Gina, Sophia and Claudia in the kitchen

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In July, the keyword, in regard to eating, the Mediterranean “diet”, which doesn’t mean dieting at all, but rather a way of eating. The following recipes are special because they come from three great Italian filmlegends (veterans) who shared their secrets to the public.

Allora pizza, pasta with pesto “- would exclaim Sophia Loren, but Adriano Celentano would reply that, ” Forse vitello di tonnato, cara Sophia! ” (perhaps in red wine braised veal rolls,-don’t you think, darling Sophia?)

Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale

With the three Italian filmicons have in common not only that they were discovered in beauty contests, but also all three ador Italian cuisine. The first star from the era of dolce vita is Gina Lollobrigida, (who has just turned 85 on 4th of July).

-“I studied painting and sculpting at school and became an actress by mistake.” -told Gina once in an interview (we’re glad she made that “mistake.”), however-“The Mona Lisa of the Twentieth Century”-started her career with modeling. In 1947 she entered a beauty competition for Miss Italy, but came in third. After appearing in a half-dozen films in Italy, it was rumored that the film tycoon Howard Hughes had her flown to Hollywood; however, this did not result her staying in America. By the time she returned to Rome, thanks to her curves and beauty, she was nicknamed la “Lollo,” as she embodied the prototype of Italian beauty. In the sixties Gina made 6 good films and had won many awards such as David Donatello, Golden Globe, Bambi (her most memorable films were: Solomon and Sheba, Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Trapeze, Good evening Ms Campbell etc.).

In the 1970s, Gina’s career had slowed down, as she took a break from acting and concentrated on another career: photography. Later on she became a successful photojournalist and scooped the world’s press by obtaining an exclusive interview with Paul Newman, Salvador Dalí and Fidel Castro (Gina collected of her work in a book “Italia Mia”, and published in 1973).

“I’ve had many lovers and still have romances. I am very spoiled. All my life, I’ve had too many admirers” summed up her life Gina in an interview. Nowadays I have a simply life.  I have always lived in my home town in Subiaco, Sicily and nobody has ever put her or his feet in my property without my permission!” Then we are lucky that she shared her recipes to us.

Lollo salad and panettone

There’s a type of curly lettuce named “Lollo” in honor of her cute “earthy tossed salad” hairdo. “The purple one (Lollo Rosso) or green one (Lollo bionda) lettuce have many advantages”, -says Gina,- “as these lettuces are not only more crispy but also work good with olive oil, balsamic vinegar dressing. In the summer you can make an excellent appetizer from them”. In addition I have found the recipe of her homemade panettone (in an Italian magazin: Casa mia Cucina mia), what she makes with her own hands once a year (before Christmas) to her loved ones. Here are the recipes:

Lollo rosso with carrots and fennel

Lollo rosso salad, one small radicchio, 2 carrots, 1 fennel bulb, 4 lemongrass leaves for garnish.

For the dressing: 2 tablespoons lemon flavored olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar or raspberry, salt, black pepper

Cut the radicchio and the Lollo Rosso. Clean, peel and grate the carrots. Wash the fennel and cut off the stems. Pick off the tender green leaves of fennel, chop them and set them aside for garnish. Add the grated carrots to it.

In the dressing, mix the lemon flavored olive oil, lemon juice, sherry vinegar together. Season with salt and pepper and pour over grated vegetables. Wash the lemon balm leaves and place it in the green salad with the fennel together.

PS: The fennel is more easily digestible when it is cooked in lightly salted water for 5-7 minutes.

Panettone alla Gina

Ingredients for a giant panettone (Gina’s recipe): 300 ml milk, 50 g butter, 450 ml flour, 80 g sugar, salt, 3 egg yolks, two ounces of yeast, orange, raisins, pistachios, dried fruits

for a normal sized panettone: 250 g flour, 100 ml milk, 80 g butter, 60 g sugar, ¼ cube of yeast (12 g, or 1 teaspoon dried), 3 egg yolks, 1 lemon zest, a pinch of salt, 50 g of raisins, 30 g of candied orange peel, candied lemon peel 30 g, 30 g figs

Topping: 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon milk, ½ egg, 10 g almonds or pistachios

First prepare the dough. If you use fresh yeast, stir yeast in the 3 tablespoon of lukewarm sweetened milk. Add the flour in a large mixing bowl, pour the yeast with milk, melted butter, add sugar, egg yolks, lemon rind, salt and almost all of the milk to it. 

Knead dough until it is loose, then cover the bowl, place it in the oven for 50 degrees for 5 minutes then turn off the heat and let the dough to rise (1-2 hours). 

When the dough rose, knead it for 5 minutes, then rotate gently into the dried fruit (cut everything into small pieces). Butter the baking tin thoroughly with a paper towels, place the dough on it and let it rise in room-temperature like the first time, but does not cover it.

If the dough has risen make a cut on the top of it with a sharp knife, smear it with butter, sprinkled on a little milk, brush with egg, toss over almond chips and pistachios. Turn the oven to 170 degrees and let dough bake for approx. 45 minutes. If the panettone is baked, let it rest about 15 minutes in the baking tin.

Sophia Loren

As a child, she had the nickname, “Toothpick” regarding her way to thin look but for the age of 14 she had blossomed so beautifully that when she participated in a beauty contest was placed as one of the finalists. It was there that Sophia caught the attention of film producer Carlo Ponti, some 22 years her senior (whom she eventually married in 1966 once he finally obtained a divorce from his first wife. Perhaps he was the only father figure she ever had). Under his guidance, Sophia was put under contract and appeared as an extra in ten films beginning in 1950, before working her way up to supporting roles. In these early films, she was credited as “Sofia Lazzaro” because people were joked that her beauty could raise Lazzarus from the dead. She had a short-lived but much-publicized fling with co-star Cary Grant, (who was 31 years her senior, 22 contra 53) but she rejected a marriage proposal from him. While under contract to Paramount Pictures, Sophia starred in many films but before returning to Italy she got the leading role in the Two women (1960) and for her brilliant performance she had received international acclaim and was honored with an Academy Award for Best Actress. Sophia remained a bona fide international movie star throughout the sixties and seventies, making films on both sides of the Atlantic, and starring opposite such leading men as Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, and Charlton Heston. Her American films included El Cid (1961), the Fall of the Roman empire (1964), Arabesque (1966), Man of La Mancha (1972), and Cassandra-crossing (1976). So far she has received a second Oscar nomination and won five Golden Globe Awards, and on the top of that Sophia Loren, who is seven years of Gina’s junior, has always had good knack of using her name and her husband’s relations. In the 70’s she appeared in business and at first she published her cook book then she had launched her trendy and sophisticated design glasses.  

Sophia has always loved cooking (and eating). About her eating habits there are many interesting anecdotes. I couldn’t resist to pick up one of them. A fellow actor wrote about Sophia (during making the film of Cid (1961): “Sophia appeared by bicycle on the set (by the way she rode her bike like an absolute beginner with fully outstretched arms). Since Carlo Ponti owned the film studio, she felt at home, and enjoyed very much when everybody addressed her La Signora. In the studio there was a small dressing room specially made for her. It was not at all intended to relax between two scenes, but more for dining. At 10 am or at 2 pm or any time she felt hungry she had just opened a small picnic boxes, which were filled with delicacies. By the way, she ate everything with lots of bread and red wine. Sometimes she even invited her fellow actors, actresses to dine with her. I heard that when she had to go to another city, in the hotel room it was set up a separate kitchen for her, where she could prepare one of her favorite Italian dishes “.

It was easy to get some of her recipes because Sophia Loren has already published two cook books (Cooking with heart and soul! (1972), Memories and Recipes!) According to her recipe collections her most loving dishes are: Involtini in Sicilian style (veal rolls), Salsa Genovese, Spaghetti alla carbonara in Rome and the Zabaglione.

Involtini alla Sicilia

Ingredients: 100 ml olive oil, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 pound of carrots, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 15 ounces parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, 8 sirloin (scallopini Milanese very thinly sliced), 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 liter of dry white wine, a bay leaf, a canned tomato puree, 250 grams of peas, prosciuto ham

Simmer the grated carrot with the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil and butter mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heater and wait a bit. When it is nearly cold, add the Parmesan cheese.

Salt the meat. Place 2 tablespoons of cooked carrots and onion mixture to each slice of meat. Wrap them up. If it’s necessary affirm the rolls with a toothpick.

Heat the remaining oil and butter mixture. Roll the meatrolls in the flour and bake them on both sides. Pour over the white wine, scrape up the crusted layer. Add the tomato and discard the bay leaf. Cover and simmer it for approx. 5 to 10 minutes.

When the meat is almost done, add the peas and prosciuto ham. If you need it to season with salt and pepper do it. Remove the toothsticks from the meatrolls, then pour over rolls the sauce. Serve with fresh bread or polenta.

Chicken hunter style (Sophia’s younger son Eduardo’s favorite)

1 tablespoon oil, chicken giblets, (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 breast meat) 1 onion, 1 green pepper, black pepper, half a liter of white wine, salt, sweet peppers, fresh tomatoes, basil

In a skillet cook the chicken legs, wings and breast (with the skin). When they are  golden brown, add the onion, red pepper and simmer them together. Occasionally turn the chicken, in order to protect from it burning, and pour over the white wine. Season with salt and pepper and let the wine evaporate. Add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer it another 30 minutes of moderate fire without touching-turning the meat. Place the chicken breasts into a plate, sprinkle the chicken with plenty of fresh basil and pour over the remaining fat and cook for 2 minutes. Pour the sauce onto the chicken, serve with steamed noodles.

 Zabaiglone delizioso alla Sophia Loren

Ingredients: 4 egg yolks, 80 g sugar, 4 tablespoons white wine, 4 tablespoons Marsala or sweet vermouth, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ladyfinger

Put the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl. Add the grated lemon rind, a pinch of cinnamon and vanilla extract. Pour the Marsala wine (you can substitute with sweet vermouth). Steam it over moderate heat, stirred constantly until a thick cream is obtained. Approximately for 10 minutes. When you reach the desired consistency, the zabaglione is ready. Add whipped cream and stir gently to the zabaglione. Serve cream with ladyfingers and with some fresh raspberries, blueberries. You can serve the cream in warm, or in cold- then let it stand for 15 minutes.

The vegetarian star, Claudia Cardinale

Signora Cardinale’s most memorable films Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, and the Once Upon a time in Wild West (Sergio Leone, 1968) have become cult movies.

Claudia was born under the name Claude Joséphine Rose Cardin in Tunis by a Sicilian-Italian father and a French mother. Her mother tongue was French, by 18 years of age she didn’t really speak Italian. Originally she wanted to become a teacher but after winning a beauty contest in 1957, in Tunisia, soon she had found herself at the Venice Film Festival, (that was the prize) where her beauty was immediately noticed by the Italian filmmakers (it resulted a seven-year contract). The contract imposed on her a lots of bounds: without permission she couldn’t have her hair cut, she couldn’t put any weighs and was not allowed to go to marry.

The great European films

In the 1960s, she made a number of films, mostly Italian productions (because of her limited Italian language skillsin the films her voice was dubbed). In 1960 Luchino Visconti, the famous filmdirector choose her for a supporting role in the Rocco and His Brothers neorealista’s film. In 1963, in the film The Leopard (also directed by Visconti) she already got a major role (with such stars like Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon on her side). In the same year she played the role of Maria Luigi Comencini: Bube lover (La Ragazzi di Bube) ‘s film, for which she received the Silver Ribbon Award. But when she played a memorable role in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ ‘s film she became the third leading Italian female sex symbol (after Gina and Sophia). Even Brigitte Bardot became jealous of her making the next remark: “I know who takes over my place soon, after BB, CC comes in the alphabet doesn’t it?

But according to Claudia the movie was a kind of medication to her, once even saved her life (her son Patrizio was born out of wedlock. His father was a mysterious Frenchman who raped Cardinale at age of 17. Later her son was adopted by her former husband Franco Cristaldi). The 74 years old Claudia is currently working on a film- Effie- with Emma Thomson and Dakota Fanning.

Claudia’s recipes

Before sharing her vegetarian recipes there is an interesting fact: a cocktail was named after Claudia (it is called Claudia). The drink was inspired by the Luchino Visconti’s film: The Panther.

Ingredients: Rum, Vermouth, pineapple, caramel syrup, Maraschino cherry liqueur, Cranberry juice, celeriac chunk and  lime piece cut into a star form (which hangs around the celeriac as a ponytail)

Claudia is vegetarian and she likes soups and pastas very much. Here is one of her favorite Italian minestrone soup

Ingredients: 1 courgette, 1 kidney bean canned, two pieces of fresh tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 chicken broth, 15 ounces Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon parsley, orecchi pasta

Prepare the vegetables. Peel the onion and garlic and chop finely. Wash the courgette, (do not peel it completely). Cut into small cubes. Simmer courgette in butter and oil mixture with the onions and garlic together, pour over 1 liter of water. Add the diced tomatoes, and the chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, (if you must). Cook courgette up 10 to 15 minutes (it cooks fast)

Finally, add the orecchi pasta and the canned kidney beans. Flavour with parsley, basil and sprinkle with plenty of green. When the pasta is al dente, serve with grated parmesan.

Her dessert: In Sherry marinated peach, with vanilla cream and cottage cheese

Ingredients: 8 apricots, 3 tablespoons sherry (creamy), vanilla extract, lemon juice, 500 g cream cheese, 8 tsp sugar, 250 g blueberries

After cleaning and unpitting the peaches cut them half and throw them into boiling water. Peel them and put in a bowl, pour the sherry over them and let them soaked/marinated in it for half an hour.

Scratch off the vanilla pod, press lemon juice into a bowl, add lemon curd and 4-5 tsp of sugar. Stir them together well.

Place blueberries into the blender with some addition of sugar. 

Finally, dipped the tablespoon in hot water, take one spoon of the quark and form with the spoon almond’s shape. Take out apricots from the Sherry marinade place into a dessert plate, place on the quark and on the top with the black currant purée.

Buon appetito!

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