Updated: Jun 7
When Dino crooned the improbable lines “When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza-pie, that’s amore!”, he was doing more than just being silly, as the connection between love and pizza, for men at least, is profound. Research shows that men get the same kick out of a ‘pepperoni slice with extra mozz’, as they do out of infatuation. Women, however, are another ditty altogether, more like, “When the moon hits your eye, like a big dark chocolate ganache truffle dusted with 80% cocoa powder and hold the nuts, you’re in love!”; doesn’t quite trip off the tongue in the same way though.
Nonetheless, there is more to connect amore and Italy than Naples’ signature dish and bad 50’s music. The patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine, was a third century a.d. Roman priest who defied Emperor Claudius’ ban against his soldiers marrying, as Claudius felt it distracted them from the business of burning, raping and pillaging their way across the empire’s provinces. St. Valentine, moved by the plight of the young soldiers and their innamorati, married them in secret, was eventually caught, imprisoned, and having fallen in love with the jailor’s daughter, wrote her a love letter signed, ‘Your Valentine’ on the eve of his February 14th martyrdom, thus beginning the tradition that made Hallmark millions.
February 14th , also falls within the Roman pagan feast of Lupercalia, a fertility rite in which young women were whipped with strips off the hides of animals sacrificed to the love- god Eros; that’s Cupid to you. Lest that makes you think that Italians are all a bunch of romantic, starry-eyed Romeos and Juliets, don’t forget the 1929 Valentines’ Day surprise party which Al ‘Scarface’ Capone and friends held for George ‘Bugs’ Moran etal in a North Chicago garage. Alas, poor ‘Bugsy’ showed-up late and missed the festivities; perhaps he stopped for pizza? Oh well, that’s amore!
Want to heat-up a volcano of love in your amore? Try these Chocolate-Espresso Lava Cakes.
Chocolate-Espresso Lava Cakes
These are perfect, quick and easy to make, they freeze well too!
Ingredients: (for 8 individual cakes)
1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 ½ tsps. baking powder
1 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sliced almonds
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
6 ounces good quality dark or milk chocolate cut in ½” chunks
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup frozen raspberries or strawberries thawed in their juice and ½ cup sugar
· Sift flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder and baking powder together and set aside.
· In a large bowl add butter and both sugars. Beat until blended
· Beat in eggs one at a time
· add extracts and beat in flour and cocoa mixture until smooth
· Spoon batter into eight, buttered, ½ cup ramekins, or use four one-cup vessels.
· Press a few chunks of chocolate into the top of each cake, and sprinkle tops with sliced almonds.
· Cover and chill for 1 hour or more (can make these a day ahead & chill)
· Uncover cakes, leave at room temperature for 5 mins. prior to baking
· Bake on the center rack of a preheated 350 (Fahrenheit) oven: 25 minutes for soft center, 30 minutes for firm, longer if you’re making bigger cakes – test with a toothpick after 30 minutes.
· Simmer thawed berries with sugar until a light syrup forms, serve warm, drizzled over cakes and top with whipped cream.