Sugo Finto with Handmade Pici

This age-old Tuscan dish has a name that illustrates that wonderful connection between food and language that Italy is so good at. Sugo finto, literally “fake sauce” or, more appropriately, “fake ragu” (as ‘sugo’ is used as often if not more than the borrowed word ‘ragu’ in Tuscany), is so-called because it is a meatless ragu. Born of the poor peasant kitchens when meat, particularly beef or veal, was a rare and special ingredient,... Read More

Calabrian Simplicity: Bucatini alla Reggina

At first I didn’t hear the staccato sound of the double ‘g’ when my Calabrian friend Anna suggested she would make me bucatini alla reggina. To non-Italian speakers, it may not seem like much but it can make all the difference. I heard bucatini alla ‘regina’, which would mean the ‘Queen’s bucatini’. It made sense to me at the time, there are plenty dishes named after the Savoy Queen of Italy, including two old classics, pizza... 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

Orecchiette con Broccoli: The way to a man’s heart

The first time I ever cooked something for the man who is now my husband, it was an impromptu event where I managed to throw together a pasta dish with an almost empty fridge. We still didn’t know each other very well, were a long way away from finding out all the things there are to know about each other. We were still very nervous about what the other person thought, still trying to impress each other. And so it happened, during a cold and... Read More

Late summer mushroom pappardelle

By the end of the summer I’m ready for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than being barefoot. I love eating fresh peaches and melons, jammy figs, tomatoes and eggplants, but after a particularly hot summer I’m ready for a change. I’m ready for autumn, for a chill in the air, for a warming cup of tea in the afternoon. I’m looking forward to wearing woolly hats and choosing scarves for outfits. And I’m... Read More

Cherry tomato schiacciata

In a couple of week’s time I am going to feed myself exclusively on one thing, schiacciata all’uva. It begins appearing in Florentine bakery windows in September (some even earlier) and only lasts a month at the most, which is why I’m going to make the most of it while I can. Schiacciata is basically a Tuscan focaccia, the word literally means “flattened” and describes its shape. It’s made as an every day bread... 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

Unwinding with Tagliolini al Limone

We all need time to unwind and relax, to get away from the usual routine and leave the “to do” list at home. A weekend by the sea is my preferred technique at the moment, while the Spring weather is still not too hot yet not too cool, sometimes stormy, but mostly gloriously sunny. We are blessed to have a place where we can always stay in a little beach side village on the Etruscan coast, one of my absolute most favourite parts of Tuscany. The... 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

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