Italian Infused Water

Infused waters are all the rage. For those of us who are used to drinking from the tap, they make water interesting again with “spa” like benefits and healthy hydration. Store shelves and the internet are literally awash with brands, flavors, recipes and recommendations on the use and enjoyment of infused waters.

Italians discovered the benefits of water long before it was fashionable to carry around a spa water bottle. Their “infusions” were from underground springs that passed through deposits of limestone or volcanic rock absorbing nutrients and minerals along the way. A ubiquitous liter or two of bottled mineral water (d’aqua minerale) is served at the Italian table as an accompaniment to every meal. Either naturale (non-carbonated ) or gassata (with “gas” or natural carbonation) many Italian mineral waters have a devoted following. The “miraculous” waters of Italy’s iconic San Pellegrino have been appreciated since the time of Leonardo da Vinci, their mineral content thought to be of great benefit to one’s health and well-being. Today, within Italy, you can find over 600 brands of bottled mineral water, many of these are local varieties unique to the terroir of the region. Brands like San Pellegrino infuse flavors like lemon, orange, mint, grapefruit and prickly pear, Italian versions of our sodas. One of these, Chinotto, made from the Sicilian chinotto a small bittersweet citrus fruit similar to an orange is a distinctive acquired taste.

Using Italian culinary herbs like basil or rosemary you can make your own version of an Italian infused water. Place herbs in bottom of a jar or pitcher and muddle with a wooden spoon to release some of the essential oils. Fill jar with water. You can add agave, honey or a natural sweetener if you choose. Refrigerate overnight to intensify the flavor.

rosemary waterHere are a few Italian inspired combinations to try for approximately a pitcher (6-8 cups) of water. WASH FRUIT AND HERBS THOROUGHLY. I prefer using organic produce.

1 fennel bulb thinly sliced plus a few green fronds + 1 ripe but firm pear thinly sliced

4 slices lemon + 4 sprigs fresh mint (each 2 in. long, slightly crushed)
+2 sprigs fresh rosemary (each 2 in. long, slightly crushed)

1 cup strawberries (hulled and quartered) + 2 cups watermelon (cubed)
+ 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 cup strawberries (hulled and quartered) +2 lemon slices
+3 basil leaves

1/2 pink grapefruit (sliced thin) +2 lemons +1 cucumber (sliced)
+1/2 cup parsley

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Hungry in the Middle of the Night

What would you do if you were hungry and woke up in a luxury hotel, in a foreign city, in the middle of the night? That’s the question the ad men at San Pellegrino pose in their TV You Tube featuring Italian actor Pierfranceso Favino called Live in Italian – Practice the Art of Fine Food. Evidentially other people have been intrigued by this fantasy question as well. In one month 487,170 views were posted.

Favino says he once lived the same experience as the You Tube video while working on a movie in a small town in Southern Italy. There was only one restaurant in town and after some time catering to the hungry actors the owner just gave them the key and told them to let themselves in. Presumably to cook their own meal!

Cooking_GroupWhat restaurant would you like to have carte blanche to cook in to live like an Italian? I once cooked in the kitchen of my friend Rita’s hotel ristorante in Castell’Arquato, an Italian town located in the Val d’Arda near Piacenza. We made pasta and petto di tacchino, turkey breast stuffed with prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It wasn’t the middle of the night and I did have help from a wonderful chef but it came very close to  Favino’s  fantasy experience.