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

Radicchio, mascarpone and walnut cream

Of all the vegetables, radicchio just has to be the prettiest of all, don’t you agree? I have always loved gnarly Florentine tomatoes and purple-tinged artichokes too, but they’re beautiful for their rustic, imperfect nature. Radicchio, on the other hand, looks like each leaf was painted by an artist. Have you seen the ones with watercolour-washed, pale pink leaves, the ones with almost-white leaves splattered in magenta, Jackson Pollock... Read More

Ricotta gnocchi, a recipe from Ostro

I have known, and admired, Julia Busuttil Nishimura, for many years now and always felt connected through our love of Italian food, Tuscany (Julia lived in Florence and in Orbetello, just 10 minutes away from where we lived in Porto Ercole while I was writing Acquacotta) and Japan. So I have been eagerly awaiting her debut cookbook, Ostro: The Pleasure that Comes From Slowing Down and Cooking with Simple Ingredients, and it is a beauty — it... 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

Borage and ricotta crepes

I had seen it before, those fuzzy, furry leaves and stalks, with the pretty, star-pointed purple flowers, but up until that moment that I saw them sitting in a basket at the market stalls, I admit I had never taken notice of it as a food. It grow along cracks in stone walls and along the roadside near my home in Settignano, which is blooming with spring goodness right now: robinia (black locust) trees, wild garlic (three-cornered leek) and even... 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

Preserving Italy and Tropea onion jam

I’ve had this cookbook sitting beside my bed for weeks, trying to decide what to cook. I’d pick it up, let a page fall open — almost like letting fate choose the recipe — and get distracted reading. It continued this way for a while. It’s my favourite way to read a cookbook. But the problem for me is that I’m indecisive. Should I make the boozy cherries? That’s how long ago it was when I first started reading... Read More

Raw tomato sauce for hot summer days

Quite possibly the best way to enjoy really good, ripe summer tomatoes – as well as making the most of spending as little time in front of a hot stove as possible – is raw tomato sauce for coating pasta. It’s something Marco makes for lunch on a warm day when he’s craving pasta al pomodoro (his ideal comfort food), but either doesn’t have the patience to cook the sauce or the desire to turn on the stove (except to boil the... Read More

Zucchini and zucchini flower soup

I would describe the past month (or two or three or five) as one huge juggling act. I’ve been traveling a lot, or working from home, writing, while trying to tend to a three year old’s needs (who, as you can see, if always at my heels), often barely having time to stop and rest, let alone cook (you know what this is like, anyone who freelances and doesn’t set “office hours” for their work). Soup has saved me. It’s... Read More

Autumn salad of fennel, walnuts & pomegranate

My recent visit to the Val d’Orcia is still heavily imprinted on my mind. The textures of the hills that look like pencil drawings, that first chill in the air and the first roaring fireplace of the season. Everything looked and tasted like autumn. Just before we left we stopped for a visit to see the sisters of Puscina, a family-run flower farm between Pienza and Montepulciano. They took us on a stroll through their garden beds overflowing... Read More