Tartufi Bianchi e Neri—white and black truffles, flown in fresh from Italy; the most prized (and costliest) Italian food product. White truffles are thinly sliced and eaten raw, usually topping preparations of fettuccine, risotto, scaloppine and fonduta. Black truffles are more often used as a supporting flavor ingredient in longer-cooked dishes, versus the condiment (but starring!) role white truffles assume. Create a celebration, indulge yourselves, and–please invite me!
da rosario – Miele al Tartufo—honey infused with the scent and flavor of truffle, courtesy of the whole piece inside each jar. Although black and white truffles are found in Italy, the most precious of all are the white fungi/tubers from the Piemonte region. Their aroma has been described as a perfect marriage between a clove of garlic and a wedge of well-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. Some uses include: drizzling over Gorgonzola or Taleggio cheeses; warming a thick slice of Pecorino Fresco cheese under the broiler before topping with this deeply scented honey; basting game birds such as quail, guinea hen or pheasant; dribbling a spoonful over cheesy polenta, or stirring into a vinaigrette for a composed salad of field greens, fowl, walnuts and blue cheese. A jar of this honey and a chunk of great cheese make the perfect hostess gift!
Cotecchino—(variously spelled Cotechino, Cotecchino, Coteghino, etc.) It’s been a recurring question from tour participants with northern Italian roots: “What about Cotecchino–where can we find it?” It’s here, I’ve tasted it, and it’s yummy! Both the domestic and imported styles have that classic, slightly sticky, incomparably delicious flavor. And–since both styles come pre-cooked–they don’t need the typical 3-hour soaking/1-hour cooking time usually called for when starting from scratch with a fresh, raw, homemade sausage. Cotecchino, a specialty from the Modena area, is a large fresh sausage consisting of pork rind (cotenna), lean pork meat, fatback and seasonings. The pork rind turns a bit gelatinous as it cooks. An essential ingredient of the renowned Piemontese dish bollito misto, Cotecchino may also be served sliced as an antipasto, or with mashed potatoes and lentils, or else sauerkraut and polenta, as a first course.
Bottarga di Tonno – grattugiata—this specialty, often called Sicilian caviar, consists of roe from the female tuna that’s been salted, pressed and dried before being grated. Although bottarga is most often sold whole or in solid pieces resembling a chunk of flat brown sausage (or an odd-looking dried tongue of some sort–the entire flattened roe sac) this particular preparation comes already finely grated and packaged in a 50 gram glass jar, ready for sprinkling over cooked pasta that’s been sauced with a splash of butter and cream. [Tip: Ease up on the salt when using bottarga, salting again if necessary before serving; the briny flavor bottarga brings to dishes is delectable but considerable.] The exporting company, Callipo, is from Calabria, and they also happen to produce the only brand of tuna I find worth eating!
Panna da Cucina—Italian heavy cream in an aseptic tetra pak (looks like a juice box); shelf-stable with an expiration date usually 2 to 4 months into the future. Requiring no refrigeration until opened, panna only lasts a day or two after that, but you’ll use the whole box each time, anyway, so…. Thick and spoonable, this is the ingredient most Italians cannot live without when they emigrate to the U.S.; it’s the only way they know how to make such heavenly creamed pasta sauces. Panna is not something that can be turned into fully whipped cream for sweetening and dessert use, however–it will always stay the approximate consistency of clotted cream.
Lievito Pane degli Angeli—Italian baking powder with a hint of vanilla. Very difficult to find in the U.S., so I almost always bring some back from Italy. Use it in the same proportion as our traditional baking powder, but the addition of powdered vanilla negates that chemical flavor. You’ll love it!
151 Richmond Street; 617-523-8743, or mail order through www.SalumeriaItaliana.com and 800-400-5916