An Acquacotta-inspired Christmas

Some of my favourite ingredients from the Maremma, in southern Tuscany, are also those flavours that I love at Christmas — I’m talking about chestnuts, dried figs, nuts and chocolate, and game like guinea fowl. They are ingredients that make this season’s table feel special yet not over the top. I’d rather be comforted by a Christmas meal than overwhelmed by one and these dishes, for me, do just that. These recipes are essentially... Read More

Fagioli del Purgatorio: a summery bean salad

Summer in Italy means one main thing for me — trying to keep cool, which includes staying away from the stove. Luckily, it’s also the time of year when fresh produce is so ripe and sweet, you barely need to do anything to it anyway — I practically live off tomatoes in the summer, dousing them in olive oil and eating with thickly torn pieces of buffalo mozzarella, usually. Or chopping or squeezing juicy ones raw into a sauce to... Read More

Honey from a Weed, the world of Patience Gray

Honey from a Weed is one of those few cookbooks I could keep by my bedside. I like to open it at random and become absorbed by a recipe or a story, like the one about sharing a dinner with shepherds on Naxos, the differing views of a Milanese and a Salentine diver on what to do with the an octopus, or the “majestic” Catalonian feast that ended with a century old wine that tasted of chocolate syrup.  Published in 1986, it is more than just a... Read More

A crateful of clementines

What would you do – you’re driving past hundreds of citrus trees. With a better look, they’re mandarins, or, more precisely clementines. On the roadside is a truck selling crates of them for 1 euro a kilo. You stop, right? And buy a crate of 10 kilos. Even though you have to get on a plane the next day. I couldn’t help myself. Marco, who I had already made turn 180 degrees to drive back to the truck, gave me that look of disapproval... Read More

Ricotta and spinach ‘gnudi’ video recipe

When I was writing the manuscript for Florentine, I enlisted the help of an army of recipe testers — about 80 people from all over the world — to test every recipe thoroughly. Only one came back to me consistently with problems. From Minnesota to Melbourne, three testers wrote to me that their very first attempt at making Tuscan gnudi (ricotta and spinach balls that, rather than be encased in pasta like for ravioli, are simply dusted... Read More

Crostata di Susine Selvatiche (Wild Plum Tart)

This is not a very practical recipe unless you chance upon a basket of wild plums at your local farmgate, like I did, while picking out some enormous, gnarled tomatoes, sunny zucchini flowers and purple and white eggplants the size of my fist. Or, even better, find yourself a wild plum tree that no one else (birds and bugs included) has noticed. In years of scouring farmers markets, I have never once come across wild plums, even though they are well-used... Read More

Interview with Giulia Scarpaleggia on creating her new cookbook

One of my personal favourite food memories of all time was the first time I realised the potential of shopping at my local market in Florence and being able to speak to the other shoppers as well as the stallholders — only I didn’t think to write down all the gems I collected as I took in bits and pieces on what to do with artichokes or how to tell which fennel bulbs are the best. But my dear friend Giulia Scarpaleggia did. Not only,... Read More

Robinia flower cake and fritters + a giveaway!

I have been dreaming about Mimi Thorisson’s black locust (robinia, acacia or false acacia) flower cake since I first came across it a couple of years ago, while searching for recipes using these bunches of white flowers with a strong, heady perfume similar to jasmine or orange blossom. I’ve been too busy frying them — dipping them in a runny batter, swirling them through a pot of bubbling oil, then eating them crunchy and piping... Read More

Spaghetti with monk’s beard

The sudden burst of spring produce in the market after a long, monotonous winter of cavolo nero and bright oranges is one of the things that constantly reminds me why I love living and eating in Italy. A wander through the market like any other becomes, in spring time, a new experience. I feel like a fresh arrival, like it’s my first time walking through my local market. There are long, twisty fava bean pods, waiting to be podded and munched... Read More

Meatballs and a love story

There’s a story in my Tuscan family of nobility and forbidden love. It’s set in Taranto, Puglia, on Italy’s southern heel and involves my daughter’s great-great-grandmother. The best known version is told by my husband Marco’s uncle, Riccardo, who remembers it being told to him by his elderly Nonna Anna herself. Anna Michela Comasia Maria Calianno. Her long name was a sign of her family’s noble status. She was... Read More