On wild vegetables and acquacotta

A surprise find at one of my favourite markets in Florence last week led me to this beautiful and ancient dish, acquacotta (literally, “cooked water” but also meaning “cooked in water”), a tradition of southern Tuscany and Lazio, where the fields are filled with mounds of curly, jagged-edged weeds and other wild vegetables and greens that I had never seen and certainly never cooked with before. There’s something about eating wild vegetables... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Zuppa di moscardini

Soup is the measure of a good cook. It may be a simple and humble vegetable soup or an extravagent bisque, but either way, it needs to be made with the knowledge of how to get the flavour out of your ingredients. Layers are key. As is texture. And a good stock goes a long way. It’s a dish that takes not necessarily time but a certain amount of skill and instinct in the kitchen. We decided that soup should be this month’s theme for our Italian... Read More

Ben venga il Minestrone

The Italians are brilliant with words, especially when it comes to food. Take that most humble of dishes, soup. In English, we pretty much have the one word to describe it. Oxford Companion to Italian Food author Gillian Riley makes the point that Italians have many specific words for the dish while English is rather limited, “Soup and stew are easygoing, almost interchangeable words in English, used to describe many recipes, anything from a thick... Read More

Back to Basics: Brodo

It’s the very first recipe in Pellegrino Artusi’s 700-recipe cookbook. It’s what the older generation of nonni will tell you will make you feel better, no matter what. It’s also the basis of good Italian cooking and something that Elizabeth David said is “one of the most interesting and satisfactory of all cooking processes.” Brodo (literally meaning ‘broth’) is essentially a beef or vegetable stock that is often used on its own as... 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

Stinging Nettle Tortellini

The great thing about being part of a big Italian family is that if you need to find something, someone will always have it or will endeavour to find it for you. In my case, a few weeks ago it was untreated roses to make rose petal jam. Marco’s cousin came to the rescue. She had a wonderful fuchsia-coloured rose bush growing against an old tin shed. Going back to her garden again for my second batch of jam, she had something else waiting for me:... 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

The Search for Ribollita

While writing the post on leftovers over Christmas weekend, I had an overwhelming craving for Ribollita – the ultimate Tuscan winter vegetable and bean soup – so much so that Monday morning, the day after boxing day, I headed out to my local deli to get some of the fresh ribollita they usually always have at this time of year to take to work for lunch. But no. Not today. Obviously, December 26 is a day where nothing goes on, shops and markets... Read More