Ferragosto in the United States

Buona Festa!

It’s August 15 which means it is Ferragosto in Italy! Since we are obviously not there, we celebrated Ferragosto in the United States with a feast this weekend. Ok, ok, it was just an excuse to make some fun and delicious Italian dishes, but honestly, the few times that I did spend Ferragosto in Italy, it was truly memorable and something I try to recreate as best I can with the kids.

A Brief History of Ferragosto

Originally a festival held on August 1, Emperor Augustus declared that it was a time to rest after the hard work in the fields and agricultural sector. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that it was recognized as a legal holiday, when the Catholic Church moved the festivities to August 15, to coincide with the Assumption of Mary. Since August 15 is a Tuesday this year, we celebrated on Sunday so I could have a whole day to prepare.

bruschetta with a sprig of basil in a bowl surrounded by focaccia rectangles

Prep began on Friday, when I made pizza dough. We found a recipe from Serious Eats that we really like but it requires a good, long rise time, so dough had to be made in advance.

The rest of the dinner inspiration came from an Italian cooking website I like to read (it’s both practice for my Italian language lessons and a fun way to find new recipes), as well as the Feast of Beppe that Dave and I got to experience in 2013.

The goal was fresh, summer flavors that don’t take a lot of time, that also limited the use of the oven to the house doesn’t get hot! Anything we could incorporate from our garden was a bonus.

We landed on the following menu:

  • Antipasti: bruschetta with Dave’s homemade focaccia, prosciutto/melon
  • Basic Neapolitan Pizza Dough (we make 4 dough balls, so four different pizzas– more on those in a minute)
  • Pesce Spada alla Siciliana (swordfish, Sicilian-style)
  • Cosce di Pollo alla Paprika al Forno (basically chicken drumsticks, which I did on the barbecue, instead of the oven)
  • Contorni: Peperoni in Padella (bell peppers, which we did on the grill), Insalata Pantesca (potatoes with tomatoes, olives, basil and a white wine vinaigrette; tbh this wasn’t my favorite but the picture had looked so enticing!) and then a little salad of arugula, burrata and peaches with olive oil and balsamic on top.
view of set table with all the prepared dishes

With the fourth pizzas, we went classic with two of them: pepperoni (not to be confused with peppers!) and then a cheese. The other two were a bit more experimental but one came out the clear winner: the zucchini with ricotta. Holy wow was this one so, so good! Dave slices zucchini coins super thin, placed them in a colander, salted them and then put a plate on top, followed by a bowl of water to weigh it down. This helped get all the moisture out of the zucchini which was key. The pizza itself had no red sauce, instead just a light spread of ricotta, then the zucchini, some thinly-sliced red onion and dollops of ricotta on top. When it came out of the pizza oven, he drizzled some more olive oil and man was it so good! I love when experiments turn out!

The other pizza was ok too, but that zucchini one was hard to top. The final pizza was half eggplant, half mushroom. The eggplant got the same colander treatment as the zucchini, but was then sautéed with some garlic before going onto the pizza with a bit of tomato sauce and mozzarella. The mushrooms were also sautéed before going onto the pizza and while these ones were good, we just couldn’t get over the flavor of that zucchini pizza. It’s definitely going into the recipe book!

mother and daughter selfie in the backyard

For dessert, Dave had made lemon verbena ice cream the day before, which was a riff on a David Lebovitz recipe, which accompanied my berry tiramisu.

It was a lot of food, but we had also planned a Sunday family dinner, so my parents, grandmother and brother also came to help us celebrate!

I hope the kids remember our celebrations when they are older and I really hope they get to experience a Ferragosto in Italy some day. In the meantime, we will celebrate from afar and keep using it as an excuse to eat well!