Recipe: Inventing the Italian brunch, by Cynthia Ferris

Cynthia Ferris-Bennett

Cynthia Ferris-Bennett

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Originating in the late 19th century in England, brunch became popular in the United States in the 1930s and in Italy it’s just beginning!

There’s no Italian word for brunch. Prima colazione is a light breakfast, typically a coffee and pastry. Pranzo is lunch, which is typically also light and quick with nothing in between the two. Being fairly strict when it comes to meal times, Italians pretty much stick to breakfast, lunch and dinner with the occasional espresso and biscotti thrown in during the afternoon.

The new tradition of an “Italian brunch” is from noon-ish to 3-ish, relaxed and typically a fixed price. In lieu of traditional breakfast/lunch fare you will find cuisine of the region including pastas, rice dishes, salads, frittatas and fresh fruits.

When setting your menu for an “Italian brunch,” choose a region of Italy and find the ingredients and menu that speak to you. Two of my favorite Italian inspired “brunch” items from the Tuscan region are frittata and panzanella salad. Add some fresh fruit, pastries, prosecco and you’re good to go.

Get to know your Italian regions with our upcoming Sierra Chef Wine Dinners on the patio in beautiful, historic Genoa. From May through October, we’ll explore six Italian regions with appetizers, salads, entrees, sides and desserts. These dinners feature two tastes of wine with a full pour of your favorite. Each guest is asked to bring a bottle of wine and at the end of the evening, one person is chosen by drawing and will leave with all of the wine. Seating is limited to 70 guests and reservations are required. Please call 775-392-4417 to make your reservation. Our 2019 Sierra Chef Wine Dinners on the patio: Friday, May 24: A Taste of Rome; Friday, June 28: A Taste of Naples; Friday, July 26: A Taste of Sardinia; Friday, Aug. 23: A Taste of Tuscany; Friday, Sept. 20: A Taste of Florence; Friday, Oct. 18: A Taste of Bologna.

Cynthia Ferris-Bennett, a Nevada native, is the owner of the Sierra Chef Culinary Center, Italian Bakery and Gourmet Market in Genoa, Nev., which specializes in weekly cooking classes, gourmet culinary pantry and market, Italian desserts and pastries. She manages the Sierra Chef Farmers Market at Lampe Park on Wednesdays and the Sierra Chef Farmers Market in Genoa at the Orchard House on Saturdays May through September. Ferris-Bennett is also the event manager for Orchard House in Historic Genoa for weddings and events.

Mushroom Bacon Frittata


•1 lb. of bacon, cut into bite size pieces – Applewood Smoked would be perfect!

•2 medium potatoes, medium diced

•1 to 2 tbsp. EVOO

•6 large, fresh eggs, beaten

•8 Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced thin

•2 sprigs of fresh oregano and enough to garnish

•1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

•1/8 tsp sea salt plus enough to sprinkle

•1/8 tsp ground black pepper

•Puff pastry sheet


1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.Fry the bacon until cooked, but not too crispy. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

3.Drain the bacon fat from the pan, and add EVOO. Fry the diced potatoes over medium high heat, until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.

4.Beat the eggs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, sea salt and pepper.

5.When the potatoes are ready, sprinkle with salt, lower the burner to medium heat, then put the bacon back into the pan and stir.

6.Turn off heat, add the eggs and stir.

7.Prepare baking dish with EVOO and place puff pastry in dish covering the bottom and the sides of the dish.

8.Pour egg mixture into a baking dish.

9.Cover with foil.

10.Bake for 20 minutes until set and pastry is puffed.

11.Cut into squares and serve with fresh oregano garnish..serve…

Panzanella Salad


•1 loaf crusty bread cut into cubes, day old is perfect for this

•1/3 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons

•3 cups baby heirloom tomatoes halved

•1 cup boccaccini mozzarella cut into wedges

•1 cucumber cut into medium cubes

•1 cup shredded parmesan

•1 teaspoon kosher salt

•3 cloves garlic minced

•1 shallot minced

•1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

•2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

•fresh ground black pepper

•1/2 cup fresh basil chopped

•fresh oregano and basil leaves for serving


1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet. Toss them with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are just toasted – do not overcook. Set the cubes aside to cool.

2.While the bread is toasting, place the halved tomatoes in a colander and set it over a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and toss well. Let the tomato juices collect in the bowl for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing the tomatoes occasionally.

3.Take the tomato juices and whisk in the garlic, shallots, Dijon, vinegar and pepper. Stream in the 1/3 cup olive oil while whisking until the dressing emulsifies.

4.Place the bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella, parmesan and chopped basil in a bowl. Pour about half of the dressing over top and make sure all the bread cubes are coated. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes.

5.Place the bread and tomato mixture on a large plate and add on more dressing and toss gently. Top with fresh oregano and basil…serve.


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