Coffee like no other

The unique illy blend

This is balance that comes only from a blend: the singular illy blend of nine highest-order Arabica beans, selected and directly purchased by illy from farms spanning four continents.  Each individual bean contributing to a greater whole, for the pleasure of those who appreciate all that coffee can and should be.

In the cup, the illy blend becomes a symphony: rich, full, multi-faceted, yet subtle, comprised of immensely talented soloists, each coaxed to their finest performance under the hand of an expert conductor.

There is a taste, a feel, an aroma that is all illy’s own. Velvety, immediately sweet, delicately balancing floral and fruity notes with caramel, toast and chocolate, naturally fragrant with aromas of almond and honey.  You just might hold the sugar, for the very first time.

Coffee of the highest order, coffee that delights: this is illy’s mission, passion and obsession.  A simple idea created through complex means: eight decades of experience; unmatched knowledge of coffee biology and chemistry; unrivalled skill at roasting; the pioneering of innovative, enabling technologies; and a family’s entrepreneurial passion.

Secrets of the illy blend

Composed of nine distinct highest-order Arabica coffees spanning four continents, purchased directly from the growers who nurtured them.

Perfectly balanced, with a delightfully distinct taste and aroma.

Recalibrated with each harvest to consistently provide the signature illy taste, cup after cup after cup.

Expertly blended prior to roasting and cooling.

Fresh taste and aroma preserved through pressurized packaging.

How to Prepare Cappuccino at Home

Myth: cappuccino’s silky magic is beyond the grasp of home baristas. It’s just too delicate of a dance, best left to the cafe.

Truth: great cappuccino is a delight available to discerning coffee lovers, right in their own kitchens. It takes some practice with water, steam and foam, along with the right equipment on your countertop. You’ll want an espresso machine with a built-in steaming wand. And of course, illy coffee on hand as your foundation.

cappuccino is an approximately 150 ml (5 oz) beverage, with 25 ml of espresso coffee and 85ml of fresh milk The foaming action creates the additional volume.


For a cappuccino at its best:

  • Pour cold milk into a metal steaming pitcher, about a third full;
  • Release steam from the steaming wand for two seconds to eliminate any residual water;
  • Dip the tip of the steaming wand into milk and start the jet. As the foam rises and the volume of milk increases, lower the pitcher, always keeping the tip submerged and tilted to create a vortex. Do not mix unnecessarily (i.e. let the natural circulating action do the work);
  • Continue steaming until the milk reaches 65 degrees (check via probe-style kitchen thermometer) and its volume doubles;
  • Tap the base of the pitcher firmly on the countertop to compress the foam;
  • Prepare an espresso in a large cup (ideally, a cappuccino cup);
  • Pour the foamed milk directly into the cup, first aiming for the center, then continuing in a circular motion out toward the rim;
  • Operate the steam one more time to eliminate any remaining milk residue;

The Best Foam

Foam’s consistency epends on the milk’s fat content.
For the most velvety rich cappuccino, use whole milk. You can substitute low-fat milk, at the sacrifice of some smoothness.
Foam produced from skim milk is light and meringue-like, quick to dissolve.

Da Vinci’s loyal customer, world-class fencer Kristina Kuusk: “I absolutely adore eating!”

Da Vinci believes that good food brings good shape. That is why we are happy to support Estonian sportsmen on their way to the top. If in the previous article we introduced you a Da Vinci’s good friend and top-level golfer Mark Suursalu, then in today’s article we bring you ideas about food and modern fencing expressed by one of the best Estonian fencers, Kristina Kuusk.

“I absolutely adore eating!” Kristina says and laughs when we ask her about the role food has in her life. She tells that fencing is a sport that does not require the sportsmen to count each bite they take. “I haven’t found it necessary. Actually, I don’t think I’d even agree to do that,” she admits. “I’m happier when I enjoy good food!”

During competitions there is no organised catering, therefore, the competitors have to take care of their meals themselves. Days are long and tiring, “For example, the European Championships lasted for 14 hours.” Whether there is time to have a proper meal during competitions depends on the venue. “Sometimes you cannot even leave the venue and then everyone has their snacks and food supplements with them.” Kristina’s bag often contains bananas, nuts and muesli bars.

When Kristina is at home, she likes to take time to have a good breakfast. “It is important for me to take those two hours to have my breakfast and do my things.” At home she often cooks chicken, fish and salads, she also likes baking cakes. Since her mother’s side of the family is from Saaremaa, Kristina also values simple and homemade food very highly. “Fried plaice, young potatoes, butter, dill…,” the top-level fencer lists her favourite Saaremaa flavours.

 

While travelling around the world, Kristina also mostly likes to enjoy local food, but there is one little exception. Namely, when she was travelling in China and ordered chicken at a local restaurant, she was instead served fancy rooster legs with feathers and nails still in place. After this unexpected encounter, Kristina always brings along some food from Estonia when she goes to China. Just in case. However, since Kristina is very curious by her nature, she has tried several exotic animals, such as scorpion, kangaroo, crocodile and snake. Just to know how they taste.

Kristina also has a secret sin: “I am mad about wine gums!” she admits. Her favourite ones are those that are with a soft texture and a little sour, especially those that are covered with a sour coating. “As soon as I smell wine gums… there is a click and I just have to get them,” she admits she often has to give in when the wonderful wine gums are in question.
Da Vinci restaurants have been Kristina’s favourite places for having a meal for a long time already. When we noticed that, we decided to support the capable sportswoman so that during her busy training period there would always be a warm meal waiting for her at Da Vinci. As a great food lover, Kristina had trouble hiding her happiness. “I would have liked to do a cartwheel, but I thought that maybe I shouldn’t do circus…” she laughs.

When dining at Da Vinci’s she manages to save a lot of invaluable time, especially when there are several trainings in a day. Her favourite dish in our menu is grilled trout with grilled vegetables and zucchini. She also enjoys several pasta dishes, risottos and pizza. “Wholegrain pizzas – this is a proper sportsman’s food!!” she giggles. “And I think I can never say no to a cheesecake.” Kristina says she also likes the menu changes at very suitable intervals, and she always finds her favourites from there.

Kristina also praises Da Vinci’s wide choice of coffee drinks. “When at one point I started drinking tea instead of coffee, I also noticed that Da Vinci’s tea menu is also surprisingly good! I’ve even bought some as presents. And the grapefruit juice! This is a must have! Healthy, made on spot, fresh,” she summarises the good characteristics of the freshly squeezed juice.

Additional good words are said and a kiss is blown to the servers of Kristina’s favourite restaurant, Kristiine shopping centre’s Da Vinci. “You simply have to praise them! I can say that they are the reason why I go to Kristiine’s Da Vinci.”

We wish Kristina everlasting positive energy and good results in fencing halls, and always hope to see her at our Da Vinci restaurants!

Da Vinci meets golf: interview with Mark Suursalu

Photo by: Mats Soomre

Today we introduce you one of our loyal customers – professional golf player Mark Suursalu. Although Mark is mostly known as a professional golf player, he also values tasty and healthy food. We asked Mark about the connections between golf and food, his food preferences and also what brings him to Da Vinci restaurants every day he is in his home country.

Mark often spends half a day at the golf course: one round lasts for app. 5 hours, and before that there is at least an hour of warm-ups. While playing, Mark also has to plan his mealtimes so that his energy level would not drop during the competition. Quite often he starts thinking about food about two or three holes before the end of the game. “Sometimes you have a fairly good game and then just a bit before the end you feel hungry, and this has an effect on your concentration,” he says.

Therefore, before each competition, Mark always makes sure he has enough food with him to last until the end of the day. “I have learned that having a bit more than I need with me is better than having a little less, there is enough room in my golf bag.”

He says that nothing helps to prepare for a long day at a course better than a proper breakfast. “I really don’t hold myself back there,” Mark admits, “since sometimes lunch seems so far away.” Some tournaments start in the afternoon and then Mark often has pasta for lunch to keep his stomach full for longer. When he goes to the course, he packs nuts, fruits and snack batons with him. “There are no specific breaks for meals, but there’s enough time to have a little snack.” One of the most common snacks at the course is banana, and these are often offered in the start as well. “Lately I’ve also started to eat dates. Then I have a better grip holding my golf club,” he laughs.

In the past three years, when Mark has been in Estonia between the competitions, he has often visited Da Vinci restaurants. Mark says that during the training period he has a relatively strict schedule. Usually he starts his day in the gym, from where he heads to either Rocca al Mare or Kristiine Da Vinci restaurant to have his breakfast. With his stomach full, he goes to the golf course. Sometimes, after his training, Mark has enough time to have dinner at Da Vinci’s or he takes it from there to go.

Friendship between Mark and Da Vinci became stronger some years ago when one of the owners of the restaurant chain, who is also a golfer, noticed Mark very often having meals at Da Vinci restaurants. “To become one of the best golfers in the world, who Mark definitely wants to become, you need to work a lot and invest a lot since all competitions are with a participation fee,” Rain Uusküla, one of the owners of the Da Vinci restaurant chain explains. “Since we play golf, too, we have decided to support Mark with free meals at Da Vinci. Therefore, Mark does not need to worry about his mealtimes while he is training in Estonia.”

While dining at Da Vinci restaurants, Mark’s favourite meal is chicken fillet with vegetables and tomato and rocket salad. In summer time, Mark enjoys Da Vinci’s pistachio ice cream. “Luckily the menu is varied enough, so I don’t get fed up with anything even when I visit the restaurants very often,” Mark expresses his satisfaction. When we ask about his food preferences, he says that he actually likes eating everything. However, in his everyday diet Mark puts an emphasis on eating fresh fruits and vegetables. “When the plate is colourful, then everything’s good,” he summarises his preferences.

We wish Mark a firm grip and a targeted ball-flight and hope to see him at Da Vinci very soon.

Classic Italian tomato sauce

There’s no good pasta without a good pasta sauce. Although there are dozens of different pasta sauces available in the stores, making a homemade pasta sauce is a lot simpler it may first seem. What is more, making a fresh pasta sauce gives you a chance to give it a special touch by adding your favourite flavours to the sauce base.

This time we provide you with a trick used by a famous Italian-American cookbook author Marcella Hazan. Hazan’s tomato sauce can be tweaked by every cook by adding different herbs, flavours and anything else of your liking. In her famous cookbook “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” Marcella Hazan lists only 4 ingredients that make the base of the classic Italian tomato sauce:

  • 1 smaller onion (halved)
  • 800 g canned (cherry) tomatoes (pureed)
  • 2-5 tbsp butter
  • salt

Start making the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan. Add the tomato puree, the halved onion and a pinch of salt. Mix. Boil the sauce at a medium heat until you see the first bubbles appearing. Then reduce the heat and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened. Use the back of a wooden spoon to crush the bigger tomato pieces still in the sauce. Taste, add some salt, if necessary. Eliminate the onion halves and serve the sauce with your favourite pasta.

Have a great pasta time!

PS Adding butter to a tomato sauce may at first seem a little unexpected, especially if you consider the importance of olive oil in the Italian cuisine. Adding the butter makes the sauce smoother since it lowers the acidity of the canned tomatoes. In addition to that, using butter in Italian dishes is as common as using olive oil, for example in the Emilia Romagna region where the famous Bolognese sauce was born.

10 fascinating facts about the king of Italian flavours – balsamic vinegar

Did you know that the word “balsamico” is connected with its healing qualities? Or that the prices of aged balsamic vinegars can go as high as 1000 euros per litre. Today we bring you the most important facts we have gathered about this wonderful Italian taste wizard every Mediterranean cuisine admirer should know.

The balsamic vinegar tradition is old and distinguished, reaching back to the 11th century. Throughout history, balsamic vinegar barrels have been in a bride of place in Italian families.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is made by fermenting simmered grape juice (grape must) and transferred into barrels that get smaller and smaller in time. Each of the barrels is made of different wood (chestnut, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash, juniper).

Traditionally made balsamic vinegar is glossy and viscose dark brown liquid, which taste nuances and aroma largely depend on the wooden barrels it was fermented.

The traditional balsamic vinegar is made in Modena (in Emilia Romagna region). The balsamic vinegars made there are protected with the European Union’s DOP marking (Protected Designation of Origin).

There are 2 traditionally made balsamic vinegars protected with the DOP marking: the traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena) and the traditional balsamic vinegar from the Emilia Romagna region (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia).

The high-priced DOP wine vinegars have an alternative – a simpler Modena balsamic vinegar in which the balsamic vinegar has been mixed with wine vinegar and caramel  (Aceto Balsamico di Modena) and that bears the  IGP marking (Protected geographical indication).

The preparation time of the traditional DOP marking balsamic vinegars reaches from 12 years to 25 years; whereas the price of the distinguished 25-year-old balsamic vinegars can reach up to 100 euros per 100 ml.

The name “balsamico” refers to its healing qualities: historically balsamic vinegar was mostly used as a digestive but also upon treating ulcers and headaches.

When cooking, often only droplets of the expensive balsamic vinegar is used – either as an antipasto on Grana Padano D.O.P cheese or mortadella sausage; balsamic vinegar is also used for seasoning meat, egg or grilled fish.

Balsamic vinegar also adds an exciting touch to desserts and it can be drizzled on strawberries, raspberries, pears or ice cream. A tiny bit of balsamic vinegar is also suitable for finishing a meal.

Should your pantry miss a bottle of classic Italian balsamic vinegar, Da Vinci e-shop is here to help you. We wish you wonderful taste sensations!

Lemony prawn and asparagus risotto for 4

With the approaching spring, we also need to awake our taste buds. Therefore, we have chosen to bring you a tasty risotto recipe. The recipe is taken from Riso Gallo’s cookbook „i Risotti: The best Risotti in the World“, which includes risotto recipes from the best restaurants in the world.
This springy risotto recipe is a masterpiece of Massimo Bebber, chef of the Le Cirque restaurant in New York. Enjoy cooking!

Lemony prawn and asparagus risotto for 4

200 g Riso Gallo risotto rice
10 g shallot
0.75 l vegetable broth
40 ml lemon juice
60 ml heavy cream
10 g butter
20 g extra virgin olive oil
lime zest
salt
12 king prawns
12 stalks of asparagus
2 lemon zest
10 g paprika
20 g extra virgin olive oil
rosemary
thyme
sweet peas

Preparation

Fry the king prawns in extra virgin olive oil seasoned with rosemary and thyme for 5-6 minutes. Chop off the tips of the asparagus stalks, blanch them in boiling water and fry quickly in olive oil. Tear up the asparagus stalks (use a vegetable peeler) and leave them in icy water to curl up.

Chop the shallot and fry it in extra virgin olive oil. Add the rice and heat. Be careful not to burn the rice! Add the lemon juice and heavy cream and continue simmering the mix. Pour the hot broth onto the rice mix and let it simmer until all the broth has disappeared. Then take the mix off the heat, season with salt, butter and lime zest. When serving, add each portion 3 king prawns, 3 asparagus tips, torn asparagus stalks and sweet peas. Sprinkle the risotto with paprika and grated lemon zest. Voila!

Espresso

In Italian the word espresso means “squeezed”, referring to how espresso is made in an espresso machine where the pressurised water is quickly pressed through the thin layer of coffee flour. Although espresso is a basis for a number of popular coffee drinks, a real coffee connoisseur dreams of enjoying a plane espresso.

Here we have three interesting facts for you every espresso lover should know. Did you know that:

… depending on the amount of water and the grind level of the beans used for making the espresso, the drink is offered in three sizes normal (25 ml), risteretto (20 ml) and lungo (40 ml)?

… if there is water served with your espresso, you should drink it BEFORE drinking your espresso, because otherwise you wash away the pleasant aftertaste that may last for up to 30 minutes?

… considering all coffee-making methods, espresso is a drink which has the least (!) caffeine?

Don’t forget to try our wide range of coffee drinks served at Da Vinci Pasta & Pizza restaurants!

Bruschetta – simple Italian bread magic

Toasted slice of ciabatta, garlic, and a droplet of extra virgin olive oil – the admirers of simplicity say it’s enough for a good bruschetta. for hundreds of years bruschettas have been loved for their simplicity and tastefulness. The history of bruschettas reaches to times when the Etruscans living in the area of Rome and Tuscany started toasting leftover bread from the day before, before tossing theses into the oven, they rubbed the bread with garlic cloves and drizzled it with olive oil. Whereas the olive oil had to be as fresh as possible. The oven-fresh bruschettas were enjoyed with wine. Even an Italian proverb says that in order to enjoy the best bruschetta, one has to use one-day-old bread, one-month-old oil and one-year-old wine.

In addition to the oil that definitely had to be the Italian extra virgin olive oil, a key component upon making a good bruschetta was a ripe and juicy tomato. To make a bruschetta topping, they diced the tomatoes and seasoned them with salt and herbs (oregano, basil). Such tradition started a long time ago on the hot tomato fields of Italy where the farmers who were picking tomatoes ate the bread they had brought along and rubbed it with the tomatoes they had picked from the field.

Bruschetta toppings vary from region to region, since in every city it has its own nuances. In Tuscany, they use only garlic and oil, in Napoli they also use tomatoes. In many places in Tuscany they also serve it with meat cuttings: prosciutto, chicken liver or freshly made sausages. Sometimes they offer lard, which so pleasantly melts into the toasted ciabatta. Classic bruschetta toppings also include zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, bell pepper and several types of cheese that can either be grated or spread on the bread. During the truffle season, gourmands may decorate their bruschettas with a slice of truffle.

Gourmet’s presents come from Da Vinci

Soon it’s December, winter holidays and the new year await. Those preparing more eagerly for the holidays have certainly started collecting their ideas for getting presents for their close ones and relatives. Definitely there is at least one person in each circle of friends who has a special admiration for good food and wine, or with whom it’s always lovely to enjoy some. Or maybe you know a tea or coffee connoisseur who always has a steaming cup of hot beverage in their hands? Maybe you have an excellent colleague or business partner who deserves to be remembered at Christmas time?

When compiling our this year’s Christmas offers, we came up with many present scenarios and assembled a wide range of gift sets of different sizes. Our quality gift sets brimming with Mediterranean flavours solve your gift-related worries immediately and bring joy to all who admire good foods and drinks, should it then be your dear loved one, best friend or simply a good colleague. To make it easier for you to navigate among our Christmas offers, we have here brought out our recommendations for the holiday season that will be here sooner than we expect.

To fill the holiday season with wonderful food experiences, we have compiled three Da Vinci gift baskets of different sizes. The baskets include representatives from the food cultures of Italy, France and Spain. Depending on the sizes of the baskets, they’re respectively called “Piccolo”, “Medio” and “Grande”. Our biggest gift basket “Grande” includes two bottles of Italian wine, Italian wholegrain pasta and a tomato sauce, crispy cooked Parmesan snacks, seafood cocktail and chilli/ garlic in oil from Italy, Italian olives, French mustard with honey, an Italian orange marmalade, Sugarpova candies from Spain, a packet of French Christmas tea and Caffareli chocolate from Italy. The set is a perfect gift for every food enthusiast and also good to bring along when visiting friends for dinner.

Meat and cheese fans, on the other hand, can most certainly see the value of our gift set called “Precious stuff for cheese and meat gourmands” that we have filled with 8 different Mediterranean cheeses and meat products, a big jar of Italian fig jam and a packet of Groksi oven-baked Parmesan crisps. This set lets you easily set a rich antipasto table that is mouth-watering for everyone who finds Mediterranean food delicious.

Should a person not love savoury food and prefer sweets instead, it’s better to choose a gift set called “For the biggest sweet tooth”. Just like the name says, we have had only sweet thoughts in our minds when putting this set together. The basket includes 3 extremely delicious chocolates made by a famous Italian chocolate master Caffareli and 3 packets of Noberasco dried fruits. By using the most innovative technologies, the Noberasco fruits have been dried so that they are still sweet, juicy and aromatic, and therefore perfect for the coming holidays.

Should you have someone special in your mind, we have special gift boxes “For the Lady” and “For the Gentleman” that we’ve put together keeping in mind the favourite flavours of ladies and gentlemen. The lovely golden box “For the Lady” that comes with with a transparent lid, hides a jar of Illy coffee beans/ Illy ground coffee or Dammann loose tea in a metal box. The box also includes a bar of Caffareli chocolate and a bottle of Italian quality sparkling wine Bel Star Prosecco DOC. From the stylish dark blue gift box “For the Gentleman” you can find a bottle of Chabanneau VS cognac, Cacciatore salami, Groksi cooked Parmesan cheese snacks, French mustard with honey and a Caffareli milk chocolate with a picture of 500 euros on its cover.
Maybe some of your close ones would like to get their very own coffee machine for Christmas? Our Christmas offers include not only one but two quality capsule coffee machines with what it is possible to prepare fresh coffee by making just one click. Francis Francis Y3 iperEspresso coffee machine enables everyone enjoy velvety and cafeteria-like aromatic quality coffee at home. With every Y3 coffee machine we give a milk frother for free. Just for Christmas!

The X7.1 capsule coffee machine in the style of the 60s and 70s, designed by Lucca Trazzi, has a stylish and elegant look and capable guts. By using the iperespresso technology, it is possible to make espressos that are very aromatic, with rich flavour and a thick and long-lasting crema. X7.1 is a present suitable for a person who while having a classic taste still prefers modern technology and whose kitchen misses a stylish and remarkable coffee machine to be its crown jewel.

Since there is no winter fairy-tale with no cup of aromatic tea, we have included our Christmas offers a number of quality French Dammann teas with different flavours. From Dammann’s special Christmas tea line we offer the following tea mixes to fill your gift socks:
Orange tea jar: rooibos flavoured with Christmas spices, special nuances of Seville orange and black cherry.

  • Red tea jar: loose tea mix with orange, caramel and maraschino cherry, decorated with chips of orange peels and fruits.
  • Green tea jar: loose China green tea that has been added orange essential oil, vanilla and spices, and decorated with orange peels and apple pieces.
  • Purple tea jar: delicious herbal fusion flavoured with Christmas spices, one can also sense hints of lemon balm, cocoa bean, liquorice, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clove and pink and black pepper.
  • Silver tea jar: loose white tea with nuances of almond and cherry, spiced with ginger and decorated with the petals of pink corn flower.

Damman’s “golden Christmas miracles” line has the aforementioned Christmas teas combined in convenient gift sets of different sizes.

To have especially stylish gifts with a well-established touch, we recommend the more classic Damman teas in special gift sets. Dammann sets called “Merveilleux”, “Twist” and “Comedie” are suitable as a gift for good colleagues, friends or a relative who is a tea enthusiast. The elegant “Merveilleux” set includes an infuser and three Dammann teas: Miss Dammann (green tea with ginger and spices), Grand Gout Russe (black tea with citrus fruits) and Altitude (black tea from the Darjeeling, Nepal and Sikkim regions). The Dammann set “Comedie” has been inspired by the joyous and festive world of the theatre. The stylish silver box with an interesting pattern is a home for three (or four) flavoured black teas and an elegant infuser. The metal Damman “Twist” chest with leather belts includes an infuser and teas called Touareg (peppermint tea), Coquelicot Gourmand (flavoured black tea) and Bali (flavoured green tea).

Thinking of your long time colleagues and business partners, we’ve compiled stylish and festive gift sets with dignified drinks:

  • “Barocca Vecchio 800 Riserva brandy“ – a 20-year-old brandy in a wooden gift box
  • “Elegant aquavite“: the set includes Most aquavite (35cl) and 2 grappa glasses
  • “Habana“: includes a mix of I Legni Rovere Grappa and Aquavite (200ml), a cigar cutter, a wine bottle opener and a flask
  • “For a golf fan“: the set includes a mix of I Legni Rovere Grappa and Aquavite (200ml), 2 golf balls and a putter
  • A gift set with three wines: includes 3 red wines of the Piemonte region in Italy (Nebbiolo d´Alba Michet 2011 DOC, Barbera d´Alba Ruvei 2012 DOC, Dolcetto d´Alba Madonna del Dono 2013 DOC)
  • A gift set with four wines: includes 2 white and 2 red wines of the Piemonte region in Italy (Barbera d´Alba Ruvei 2012 DOC, Dolcetto d´Alba Madonna del Cono 2013 DOC, Langhe Arneis 2013 DOC, Moscato d´Asti Zagara 2013 DOCG)

Da Vinci wishes everybody a cosy end of autumn and a wonderful holiday season with good food and lovely people!

7 tips to follow to make a homemade pizza

Hands up, who think that pizza is a perfect dish! You’re not alone. Although the first pizzas were made in the hot ovens of Napoli already in the 10th century, this crispy and savoury pastry with melted cheese has become one of the most loved dishes in the world. Despite the fact that pizza is mostly known as a popular takeaway fast food, we believe that anyone can try making a genuine Italian pizza at home. Today we’ll look at 7 tips to follow if you want your pizza-making to succeed.

1. Season the pizza dough with a sufficient amount of salt

Without enough salt flour doesn’t have much taste. And since this is the main ingredient of the dough, a good pizza chef is obliged to season the dough properly. Often home cooks don’t season the dough enough for they think that pizza topping is more important than the dough. However, here comes an important rule – if your pizza topping includes salty components, such as anchovies, olives, Parmesan cheese or cured Italian meat products (salami, Prosciutto, Pancetta etc.), you can hold back the salt.

2. Don’t use a rolling pin to roll your dough

Professional pizza-makers can fly their pizza dough high up in the air whey forming it, and this is a separate cooking sport that’s a pleasure for an eye, too. Luckily, flying the dough is not a vital skill in pizza-making. Instead you should check that no rolling pin is used when forming the dough because rolling breaks the little air bubbles in the dough and when the bubbles pop, the dough becomes too stiff. Replace the rolling pin with your hands, stretch the dough gently with your fingertips until the dough is in the size of the desired pizza base. Keep in mind that your pizza doesn’t need to be in the shape of a perfect circle, it can be oval instead. Or square. You decide!
NB! If processing the dough seems too complicated (e.g. the dough takes back its original form when you stretch it), it is often because you’ve over processed it or it’s simply too cold. If so, let the dough sit for 15 minutes in room temperature. This helps the gluten in the dough calm down and the dough can warm up. Try again after 15 minutes.

3. Make your own tomato sauce

If you’ve already made your own dough, it’s obviously a good idea to stick to the plan of doing everything yourself and make your pizza sauce from scratch. Actually, it’s easier to make the sauce than it is to make pizza dough, and no doubt, self-made sauce tastes better too. To make a simple homemade pizza sauce, you only need a tin of chopped tomatoes that’s been added some garlic, basil, salt and pepper. You can even take a shortcut and prepare the sauce in a blender where you can liquidize tomato, garlic and (fresh) basil. (If you wish, you can also add your pizza sauce some anchovies.) In addition to that, making your pizza sauce at home, gives you an opportunity to use your favourite cheese in the sauce. This privilege is something we definitely recommend while making your pizza at home.

4. Less is more

To have an excellent pizza experience, we recommend not piling up dozens of ingredients on your pizza. Instead we recommend not to make your pizza a meat-lovers dream by using ten different types of sausages and ham. Firstly, such rich pizzas need a tough base and a very hot oven. Secondly, classic pizzas are charming exactly because of their simplicity! Pick two or three components that complement each other and let the crispy crust shine, too.
Often a tasty pizza asks only for one quality ham or sausage that’s added to accompany the tomato sauce and cheese. Certainly, Margherita that is made of only tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil, is a timeless classic. Other common topping combinations include Prosciutto-rocket salad, Prosciutto-champignons, anchovies-capers-olives or combinations of different vegetables (grilled bell pepper, aubergine, zucchini, artichoke hearts, spinach, etc.). You choose!
NB! Don’t put too much cheese on your pizza! Too much cheese makes the pizza too greasy and difficult to handle.

5. Don’t use baking paper

Dedicated pizza-makers can even purchase a pizza stone that is meant for making pizzas with a crispy crust at home. However, this investment is not that important since you can also get a decent result when making your pizza on a baking sheet that’s been previously processed with a droplet of cooking oil. Just like you’d preheat and grease the pizza stone, you can do the same with the baking sheet. The oil put on the baking sheet helps to fry the pizza base and make the crust crispy, just like all pizza lovers like it. When it comes to baking paper, then experiences pizza-makers say you should store it away. They say that it’s important that the dough is in direct contact with the heat, which in our case is the baking sheet. Baking paper would be the undesired barrier between the dough and the baking sheet that wouldn’t let the heat spread and that would keep the pleasant crust from forming.

6. Weigh your pizza before pre-cooking

Dependent on the toppings, you may need to pre-cook your pizza. This may become necessary if your pizza topping includes moist or wet components, e.g. fresh mozzarella or some (preserved) vegetables. In this case the moist topping can make the dough soggy. Pre-cooking the base guarantees that it cooks with the topping and becomes crispy as desired despite the excessive moisture. For those who adore extra crispy bases, we recommend pre-cooking the base no matter the topping.
NB! When pre-cooking, don’t check the crust but the centre of your pizza. Use cooking tongues or turner to lift the base.

7. Cook your pizza at a high temperature

High temperatures are often feared. But this does not apply when talking about pizzas made in burning hot Italian wood fired pizza ovens, which means that a pizza needs a decent heat to be cooked. Don’t be afraid to turn the temperature knob, even if it goes over 250 °C. At the same time, the cook shouldn’t step too far away from the oven since pizza needs an eye on it. Experienced pizza masters recommend following this logic: if cheese has melted and the crust is golden, then your pizza is ready. Some recommend a ‘just in case’ rule, which suggests keeping pizza in the oven for another 5 minutes thus taking it out 5 minutes after you first thought it was ready.

NB! After taking the pizza from the oven, drizzle some olive oil on it. This dots the I’s and crosses the t’s.
Da Vinci wishes floury hands and exciting pizzas to everybody! Bon appetite!

10 most common mistakes to avoid when cooking pasta

There’s nothing tricky in pasta making at the first sight, and probably most of us manage with it without any extra fuss. But as soon as you take a closer look at the art of pasta making, the real connoisseurs of Italian cuisine might ask some additional questions. Do we need salt in the water? Or do we add oil? Should I rinse cooked pasta in cold water? This blog post covers the 10 most important points to follow to make the best possible pasta dish.

1. Use a big pot to cook your pasta.

Choose a pot big enough to cook your pasta – this lets the pasta move freely in the pot while it’s boiling. Using a pot that is too small results in your pasta sticking together while boiling and it turns into a sticky pasta ball instead. And this isn’t obviously the result you’d desire. Instead choose at least a 7-litre pot that leaves enough room for the pasta to “breathe”.

2. Add enough water into the pot.

It often occurs when we’re hungry that we think it is wise to use less water to boil our pasta, simply because it takes less time to bring it to boil. Actually it is wise not to proceed like that. Just like it needs a big pot so that the result would be good, pasta also needs enough water in order to be fully covered with water while it’s boiling. Otherwise some bits may become too dry and this would ruin the whole dish. To boil a standard-size packet of pasta you need 5-6 litres of water (app. 1 litre of liquid for each 100 g of dry pasta).

3. Add a little salt into the water. And then some more.

Don’t listen to the general dietary guidelines for a second and season the water with a great splash of salt. Here it’s not enough if you shake the saltshaker twice, you need at least 1 tsp. of salt per 5-6 litres of water. Can you recall how a mouthful of seawater tastes? This is the saltiness you need to cook your pasta, this is what gives your pasta the right taste. Remember that a great amount of the salt added will stay in the water.

4. Let the water boil.

Before adding the pasta, let the water properly boil – wait until the big bubbles appear and the water starts rolling. Don’t be hasty and add the pasta when the water is barely boiling, or when there are only a few bubbles. Pasta masters say that adding the pasta too soon may also cause the “uncooked” pasta pieces appearing in your dish. And this would make each pasta lover very sad.

5. Don’t add oil into the water.

Although there are some pasta cooking guides recommending to add a little oil into the water to avoid the pasta becoming too sticky, professionals do not recommend that. Instead they recommend stirring the pasta while it’s boiling (see the next tip). Oil can also make pasta too slippery and then sauce won’t stick to it at all. Therefore it’s better not to add oil.

6. Stir, stir, stir.

It’s not wise to leave the pot and dive into the world of social media while your pasta is still cooking. Apparently, the cook has an important role – to help the pasta cook, by stirring it at least 2-3 times. Of course you can stir your pasta throughout the boiling time, if you have enough stamina. In return for your care and persistence you get pasta that is not sticky.

7. Check the cooking time for different types of pasta.

Since there are many types of pasta, you need to cook each for a different period of time. The cooking time depends on your pasta’s shape, amount and type (wholegrain, gluten free, etc.), and it is recommended you check the directions on the packet before you start to cook. It’s good to know that when filled pasta, for example ravioli, is cooked when they float to surface. When cooking different types of pasta, you can usually follow these time limits:

– Fresh pasta, especially egg pasta (fettucine, tagliatelle, lasagna): 3-5 min.
– Thin, dry durum flour (egg-free) pasta (spaghettini, conchiglie, rotini): 6-9 min.
– Dry spaghetti usually take 8-9 minutes to cook, it depends on certain brands and the thickness of the spaghetti.
– Coarse, dry, durum wheat (egg-less) pasta (penne, ziti, tortigioni, trofie): 12-15 min.

8. Test if your pasta is cooked 2 minutes before it should be ready.

Although it is wise to check the cooking time on the packet, don’t assume that this is the universal truth. Start by testing the readiness already 2 minutes before your pasta should be ready. Cooked pasta feels a bit firm to bite (al dente, or a bit stiff under your teeth). Should there be “uncooked” white stripes or dots in the middle of a piece of pasta, it means your pasta still needs some cooking. Then again, overcooked pasta is too soft and tends to fall apart.

9. Set aside a small cup of pasta cooking water.

When your pasta is cooked, take 2 seconds for a little trick, which most of home cooks often skip. When you start to strain your pasta, save a small cup of pasta cooking water. This starchy water is excellent for making the sauce stick to your pasta, and also for diluting heavier sauces so that these wouldn’t stick to your pot.

10. Strain, don’t rinse.

Strain the cooked pasta and add some sauce. You can also put the strained pasta into a saucepan or frying pan. Don’t forget using the cooking water for seasoning the dish. If you use creamy vegetable sauces (e.g. tomato sauce), you can lift your pasta into the hot sauce 1-2 minutes before the pasta is cooked.

NB! Don’t rinse strained pasta in cold water! (This of course when you don’t plan to use cold pasta, for example in a pasta salad.) Otherwise you lose all the necessary starch that is needed for the pasta to stick to the sauce. In addition to that, water also washes off some of the salt already in the pasta.

Bon appetite and best of luck trying out new pasta dishes!

Check out Da Vinci Food e-store for inspiration or come and find your favourites from the wide choice of pasta served at Da Vinci Pasta & Pizza restaurants.