Hazelnut and Espresso cake for a Birthday

It’s the first time in twenty years that I get to celebrate my birthday at home. Home is a funny concept for me at the moment. It no longer means the home that I have known for the past seven years in Italy, or the one I’m going to make in a new city on the other side of the world. At the moment in this homeless state, “home” is actually a house I have never lived in, the house that my parents bought when I left the nest for good to... Read More

Artusi’s October: Chicken gnocchi for the soul

It’s been a long summer in Tuscany this year but finally the temperature is dropping with this perfectly crisp, cool autumn air. Where in the summer heat I wilt, I feel at the same time invigorated and comforted by autumn. I like to lie in bed for a few extra minutes just to enjoy being warm under the fluffy covers. My morning ritual now begins with putting the kettle on for a big, steaming mug of herbal tea to warm up. And I begin craving soup.... Read More

A wine harvest lunch

There are two things that I love about the vendemmia, the grape harvest: the conversation between the vines and the lunch that follows. The vendemmia in Tuscany usually begins in that magical moment between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, when the grapes are ripe but not too much and perhaps a bit of rain has swollen them nicely. I have always wanted to do a vendemmia and finally jumped at the chance when some friends who have a beautiful... Read More

Orecchiette con Broccoli: The way to a man’s heart

The first time I ever cooked something for the man who is now my husband, it was an impromptu event where I managed to throw together a pasta dish with an almost empty fridge. We still didn’t know each other very well, were a long way away from finding out all the things there are to know about each other. We were still very nervous about what the other person thought, still trying to impress each other. And so it happened, during a cold and... Read More

Simple Pleasures: Triglie alla Livornese

Few things to me are as perfect as a quickly, simply prepared whole fish, eaten on a balmy evening by the sea. After months of sweltering summer heat, the days have finally cooled down to the perfect temperature. I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy a week off than this – perfect moments of simplicity, an empty beach and unexpectedly beautiful weather. It’s just the right moment to be on a Tuscan beach if you ask me – the folly... Read More

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

Chestnut crepes: Preserving the taste of autumn

Chestnut flour is a great reminder of autumn that easily stretches out my favourite season to last throughout winter. Readily available throughout Tuscany, chestnut flour is produced locally all over the region from Prato to Amiata to be made into pasta, bread and pastries. It is also the essential ingredient in one of my favourite cold weather snacks, Necci. Chestnut flour has a naturally low moisture content, which means in centuries past it was... Read More

White Truffle Butter

November is my favourite month. My birthday is in November for starters, so that’s always a good excuse. It also happens to be white truffle season, and San Miniato, the small and steep hilltop town where my husband comes from, is the place to get prized white truffles, tartufo bianco, in Tuscany. 2010 was a great year for truffles, even if we had to put up with non-stop rain in Spring and a short summer. Because of the abundance of truffles this... Read More

Blessed are the Cheese Makers

In one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever come across, near Pienza in the Val d’Orcia in Southern Tuscany, there is a farm that makes one of the most heavenly things on earth: cheese. Real cheese. Cheese that speaks to you of a place and the people who made it. Pecorino cheese has long been famous in these parts. It gets its name from the word pecora, Italian for “sheep” as it is, unsurprisingly, made from sheep’s milk. There are... Read More