A summer flavor: take your peaches and stuff them

Most Italians, I believe, have a love affair with fruit. That was certainly true in my household growing up.

After a big evening meal, my mother would put a plate of whole fruit with a small paring knife at my father’s house. I always wondered how he could eat all that. In winter it was apples, oranges and pears. But the summer was special. We celebrated the beautiful berries and stone fruits of the season. I still do.

I love the sweet aroma of strawberries cooking on the stovetop for frozen strawberry pie or strawberry jams. For me, there’s always room for the strawberry shortcake, which I make with cookies, sweet berries, powdered sugar and half and half (no whipped cream here!).

And then there are the blueberries. I make a simple blueberry cobbler – more cookies and berries baked with sugar, butter and cinnamon, served hot from the oven. And it’s not the 4th of July without homemade blueberry pie. This year we celebrated two anniversaries at the end of June with a rich blueberry pound cake. No icing needed!

It’s hard for me to choose a favorite summer fruit. Some days I can’t help but eat fresh bing cherries or sweet, ripe watermelon. But I think my heart could rest on some fresh peaches. I was so carried away one summer that I picked a bushel, still warm from the sun, and wondered what I was going to do with it all. They’ve made their way into peach marsala pies and preserved peach chutney for Thanksgiving dinner. Leftovers were peeled, sliced, tossed with a little sugar and cinnamon, and served as a simple dessert on weekdays.

In Italy, peaches or to fish in Italian, are found in many wonderful desserts, cocktails and even savory dishes. You’ll find peach granita and peach semi-freddo, cold desserts for the hot summer months. Peach and cream cookies and peach pies are also popular.

Perhaps the most classic Italian peach dessert is known as ripe peach or baked stuffed peaches. They are very easy to prepare and can be served plain or with a little vanilla ice cream or gelato. There are several variations in Italian cookbooks for this recipe. Some call for lemon juice, others for white wine as the cooking liquid. The recipe included here adds a little cocoa to the stuffing, but peaches are fine without. The most important thing is that you only use “freestone” peaches. This means that the peach pit easily detaches from the peach flesh. Otherwise, it is very difficult to get a clean peach half.

Pesche Ripiene (baked stuffed peaches)

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground almonds
  • 8 almond macaroons or Italian amaretti cookies, crushed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
  • 7 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons of butter

directions

  • Take a little flesh from the hollow of the peaches and set aside.
  • Mix the ground almonds, the crushed biscuits, half the sugar, any cocoa used, 1 tablespoon of wine and the reserved peach flesh.
  • Fill the peach halves with this mixture and garnish each with a small cube of butter.
  • Arrange the peach halves in a buttered baking dish, pour in the remaining wine and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
  • Bake in preheated 350 degree oven about 25-30 minutes until peaches are soft and tender. Serve hot plain, or with a little vanilla ice cream or gelato.

Additional notes

  • Marsala wine can replace dry white wine. This will add extra sweetness.
  • Amaretti cookies can be found in the grocery store. But if you can’t find it, vanilla wafers can be used and mixed with almond extract to taste.

Enjoy the August peaches. Maybe next year we’ll talk about how we can create a wonderful Italian cocktail with white peaches and prosecco, the famous Bellini. You will love it.

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