During the Spring 2012 I taught one of many interdisciplinary undergraduate seminars in the Experimental Study Group at MIT. Each class is based on the preparation of a simple delicious dish and on the bite-sized acquisition of parts of the Italian language and culture.
Videography by Graham Gordon Ramsay.

Click here to watch the videos in full resolution.
Buon divertimento!

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero dodici

For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on May 11th, 12th and 14th.

Friday, July 27, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero undici

For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on May 4th and 8th.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero dieci


For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on April 27th and May 1st.

Friday, July 13, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero nove


For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on April 20th and 23rd.

Monday, July 9, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero otto


For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on April 7th and 8th.

Monday, July 2, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero sette


For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on March 24 and 26.

Monday, June 18, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero sei


For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on March 15, 16, 17 and 18.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lezione numero tredici: l'ultima lezione

La scorsa settimana (the last week) we had our last class (ultima lezione): il semestre è finito (finished, masc. sing.). Well done "kids"!
Sono triste e felice (sad and happy) allo stesso tempo (at the same time) ;)
We are working on the videos of the classes and will post them during the summer (estate).

[For the complete video of this class click here.]

Buona estate!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Orecchiette alla caprese

For the complete video of this class click here.


La caprese è un antipasto with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and good olive oil. This is a variation for a quick and easy summery pasta sauce.


- pomodorini (cherry tomatoes), you can also use other kinds of tomatoes
- mozzarella fresca (fresh mozzarella, if you like it you can use mozzarella di bufala)
- foglie di basilico fresco (leaves of fresh basil)
- olio extravergine di oliva
- sale, pepe, peperoncino
- optional: capperi (capers). If you use capers in salt, rinse them well before use
- optional: percorino romano grattuggiato (grated)

If you do not like to cook a occhio, by eye, then for 4 people consider about 1 lb of pomodorini and 1 large mozzarella (7-8 oz).


- lava e taglia (wash and cut) i pomodorini in quarters
- taglia la mozzarella a cubetti
- in una ciotola grande (in  a large bowl) mescola (mix) i pomodorini, la mozzarella, few (washed) leaves of basil (whole, or broken in pieces, using your hands), olive oil, salt, pepper and red crushed pepper.
- If you like them, add a bunch of capperi and percorino romano.
- Your pasta sauce is ready, you do not need to cook anything! When the pasta is cooked and drained, mix all together in the bowl or in the pot.

Buon appetito =)


Le orecchiette sono un tipo di pasta originario della regione Puglia
Orecchietta lit. means little cute ear (orecchio or orecchia= ear).

Ingredienti (per 4 persone):

- 400 g di farina di grano duro (lit.flour of hard wheat -> durum flour, or sifted semolina flour - about 3 cups)
- un pizzico di sale
- acqua tiepida (warm water, as much as needed)


- Impasta (knead) forcefully for at least 10 minutes. You want the dough to be hard, smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes. If you do not have the patience (la pazienza) to wait it's ok ;)
- Roll pieces of dough into ropes as thin as a pens, and with a knife cut pieces of  about 1/4". With your hands, or with the help of a knife, give these pieces the characteristic orecchietta shape.
Watch our videos or check out this link for visual help
- If you are not starving , let the orecchiette dry for a few hours. 
Else skip this step.
- Cook your  orecchiette in boiling salty water for about 10 minutes or until al dente. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tagliatelle ai funghi

For the complete video of this class click here.

FUNGHI TRIFOLATI (= cooked with garlic and parsley):


- dried porcini or your  favorite fresh funghi (mushrooms)
   If you are making pasta for 4 people, use about 1 lb of fresh
   mushrooms or 0.2 lb of dry mushrooms
- aglio (garlic), as much or as little as you want
- prezzemolo fresco (fresh Italian parsley)
- panna da cucina (the closest ingredient I found in the US is heavy cream), as much or as little as you want  (you can use none)
- olio extravergine d'oliva, sale, pepe (pepper)


- If you use dry mushrooms, soak them in warm water for about 1 hr.
  If you use fresh mushrooms wash them and cut them in medium/small pieces.
- Make a soffritto (sweat) with garlic (whole cloves, easy to remove, or chopped) in olive oil
- aggiungi (add) i funghi e mescola (and mix). If you use dry mushrooms, you can add part of
 the water in which you soaked them
- When the mushrooms are cooked (it takes 5-10 minutes), lower the heat to minimum, add heavy cream, salt, pepper and the parsley leaves (washed and finely chopped)
- Remove from the heat: i funghi sono pronti! Serve them mixed with your tagliatelle or
 as a side dish (contorno)! If you want, top with your favorite grated cheese.


Ingredienti per 4 persone:

- 400 g =0.9 lb, a little more than 3 cups di farina (of flour - all purpose)
- 4 uova grandi (large eggs)
- un pizzico di sale (a pinch of salt)
- if needed to hold the dough together, due cucchiai di acqua tiepida (two spoons of warm water)


- Place the flour on the counter or in una ciotola (a bowl), make a well in the center, put the eggs in the well and mix with your fingers or con l'aiuto (with the help) di una forchetta (of a fork).  

- Impasta (knead) thoroughly: the dough is very hard to knead but you want it to become smooth. 

If you prefer you can use un robot da cucina (a food processor).
- Let the dough rest for about 1 hr (wrapped in plastic film). If you are
 impatient, you can skip this step. 
- Flatten the dough using a pasta machine or a rolling pin.
If you use a pasta machine, lightly dust it and the dough with flour each time you run the pasta through it. Start from the widest setting and switch to the narrower until you reach the desired thickness.
If you use the rolling pin, be sure to dust it and the counter with flour; flatten down to a thickness on about half a mm. Essentially as thin as you can. 
- Cut the pasta in your favorite shape. Tagliatelle are about 5-7 mm (0.2/0.3") wide, pappardelle are wider (1.5-2 cm) 

Look here for some ideas  

 Commenti e variazioni:

- You can save the scrap pieces of irregular shape: they even have a name maltagliati (badly cut).
- Cook your pasta in boiling salty water for 3-5 minutes
- If you made too much, freeze it before you cook it. In that case do not let it thaw before cooking it.
- You can make pasta with less or senza uova  (without eggs): in this case use only warm water.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lezione numero dodici: andare a fare la spesa

For the complete video click here!

Benissimo! By now you can cook a full Italian meal...but how about grocery shopping?
Andare a fare la spesa lit means "to go to do the shopping".
Let's conjugate the indicative present of the  irr. verb andare:

(io) vado

(tu) vai

(lui/lei) va

(noi) andiamo

(voi) andate

(loro) vanno

So, quando andate a fare la spesa in Italia, you have many choices: you can go al supermercato or to
a mercato or a small alimentari or specialty store.
In any case you should keep in mind that i negozi chiudono presto (the stores close early, usually by 8 pm or earlier) e molti negozi sono chiusi (are closed) la domenica. The smaller stores have shorter opening times,  and they may be closed for a few hours il pomeriggio. It is better to check!

Se vai al supermercato (= grocery store) there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

1) Hai bisogno di uno o due euro per prendere (= to take) il carrello (=the cart)
2) Non toccare (= do not touch) la frutta e la verdura, they provide disposable plastic gloves
3) Devi pesare (=[you] must weight) la frutta e la verdura con la bilancia
4) Devi mettere (=to put) la spesa nel sacchetto (or borsina = plastic bag) da sola/o (on your own) e devi pagare (=to pay) per i sacchetti (pochi centesimi)

Al supermercato ci sono molti reparti (sectors): panificio (=bakery), reparto formaggi e salumeria (cheese and cold cuts area), macelleria (butcher's shop), pescheria (fish shop),...

If you ask for 100 g of something, you may say 1 etto (short for ettogrammo) instead. 

100 grammi = 1 etto 
E.g. Quanto costa un etto di prosciutto? (=how much does one etto of prosciutto cost?)
1 chilogrammo = 1 chilo  
E.g. Vorrei un chilo di mele, per favore. Quanto costano?

If you prefer to try the smaller shops, you will need to go from the alimentari (small grocery shop, usually more expensive) to il panificio, il macellaio, il fruttivendolo (fruit shop), la pescheria.
It can be fun to find some local products.

Ma se vai a fare la spesa in Italia, do no miss il mercato del paese o del quartiere (the open air
 market of the town or of the neighborhood): it is usually once per settimana, in the morning and it is a full immersion in smells, noises and flavors. Remember: you can always ask to try/taste  (= provare) something before you buy it and do not hesitate to haggle for everything. Buon divertimento!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Torta o crostata di frutta

For the complete video click here.


pasta frolla (see the post from yesterday) 
crema pasticcera (see the post from yesterday) 
- la tua frutta preferita (your favorite fruit, e.g. berries, grapes, mandarines, kiwi,banana)

We used:

- una banana
- due kiwi
- more (blackberries)
- fragole (strawberries)
- uva (grapes)

Other common berries:  lamponi (raspberries), mirtilli (blueberries), ribes (to read with Italian pronunciation, red currant)


0 - Riscalda il forno a 180 C (warm up the oven at 350 F)
1- Prepare a batch of pasta frolla
2- Cut a piece of carta da forno (parchment paper) the size of your pie pan
3- Flatten the pasta frolla on a flat surface dusted with flour and transfer it into the pie pan. Use your hands to press the dough into the mold (it should be about 0.5 cm = 1/5" thick) and trim the excess dough
4- Prick the dough con una forchetta (with a fork)
5- Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Once it is ready, let it cool down
6- In the meantime prepare a batch of crema pasticcera and let it cool down
7- Spread the crema pasticcera evenly
8- Decorate with the fruit (washed and cut)

Commenti e varianti:

- When the pie crust is ready, you can spread a thin layer of melted dark chocolate and let it cool before
 you spread the crema pasticcera
- if you prepare it in advance, you may want to mix the cut fruit with lemon juice, so it does not
 blacken,  and top the torta with unflavored gelatine

La crostata

For the complete video click here!

This Italian classic is more difficult to describe than to bake =)


- pasta frolla (see the post from yesterday) 
- 1 jar (vasetto, lit. little cute vase) of your favorite jam or Nutella


0 - Riscalda il forno a 180 C (warm up the oven at 350 F)
1- Prepare a batch of pasta frolla
2- Cut a piece of carta da forno (parchment paper) the size of your pie pan
3- Flatten 3/4 of the pasta frolla on a flat surface dusted with flour and transfer it into the pie pan. Use your hands to press the dough into the mold (it should be about 0.5 cm = 1/5" thick) and trim the excess dough
4- Prick the dough con una forchetta (with a fork)
5- Spread the jam or nutella evenly
6- Flatten the rest of the dough and cut it in strips that you will arrange on top of the crostata, in an open lattice pattern (see the photo below) 
7- Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown

Your first crostata (it still needs a few minutes in the oven): bravi!

Friday, May 11, 2012

La crema pasticcera

For the complete video click here.

Ingredienti (per due torte di frutta di circa 25 cm di diametro)

- 3 tuorli d'uovo a temperatura ambiente (yolks at room temperature)
- 50 g (5 tbs) di farina (flour)
- 50 g (about 3.5 tbs) di zucchero (sugar)

- 1 pizzico/goccio di vaniglia (vanilla, or you can use grated lemon zest)
- 500 g = mezzo litro di latte (half a liter of milk, about 1 pint)


- In a pentola (pot) combine the egg yolks and sugar, then add the flour
- Heat the milk with a drop of vanilla
- When the milk is hot, but not boiling add it gradually to the egg and sugar mixture. Keep mixing with a spatula. Try to avoid the formation of lumps
- Using a whisk (or al electric mixer on low) continue to mix over medium heat until it thickens (it should take a few minutes). Try to avoid the formation of lumps
- Dust the surface with sugar and cover with plastic wrap to prevent it from forming a skin while it cools down

Commenti e varianti:

- You can eat it as is, or place it in nice little bowls with some fresh berries
- Attenzione (watch out) a non fare impazzire la crema (lit. not to make the cream crazy): if you use cold eggs or milk, let the cream cook too long, mix changing direction, then the cream will not reach the desired smooth consistency and density
- Once the pastry cream is ready and still warm, you can add cocoa powder or melted dark chocolate
 to it...
- you can make a nice quick dessert with puff pastry filled with pastry cream
 (bake the puff pastry in the shape of a tart or in small squares/circle and when it  has cooled down add the cream to make a fruit tart or some sort of small puffs)
- I will post the recipe for la torta di frutta tomorrow

La pasta frolla

For the complete video click here!

La pasta frolla is a basic dough for cookies and torte such as la crostata and la torta di frutta (I will post the recipe tomorrow).

Ingredienti (per una crostata per 6 persone, about 26 cm in diameter):

(250 g is about 0.55 lb)

- 250 g di farina (flour)
- 125 g di burro freddo tagliato a cubetti (cold butter cut in cubes)
- 75 g di zucchero (sugar)
- 2 tuorli (or rossi) d'uovo (egg yolks) a temperatura ambiente (at room temperature)
- mezza buccia di limone grattuggiata (half a lemon zest grated)
- mezzo cucchiaino di lievito istantaneo (half a teaspoon of baking powder)
- 1 pizzico di sale (a pinch of salt)
- 1 pizzico/1 goccio di vaniglia (pinch/tiny bit of vanilla - goccia= drop)


- In una ciotola (in a bowl) mescola (mix) la farina, il lievito, lo zucchero, il sale e la buccia di limone.
- Aggiungi (add) i tuorli d'uovo e il burro. Impasta (knead) con le dita (with -your- fingers) per meno di mezzo minuto (for less than half a minute).
-  if it does not stick together, add some cold water or an egg white
- Form a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, ideally a couple of hours.

La pasta frolla is now pronta (ready) to make una torta or you can simply flatten it, cut it in your favorite shapes and bake it (at 350 F) to make biscotti.

 Comments and variations:

- you can use un robot da cucina
- you can prepare more dough and freeze it =)
- you can substitute all or part of the butter with extra virgin olive oil: not
 as tasty, but healthier
- in a few years you can add 1/2 a tablespoon of scotch to the dough

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lezione numero undici: fare una prenotazione al telefono

For the complete video click here.

La scorsa settimana (last week you can also say la settimana passata), while our cantucci were baking and bis-baking ;-), we learned how to make a reservation at a restaurant.
Practice reading ad alta voce! Can you understand everything? The vocabulary below may help.

Ristoratore1: Pronto! Ristorante Da Nonna Pia. Buonasera!

Tu: Buonasera! Vorrei prenotare un tavolo per domani sera.

R: Benissimo, a/per che ora?

T: Alle otto e mezza. Vorremmo sederci fuori.

R: Quanti siete?

T: Quindici.

R: Non c'è posto per quindici fuori, mi dispiace. Può andare bene dentro, vicino alla finestra?

T: Va bene. C'è una bella vista?

R: Sì.

T: Allora va bene.

R: A che nome?

T: Veneziani.

R: Bene, grazie. A domani!

T: Arrivederci

The day after, when you arrive, puoi (you can) say:

Ho una prenotazione per quindici a nome Veneziani.

Vocabulary and grammar

Pronto= ready, this is what we usually say when we pick up the phone (il telefono)
Vorrei = (I) would like to (present conditional, 1st pers. sing. of the irr. verb volere)
Prenotare= to reserve
Tavolo = table
A/per che ora= at/for what time
Otto e mezza = eight and  a half, you can also say alle venti e trenta (20:30), but
 since you already asked for a table for the evening, otto e mezza will be clear enough
Vorremmo = (we) would like to (present conditional, 1st pers. plur. of the irr. verb volere)
Sederci= sedere+ ci (us) = sit ourselves, meaning sit
Fuori= outside
Dentro = inside
Posto = place, locality. In this context seat
Mi dispiace = dispiace a me = it displeases me -> I am sorry
Può = can (3rd pers. sing. indicative pres. of the irr verb potere)
Vicino alla finestra = close to the window (alla=a+la)
Vista = view, it also means eyesight
Allora = then
A domani = to tomorrow -> see you tomorrow


1) Optional : record yourself as you read the dialogue. You can use the free on-line recorder http://vocaroo.com/. I will post the best audio! Ask me if you are in doubt about la pronuncia. You can do this as group problem.

2)  Write sentences including the 6 sets of words listed below:

             a) amico/a
            b) cucchiaio
            c)  sete
            d) potere (puoi/può)
             e) cotti
                 le piacciono 

            f) prenotare

3) Solve:

Hints: fries in italian is translated as little potatoes, while croissant as cute little horns

Friday, May 4, 2012

I cantucci

For the complete video click here.

Ieri sera abbiamo preparato i cantucci or cantuccini.  There are two variations: i cantucci di Siena (with butter, more crumbly) e quelli di Prato (vicino a Firenze).
I cantucci di Prato are also known as biscotti di Prato, or in the US simply as biscotti.
Biscotti means "cooked twice": bis is the prefix from latin for twice (at the end of a concert we usually shout bis!!! instead of encore) and cotti (cooked).
I cantucci are indeed baked twice. However, in Italia usiamo the word biscotti for any sorts of cookies, including those that bake only once, like chocolate chip cookies.
The recipe below is adapted from una ricetta di mia zia Mariolina.

Ingredienti (this amount is for a couple of baking sheets of cantucci):

- 680 g =1 1/2 lb di farina bianca
- 1 cucchiaio di lievito istantaneo (baking powder)
- 680 g =1 1/2 lbs di miele (honey)
[if you do not like honey, you can instead add 2 eggs OR some melted butter OR extra virgin olive oil AND 100g, about 1/2 cup of sugar. You would only need a little butter or oil- just enough to keep to dough together]
- 4 (quattro) uova 
- 100 g di zucchero
- 680 g =1 1/2 lbs di mandorle intere (whole almonds, with skin)
[you can substitute le mandorle with chopped dark chocolate or uvetta, raisins or make a mix of the three. You may also try to use nocciole, hazelnuts]
- la buccia grattuggiata di un'arancia (grated zest of one orange -- you can use lemon as well)
- Optional: you can add some spices, such as vanilla, or fennel seeds, cinnamon, a little nutmeg...


1- Preheat il forno (oven) at 180 C ~350 F. Cover the baking sheet (teglia) with parchment paper (carta da forno).
2- In a very large ciotola (bowl), place the flour mixed with the baking powder.
3- Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the honey, using a spatula or your fingers (le tue dita) to gently mix as you pour.
4- In a small ciotola, briefly mix the eggs and the sugar with a whisk.  Add the orange zest.
5- Again, make a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Pour into it the egg-and-sugar mixture. Mescola con le mani (with your hands) or with a rubber spatula for a few minutes.
6- Aggiungi the almonds and mescola  for a few more minutes.  The dough will be soft, rough, and sticky.
7- Take some of the dough in your hands and place it sulla teglia. Press the dough to form a log the length of the baking sheet, 1-1.5 cm (~1/2") thick and 5 cm (~2") wide. Ideally, you should try to shape it such that the center is a little bit thicker.  Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly brown.
8- Remove the logs from the baking sheets and place them on a cutting board. Cut each log in 0.5 cm (~1/4") pieces. If you want you can cut them on  a slight diagonal.
9- Place these pieces back on the baking sheets leaning one of the cut sections against the bottom of the sheet.  Bake for  approximately 10 more minutes per side.
10- Remove from the oven.  The cantuccini will become harder when they cool down.
We usually eat them dipped in a glass of Vin Santo (lit. holy wine,  a sweet dessert wine)...but you can dip them in milk ;)

Note:  once the cantucci are cooled, you can place them in tin cans and keep them for a long time.  You can also freeze them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

La torta sbrisolona

For the complete video click here.
La torta sbrisolona is like a huge crumbly cookie. It is typical of the city of Mantova (Mantua, in Lombardia) and surroundings.

Torta = any sort of cake, pie, tart
Sbrisolona = Mantuan dialect for sbriciolona 
Briciola = crumb -> sbriciolare = to crumble, and as we saw last week, -ona is an augmentative suffix.
Therefore la torta sbrisolona can be translated as the big crumbling tart.

Questa è la ricetta di mia nonna Lidia.

Buon appetito... e buona Festa del lavoro!

Ingredienti per 6 persone: 

100 g = little less that 1/4 lb

- 100 g di farina bianca (white flour)
- 100 g di farina gialla (lit. yellow flour -> corn meal)
- 100 g di burro a temperatura ambiente (butter at room temperature)
- 100 g di zucchero (sugar)
- 100 g di mandorle (almonds), o un misto (a mix) di mandorle e nocciole (hazelnuts)
-  un uovo (one egg)
- la buccia grattuggiata di un limone (lit. the grated peel of one lemon)
- un pizzico di vaniglia (opzionale) (a pinch of vanilla) -- in powder or liquid
- un pizzico di sale (opzionale) (a pinch of salt, add it if you like some sweet/salty contrast)


- Preheat il forno (the oven) at 180 C, about 350 F
- Chop le mandorle (the almonds): you want some of the almonds to be chopped roughly and some to be finely ground. If you like them, you can keep some almonds as whole. In class we used a mixer (un robot da cucina). If you do not have one you can cover the almonds with paper towels and break them by beating them with a meat beater or something else heavy
- Mescola (mix, 2nd person sing) all the dry ingredients (tutti gli ingredienti secchi)
- Aggiungi (add) the grated lemon zest (grate only la parte gialla, perchè la parte bianca è amara, bitter) and the egg
- Add the butter in clumps: you do not want to over mix or  knead, simply try to join the ingredients
 and keep large (about 1/2 inch in diameter) crumbs
- Pour the briciole (crumbs) in a baking pan covered with parchment paper (or covered with a thin layer
 of butter and farina gialla). You want to spread them to a thickness of  1 cm to 2.5  cm (about half to 1 inch)
- Bake until golden (typically it takes 30 to 60 minutes, based on the thickness)
- Let it cool down. When you serve it, break it with your hands...it will form a lot of briciole. It is perfect  with a dessert wine, but for the next few years you should have it with milk or ice cream!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lezione numero dieci: erbettina e pomodorinaccio

For the complete video click here.

L'altro ieri (lit. the other yesterday, meaning the day before yesterday) era (it was) mercoledì venticinque Aprile. Il 25 Aprile in Italia è festa, la festa della liberazione. È il giorno che rappresenta la fine dell'occupazione nazifascista e la fine della seconda guerra (war) mondiale (25 Aprile millenovecento quarantacinque).
È una festa nazionale: in molte città sono organizzati cortei (parades) e commemorazioni (memorials).

Yesterday in class we baked la torta sbrisolona. 
In Italian a noun or adjective can be modified by taking the root and adding a suffix to express a particular quality.
The suffix -ona/one (f/m) is used when something is big, or a lot. La sbrisolona, can be translated into
 something like "the very crumbly thing"...but I will tell you more about it in a separate post.
Let's look at the most common examples of  modifying suffixes (in reality there are a lot more --- see e.g. http://italian.about.com/od/grammar/a/aa061108a.htm). Try to read them ad alta voce!!!!
Post a comment if you would like to hear the recorded audio. Ciao!

Diminutivo (it conveys smallness)

cucchiaio-> cucchiaino
pomodori-> pomodorini
piccolo-> piccolino
polpetta-> polpettina

Accrescitivo (bigness/largeness)

libro-> librone
Paolo-> Paolone
goloso (= glutton)-> golosone
naso (= nose)-> nasone

Vezzeggiativo (small+endearing) 

Paola-> Paoletta
casa-> casetta
erba -> erbetta
zii (uncles) -> zietti

Peggiorativo (ugliness/badness/dirt)

pizza-> pizzaccia
parola (word) -> parolaccia (a bad word)
fratello (brother)-> fratellaccio

We use these suffixes a lot, sometimes even combined (colloquially, not in written):
che bella macchinettina! La mamma ha fatto una tortonaona (or tortonona) per il mio compleanno.
Mi piace cucinare con l'erbettina del mio orto (= kitchen garden). Che pomodorinaccio, è amarissimo (very amaro=bitter).


1) Translate into article+noun or just noun, using the right suffix:

- A small salad 
- A nasty herb (e.g. a weed)
- A big bed
- Stinky shoe (shoe = scarpa)
- A small pan
- Small breads (plural!)
- My dear aunts  (plural!)
- Big hands (plural!)
- A cute little girl
- A very nasty person (nasty= antipatico, opposite of simpatico)
- Nice little notebooks (plural!)

2- Describe in a few sentences a real or imaginary person or animal or location. Try to use at least two modifying suffixes.

Possible guidelines/keywords.


Chi è, come si chiama, l'età (the age),
la statura/altezza (basso=short, alto=tall, di media statura = of average heigt), 
la corporatura (grasso = fat, magro = thin, normale), 
i capelli (plural!!!!) = hair (lunghi = long, corti= short, lisci = lit. smooth, straight, ricci = curl, neri = black , castani = brown, for hair and eyes, biondi = blond, rossi, bianchi, brizzolati = salt and pepper, grigi = gray, pelato/calvo = bald),
gli occhi (grandi, piccoli, a mandorla = like almonds, neri, castani, verdi= green, azzurri = light blue, grigi), 
il naso (a patata =), all'insù = pointing up, like tiramisù, piccolo, grande), 
ha la barba (beard), i baffi (moustache) porta gli occhiali (glasses),
ha le orecchie a sventola (protruding ears),..
come si veste (vestirsi= to dress)
il carattere: qualità e difetti
il comportamento (come è con le altre persone, come parla, come si muove), cosa gli piace, abitudini, feelings he/she inspires... 


Che animale è, come si chiama, dove vive, caratteristiche fisiche, verso (the characteristic call/sounds produced), il comportamento, le abitudini, cosa gli piace
il rapporto che ha con te, feelings it inspires...


Nome, descrizione visiva (visual description --- colors, size),  suoni e rumori (sounds and noises), odori e profumi (smells and perfumes), temperatura, feelings it inspires,...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lezione numero nove: un caffè per favore

 A famous song about coffee. Lo Zecchino d'oro is a popular children's song festival.
I bet you can understand most of the words  =)

Last week we had un ospite speciale: Fiorenzo Omenetto, Professore di Ingegneria Biomedica a Tufts. He did not join us to talk about his wondrous research (if you are curious you can learn about it here!), but to make tiramisù and chat about the italian coffee, il caffè italiano.

For the videos of this class click here.

Let's refresh some vocabolario!

- il bar in Italia is not a place where they serve just alcoholic drinks, but it refers also to a coffee house. People drink coffee al bar all the time, mostly standing at the counter (italian coffee is so small that you do not need to sit or carry it with you to drink it)

- caffè really refers to espresso, and it is served in a tazzina (una tazza piccola= a small cup)

- there is no small, medium, large: you either simply ask for un caffè (regular size), or
caffè doppio/caffè lungo (double/long: it has a little more water) or
caffè ristretto (lit. shrinked ->more concentrated, with less water)

- caffè macchiato caldo, "stained" with a tiny bit of warm frothed milk
macchia=spot, stain macchiare= to stain, caldo =hot

- caffè macchiato freddo, served with a tiny bit of cold (freddo) milk on the side, in a small jug

- cappuccino, served in a cup, it needs no explanation...but if you order cappuccino in the city of Trieste you may be disappointed, as they would serve you a miniature cappuccino, similar to a macchiato caldo. Trieste has its own coffee vocabulary that you may want to check before a trip. =)

- marocchino (lit. from Morocco): espresso, frothed milk, cocoa powder, served in una tazzina

- caffè corretto espresso "corrected" with a shot of liquor, typically grappa or sambuca

- caffè d'orzo, espresso made from barley, it is decaf and the taste is different, worth trying. It can be ordered in all the variations, just like a normal caffè.

- caffè decaffeinato or caffè HAG (from the name of a common brand)

- d'estate (di estate, during the summer) you can find caffè freddo

- caffelatte (or caffè latte) is the american latte; we make it mostly at home for colazione, it is very rare to hear anyone ordering un caffelatte al bar

- a casa, everyone makes caffè by using... the italian coffee maker, called caffettiera (also called moka, or Bialetti, from the name of the original brand).

La caffettiera - la moka - la Bialetti

Some other famous songs about caffè: 

Fabrizio De Andre’ --- Don Raffae’ (in dialect)

Zecchino d’oro --- Ninna del chicco del caffe’


If you are not sure about the pronunciation of any of the words, write a comment below and I will post the audio. Try first on your own!

1) Leggi ad alta voce e traduci (=translate), then repeat without reading. This is the most common conversation al bar

Cameriere: Buongiorno!
Cliente: Buongiorno! Un caffè per favore
Cameriere: Prego
Cliente: Grazie, quant'è?
Cameriere: Novanta centesimi [cheaper than Starbucks ;)]
Cliente: Ecco qua!
Cameriere: Ecco lo scontrino, arrivederci

2) Completa le frasi (follow the hints, although some blanks have no hint!), leggi ad alta voce e traduci.

Andrea (in italian it is a male name): Ciao, ---- -----[how are you]?
Giacomo: Ciao, -----! --- ---[and you]?
A: Bene, ---- [can I] offrirti -- caffè?
G: Volentieri. Oh! Cosa ---- fatto alla mano?
A: Mi sono ------- mentre preparavo le melanzane
G: Mi dispiace
A: Non fa -----[nothing]. ---- melanzane alla parmigiana sono il mio ----- preferito
G: mmm, anche a me ------ molto.
A: Due caffè,-----!
G: Uno macchiato, per favore.
Cameriere: ----- [here it is]
A: Grazie
G: Grazie. -------[what do you do this weekend]?
A: ---[I have] una dozzina di compiti da correggere
G: ----[I understand]. Ma poi? Fa caldo, ----[we go] al mare con Giovanni, Sara e i suoi cugini,
vieni anche tu!
A: -----[good] idea. ---- lavoro come va?
G: Bene, ---[tomorrow I have] un colloquio per una promozione...
A: In bocca --- ----!
G: Crepi, grazie, spero di ---[to be] all'altezza
A: ------[I do not have] dubbi
G: ------- ---- ------[thank you, and thank you for the coffee]
A: Di ------. Ci vediamo. Ciao!
G: Ciao, --- ---- ---- [I call you when] decidiamo ---- -----[where to go]
A: Ok, benissimo

Friday, April 20, 2012

Il tiramisù

For the videos of this class click here.

 Tiramisù means pick me up (tira= 2nd person singular of the verb tirare, to pull or to throw -- mi = me -- su, without accent = up). It is such a popular dessert that it needs no introduction =)
The opposite of su is giù.


- 6 uova (eggs) a temperatura ambiente (lit. at environment temperature -> room temperature)
- 750 g mascarpone (about 26.5 ounces, at Shaw's you can find the brand Belgioioso)
- 8-10 cucchiai di zucchero (spoons of sugar)
- (a drop of marsala or rhum or another liquor)
- 2-3 packages of ladyfingers (savoiardi, you can find them in the Italian sector at any grocery store)
- a tablet of dark chocolate (cioccolato fondente, altough fondente does not mean dark,
but melting) or cocoa powder (cacao in polvere)
- caffè (coffee) as much as needed (1 or 2 cups are usually sufficient)


1- in a ciotola (bowl) mescola (mix) the egg yolks (i tuorli or rossi d'uovo= lit. the reds of the egg) with the mascarpone [and the marsala]
2- in another ciotola whisk the whites (monta gli albumi or i bianchi) with the sugar (you can whisk by hand with a fork or a hand whisk, or by using an electric beater).
Then mix the two creams gently: you want to avoid the egg whites foam to collapse
3- in the meantime prepare your favorite coffee (I use espresso, I will write more about caffè in the next days), let it cool down and put it in a shallow dish
4- dip the ladyfingers in the coffee and make a layer on a rectangular pyrex/ceramic pan. Then put a layer of cream. Then another layer of soaked ladyfingers...
5- make in total 2-3 layers of ladyfingers, end with a thin layer of cream and sprinkle with shaved dark chocolate (you can shave the chocolate with a cheese grater) or cocoa powder
6- put in the fridge, if you have enough patience wait (aspetta, from aspettare) a few hours and enjoy. If you wait one day it tastes even better. Serve chill!

Variations: if you prepare tiramisù for kids, you can substitute the caffè with a mix of milk and decaf.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Buona Pasqua!

Auguri di buona Pasqua a tutti! In Italia everybody is eating agnello (lamb) and ends the
pranzo (lunch) sharing a colomba (literary dove, but in this case it is a cake shaped like a dove, see below).
Domani è Pasquetta (lit. little cute Easter i.e. Easter Monday): it is a national holiday and usually people have a picnic with friends...or if it rains, a long meal at the house of friends or at a restaurant.
We have a saying: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi. Christmas with yours (meaning with your parents/family), Easter with who (you) want.
However, when I was living in Italy I loved to stay with both family and friends and celebrate Pasquetta in the vineyard of my nonno: we would eat, walk, nap, sing, eat,...and of course go to church.

(pic taken from http://www.crossingitaly.net/travel/318/colomba-pasquale-the-recipe-of-the-italian-doveshaped-easter-cake/)

Involtini di pollo al latte

For the videos of this class click here.

Ingredienti per 2 persone:

- 500 g (about 1.1 lb) of chicken (pollo) breast (petto-> petto di pollo) thinly sliced
- 2-3 thin slices of prosciutto cotto (ham)
- fontina or scamorza or another tasty cheese
- about 10 fresh sage (salvia) leaves (foglie->foglie di salvia)
- latte (milk)
- olio d'oliva
- sale
- noce moscata


1- Preheat the oven at 200 C/400 F
2- Out of 500 g of petto di pollo you should get about 16 thin slices (you can also buy the chicken breast pre-sliced).
3- Pound the chicken slices to tenderize them
4- Layer each cutlet with a small piece of ham, half a leaf of sage, a small piece of cheese and a few grains of salt
5- Roll up tightly and seal with a toothpick
6- Lightly coat the bottom of a porcelain or pyrex baking pan with olive oil
and place the chicken rolls (involtini di pollo) side by side
7- Let them bake for about 10 minutes, flipping them until some parts get brown
8- Then cover with milk, season with salt and ground nutmeg and bake for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the milk is creamy

In alternative you can cook the involtini in a non-stick pan or skillet initially at medium-high, then at medium heat.
When you will be over 21, between steps 6 and 7 you can add a glass of wine and let the alcohol evaporate.

Patate e finocchi al latte

For the videos of this class click here.

Ingredienti (for one baking pan):

-4-5 large patate (e.g. Idaho or Russet are perfect) and/or 2 finocchi (fennel bulbs)
- latte (milk)
- grated parmigiano
- olio d'oliva
(olive oil)
- sale, pepe nero, noce moscata (salt, black pepper, nutmeg)


1- Preheat the oven at 200 C/400 F
2- Peel the potatoes and cut them in disks about 1/2 cm thick (1/5 inch)
3- Wash the fennel bulbs, remove the stalks/leafy part and slice them (there isn't an
ideal thickness, but if you make them thinner they cook faster)
4- Lightly coat the bottom of a porcelain or pyrex baking pan with olive oil
5- Make a few layers of potatoes/fennel and cheese, seasoning with a little salt, nutmeg and black pepper.
6- Add enough milk to cover
7- Top with grated parmigiano
8- Bake until the milk becomes creamy, the patate/finocchi are soft and the top is golden brown (based on the thickness, it usually takes 20-30 minutes)


- you can add sliced onions and some garlic if you like them
- non-vegetarians can add a couple of thin layers of ham
- if you want to reduce the time in the forno (oven), you can boil the potates/fennel before placing them in the baking pan..but you will have one extra pentola (pot) to wash =P, so I do not consider it a time saver after all
- you can add different spices, such as curry (not much used in Italy, but tasty)
- you can use also the stems of the finocchi if you slice them very thin.
- Finocchi
are delicious raw, as a healthy snack, or in a salad.