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Holiday Entertaining

Buon appetito

Celebrate the season with festive recipes and authentic Italian ingredients

Phil Lago and Mystique Mattai, the husband and wife team behind the website chefsouschef.com (their Instagram is 15,000 strong), shop for, cook and serve only authentic Made in Italy products, from antipasti to aperitivi.

On their recent travels to Florence, Rome, Verona and Venice, Lago and Mattai discovered the love and respect that Italians have for food, which are evident in both fresh and packaged products. For example, tomatoes that are designated and labelled DOP (in English, PDO, or Protected Designation of Origin) are sweeter, with a richer flavour than non-designated varieties, says Lago.

The burrata is creamier, and the olive oils and vinegars, are superior in quality and purity, he adds.

“In Canada, we make a point to buy authentic Italian made because of the passion that is put in every product.”

IG @chef.souschef | Photography by James Tse

Essential elements for creating a stunning antipasto board

  1. Peperoni alla zingara, red and yellow peppers, Sicily
  2. Bresaola della valtellina IGP, Lombardy
  3. Nocellara del belice DOP morgantino olives, Sicily
  4. Ubriaco al vino rosso, Veneto
  5. Black truffle pâté, San Cesareo
  6. Mortadella bologna IGP, Emilia-Romagna
  7. Birra scura, Piemonte
  8. Piacentino Salame DOP, Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna
  9. Oro rosso blue, Veneto
  10. Black truffle honey, Norcia
  11. Taralli, Puglia
  12. Frutti di cappero zero aceto, capers, Liguria
  13. Pecorino toscano DOP, Tuscany
  14. Speck dell'alto adige IGP, Trentino Alto Adige
  15. Taleggio DOP, Lombardy
  16. Castagna di Montella PGI, soft Italian chestnusts, Avellino
  17. Taralli oven-baked bread sticks with prosciutto di parma DOP, Parma
  18. Gorgonzola DOP, Lombardy
  19. Marinated artichokes, Sardinia

Truly authentic

Don't settle for imitations. Know these tips before you buy

Click the arrows for shopping tips
1 / 7

Also on the menu, gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce that enhances the flavours of real Italian ingredients

As Phil and Mystique state on their website, 'staying true to an Italian meal starts with where you shop.'

2 / 7

Extra-virgin olive oil

The colour varies from bright or deep green to golden yellow. Usually sold in dark bottles with a traceable alphanumeric code on the neck label.

Try Riviera Ligure DOP extra-virgin olive oil

3 / 7

Garlic

The colour varies from bright or deep green to golden yellow. Usually sold in dark bottles with a traceable alphanumeric code on the neck label.

Try Red Sulmona garlic, Abruzzo

4 / 7

Tomatoes

Authentic San Marzano tomatoes – either whole or in fillets, never diced – come in a hand-stamped can with the DOP mark.

Try San Marzano tomatoes DOP, Agro Sarnese-Nocerino area

5 / 7

Gnocchi

It should only be made from durum wheat flour, which is heartier and helps the dough stand up to pasta making.

Try Potato gnocchi with durum wheat

6 / 7

Burrata

This is a fresh cheese with a smooth, shiny outer shell and a creamy interior.

Try Authentic Apulian burrata

7 / 7

Parmigiano-reggiano

Cut from a wheel with the imprints of quality, this hard cheese is light to deep straw yellow in colour, with a slightly flaky, grainy texture.

Try Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP


Perfect pairings

An Italian cocktail and a selection of great regional wines are sure to liven up the food (and the mood) of a festive get-together

antipasti Soave Classico DOC (Veneto)

Medium-bodied white wine with notes of honey and pear. Soave translates to “soft“ in Italian, which also allows it to be drunk as an aperitif. It marries well with the saltiness of cured meats, as well as complements the salad’s fruit and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

primo/Gnocchi Chianti Classico DOCG (Tuscany)

This versatile wine can be served from the start of the meal through to the end. It‘s fruity and a little spicy, but with floral notes and a smooth finish. To distinguish a true Chianti Classico DOCG, look for the Gallo Nero, the rooster that symbolizes the ancient Lega Militare del Chianti, on the label.

secondo/porchetta Primitivo di Manduria DOC

Medium-bodied wine with herbaceous, fruity notes and a slight mocha flavour. It pairs beautifully with roasts, especially those with some charring or caramelization. Although this red grape is grown across Puglia, its ideal habitat is in the Taranto Province, where it‘s used to make Primitivo di Manduria DOC and Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOC, and also on the hills of Gioia del Colle.

Prosecco Spritz Aranciata

  • 1 bottle Fiol Prosecco DOC
  • 2 bottles Lurisia La Nostra Aranciata Italian soda
  • 10 sprigs rosemary
  • 10 clementine slices or clementine peel twists

Pour 1½ oz Aranciata in a champagne flute or aperitif glass. Top with 2½ oz Prosecco. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a clementine slice.

Oven-roasted pork belly porchetta

with sage and rosemary

Prep Time 20 min Cook Time 35 min Serves 10

Ingredients

  • 8-10 lbs Pork belly with skin
  • 3 tbsp Tuscan fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp Calabrian peperoncino red chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp Sicilian sea salt (+ 1 tbsp to coat the skin)
  • 3 tbsp Italian aromatic sage, chopped
  • 2tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped (or dried rosemary from Acciaroli)
  • 6-8 Red Sulmona garlic cloves, minced

Method

Preheat oven to 500F. Place fennel seeds and chili flakes in a skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Grind spices and mix in salt, sage, rosemary and garlic until combined.

Using a sharp knife, carefully separate the skin from the pork belly. Pound the skin with a meat tenderizer on both sides to loosen it and make it crisp up when roasted.

Tip Let your butcher do the work. Have them remove and tenderizze the skin for you.

Score the inside of the pork belly in a 1-inch diamond pattern. Massage the spice mixture into the meat and all the scoring. Roll the belly tightly, then place it on the inside of the skin. Wrap the roast with the skin and trim (you only need a single layer around the roast). Tie crosswise with butcher twine at 1-inch intervals. Poke with a skewer all over, penetrating to the middle. Rub the outside of the skin with additional salt. Transfer to roasting pan.

Cook for 40–50 minutes, turning halfway through, until the skin is golden brown. Reduce heat to 300F and roast an additional 1½ to 2 hours, turning and basting every 30 minutes. Once the internal temperature reaches 145F, cook for another 2 hours. Remove the roast and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 20–30 minutes before serving.

Olive oil cake

with mascarpone frosting, rosemary clementines and pistachios

Prep Time 40 min Bake Time 40-45 min Serves 10

Orange garnish

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 clementines, thinly sliced

Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup La Molisana re-milled durum wheat semolina
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1⁄3 cup melted butter
  • ¾ cup Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of two clementines
  • ½ cup chopped pistachios

Whipped mascarpone frosting

  • 1 cup imported mascarpone cheese
  • ½ cup confectioner‘s sugar
  • Zest and juice of two clementines

Method

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a saucepan, bring sugar, honey, water and rosemary to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the clementine slices and reduce heat to a simmer, turning the slices until tender and syrup is reduced (40 minutes). Arrange slices in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet. Strain syrup and place in a jar to use for the cake.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan with a knob of butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk melted butter with olive oil.

Place eggs, sugar and clementine zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on high until pale and thickened (3 minutes). Lower mixer speed and alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, starting and finishing with the dry. When batter is mixed, pour it into the cake pan. Bake for 40–45 minutes, until golden brown.

Poke holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer. Pour 1 cup of the reserved clementine syrup on top of the cake. Allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to a cake stand.

Place mascarpone, confectioner’s sugar, clementine zest and juice in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Dollop frosting in the centre of the cake, spreading evenly toward the edges. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.Top with candied clementine slices.

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