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History of Mozzarella

Oct 1, 2018   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on History of Mozzarella

Since so many of our dishes here at Mama Gina’s Pizza require fresh mozzarella, we decided to give you a little bit of history about where this yummy, gooey stuff comes from.

Legend says the first mozzarella was made by accident. Some cheese curds accidentally fell into a pail of hot water in a cheese factory near Naples… and mozzarella was born.

mozarellaHistorically, it is true that mozzarella was first made near Naples, but how it happened, well that has been lost to time. Back then, it was made from the rich milk of water buffaloes native to the area and still made with the same milk today. The most highly prized artisanal mozzarella is produced in the same region. Small factories continue the centuries-old tradition of making buffalo mozzarella fresh daily and Italians stand in line to get their fix!

Today, mozzarella is actually made from all different kinds of milk — buffalo, cow, goat, camel — or a mixture of two or more of these. It can be made with part skim (for better stabilization during shipping) or with whole milk.

In point of fact, mozzarella is relatively easy to make at home, although extremely time consuming. It requires only four ingredients — whole milk, rennet, citric acid and salt. The process involves heating the milk with citric acid, then taking it off the heat an adding rennet until the mass curdles. Then you cook the curds again. Then you cut the curds and drain the whey. Reheat the resulting drained curds again, then add salt and kneed. Reheat. Kneed. Reheat. Keep up the process until the cheese becomes smooth. If you are interested in making it fresh at home, there are plenty of recipes on the internet that you can try.

However, if you don’t feel like spending a couple of hours making your own cheese, come on over to Mama Gina’s and enjoy a variety of dishes with this mild, soft cheese.

Fun Facts:

  • Mozzarella is the #1 favorite cheese in every country around the world.
  • The people of Greece consume more cheese than any other nation – ¾ of that is feta cheese.
  • The production of cheese exceeds the production of coffee, tea, tobacco and cocoa beans combined. WOW! We really like our cheese!
  • Eaten in moderation, cheese in an excellent source of protein vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin B1, calcium, phosphorus, sodium and iron.
  • 20 million metric tons of cheese is produced worldwide each year.
  • It takes 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese.
  • Some varieties of cheese — mozzarella, American, Swiss and cheddar — help prevent tooth decay.
  • The word Mozzarella derives from the word “mozzatura” which means “cutting something by hand.
  • Processing a ton of buffalo milk yields twice as much mozzarella as a ton of cow milk.

The difference between salami and pepperoni

Sep 1, 2018   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on The difference between salami and pepperoni

Unless you cure your own meats, you probably don’t know the difference between salami and pepperoni, except vaguely that pepperoni is a bit spicier. In point of fact, pepperoni is a type of salami (also known as the American salami), although it has its origins in different kinds of spicy salami made in southern Italy. However, here are the main differences between the two types of yummy cured meats.

Salami

Salami is a cured sausage that originated in Italy. It is made from a variety of meats — beef, pork and turkey — with a variety of other tasty ingredients such as garlic, salt, fat, vinegar, wine, herbs and spices. The meat is ground and mixed with the other ingredients, then allowed to ferment for a day before being stuffed into edible casings and then hung up to cure (air-dried).

Pepperoni

Pepperoni is made from both pork and beef ground together with plenty of fat and a variety of peppers and spices are added to flavor it. It treated with nitrates to give it the distinctive color and then it is lightly smoked, rather than air-dried.

We use plenty of salami and pepperoni is a variety of our dishes – pizza, calzones, sandwiches and even in our Antipasto Salad.

Fun Facts:

  • Salami is usually eaten as a cold slice filling (not as a pizza topping).
  • Pepperoni is a type of salami, but salami is not a type of pepperoni.
  • There are tons of different types of salami – Soppressata, Prosciutto, Chorizo, Cacciatore and many more.
  • A 3-ounce serving of salami or pepperoni contains 400+ calories.
  • Americans consume 251.7 million pounds of pepperoni annually – that’s enough to circle the earth 50 times. 
  • Incidentally, most of that pepperoni ends up on pizzas.
  • Americans eat 100 acres of pizza per day!
  • Eating pepperoni contains significant amounts of pantothenic acid and vitamin B-12. Both of these nutrients help ensure proper brain function because they help your brain cells make chemicals involved in nerve communication.
  • Beware if you are watching your salt intake – a single 3-ounce serving contains 1,479 milligrams of sodium.
  • A 3-ounce portion of pepperoni contains 2.1 milligrams of zinc, which contributes 19 percent toward the recommended daily intake for men and 26 percent for women.

History of Antipasti

Jul 1, 2018   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Antipasti literally means “before the meal.” It the Italian version of appetizers and is generally comprised of colorful bites of cured meats, cheese and marinated vegetables. These are usually served at room temperature to entice people with the meal to come.

The first reference to antipasti was in medieval Italy. It became a delightful way to allow guests to snack and talk, slowing down what was often the hurried pace of a shared meal.

Here are some of the most common elements and variants in an antipasti platter.
Cheeses – gorgonzola, pecorino romano, mozzarella
Vegetables – balsamic onions, olives, sweet garlic, raisins, capers, aubergine (like eggplant), artichokes, herbs, marinated vegetables, fresh cucumbers
Meats – mortadella, prosciutto de Parma, fresh seafood, salami, pepperoni

Various types of breads have been added to the antipasti board in more recent years and may come in the form of bruchetta, crostini or even small slices of a crusty fresh bread. The purpose is to pile it with ingredients and use it to convey some of those tasty bites into your mouth.

The French have their own version of an antipasti. A chacuterie plate is comprised of any smoked, dry-cured or cooked meat. This category includes favorites like bacon, ham, pâté and sausages. More esoteric items like terrines, rillettes, galantines and duck confit are also considered charcuterie.

Other cultures have picked up on these traditions and created their own antipasti platters filled with local, fresh and popular produce, meats and cheeses.

In short, there are no hard and fast rules to assembling an antipasti platter, so if you have a local cheese, cured meat or vegetables you love, feel free to pile them on the plate. Heck, why not add some fresh fruits, nuts and honey. Or fresh vegetables with a tangy dip.

At Mama Gina’s, we’ve turned all those traditional mouthwatering Italian bites into an amazing salad. Mama’s Antipasto Salad has ham, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, carrots, olives, red onion, cucumber, fresh green pepper on a bed of lettuce, served with house-made balsamic vinaigrette.

  • Fun Facts:
    Did you know that eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, which incidentally also includes tomatoes, potatoes and peppers? Its origin is considered to be India where it continues to grow wild.
  • Smoked and cured meats date back to our earliest ancestors. The purpose of smoking and curing meats is to preserve these protein-rich foods, which would otherwise spoil quickly, for long periods.
  • In the US, we consume 251 million pounds of pepperoni annually — 350 slices are sold per second!
  • Pecorino is a term used to define Italian cheeses made from 100% sheep’s milk. … Pecorino Romano is one of most widely used, sharper alternatives to Parmesan cheese.
  • Bruchetta is toasted Italian bread drenched in olive oil and served typically with garlic or tomatoes.

Where does beer come from?

May 1, 2018   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Where did beer come from?

Even before man walked upright, we were consuming fruit that fermented naturally, as well as sampling all types of plants for their medicinal as well as narcotic properties. Probably the earliest fermentations were made from fruits and honey. About 12,000 years ago, humans began to settle into stable agrarian communities and gave up being hunter-gatherers that moved with the season to locate food. In order to feed a stable populace, we began cultivating grains — wheat, barley, and maize (corn). Probably the day after the first crop was hauled in, someone decided to try fermenting the grain to see what happened. The result, of course, was beer.

 

beerBeer, thanks to its fermentation and alcoholic content was generally safer to drink than the local water, which was often contaminated by both human and animal waste. As far back as Babylon and ancient Egypt, brewers experimented by adding all sorts of flavorings from other local produce – mandrake, dates, plums, olive oil and so on. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that monks and others began adding hops to the mix, and so the more modern flavors of beer were born.

 

Why add hops to beer?

Prior to being an ingredient added to beer, hops were a naturally-growing bitter vegetable with medicinal qualities that are still used today. Hops have a relaxing quality to them due to a particular chemical in their makeup. They are anti-bacterial (used to treat wounds), antispasmodic (used to treat upset stomachs and menstrual cramps) and have been used to treat inflammation and as a sedative.

What brewers discovered was that by adding hops to beer, the vegetable kept beer from going bad for a lot longer. Once the preservative resins in hops were identified, brewmasters went looking for hops with higher resin contents. Then growers began cross-breeding varieties to pull out specific qualities — American hops had three times more resin, while European hops were more floral. Cross-breeding created very floral hops with high resin contents.

 

Beer Today

So today, beer is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage and the third-most popular drink overall (after water and tea). Americans drank an estimated 6.3 billion gallons of beer last year, and New Hampshire led the nation in per capita consumption.

President Jimmy Carter signed a bill that exempted from taxation beer brewed at home for personal or family use. That bill opened the door for today’s craft beer brewers.

 

Fun Facts About Beer

  • The more foam a beer has, the more flavorful it will be.
  • Hops come from the Cannabaceae family (aka marijuana), although they aren’t interchangeable, not for lack of trying by brewers.
  • The quality of the water used to make beer is key. Most breweries are located near clean, pure water sources to improve the quality of their brews.
  • The Egyptian who built the pyramids were often paid in beer, and certainly consumed it before, during and after work, since it was safer to drink than water from the Nile.
  • The average American consumes 28.3 gallons of beer last year.
  • In 1814, 400,000 gallons of beer flooded the streets of London when a huge Vat in St. Giles ruptured.
  • A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology noted that a bottle of beer consumed everyday reduces the risk of kidney stones by 40%.
  • Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty beer glass.
  • The strongest beer in the world (called Snake Venom) has a 67.5% alcohol content.
  • There’s a beer brewed from bananas in Africa.
  • As a general rule, darker, bitter beers have a higher alcohol content.
  • For the true beer lover, you can swim in pools of beer in Austria, although we don’t recommend you drink from the pool.
  • The oldest brewery is located in Germany and has been continually operating since 1040 AD.
  • The Top 5 beer consumptions states are:
  • New Hampshire, 43 gallons
  • North Dakota, 42.2 gallons
  • Montana, 40.6 gallons
  • South Dakota, 38 gallons
  • Nevada, 36.5 gallons

Karaoke Monday Nights

Apr 25, 2018   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Where are all of our Mama Gina’s Karaoke Singers? We will have Karaoke on Monday nights, starting April 30th at 6pm!

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Winging Your Way Through Life

Apr 1, 2018   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Americans are obsessed with wings. We eat them at parties, during sporting events, for snacks, for meals, out with friends … well, pretty much any time. During the Superbowl, the National Chicken Council estimated that Americans would consume some 1.35 billion wings — that’s enough wings to circle the earth three times. That’s a lot of wings … and that’s just during the Superbowl!

Wings were created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, in 1964. Those dripping chunks of meat smothered in sauce immediately became a favorite. These days, wing lovers consume roughly 24 wings per month — that’s roughly 17,000 wings over a lifetime!

The most selected flavors are traditional barbecue, honey barbecue and buffalo (with ranch dressing), however, chefs all over are getting creative with their wings. Flavors from many cultures are being used to spice up these little meat treats — Asian barbecue, bourbon honey mustard, teriyaki, salt and vinegar, spicy garlic, Caribbean jerk and so many more. These juicy treats can be bone-in or boneless, skin on or skinless, battered or naked, marinated or dry-rubbed, sauced or not … well the possibilities are endless.

Why do we love these little gems so much? It is probably because they are considered one of the ultimate comfort foods, alongside meatloaf, pizza and mac and cheese.

Here at Mama Gina’s we offer the following flavors: Suicide | Hot | Mild | Honey Hot | BBQ | Spicy BBQ | Garlic Parmesan.

Pop over to our Facebook page and tell us what your favorite wing flavor is!

Wings Facts:

  • Americans will spend roughly $36 billion dollars on wings this year — that’s roughly the equivalent of the GCP of some third world countries.
  • In one year, Americans will consume 28 billion wings. That’s enough to circle the earth 28 times!
  • July 29th in National Chicken Wing Day, established in 1977 by the mayor of Buffalo, New York.
  • Ranch is the most popular dipping sauce for wings.
  • Despite their small size, chicken wings are actually a more valuable piece of meat than the chicken breast.
  • Over the past five years, chicken wing franchises have grown by 7% to over 2,000 in the United States.
  • Corn makes up 2/3 of the feed that chicken consume in their diets.
  • Chicken wings are the second most popular food item on Superbowl Sunday, second only to all kinds of dips.

Know Your Italian Sandwiches: Calzone vs. Stromboli

Feb 21, 2012   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  No Comments

“Can you explain the difference between Stromboli and Calzones?”

Our servers get this question a lot, so we thought we’d explain it here in case our readers are also a bit confused.

Calzone & Stromboli

Calzone & Stromboli

While Calzones are very similar to Stromboli, they are two are distinct dishes. Most people think that it is the ingredients that primarily make up the difference between them. But, in actuality, the ingredients are similar and are either chosen by the chef or the guest ordering the dish.

The principal difference is actually that while Stromboli is served with sauce on the inside of the folded crust, a calzone has the sauce on the side or on top.

Stromboli
The origin of the Stromboli is a bit unclear, but it seems to date back to around the 1950s. Romano’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Essington, just outside of Philadelphia, claims their Nazzareno Romano originated Stromboli in 1950. Others claim that Mike Aquino, Sr. of Mike’s Burger Royal in Spokane, Washington, created a sandwich in 1954 with chili sauce and named the sandwich after the movie, Stromboli, starring Ingrid Bergman.

Either way, the yummy sandwich developed is a type of turnover using Italian bread dough. Shaped into a square, it is filled with sauce, meats and cheese, rolled into a log and then baked. It’s filled with various cheeses and Italian meats including salami, capicola, sausage, ham, bresaola, or pepperoni.

At Mama Gina’s Pizzeria, we make our Stromboli bursting with mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni and ham.

Calzone
“Calzone” is Italian for “stocking” or “trouser” but as a meal, it’s a turnover that originates from Naples, Italy.

Calzones in the United States are typically made from pizza dough and stuffed with cheeses, meats and vegetables. The dough is traditionally made with flour, water, yeast, salt and olive oil. First, the yeast is proofed in warm water and then all ingredients are mixed until the dough is slightly sticky. The dough is kneaded on a floured board then placed in a warm location, covered with a moist towel and allowed time to rise. Once the dough has doubled in size, it is punched down, allowed to rise again and then formed into the desired shape for the calzone.

Calzones are commonly stuffed with cheeses including mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta, Provolone or a local cheese. These pillowy treats typically are served covered with marinara sauce or topped with olive oil, garlic and parsley. The dough is folded in half and sealed or formed into a circular shape and then baked. Some New York and Italian calzones are fried instead of baked but we prefer to bake them.

At Mama Gina’s, we keep our calzones vegetarian, serving them stuffed only with mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan cheeses.

Whether you’re in a Stromboli mood or a calzone mood, we hope to see you at Mama Gina’s soon to enjoy one of these delicious Italian sandwiches!

Mama Gina’s Explains What Flours Make the Best Pizza Dough

Feb 14, 2012   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Step aside, pizza toppings! It’s time for the dough to shine! With the attention normally focused on pepperoni, mushrooms, Italian sausage, fresh garlic and other toppings, you may be forgetting what holds it all together – the dough! But face it, no matter how good the toppings are, if the pizza crust isn’t tasty, your pizza experience is going to be a disappointing one. What may surprise you about pizza crust is that it’s actually all in the flour!

How does the type of flour used influence the taste and texture of pizza crust? Read on to find out!

All-purpose White Flour
The most common type of flour used for pizza dough is all-purpose white flour, either bleached or unbleached. With its medium amount of gluten (wheat proteins that bond the dough together), this refined wheat flour produces a fluffy center and crispy exterior.

Bread Flour
Bread flour is a white flour with a 10 to 15 percent higher protein content. Bread flour is ideal for pizzas that require a lot of rise like Chicago-style crusts. It is also a good flour for those using a bread machine to make pizza crust. As with whole wheat flour, bread flour can also be combined with all-purpose flour for a custom (and less expensive) blend.

Other Flours
For a nontraditional flavor profile, alternative flours such as corn or rye flour can also be used for pizza dough.

Corn flour provides an excellent crust for a Southwestern-style pizza. Rye flour mixed with all-purpose white flour for gluten and caraway seeds for flavor, makes a great crust for a Reuben pizza.

To create dough with other flours, a whole wheat pizza dough recipe can be used as a guide for a recipe with alternative flours. The best method is to replace the whole wheat flour with approximately two-thirds alternative flour and a third all-purpose flour added to any all-purpose flour already in the recipe.

Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour contains bran and germ from the wheat that all-purpose white flour omits. Because of its low-gluten content, wheat flour produces a chewier dough than all-purpose flour. To create the best crust, wheat flour is typically combined with all-purpose white flour to improve the nutritional value and texture. Because whole wheat crust is denser, it is ideal for pizzas with a lot of toppings.

Gluten-Free Flour

Most gluten-free pizza crusts end up a combination of chewy, too crisp and dry, flavorless and/or bland. It takes a special mix of flours to bring superior flavor and texture that’s crispy, tender, flexible in the middle, not too thick and not too thin. Mama Gina’s is currently working diligently with a combination of flours including tapioca flour/starch, sorghum flour, brown rice flour and gluten-free millet flour to concoct the perfect recipe to serve our guests. Check back to see when we announce our new gluten-free dough!

Linger Longer Over Our Antipasto Salad at Mama Gina’s Pizzeria

Nov 4, 2011   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Antipasto. What could that mean other than we’re against (“anti”) pasta (“pasto”)? But why would a pizzeria be against pasta? Yeah, that doesn’t make much sense…

Antipasto actually means “before the meal”. It refers to the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal, kind of like hors d’oeuvres. There are several differences though. In proper setting, hors d’oeuvres are served off of trays while guests are still standing with drinks. Antipasto, on the other hand, is served at the table and signifies the beginning of the Italian meal. Formal Italian table settings include an antipasto plate in the center of the table and small plates for each person’s helping.

The ingredients for Antipasto may include a variety of items. The most traditional are

  • anchovies
  • bruschetta (toasted bread)  upon which to stack the cheeses and meats
  • cured meats (coppa, mortadella, prosciutto, smoked ham, various types of salami)
  • marinated vegetables
  • olive oil (used as a topping)
  • olives
  • peperoni (marinated small peppers)
  • various cheeses (fresh mozzarella, provolone, etc.)

It doesn’t matter much which meats are served, as antipasto dishes are individualized and suited to taste. Mama’s Antipasto Salad includes:

  • Ham
  • Salami
  • Pepperoni
  • Mozzarella
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Olives
  • Red onion
  • Cucumber
  • Green pepper
  • House made balsamic vinaigrette
  • Freshly baked garlic knots

While antipasto ingredients and forms varies, its main purpose remains to extend the meal. Remember that traditional Italian dining is not like the fast-paced meals we most often consume here in Phoenix. Rather, in Italy, meals are enjoyed slowly and are considered only one part of the whole dining experience. A typical Italian meal of antipasto, salad, soup, pasta, a meat dish and a light dessert, is supposed to take time.

So, make an evening of it, like the Italians do, starting with our Antipasto Salad, lingering with your friends and family at Mama Gina’s, and building those precious relationships.

Scrumptious Italian Desserts, Right Here in Phoenix!

Oct 18, 2011   //   by mamaginas   //   Blog  //  No Comments

At Mama Gina’s, our unparalleled desserts have been inspired by traditional Italian desserts.

It was a difficult choice when it came to selecting which desserts to offer you with so many choices coming out of Italy. After much hand wringing, we have selected Tiramisu and Cannoli as the Italian desserts to offer you.

Tiramisù
Tiramisù is undoubtedly one of the most famous Italian desserts ever. Tiramisù is translated as “pick me up” and is definitely one of the most heavenly desserts on earth!

There is some debate about Tiramisù’s origin. It may have originated as a variation of another layered dessert called Zuppa Inglese. The current version of Tiramisù is a relatively new recipe. It is mentioned in 1983 in Giovanni Capnist’s cookbook I Dolci Del Veneto. Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, on the other hand, gives 1982 as the first mention of the dessert.

Several sources claim that Tiramisù was invented in Treviso at Le Beccherie restaurant by Francesca Valori (whose maiden name was Tiramisù), the god-daughter and apprentice of confectioner Roberto Linguanotto. Linguanotto named the dish in honour of Francesca’s culinary skill, according to this story.

Other sources report the creation of Tiramisù to have originated in the city of Siena. Some confectioners were said to have created it in honor of Cosimo III for his visit to the city. Another account, by Carminantonio Iannaccone, establishes the creation of tiramisu on December 24, 1969 in Via Sottotreviso while he was head chef at Treviso in Venice.

No matter its history, this unforgettable treat is made of ladyfingers (or “Savoiardi” in Italian). Ladyfingers are light and sweet sponge cakes roughly shaped like a large finger. They are dipped in coffee then layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks and mascarpone (an Italian cheese made from cream, coagulated with citric acid or acetic acid) and flavored with liquor and cocoa. Finally, they are dusted with cocoa powder.

Cannoli
For an incredible level of decadence, we offer you Cannoli, a Sicilian pastry dessert.

Cannoli originated in the Palermo area of Italy. Cannoli were historically prepared as a treat during Carnevale season, perhaps as a symbol of fertility. Eventually, Cannoli became a year-round staple. In Italy, they’re commonly known as “cannoli siciliani”, Sicilian cannoli.

The singular of Cannoli is cannolo meaning “little tube”. Cannoli consists of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough. The shells are stuffed with a sweet, creamy filling containing ricotta cheese (traditionally, the cheese was made of goat’s milk). Cannoli range from baseball-sized found in Piana degli Albanesi, south of Palermo, Sicily to no bigger than a finger (“cannulicchi”)!

These are scrumptious as a dessert after a Sicilian meal or even to take home as a breakfast treat.

So, for the perfect ending to your Mama Gina’s meal, we invite you to try one of our delicious Italian desserts!

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