Recipe: Migliaccio (Italian Farina Custard)

Hellooooo…Migliaccio…Can you hear me down there? Next time I’ll use a shallower pan or hire a photographer.

With all the snow, my mind keeps returning to migliaccio, an Italian custard made from farina. In Italian, migliaccio would be pronounced meal-YA-choh. But it’s been generations since my Neapolitan relatives floated over to our shores and the word has been butchered into mul-YACH. Although I have studied Italian, I don’t bother pronouncing it correctly because no one would know what the heck I was saying. Case in point, I sent my mom an email about this recipe with the correct spelling and she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. She thought I was referring to an old friend with that surname. So, mul-YACH it is.

I grew up in Ozone Park, New York, just a few blocks away from my Aunt Margaret, the daughter of Grandma Margaret of Italian Cheesecake fame. Every night after dinner, we’d walk around the corner to have coffee. The Pyrex glass pot would be on the stove, the coffee inside having been reheated many times that day. Some of you are wincing, I’m sure, but we liked it strong. Never mind that I was under ten and drinking coffee that would put hair on your chest. These days Child Protective Services would be all over that in a heartbeat. Times have changed.

The first snow of the winter season always filled us with glee because it was Aunt Marg’s tradition to make migliaccio. And no matter how high the snow, Aunt Margaret, who possessed better snow navigation skills than even the postman, would always get it to us.

Neither rain nor snow nor coffee klatch will keep Aunt Marg from delivering mul-YACH. 🙂

Most everyone in my family prefers mul-YACH after it has set in the refrigerator and can be neatly sliced. Not bad on a hot summer afternoon, but this is snow food and I’m impatient and in need of inner warmth. So, I tend to scoop my bubbling serving out with a big spoon while it’s all soft and pudding-like. Do I hear an um num num?

A word about the pan you use. If you want to slice it neatly, don’t use the one featured in my photo. The sides are too high and you’ll never get it out in one piece. But if you’re planning on slurping it down using a bowl and spoon, then who really cares, right?

I eat mul-YACH as a snack, but with farina, milk, and eggs in the ingredients, it could count as breakfast.

Give it a try, mangia mangia, and let me know what you think. And see if you can refrain from making it the next time it snows. Bet you can’t.

Recipe:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Ingredients:

2 cups cold water
1/2 cup farina
1/8 lb unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Steps:

  1. On the stovetop, cook farina in water, stirring until thickened.
    (I use ceramic-glass bakeware (e.g., CorningWare), which can go from stovetop to oven, thereby saving me from washing an extra pot. Good times. 🙂 )
  2. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with the milk.
  3. Remove farina from heat and add butter, sugar, milk/egg mixture, and vanilla.
  4. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Place in oven, and lower temperature to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake 1 hour or more until bubbling and brown.

(If you’re like me, immediately spoon some out into a bowl and take a big mouthful, burning every damn cell in your mouth and making it impossible for you to taste the spoonfuls that come next.)

Enjoy! While you’re eating, take a peek at my recipe for Farina Muffins. Yum.

Recipe: Italian Cheesecake

“Mom, quick, I need a photo for my blog.”

Merry Christmas! This recipe is an old family favorite, handed down by my Great Grandmother Margaret. Actually, her name was Immaculata, but my Great Grandfather decided he preferred the name Margaret. I’m happy the name change happened before my birth since I was named after her. Immaculata Reyes Dempsey just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Grandma Margaret was quite the cook and took the handing down of the recipes seriously, apparently. My Mom had just arrived home from her honeymoon in 1964 when Grandma showed up to teach her how to make this cheesecake. The quickest way to a man’s heart… 😉

Originally, she made it at Easter time and it featured a crust and criss-cross strips across the top. However, none of us has been able to recreate Grandma’s tender touch with the dough required for that top. What should have been elevated train tracks over a ricotta cheese filling always ended up as a cheese cake with subway tracks below. However, being a gambling family, we had many a fun time peering through the oven window and wagering on just when those strips would begin sinking into the cheesecake. 🙂

Never fear, we’ve been making this version, sans subway tracks, for 46 years and for all occasions. It will be one of the two dozen desserts on our Christmas table, and it’s always a winner. Hope you enjoy it.

Recipe:

For best results, have ingredients at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 550 degrees.

Ingredients: 

1 dozen large eggs
1 – 48 oz. container ricotta
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. each extract: vanilla, orange, lemon
1 tsp. anisette  

Steps: 

  1. Beat eggs until foamy and set aside.
  2. Beat ricotta with sugar until blended and add 4 flavors – beating until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Pour eggs into ricotta mixture and beat just until blended.
  4. Put mixture into a 2 1/2 qt. Pyrex dish or springform pan. (We prefer Pyrex.)
  5. Place in oven, and lower temperature to 325 degrees.
  6. Bake about 1 1/2 hours or until top seems firm except for center, which should be slightly soft.
  7. Leave cake in oven with door slightly ajar for about 1/2 hour after turning the oven off. This prevents the cheesecake from sinking.