Lasagna alla Bolognese

Lasagne alla Bolognese

By Sharon Sanders

Lasagne alla Bolognese (Bolognese-style lasagna) is a dish that embodies the allure of slow food. It has only four components but each deserves attention.

Little language lesson:

Lasagna (singular) is one sheet of pasta.

Lasagne (plural) is more than one sheet of pasta.

The Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the ingredient that takes the most time to produce—an average of two years. Luckily for us, the fine cheese makers of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano shoulder that task.

The salsa besciamella (béchamel) can be whipped up on the stovetop in 10 minutes. I enrich my besciamella with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (salsa alla Parmigiana) which makes it technically a Mornay sauce.

Learn more about lasagna alla Bolognese

From Italy to Your Table

La cucina l’italiana is rooted in the land.

My food-loving friends in Italy may live in towns or cities, but they all ‘know someone’ in the country. Someone like il cugino who cultivates olives and shares the olio with family. Someone like lo zio who preserves his sweet garden tomatoes and always has too many. Someone like l’amica who prepares divine apricot marmellata and loves to spread the sweetness.

Santisi medium logoPhil Noto knows someone: his cugino, Giuseppe “Pippo” Calantoni. Pippo lives in Motta d’Affermo, Sicily, in the province of Messina, in the house where Phil’s father was born in 1924. Pippo raises olives. He shares the olio with Phil and Phil is sharing the olio with us. Phil is a partner in Santisi Imports, a wholesale and retail Italian specialty food purveyor based in an office complex in Easton, Pa., about 100 miles west of NYC.

Like any self-respecting buongustaio, Phil not only knows where the olives are grown and the oil is pressed; he also knows the varieties of olives– Sant’Agatese, biancolilla, and nocellara Messinese.

Santisi oil is produced in Motta d'Affermo on the northern coast of Sicily about 24 miles east of  Cefalù.

Santisi oil is produced in Motta d’Affermo on the northern coast of Sicily about 24 miles east of Cefalù.

This level of authenticity extends to all the products offered by Santisi. Phil began the business in his garage in 2005 with olio and origano but now has dozens of products that boast as genuine a pedigree as the oil. Phil and partners Vince Sciascia and Mario Vicidomini scour the Italian peninsula to secure the best of the best: aceto balsamico, dreamy pistachio spread, saba, canned cherry tomatoes that melt in the skillet, assorted condimenti, and colatura d’alici (the ‘secret’ seasoning of so many Italian dishes).

As for dried pasta, partner Mario happens to be co-owner of one of the oldest, most-respected pasta makers in Italy. Mario and his brother Luigi are the fifth generation of Pastificio Vicidomini to carry on the family tradition (Luigi’s son is the sixth generation). Situated in Castel San Giorgio, Campania, the pastificio has been featured on Italian television‘s Linea Verde and is the darling of chefs and food critics.

savor more Santisi

Tuscany Tours 2015

Is 2015 the year for your Tuscan dream to come true?

Escape with SimpleItaly to the private Villa Pipistrelli!

Few experiences are as memorable as sharing time and a spectacular destination with an intimate group of friends, colleagues, or grown-up family.

This intimate curated adventure is all about cultural immersion, relaxation, and good times. You’ll feel as if Villa Pipistrelli is your home because you’ll unpack once and “move in” for a week of wonders . . .

Pecorino cheese-making demonstration and tasting.

Olive oil comparison blind tasting.

• Watercolor painting class.

Pasta making session and tasting.

Wine estate tour with tasting.

• Magnificent medieval Siena—home of the Palio—and a private tour of the Brucco contrada with author Dario Castagno.

• Outing to the stunning hill town of Montepulciano.

• Presentation on the restoration of Villa Pipistrelli conducted by antiques expert Susan Pennington.

• Lavish buffet breakfasts and gourmet evening meals prepared by a private chef at Villa Pipistrelli.

• Free time to explore Montestigliano, the 2,500-acre Tuscan estate on which Villa Pipistrelli is tucked away.

• Social time with author Jennifer Criswell and other English-speaking experts on the culture, cuisine, and lifestyle.

Click here for the full itinerary to make 2015 the year for your Tuscan dream to come true!

Four week-long itineraries are reserved for you to choose from:
April 11–18, 2015
April 18–25, 2015
October 3–10, 2015
October 10–17, 2015

A Taste of Di Palo’s Essentials

By Tess Sanders

The Di Palo family’s shop has been a vital presence in Manhattan’s Little Italy for more than a century. It began as an unassuming latteria that Lou Di Palo’s great-grandparents opened to to serve immigrants mostly from their area of Montemilone in the region of Basilicata.

These days Lou and siblings Sal and Marie run a full-fledged grocery store. When visitors ask who owns the store, the current shopkeepers gesture to their great-grandparents’ photo on the wall. Di Palo’s moved only once at the turn of the 21st century and still boasts its exquisite dairy products. “Cheese is our life,” Lou says.

In the newly published Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy, Lou shares generation-spanning stories that feature key Italian ingredients as their characters. For Lou, it’s a book about relationships. Relationships between food and people.

Lou worked with food writer Rachel Wharton to create a narrative that glides as smoothly as Di Palo’s signature cannoli cream–from the origin of the family’s life and shop in New York into the stories of the foods that form that life. The book tells the tale of eleven essential Italian foods, from ricotta to sea salt ending with piave and speck. Lou worked with Rachel to fold in many personal reminiscences “for other people, to invoke memory for them—their ancestors, what they did and how they did it.”

The tales of how these essentials are created and savored makes for a compelling and informative reader experience. An interaction not unlike the customer’s experience shopping at Di Palo’s where the staff prizes the sharing of flavor and knowledge above all else.

Speaking with Lou in the wine store Enoteca Di Palo that son Sam Di Palo opened next to the grocery, it became clear that he could pen another book’s worth of essentials right now. Working within the space confines of a printed book, Lou had to select the essential essentials.


Lou Di Palo continues the family business, located on Grand Street in Manhattan's Little Italy, with his brother, Sal, and his sister, Marie. Photograph courtesy of Di Palo Selects

Lou Di Palo continues the family business with his brother, Sal, and his sister, Marie (photograph courtesy of Di Palo Selects).

He revealed to SimpleItaly some other essentials that didn’t make it into the volume:

read more about Di Palo's

Tomato September Song

Allow garden or farm tomatoes to ripen at room temperature to develop deep flavor.

Allow garden or farm tomatoes to ripen at room temperature to develop deep flavor.

The calendar says it’s the first day of autumn. This is indisputable science. The equinox, those brief few days when the daylight and the dark are “equal,” will soon tilt (as the Earth’s axis does) to bring days of less sunlight and more darkness.

But wait! I’m not giving up that easily. The sun is warm on my face today and the temperature is approaching 70 degrees. I still have plenty of locally grown tomatoes on the counter. I’ve chopped them and added extra-virgin olive oil, garden basil, and garlic.

After this heady mixture macerates for a few hours, I’ll toss it with cooked, drained rotini. The aroma will be like an intoxicating distillation of summer. The taste will be like sweet-tart sunshine.

Uncooked tomato sauce is macerated at room temperature before tossing it with hot pasta. Don't refrigerate the sauce. It would blunt the flavor.

Uncooked tomato sauce is macerated at room temperature before it’s tossed with drained cooked pasta. Don’t refrigerate the sauce. It would blunt the flavor.

The calendar says it’s the first day of autumn but, in my kitchen, it’s summer.

Rotini with Uncooked Tomato Basil Sauce
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 to 6
Use any short pasta--such as rotini, penne, baralotti, campanelle, or shells--to capture the rich tomato juice.
  • 4 large or 8 medium very ripe tomatoes (about 4 pounds), cored and chopped
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound dried rotini
  • Ground black pepper
  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, oil, basil, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix. Set aside for several hours at room temperature.
  2. Set a covered large pot of water over high heat. When the water boils, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt and the rotini. Stir. Cover and return to the boil. Uncover and boil, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until al dente.
  3. Drain the rotini and return to the pot. Add the tomato mixture. Toss to mix. Set aside for for 5 minutes. Stir and serve.