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 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, otherwise known in Italian as crostini di fegatini, crostini neri (‘black crostini’) or crostini toscani.   This favourite Tuscan antipasto is rustic, tasty, cheap and sensible, reflecting the peasant roots of Tuscan cooking where nothing was thrown away (this makes good use of day old bread and cheap chicken livers)... 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

Pastiera Napoletana

The first time I came across Naples’ famous Easter dessert, pastiera, I wasn’t entirely sure how to react — except that I knew I needed to have more. It’s a rather unusual, unique pie made with an array of ingredients that seem almost to have accidentally ended up together but are each in their own symbolic and traditional to Naples. And as a whole, they create an absolutely delicious concoction. Whole wheat berries (known... Read More

Baccelli: Spring on a Plate

It’s a definite sign of Spring when the first baccelli start making an appearance at market stalls around Florence. Baccelli are otherwise known as fave, or fava beans, and tend to be slightly smaller than normal broad beans. Traditionally presented at the table as they are – long, green, shiny pods which belie the little treasures tucked away inside – the beans are shelled and eaten raw with a nice, salty pecorino cheese or silky,... 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