Artusi’s September: Duck Pappardelle all’aretina

I look forward to September after the relentless, humid Tuscan heat of July and August. I love the heat, I do, but Florentine heat is something else. The stones of the piazze and palazzi heat up like a pizza oven and keep the city sweltering well into the night. The Florentines, rightfully, leave the city and escape to the seaside but I prefer not to sit packed like sardines on the sand in the hot sun either. So I patiently wait for September, when... Read More

Fig Frangipane Tart and falling for Florence

I have to admit that my love affair with Florence did not start with the typical “love at first sight:” But it wasn’t far off. I was a twenty-year-old art student when I had my first taste of living in Florence, exactly ten years ago. I arrived at the train station with my luggage and not much else – no where to stay, nothing booked, no contacts. I can’t imagine ever doing that now but I guess I was more of a spontaneous traveller... Read More

Artusi’s August: Pan roasted quail risotto

August in Italy means one thing: holidays. And not just any holiday, but the biggest holidays of the year: Ferragosto. August 15th has been celebrated in Italy since ancient times, when most likely it was a celebration of a summer’s worth of hard work in the fields. The Ancient Romans celebrated Ferragosto in honour of Diana, goddess of fertility, and Emperor Augustus (if it is a hint at all, the name Ferragosto comes from the Latin “feriae... Read More

Tripe: the not so favourite ingredient

Tripe. The very word itself usually causes a scrunched-up face on the person whose ears have been subjected to the offensive word. What exactly is it about the suggestion of tripe,  or any sort of offal for that matter, that causes such displeasure? Is it because it’s identified more closely to its origins than, say, processed ham or a hamburger? Surely that’s a good thing – knowing where your food comes from and what exactly is in it. Ok,... Read More

Artusi’s July: Raspberry Acetosa

July in Tuscany. The heat is the sort that you cannot get away from. If you live in the city, it’s especially unbearable. Hot African wind blows its way into cities, heating them up like a giant hairdryer. The ancient stones of the palazzi and squares bake in the sun and the heat lingers on for hours after midnight. Anyone smart and organised enough has escaped to the sea or the mountains. Those who haven’t, can’t or are waiting until the traditional... Read More

Artusi’s June: Sour Cherry and Cinnamon Sorbet

As the weather warms up, almost every Italian begins thinking of ending their dinner with a stroll down to the local gelateria, a sun-soaked ritual which no doubt goes back to their childhoods. My mother in law recalls Sunday afternoon treats when her father would take her to the gelateria to choose from one of the two handmade gelato flavours on offer: plain cream or chocolate. In Artusi’s much-loved cookbook, he has two menus suggested for the... Read More

Artusi’s May: Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate

Artusi’s May: Tuscan chicken liver pate If there was one defining Tuscan recipe for me it might just be the recipe for chicken liver pate served on crostini, generally known in Italian as Crostini di Fegatini, Crostini Neri or Crostini Toscani. This favourite Tuscan antipasto is rustic, tasty, cheap and sensible (why throw away a perfectly good part of the chicken?) and it features on the menu of literally every trattoria in Tuscany, not to mention... Read More

Rose petal Jam from a Venetian monastery

Waking up on the Armenian monastery of the Island of San Lazzaro, floating in the mist of the Venetian lagoon, is like waking into a dream itself. Water softly laps around the edges of the monastery and that is about all you can hear except for the occasional speed boat on its way to the Lido. I spent several weeks here over two years during my days interning as an art restorer. While I worked on the flooded etchings and photographs (one of the downsides... Read More

Artusi’s April: Gnocchi alla Romana

As Easter normally falls in April, Artusi‘s reliable suggestions for this month’s Italian menu consist of plenty of dishes that you could traditionally find on an Easter table, including the ones that Italians call “magro” or lean, in other words, fish or vegetables (but no meat), the diet to be followed on Good Friday. Among a list of some of my favourite Spring dishes such as artichoke tart, fava beans served raw, Easter lamb, chocolate... Read More

Artusi’s March: Recipe from a Tuscan Monastery

Pellegrino Artusi’s suggestions for lunch in March include this curious dish, Zuppa alla Certosina, a fish and tomato soup that is plumped up with an “egg-drop” finish. It’s a dish that originated in a monastery (as it’s name suggests), so it’s not something you’ll find on trattoria menus these days, but my mother-in-law remembers her mother making a similar dish when she was young – a soup known as Stracciatella, where an egg beaten... Read More