souvenirs along the streets of Rome…
To looking for real treasures in the city’s antique shops…
From a concert with the fabulous Abruzzese folk musicians DisCanto…
To the incomparable Riccardo Muti conducting Attila at Rome’s Opera House…
From my rustic room at Sextantio that still looked as it did in the middle ages:
To the beautiful patio of my blissfully quiet Rome hotel room.
From churches in far-flung places…
To participating in mass from behind the altar at St. Pietro in Vincoli, seated in a choir stall with a view of Michaelangelo’s “Moses.”
From the wonderful food I ate – cooking with Fabio in his Rome palazzo:
To watching Liliana make her spaghetti alla chitarra in Santo Stefano di Sessanio:
From pizza:
to pasta…
to meat…
to fish:
and gelato too:
….How could I not still be longing to be back in this beautiful country and the people I spent time with in the last few weeks? Once I’m caught up with things on the home front, be on the lookout for future posts about recipes, sights and sounds I encountered during the last few weeks — and a giveaway too. Stay tuned ….

Twenty Reasons To Fall In Love With Rome

  • August 8, 2011

One of my first entries when I started this blog several years ago was “Fourteen Reasons To Fall in Love With Rome.” One of the reasons was a gelato shop that’s no longer in business, and in trying to edit the entry this week, I accidentally deleted the entire post. That was reason enough for me to revisit the post, especially since I spent some time in Rome on my most recent trip. As you can see, the post is now “Twenty Reasons” rather than “Fourteen Reasons” but I could actually list hundreds more reasons why I never tire of the Eternal City.

1. The Fountains of Rome – You’ll see magnificent large fountains all over the city, including well-known ones like the Trevi Fountain, but this small one in the Jewish Ghetto, erected in the 16th century, called “La Fontana Delle Tartarughe” (fountain of the turtles) is my favorite.

2. Galleria Doria Pamphili – Who wouldn’t be enchanted by this large art collection housed in the enormous palace owned and still occupied by the princely Pamphili family, whose ancestors included Pope Innocent X. Among the many treasures here is a portrait of the pope by Velazquez and a marble bust by Bernini.

3. Gelato -My favorite new place for gelato in Rome is I Caruso at Via Collina 13, a little off the beaten tourist path, but not too far from Piazza Repubblica. A couple of other great spots are Giolitti, near the Pantheon, and Fior di Luna in Trastevere. Just stay away from those places selling neon blue gelato.

4. The surprise waiting for you as you look through the keyhole at the Knights of Malta. I hate to spoil it for you and unveil the secret, so you’ll have to go to Rome and see for yourself. It’s located in the beautiful Aventine neighborhood, at the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, designed by Piranesi in 1765.


5. Trastevere – What many people call “The Real Rome” is a vibrant, noisy neighborhood of cobblestone streets and tiny alleys where you can easily get lost and be glad for it. Ignore the graffiti and the “dog people” – beggars who use dogs in their approach – and focus on the shops, the cafes, the restaurants and the churches, like the exquisite Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of Rome’s oldest churches, or the beautiful Santa Cecelia pictured below. Wander into one on a Saturday and you might find yourself witnessing a real Roman wedding.
6. Graffiti – Yes, there is lots of it here, but you have to look past that and find the whimsy, as in this case. Juxtaposed with a teensy red Smart car, it becomes an enchanting scene.
7. The Roman mosaics and the bronze sculptures at Museo Nazionale Palazzo Massimo alle Terme – This small museum not far from the train station is a gem — one look at the mosaic floors from the Roman era and you’ll wish you could order them — along with a toga — for your own home. The bronze statues, dating from the 2nd century B.C. of a Hellenistic Prince, and a boxer, made using the “lost wax” process, are nothing short of miraculous. They will take your breath away.
8. The coffee – The cappuccino in the picture comes from Rome’s famed St. Eustachio cafe. The truth is, you can get a cup of espresso or cappuccino that’s just as good, and a lot less expensive, at many bars in Rome. But it’s worth the pilgrimage to this noted spot if only because it’s around the corner from Borromini’s elegantly twisted spire atop the church of St. Ivo alla Sapienza.
9.The Pantheon – The oldest building in Rome that’s been in continuous use is this circular building that was constructed as a pagan temple. It was built nearly two thousand years ago and it still holds the record for the world’s largest, unreinforced concrete dome. It’s been used as a Roman Catholic church since the 7th century, and is also the final resting place for many notables, including Renaissance painter Raphael, and Italian Kings Victor Emanuele II and Umberto I.
10. The Temple of Hercules Victor – It’s often mistaken for the Temple of Vesta, but this jewel of a symmetrical building from around 120 B.C. is actually a temple to Hercules Victor and is the oldest surviving marble building in Rome. With its concentric ring of corinthian columns, it’s also my favorite ancient building, after the Pantheon.
11.The “Jubilee church” designed by Richard Meier –
The church of Dio Padre Misericordia was built as part of the initiative “50 churches for Rome 2000,” celebrating the new millennium. Situated in a working-class residential neighborhood, it rises triumphantly like three sails on the ocean,symbolizing the holy trinity. Unlike his controversial building housing the ancient Ara Pacis, Meier hit a home run with this stark, modern design, which really gives the sensation of being closer to heaven.
12. Music – You’ll find concerts and music in different venues all over the city, from churches to the Baths of Caracalla, a spectacular setting for grand opera in the summertime. During the rest of the year, opera lovers can high-tail it to the Rome opera house. While not as large as New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, it makes up in baroque splendor what it lacks in size. The outside however, is typical drab and bulky Fascist-style architecture.
 13.The frescoes at Villa Farnesina – This Renaissance villa along the Tiber River in Trastevere was built for Agostino Chigi, a rich Siennese banker and treasurer of Pope Julius II.  He commissioned artists including Raphael and Sebastiano de Piombo to decorate the walls and ceilings with expansive eye-popping frescoes. It became part of the Farnese family holdings in the late 16th century and now belongs to Italy.
14. Sauteed mussels and clams at “Le Mani in Pasta”- This simply prepared dish of tiny clams and mussels with a few shrimp tossed in, is always my favorite first course at one of my favorite restaurants in Rome —  in Trastevere on Via Genovesi. It’s always full by 9 pm. the time dinner gets in full swing for Romans, so call for a reservation.




16. Ghirlandaio’s Cupid and Venus at the Galleria Colonna – The lavish Renaissance palazzo alone is reason enough to visit, but savor the artwork stacked on the walls, including ceiling frescoes depicting the Battle of Lepanto and Ghirlandaio’s Cupid and Venus. Several years ago, art restorers stripped off centuries of grime from the painting — and clothing too — that had been painted on Venus during more prudent times. Attentive fans of the film “Roman Holiday” may recognize the gallery and the painting in the final scene where Audrey Hepburn appears as a princess. Open only on Saturday mornings and located at Via della Pilotta.



17. Contemporary Art – Rome’s newest museum finally gives modern art lovers a place for design, art and architecture. Opened in 2010, the MAXXI museum, located in the Flaminia neighborhood of Rome, features works by 21st century artists, including this recent exhibit by Michaelangelo Pistiletto – paintings on reflective mirrored surfaces.
18. The bread and pizza at La Renella bakery. There’s almost always a line at this bakery on Via del Moro, where the scent of freshly baked bread wafts out onto the narrow streets of Trastevere. The bread is perfection and the pizza is too. Slabs of pizza that they will cut to your order – every kind of topping you could ever want — and many you’d never think of. All of them will leave you wanting more — pizza with olives and tomatoes, with potatoes and sausage, with zucchini flowers, anchovies and mozzarella, with prosciutto, arugula and on and on and on.
19. The Quirinale – Visitors can tour the opulent palace that is home to Italy’s president only on Sunday mornings, and hear concerts on occasion too. Things slow down in the summer, but during the rest of the year, you might hear a jazz vocalist, a harpsichordist, or a play set to Stravinsky music. All in the beautiful Paolina Chapel. And you might even get to shake hands with Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano, as I did a few years ago, when he and his wife joined the crowd.
20. The Food Markets – From the well-known market in the campo de fiori, to lesser known ones (at least to tourists) like the ones in Testaccio or in Piazza San Cosimato, Rome’s neighborhoods hold a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables. When it’s in season, you’ll see broccoli romano – looking like a work of art nestled amid its large leaves.
21. Unexpected Events – OK, so I lied, and made it a list of 21, not 20. But it made me happy and I’m including it for that reason. It happens in any city if you’ve got your eyes and ears open, but when you stumble across a festival, a parade or some other event you didn’t know about, it all seems so much more grand when ancient Roman monuments provide the backdrop. For me, this serendipitous bumping into a raucous gay pride parade on my recent visit was just the pick-me-up I needed to lift me from a melancholy afternoon.


We Interrupt This Blog For A Semifreddo break

  • July 23, 2011
While temperatures soar to more than 100 degrees here in New Jersey and many parts of the U.S., I’m giving the oven a respite and thinking about cold foods – and of course gelato is one everybody’s favorites. You may not be able to whip up gelato in your kitchen, but you can make its close cousin – semifreddo.  But first a small tour of my gelato debauchery in Italy.
My favorite shop in Rome – Giorgiagel – is no longer in business. But I found a new place that has won my heart, even if it’s a little farther from the neighborhoods where I normally roam. More about that later. This cone is from Corona – at Largo Argentina – and it’s a winner – a rich, dark chocolate, a dulce de leche that’s loaded with caramel, and a creamy ricotta gelato – all topped with whipped cream.
Here’s a cup of dark chocolate and coconut (my standard order) from Fior de Luna, a consistently reliable place on Viale Trastevere.
This year I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about I Caruso, located a tad northwest of the Piazza Repubblica, on Via Collina 13, in a neighborhood that’s a little off the beaten tourist path. You’ll see businessmen as well as young mothers lined up outside the store, including this man holding a cone of dark chocolate and stracciatella (chocolate chip) ice cream.
The gelato is made right before your eyes.
I ordered the dark chocolate and pistachio. By the way, anytime you see pistachio or mint chocolate chip gelato or ice cream that’s bright green, steer clear of that store. Pistachio may have a slight green tinge if it’s made without artificial colorings, but it should never be the color of grass. The ice cream cone I ate at I Caruso was transcendent. I was enraptured with the creamy richness of my cone that tasted like smooth, frozen chocolate pudding. It was so good, I forgot to snap a picture until it was almost too late.
Here’s a real cutie caught in the act in the Tuscan town of Castellina in Chianti. This shop – Le Volte – was located in a vaulted medieval passageway and a little off the main drag, but definitely worth searching out. I think this little fellow agrees.
I ordered the stracciatella and a flavor that was a combo of pistachio, almond and hazelnut gelato.


If you don’t have a trip to Italy planned in the next week, or even if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can beat the heat and feel a little Italian with this semifreddo recipe – “semifreddo” by the way, translates to “half cold.” Let’s hope it helps keep you a little cooler too.
Start by cooking the egg yolks with some sugar over a double boiler. Make sure you continue to whisk or you might end up with scrambled eggs. It’s ready when it makes ribbons like this.
Crush some amaretti cookies in the food processor and break up some chocolate into small bits.
Blend the egg yolk mixture, the chocolate and the amaretti cookies together with whipped cream, then fold in the whipped egg whites.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap and put some of the crushed amaretti cookies on the bottom.
Pour in the semifreddo mixture, cover and freeze.
When you unmold it, it will look like this, with the cookies all flattened on top. I think it looks prettier if it has some texture on top, so I save some of the cookies to sprinkle on top before serving.
Doesn’t that look better?
You can make it for company ahead of time and keep it in your freezer.
…..or not.
Amaretti and Chocolate Chip Semifreddo
This recipe is also delicious using torrone candy instead of the amaretti cookies. The torrone has to be the rock-hard kind, since it needs to get crushed in the food processor to small bits. The soft torrone that’s sold in small packages and seen everywhere at Christmas won’t work for this. I was all set to make this semifreddo with hard torrone I had bought a few months ago when I realized that the package had softened with the summer’s heat and humidity. Thus, amaretti and chocolate chip semifreddo was born.
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed amaretti cookies
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 T. sugar
  • 1 T. rum, Amaretto, marsala or other liqueur
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup good dark chocolate or chocolate bits, chopped roughly
  1. Place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until they are large crumbs.
  2. Separate the eggs, but you will only need four of the egg whites. Save the other two egg whitess for another use.
  3. In a double boiler, place the egg yolks and the sugar. Whisk over warm water until you get a velvety, thick mass. (Don’t move away from this or you could end up with scrambled eggs. Some recipes call for using raw eggs, but I like to err on the side of caution and cook my egg yolks.) Let it cool slightly, then add the rum, whisking all the while. Place it to the side or in the refrigerator, but if you let it chill too long, it will become hard to work with.
  4. Beat the cream until stiff. Add the egg yolk mixture, 1 1/4 cups of the amaretti cookies, and the chocolate bits to the whipped cream, folding everything together.
  5. Whip the four egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg yolk, whipped cream and amaretti mixture into the egg whites.
  6. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Sprinkle half of the remaining 1/4 cup of amaretti crumbs on the bottom, then pour the mixture on top.
  7. Place a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on top and freeze overnight.
  8. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge, let the pan soak for a few seconds in hot water, and flip onto a platter. Pull off the parchment or plastic wrap and sprinkle the remaining amaretti crumbs on top. Slice and serve with chocolate sauce, if desired.

I Scream, We All Scream, For Gelato!

  • October 24, 2008

This is my favorite combo – coffee, dark chocolate and coconut – from my favorite gelateria in Rome – Giorgiagel. It’s a tiny outpost in Trastevere on via. S. Francesco a Ripa that you never read about. But after trying all the major, well-known gelaterie, this one could not be matched, at least for my benchmark flavor, dark chocolate – or “cioccolato fondente,” as they say in Italy. It’s wickedly good. Aside from the intensity of the flavor, you get the most for your euro here – this cup or “coppetta” cost only 1 euro – or the equivalent of about $1.40 during my trip. And they add a crunchy cookie.

Giolitti, one of Rome’s beloved institutions, is my second favorite gelato spot in Rome. The coconut flavor here is the best I’ve tasted anywhere, with flecks of fresh coconut adding texture and more taste to an already yummy flavor. The coffee is really intense too, but the dark chocolate doesn’t hold a candle to Giorgiagel. The flavors on display in the case are myriad, with a rainbow of fruit sorbets including mango, plum and wild berries. This heaping cone cost 1.50 euro. Located at via Uffice del Vicario, 40, not far from the Pantheon.

The chocolate from Fonte della Salute, via Cardinal Marmaggi in Trastevere, looks darker than most, but it tasted like some thickener had been added in – more like a chocolate pudding. But it certainly looked like there were plenty of pleased customers there. The stracciatella (chocolate chip) nestled next to it, was delicious. cost 1.50 euro

Dark chocolate and caramel at San Crispino – another landmark gelateria in Rome with several locations – one near the Trevi Fountain and one near the Pantheon. Right off the bat, I don’t like the fact that their ice cream is served from covered stainless steel containers, so you can’t see what you’re ordering. Moreover, the price of this meager serving is double – 2 euros – what I paid for a heaping cup at Giorgiagel, and the dark chocolate is much less intense.

To round out my tasting, (I had to give flavors other than chocolate a shot after all) I include photos of two other combos – a luscious amarena (sour cherry) and frutti di bosco (wild berries) — and a cup of torroncino (nougat candy) and pistachio. Both from Giorgiagel, and 1 euro each.