Category Archives: cooking

Sabato mercato prima Pasqua

It was a gray day but it didn’t rain as predicted. I had plans to visit the Saturday market which was buzzing with activity prior to Easter. There was a very rustic gentleman who was selling his asparagi del bosco, wild asparagus out of one of the booths I frequent, always a treat. I wish I had taken a picture of him! I bought two bunches. He had obviously foraged it in the hills, a big pastime here in the spring. It will be part of our Pasqua meal tomorrow. It is very different than “normal” cultivated asparagus.

I also met up with Jane one if the buyers of our house in Centro. We walked through the house and I answered all her questions. It is looking good with new paint and the floors polished.

Afterwards, I walked back home and we met Jane and Christie for lunch at C’era una Volta near our house. It was lovely and we were the only customers. Apparently lunch was so quiet because everyone will come tonight and tomorrow for Easter lunch. A very busy time for them. We had pasta with asparagi del bosco and fungi. Very yummy. We also had their amazing antipasto plate with dozens of great things, as always.

Tomorrow is Pasqua, Easter and a big deal here. Then Monday is Pasquetta or, little Easter, a holiday and traditionally a day when Italians take to the hills for walking and picnics, or to their favorite restaurants, or beaches. I think the weather will cooperate.
Buona Pasqua a tutti! 🌺

Cold spell

We are in the midst of a cold snap. Highs in the 40s F. Lows 30F. Below freezing. Bad timing as all the fruit trees are flowering now. I hope it won’t damage the crop.

Our kind sellers of this apartment took away almost all of the plants but, kindly (not) left an enormous old, dead rosemary plant. I have been working to remove it so I can ready that bed for my herbs. I got four big bags of branches and still have the main plant to remove. Thanks Marcella and Walter! 😒

We went on an errand to check out outside furniture yesterday at the big box Leroy and Merlin store. They have a nice selection. We couldn’t really afford buying at the upscale emu outlet. We chose a nice set and will order it online. Afterwards we went to our favorite butcher. I love how they get super excited when you tell them what you’re making and ask for advice. I want to make sugo. It is the long cooking red sauce that every Italian loves. They chopped a big piece of super fatty beef for us. I like some fat but this might be a step too far! And they gifted us a marrow bone and two hamburger patties with a lot of fat. I’m also adding pancetta and sausage. It will be good, I promise you. It will take 4-5 hours so I will make it tomorrow. I will be saving it for our guests who arrive next week. Along the highway. The rapeseed is brilliantly yellow!

We also got mutton chops for Pasqua Pranzo. Easter lunch. Just us two. I am interested to see if I like it. The sheep is castrato (makes it more tender) and about 3 years old. The butcher said it was much better than lamb. I will report back.

First supper!

Last night I got to make the first dinner in our new kitchen. It is so wonderful to have a sink! But I am so used to walking down the hallway to the bathroom for the sink it is proving hard to break the habit!

Dinner was two Orate, or sea breams. They were from the grocery but they were some of the freshest I have ever had. I decided asian flavors would be yummy for a change. I roasted the fish after rubbing with oil, salt and pepper, slashing the flesh and sprinkling with sesame seeds. While roasting I cooked soy sauce, a little vinegar, sugar and water and slivered ginger and slivered cayenne in a small pan until ginger and pepper were soft. Then all I did was pour it on the fish and sprinkled with spring onions and cilantro. Delicious if I do say so myself. I also had the first spring peas and rice.

Does anyone remember Green Stamps? Back when I was little you got them at the grocery and you saved them and filled books with them to redeem items when you had enough.

We are members of the Coop grocery chain here. It it a co-op and members get some benefits. One is inexpensive products which change every couple of months. They give you bollettini, or little sticky stamps when you check out. Then you can buy a product with a number of stamps and a little cash. I’ve never done this until now when they are selling nice knives.

I got one yesterday. It is really nice! 16 bollettini and €4.90 got me a chefs knife!
Our next big project is a second kitchen upstairs. You may remember I talked to our Geometra who did our former work. But he would never reply to my emails or WhatsApps since that first meeting. I tried a second one who also would never reply. The situation here is that all these people are just so busy. And the workers who do the work as well.

So I decided to message with our friend Irma who is an architect and has done work for many people that I know. She seemed happy to help design a kitchen but she is also busy until autumn. Having no other choice I said I would wait. So that means our summer living upstairs will be a little different than we thought. Since the terrace has an oven and a sink and counters I figure we can make an outside kitchen. I also have our Weber grill. And there is an outside barbecue. It will be camping! I’ll get a 2 burner induction cooktop. And we will need to buy a refrigerator. We would need that anyway. Anyway, that’s the plan for now!

Step by step…

We had a very nice weekend despite the weather. It has been pouring rain for a couple days. It wasn’t that cold but now it’s gotten colder. Italy REALLY needs rain, so, I’m not complaining.

We had a special invitation to a couple nice meals. Our friends in our old piazza had us over for a nice pasta and salad dinner. We always feel very comfortable with them. Good conversation. And yesterday, Sunday lunch with friends in our nearby hill town, Montone. Very nice meal almost German style with sausages and apples baked with onions, roasted potatoes. They had just been in Bolzano which is about 50/50 German/Italian. Before the main meal was a delicious platter of cheese and meat along with other treats like a special shortbread and…my favorite thing she made…pickled jerusalem artichokes. They were spicy and sour. Very yummy. I had not tried them before. I love our friends around here. They are so thoughtful and remember we have no cucina to cook in!

As of today we have a new roommate. Luca. Our house painter. He has begun painting upstairs and it looks so pristine what he as done so far. I can tell this will really brighten up our space. I think it’s going to take a couple of weeks to finish. But he isn’t committing to a finish date. Upstairs is fine and isolated from us. When he comes downstairs, that’s when it will get interesting. Trying to keep the cats out of the way is difficult. They are so curious! The paints they use have very little smell. That is nice since we have to live with it.

A big milestone. I finished putting away all the stuff that was scattered on the floor in the extra room. We call it the junk room. There are a few boxes with things I have no space for that will go upstairs and wait for the shelves we will have built. All that is left to put away is our summer clothes which are still in boxes but they can wait.

Today I made soup for lunches. I have to say, it turned out super good. I didn’t use a recipe because it was another instant pot experiment. I have a recipe for a “generic” soup which I kind of follow. I just add ingredients as I like. Todays started with the usual sautéed sofrito (celery, onion, carrot) then I added the two chopped parsnips I had left and one big chopped potato. I bought red Swiss chard at the Saturday market so that went in and about a cup of cannellini beans and a handful of soup grains that they sell here. Of course some herbs and a little peperoncini for spice and a couple of bay leaves. Pressure cooked it for 5 minutes. Really good.

Tonight I think we may try the new (to us) pizza craze from Rome called Pinsa. I guess it is an ancient pizza but has been rediscovered. Different yeasts and flour makes the dough different. A friend raves about these pies so I figured why not give them a try? If the pizzeria actually will deliver to us, I will report back!

Spinach soup

I made this soup that is now one of my all time favorites. I am not sure if the broth I made, made it special. I will make it again without that broth to see. We save cheese rinds in the freezer. And when I get a big bunch I boil them for an hour or so. The kitchen smells like cheese. I strain out the solids and use the broth in soups. I don’t do it often because it takes a while to save enough rinds. Anyway, this soup used this broth. But any broth would do. All you do is chop an onion, carrot and celery and sauté until soft. Add broth. I used chicken broth and the cheese broth and then some water. I cooked it all together for about 30 minutes. Then I added pasta. The rice shaped one. (Did you know orzo is barley here! I wonder how the US started using that word for rice shaped pasta?) Anyway, I cooked the pasta and then put in a huge amount of washed chopped spinach. I did not cook it. It just wilted into the hot broth. Even a huge amount will practically disappear into the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. The soup was delicious, and so comforting…felt like chicken soup for the soul. Except…no chicken!

This is our picture window in our living room. It probably was the reason we bought this apartment. It brings real meaning to the phrase “picture window”. It changes by the minute. It looks like a painting. I never tire of it. I should have taken more photos like this. Oh well…


Today is New Year’s Eve. New Year is called Capodanno in Italian. Everyone is wishing each other buon anno and auguri. Today is Saturday so I got to go shopping for the beautiful produce I needed for our dinner today and tomorrow. I also wanted to get a pork shoulder. My eating plans for the weekend are in step with the traditions of two countries, Italy today, and the US tomorrow.

In Italy, the tradition is to eat lentils on New Years Eve. The legumes are coin-shaped. So they are supposed to bring you wealth. They traditionally eat Cotechino at the holidays too. This is a traditional product made of minced pork, fat, and rind with salt, spices and wine. Since pigs were generally slaughtered in December, this sausage became a symbol of the holidays, accompanied by lentils and mustard or mashed potatoes. Super easy to prepare. Here are the ingredients.

So. I prepared the Cotechino as the box instructed as well as lentils. I decided a salad was needed for a green — I had bought some nice greens from the market today. I also added an egg. Here are pictures.

This was our first Cotechino. It tasted a lot like corned beef. It was pretty good. I am not a big meat eater. The small Cotechino was perfect for the two of us. I would do this again!

Tomorrow I will be doing Hoppin John. Carolina gold rice, black eyed peas and pork shoulder. Homage to my southern roots. The more luck the better for the coming year.

Buon anno a tutti and Auguri! 🎉🎊

Broccoli romanesco

A couple posts ago, I talked about buying one of the alien looking broccoli romanesci. It is a very delicious vegetable. And amazing to look at too! Romanesco broccoli is a stunning example of a naturally forming fractal, recurrent throughout the natural world. It is a mystery why…but I just wanted to eat it! 😁

I decided to try an Italian recipe. I used a head of the broccoli. I separated it into florets. Then I boiled it for ten minutes and drained it.

Then I placed it in a pan lined with carta forno, or parchment paper. I preheated the oven to 200C (400F). I sprinkled it with bread crumbs, grated pecorino or parmesan and chopped almonds. Then I drizzled our amazing olive oil over it.

I roasted it for 25 minutes. It was perfect just like that but the recipe said an option was to put cubes of cheese on it and put it back into the oven to melt for 5 minutes. I thought that sounded nice, and I had scored some white cheddar this week so I grated some on top, instead of the cubes. Then I put it under the broiler. It was terrific. It could be a main for vegetarians. It easily could be for me too. But we had it as a side dish.

After roasting

Even Luther liked it! 🙂 I hope you give it a try.

Closing date — finally!

The weather is still vile. Not terribly cold, in the 50s in the daytime. Not cold at night. We did get down to 3C last week. I see next week it will become a deep freeze with temps to -3C at night. Time to cover the lemon tree!

We have been entertaining (!) ourselves getting some needed things done as you know from the last post. Yesterday we went to Città di Castello to Mailboxes Etc to mail a package to my sister and send Luther’s Passport off to the Embassy in Rome for renewal. What an ordeal. The instructions were to specifically “go to Mailboxes Etc” to mail and get a return envelope. The woman at the shop had no idea how to do this. Doesn’t seem they actually “have” return envelopes! So why would the Embassy website specifically instruct us to go to Mailboxes Etc? We hope what we did will work. Hopefully the embassy will call us if there’s a problem. We can always go to Rome to pick it up.

Then we drove past the Poste again, and it was again very crowded. So we skipped that. Finally we stopped at the little shop which does stuff for cars and drivers licenses etc. My license will expire on December 28 so I got the ball rolling to renew.

Later in the afternoon we were off to Perugia to have an adjustment done on Luther’s new hearing aids. They do seem to help. It is bad enough when you can’t hear well, but not hearing well in a foreign language sure doesn’t help with comprehension! We drove back along the E45 super strada. Bad traffic jams. Rain and dusk and road construction didn’t help. After we broke free we admired the trucks as they approached us on the other side of the highway. Some of them are amazing with all kinds of lights. A lot have lights in green red and white of the Italian flag. Many have the drivers name in neon lights in the front window. We oohed and ahhed. Luther said it was like looking at Christmas lights! Hah! It was!
Now for the BIG news…we got our closing date on the new house. January 23. A little longer away than we thought but it will work out ok. Now at least we can DO some things to prepare. We contacted the moving company and they gave us dates of 23-25 January to pack and move us. I decided I cannot pack the entire house myself. They will pack for us but it is an extra cost. So we opted for that and now I will stop packing. I sent out a request to reserve a place for us to stay for a couple days during the actual move. Someplace to take the cats where they will be out of the way and safe. And we need to order two beds and a mattress from our old friend Mr. Tiziano. We bought quite a bit of stuff from him when we moved here in 2014. If we’ve got beds, then at least we’ll have a place to sleep. It feels better that I can start working now!
They put the lights in the Christmas tree on Monday. Now it awaits it’s grand lighting ceremony tomorrow on L’Immacolata.

Lunch today was my old friend Zuppa di Cicerchie . You may remember this pea from previous posts. Here is what Wikipedia says about it: “Lathyrus sativus, also known as grass pea, cicerchia, blue sweet pea, chickling pea, chickling vetch, Indian pea, white pea and white vetch, is a legume commonly grown for human consumption and livestock feed in Asia and East Africa.”

Who knows how it came to Italy. It is common in the central Italian areas of Tuscany and Umbria, parts of Lazio and Abruzzo and the Marche. It fed the poor when nothing else was available. It is essential that it be soaked for at least 24 hours and the water be changed several times. It removes the toxins in the grain. It does make a delicious winter soup!

Alla prossima! 💚💚


I am sure you all know I am taking one-on-one lessons in Italian every week. We are now using a book called L’italiano per la cucina. It is at the B1 level and focuses on the traditional cucine of Italy.

Today’s lesson was on the traditional recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara. The legend goes that the origin of the dish was from when the American soldiers during WWII were occupying Rome. They had rations provided but to make them more interesting the soldiers gave them to local restaurants and asked they make a pasta using the ingredients. The rations had powdered eggs, bacon and cream. Carbonara was the result. The traditional recipe now does not include cream. [there are other legends about the origin of the dish, but this one is the most accepted]

I got so hungry during the lesson I was nearly drooling. SO…tonight I just HAD to make the recipe. It is super easy. Only four ingredients. Guanciale or pancetta, egg yolks, pecorino cheese and spaghetti or rigatoni. I whipped it up and it was delicious.