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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Friday, February 24, 2012

VIDEO Lezione numero uno: introduction and lesson


For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on Feb 11.

VIDEO Lezione numero uno: vocabulary


For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on Feb 11.

VIDEO Lezione numero uno: cooking instruction


For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on Feb 11.

Pizza veloce - quick pizza

If you want to make "real pizza" you need a lot of time...because when you use yeast you must wait for the dough to rise. Questa ricetta uses baking powder: it is much faster and still very tasty!!

One of the most basic pizzas is the pizza Margherita, with tomato, mozzarella and basil. Do you know that pizza Margherita was invented after MIT was founded??? You can read about the history of pizza at http://www.recipepizza.com/history_of_pizza.htm

Ingredienti per 3 persone

500 g farina (flour)
2 cucchiani di lievito istantaneo (2 teaspoons of baking powder)
1 cucchiaino di bicarbonato (1 teaspoon of baking soda)
acqua tiepida (tepid, lukewarm water)
2 cucchiai di olio d'oliva (2 spoons of olive oil)
origano (oregano)

Your favorite toppings. Here there are some ideas: you can use

Il ba-si-li-co (basil: add it at the very end, when the pizza is already baked)
La pas-sa-ta di po-mo-do-ro (plain strained tomatoes, we used Pomì)
La moz-za-rel-la (consider about 200-250 g for each rectangular pizza)
Il pro-sciut-to cot-to (lit. cooked prosciutto->ham)
Il pro-sciut-to cru-do (lit. raw prosciutto. Add it at the very end, when the pizza is already baked )
La ci-pol-la (onion)
La me-lan-za-na (eggplant: slice it thin, cover with salt, rinse very well and dry, grill in a pan without oil)
La zuch-chi-na/ Lo zuc-chi-no (slice in your favorite shape and cook briefly in a pan with
olive oil and chopped onions/garlic/spices)
Il fun-go (mushroom)
Il pe-pe-ron-e (pepper: slice in thin stripes and cook briefly in a pan with olive oil and chopped onions/garlic/spices)
Gli spi-na-ci (spinaches! good source of vitamins and magnesium)
U-na fet-ta di sa-la-me (a slice of salami --- you probably want more than one ;))
Il for-mag-gio gor-gon-zo-la (gorgonzola cheese. It is an Italian cheese similar to blue cheese)

Directions for pizza Margherita

1-Pre-heat il forno (the oven) at 400 or 500 F (at 500 the pizza bakes faster, at 400 it rises slower and therefore it tends to be more cakey).
2-Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl: farina, lievito, bicarbonato and sale (Quanto? How much?a few pinches of salt are sufficient).
3-Add lukewarm water: you want the dough to be soft, but not sticky. If it is sticky, add a little flour. You can keep the dough in a bowl or knead it quickly on the floured kitchen counter.
4-Take a sheet of parchment paper and flatten the dough, as think or as thick as you like it.
You can use a rolling pin, or your hands, flattening the dough with the tips of your fingers.
5-Spread the tomato puree (no need to cook it in advance, you can use it as is) over the raw crust, sprinkle with mozzarella, origano and one pinch of salt. Finally drizzle with a couple of spoons of olive oil.
You can have fun adding all kind of toppings.
6- Transfer the pizza on an oven rake, and bake until the crust turns golden. It should take 15-20 minutes, but it depends on the thickness.

Buon appetito!

PS In Italy we use Celsius degrees (gradi Celsius, or gradi centigradi): when someone says oggi ci sono 40 gradi is therefore extremely hot. You can do the conversion to see what I mean! °C x 9/5 + 32 = °F

Lezione numero tre

For the videos of this class click here.

I haven't seen you for a whole settimana (week): come state? (lit. how do you stay-> how are you?) Spero bene! (I hope well). You may be wondering whether am I talking to you as a single person, or to you as a group. In English you would know it from the context, in Italian you would know it from the structure sentence itself, because I would use a different form of the verb stare:

(voi) come state? refers to you plural
(tu) come stai? refers to you singular, informal
(Lei) come sta? refers to you singular, formal, equivalent to the Spanish Usted

Here is how you can answer:

Bene. Or benissimo/molto bene (very well)
Non c’è male, grazie.(lit. there isn't bad ->Not bad, thank you)
Così così. (So and so)
Sto meglio, grazie. E tu? (I feel better, thank you. And you?)
If we are in a formal relationship, you should say E Lei? instead of E tu?

Come stai?

Essere o stare? Questo è il dilemma!

We ask come stai, not come sei.
As a general rule essere means “to be”, and stare means “to stay”.
However, stare, not essere is always used, when followed by the adverbs bene, male, meglio, or peggio (worse). Stare bene with an indirect pronoun (dative) means “it suits you”:

Questo vestito ti (=a te) sta bene =lit. this dress stays well to you->this dress suits you

Stare followed by the gerundive expresses the continuous tenses:

Sto cucinando =(I) am cooking
Stavo leggendo=(I) was reading

Essere is used in general to indicate more permanent aspects of people or things (sono Daria=I am Daria, sono di New York = I am from NY, Mike è Americano = Mike is American, mia mamma è bionda= my mom is blond, etc)-- i.e. identity, origin, nationality, aspect, religion, etc.

..but not only… sometimes also for transitory conditions/emotions

Giovanni è ammalato (not sta ammalato) = John is sick
Alice è innamorata = Alice is enamored (->in love)
Sei felice? = Are you happy?

Essere is also used as a verbo ausiliare (auxiliary verb, or helper) in the passive form:

la pizza è cotta nel forno = the pizza is baked (lit. cooked) in the oven

When talking about a location, essere and stare are mostly the same:

Siamo in cucina or stiamo in cucina (we are in the kitchen)

Ascolta come si coniuga l'indicativo presente dei verbi essere e stare.

Essere e stare: indicativo presente

Il verbo essere (to be):

(io) sono – (I) am
(tu ) sei (informal)/ (Lei) è (formal) – (you) are
(lei/lui) è – (she/he) is ---- we do not have the neutral pronoun "it"
(noi) siamo – (we) are
(voi) siete – (you) are
(loro) sono – (they) are

Il verbo stare (to stay):

sto - (I) stay
stai (informal) sta (formal) - (you) stay
sta - (she/he) stays
stiamo – (we) stay
state – (you) stay
stanno – (they) stay

Cosa ti piace sulla pizza?

As we started planning what to cook next, we made the list of what toppings we like on pizza.

Cosa ti (= a te) piace sulla pizza? = lit. what is pleasing to you on pizza? ->What do you like..
Mi (=a me) piace la mozzarella = lit. mozzarella is pleasing to me -> I like mozzarella
Mi piacciono le melanzane e i peperoni: lit. eggplants and peppers are pleasing to me

If you want to talk about something you enjoy doing, you use the verb piacere followed by the infinitive:

A Giorgio piace cucinare= lit. cooking is pleasing to George-> George likes cooking

Mi piace!Ascolta e ripeti

More verbs!

We finished our class by reviewing how to conjugate the present tense of another important irregular verb, il verbo avere (to have) and three regular verbs, one per kind, whose infinitive end in are, ere and ire (mangiare, ridere and dormire). Leggi (read), ascolta (listen) e ripeti (and repeat).

Avere, Mangiare, Ridere, Dormire: indicativo presente

Il verbo avere (to have):

hai (informal)/ ha (formal)

Mangi-ARE (to eat) – Remember cucinare?


Rid-ERE (to laugh)


Dorm-IRE (to sleep)



1- Write the indicativo presente of the verbs:
leggere (to read), partire (to leave), aprire (to open), tagliare (to cut), vivere (to live) and parlare (to talk/to speak)

2- Write (in Italian) a list of things you like to eat/you like to do.
Start sentences with mi piace or mi piacciono.

3- Solve this quiz and write down your answers: http://www.tresoldi.pro.br/A05unita1.html

4- I numeri da 11 a 20: listen and repeat

5- Suggested readings on the reasons why i pomodori ti fanno bene and food processing.