Traditional Sicilian Easter Cheesecake

Italian Easter Cheesecake from Ragusa, Sicily
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Easter is a very special time for celebration in Italy, as most Italians are Catholics or Christians.

The Easter season begins with Carnevale, which technically starts in January the day after Epifania, followed by Ash Wednesday (Mercoledi delle Cenere) and Lent (la Qauresima).

The week before Easter is called Holy Week in the Catholic Church. During this week, processions are held in the streets, often re-enacting the story of Jesus Christ, and special Masses are held.  This culminates in Good Friday, or Venerdì Santo.  The national holiday is officially Easter Sunday or Pasqua, followed by Easter Monday, or Pasquetta.

The week before Easter, Italians will say their “good byes” when leaving a group with the phrase, “Buona Pasqua!”

The Italian Easter Sunday is a day for the family to gather and attend church, followed by a special meal that is rich in the eggs and dairy that families in the past centuries were obligated to “give up” during the Lenten period.

The method for making traditional Sicilian Easter cheesecake given here is made in my family hometown of Ragusa, Sicily, and was passed on from my grandmother to my mother here in America. It is a very rich dessert and is still a family favorite on Easter.

The recipe was originally posted on March 21, 2016, on the Learn Italian! blog for Stella Lucente, LLC, and www.learntravelitalian.com. Below is an excerpt.

I’d love to hear from you after your family has tried this recipe!  

 

Easter Cheesecake Recipe:
Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie

Italian Easter traditions are unique to each region of the country and have been lovingly handed down within families through the generations. Ricotta cheesecake, a version of which was first served by the Romans centuries ago, has come to play a part in the Easter celebration in Sicily as well.

The recipe given below is for a Sicilian Easter cheesecake—actually a “ricotta pie,” made with a sweet Italian pie crust and sweet ricotta and farro wheat filling.  It has been passed down through the years within my father’s family from the town of Ragusa in Sicily. If you would like to see how the lattice pie crust top is assembled, visit the Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest site.

Farro wheat is one of the oldest forms of natural wheat grown in southern Italy and has been enjoyed by Italians for centuries. This whole-wheat grain is added to the ricotta filling as a symbol of renewal, along with dried fruit left over from winter stores and traditional Sicilian flavorings, in order to create a rich texture and a perfectly balanced sweet citrus and cinnamon flavor. Try it this Easter for a taste of Italian tradition! —Kathryn Occhipinti

Click on the link here for the recipe: Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie    Buon apetito!

 

Learn Italian and Describe Your Needs!

Italian town of Stresa on Lago Maggiore, Italy

In the last few weeks in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group, we have been practicing how to use the phrase “Ho bisogno di,” which means “I need…” in Italian. This phrase is very useful in some situations, but in others, it is necessary to use the word “voglio” instead to express the same meaning.

Special thanks to Facebook group members Grace, Sandro, Rita, and Andu for providing some excellent examples and for reminding me that the phrase “Mi serve…” also means “I need…” This last phrase is very often used in Italy, and I have just heard this phrase twice on the latest Detective Montalbano episode I watched.

It is amazing how easy it is to hear phrases in Italian during normal conversation once we know them! Try it yourself and see how often you can hear these common phrases in Italian movies, TV series, or RAI.

Read on below from this excerpt published on July 17, 2016, on the LearnTravelItalian.com blog to find out how to talk about what you need in Italian! Read the entire post for more on the subjunctive mode. Listen for the examples and try some from our group. Join our group if you like at Conversational Italian!

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How to Use the Phrase “Avere bisogno di…” in Italian

Before we go on to discuss more complex uses of the phrases in the table below, here are a few words about the very popular phrase “ho bisogno di…,” which means “I need…” Any student of Italian no doubt has come across this phrase many times in general conversation and has needed to use it themselves to express what they want.

While I was learning how to use the subjunctive mode properly, I took the opportunity to learn how to use “ho bisogno di” properly as well. After many question-and-answer sessions with native Italian speakers, here is what I’ve found out about the different uses of this phrase in English and Italian.

First, use of the phrase “ho bisogno di” is limited to describing a need one has for a person, a thing, something, or a physical need. Remember to conjugate the verb avere used in this phrase (“ho” is the io form of avere) if someone else besides you needs something, of course! Leave out the word “di,” which means “of” in this phrase if it is used at the end of the sentence.

The phrases “Mi serve…” and “Mi servono…” can also mean, “I need…” and are often used in the negative sense. (This verb conjugates similar to piacere – see below.)

If a person needs to do something, but it is also necessary that he does it—if he has to do it—then the verb dovere is used. See some examples in the table below:

avere bisogno di… to have need of…  
   
…a person Ho bisogno di… te.
   
…a thing/ something Ho bisogno di… una macchina nuova.
  Ho bisogno di… prendere una vacanza.
   
…a physical need Ho bisogno di… riposare.
   
Mi serve…

Mi servono….

I need… Mi serve 1 millione di euro.

Mi servono tante cose.

   
   
dovere for what you have to do

(and need to do)

Devo cucinare il pranzo ogni sera.

 

When we come to more complex sentences and now must express what the subject would like another person to do, the phrase “ho bisogno di” is not used. In other words, if I want someone to do something, I must use the verb voglio with the subjunctive, as in “Voglio che tu…”  This was an important point for me to learn, because in English I am constantly asking my children or family to do things by saying, “I need you to…”

For instance, take the sentence “I need you to take care of the cats when I am on vacation.” I am not sure if the phrase “I need you to…” is used commonly in other parts of the America, but it has become habitually used in the Northeast and Midwest. The Italian translation would be “Voglio che tu ti prenda cura dei gatti quando io sono in vacanza.” So to use the phrase “ho bisogno di,” we must really learn how to think in Italian!

Enjoy some more examples for how to use our phrases to express a need or want in Italian, and then create your own!

 

Ho bisogno di un grande abbraccio! I need a big hug!
Abbracci e baci sono due cose che ho bisogno! Hugs and kisses are two things that I need!
Non mi serve niente. I don’t need anything.
Non mi serve nient’altro. I don’t need anything else.
Mi serve di più caffè. I need more coffee.
Devo andare al mercato. I need to/have to go to the (outdoor) market.

Non abbiamo  bisogno di giorni migliori,

ma di persone che rendono migliori i nostri giorni!

We don’t need to have better days; instead, we need people who make our days better!

One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine

One Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine

The perfect chicken dinner for those trapped indoors in the snowstorm that’s hit the country this weekend, or anytime! This is one of my family’s favorite suppers, and it is oh-so-easy to make.

The method for making Italian chicken in Marsala wine was originally posted on February 26, 2017, on the Learn Italian! blog for Stella Lucente, LLC, and www.learntravelitalian.com. Below is an excerpt.

I’d love to hear from you after your family has tried this recipe!  

One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine

The recipe title, “One-Pot Italian Chicken in Marsala Wine” sounds rich… and it is! But it is also so easy to make! I am told that for many years in Italy, only relatively wealthy families had ovens (in the day of my great grandparents). As a result, many wonderful Italian meals were developed that could be made entirely on the stove top. This actually fits perfectly with the lifestyle we live today.

In this chicken in Marsala wine recipe, a whole cut chicken is cooked in one large skillet along with the wine and few other ingredients until a silky gravy forms. This hearty and fulfilling dish can be made during the week or served when friends are over on the weekend. Hearty, crusty Italian bread makes a perfect accompaniment. Add a salad or vegetable side dish (contorno) if you like.

So get out the largest skillet you have, and try our chicken in Marsala wine dish for your family tonight. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed! —Kathryn Occhipinti

Click on the Learn Italian! link for the recipe!

Buona Festa della Donna 2017

Today’s Italian saying is about a truly Italian holiday, the Festa della Donna, which was celebrated on March 8 this year. It is a simple holiday started by Rita Montagnana and Teresa Mattei after World War II (dopoguerra)during which men give the mimosa flower to all the women in their lives as a show of appreciation and love.

The saying below is a tribute to Sicilian women that was written by my favorite, and world-renowned Sicilian author, Andrea Camilleri. His mystery series has been made into the hugely successful BBC television series Inspector Montalbano, segments of which I watch almost every day to keep up on my “local” Italian.

Buona Festa della Donna!

Il 8 di Marzo

Festa della Donna 2017
Buona Festa della Donna! A tribute to Sicilian women from renown Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri.

Featured image photo by Dénes Emőke – London, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15200409

Italian Past Tense Verbs to Use EVERY Day!

Burano in Venice, Italy
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2017?

I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the third in a series that will originate in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. After our group has had a chance to use these phrases, I will post them on this blog for everyone to try.

Our third blog post in this series on “commonly used phrases” will help us talk more easily and will build on the phrase structure used at the conclusion of our first two blog posts.

“Mi ha…” meaning “He/she… to me.”
What other past tense verbs can we use in this way every day?

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

This material and more on this topic are available in the Conversational Italian for Travelers pocket phrase book, Just the Important Phrases, on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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 What he/she… (to) me

in Italian

As usual, let’s start with a recap of our previous blog posts:

The past tense for “I said,” a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo past tense form, which is “ho detto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English form “I have said.”  

Using this past tense verb, the phrase I use most often regarding what someone said to someone else is:

Mi ha detto… He said to me…/He told me
  She said to me…/She told me
  You (polite) said to me…/You told me

Memorize this first phrase, “mi ha detto,” then substitute a different past tense verb, as we did in our second blog post, with “mi ha chiesto.”  

The phrase I use most often regarding what someone asked of someone else is:

Mi ha chiesto… He asked (to) me…
  She asked (to) me…
  You (polite) asked (to) me…

For this third blog post, we will substitute even more Italian past tense verbs into the original phrase.

Soon all of these phrases will just roll off your tongue! See the tables below for how this works, and try to think of some phrases of your own!

Mi ha chiamato He/She/You (polite) called me
Mi ha telefonato He/She/You (polite) called me on the telephone
Mi ha spiegato He/She/You (polite) explained to me
Mi ha informato di He/She/You (polite) informed/updated/told me
Mi ha portato He/She/You (polite) took me
Mi ha invitato He/She/You (polite) invited me

 

Mi ha disturbato He/She/You/(polite) bothered me
Mi ha seccato He/She/You/(polite) annoyed me
Mi ha mentito He/She/You (polite) lied to me
Mi ha giurato He/She/You (polite) vowed to me
Mi ha promesso He/She/You (polite) promised me

 

Mi ha fatto contento(a)

(Mi ha fatto piacere.)

He/She/You(polite)/It made me happy

(I was pleased/happy.)

Mi ha fatto triste He/She/You (polite)/It made me sad
Mi ha fatto ridere He/She/You (polite)/It made me laugh
Mi ha fatto sorridere He/She/You (polite)/It made me smile

 

Finally, below are two important sentences to use when leaving someone’s company.

Mi ha fatto piacere vederti. It was nice to see you.
Mi ha fatto piacere sentirti. It was nice to hear from you.