Padua has long been a center for the arts and scholarly pursuits. Paduans have also studied the cooking of many of the regions of Italy and the countries to the north and east to devise their own culinary art form. Paduan meals often begin with a risotto dish and followed by a course such as chicken or duck. The favored risotto is made with asparagus and both white and green varieties are grown locally. Below are three traditional recipes from the province, including a wonderful pepper sauce base that you will find many uses for.
Risotto con gli Asparagi
5-6 cups homemade or purchased low sodium broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter, divided
½ onion, chopped
1 lb asparagus
1 tsp salt
2 cups rice: Carnaroli, Vialone Nano or Arborio
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup Grana Padano grated cheese, divided
freshly ground black pepper
Pour the broth into a pot and heat. Keep at a simmer. Wash and trim the asparagus, then slice the spears crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces. Leave the tips intact and separate from the spear pieces. Place 1 tablespoon of butter and the extra-virgin olive oil into a heavy-bottomed 5-quart pot.
Add the onions and cook over a medium-high flame until transparent 3-4 minutes. Add the sliced asparagus (reserve the tips for later use) and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes, until the asparagus are soft and slightly golden in color. Add the rice and toast, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes, until the rice acquires a light golden color.
Add the white wine and stir for one minute, letting it evaporate. Add a couple of ladles of hot broth to the rice and lower the flame to medium. Add the asparagus tips. Stir every 30 seconds or so. Keep adding broth, ladle by ladle, as soon as the liquid is absorbed, slightly covering the rice each time, until the rice is cooked. You will need approximately 5 cups of broth, but it depends on the rice variety, so be prepared to add more or less. Cooking time for the rice will be 14 to 18 minutes, depending on the rice variety used. The final consistency of the risotto should be creamy. Turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 cup cheese and heavy cream. Rest for one minute and serve with freshly ground black pepper and the reserved cheese.
Paduan Pepper Sauce
This pepper sauce is particularly good when paired with poultry or grilled fish.
1 pound of canned roasted red peppers
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Romano cheese
6 oz liquid from reconstituted Sun Dried Tomatoes (tomatoes should soak at least one hour)
4 oz juice from a jar of pepperoncini
2 oz brandy
2 tbsp sugar
Puree the roasted red peppers until they are as smooth as possible. Add peppers into a medium sauce pan, add the remainder of the ingredients and mix well.
Heat sauce over medium flame for about 10 minutes stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and allow sauce to continue to simmer for an hour. Reduce your sauce by about 20 percent.
This will be the base for your sauce in the recipe below. If you have the time, this sauce should be made at least one day ahead to give it time for the flavors to build.
Paduan Chicken Cacciatore
The Paduan chicken is an ancient breed of small crested and bearded chicken. In this recipe, unlike the Italian American version, authentic Chicken Cacciatore does not use tomatoes. It is a traditional hearty dish that hunters could easily make in the field.
1 Padua chicken
salt and pepper
1 large onion, sliced
1 medium yellow pepper, cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic, crushed
20 mushrooms, sliced
½ cup Prosciutto
1 rosemary sprig
1 sage branch
1 thyme sprig
dash red wine vinegar
Chianti red wine
chopped parsley for garnish
Cut the chicken up into smaller pieces and season well with salt and pepper. Brown in a hot skillet over a medium-hot flame with some olive oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion, pepper, garlic and mushrooms to the pan and cook gently over a medium flame until the onions begin to brown. Add the diced prosciutto and place the chicken back into the pan. Add the herbs and vinegar and allow it to evaporate for a minute. Add enough red wine to cover the chicken. Simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender and falls off the bone. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with polenta or risotto.
Paduan Apple Cake
Italy is the second largest exporter of apples in Europe and most come from the Veneto region. In Padua you will find this traditional apple cake. Moist and delicious, it is authentically Italian!
2 eggs to be divided into yolks and whites
1 pinch of salt
1 cup sugar, plus 2 ½ oz to sprinkle over the apples
grated rind of 1 lemon
3 oz vegetable oil
5 oz milk
12 oz flour type 00
2 ½ tsp baking powder
2 lb apples (golden delicious are the closest to Paduan)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then put aside. Whip the egg yolks with 1 cup of sugar until the mixture becomes pale yellow.
Grate the lemon and add the zests to the mixture of yolks and sugar. Add milk and oil too and stir to incorporate. Sift the flour and the baking powder, mix and add to the mixture. Last, gently add the egg whites, stirring the mixture from the bottom upwards.
Pour the mixture on a greased baking pan. Peel the apples, cut into slices and cover the top of the cake with them. Sprinkle the 2 ½ ounces of sugar over the apples. Put the cake in the oven for 1 hour. Allow to cool for at 1 hour before serving.