Quarantine Cuisine: top five Italian recipes from freshman Jules Biondo

We all love spaghetti and meatballs, but there’s more to Italian food than just the classics. Italian food can be traced down through centuries, offering various tasty plates to the public. With Italy’s variety of ingredients and spices, its mouthwatering flavors have influenced other types of foods throughout the world.

Taking inspiration from her family’s Sicilian heritage, freshman Jules Biondo is using her time in quarantine to expand her understanding of Italian cooking. Biondo has been cooking meals from Sicily, Italy for her family during her (unexpectedly) long spring break. Biondo shares her top five favorite Italian recipes to make while you’re bored, quarantined or if it’s just your turn to make a fancy dinner.

Courtesy of Jules Biondo
Freshman Jules Biondo is expanding her way through her boredom in these uncertain times. Biondo had a way of making cooking her hobby while quarantined. “I’m so happy that I could take my time being quarantined and turn it into something very fun, exciting and is now a passion/hobby of mine,” Biondo said.

 

1. Tomato and Rice Soup

Time: 25-30 minutes

Serving size: 1 cup

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups of water
  • ½ cup rice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (optional)

Steps:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and sautè for 7-8 minutes (until translucent)
  2. Reduce heat to low, add the can of crushed tomatoes, water, and salt. Turn heat medium high and bring to a boil
  3. Add the rice and stir well. Reduce heat to low again, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes (until it’s softened)
  4. Take the pot off and keep it covered until the rice has fully cooked

“It’s a Sicilian dish! My family originated from Sicily. It’s an easy dish that is definitely better than canned tomato soup,” Biondo said.

 

2. Baked Cheese with Anchovies and Lemon Zest

Time: 15-20 minutes

Serving size: 4

Ingredients: 

  • 2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounce halloumi cheese

Steps:

  1. Heat a pan over high heat. Mash the anchovies, oregano and zest with a fork in a small bowl with the oil until you have a paste
  2. Cut the cheese into 1 centimeter (½ inch) slices. Dry-fry the slices in the hot pan until lightly blackened on one side
  3. Turn the slices over and brush on a thin layer of the anchovy paste while the slices are still in the pan. When the underside is just blackened, remove from the pan and serve straight away with fresh crusty bread.

“This is another Sicilian dish. It’s definitely a poorer-class meal. Anchovies were very cheap because they were so plentiful in Sicily,” Biondo said. “It’s another cheap, easy, and delicious meal that I like to make on my birthday! This is by far my favorite dish!”

 

3. Classic Italian Pizza Dough

Courtesy to Jules Biondo
Even though this dish is known worldwide, Biondo made her Italian family pleased with this favorable dish.

Time: 35-40 minutes

Serving size: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup of warm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon oil

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit. Heat water and transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Ensure it is warm, not room temperature. Then sprinkle yeast into water and let sit 5-10 minutes until it is fully dissolved.
  2. Add 1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of oil into the water and mix it well until it is completely combined (will be sticky). Add the remaining 1 cup of flour until a soft dough forms up
  3. Lightly flour a clean surface that you will use to prepare your pizza dough. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead for 6-12 minutes until it is smooth.
  4. Add toppings, starting with tomatoes/sauce, then adding cheese and other toppings. If desired, sprinkle with garlic salt, pepper, or oregano
  5. Bake 10 minutes until it’s golden brown

 

“This is a classic Sicilian street dish. My family and I make this one a lot. The kind we make is super filling and so cheap. They are perfect for a lower-class family,” Biondo said.

Even though this dish is known worldwide, Biondo made her Italian family pleased with this favorable dish.

 

4. Cuccidati [Sicilian Fig-Stuffed Cookies]

Time: 60 minutes

Serving size: 50 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup dried fig
  • 1 cup dried dates
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups colored sprinkles

Steps:

  1. To make the dough, sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add sugar and stir well. Cut in the shortening with a fork or pastry blender and work the mixture until it looks like corn meal. In a bowl, beat egg, vanilla and milk together. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix with an electric mixer for about 30 minutes until well blended
  2. Refrigerate dough for 45 minutes. To make the filling, grind figs, dates and raisins in a food processor. Add remaining filling ingredients and mix well. Set aside the mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Cut dough into 2×3-inch rectangles. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of filling onto each rectangle. Carefully fold the long edges over to meet in the center and pinch to seal seam.
  4. Place each cookie on a baking sheet. Make two or three diagonal slits on the top of each cookie with a sharp knife. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are golden in color. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Ice the tops of each cookie and sprinkle with colored sprinkle. Let the icing dry completely.

“We eat this dish all the time during the holidays! It’s a treat for my family and I. It has figs, dates, raisins, honey, and chocolate chips in them! Then has a glaze of lemon juice and milk. They’re not very sweet, but still very delicious,” Biondo said.

 

Courtesy to Jules Biondo
Biondo’s cooking for the holidays has made her Sicilian family very proud as well as making her favorite Italian dishes.

5. Italian Coffee Bean Cookies

Time: 40 minutes

Serving size: 48-50 cookies

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 3 (2 ounce) packages chocolate-covered coffee beans (1 cup)
  • 4 English toffee candy bars, chopped (about 1 cup)

Steps:

  1. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  2. Combine flour and the next 3 ingredients; add to the butter mixture, beating well. Stir in chopped almonds, chocolate-covered coffee beans, and chopped toffee candy bars.
  3. Put dough on baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes (or until golden). Cool for a few minutes on baking sheets.

 

“I wanted to make a cookie that I know my family would enjoy. I altered the recipe slightly and added Kahlua [coffee-flavored liqueur] and coffee to it to enhance the coffee flavor,” Biondo said.

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