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.

Meat stock or broth (nowadays the distinction is quite blurred) is a very popular dish in Northern Italy for creating hearty soups in these winter days. It is not only used for adding juices to roasted meats, stews and meat sauces during prolonged cooking, but it also creates wonderful … Read More

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These almond cookies are the quintessence of Tuscan food. They are extremely simple, and the goodness of this recipe relies on the choice of quality ingredients.
I always make them on a wooden board because I love the sensation of working with dough, even if it is easier to use … Read More

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This onion soup sinks its roots deeply in Tuscan tradition, even though it only became famous when it was adopted by the French and became known as soup à l’oignon.
According to Tuscan tradition, the recipe includes the red Certaldo onion, whose reputation was so renown that it … Read More

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This rabbit stew (the rabbit can be substituted with chicken) is a vintage dish. I found it in a 1970s collection of recipes from an elementary school project in Pergola. Each child was asked to bring one of their grandmother’s recipes to school to assemble a traditional regional cookbook.
Pergola … Read More

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This fig cookie recipe brings out the magic flavour of an incredible, sugary fruit. Figs are at their best at the second part of August and the beginning of September, and if you have the possibility to buy them or better yet get them ripened on the tree, you … Read More

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This chicken with bell pepper recipe is truly a typical summer one. The lively colours of the peppers and tomato create a unique blend that you can really appreciate only if you can find fresh sun ripened vegetables.
It is a typical Roman dish, and there is a whole generation … Read More

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Traditionally, this walnut sauce was meant to be served with pansoti, typical Ligurian stuffed pasta, yet it is excellent with potato gnocchi and other specialties.
In these super-hot summers, we all need something fresh, a fast yet nice sauce that does not need cooking.
This walnut sauce, a delicious vegetarian dish, … Read More

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Chickpea flatbread is a humble but delicious dish, with its origins dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times. On the Tuscan coasts it is called Cecina, Farinata in Liguria, and is a common dish on the coasts of the Tyrrenian, where it was spread by Ligurian … Read More

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This way of cooking red mullets is typical of Livorno, nevertheless, I discovered that the within the Italian Jewish community, it is also called “à la Moses”. I guess it’s due to the presence of a substantial Jewish community in the town of Livorno.
Livorno was turned into the official … Read More

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Mullet of Orbetello is one of many products that can be found in Italy, but comes from a very small area and is known by very few lucky people.
Orbetello is a small, picturesque village in southern Tuscany founded by the Villanovians who predated the Etruscans, as demonstrated by its … Read More

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The sauce of this unusual linguini combines ingredients that are characteristic of Mediterranean cuisine: olive oil, fresh anchovies, and the introduction of raisins and dried fruit in savoury dishes. This Middle Eastern touch is typical in the cuisine of Italian cities that were in contact with the Arab world … Read More

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These stuffed calamari are incredibly simple, above all now that usually it is possible to buy calamari already cleaned. It is not difficult, but if you are not used to it, the process can be a bit messy.
These calamary convey in their stuffing the simplicity of the Mediterranean: garlic, … Read More

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This Imperial Milk is a family recipe and originates from what Italians traditionally call “Portuguese Milk” or what is more internationally known as “crème caramel”. It goes by different names and is very common in all Western cuisines.
The ingredients are simple: eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla combined in a pleasant … Read More

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There is nothing easier than marinated and roasted meat: at Easter time, in Italy, lamb is particularly appreciated.
This way of roasting lamb is incredibly simple but involves some degree of organisation, since you need to calculate the time needed for marinating and cooking.
This a very traditional … Read More

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Many surprises are originated from casual events, and it might happen that Medieval farmers, trying to hide their precious cheeses in pits dug into tuff rock and lined with straw, discover that this kind of ripening originates a sophisticated product, now renown in all Italy.
This is the case of … Read More

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I am translating some suggestions on frying posted by Iginio Massari, the great Italian pastry chef, that he posted on his Instagram account. To his technical considerations, I add a little historical introduction.
Still in Renaissance age, we cannot speak of a process toward the creation of regional dishes, … Read More

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This way to cook Borettane onions, with this sweet and sour sauce, was created in Emilia, and it is the perfect complement to a vast variety of roasted meats, such as beef braised in Barolo wine.
It is a unique side dish, rich in fibre without the boring stigma associated … Read More

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Fried custard is a versatile dish. According to where you are in Italy, it has different variations: it is considered mainly as an appetizer in the Marche and Emilia regions, a part of a sumptuous mixture of fried treats like apples, stuffed fried olives (olive all’ascolana), different meats, vegetables … 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 … Read More

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This noodle dish is ideal as a winter dish that exalts its ingredients: Savoy cabbage is a typical seasonal vegetable, its brilliant green gives a touch of color in our dishes, and counterbalances the pink sausage. Adding ground rosemary is unusual but it gives a twist to a food that … Read More

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Orvieto is a beautiful Etruscan town built on a sheer cliff that is mainly composed of tuff and pozzolana, a soft material easy to excavate.
The Orvieto cliff was apt to being easily defendable thanks to its structure; meanwhile, its inhabitants started to excavate its underground in order to obtain factories, … Read More

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Usually, I stick to the Italian tradition, but by now, this dessert has entered our kitchens too. Moreover, I added a personal touch, since I had fantastic organic oranges at home, at the top of their Sicilian flavor. It is a very simple dessert, which can be done one … Read More

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Paccheri pasta is typical of a new generation of Neapolitan formats, very original and particularly apt to being stuffed.
I created this stuffing using ingredients that are very popular in Northern and Central Italy: white truffles sauce, sausage, Porcini mushroom.
It is a luxurious dish, ideal for festive occasions like winter … Read More

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Porchetta is a typical dish of Central and Northern Italy. It consists of a whole pig, emptied, deboned and seasoned with rosemary or wild fennel, according to its origin. According to the traditional way of making it, porchetta is seasoned with rosemary in Southern Tuscany, in Roman Castles area … Read More

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With the Bologna Certosino (Chartreuse cake) I want to introduce you to a typical Christmas cake of Bologna cuisine, with almonds, pine nuts, unsweetened chocolate, and candied fruit. It is almost unknown out of Emilia-Romagna region: sadly, the fame of many regional cakes is clouded by industrial products, which … Read More

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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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