In case you don’t know, I LOVE soccer. I played growing up and have attempted to play as an adult…’Attempted’ is the operative word here. Look, I can run. But to run AND kick a ball has become quite the multitasking I am just not so good at anymore, so I just well, don’t embarrass myself by even trying anymore.

My new, temnporary header is in recognition of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Only temporary, but I do love it!

Anyway, soccer is the biggest sport in the world, with good reason. The players take off their shirts when they score a goal. Oh, that’s not why people watch it? Okay fine, it’s becasue they are TREMEDOUS athletes! Oh you don’t like soccer, too bad for you, you are missing out. Anyway, in preparation for my favorite sporting event I decided to challenge myself and make foods from a lot of the countries participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. No, I didn’t make something from every country. And some of the things I did make aren’t 100% authentic, they have my spin on them. But the point is, I tried and it was really fun.

My hope was to make something from South Africa and Mexico to showcase today, ya, that didn’t happen. So instead I will post what I made for Italy. Conveniently the food I made for Italy was eaten with what I made for Switzerland. So you get 2 for the price of 1!

Italy = Stecca bread (it’s just a bread that sounded good)
Switzerland = Fondue (the countries national dish)

The best part of Stecca, it’s the easiest thing I have ever made! Maybe not ever, but it is SO easy. It’s a no knead baguette that has a ‘rustic’ look because it isn’t perfectly shaped in an exact 4 inch round x 20 inches long. It is a long thin bread. After the first bite of the bread we all agreed it was the best bread I have ever made, and maybe ever eaten. Extremely flavorful, almost like a cross between baguette, ciabatta and sourdough. And look at the holes, the air bubbles that formed when the bread was baked:

Rich in flavor but light also, man it is just good! I used the exact recipe from Steamy Kitchen I just didn’t add the fun topping on the bread. So head over there for the recipe.

Now the pesto fondue. I don’t have too much to say about it except that it is fan-freaking-tastic. Perfectly gooey, cheesy and stringy. Tons of flavor and aromas with the basil, garlic and wine. The cheese is more mild so the pesto flavors stand out more. Try it, don’t wait, try it immediately to impress some dinner quests. I made this for some friends and they are still talking about it saying I make the best fondue, EVER!

Pesto Fondue
Serves 4 (for dinner, yes that’s 1 cup of cheese per person for dinner, deal with it)

Ingredients
3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (I used low fat)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (chopped)
1/4 cup almonds, toasted (can sub pine nuts or walnuts too)
ground pepper to taste

Directions
Put basil, almonds and garlic in blender or food precessor. While blending add 1/4 cup of wine and blend until thick. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, add the pesto mixture and remaining white wine until it reaches a slow rolling boil.

In a large bowl, toss the shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese with the cornstarch. Slowly stir it into saucepan with the boiling pesto/wine one small handful at a time. Stir over medium heat until it is melted and stringy. It may take about 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.
You might not need any salt, cheese is super salty as it is.

Transfer to a cheese fondue pot and keep warm with a burner. Serve right away, fondue is not something you make and wait to eat.

Dippers
steamed broccoli
cauliflower
carrots
celery
olives
baguette, cubed
cherry tomatoes
sliced mushrooms

Really, the possibilities are endless…