Italian food

What is an Italian toast?

italian-toast-french-toastTony Vigorito’s narrator figure in his book “Just a couple of days” makes a heart-felt confession. When growing up in a somewhat Italian household (his father was 1/8th Sicilian on his mother’s side) he believed that the proper name for fried bread (previously sopped in eggs and milk) was Italian toast. Only when Tony was nine years old he saw his world come crashing down after politely asking for another piece of Italian toast at his friend’s house. The ensuing laughter and much shaming promptly taught him that his favorite breakfast meal was universally known as French toast. Years later, Tony understands that there is no toast generally acknowledged as “Italian toast.” Still, it takes a conscious effort on his part to order “French toast” and sometimes he slips… So, waiters and waitresses familiar with Tony’s story know exactly what he means by that.

It seems then that the only thing that should be called Italian toast is the kind of toast that is made while holding a glass of good wine.

See also:
Favorite Italian dishes, by region

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Cooking pasta in wine is more of a tradition, than a recipe. But as such, it is a custom that could only be born in a land that is both plentiful in wine and in pasta — Italy. This culinary quirk is known in different areas of Italy, and the resulting dishes have local names. The name for pasta cooked in wine used in Veneto is certainly the most appropriate: ubriachi, “drunken.”

Before you make your first batch of “drunken” pasta, you need to be prepared. The taste of wine will be most certainly present in your meal. It may be tangy and acidic. Unless you already know what you are doing, why not cook up another pot of pasta, just in case you absolutely cannot tolerate the “drunken” variety? This could be a great way for you and your friends to try something new, but only in the quantities that they can handle with comfort.

In its most basic form, cooking pasta in wine is no different from cooking it in water. However, if you are not willing to part with two bottles of wine, the trick is to only use as much as needed and perhaps add more if necessary. The choice of wine is very much up to you. People have used something as strong as Chianti, but in general something with a fruity taste like Soave or Pino Grigio is best.

The kind of pasta to be used is also up to you, but penne or any other tube variety are preferred. I suppose, this shape of pasta really gets tipsy. Prepare the pasta according to instructions on the box (al dente), replacing water with wine. Add a couple of bay leaves as a way to introduce a flavor you’d expect in a normal tomato-based sauce. If you are trying to conserve the wine, keep an eye on the pot, so that the pasta does not get too dry. You can even add some water instead of wine at this point.

When the pasta is ready, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil and season it with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with some grated cheese.

See also:
Italian wine customs
The art of toasting in Italian

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