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.

Continue reading “Torta di farro della Garfagnana (emmer savoury pie from Garfagnana)”

‘Ndunderi di Minori, nella costiera amalfitana (ricotta gnocchi from Minori, on the Amalfi coast)

A rather difficult name for an easy peasy pasta: ‘ndunderi are ricotta and pecorino cheese gnocchi from Minori,  on the Amalfi coast. These cheesy morsels are firmer than potato gnocchi but positevly tender and are a cinch to make.  They go back centuries: in fact they are said to be deriving from the little pasta balls of farro flour (spelt) and soured milk that the ancient Romans used to make. Continue reading “‘Ndunderi di Minori, nella costiera amalfitana (ricotta gnocchi from Minori, on the Amalfi coast)”

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)”

My Castagnaccio ricco – chestnut pudding

castagnaccio

Castagnaccio is one of the oldest sweet dishes in the Italian repertoire: chestnut flour whisked with water and a little olive oil, a few needles of rosemary for perfume, then baked until it turns into a sort of cake, a true poor people’s dessert in this most basic version. Chestnut flour is sweet and this makes adding sugar to the batter unnecessary. For greater extravagance, you could add pinenuts, walnuts and sultanas.
In Italy, well until the second world war, chestnuts were regarded as an important, cheap but nutritious food for a large section of the population – if you were poor,  meat was an occasional luxury and  beans and chestnuts were more likely to be part of your diet.

Truth be told, the castagnaccio you see in most bakeries now can be the stuff of nightmares: stodgy, to say the least, Continue reading “My Castagnaccio ricco – chestnut pudding”

Pizza rustica alla napoletana – a Neapolitan Easter “pizza”

All over the world the word “pizza” usually refers to a slab of hot bread dough topped with savoury bits and pieces. However, in Italian cookery, and particularly in Southern Italian cookery, “Pizza” also means “pie”: one can talk of a “pizza di ricotta”, for instance, a sweet ricotta pie or of a “pizza di scarola”, a savoury pie with an escarole filling. One of the best of these pizza-pies is “pizza rustica”, Continue reading “Pizza rustica alla napoletana – a Neapolitan Easter “pizza””