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UMBRIA sits in the center of Italy, positioned between Rome and Florence. This mostly mountainous region holds the most fabled hilltowns as well as valleys rich in foodstuffs and wine. Umbria with its cities that date back to the time of the Etruscans, has a long and storied history, equal to anywhere in Italy. From the fame of Assisi as the home to Saint Francis to little hidden away villages, Umbria is a place that will touch anyone’s heart.


Omar’s Umbrian Recipes:
Recipe Glossary
Tbl = tablespoon
t = teaspoon
lbs = pound
oz = ounce
Note: Salt, for Omar T is either Kosher or Sea Salt
*throw away your highly refined salts
These are Omar’s recipes, many similar dishes are served at La Romita. For actual La Romita recipes, get Palates & Palettes, La Romita’s Cookbook
La Romita Cookbook: Palates & Palettes

Crostini and Bruschetta

A staple of Mediterranean cooking, Italy in particular, are crostini and bruschetta. Slice up your leftover bread and baste it with garlic oil and bake around 10 minutes and you have your base for any toppings. I keep whole garlic in olive oil with a sprig of rosemary so that I can add this touch of Italy anytime. For instant garlic oil, mince your garlic before adding it to your olive oil. The classic bruschetta topping is homegrown chopped tomatoes, minced garlic and chopped basil, all tossed with some salt and olive oil. Have fun making up your own bruschetta with chopped and minced goodies that you are fond of. A soft cheese, like a goat cheese, spread on your crostini, makes a great base for adding pesto or tapenade. ENJOY!

Fried Squash Blossoms
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 t baking powder
1/4 t pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/2 t season salt

1/2 cup water
1 egg -- slightly beaten

10 to 15 squash blossoms
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 t dried oregano
1 Tbl bread crumbs
Vegetable oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

First, make the batter. Combine the first 5 ingredients, and then stir in the egg and water until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.
While the batter is chilling, prepare the squash blossoms. Carefully separate the flower petals without breaking them and remove the pistil in the center. Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, oregano, and breadcrumbs until smooth. Carefully add about a tablespoon of this mixture to each blossom and twist the top of the flower tight. Heat enough oil in a frying pan - about an inch deep - to accommodate the blossoms. Get the batter out of the fridge and dip each blossom in batter, coating it. Carefully place each batter-covered blossom in the hot oil and fry until golden crisp on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Tartufo (Truffle) Risotto

One secret to a good risotto or creamy polenta, is to add your fats a little at a time and work it, work it. Ideally, use a heavy (strong) whisk to work the risotto. Imagine you are an Italian Grandmother with strong forearms and resolve ☺

4 Tbl (1/2 stick) butter, divided in ½ inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1 t minced garlic
1 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine.
4 cups (quart) chicken or vegetable broth.
2 t shaved or chopped black truffle
Optional: truffle oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh parsley

In a saucepan big enough to handle the risotto’s expansion, start by sautéing 1 large onion in a TBL extra-virgin olive oil. Add 1 ¼ cups Arborio rice. Stir the rice in the sautéing onions for five minutes. Then add ½ cup dry white wine and the garlic. Simmer till liquid reduces one half. Add the butter, stirring as it melts. Add a ½ cup of stock while stirring with whisk. Continue the introduction of stock ½ cup at a time, working the rice with your whisk. Add the truffles. Taste the rice – add salt, pepper, truffle oil to your taste. Finish with the Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Spaghetti Carbonara

1 pound dry spaghetti
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta or bacon, sliced into thin strips
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 egg yolks
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano,
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for
8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm "al dente"
Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and sauté for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and sauté for less than 1 minute to soften.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat

Turn off the heat – add the egg yolks and toss with the noodles, then add the cheese and toss. Plate the Carbonara with the addition of some more grated cheese and the parsley on top.
For those with flare: Bring your saucepan and its contents to the table. Perform the final steps with the egg and cheese in front of your guests, Omar style!!!

Osso Buco

2 – 3 lbs cut veal shanks
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Chopped 1 large onion, 1 large carrot, 1 Celery stick
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or beef stock
32 oz diced tomatoes
1 dry bay leaf (do you love rosemary, thyme? Add them too)
salt and pepper to taste
Gremolata: 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley 1 clove garlic, 2 t grated lemon zest – food process or hand mince into a pesto.

Dust the veal shanks lightly with flour. Sweat/sauté the Mirepoix veggies in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat in the olive oil. Add the shanks, and cook until browned on the outside of both sides. Remove to a bowl. Add the garlic, bay leaf and any other chopped herbs, to the skillet; cook and stir until tender. Return the veal to the pan and mix in the wine. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Pour in the tomatoes and chicken/beef stock, and season with salt and pepper lightly. Cover, and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hours or place in oven (350 °) basting the veal every 15 minutes or so. The meat should be tender, but not too easily falling off of the bone.

Sprinkle the Gremolata over the veal just before serving. Traditionally, serve with a cocktail fork for scooping out the treasure that is the bone marrow.

Gnocchi alla Norcini

3 Medium to Large Potatoes (About 2 1/2 lbs)
1 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour (and Extra For Rolling)
1/2 t Salt
2 Egg Yolks

Bake or steam Yukon Gold or Russett Potatoes (I microwave between two plates in a little water) Separate from skins and mash Add the egg yolks, and slowly start adding the flour a little at a time, mixing gently with your hands and continue until you have created a soft workable dough. Knead gently until you have achieved a smooth, pliable if slightly sticky dough.
To shape the gnocchi, first break the dough into fist-sized pieces, and roll each piece into a log about the thickness of your thumb on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into 1 inch pieces. Place the prepared gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

4 Italian sausages chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
Salt & Pepper
red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream  

In a heavy saucepan sweat/sauté the onions with a pinch of salt and pepper in the oil, adding the sausage—stir and brown. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Stir briefly and then add the wine. If you want to spice it up add some red pepper flakes here. Reduce the liquid by half.
Add the cream and check your seasoning and adjust to taste with salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper.
Continue to cook over medium low heat until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. If you are using, milk, ½ and ½ or a substitute such as almond milk or soy, add some grated cheese to help thicken the sauce.

Once you have your sauce, cook your gnocchi:
drop carefully into salted boiling water and remove when they float to the surface.
Drain, return to the pot and add half the sauce.
Gently toss the gnocchi to coat with the sauce, then spoon the gnocchi into individual bowls.
Serve the gnocchi, with an extra scoop of sauce on top.
Finish with grated Pecorino Romano cheese




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