Blood & Chocolate

My old boss in Florence once recounted to me, full of nostalgia, that when he was a child, his small hometown near Foggia, Puglia, would hold a pig festival. Essentially it was an age-old tradition where the town pigs would be butchered and celebrated by using the whole beast, right down to the very last drop of blood. The fresh, warm blood would be collected and then, on the spot, mixed with milk and chocolate and cooked into a dark, decadent, custard-like... Read More

Artusi’s December: Ricotta Tortelli

At some point between Christmas and New Year’s, in a haze of inevitable over-indulgence, I find I begin craving a night in, perhaps mostly spent on a cozy couch, with a steaming mug of herbal tea and my ideal comfort food. Tortelli or their littler versions, tortellini, have to be one of the ultimate comfort foods. They hold a place in the hearts of many Italians, especially at this time of year where this pasta often makes an appearance at the... 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

Artusi’s February: Agnolotti

I noticed that this month’s list of Artusi’s suggestions for the perfect lunch included Agnolotti (Artusi spells it “Agnellotti”), a traditional meat-filled pasta from Le Langhe in Piemonte, a gorgeous region in the north western corner of Italy for which I have a soft spot. Home to famous red wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco, the hearty, country dishes speak of the land, the hills and the traditions of the area. The restaurant of the historic... Read More

La Tegamata: Celebration of a family ritual

I recently had my first experience eating Tegamata, a dish which is the ultimate celebration of an old fashioned family ritual: slaughtering a pig. And not just any pig, but a pig that has been cared for and raised by the family and whose death is now going to be honoured by the simple fact that not one single scrap of this animal will go to waste. Especially when we’re talking about the animal I have in front of me today – a cinta senese. The... Read More

Chestnut crepes: Preserving the taste of autumn

Chestnut flour is a great reminder of autumn that easily stretches out my favourite season to last throughout winter. Readily available throughout Tuscany, chestnut flour is produced locally all over the region from Prato to Amiata to be made into pasta, bread and pastries. It is also the essential ingredient in one of my favourite cold weather snacks, Necci. Chestnut flour has a naturally low moisture content, which means in centuries past it was... Read More

The art of cicchetti-ing in Venice

Venice in the quiet of the winter is when I love this city the most. There is something about the mystery of the dark, damp city that is brought out even more by the misty weather. Thomas Mann described Venice as “half fairy-tale, half tourist trap,” an observation that is still valid even a century later, and is actually, I think, one of the things that contributes to the city’s mystery and charm. For me Venice is almost always a fairytale,... Read More

Persimmon cake: The winter fruit

Persimmons for me have that special nostalgic power that certain foods or smells or tastes imprint onto children’s brains. For me, it takes me back to Japan, to my grandparent’s house just outside Tokyo. I can see these plump, orange fruits lined up along the wide windowsill, ripening, with the heater burning away underneath. They were taken off the tree before the crows got to them and would be eaten only once they had become jammy and you could... 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

The Whole Hog

Winter in Tuscany is traditionally pig-butchering season, as nature provides the refrigeration that farmers have needed for centuries for this all-encompassing, family-involved activity. I’ve been waiting since the summer to be invited to Fattoria Poggio Alloro, a beautiful farm near San Gimignano, for a lesson in a centuries old tradition: making salumi – cured meats. I was already familiar with their delectable sausages and prosciutto and love... Read More