Of food and other stories

Food is not only one of the most basic needs for all living things, but for us, it has deep psychological implications (for a moment, let’s think of all the eating disorders that plague our generations). Its symbolic meaning is connected not only to the availability of fresh produce, but above all to the “status”, social and cultural, of the consumer.
Food is part of our story – our history, as travellers and those who stayed in place. For example, eggplant, almonds, and sherbets all came from Persia via the Silk Road. Peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, chocolate, and the tomatoes in a center our tables came from the American continents.
But even the Italian landscape owes its olive trees to ancient Greek sailors who, while exploring the coasts of Southern Italy, left the olive seeds in their feces when they stopped on the coastline.
Stockfish and salt cod from Norway allowed many Catholics who lived far from the sea, to respect their religious obligation to eat fish on Friday.
It is a history of meetings and collisions. Centuries of trade and wars with the Middle East left us with the legacy of raisins and nuts, and the use of vinegar as a natural preservative in the dishes of Maritime Republics.
The Roman Jewish community, the oldest in Europe, shows us, by means of an incredibly sophisticated cuisine, the creativity of its women who had to feed their families in spite of all the difficulties and discrimination created by the hostility of different Popes.
The history of food is fused with what we are as human beings and as representative of a civilization. For me, Christmas is connected to the smell of béchamel sauce and Bolognese ragout simmering in my mum’s earthenware pot, and to the gossip of family women while we were making tons of tortellini in a perfectly efficient assembly line. I cannot imagine these family festivities without dishes that portray my regional origin.
Also, the techniques of food preservation – using salt, vinegar,liquor or sugar – are fundamental in order to understand the climate, the products, and characteristics of an area. Nowadays, industrial technologies allow us to have foods in areas and seasons where it was impossible for our ancestors, thus creating new creative possibilities for us.

The meat stuffing of this gnocchi is very similar to the one of Ascoli olives, a skilled mix of meats cooked in a soffritto, whose taste is made lighter by a touch of lemon zest. The only complicated phase is finding the procedure to fill the gnocchi; I think … Read More

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After the chocolate truffles, “Braised Beef in Barolo Wine” is another recipe from Piedmont. It is a delicious dish, a real comfort food in the winter chilly days. Braised beef is usually accompanied by a steaming polenta, on which you can pour the magnificent sauce. Barolo is a … Read More

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These chocolate truffles are ideal presents at Christmas time: they are really a very nice and personal gift for someone you love and they show all the love and appreciation you have for the recipient. They look complicated because of the long resting time it is required for the … Read More

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I had the idea to re-propose the chestnut soufflè from the reading of an old recipe of Pellegrino Artusi. I was looking for an intriguing way to deal with chestnuts, and this usage of fresh chestnuts was very appealing to me. In contemporary recipes, even of soufflès, the ingredient … Read More

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This simple dish demonstrates the deep interconnection of Italy with the Middle East and the Arab world. In all Italy, mainly along the coasts, we have the introduction of pine nuts and raisins in many dishes; see for example the Liguria cuisine, or Venice one, as a demonstration that along … Read More

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Poached pears in red wine are a delicious dessert, which joins the pleasure to eat fruit in an unusual way and the possibility to offer a dessert lighter than usual. It is free from animal products and indulges even the pickiest palates or our guests who suffer from food intolerances.

Pears, red … Read More

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This sformato (pudding ) is an extremely simple but elegant way to create a main course which is quite unusual and tasty. In the Italian tradition, there is a rich collection of this kind of dish, made with vegetables and cheeses, or rice and pasta and complemented sauces.

Spinach pudding is an … Read More

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Usually “potage” and “sea” contradict each other. This recipe is connected to “land” ingredients like potatoes, leeks, and a lot of fresh cream.

I created this recipe when trying to exalt Autumn vegetables, and trying to propose something healthy but extremely stimulating. I have always been inspired by French cuisine, but … Read More

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There are few things that recall Autumn like chestnut Tuscan necci. These crepes made with chestnut flour make possible to enjoy them after the harvest period.

For centuries they were harvested, and still are, in the mountains which run along all Italy. Chestnuts have been providing calories during the harsh cold months and … Read More

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Butternut squash is one of the many joys of the season: rain and cold temperatures are compensated by incredibly rich and comforting foods. It is another gift from the Americas, like potatoes.

Accompanied by a creamy Taleggio cheese sauce, this dish speaks about the valley crossed through the Po river, its fog, … Read More

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Cacciatora stew is one of those simple dishes which comfort you, above all if served with mashed potatoes on a cold winter day.

It is an incredibly rich and simple dish, the result is an amazing sauce in which you can plunge bread and collect it in the famous “scarpetta”. It is … Read More

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Gurguglione is a typical stew of summer vegetables eaten by the miners of Elba Island.
It was mentioned when I visited the Ginevro gallery, that is a magnetite mine near Capoliveri, now closed because of the competition by developing countries. This stew was a typical dish of the miners of Elba … Read More

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These eggplant balls are perfect for finger food at your next summer party, or as an entrée for any summer meal. Eggplants are at their peak right now, being the sweetest and most delicious they can be during the year.
This is the simplified and lighter version of a recipe I … Read More

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This is an extremely fresh way to be introduced to octopus. This salad is ideal to be served in a hot summer day, above all if you are back from the beach.

Italy has an incredibly wide range of fish and seafood, and as many recipes to cook them. Throughout the country, … Read More

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When summer approaches, two things cannot be missed on an Italian table: spaghetti with fresh clams and a bottle of chilled dry wine to compliment it.

Usually, I love making fresh home-made pasta. However, sometimes stopping for a while, opening a bag of excellent durum wheat spaghetti, and making this simple and … Read More

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The freshness of arugula is very inviting in the heat of the Italian summer. This is, of course, a variation of the famous “pesto” par excellence”. Arugula is a great source of flavonoids that are believed to have antioxidant properties. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin K, B and … Read More

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Potato gnocchi recipe is relatively recent in the Italian tradition, compared to the other ones.

Gnocchi is spread in all regions of Italy, and with all possible ingredients, depending on where it comes from: flour, corn, semolina, bread, chestnut flour, ricotta, or vegetables – from squash to spinach to classic potato.

The potato was … Read More

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Tuna and rabbit, together? Why this odd name?

A legend says that in 19th century the rules about fasting were particularly strict, and the friars in a convent of Avigliana, near Turin, decided to circumvent them by baptising their chickens and rabbits and calling them ‘tuna’ in order to eat them … Read More

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This recipe of stuffed eggplant was generously given me by Carmela, a very sweet woman from Puglia.

In Calabria they boil the eggplant whole and then scoop out the flesh. Of course there are many variations: stuffed with stockfish, with or without tomato, with meat…And of course each family claims its … Read More

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Strawberry season reaches its peak in May, offering the sweetest and most delicious flavour. This panna cotta intensifies their freshness creating a symphony of tastes in which the light sourness of lemon balances perfectly the sweetness of whipped cream.

I noticed, reading American recipe books, that panna cotta includes also the … Read More

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Gnudi is a typical Tuscan dish, simple and tasty, where the filling is served in the form of gnocchi but without the pasta wrap. The name comes from ‘gnudo’ meaning naked one, in the Tuscan vernacular. The dish comes from the southern Tuscan region of Maremma, one of Italy’s areas for sheep.

 

In … Read More

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These are typical fritters made for Carnevale. They are extremely simple and very popular all over Italy. Of course, each region has its own slight variations in the name and ingredients.
In most recipes, there is the possible addition of liquor (grappa, Sambuca) and butter, but I prefer my grandmother’s recipe.
Replacing … Read More

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A genuine Romagna woman, I moved from Ravenna to Florence because finally I had found someone who wanted to make a respectable woman out of me!

For all those who do not know Emilia-Romagna, an eastern region of northern Italy, we are the ones on the seaside, the ones who immediately … Read More

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