The End Result

I was a little frightened when I learned I was going to make a dish because I have little experience in the kitchen, unless you count the microwave. I assumed I was going to fail from the start, so I was very apprehensive to make the dish.

My fear of failure really kicked in when I went grocery shopping for the ingredients. I had difficulty finding a can of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes when I thought they would be the easiest things on the list to find. Who knew there were so many different types of tomatoes in a can? They took up almost half of one side of the aisle. There were crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, whole tomatoes, and don’t even get me started on the ones with added spices.

Tomato

The sauce for the filling of the Panzerotti

I inevitably made a couple mistakes, but one stands out because I almost ruined the recipe. I bought two heads of garlic and thought each of them was a clove. When I asked my aunt about how to mince the garlic she was surprised by how much I had on the cutting board. Thankfully she pointed out that two heads of garlic weren’t the same as two cloves, which saved her house from having that unmistakable scent forever.

Me

Me mincing the garlic

I was really nervous to fry the Panzerotti because I didn’t want to get popped with hot oil. Having a bad habit of playing it safe, I chose to go against my natural instincts and make a fried food so I could challenge myself. My problem is that I think too much about what might go wrong and then I psych myself out, so if I jump right into facing my fears it’s easier for me to conquer them because I don’t have time to overthink anything.

I was frying the Panzerotti and I hadn’t got popped by hot oil yet, which gave me a sense of relief. Then I had to flip the Panzerotti and the oil just started going crazy and popping all over the place. Being alone in the kitchen and not wanting to burn my aunt’s house down, I had to take care of the situation myself instead of giving up, like I wanted to. I learned that I don’t have to hectically flood my mind with possible problems and solutions beforehand, but instead I can stay calm and act fast in the moment.

Once I was finished making the Panzerotti my cousin was the first to try one and she really enjoyed it. I was delightfully surprised that I was successful, because I thought my lack of knowledge in the kitchen would get in my way.

Amri

My cousin trying the Panzerotti

When I had to change my first recipe I decided to go with a recipe that called for bigger portions of the Panzerotti, because I had a huge issue with the smaller ones. First of all, the finished product was mostly dough because I could barely fit any sauce or cheese in there without the dough coming apart. Then a lot of them turned out more in the shape of a bullet rather than a half circle, so this made them harder to flip when I fried them.

Two

The final product

Once I finished closing the Panzerotti for the second recipe I knew it was going to turn out better just by the shape and the consistency of the sauce. My family and I agreed that they tasted better than the first recipe because the ratio of dough to filling was more equal.

I am happy to say that not only did I survive this experience, but I got some good food and much needed knowledge about the kitchen. I faced my fear of failure and came out on top, because my family has already requested that I make Panzerotti again.

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A Little History on Italian Food and the Panzerotti

Italy’s food was influenced by what their land and the land of the countries around them had to offer. Italians relied very much on the foods that were in season so they would be fresh, resulting in their cooking changing with whatever was in season. One example is that Tuscany cuisine used to be known for consisting of beans because that is what was available to them.

Italian food wasn’t only influenced by the ingredients available to them, but also what was introduced to them from different places. They were introduced to different spices and cooking methods from the Middle East and North Africa by the Arabs, whos influence is shown by the presence of citrus, almonds, and ices. Italians also learned from the Arabs to use the contrast of sweet and sour in their dishes to their advantage.

Map

A Map of North Africa and the Middle East from Google Images

Some of the ingredients that Italians use today where introduced to them from the New World by European travelers, like tomatoes. A lot of popular Italian dishes today consist of tomatoes, like Spaghetti, Pizza, and Lasagna. Even though Italians are known today to use tomatoes a great deal in their dishes they weren’t used very much until the nineteenth century.

Another well-known ingredient present in Italian cuisine is pasta, used in some of the popular dishes like Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti, Ravioli, and Tortellini. Although it is rumored that Marco Polo introduced pasta to the country, it is not true. It is believed that in the eighth century the Arabs introduced pasta to the South.

Italy also influenced the cuisine of other places, like France. This happened in the sixteenth century when Catherine de Medici, a popular figure in the culinary world of Italy, became the Queen of France. She took her knowledge of Italian cuisine and introduced to France artichokes, truffles, and frozen desserts.

Catherine

Image of Catherine de Medici from Google Images

A lot of the dishes that are popular in Italian cuisine go back very far, like the Panzerotti. It was made in the eighteenth century in Naples and was still similar to the one that is made today, both being stuffed with cheese.

The Panzerotti is popular in the southern region of the country, even getting its name from a southern Italian word meaning “stomach” because of its filled shape. It also has a traditional meaning because it is made on January 17 for the feast of Sant’Antonio Abate, indicating the start of Carnevale in Bari.

The Panzerotti is similar to a Calzone and ravioli because it is filled with different ingredients. It can be filled with tomatoes and cheese, ham and cheese, or ricotta cheese and lemon zest to make a dessert. The Panzerotti is typically deep-fried, but it can also be baked instead.

Panzerotti

Image of Panzerotti from Google Images

Picky Eater Taking Chances

I was not fortunate enough to be born into a family filled with great cooks, it was quite the opposite. My parents relied heavily on foods that came in a box or bag with all the ingredients included and directions on the back, so most of my meals came from the frozen food aisle at my local grocery store. I had no complaints though because I have the simplest taste buds known to man and had no desire for my parents to venture into the unknown of home cooked meals, coming home to see that Stouffer’s Lasagna was on the menu for dinner AGAIN did not bother me at all.

Stouffer's Family Size Lasagna with Meat & Sauce 38-oz. Image of Stouffer’s Lasagna from Google Images

This assignment will hopefully help me to not end up like my parents in the cooking department. I can realize that cooking isn’t that hard after all and I will do it more often, discovering more of the world of Italian food (my favorite type of food) at the same time.

Italians win my vote for “best type of cuisine” simply based on the fact that they created pizza. “It can’t possibly get better than that,” you might say. Well it does, because on top of that they brought us a plethora of delicious pasta dishes with great names like “Fettuccine Alfredo” and “Spaghetti”. Dishes that are not only fun to eat but also have names that are fun to say. Where do I sign up?

Fettuccine Alfredo (photo)

Image of Fettuccine Alfredo from Google Images

Like I said earlier, I am a very picky eater and do not take chances when it comes to eating, so the fact that I like a good majority of Italian food is a miracle and that’s why I love it so much. Italian food switches it up, but not too much. For example, they saw that pizza was a hit so they made things like the Calzone and the Panzerotti, which are basically closed versions of the pizza. They changed up the presentation of the food, but kept the same great taste.

Image of Panzerotti from Google Images

I wanted to make a pizza at first, because I knew the people I’m making it for would love it. Then I realized I didn’t have a pizza stone to make the pizza, so I remembered the closed versions of the pizza. After doing some research I was in between making the Calzone or the Panzerotti, both made with pizza dough and often filled with tomatoes and cheese (my favorites). They do not have complicated ingredients or an overload of ingredients, which I think can truly ruin a dish. Ultimately, I chose to make the Panzerotti because I liked the fact that it was smaller than the Calzone and I thought the people I’m making it for would like it better also.

Hopefully I can represent home cooked Italian food well and make it taste as good as the Stouffer’s Lasagna my parents loved to make.