Ahhhhh Italy

Italy is Eataly

We traveled to Italy in October. The food was fabulous and the scenery was spectacular.

Bay of Fegina Monterosso del Mare

The Cinque Terre (the five lands) was our favorite destination. Monterosso del Mare has the most beautiful beach of the five towns on the Italian Riviera. We stayed at the Hotel Pasquale, a small family-run hotel in the heart of this ancient village overlooking the Liguorian Sea.


We were treated to a homemade Italian meal by Felicita, daughter of the original owners, and current co-owner with her husband and children.


A personal demonstration of homemade pesto using a mortar and pestle.



 The pesto was very fresh and bright.

lasagne al forno

Lasagne al Forno. Can you believe the amount of pesto atop?


Our fellow travelers.


Felicita and me.

The Fearless Cooking Club members gathered and made some of the Italian recipes. Barb and Cindy had been to Europe this past summer and stopped into Italy also.

Fearless Cooker w/fancy oven mitts

We tried our hand at mortar and pestle pesto.


Barb and Joe made this beautiful porchetta, they ate in Italy. It was a WOW!

mortar and pestle

The one in the foreground is marble with ribbed inner edges of the bowl.

presto pesto

Presto Pesto!

Felicita’s Pesto Sauce Recipe

Two servings pesto sauce


  • 80 Basil leaves
  • 1 garlic close
  • 2 TBSP pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese grated


Only wash basil leaves and dry on the tea towel.  Add 1 garlic close. Grind. Add 2 TBSP pine nuts. Grind. Mis with two heaping tablespoon parmesan cheese grated. Add olive oil until creamy consistency.  Have a good meal! Felicita.

Patty’s Points

1. Felicita’s pesto had a very loose consistency more like a sauce then a thick paste. We think it had to do with the moisture in the leaves from being so close to the sea nearby. We live in dry Colorado so our pesto was more like a paste.

2. Her recipe differs from most pestos I’ve made. She added no salt and very little garlic. You are tasting the freshness of the basil.

3. Our tour guide, Jamie, a Brit who has a home in Lucca, was quite the foodie. He advised us about only buying pine nuts from Italy and to stay away from the ones from China. My olive oil was from Italy but the pine nuts I found were from Spain. Sorry Jamie.

4. We used two different types of olive oils in each pesto recipe we made. We noticed a big difference in the taste from the olive oils. I pays to taste your olive oil and find one you like. Have you heard of the bug that has destroyed many of the olives in Italy? Olive oil prices will rise over the next year. Eeek!

5. We had two mortar bowls that were quite different. One had ridges on the bowl lining and one without. The combination of the pestle grinding and ridges in the bowl made the grinding process go quickly.

6. You’ll notice in the recipe it calls for 80 leaves of basil. If you have really large leaves then count it as two leaves. The amount of leaves accounts for the pure taste of the basil also.

7. Eataly.com is a global company that promotes Italian products worldwide. When you go to Italy you see  authentic products in local towns. But when you are at home you don’t have access to those authentic products. Eataly.com is one way to find specialty pastas and probably pine nuts too! I saw a pasta in Monterosso that I should have bought. It looked like a communion wafer. When we went out to dinner that night, one of our fellow travelers had that pasta Croxetti. It is specifically made in the the Liguorian areas of Italy. It would take awhile for me to hunt it down and see if it exists in the Italian sections of my city.  So I would have to either make it or buy it through Eataly.com.

8. Lastly, Jamie our guide, said that when we all go home and try to recreate the Italian food, it won’t taste the same. I have to agree. The ingredients may be basil, olives, pine nuts, oranges, or lemons but they are grown in a different location of the world with different sun, water, soil, bugs, and weather conditions.

9. By the way, the lasagne al forno was homemade lasagne pasta sheets with a parmesan besciamella sauce through each layer. With that substantial amount of pesto atop it melted in my mouth. Delizioso! I could never recreate that sensation ever again at home.

10. Lastly, according to Felicita, the true term pesto only refers to the basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese and nuts (pine, walnuts) combination.

Until we meet again Italy! Arrivederci!

Marvelous Marscapone

My final made-from-scratch cheese this past month was luscious and rich marscapone.The recipe came from The Denver Post who took the recipe from “Artisan Cheese Making at Home” by Mary Karlin. Check out her fabulous website.

The equipment and ingredients required were low key and easy to find at your local grocery store.


2 C pasteurized heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)

1/3 C powdered skin milk

1 lemon, cut in half

Make a clean area in your kitchen counter with clean towels. Assemble equipment: 2 quart non-reactive saucepan, thermometer, butter muslin (or double length of regular cheesecloth) metal spoon and colander.  Whisk the cream and powdered milk together and heat slowly up to 180 degrees F. Stir constantly to prevent scorching. It should take 40 minutes or so, then remove from heat.

Squeeze in half of the lemon juice, switch to a metal spoon and stir constantly to promote curd formation. Do not whisk. The cream will coat the back of the spoon when it is ready. Then add the remainder of the lemon juice and stir to incorporate. Cover and cool the cream in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

The following day the cream will look like yogurt. Transfer the curds to a muslin-lined colander (check out the 10/29/12 Oh Cheez  post for pictures). Draw the ends together and twist into a ball to squeeze out the liquid. The marscapone will then be thick and ready to use in recipes or refrigerate for up to two days.

Patty’s Points:

1) Super easy.

2) Super creamy and versatile.

3) Very little liquid was squeezed from the mixture. It took less than an hour to drain into curds.

4) For recipes on how to incorporate marscapone into recipes, check out Food Network, under ‘marscapone‘. You’ll find that Giada De Laurentis‘ name pops up quite a bit. She loves marscapone and has a variety of sweet and savory recipes to choose from.

The Fearless Cooking Club members each received a jar of marscapone to take home. Many have used it in place of clotted cream, whipped it into mashed sweet or white potatoes, or spread it atop crisp thin bread, with a lovely jam. Marvelous.

Beautiful Brie

It’s the end of American Cheese Month, but it’s the beginning of holiday season. Brie is a staple for holiday parties, serving it with bread dough, sweet and savory spreads and jellies and toasting it warm, and serving it with crackers, bread and wine. Yum. But would you ever think about making it yourself? I had to give it a try. The Splendid Table had a program on Cheesemaking with Janet Hurst author of the book Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers. Janet Hurst mentioned that if you made brie, you would be a rock star. Brie is originally from the Seine-et-Marne region in France, pale in color with under a rind of white mold, and yes it is typically eaten. The ingredients are quite simple. When I dropped by The Truffle Cheese Shop to pick up the items to make the brie. I picked up the rennet and the mesophilic culture. The staff member mentioned that it was good to use non-homogenized cow’s milk.

  • 1 gallon pasteurized cow or goat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Mesophilic DVI MA culture
  • 1/8 teaspoon Penicillum candidum
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup nonchlorinated water
  • noniodized salt for brine

  The next trip was to locate the penicillium candidum and cheese molds. It took me awhile but I found The Brew Hut which is a brew-pub restaurant and beer making store. Penicillium (above picture on the right) is needed to form the mold on the brie .

Technique is the key to making brie. It took me awhile to gather supplies and figure out how I could best form a disc of brie.

Prepare the molds The classic format is an open-bottom round mold with holes in the sides.

With this type of mold, a mat is be required.  Line the cookie sheet or pie tin with plastic canvas (used for needlework) or regular cheese mats. I bought a square needlepoint mat and trimmed it to a circle to fit inside the aluminum pie plate. Place the mold on top of the mat.

I poked four holes in each corner of the aluminum pie plate. These holes allow the whey to escape.

Heat the milk to 86 degree F; add the culture and Penicillium candidum. Mix in well, stirring top to bottom. Add the rennet solution and stir again, top to bottom. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes or until a clean break is achieved.

After clean break is achieved, cut the curd into 1/2 inch pieces. Allow the curd to rest for 10 minutes.

Ladle the curds into the mold, keeping your hand on the mold, until the curd is “seated.” If you let go, chances are the curd will seep out, and you will lose the curd. Keeping your hand on the mold for a minute or two will prevent this.

When all the mold is full, place another piece of matting and then another aluminum pie plate (with four poked holes) on top of them.

After about 20 minutes, you will flip everything at once. To do this, make sure the pie tins are lined up, put your hands on opposite ends, gather your thoughts and quickly flip the whole thing. The cheese will settle into the molds. Flip the whole thing again two more times waiting 20 minutes between each flip.

As you can see the curds hit the floor with a flip 😦

After three flips, the curds in the molds should stay put for 12-18 hours compacting the curds. I covered them with a towel and set them in a safe shelving in my basement over night.

The next morning, I lifted up the cheese mold and let it air dry a few hours. When the cheese is firm, place it in a fully saturated brine for 20 minutes, then air dry again.

As Janet Hurst describes in her recipe, place the cheese in a 50-55 degree F environment and allow the mold to develop. You will see it starting in 3 to 5 days. Let the mold develop for 7 to 12 days until it entirely covers the cheese. Then wrap the cheese in wax or cheese paper and continue to age it for about 10 more days. It is ready to eat at any point, but will be well-developed at 21 days. Serve this cheese at room temperature.

Patty’s Points:

1. It did take me a while to figure out the equipment so that I could manipulate the flipping technique. The author mentioned cookie sheets but with the small size of my cheese molds the aluminum pie plates worked best. I sat it inside a second, bigger square aluminum pan to catch the whey draining through the pie plates.

2. Needlepoint mats worked very well. I couldn’t wrap my head around the size to choose so I made three trips to the craft store to get the right size.

3. The brine was non-specific so I looked it up on the internet.  One website recommended a 18-23% saltwater brine How to Make a Cheese Salt Brine:

Since I didn’t think I needed a large amount of brine I converted the website recipe to: one gallon of water to 7 oz salt. I used the non-iodized canning salt. It dissolved easily.

4. I forgot to place the cheese in wax paper after 12 days. I did keep it in a plastic container with a loosely capped top in a cooler in the basement. I placed an ice pack in the cooler and changed it daily. The brie aged for about 37 days.

5. I only used a half-gallon of milk because I only had one official brie mold. I used another cylinder to take the overflow of the curds and whey that didn’t fit in the whole mold.

The Fearless Cooking Club (TFCC) members tasted it and said it tasted like brie! Success! Now I am ready to try the second batch. It’ll be time to wow friends and family with the next generation of Brie. Rock Star!

Oh Cheez

October is American Cheese Month. I visited the land of cheese, Wisconsin, earlier this month and got in the cheese mood.

You’ll enjoy this picture.

The Splendid Table had a program on Cheesemaking with Janet Hurst author of the book Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers. She bragged at how easy Chèvre , French for goat cheese, was to make. It is one of my favorite cheeses and it is pretty versatile.  I’ve used it with chicken, appetizers, and salad dishes. I went to several stores on the search from Goat Milk and settled on powdered version. It was about $8 for a container that made about one gallon. It mixed easily and tasted good.

As per the recipe you need mesophilic and rennet to make the milk curdle into cheese. Mesophilic culture (far left in the picture) is used for most soft cheeses as well as any hard cheeses that are not heated over 102F.  ‘Meso’ means middle and these cultures are great for cheese making where the recipe requires ‘middle’ temperatures (between 68F and 102F). Rennet (middle in the picture) contains many enzymes, including a proteolytic enzyme that coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey).

In the picture above, far right, is penicillium candidum, which I used in another cheese I’ll blog about later.

The mixture should sit at room temperature for 12-15 hours in a container covered by a cloth to form curds. The next day, pour the milk,water and curd mixture through a colander lined with cheesecloth.

The goat cheese mixture should hang over the sink or on the handle of a cabinet for another 12 hours so the curds stay in the cloth and the whey is filtered out.

Add in 1/2 to 1 tsp of non-iodinized salt to flavor. Serve plain or add your own seasonings like chives, minced onion or garlic. I was excited to add my lavender to a part of the batch.

The Fearless Cooking Club (TFCC) gathered to eat cheese. I used the homemade goat cheese for my favorite recipes: appetizers using goat cheese and dates and Ina Garten’s recipe for chicken, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.

Cindy brought an assortment of cheesecakes

Char brought an oh so creamy, cheesy dish of chile rellenos.

We  were so ambitious, we thought about fondue, but ran out of time. Maybe next time when we think about having a raclette party

Patty’s points on Chèvre:

1. You can use whole milk or goat milk to make it depending on your taste.

2. It does not take very long to heat up the milk to 85 degrees F so watch the thermometer closely.

3. I found the powdered goat milk was more economical. Once I opened the container I put the rest of the powdered goat milk in the refrigerator.

4. The biggest issue was obtaining the rennet and the mesophilic culture. I was lucky that a cheese shop I pass everyday on the way to work had the items and were very helpful with my questions.

On my next post I’ll show two more cheeses I made including brie (if you can believe it). Until next time.