The Italian in Me by P. Noell

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Some of the pottery I sell on ETSY

My mother was born in Trieste, Italy and when I was a little girl, I enjoyed listening to some of the stories that she passed on to my brother and myself. Many of the stories were sad because during her young adult life she was living through the horrors of WWII.

When she met my dad, who was an American soldier stationed in Trieste, she played "hard to get" so it took 4 long years of courtship to finally convince her to marry him and move to America.

My mother was lonely at first with her family still living in Trieste. She was probably the only foreigner living in this small town in Georgia. The town took her under their wings and she eventually made plenty of friends. I oftentimes asked her why she left her family and moved so far away and she said "that's Amore".

My mom and dad, late 1940's
My mom and dad, late 1940's

Over the years, she corresponded through letters with her mother and sisters--all in Italian. To this day, I still have those letters in a large bin but have yet to translate them.

My aunt Anny before she had her own child, would make and send my mother matching outfits for my brother and me. We had some beautiful sweaters and coats. We were the best dressed couture toddlers in town. My mom and her sister were wonderful seamstresses.

My twin brother, Jim and me
My twin brother, Jim and me

My twin brother and I had never met my mom's family until the summer of 1964. We were eleven and we traveled to Trieste by ship, and stayed all through the summer--the best years of my youth.

Before we left for Italy, the local newspaper had taken our pictures and wrote an article about our upcoming travels. That was big news back then. How many children back in those days from a small town can say they lived in Italy for the summer? It was wonderful getting to know my uncle, aunts and cousins and especially my Nona (grandma). She was a sweet lady who loved to cook.

My cousin Tiziana, Aunt Anny, brother Jim, me, Mom and Uncle Edy summer of 1964
My cousin Tiziana, Aunt Anny, brother Jim, me, Mom and Uncle Edy summer of 1964

While there, we traveled all over northern Italy and other nearby countries. I still hold on to the memories and mementos we obtained while visiting various countries. Two years after our first visit, my Nona died unexpectedly. That summer of 1964 was the first and last time I ever saw her.

nona-2
Nona at the stove as usual

Since that summer, my mother stayed in touch with her family and over the years we would either visit Italy or my relatives would travel here. Even though we lived so far apart I felt a strong kinship to my Italian family. Over the years, one by one, my uncles and aunts passed away. My mom was the last to leave us. Before she passed away in 2008, I visited my cousin, Tiziana, in 2005. Her mom, Anny (my mom's sister,) had died the year before and I wanted to spend time with my cousin and my uncle. While I was there, my cousin would cook pasta and my uncle would pick up fresh fish and we'd have fried octopus, squid - you name it, I ate it. Everything tastes better in Italy. The food is simple, yet mouth watering.

Tiziana and her husband, Fabrizio and their dog Heikki
Tiziana and her husband, Fabrizio and their dog Heikki

So while I was in Italy Tiziana decided to show me how to make tiramisu. Watching her make it seemed simple yet complicated. She used all fresh ingredients, because tiramisu is a dessert that doesn't require baking, so it's important that the eggs are fresh. I thought, I GOT THIS. I wrote down the recipe while she was making it. I forgot all about the recipe until years later while my daughter's in-laws were in town, I thought I would pull out the recipe and make them Tiramisu. They are both Italian so I was hoping to impress them. What a disaster! The tiramisu looked good from the outside but once I cut into it you would have have thought I was giving them pudding. I may have soaked the ladyfingers for too long in the espresso coffee.  When my cousin made it, it came out perfect. I guess there's an art to making tiramisu.

I somehow managed to lose the recipe, so I contacted my cousin, Tiziana, and she was happy to oblige.  So here's the tiramisu recipe straight out of Italy.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup brewed espresso or very strong coffee, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (8 Tablespoons)
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese(1-1/4 cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons rum
  • 6 whipped egg whites
  • 18 to 20 Savoiardi Italian lady fingers
  • 1 ounce grated bittersweet chocolate and/or cocoa powder for dusting

Directions:

Combine espresso or strong coffee, 2 TBS Rum and 2 TBS of confectioners’ sugar in a bowl

Prepare Filling:

Beat egg yolks and 6 TBS of confectioners’ sugar and set over a double-boiler saucepan in   simmering water 5 to 8 minutes. Use a whisk and continue to beat until you remove from the heat. Once you remove bowl from heat then beat in mascarpone cheese.

Beat 6 egg whites in a bowl until it holds stiff peaks.  Once the yolk - mascarpone mixture has cooled a little, gently fold in half of the beaten egg whites and then add the remaining half.  If you have concerns about raw egg whites be sure to use the freshest and highest quality of eggs (short of owning a hen).  Look for Grade A or AA eggs in the egg shell.

Assemble Tiramisu:

Dip half of the ladyfingers very quickly into the coffee, and line the bottom of a 11 by 8 inch dish or 9 inch square dish. Spoon half of the mascarpone filling over the ladyfingers and spread into an even layer. Grate half of the bittersweet chocolate over filling.  Then dip the remaining ladyfingers very quickly into the coffee and arrange a second layer over filling. Spoon remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers. Dust with cocoa powder. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours.  When ready to serve, dust with extra grated chocolate or cocoa powder.  Leave out at room temperature about 20 minutes before serving.

Let me know how yours turned out.  ENJOY!   Patricia

Come visit my pottery site at www.etsy.com/shop/potterybynoell

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www.etsy.com/shop/eastburnoriginals

www.etsy.com/shop/runningrabbitpottery

www.etsy.com/shop/simplysusanspots

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