Torta di farro della Garfagnana (emmer savoury pie from Garfagnana)

A savoury pie typical of Garfagnana and Lunigiana, those mountainous areas in between North Tuscany, South Liguria and west Emilia Romagna, sparsely populated, traditionally poor (hence their rather sombre style of cooking), thickly covered in chestnut tree woods (hence the many dishes based on chestnuts, once called “the bread of the poor”, because they were free and highly nutritious) and where mushrooms and wild boars are still abundant. It is farro, however, or emmer (Triticum dicoccum), a type of wheat, that is perhaps the most celebrated produce of this part of Italy.

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Focaccia di Recco (focaccia with cheese, from Recco, Liguria)

As a teenager, I used to go skiing in the Alps, in Valle d’Aosta, the austere north-western part of Italy, crowned by dramatic peaks. On a sunny, crisp, late winter day, coming down the slopes was exhilarating. And exhausting after a few hours of fun. By late lunch, I was starving. We would generally find a safe spot and have a picnic – a slab of focaccia, stuffed with ham or mortadella, a coke and some chocolate. The local alimentari down in the village used to sell a great focaccia and I indulged often. I have never come across a bakery or alimentari in Italy that does not sell focaccia, though not perhaps always as good as the one I used to buy up there in the mountains. Now that I think of it, this is a little curious, because focaccia is actually specific to Liguria, in the north-west of Italy, but it has become a national food in the past few decades.

It is only in Liguria, however, that I have come across the lesser known focaccia d Recco, which is not a focaccia in the conventional meaning, but a flat bread, stuffed with cream cheese.

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Torta Pasqualina (Easter chard and fresh cheese pie from Liguria)

To say that we Italians are food traditionalists is an understatement. Time and time again we go back to dishes that we have known since we were kids and we still enjoy them immensely. Come Easter and torta pasqualina will appear on very many tables. “Torta pasqualina” translates as Eastertide cake but it is actually a savory pie: layers of a golden, shatteringly flaky olive oil pastry, encasing a substantial filling of chards (biete, in Italian), fresh soft cheese, Parmigiano or pecorino , eggs and marjoram. It is a centuries old dish and one of the highlights of the Italian vegetarian canon – the quintessential spring dish. Continue reading “Torta Pasqualina (Easter chard and fresh cheese pie from Liguria)”

Porrata o torta di porri – leek pie from Tuscany via Frank

porrea - torta di porri - leek pie

This is porrata or torta di porri, a leek pie – porri means leeks in Italian.

I learnt it from one of my favourite websites: Memorie di Angelina, written by Frank Fariello and chock a block with great authentic Italian recipes. In turn, Frank learnt it from Giuliano Bugialli and Bugialli claims it to be of Tuscan origin. Continue reading “Porrata o torta di porri – leek pie from Tuscany via Frank”

Torta salata con zucca, funghi e gorgonzola – savoury pie with pumpkin, mushrooms and gorgonzola cheese

Italian torte salate, savoury pies, are popular, every day dishes for home cooking. They are endlessly versatile, inexpensive to make and, above all, taste great. A crust of short or puff pastry, some cooked vegetables, a little ham or other Italian cured meat (mortadella, speck) for extra flavour if you choose, eggs or béchamel sauce or ricotta to bind: this is all you need for a lovely meal. Continue reading “Torta salata con zucca, funghi e gorgonzola – savoury pie with pumpkin, mushrooms and gorgonzola cheese”