I’m constantly checking the weather forecast to see whether this foretaste of Spring we’re living in Tuscany will last. Unfortunately, they say winter is not finished yet with its freezing mornings, its biting winds and the comfort of a soup or a stew simmering on the stove. I’ll have to live with that.
In the meantime, though, I’m buying my first agretti, monk’s beard, at the market, I’m feasting on artichokes, and I’m imperceptibly changing my style of cooking, opting for dishes that are somewhat brighter, fresher.
With the new season, we have also some news to share.
We’re thrilled to launch our new project!
We’ve been working on a subscription-based weekly newsletter, that you will receive in your mailbox every Friday. Every week a new original recipe, inspired by ingredients, season or tradition. You will discover Italian classics, weeknight ideas with an Italian flare, reliable dishes to add to your cooking repertoire.
You can decide to leave everything as it is, and you will still receive this monthly newsletter and the quick and fresh newsletter every time there is a new post on the blog.
Or, you can choose to subscribe to our weekly newsletter: you can opt for a monthly subscription (5$) or for an annual subscription (35$). You’ll receive unique content every week: recipes, insights, and probably videos too, in the future, and you will support us directly. Whenever you will decide to join us, you will have complete access to the whole archive of recipes and stories.
I hope you’ll be as excited as we are.
It’s like having our own independent publication, a way of sharing great content, recipes that we like, created to inspire you, to bring a little taste of Italy to your kitchen, for you and for your family.
Ten recipes to cook this month
March is the month of artichokes, a portentous vegetable, a flower in bud actually, which lead us from winter to spring. They appear in our weekly menus just before Christmas, shyly stealing space to butternut squash and broccoli. I use them in flans and side dishes, especially baked with potatoes and pecorino cheese in a gratin.
Then slowly, the artichokes reveal their spring potential, the herbaceous notes enhanced by mint or lemon. So, I use them in the best soup of the new season, the garmugia, in a carpaccio of thinly sliced raw artichokes with pecorino cheese, or in savoury pies, which call loudly for the first sunny days.
Artichoke pie. The crust smells of olive oil and white wine: it is a poor dough that has the advantage of leaving a good old fashioned smell on your hands, it is easy to be rolled out and once baked it becomes fragrant. It is a typical crust you can find in many recipes of cucina povera: the olive oil was always there, in the pantry, like the wine, made at the end of the summer for the family. As for the filling, artichokes, and semi-aged Tuscan pecorino, cut into thin slices, which melts softly in the oven.
Artichoke and ricotta tart. During the lockdown, when you are forced to cook with a limited amount of ingredients, a savoury tart is the answer to use whatever you have left in your fridge, or in the pantry. And it’s a way to bring a little comfort in the kitchen. A buttery pie dough is what you can use to make your tarts, or savoury galettes, as you can simply prepare it with a few basic ingredients: butter, flour, salt and water. After an overnight rest in the fridge, you can fill it up with your favourite ingredients, or with what you have to use not to waste it. In my case, it was fresh artichokes, some ricotta left from a video recipe, some milk close to its expiring date and fresh herbs.
Warm salad with artichokes, pulses and ancient grains. Even though aggressive cooking is my go-to choice every time I prepare the artichokes for a side dish, for this March warm salad that should have had herbaceous, acidic and refreshing tones, just like in the first days of spring, I chose the delicate poaching. The artichokes thus remain softer, with an acidic note, and blend in with the other ingredients.
Tuscan garmugia. The garmugia, which resembles the Roman vignarola, is one of those recipes that can be made just for a very short time of the year, when you find fava beans, peas, asparagus and artichokes on the market stalls. It is a soup that depicts spring with its soft colours. Cook the garmugia often and in large quantities when these ingredients are in season, as then, you will have to wait another year to taste it again.
Agretti and ricotta pie. This looks like a spinach torta pasqualina, a favourite family recipe, but it’s made with agretti. Bring it to a picnic along with a basket of fava beans, or serve it as an appetizer in a dinner with friends. With a side dish of boiled potatoes dressed with capers and parsley or with some fried artichokes, this is a heart-warming seasonal meal that you can prepare in advance.
Spaghetti with agretti, burrata and anchovies. The simplest spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, spaghetti tossed with garlicky olive oil and chilly pepper, are a decent meal on their own. Add agretti, and you can turn this evergreen first course into a Spring meal. Agretti team up perfectly with rich milky burrata but feel free to substitute it with fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella. Anchovies are probably one of the ingredients that best complement agretti, so be generous with them.
A Renaissance salad. This recipe is also known as Renaissance salad or shepherd’s misticanza, where misticanza means a mixed salad of wild herbs such as sow-thistle, terracrepolo, ceciarello, burnet, barba di cappuccino, chicory, lettuce, dandelion, raperonzolo and wild rocket. This is what you can usually find on farmers’ market stalls these days, or directly in the fields if you know where to forage for them. The other ingredients are anchovy fillets, hard-boiled eggs, brined capers and cubes of Pecorino Toscano, which turn this salad into a great meal with some bread.
Mediterranean chicken salad with preserved lemons. Cook the whole chicken breast. Use all the aromas you would add to make a great broth: onion, tomato, carrot, celery, which in Italy are known on the whole as odori. The second trick is related to good timing. If you want a tasty meat, you have to season the chicken breast as soon as you remove it from the broth, when it is still hot. Slice the chicken and marinate it with capers, parsley, extra virgin olive oil and lemon. Instead of using lemon zest or lemon juice, I opted for some home-made preserved lemons.
Blueberry jam and ricotta crostata. The shortcrust is rustic, as it features not only plain wheat flour but also whole buckwheat flour, something which typically appears in cakes and pies baked in the mountains, filled with wild berries. Prepare this cake the day before and let it sit in the fridge to slice it into firm wedges. Choose a good ricotta and, if it is too wet, let it drain in a colander for an hour. Serve this cake to end a Sunday lunch with friends, in the afternoon with a cup of tea, or in thin slices after dinner, while you’re enjoying a movie or the last episode of your favourite tv series.
Beer tiramisu. I’ve tried tiramisu with coffee, black, bitter, without sugar, for the iconic version of a tiramisu, with black tea, a spiced one or an Earl Grey, with the subtle citrusy hint of bergamot, and now with beer. I used the beer to make a sabayon with egg yolks and sugar, then I gently folded in mascarpone and whipped cream. If you want, you can follow the same process with marsala or vinsanto. Some coarsely chopped dark chocolate is mandatory, too, as it is the right balance to the creamy mascarpone and to the soft savoiardi, ladyfingers, soaked in beer.
Are you in the Southern Hemisphere?
I’m Italian, and I’m writing a cookbook in English. I started studying English in high school when I was 14. All my classmates had already studied English in middle school, but I was the only one who had studied French before. That was a challenge that changed my life.
I fell definitely in love with English when I was 17 and went on my first trip to England for two weeks with my cousin. We stayed with a family in Plymouth and went to the local college in the morning to study English.
I have never lived abroad. All I know about English is due to an immense love for the English language and for food.
I had found the perfect focus and perspective to delve into English: food. Cookbooks, food memoirs, culinary magazines, tv food programs, foreign food blogs, even restaurant menus. They all helped me getting more confident.
These are the tools that are helping me writing the cookbook.
DeepL. Better than Google Translate, it is a tool to have a mechanical translation of a text. It requires a thorough second look, but it is a way to start translating. Get it here. I use this when I write something in Italian, to translate it into English. But most of the times, I write directly in English.
Oxford Thesaurus. As I am not a native English speaker, the Thesaurus is useful to comprehend all the meanings of a word, and its contexts of use. It is also the best way to find a synonym, along with the online tool.
Culinary dictionary. My favourite tool, a small, pocket-sized dictionary focused on culinary terms. It has been practical during my cooking classes, and it is still a treasure.
Grammarly. This has noticeably improved my written English. It catches your typos, helps you bad grammar mistakes, and gives a smoother finish to my sentences. Get it here.
An online conversion calculator. This is essential for accurately converting recipe ingredients from metric grams to U.S. ounces, teaspoons, tablespoons, or cups, and vice versa. I’m testing all my recipes in grams, even for the blog, but lately, I’ve been trying to be as accurate as possible in the ingredient conversion. My favourite is this one.
Join our virtual cooking classes
We are missing the people we used to meet during our market tours and cooking classes. We had to figure out a new way to share our passion for food, to virtually meet all the food enthusiasts who gave us so much through the years. This is why we launched a virtual Tuscan cooking class on Udemy, an online learning platform.
Tuscan Cooking Class
Traditional recipes, pantry staples and ideas to add to your cooking repertoire.
Learn to cook:
Chicken liver crostini, Fried sage leaves, Tagliatelle, Ricotta and spinach tortelli, Potato gnocchi, Tuna and tomato sauce, Roasted pork loin, Stuffed roasted turkey breast, Roasted lamb, Tuna stuffed round zucchini, Tuna loaf, Fresh peas with garlic and pancetta, Almond biscotti, Olive oil cake, Shortcrust pastry dough, Jam crostata, Shortcrust sandwich jam cookies, Shortcrust Tartlets, Robinia flower fritters.
19 step-by-step cooking demonstrations
a PDF with ingredients, tools and instructions of each recipe
free access to upcoming new recipes
Cost: €34,99. (Now 27,99€!) Join us here.
[New!] Vegan Cooking Class
Join our course with traditional, authentic recipes, belonging to the Tuscan cooking tradition, that are, at the same time, naturally vegan. It also includes gluten-free options.
Learn to cook:
Chickpea flour cake, Hand-pulled fresh pasta pici with rye flour, Panzanella (tomato bread salad), Pappa al pomodoro (tomato bread soup), Ribollita (bean, Tuscan kale and bread soup), Grilled vegetables, Stewed green beans, Castagnaccio (chestnut flour cake).
Coming soon: Gluten-free potato gnocchi, Sugo finto (herb and tomato sauce), Aglione sauce (garlic tomato sauce)
9 step-by-step cooking demonstrations
a PDF with ingredients, tools and instructions of each recipe
free access to upcoming new recipes
Cost: €29,99. (Now €23,99!) Join us here.