Who said that in summer you should only eat salads and cold dishes? There is plenty of traditional Italian specialties to prepare in the warm season. Summer brings many tasty ingredients, which give life to many recipes: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers are unmissable in the refrigerator of a real Italian. Here's how to make the best use of them to create tasty and irresistible dishes.
Regional specialties: bread and tomato
The pairing of bread with tomato is a classic of Italian cuisine: among the must-haves for the perfect summer meal, panzanella definitely stands out. It is a Tuscan recipe made with wet stale bread cut into small pieces, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, basil, salt, pepper, a dash of vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Among the Sicilian specialties, on the other hand, pane cunzatu is worth mentioning, which in local dialect literally translates as ‘seasoned’: a loaf of bread sliced in half horizontally and stuffed with tomatoes, olive oil, salt, oregano, and sometimes sardines and cheese. Another typical southern Italian cold dish is the friselle, widespread in Puglia and Campania: ring-shaped crispy dough made of durum wheat flour, water, salt and yeast, to soak quickly in water and season with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt and herbs to taste.
A cooked meal, delectable even when enjoyed cold: Sicilian caponata is unmissable in summer, a must-have recipe for all eggplant lovers. It stands out for its sweet and sour flavor given by the combination of sugar and vinegar: you need to fry the eggplants, season them with tomato sauce, olives and capers and simmer with white vinegar and add sugar to balance the sour note. It is a side dish, but it can also be used in other ways, perhaps to fill a savory pie.
Spaghetti with clams
Italians love dining alfresco, and not only in summer. Thanks to the mild climate, it is also possible to enjoy a good meal outdoor in other seasons: if you are at the seaside, the most popular choice is always spaghetti with clams. A simple first course that smells like summer: the mouthwatering sauce can be made either in the classic white version, or with some fresh tomatoes that lend some color to the recipe. Another variation is the one with tellinas, tasty but a little less practical to shuck because of their small size.
Tomato, mozzarella, basil: can you imagine a more Italian combination than this? We are talking about the white, red and green caprese salad, Italy’s most patriotic dish. It is ideal to prepare when you have no time to cook or no desire to try your hand at cooking. Its origins seem to date back to the 1940s, when a bricklayer from Capri first stuffed his sandwich this way, although some believe that it was the futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who first tasted the dish in a famous hotel in Capri. Whatever the case, this is a quick and easy gourmet-proof recipe.
Red, yellow, green, friggitello: in all its variations, pepper takes center stage during the summer season. The classic ones are great stuffed (but also grilled, baked, or raw in salads): with meat for the more traditionalists, while, for a vegan version, they can be stuffed with stale bread soaked in water and seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper and ingredients to taste such as capers, olives or diced vegetables. Try out also the stuffed friggitelli, delicious and perfect for an aperitif.
Pasta and rice salad
It is the undisputed queen of beach lunches, the faithful friend of many office lunch breaks or outdoor picnics: pasta salad. A tasty meal for those who do not want to give up the main course, that can be combined with greens, pulses, veggies preserved in olive oil or other ingredients to taste. Another great classic is rice salad, made with fresh greens, veggies preserved in olive oil or pickles: a nourishing meal that never goes out of fashion. It represents a great solution for those who have little time to devote to cooking and want to prepare make-ahead meals. A classic pasta sauce? Fresh chopped tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil, with some good extra virgin olive oil. For a mouthwatering alternative, add some pesto and cherry tomatoes.
Symbol of the Italian beach lunches, rice-stuffed tomatoes are a simple, scrumptious, and practical recipe that can really wins everyone over, including vegans and people with celiac disease. It is advisable to use firm, ripe red tomatoes of roughly the same size to ensure even cooking: before stuffing them, the uncooked rice should be soaked in the blended tomato pulp and seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper for at least an hour. Baked potatoes are always a perfect pairing, to be enjoyed with this tasty dish either cold or slightly warmed.
Recipe: Spaghetti with Clams
800g fresh clams
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Fresh parsley, minced
The liquid released by the clams is very savory so do not add salt to the sauce and use very little salt tin the pasta cooking water. Rinse the clams several times and soak them for a few hours in plenty of lukewarm and slightly salted water. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently sauté the peeled and crushed garlic cloves. When the garlic has lightly browned, add the drained clams into the pan, raise the heat, cover and leave undisturbed for a few minutes, until they are all open. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and shell them, discard the ones that have failed to open, and leave a dozen with the shell for decoration purposes. Filter the cooking liquid into a pan, add the shelled clams and season with plenty of black pepper. Cook the spaghetti, drain them al dente, pour them into the pan and stir, keeping the flame to a minimum, cooking for a couple of minutes so that they absorb the sauce and finish cooking. Serve very hot, sprinkled with plenty of chopped parsley.