Friday, August 21, 2015

"Discovering Italy's Culture" & A Yummy Recipe Called “Sofia’s Italian Baked Tomatoes”

A few days ago I was watching a video called “Discovery Atlas: Italy Revealed.” It depicts the passionate culture of Italy as it follows six stories of Italians, including a jockey participating in a traditional “palio,” to a former fisherman trying to set a diving record off Sicily’s coast, to the Missoni family of the fashion world, and a Venetian gondolier’s attempt to keep his family in his native city. I was amazed while I was watching this very scenic and heart warming video. It brought to mind that the Italian people are on a journey, that features many cultural customs such as fashion, cinema, food, music, and architecture just to name a few.

When the Italian’s came to the United States, they developed many customs that were not part of their lives before they came here; creating a culture that is independent of any other. As I continued to think about this, I thought that it would be an interesting subject to share with you my readers about Italy’s cultural icons. Since, my great grandparents came from Italy to the United States I can understand the culture behind my families heritage. It must have been extremely challenging for them to come to another country, with another language and now have to learn how to fit in with other customs that they did not understand. I feel very blessed and honored to have come from a background of exceptionally strong and dedicated men and women to seek a better life for their families. Here are some of the famous Italian Cultural Icons that may give you a better understanding of why Italy is the birthplace of Western Culture and is often nicknamed "ll Bel Paese" (The Beautiful Country)

Architecture: Italy has a very broad and diverse architectural style. Some famous structures are the Coliseum, Tower of Pisa, Grand Canal (Venice), Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Square (Vatican).

Visual Arts: Over the centuries, Italian Art has gone through many changes. Italian painting is traditionally illustrated by warmth of colors and light. Famous paintings and figures are Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo’s David, others by Raphael. Donatello, Caravaggio, Botticelli. Many of these artifacts are religious in nature.

Micheal Castaldo
Music: From folk to classical, music has always played an important role in Italian culture. The Italian Opera, Antonio Vivaldi, Giuseppe Verdi, Toscanini, Rossini, Puccini, Pavarotti, Bellini, Andrea Bocelli, Enrico Caruso and  Michéal Castaldo,  who is an Award-winning songwriter, producer, and recording artist. A true Italian legend.  

Cinema: The Italian film industry was born between 1903 and 1908. Some famous icons are, Dario Argento, Rossano Brazzi, Federico Fellini, Isabella Rossellini, Marcello Mastroianni, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Anna Magnani, Roberto Benigni and Dino De Laurentiis.

Fashion and Design: Italian fashion is regarded as one of the most important in the world. Milan, Florence, and Rome are Italy’s main fashion capitals. Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Gucci, Prada, Pucci, Valentino, and Versace. 

"Cooking With Nonna"
Italian Cuisine: Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Cheese and wine are major parts of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally. Some famous dishes include pasta, pizza, lasagna, focaccia, gelato, bread, olive Oil, salami, Parma ham, coffee, and cappuccino. Check out Rossella Rago‘s Cooking With Nonna You can’t get more Italian than her recipes, made by her and her sweet Nonna's. 

Religion: Roman Catholic is by far the largest religion in the country. The Roman Catholic Church (Vatican City) has been separated from the state, but still plays a role in the nation’s political affairs. 

Famous Places: Adriatic Sea, Bologna, Calabria, Catania, Emilia-Romagna, Mt. Etna, Florence, Genoa, Lake Como, Milan, Modena, Naples, Pisa, Rome, Perugia, Parma, Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily, Turin, Tuscany, Tyrrhenian Sea, Venice, Verona, and Mt. Vesuvius to name a few famous places.

Italy is filled with beauty, culture, and history. There is so much more to this boot shaped country and its people. My recipe this week is one that my great-grandmother would make and has been passed down to me. My great-grandmother Sofia came from Calabria, in Italy. This recipe can be a side dish for any entrée or served along side a Frittata for lunch.  

                                          “Sofia’s Italian Baked Tomatoes

6 medium tomatoes (ripe but firm)
2 cups of plain dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup of Pecorino Romano Grated Cheese
3 tsp minced fresh parsley leaves
3 tsp minced garlic cloves
2 tsp of minced fresh basil
Salt & pepper to taste
5 tbsp (plus) olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Use a baking pan and spray with Pam or coat with olive oil so tomatoes will not stick, then set aside. Cut tomatoes after washing, in half diagonally. Gently squeeze out the juice and the seeds. Be careful not to puncture the skin. Place in baking pan cut side up. Mix the bread crumbs with the basil, minced garlic, grated cheese, and parsley in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, after cooked. As the grated cheese has a salty taste. Add some olive oil and mix with hands. When it feels like a sandy consistency then you are ready to fill. If you need more oil, put in a small amount each time until you get the right consistency. Now take your tomato and top each one with your bread crumb mixture, gently filling them. Drizzle with a small amount of oil evenly on top of each tomato half. Bake, about 30 minutes uncovered, until tomatoes are cooked, (soft) and stuffing is golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Yield: 12 halves

*********A wine to pair with your tomato dish would be a Sauvignon Blanc or even a Pinot Grigio.

(Please Drink Responsibly)

Till Next Time………..

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  1. You are so right about the Italian heritage. I can see how you feel strongly about your Italian genes. People who emigrated after the war where indeed hard workers and determined to to their very best to achieve what they wanted and feed their family. We seem to have lost some of that will power although the recession is changing people attitudes to life and work again.
    My grandparents emigrated to Argentina instead and had their own shop selling groceries. In the end they decided to go back to Italy to look after their elderly parents. My dad can still speak some spanish though.
    I love your simple and delicious tomato recipe. Brava e buon weekend!

    1. Dear Alida,
      Ciao! Thanks for visiting and your comment. You are so right, things are so different now a days. Years ago the world and the people were different and they had respect for their country and where they came from. I have heard of many Italians emigrating to Argentina. But they had the respect to go back to Italy to take care of their elderly parents. So happy that you enjoyed reading and my recipe. I always say simplicity is what really can really taste the tomatoes with the flavors of the breadcrumb mixture. Buon Sabato a voi e la vostra famiglia...Not sure this is correct grammar but I try...grazie!
      Dottie :)

  2. Dear Dottie,
    It is difficult to explain growing up in an Italian family. I do not think people quite understand the uniqueness and overflowing of love, music, food and family. It is truly a blessing. It makes us who we are today.
    I hope that you are feeling much better. xoxo Catherine

    1. Dear Catherine,
      Thanks for your visit and your comment. Some people have no clue. You are correct. There is so much that makes us who we are. Especially food, love, family, respect, and faith. I feel so blessed that I grew up in this culture. I am sure other cultures are wonderful as well. But like you said it makes us who we are now...Thanks for asking I am doing ok..will always have pains and aches, that goes along with the Lupus and MS. But I will never give up and I have so many wonderful friends and family that care...besides my faith. Blessing my dear friend..
      Dottie :)

  3. Good for your Italian heritage, Dottie! You explained it perfectly! It's a great inspiring culture from architecture to paintings to music and all. We traveled all around Europe way back when and were right at the Italian border a couple of times, but didn't visit there. I'm still mad about it after all these years and would love to go there. :-) This is a great post, you did it well! Take care

    1. Dear Pam,
      Thank you for your comment and your visit. So glad that you enjoyed this post and the recipe. This is what my culture is all about and I hope that I can inspire someone to not only visit Italy but also try many Italian foods. That must have been a wonderful trip all over Europe. But how sad that you did not get to see Italy. Being right at the border and not going in the country. But that means that you have to go back there. Be well and thanks again..have a super week!
      Dottie :)