Homemade ricotta, the real deal

There is something magical about the process of cheese making; the same kind of magic that I witnessed when I developed my first photograph in the darkroom and watched an image appear from seemingly nothing. In both cases, it was love at first sight. Ricotta is not technically a cheese but a milk product or a by-product of the cheese making process, like its Lombard cousin, mascarpone (whose name by the way in its local dialect means “ricotta”)... Read More

The art of Renaissance comfort food

Twelve months ago, I posted a recipe from Artusi’s cookbook for a Sicilian almond pudding, biancomangiare. The 120 year old recipe is a classic, but it’s origins go back centuries further, when the pure white dish of biancomangiare was a monastery staple and bedside comfort food of chicken and almond milk. I wrote about the Renaissance version of this recipe recently for The Canberra Times, to coincide with the opening of an unprecedented... Read More

Artusi’s November: Pumpkin Pie

I’ve said many times how much I love autumn, particularly for the season’s food. It just feels natural to be a little more indulgent at this time of the year, allowing yourself plenty of comfort food or that extra slice of pie. Pumpkin has to be right up there as one of my favourite autumn vegetables. Just before leaving Italy a few weeks ago, we had pumpkins coming at us from all directions, most notably from my husband’s nonna’s... Read More

Memories of Rabbit

I’m always in awe of the power of food to revive memories, especially faraway childhood ones. For some it may be the smell of warm spices, baking bread or sizzling butter. Or it’s the texture of comforting creamy pudding or crispy roast potatoes. Sometimes it can just be the idea of a dish, long forgotten, that will bring back a rush of the smells, taste and rituals. It happened the other day, unexpectedly to my father. I had been waiting... Read More

La Bombetta: Butchers do it Better

The bombetta. Little, innocent-looking morsels of joy. We came across them for the first time in a butcher shop in the pretty, white-washed town of Cisternino, in Puglia’s Itria Valley.  In these parts, a butcher is not just a butcher. He’ll also grill the meat for you and you can eat right there at tables in the butcher shop or out on the street. They are known as Fornelli Pronti (literally, ‘ready ovens’). We were there for a taste of the... Read More

Forgotten Flavours of Puglia

Somewhere between neat, tall rows of grape vines and the sea of shimmering olive trees with their ancient, disfigured and twisted trunks, I found myself in heaven. An intense blue sky and picturesque white-stoned towns only added to the already blissful atmosphere. I’m in Puglia. And more precisely, I’m slowly eating myself to death in Puglia. Not on purpose, but that’s just the way it’s done here. Food is taken seriously. When they say “antipasto”... 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

Pastiera Napoletana

I am a self-confessed dessert addict. If anything rich, creamy and sweet comes my way, I have to have it.  Since the Tuscan idea of dessert mostly tends to be healthy fresh fruit or biscotti, and doesn’t fully satisfy the dessert addict within, this Easter I’m turning to Southern Italy for some inspiration and tradition – the Pastiera Napoletana. It’s rather like a cheesecake (of sorts) but with a pastry base and lattice top. When I first... Read More

Celli Ripieni: Jam biscuits and little birds

I love these little biscuits for so many reasons. First because they are basically little dumplings, filled with goodness. I love dumplings and I love cookies, so this is just a match made in heaven for me. Another reason I love these is that they are called “stuffed birds” because in one of the many traditional forms of these cookies from Abruzzo, they are made in the shape of little birds for the Festival of St Antonino in Aquila. Did I mention... Read More

Livorno for Foodies

Most people may not know this but Livorno is a great foodie town. It’s only an hour’s drive from Florence but it seems a world away from the Tuscan capital. Historically known as a very open city, it was a duty-free port from the 16th century with an open door policy that allowed its merchant population –made up largely of Jews, Armenians, Dutch, English and Greeks in particular – to flourish. It lost its status as a free port when Italy was... Read More