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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Monday, March 26, 2012

Crespelle di spinaci

For the videos of this class click here.

Crespelle are essentially crepes; they just tend to be a little smaller (max 20 cm in diameter) and more "wrinkly." This is the recipe for 4 crespelle, but you should make many more: the batter is good for a few days in the fridge. You can also cook the crespelle and store them piled on top of each other in the refrigerator or freeze them.

You can substitute besciamella with ricotta or, if you want a lighter dish, you can leave it out altogether (and skip steps 6-8-9). You can make crespelle with essentially any veggies. If you like meat, you can add ham or chicken (cook it well before filling the crespelle!).

You can also make sweet crespelle: fill them with Nutella, or ice cream, or brown sugar and a little lemon juice, or walnuts and honey, or...

Ingredienti per 4 crespelle

- 1 uovo (egg)
- 60 g di farina (1/2 cup of flour)
- 125 mL di latte (1/2 cup of milk)
- 60 mL di acqua (1/4 cup of water)
- 125 g di spinaci freschi (about 4.5 oz of fresh spinach)
- sale
- burro (butter)
- parmigiano grattuggiato (grated parmisan)
- formaggio tipo fontina (fontina-like cheese)
- spezie (spices)


1) in a ciotola (bowl) whisk the flour (sifted), a pinch of salt, milk, egg and water until smooth. If you have time, allow the batter to rest for 20-30 minutes.
2) Heat a iron or non-stick pan at medium high heat and melt a little butter.
3) Pour a ladle full of batter on the pan. Rotate the pan and use a wooden spoon to distribute the batter evenly.
4) Cook until the edges start to detach from the pan, turn using a spatula.
5) In the meantime, cook the spinach with a little water or in a pan with garlic and olive oil. Add salt and spices at your taste. Remove excess water.
6) Prepare the besciamella (see below).
7) Fill each crespella with spinach, besciamella, grated parmisan and small pieces of fontina cheese (as much or as little as you like). Fold them in triangles, or roll them.
8) Spread some besciamella on a teglia (baking pan). Place the crespelle on top and cover with besciamella and grated parmisan.
9) Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 F.

Ingredenti per la besciamella:

- 20 g di farina (of flour)
- 20 g di burro (of butter)
- 0.2 L di latte (of milk)
- Noce moscata (nutmeg)
- Sale


1) Melt butter at low medium heat
2) Add the flour (medium heat) and cook until golden brown
3) Add warm milk (a little at the time, so it remains smooth), bring to a boil and continue to stir at low flame until creamy (typically it takes just a few minutes, keep stirring!)
4) Add salt and a pinch of nutmeg and remove from the heat
5) The besciamella is ready to be used (if you store it in the fridge, cover with saran wrap)

Lezione numero sette (2/2): la canzone della cucina

For the videos of this class click here.

During the last class we repeated the vocabulary by singing a modified version of the canzone (song) "Old MacDonald had a farm" (in Italian: Nella vecchia fattoria = in the old farm http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35ts0avRmT4).

Try to sing along! You have to decide when to use c`è (=there is) or ci sono (= there are).

Nella nuova gran cucina

Nella nuova gran cucina
ia ia oh
c`è un sacco di farina
ia ia oh

ci sono le uo-va, uo-va, uo uo uova
c`è la fa-ri-na, fa-ri-na, fa fa farina

il lat-te
il bur-ro
il sa-le

Nella nuova ...

il for-mag-gio
gli spi-na-ci
le spe-zie
la bi-lan-cia

Nella nuova ..

la cio-to-la (bowl)
le po-sa-te (flatware)
il mes-to-lo (wooden spoon, ladle)
la te-glia (baking pan)

Nella nuova ..


nuova= new (f,s)
gran= poetic for grande = big
un sacco= a sac -> a lot

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lezione numero sette (1/2): cosa fai?

For the videos of this class click here.

Come va? Oggi è sabato 24 marzo duemiladodici. La prossima (=next) settimana non c`è (there is not) lezione perchè è vacanza. Spring break (lit. la pausa di primavera -> le vacanze di primavera) does not exist in Italy. There is, however, a short vacation for Easter.
In the following dialogue we review how to introduce yourself and talk about your profession/studies. Ascolta e ripeti. Then leggi, ascolta e ripeti again.

Cosa fai?

M: Ciao Beatrice, come stai?
B: Bene e tu?
M: Bene, grazie.
B: Questa è mia cugina.

M: Ciao, come ti chiami?
J: Mi chiamo Jane, e tu?
M: Mi chiamo Matteo.
J: Piacere.
M: Il piacere è mio. Da dove vieni?
J: Sono Americana.

B: Jane viene da Boston, in Massachusetts.
M: Cosa fai a Boston?
J: Studio.
M: Cosa studi?
J: Biologia.
M: Cosa vuoi fare quando ti laurei?
J: Vorrei diventare una biologa marina.

M: Interessante. Tu Beatrice cosa fai adesso?
B: Sto cercando lavoro.
M: Bene. In bocca al lupo! Hai studiato Ingegneria...
B: Sì, sono un Ingegnere meccanico. E tu che fai?
M: Lavoro in un'azienda di programmazione.

J: Allora, ci sediamo?
B: Certo. Prendiamo un aperitivo e dopo andiamo a cena.
J: Benissimo!Chi cucina?
B: Cuciniamo tutti insieme.
J: Evviva!

mia = my (f,s)
cugina= cousin (f,s)
fai = indicative pres. 2nd person sing. of the irr. verb fare= to do/make
vuoi = want, indicative pres. 2nd person sing. of the irr. verb volere=to want
ti laurei = (you) graduate, indicative pres. 2nd person sing. of the irr. reflexive verb laurearsi= to graduate (oneself)
vorrei= (I) would like to, pres. conditional 1st person sing. of the irr. verb volere=to want
adesso = now
cercare = to look for, to search for
lavoro (noun) = job, work
lavoro (verb) = indicative pres. 1st person sing. of the verb lavorare = to work
in bocca al lupo= lit. in (the) mouth of the wolf -> good luck! (If someone wishes you in bocca al lupo, you usually answer crepi= let it (the wolf) die)
Ingegneria = engineering
un'azienda = una azienda = a company
allora = so
ci sediamo = do we sit (ourselves), ind. pres. 1st person plur. of the reflexive verb sedersi= to sit (oneself)
dopo = after, afterwards, later
tutti = all
insieme = together

Monday, March 19, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero quattro


For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on March 2nd.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lezione numero sei (part 2/2): a Roma

For the videos of this class click here.

(Click on the image to enlarge---map taken from http://www.informagiovani-italia.com/mappa_roma_cartina.htm)

Ascolta e ripeti

Mi scusi, dov'è la Fontana di Trevi?


Dov'è la Fontana di Trevi, per favore?

Siamo in piazza dei Cinquecento. Prenda la bla bla bla...

Mi scusi non capisco. Può parlare più lentamente per favore?

Siamo in piazza dei Cinquecento.
Prenda la prima a sinistra,

poi deve girare a destra in via Depretis.
Da qui vada sempre dritto:
via Depretis diventa via Quattro Fontane; deve passare molti incroci.

Giri a sinistra in via del Tritone.
Dopo circa 300 metri prenda la via a sinistra ed è arrivato/a.

È lontana?

No, è vicina, circa 20 minuti a piedi.

Grazie mille.

Di niente, arrivederci!

Non capisco = I do not understand
Può = can (you) - formal
Più = more
Lentamente = slowly
Certo = of course
Piazza= place
Prenda= take (2 person singular, formal)
A sinistra = on the left
A destra = on the right
Deve = (you) have to (formal)
Girare = to turn
Via = street
Da = from
Qui = here (qui or qua are both correct)
Vada = go (2 person singular, formal- verb to go=andare)
Sempre dritto =lit. always straight -> straight ahead
Diventare = to become
Incrocio = crossing (m) -- passare or better attraversare un incrocio = cross a crossing
Molti = many (masc. plur, referred to incroci)
Dopo = after
Ed=e, and
È arrivato/a = you arrived lit. have arrived
Lontano/a = far (adj.)
Vicino/a = near (adj.)
A piedi = on foot (piede=foot)


1- http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/lj/directions/speak_write/

Lezione numero sei (part 1/2): in cucina

For the videos of this class click here

Oggi è domenica diciotto marzo duemiladodici (18/03/2012).
Domani, lunedì diciannove marzo, è la festa del papà. Il 19/3 è il giorno di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph' day), that's why we celebrate father's day on this specific day.
Mio nonno (my grandpa) si chiama Giuseppe: il diciannove marzo è anche (also) il suo onomastico (name's day). Auguri doppi (double felicitations)!

Giovedì scorso (last Thursday) we tried to speak only Italian during class.
This is a list of useful sentences: leggi, ascolta e ripeti.

Scusa, mi puoi passare la cipolla per favore?
Lit. Excuse (me), to me can (you) pass the onion please?

Ecco qui!
Lit. here here->here it is.

Grazie (mille).
Thank you (a thousand)

Prego - lit. I prey-> you welcome
or Di niente - lit. of nothing-> for nothing

Posso usare il coltello?
Can I use the knife?

In this context it means "please do".

Scusa, non ho capito. Puoi ripetere per favore?
Sorry, I did not understand. Can you (lit. to) repeat please?

In cucina

Scusa stands for "tu scusami=scusa me"= 2nd person singular exhortative present of the reg. verb scusare, to excuse, forgive=> excuse me. Scusa also means sorry (e.g.-- you accidentally bump into someone-to get someone's attention- if you didn't hear what someone said-you said something inappropriate)
Mi scusi (=lei mi scusi formal for scusa, excuse me)

Posso= 1st person singular present of the irr. verb potere (can)
Puoi= 2nd person singular present of the irr. verb potere (can)

Mi= me/ to me

Ho capito = 1st person singular passato prossimo (present perfect) of the irr. verb capire (to understand)


1- Listen and repeat

Vocabolario in cucina

Pentola= pot (f)
Padella= pan (f)
Cucchiaio= spoon (m)
Coltello= knife (m)
Forchetta= fork (f)
Piatto= dish/plate (m)

Lavare= to wash
Passare = to pass
Tagliare = to cut/slice
Mescolare =to mix
Versare = to pour
Preparare= to prepare
Usare=to use

Aggiungere = to add (irr., but indicative present is regular)
Cuocere = to cook (irr.)
Cucinare means to prepare a meal or to cook, cuocere means to
cook when you are using il forno or i fornelli/when something is in the process of cooking.
E.g. Cucino la pasta = cuocio la pasta = (I) cook (the) pasta
La pasta sta cuocendo (pasta is cooking) not sta cucinando.
Prendere=to take (irr., but indicative present is regular)

Bisogna= one needs, it’s necessary
It is a remnant of the verb bisognare which is no longer used except in its impersonal form.
Bisogna is followed by an infinitive. E.g. Bisogna mescolare
Avere bisogno di= lit. to have need (of)
Dovere= must/have to (irr.)
Devi= 2nd person singular indicative present of the irr. verb dovere
Dovete= 2nd person plural indicative present of the irr. verb dovere


Devi tagliare le melanzane
Dovete tagliare le melanzane
Bisogna tagliare le melanzane
Ho bisogno delle melanzane tagliate
Mentre un gruppo taglia le melanzane, l'altro gruppo prepara la salsa di pomodoro.

2- You are cooking your favorite dish with friends : write 5 sentences that you may want to say in the kitchen (in cucina).
If you need help to conjugate some verbs, check

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spezzatino in bianco

For the videos of this class click here

Spezzatino means "little broken thing"->stew. In bianco refers to the fact that we are not using tomatoes. This is my mom's recipe! If you serve it with polenta, then I suggest to make it without potatoes.

Ingredienti per 4 persone:

- 1 kg (about 2.2 lb) of beef (manzo) for stew
- 1/2 cipolla (onion)
- 1 spicchio d'aglio (garlic clove)
- 1 carota (carrot)
- 1 stalk of sedano (celery)
- 2 patate (potatoes)
- 1 twig of rosmarino (rosemary)
- a couple of leaves of alloro (bay leaves)
- 1 dado (bouillon cube)
- olio d’oliva
- sale
- Optional: 2 pomodori (tomatoes) or passata di pomodoro (e.g. Pomì)

Procedimento:1- chop the carrot, onion, celery and garlic
2- put in a pressure cooker with a little olive oil over low flame to make a sweat (soffritto). Then add the meat and the bouillon cube
3 -when the meat outside is brown (extra step: in a few years->add a glass of wine and let it evaporate) cover with water and add the [whole] rosemary twig, bay leaves and if you want other spices
4- close the pressure cooker and pressurize (i.e. until the pressure cooker begins to whistle), cook for about 10-15 minutes
5- depressurize, add the potatoes (washed and cut in big chunks) and cook again under pressure for another 10-15 minutes
If you use a regular pot or a slow cooker, cook at low heat for 2-3 hours, covered, mixing from time to time.While it cooks you can do your Physics homework ;)
If most of the water has evaporated, simply add water (you can make the stew more or less thick based on your taste)
6-when it is ready (be sure that both meat and potatoes are cooked and so soft that you can cut them with a fork) add salt if needed
7- you can make the sauce more creamy by mixing a spoon of sifted flour

Buon appetito!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Melanzane alla parmigiana

For the videos of this class click here.

This is a light version; in the classic recipe the eggplants are deep fried (alone or dipped in egg and covered with bread crumbs).

Ingredienti per 4-6 persone

-2 large melanzane (eggplants)
-1 spicchio d'aglio (garlic clove)
-1 L di passata di pomodoro (plain strain tomatoes, we used 1.5 box of Pomì)
-parmigiano grattuggiato (grated, about 100 g, but decide by eye and taste)
-mozzarella grattuggiato (grated) or a fette (in slices), about 1 cup
-basilico fresco (fresh basil, a few leaves)
- sale
- zucchero (sugar)
- spices of your choice (e.g. red crushed pepper, nutmeg)


- wash the eggplants and cut them max 1 centimeter thick.
- let the the eggplant slices sit in a colander covered with abundant coarse salt. You can make many layers of eggplant and salt: this procedure remove the bitterness from the melanzane.
- after 30 minutes drain, rinse very well and pat try with paper towel
- grill the eggplant slices at 400 F for about 10 minutes (or more, based on the thickness). Alternatively, grill them in a non stick pan without oil on the stove or on the bbq.
- in the meantime prepare a tomato sauce with a soffritto of garlic (read the post on February 11th for directions)
- cover the bottom of a baking dish with the tomato sauce
- place a layer of eggplant over the sauce
- sprinkle with grated mozzarella, grated parmisan and basil leaves (as a whole or minced, as you wish)
- repeat to make 3-4 layers ending with sauce
- top with the remaining mozzarella and parmigiano
- bake at 400 F for about 30 minutes.

Le melanzane alle parmigiana are delicious eaten immediately and the day after are even meglio (better). Prova (try!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bruschette - antipasto

For the videos of this class click here.


Remember: che in Italian reads keh in English. Pronounce brus-keh-te.

La bruschetta/le bruschette


- 1 baguette or better some pugliese or toscano bread (one large crusty loaf)
- 2 pomodori (tomatoes) or a large handful of pomodorini (cherry tomatoes)
- 1 spicchio d'aglio (garlic clove)
- Basilico fresco (fresh basil, a few leaves)
- Sale
- Olio extravergine d'oliva (extravirgin olive oil)


- chop the tomatoes and mix in a bowl with salt, olive oil and basil (you can use the whole leaves or mince them, as you prefer).
- cut the bread in disks and toast in the oven for about 5 min (400 F). During the summer you can grill the bread on the bbq.
- Option 1: rub the garlic on the toasted bread
- Option 2: add the garlic (as a whole or minced) to the tomato mix. Leave in the fridge for at least a few hours.
- You can either put the chopped tomatoes on the bread yourself, or for a big group you can serve the bowl on one side, the bread on another, and let everyone help themselves.

Buon appetito!

Monday, March 12, 2012

VIDEO Lezione numero 3


For parts 1, 2 and 4 of the video click here.

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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lezione numero cinque (part 2/2): la mia giornata tipica

For the videos of this class click here.

in class we talked about our typical day (giornata tipica). Why giornata and not giorno? They are both ok, but we use giornata mostly to emphasize the day as a long event: e.g. buongiorno! (->formal hello, in the morning/afternoon) buona giornata (->have a good day!). The same is true for sera and serata: buonasera (->good evening), buona serata (->enjoy the rest of the evening).

Com'è la tua (= your) giornata tipica?

These are some of the answers we came out with durante la lezione (during (the) class):

Mi sveglio (lit. I wake (myself) up-- mi sveglio is the 1st person sing. of the reflexive verb svegliarsi)
(Mi) faccio la doccia (lit. I do (myself) the shower--faccio is the 1st person sing. of the irr. verb fare)
Faccio colazione (->I have breakfast)
Vado al lavoro (I go to work- vado is the 1st person sing. of the irr. verb andare= to go)
Vado a scuola (I go to school- in Italy we say I go to school to refer to elementary, middle and highschool. If you are going to college you would say...)
Vado all'università

Come vai al lavoro?(lit. how do you go to the work? Vai is the 2nd person sing. of the irr. verb andare)
Vado a piedi (=on foot)/in bicicletta/in auto or in macchina (=by car)/in bus
Pranzo (1st person sing. of pranzare= to have lunch)
Dopo avere mangiato bevo il caffè (bevo= 1st person sing. of the irr. verb bere)

Faccio i compiti (lit. I do the assignments)
Vado in palestra (I go to the gym)
Cucino e mangio la cena (cena=dinner)
Mi lavo i denti (lit. I wash myself the teeth-> I brush my teeth)

Durante il fine settimana (=the weekend)
dormo tanto (I sleep a lot)
leggo (I read)
ascolto musica
faccio la lavatrice (lit. I do the washing machine-> I make a laundry)
esco con gli amici (esco, 1st person singular of the irr. verb uscire, to go out)

Listen to the dialogue (between me and me with my voice transformed in Garage band):

La giornata tipica

Food plays a central role in the italian culture: ci (= a noi) piace mangiare (to eat), cucinare e parlare (to talk) di cibo (about food) all the time.
The daily activities are all organized around meals, when you take a break, meet with friends/family and eat.
This is a list of the main meals

La colazione ((the) breakfast)
Il pranzo ((the) lunch)
La merenda ((the) mid-afternoon snack)
L’aperitivo ((the) aperitiv)
La cena ((the) dinner)

Ascolta e ripeti

If you are invited for a meal by an Italian family, beware. Leave space in your belly for all the courses!
Il pranzo e la cena tradizionali hanno many courses (molte portate), but nowadays many families prepare un piatto unico per pasto (one single dish per meal).
The traditional meal is composed by:

L’antipasto (the starter)
Il primo (the first course: pasta, rice, soups)
Il secondo (the second course: meat, fish, eggs,..)
Il contorno (the side dish: lots of veggies, cheese)
Il dolce (lit. the sweet - the dessert)

Ascolta e ripeti


1- Listen and repeat - for a video showing these words/ingredients click here.

Ascolta e ripeti

la car-ne di man-zo ma-ci-na-ta
Il ma-ci-na-to
la sal-sic-cia
il par-mi-gia-no
il prez-ze-mo-lo
il pan-grat-ta-to
l'er-ba ci-pol-li-na
il ton-no in sca-to-la
la ri-cot-ta (lit. cooked twice – it is a light cheese – most recipes in which you use cream cheese you can use ricotta instead and it is much lighter)
la no-ce mos-ca-ta (nutmeg)
la lat-tu-ga
l'in-sa-la-ta ro-ma-na
il po-mo-do-ri-no
l'a-ce-to bal-sa-mi-co

2- Solve and print: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/languagesonline/italian/sect27/no_04/no_04.htm

3- Record yourself talking about your giornata tipica.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lezione numero cinque (part 1/2): la festa della donna

For the videos of this class click here.

Oggi è giovedì otto marzo duemiladodici (8/3/2012). È un giorno importante, è la festa della donna
!!!! (lit. woman’celebration ->International Women’s Day). L'otto marzo è (is) a day to honor all the women and to remind ourselves of the continued awareness and action required to ensure equality in every aspect in life. La festa della donna is recognized in many countries (more details here), including the US, but it is not very popular here; I find it ironic. Living in Cambridge, I had the opportunity to appreciate how much more fair the working conditions are here than in Italy. Moreover, all the institutions in the US are discussing and working actively to reach a more complete and real equality. Yet in this same country nobody today told me Auguri! (=lit. wishes! -> Felicitations!). Buona festa della donna!!! (lit. good celebration of the woman ->Happy women’s day). Buffo, funny.

Anyway, at school in Italy we learn that the origin of this day is rooted in two events that happened outside Italy:

1- L’8 marzo 1857 (milleottocentocinquantasette) uno sciopero (a strike, very important word if you travel in Italia!!) by garment workers in NY lead to the formation of the first women’s union in the US. Some historians say that this sciopero never happened! What is true? Non lo so.

2- L’8 marzo 1917 - millenovecentodiciassette (il 23 febbraio according to the Julian calendar) Russian women started a sciopero in St Petersburg, per il pane e per la pace (for bread and peace).

L’8 marzo was declared woman’s day in Italy in 1945 and on this day men and women bring to women in their lives a traditional gift: a small branch of mimosa (acacia dealbata – native to Australia). The mimosa is a reminder of the constant struggle for equality, justice, peace and development. On a more trivial level, the bright yellow and the sweet smell of mimosas are telling us that spring arrived. Ah! Mi mancano le mimose (lit. mimosas are missing to me-> I miss mimosas).

Esercizio: read (leggi) listen (ascolta) and repeat (e ripeti)

Ascolta e ripeti

Oggi è giovedì otto marzo duemiladodici

Oggi è un giorno importante, è la festa della donna

Auguri! (
=lit. wishes! -> Felicitations!We use it in every happy occasion/celebration)

Buona festa della donna!!!
(lit. good celebration of the woman ->Happy women’s day)

1857 (milleottocentocinquantasette)

1917 ( millenovecentodiciassette

il 23 febbraio

Mi mancano le mimose
(lit. mimosas are missing to me-> I miss mimosas).

Mi manca il cappuccino (lit. cappuccino is missing to me-> I miss cappuccino).

Now you can relax and listen to a couple of popular Italian songs about women!

Donne, di (lit. of->by) Zucchero Fornaciari (Festival di San Remo 1985)

Una donna per amico (=a woman as a friend), di Lucio Battisti (1978):

Le polpette di carne, di tonno e vegetariane

For the videos of this class click here and here.

Polpette di carne
= meatballs

Ingredienti per 2 persone:

-200 g carne macinata (ground meat, we used a mix of beef and sausages with the skin removed)
-1-2 cipolle (onions)
-aglio (garlic, as much or as little as you like)
-olio d’oliva (olive oil)
-parmigiano grattugiato (grated parmisan cheese)
-prezzemolo (italian parsley, 1 bunch)
-spezie (spices)-> include noce moscata (nutmeg )

Optional: pan grattato (bread crumbs) -1 uovo (egg) – passata di pomodoro (strained tomatoes)- zucchero (sugar)


You can cook the meatballs in three different ways: deep fried, sauted or in tomato sauce.
This recipe is for the last two options. If you want to fry them, follow the same steps (2->5) then..deep fry them and drain the oil on paper towels.

1- in a large pan prepare a soffritto (sweat) with chopped garlic and onions: if you plan to use tomato sauce you can make the sweat with very little oil; otherwise you can use a couple of spoons of olive oil and more onions or other veggies (e.g. carrots, celery).
2-in the meantime mince the rest of the onions and the parsley.
3- combine the ground meat, minced onions and parsley, a pinch of salt and your favorite spices.
4- Optional (more heavy): add some bread crumbs and 1 egg.
5- Make small meatballs: if they are smaller they cook faster, I like them of the size of a walnut.
6- Add the meatballs to the sweat, increase the heat and saute until brown on all sides and all the water they release evaporates.
7- (over 21: add a glass of red wine and simmer until the alcohol is evaporated)
8- Le polpette sono pronte! (are ready)
9- If you like them in tomato sauce, take a box of plain strained tomatoes (e.g. Pomì) and mix
with the meatballs. Add salt a little of sugar. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick.

In the US meatballs are usually served on top of pasta. We typically serve meatballs as a second course, with some veggies as a side.

In class we made a salad with lattuga/insalata romana (romaine lettuce), pomodorini (cherry tomatoes) and the basic italian dressing (condimento): salt, extravirgin olive oil, and vinegar or a little lemon juice.

Polpette di zucchine = zucchini-balls

Ingredienti per 2 persone:

-2 zucchine/i
-1 spicchio di aglio (garlic clove)
-1 uovo (egg)
-Pan grattato/Pangrattato (Pan for pane=bread, grattato=grated->bread crumbs)
-50 g pecorino romano grattuggiato (grated). You can also use parmisan instead, or another hard cheese
-1 bunch of erba cipollina (chives). Good alternatives: mint or parsley
-spezie (spices) e.g. a tiny bit of nutmeg and/or cardamom, curry (not used much in the Italian kitchen)
-olio d’oliva (olive oil)
-sale (salt)


1- Make a soffritto (sweat) with garlic (minced, or in disks, or as a whole, base on your taste).
2- In the meantime wash and grate the zucchini.
3- When the garlic is a little translucent, add the grated zucchini and cook at high heat, add salt and spices.
4- When most of the water from the zucchini is evaporated, remove from heat and let cool.
5- Pre-heat the oven at 200 C (about 400 F) C=Celsius or centigradi.
6- In a bowl combine the zucchini-mix with the egg, grated cheese, minced chives. You can use your hands to mix everything. Optional: you can add roasted pinenuts.
7- Add the plain bread crumbs: you want to add them to get a more solid consistency, but if you add too many bread crumbs the zucchini-balls will be hard and less tasty.
8- Make zucchini-balls of about 1 inch in diameter.
9- Optional: you can gently roll them in bread crumbs
10- take an oven tray and spread a thin coat of olive oil.
11- Cuocere in forno a 200 C (circa 400 F) for about 15 minuti.

Polpette di tonno = tuna-balls

Ingredienti per 2 persone:

-200 g tonno in olio d’oliva (canned tuna in olive oil)
-1 uovo (egg)
-30 g parmigiano grattuggiato (grated parmisan)
-100 g ricotta cheese
-50 g pan grattato/pangrattato (Pan for pane=bread, grattato=grated->bread crumbs)
- Optional: prezzemolo (italian parsley, 1 bunch)
-spezie (spices)
-olio d’oliva (olive oil)
-sale (salt)


1- Drain the tuna.
2- In a bowl combine the tuna, grated parmisan, egg, ricotta, spices, bread crumbs and a pinch of salt. If you want, include some minced leaves of parsley.
3- Make tuna-balls of the size of a cherry-tomato.
4- Saute them in a large pan with very little olive oil until golden.
5- Alternatively, you can bake them (read the zucchini-balls recipe) .

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

VIDEO Lezione numero due

For parts 2 and 3 of the video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on Feb 19.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lezione numero quattro: quante domande!

For the videos of this class click here.

Oggi è venerdì 2 marzo 2012
(= duemiladodici or duemila e dodici).
Yesterday we learned how to make (fare, irregular verb) questions (domande, f. plur.) and how to answer (rispondere, irr. verb).

Leggi, ascolta e ripeti:

Read, listen and repeat

Chi (who/whom) - Di chi (whose)

Chi ha scritto la Divina Commedia? (who wrote - lit. has written - the Divine

Il poeta Dante Alighieri (the poet Dante Alighieri)!

Dante is also called il Sommo Poeta (the supreme poet, he is righteously considered to be one
of the/the greatest Italian poets). Ha scritto is the present perfect of the irr. verb
scrivere, to write

Chi è Corrado? (who is Corrado?)
Corrado è mio cugino (Corrado is my cousin - m. sing.).

Di chi è questa tazza? (Whose mug is this?)
Questa tazza è dell'Experimental Study Group (this mug belongs to - lit. is of the- ESG).

Is tazza feminine or masculine?

A chi piace leggere? (who likes to read?)

Cosa/che cosa/che (what)

Note: Cosa lit. means thing (f. sing.).

Che cosa/cosa/che mangiamo oggi? (what do we eat today?)
Oggi mangiamo gli gnocchi.

Che cosa/cosa/che fai domani sera? (what do you do tomorrow night?)
Dormo (I sleep)!

(Tu) fai is the 2nd person singular indicative present of the verb fare (to do/to make).
Notice that when we are talking about some events happening domani we should use the
future simple verb tense. However, if you use the present tense nobody will complain, not
only because you are making an effort to learn Italian, but also because this is how most
Italians speak =P

Che ore sono? (lit. what hours are they?-> what time is it?)
Non (lo) so (I do not know (it)).

In this context che is an interrogative adjective: it stands for what kind and it cannot
be substituted by che cosa or cosa.

Come (how)

Come si dice dog in Italiano? (how do you say dog in Italian?)
Si dice cane.

Dice is the 3rd person singular indicative present of the irr. verb dire (to say).
Si+3rd person of a verb gives the impersonal construction.

Come vuole pagare? (how do you want to pay?---formal)
In contanti (cash) or Con carta di credito (with credit card).

PagARE is a regular verb, while volere is irregular. Vuole is the 3rd person singular
indicative present of volere. If you were asking informally, you would use the 2nd person:
come vuoi pagare?

Com'è (=come è) Boston? (How is Boston?)
Boston è una bella città (Boston is a beautiful city).
Boston è bellissima (= molto bella, very beautiful)!

Dove (where)

Dov'è (dove è) la forchetta? (Where is the fork?)
La forchetta è sulla sedia (the fork is on the chair).

Sulla=su+la (on+the).

Dov'è (dove è) Michele? (where is Michael?)
Michele è a Waltham, sta cantando. (Michael is in Waltham, he is singing)

A very common natural error to avoid is to say: Michele è in Waltham. Nooo! Waltham is
a town: we use A.

Quando (when)

Quando sei arrivato? (when did you arrive?)
Ieri (yesterday) mattina (morning).

Sei arrivato is the present perfect of the verb arrivARE, to arrive.
If you were asking a woman, you would say: quando sei arrivata?
How would you say if you were asking a group of people?

Quando va a casa? (when do you go home?-- formal)
Domani (tomorrow) pomeriggio (afternoon).

Va is the 3rd person singular indicative present of the irr. verb andare (to go). If you
were asking informally, you would use the 2nd person: quando vai a casa?

Perchè (why, because)

Perchè hai sonno? (Why do you have sleep?-> why are you sleepy?)
Perchè non dormo abbastanza (because I do not sleep enough).

Perchè no? (why not?)
Studio troppo (I study too much).


1- Leggi (read), ascolta (listen) e ripeti (repeat) ad alta voce (lit. at high voice -> aloud):

Leggi, ascolta e ripeti

La pa-ta-ta
La fa-ri-na
Il lat-te
Il for-mag-gio gor-gon-zo-la
La pas-sa-ta di po-mo-do-ro
Il se-da-no
La ci-pol-la
La ca-ro-ta
Lo zuc-che-ro
Il ba-si-li-co

2- Ask reasonable domande for the following risposte (answers) and translate them.

- Oggi Stefania è a Madrid.
- Susan Hockfield è il Presidente del MIT.
- Madrid è in Spagna.
- Mangio la pasta con il pomodoro.
- Non lo so.
- Perche' mi piace.
- Stasera.
- Mi piace al dente.
- Paola insegna Fisica e Italiano.
- Questo quaderno è di Lucia.

3- Group exercise (in groups of 2 or more). Write a short skit and practice
acting it. If you need help, ask me! You will be sharing your skit with the rest of the class next week!

Gli gnocchi di patate

Adapted from a recipe of my zia (aunt) Mariolina, who emigrated to the USA many years before me, is now fully American, but remains fully Italian. Grazie zia!

Gli gnocchi (m, plur). Grammar review question: what determinative article would you use for one single gnocco? ----gnocco.

Ingredienti per 4 persone

1 kg Idaho or Russet potatoes (big starchy potatoes) - patate farinose (lit. floury potatoes). 1 kg corresponds to 4-5 large patate
1 uovo (egg) grande (large)
About 70 g=1/2 tazza (cup) di (of) farina (flour)
sale (salt)


1- Place the potatoes in a large stockpot. Add water to cover them by a few centimeters (yes, we do not use inches). Bring the water to a boil, add salt (about a couple of teaspoons, but it depends on how much water you use); lower the heat and cook until the potatoes are done (approx. 40 minutes, try poking the potatoes with a fork, when you feel little resistance they are ready).
2-Drain the water and when the potatoes are tepid/cold, peel them and put them through a ricer or mash them with a fork.
3- Beat the egg and add it to the mashed potatoes. Slowly add the flour a bit at a time. The amount of flour is dictated by the quality and size of the potatoes. You want to have a smooth and elastic dough. Too much flour will lead to hard gnocchi =(.
4- Turn the dough on a floured surface, shape it as a long rope, and cut into narrow and long pieces. Roll these pieces with the palms of your hands until they become finger-sized rolls, about the size of ordinary breadsticks (grissini).
5- Taglia (cut) the rolls into 1-2 cm lengths. Shake each piece in your hand, as you would dice for "craps", and cast them on the lightly floured surface. The pieces are now gnocchi waiting for a finishing optional touch.
6- OPTIONAL Press the center of each gnocco with your finger, making a single dent...or two or roll each gnocco over the surface of a grater or on the back of a fork so that it's covered with many tiny indentations.
7- Once the gnocchi are rolled and dented, let them rest while you put water to boil. When the water boils, add salt (as much you would do with pasta). Once it reaches a second rolling boil, add the gnocchi a few at a time.
8- They are cooked as soon as they surface, and should be scooped out with a slotted spoon. Drain well, and put in a warm serving dish. Continue the operation until all are cooked. Serve immediately with your favorite sauce, such as tomato sauce and basil, gorgonzola sauce (melt gorgonzola crumbs with milk, at low heat) or just with a few leaves of fresh sage fried in butter and grated parmigiano.

Note: If you made too many gnocchi, you can freeze them before cooking them. Freeze the gnocchi in a ziploc: place them flat to freeze, so that they do not stick all together. To cook them, throw the frozen gnocchi directly into the boiling salted water without thawing or they will stick together. Their cooking time will be slightly longer than unfrozen.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Addio Lucio Dalla

Lucio Dalla, a very famous Italian singer/songwriter (cantautore) died today.
This is one of his songs, maybe my favorite-- Piazza Grande (Big Square, it is the name of a square). The lyrics are simple (http://singring.virgilio.it/testi/lucio-dalla/testo-piazza-grande.html): I am sure that with your Italian and the help of Google translator you will understand most of it.