7 of the best Italian dishes you’ll want to make at home

VARADERO, MATANZAS, CUBA - 2017/03/17: 'Tiramisu' dessert served at 'Salsa Suarez' private Cuban restaurant or paladar. The place has won many international and national awards for the quality of the food. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
VARADERO, MATANZAS, CUBA - 2017/03/17: 'Tiramisu' dessert served at 'Salsa Suarez' private Cuban restaurant or paladar. The place has won many international and national awards for the quality of the food. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images) /
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4. Steak Pizzaiola

Translated this means pizza man’s steak. It’s easier than it seems, or rather sounds. And yeah steak is much more than simply grilling. In fact, the epic juice of a tender steak comes out that much more when pan fried if you ask me. The French have it right on that front. What’s better than steak frit?

Steak Pizzaiola would be the simple answer there. Of course there are many variations of this recipe.

Procedure: Go for strip steak on this one. You can go bone-in on another cut but it isn’t necessary…you’ll want boneless here. Sautee in a frying pan and of course season with salt and pepper. Some people douse the steak in flour but I always forgo that step. You’re choice…do as your nerve.

Once the steak is beautifully caramelized and browned, pour your house tomato sauce. If you don’t have a house tomato sauce and don’t have the time, don’t worry. A good variety jarred sauce goes a long way, so use that. Pour it over and let the steak braise in that tomato sauce stovetop on low. Then serve beside a pasta topped with the braising sauce, beside a salad and your guests will think they’ve been to Naples on the veranda of a Pizzaiola restaurant overlooking the sea….

Okay, so the view will be your neighbor Carl across the yard, grilling in his boxers again, but at least the food will be on point. Give it a try.

3. Lemon Granita

Dessert goes a long way and we’ve added two classic here that you don’t need to go to the neighborhood bar to enjoy. Granita was always a treat. When I was a small boy I would accompany my father to his reception hall, he’d always take me down to the local Italian bar for a cup of this…always lemon.

I’d see guys sitting at the stools and at the tables that would have been quite at home in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. When I walked in they’d always wink at me and say, “Ey… kid!” I’d smile but it was always that creepy Joe Pesci character from that movie I’d think about.

But the Granita would transport me to another place and time and my dad and I would walk back up that spiral staircase to his kitchen and I’d watch him cook all of these epic Italian dishes that at the time I had no idea I would one day cook myself much less write about.

Procedure: Combine 2 cups of water and ½ a cup of granulated sugar. On the side, combine the juice of 2 large lemons. You can also add the zest of one lemon. Heat the water and sugar; bring to a boil and then set aside to cool. Then combine the lemon juice and the cooled sugar and water mix, and then freeze.

Take it out once frozen and break into chunks…place into a food processor and set the blades into motion until a desired crystal-like consistency is reached and serve in a clear glass. You won’t regret it.

*This recipe is courtesy of The Complete Book of Italian Cooking by Carla Capalbo…a book I often went to when working the line. A variation of some of these recipes can also be found in that book. This recipe is the only one I always do verbatim.

2. Mock Tiramisu

This one is as easy as pie, but of course it isn’t pie…it’s one of Italy’s greatest exports in dessert form. Tiramisu is perhaps the bee’s knees of Italian desserts so I had to include it here, but this variation hits the spot just as well. My mom made and still makes this classic and my dad and I used it in the many pro kitchens we worked in respectfully. I came up with a variation that many enjoyed and your guests will enjoy it too.

Procedure: Think of this as an Italian Trifle if you will, served in clear glasses where all the layers can be seen, but you can also do this in a pan style form. For this, let’s stick with the glasses, as they’d be a hit at a dinner party for sure because it looks pretty in a glass.

250 ml of low fat cream cheese (my mom and others have been known to use mascarpone, but I find it too expensive and not really necessary, but the choice is yours), mixed with 250 ml of sour cream and whipped cream—cool whip works great—layer with a rum sponge cake doused in coffee (or you can use vanilla sponge and douse it with the coffee and a spiced rum), layer as you go, top with the cream and powder in cocoa and cinnamon.

1. Authentic Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is more than just powdered orange cheese. Authentic Mac and Cheese was something that American filmmakers discovered in Italy when they went to film movies there in the mid-20th century or thereabouts. And it was way different than what is now called Mac and Cheese in North America today. And it isn’t at all hard.

Procedure: In a frying pan heat some butter … add boiled pasta—elbows if you like, but penne are better—sauté and add freshly ground black pepper and authentic parmesan cheese. Ready when coated in the rich cheese and the pasta is nicely fried and crispy. Voila, dear readers.

Next. 7 Lay’s Potato Chip flavors we need at every party. dark

Try these recipes out and let us know how it all goes. If you become known as the Italian cooking legend, then we’ve done our job…and you’re welcome.