Savory Double Cheese Biscuits

The weather in Rome -- usually mild, sunny, agreeable -- hasn't been its usual self lately, experiencing an actual snowfall a couple of weeks ago and currently, a marathon of rain. Raindrops have made an appearance nearly every day the past few weeks, so much so that a glimpse of sunshine has become a noteworthy occasion. Gray clouds and the constant presence of anything from a steady drizzle to a heavy downpour is the norm lately, and as a result, I've done what anyone would do: I've taken to wearing my trusty rain boots, carrying around my half-broken but still functioning umbrella, and have embarked on a month-long comfort food kick. Yup -- March has so far consisted in not just one but two types of cookies, not to mention crispy cozy fried chicken, and now biscuits, perhaps the quintessential American comfort food, because if there's anything capable of brightening up your day when the sun has taken the day off, its biscuits

First things first! Biscuits, much like funfetti, is a distinctly American food, one that seems to cause confusion outside of its country of origin. The American biscuit is not to be confused with "biscuit" as Brits know it, which is what we Americans call "cookies." Rather the American biscuit is more akin to a scone, but flakier, and can be both sweet (with the addition of a little sugar and/or vanilla) or savory (no sugar and a little more salt). They're a specialty of the southern states in the U.S, and can be used as the base for your classic shortcake, eaten as is, slathered in butter, drizzled with honey, served with gravy (a Southern specialty) or eaten with soups and stews.

Having given you that little introduction, I'll keep the rest of this post brief, as these Savory Double Cheese biscuits are quite self-explanatory -- an extensive commentary as to why you should make them would be unnecessary. After all, they're the pinnacle of all things delicious, unrivaled and undisputed in their goodness (you would, in short, be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't like biscuits) and in the case of this recipe, the place where two of the best ingredients in the world -- butter and cheese  -- meet and join forces. These biscuits are biscuits 2.0, or biscuits living their best life, super tall and stately and glorious (baking powder + baking soda + leaving the dough fairly thick will do that) and perfectly golden, extra flaky, a little salty from the Parmesan, a little spicy from the black pepper, and a little tangy from the goat cheese. To say they're downright magnificent is not an exaggeration, and period of never-ending rain or not, you'll want to make these. 

A couple of notes: You can use whatever cheeses you want here; Pecorino, Gruyere, and grated mozzarella would also be nice here. You could probably experiment with adding dried herbs to them to take them in another flavor direction. These are best eaten the day that they're made. Like last week's recipe, today's also comes from the talented Posie Harwood over at

Looking for other biscuit recipes? I've also got these Cacio e pepe Biscuits, plus these Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes (made with chocolate biscuits, these Tomato Basil Shortcakes, and these Raspberry-Blueberry Shortcakes


2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (100 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
6 tablespoons (84 grams) very cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup (56 grams) crumbled goat cheese
3/4 cup (177 ml) milk

Preheat the oven to 450ยบ F (230 degrees Celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Stir in the grated Parmesan. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a fork or pastry cutter until it's in mostly pea-sized chunks -- some chunks can be slightly larger and some smaller, but don't overwork it. Add the goat cheese and stir to combine. 
Add the milk, stir the dough with a fork until it is somewhat evenly moistened, then knead it a few times in the bowl so it mostly comes together in a ball but don't overwork it at all. It should not be cohesive and there should be chunks of drier areas and some wetter areas.
Turn the dough out onto the parchment-lined sheet, and fold it over onto itself until there aren't any dry spots remaining. Don't think of this as kneading: You want to handle it gently and as you fold, the wet/dry areas will disappear. Fold about 10 times, then gently press the dough down to a rectangle about 2 inches high. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 2" squares and separate them slightly on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly, then eat! Makes 6-7 biscuits (I got about 7).

Funfetti Cookies

Not since that time I made chewy, marshmallow-y Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats has a dessert I've served to my non-American friends caused more confusion than this recent batch of Funfetti Cookies. The responses to the enthusiastic message I sent out about these ("Made Funfetti cookies yesterday!!! in my office if you want one!") were nearly all along the lines of "I like cookies but what is funfetti?" and "Don't know what that first part means but I'm on my way" This surprised me -- who doesn't know what funfetti is?! -- but led me to realize than that if you're not American (or a baker) the name of this recipe probably confuses you, too. Before I go any further then, let me answer the question at hand: What exactly is funfetti? 

A little Funfetti 101: Funfetti refers to multi-colored sprinkles reminiscent of confetti -- fun + confetti=funfetti -- and is a (genius) concept first created by Pillsbury, who rolled out a white layer cake mix dotted with rainbow sprinkles back in 1989 (also the year I was born -- good things were happening). Funfetti cake subsequently became all the rage, so much so that it wasn't a kid's birthday party in the 90s without the presence of a tall, festive funfetti layer cake, swirls of vanilla frosting and all. Flash forward to 2015ish, when funfetti didn't make a comeback -- rainbow sprinkles never go out of style, right?  -- but was reborn in a big way, suddenly America's newest dessert trend. The sprinkles usually limited to a box of cake mix began to show up in everything from shortbread to scones, cupcakes to cookies, pancakes to waffles, in bakeries and on blogs across the country. In fact, the Funfetti trend became so popular that it caught the attention of the New York Times itself (click here). It just so happened that the addition of brightly colored sprinkles made any dessert more fun, charming, and eye-catching, not to mention added a dose of nostalgia for all of us who grew up eating Funfetti cake.

So how did these go over with my friends who were not yet educated in the ways of funfetti? The answer is incredibly well, not only with a bunch of Italians but also two Germans, a friend from France, a friend from Switzerland, another one from India, and still another few from the UK. "BUONISSIMI!" ("very very good") was the feedback of one Italian who went on to eat several, and another two friends commented that these had something special and distinctly American about them, and hat they stood out from your usual European biscuit in terms of flavor and texture. 

The moral of the story? It would seem then that soft, chewy and extra vanilla-y cookies packed with vibrant sprinkles is something that most everyone likes, appreciates, and has in common, no matter where they come from. Another friend called these "happy cookies, cheer-spreading cookies" and theorized that they were probably capable of cheering up anyone on a bad day, because how can you not smile at the sight of an overly festive, over-the-top cookie?! I'd conclude then that these funfetti cookies -- apart from being charming and delicious -- are also cross-cultural, universally appealing, and mood-lifting, which are all pretty powerful properties for a dessert, don't you think?! 

Last thing -- I baked these on February 26th, or the day that it snowed in Rome. You have to know that snow is incredibly rare in the Eternal City -- the last time it had snowed in Rome was all the way back in 2012 -- and these therefore will forever be Snow Day Cookies for me. Pictures below of Rome in the snow and a few hours after the snow had melted, all sun and blue skies.
A couple of notes: This recipe comes from one of my favorite new blogs,, belonging to the very talented Posie Harwood (who also writes for Food52, another great site). If you don't have sprinkles on hand no problem -- Posie says you can make excellent soft and chewy sugar cookies without the sprinkles, and that you could also add chocolate chips to the batter if you wanted to take these in another direction. Be sure to use the longer artificially colored sprinkles and not naturally colored ones or nonpareils, as the color will bleed in to the cake.

Looking for other cookie recipes? A few more favorites: these Brutti ma buoni, these White Chocolate, Almond, and Apricot Biscotti, these Brownie Cookies, these Brown Butter and Chocolate Chunk Cookies, these Gingerbread Cookies, these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, these Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, these Magical 4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies, and these Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies.

(recipe from Posie Harwood at my new favorite site,

1/2 cup (1 stick or 112 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) flour
1 tablespoon (9 grams) cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (about 160 grams) rainbow sprinkles

In a large mixing bowl using electric beaters or in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes, at least. The mixture should look very pale in color. Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined (be careful to not overmix). Fold in the sprinkles with a spatula. 
Using a large cookie scoop (an ice cream scoop works well), scoop balls of dough (about 2" wide each) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave a few inches between each as they will spread.
Freeze the sheets of dough balls for at least 20 minutes, or refrigerate them for a least 1 hour. Don't skip this step!
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes. They should be barely golden brown around the edges and will look and feel underbaked -- this is okay, as it will ensure that the cookies are soft and chewy. You can bake them a bit longer if you'd like a crisper cookie. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool and enjoy asap. Makes 15-20 cookies.

Pollo fritto alla toscana

With a few rare exceptions, this blog shares recipes from two kinds of cuisines, both near and dear to my heart: Italian cuisine, which reflects where I live and what recipes I've learned here in my adopted country, and American cuisine, which is linked to my home country and the dishes I miss/can only enjoy here if I make them myself. These are two very distinct styles of cooking, of course; Italian cuisine is one of simplicity and straightforwardness, each recipe relying on a handful of good quality, straightforward ingredients (look no further than crazy-simple cacio e pepe or saltimbocca alla romana) while American cuisine is a bit more relaxed and forgiving with less rules, at times more excessive (cheeseburgers; sweet potato casserole; frosted, multi-layered cakes). The recipes from Italy and the U.S co-exist on this blog in culinary harmony -- you're just as likely to find tiramisu' as you are chocolate chip cookies, bagels as you are bucatini all'amatriciana -- but still stand firmly in their cuisine camps, with no overlap, all recipes delicious, but very different. 

And yet.

I'd had it in my head for a while to attempt to make fried chicken; I had, after all, conquered my fear of frying some time back, and apart from being delicious, fried chicken stood out to me as one of those quintessentially American recipes a blog that focuses on American cuisine should have (see also: Fudge Brownies; Avocado Cheddar Burgers; Apple Pie). I dove in to intense Fried Chicken recipe-research to prepare, when, low and behold, I came across one recipe labeled "Tuscan Fried Chicken," from one of my very favorite sites, Serious Eats. I was intrigued; was this simply fried chicken with some sort of Italian herb (oregano or basil can make any dish "Italian") or was there actually a story here? With a bit of digging (okay, google searches) I found recipes called pollo fritto alla toscana, or pollo fritto per Chanuka', and discovered that actually -- you may want to sit down for this -- fried chicken is a thing in Italy. With a bit of reading, I learned that pollo fritto is actually a Tuscan-Jewish dish traditionally eaten for and around Hanukkah, where the chicken is simply marinated in lemon juice, garlic, and spices, then battered in egg and flour before deep-frying. It would seem then that I was wrong, then -- here we have a recipe where my two cuisines cross paths, intersect, find common ground; fried chicken, the most American of all American dishes, is, apparently, also legitimately Italian, too. Who knew?!

But this chicken! It’s an experience, you guys: It's deeply golden brown and beyond crunchy 
 there is an audible CRUNCH when you bite in to it – and just when you’ve begun to wrap your mind around how crispy the exterior is, there’s the incredibly tender, juicy, chicken within, and just when you’ve processed how good all this is, there are all the flavors. There's a hint of tangy lemon and a bit of sharp garlic which temper the the richness of the frying, and then, lastly, a subtle kick (a nudge?) of spicy cinnamon and nutmeg. Now: while you may think cinnamon and nutmeg seem better suited for carrot cake or oatmeal cookies, trust me on this -- they give the chicken a toasty, warming flavor, leaving you wondering just exactly the secret ingredient was at the end of each bite. The finishing touch, extra salt sprinkled over the cooked chicken, is not to be underestimated, either -- it makes the whole thing even more addictive, in the way that only salt paired with fried food can. It tasted American, and yet the recipe was 100% Italian, and it was pretty cool to know that there is a place where my two cuisines meet, if only for a moment. Bottom line: do yourself a favor and make this, asap.

A couple of notes: If you don't have a meat thermometer or a kitchen thermometer to measure the oil temperature, I recommend you buy them -- they're very handy here and guarantee spot-on, perfectly cooked chicken. I used drumsticks only because that's what I like, but feel free to use whatever pieces you want. I fried my chicken two pieces at a time (I was cautious about the oil temperature dropping too much) which worked well, but meant about 45 minutes of frying; I think three pieces at a time would be alright, as long as you keep an eye on the temperature and maintain it at a good 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius). If you'd like to make this in advance, you can allow the chicken to cool to room temperature, then re-fry in hot oil just before serving, very briefly. I used a neutral vegetable oil for frying, but you could also use olive oil here; just be aware that anything fried in olive oil then tastes very much of olive oil, which isn't a bad thing, but if you want the flavors of the chicken to shine here, a neutral oil is preferable.

Looking for other chicken recipes? I've got this pollo ai peperoni, this lemon roasted chicken, this pollo alla cacciatora in bianco, and these cotolette di pollo. Looking for other recipes for things that are fried? I've got these polpette di melanzane, these zeppole sarde, these castagnole, this parmigiana di melanzane, these pumpkin doughnuts, and these carciofi alla giudia

(Recipe from Serious Eats)

8 pieces (about 4 pounds, or 1.8 kilos total) of chicken (drumsticks thighs, breast halves, wings)
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten

Vegetable, peanut, canola, or olive oil, for frying 
Lemon wedges, for serving

In a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag, combine chicken, lemon juice, garlic, salt, a generous grating of pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Seal and shake to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Do not marinate the chicken for longer than this, otherwise the acid will start to "cook" the chicken and make it tough after frying.
Remove the chicken from the bag and place on a baking sheet. Fill a wide bowl with flour and another with egg. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg to coat. 
When ready to fry the chicken, fill a wok, Dutch oven, or large cast iron skillet with about 1 1/2 inches of oil and heat oil until it registers 375°F (190 degrees Celsius for the rest of you) on an instant-read thermometer. This will take a few minutes, so be patient -- keep checking the oil temperature with your thermometer. When the oil is ready, add each piece of chicken to the pot, carefully; note that the oil temperature will drop. Fry chicken, turning occasionally and maintaining an oil temperature between 325 and 350°F (about 160-170 degrees Celsius) until the chicken is golden brown outside and on a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 145°F for breasts and 155°F for drumsticks and thighs, about 15-17 minutes.

Transfer the fried chicken to a paper towel lined plate or baking sheet to drain off the excess oil, then transfer them to a wire rack set over a baking sheet (this will keep the chicken nice and crispy). Sprinkle the chicken with salt and allow the chicken to rest for a full 3 minutes. Serve right away with lemon wedges. Serves 4.

Brutti ma buoni

In the nearly 7 years I've been living in Rome, I've noticed a great many differences between Americans, the people of my home country, and Italians, the people of my adopted country. There are the little, more trivial things; Italians, for example, follow strict and purposeful rules when it comes to food and drink – no cappuccino after noon, no cheese with seafood, no eating dinner before 7:30pm -- while Americans are decidedly more relaxed in this regard, with more of any anything-goes-approach. Americans love and fully appreciate air conditioning, using it with abandon, while Italians are convinced that artificial cold air in general, but especially cold air blowing on your neck (yes) makes you sick (FYI: this is called “colpo di aria”). When it comes to a career, Americans have a more optimistic "follow your dreams!" approach, while Italians are far more practical, placing heavy importance on finding a "posto fisso" (fixed term job).

Then there are the bigger, more significant differences I've noticed, namely: The Filter. In my interactions with both Americans and Italians, I've realized that Americans, generally speaking, tend to be very (at times overly?) friendly and polite, more likely to sugarcoat something then tell you what they actually think. Americans, you see, are ever aware of their Filter, and keep it with them at All Times. Italians on the other hand tend to use their Filter far less consistently, and are much more likely to, in any given situation, tell you what they really think, and how they actually see things; I've learned that this behavior isn't meant to be rude, but simply direct and to the point. For example: In my earlier years in Rome, in a desperate attempt to fix what was supposed to be a trim gone wrong (don’t ask) I cut my then long hair quite short. I was pleased with the results -- it was something a little different, good in the 100 degree Roman heat, because remember, no air conditioning -- but when I showed my new look to an Italian colleague, her response was “It’s nice, but you looked better with longer hair.” Every single one of my American colleagues, on the other hand, said the haircut was “awesome” “great” “adorable.” 


Not too long ago, I was chatting with two Italian friends, one of which was talking about her (successful) diet. Translated, the conversation went something like this: "Well, it was about time I lost the weight, because honestly, I was really overweight before, and always had been," to which the other Italian friend responded, with a nod of her head, "Yes, of course." Her response struck me. An American, in this situation, would've responded to this comment with something like "Oh, stop!" or "Oh no, you weren't overweight, you looked fine before!" In this exchange however, there was no glossing over, no smoothing out, and no hurt feelings -- just the acknowledgment of facts they both knew to be true, no problem.

A couple of weeks prior to writing this post, I brought a piece of a cake I'd made to an Italian friend of mine. When I messaged him afterwards to see what he thought, he said, in so many words: "It was nice enough but just a piece was enough for me. I've liked other things you've made better." An American, in this case -- even if they hated the cake! -- would've, most likely, put their true thoughts about the cake aside and said "It was great! Thank you!"

I could go on, of course (I've made mental note of many of these instances over the years) but I think you get the idea -- bottom line, the use or lack thereof the Filter is one of the biggest cultural differences I've noticed between Americans and Italians. Which, of course, begs the question: which is better? Is it preferable to always tell the truth, and say what you really think, or is it better to err on the side of politeness and the preservation of feelings, keeping your opinions to yourself? I can see the merits of both -- no one wants to be lied to, but on the other hand, no one wants their feelings hurt, either, so it's a tricky one. Personally speaking, I still find my Filter firmly in place 7 years in, and while I'm no longer offended at comments that are more direct than perhaps I'm used to, they still stand out to me.

But I digress! Today's recipe is for brutti ma buoni, a hazelnut-meringue cookie from the Piedmont and Lombardy regions up in the north of Italy (there seems to be some controversy about exactly which region the cookies originally come from, so I'll be diplomatic and list both). Their name, translated to English, means "ugly but good," which strikes me as something a direct, no-filter Italian might say (if an American had named these cookies, they'd probably be called something like "Honestly no, they're not that ugly, and also they're really delicious"). And after all, it's true -- these cookies aren't much to look at, all pale brown and sort of craggy and uneven -- but they're darn good, truly buoni, buonissimi even. They're crisp on the outside with a soft and chewy interior, packed lots of crunchy, toasty hazelnuts, sweetened with a good dose of sugar and the unassuming but mighty flecks of a vanilla bean. They're a subdued, less-is-more kind of sweet -- a departure from the buttery, in-your-face American cookies I usually bake -- but are quite addictive nonetheless; in fact a significant amount of them mysteriously vanished before they were even photographed. Bonus: these cookies are also gluten and dairy free, if you're avoiding either (or both) of those these days.
A couple of notes: If you have a kitchen scale, please do use it to measure the egg whites -- you want 150 grams exactly. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can measure out 3/4 cup egg whites (using an American standard cup measure) but the kitchen scale is best here. If you're living in Italy, you can buy granelle di nocciola, which are hazelnuts that are already chopped for you. If not, buy hazelnuts that are already skinned and use either a knife or a food processor to chop them until fine. If you don't want to buy a vanilla bean, you could probably substitute about 2 teaspoons vanilla extract here, but I've never tried it myself (let me know how it works for you!) The baking time here varies a bit depending on your oven -- see my comments in the recipe below. When cooking the meringue, use a non stick pot - if you don't have one, prepare to have the meringue stick a bit to the pot, but never fear, with a bit of soaking it will come off right away. Not sure what to do with all the leftover egg yolks you have from the egg whites you'll be using? One of my favorite sites, The Kitchn, has some ideas for you.

Looking for other cookie recipes? A few more favorites: these White Chocolate, Almond, and Apricot Biscotti, these Brownie Cookies, these Brown Butter and Chocolate Chunk Cookies, these Gingerbread Cookies, these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, these Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, these Magical 4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies, and these Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies.

(recipe from Giallo Zafferano)

About 5-6 room temperature egg whites (3/4 of a cup or 150 grams, better to weigh them if possible)
3 cups (300 grams) finely chopped skinned hazelnuts
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 vanilla bean

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer, if you have one, adding the whip attachment. If you don't have a standing mixer (I don't) then you can also use electric beaters. Cut the vanilla bean down the middle and using a knife, scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the egg whites. Beat the egg whites with either the standing mixer or the beaters until they are thick and white. Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form -- you can test this by lifing the beaters/beater out of the egg whites; if the egg whites are sturdy enough to form little peaks once the beater is lifted away, they are ready). Note that this process might take a few minutes, especially if you are using electric beaters. 
 Next, fold in the hazelnuts, a little at a time. In a non-stick medium sized pot over a very low flame, cook the egg white/sugar/hazelnut mixture, stirring often, for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 265 degrees Fahrenheit (130 degrees Celsius). Let your newly formed brutti ma buoni batter cool a minute or two, then using two spoons (or a cookie scoop) portion them out on to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I managed to fit about 8 cookies on one sheet (you will get about 20-25 cookies from this). Bake the cookies until they are set on the bottom and the top is also set and crackly but the insides are still on the softer side -- this could take anywhere between 35-45 minutes, and actually with my little oven that heats up in an instant, it took me 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them and see how it goes -- it will very much depend on your oven. 
If the brutti ma buoni seem like they're getting too brown, cover them with aluminum foil. Let the cookies cool and enjoy. Makes 20-25 cookies.