Ah, there is nothing like the holiday season to bring joy, cheer and elevated cortisol levels due to the tension and stress of battling traffic and crowds while trying to complete your Christmas shopping.
As bad as it is here in the States, nothing compared to trying to move around Rome during the days before Christmas. During le feste, as the holidays are called in Italian, people and automobiles fill the roads and sidewalks of the Eternal City, and even making your way through an intersection takes skill and determination.
We used to manage it, maneuvering our little Nissan Micra through the crowds, getting in and out of parking spots so small that only inches separated you from the cars in front and behind you. Typically, we’d no more finish all of our shopping and Stefano’s father would slip us a 100 mila lire bill and ask us to go and pick out something nice for Stefano’s mom on his behalf!
To help you finish your holiday shopping without needing to venture outdoors at all, we’ve assembled the Due Spaghetti Gift-Giving Guide for Italian Cooks. All of the items have met our standard for authenticity and usefulness, and most can be purchased online at our Due Spaghetti aStore.
Pour yourself a glass of wine and have a look.
The Silver Spoon
Called Il Cucchiaio D’Argento in Italian, The Silver Spoon is the most comprehensive and authoritative collection of recipes from all regions of Italy.
Often referred to as the “bible” of Italian cooking, It is a must-have for all Italian kitchens.
First published in 1950, it has been updated several times. Be sure to buy the new edition, with a red cover.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Author Marcella Hazan is to Italian cooking what Julia Child is to French cooking. She provides not just recipes, but also detailed information about the ingredients, techniques and traditions of Italian cooking.
And, Hazan is attentive to ensuring that dishes can be prepared in an American kitchen with locally available ingredients.
Made in Italy: Food and Stories
Michellen-starred chef Giogio Locatelli, of London’s Locanda Locatelli, writes about the food of his native Italy with passion and intelligence.
The sophisticated but re-creatable recipes are interspersed with Locatelli’s endearing tales of local traditions and childhood memories, making this a pleasant read as well as an invaluable culinary resource.
Useful Kitchen Tools
Inspired by woodworking tools, these amazinggraters outperform all others. Grating hard cheeses like Parmigiano and zesting lemons becomes simple. Our favorites are the Classic Zester/Grater and the Coarse grater with attachment.
Imperia Pasta Maker
Stefano’s mom rolls out her homemade pasta and cuts it by hand, just like his Nonna did. Most of us would never get around to making pasta at home if we held to this standard, though. With the Imperia homemade pasta maker, lasagne, fettuccine and tagliatelle turn out perfectly, and with an attachment or two you can even make ravioli.
Skip the expensive espresso makers, and join the millions of Italians who use the stovetop Bialetti Moka Express to make espresso at home. They come in many different sizes, but at Due Spaghetti we recommend the 3-serving version. We begin each day with espresso from ours.
Tasty Edible Gifts
Despite its English name, this delightful confection surprisingly has not taken hold stateside. A dark chocolate candy filled with rich liquid espresso makes for a perfect afternoon pick-me-up. A great stocking stuffer for chocolate and coffee lovers!
This classic Italian Christmas cake originated in Milan, but is now a hallmark of the holidays across all of Italy. Candied lemon, citrus and orange zest and raisins give the light, airy cake a fragrant citrus quality. At our house, we enjoy it for breakfast as well as for dessert. Some Italian delis in the U.S. have begun selling artisan panettoni, but if you cannot find one, they can be ordered online from Italian producers such as Bauli.
Called Aceto Balsamico in Italian, good-quality balsamic vinegar is a staple in Italian kitchens. It’s not worth skimping on quality – look for balsamic vinegar from Modena, aged at least 12 years, but better yet 25. It’s delicious with olive oil over salad, or drizzled on fresh strawberries in summertime.
Or…An Iconic Italian Car
The Fiat 500
Originally produced as a post-WWII economy car, the Fiat 500 became enormously popular in Italy and throughout Europe, and is now an icon of Italian 20th century design and culture. Fiat brought the 500 back in 2007, exactly 50 years after the debut of the original version, and it launched in the U.S. market in 2010. The sporty Abarth model, already on European roads, will be available to order here in the U.S. in February 2012. Due Spaghetti officially test drove the new 500c convertible recently. Expect a post on this sometime soon, but in the meanwhile let it suffice to say that this little car is a gem of Italian style design and a joy to drive.