Monday, December 21

Celebrating Christmas in Italy with a Living Nativity ~ A Favorite Holiday Tradition

Every year small towns across Italy come together to celebrate Christmas with a living nativity or presepi viventi - this is our most favorite holiday tradition in Italy. Sadly, this year the festivities were delayed due to horrible weather in Piobbico. Well, you can't expect baby Jesus to sit out in the cold all night, can you?! Read about last years living nativity in Piobbico here: Natale 2008 Piobbico Living Nativity or better yet....check out the video below.

By Marche (web tv of the Marche Region) has created this beautiful video of the living nativity scenes & Christmas celebrations throughout Le Marche and they just so happen to start with our very own Piobbico:

~ Tanti Auguri per un Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo ~

Thursday, December 17

Buon Natale ~ Spice Up Your Holidays with this Festive Recipe

Buon Natale ~ Merry Christmas
Click below for a festive holiday recipe to add a little spice to those cold winter nights - Spiced Wine or Vin Brule'. Recipes vary from region to region - but this is our favorite!
Click to play this Smilebox recipe: Happy Holidays ~ A Festive Recipe from La Tavola Marche, Ashley & Jason

In case you have problems viewing the card you can find the recipe for how to make Spiced Wine or Vin Brule': spiced wine recipe here!

Wishing you all a festive holiday filled with pasta & prosecco!
Tanti auguri per un anno pieno di salute, felicita' e cibo delizioso!

~ Ashley & Jason Bartner
La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking School
Le Marche, Italy

Monday, December 14

An Italian Christmas Feast ~ Holiday Menu Ideas

Ready to start menu planning for the holidays? It may be a pot-luck party or 'bring out the nice china' feast - we've got the recipes for you! Here is the Christmas Day Menu at our Farmhouse & Cooking School in Italy:Aperitivi
Vin Brule' - Spiced Wine

Salumi Toscano, Formaggio (Aged & Semi-Aged Pecorino), Prosciutto di Umbria
Fegatini - Chicken Liver Crostini
Faro Salad with Radicchio & Ruccola
Cipolline sotto Aceto - Little onions soaked in balsamic
Smoked Salmon Canapes
Crostini con Lardo & Tartufo Nero (lard & black truffles)
L'Anguilla - Eel with Bay Leaf & Tomato - OUTSTANDING!

Lasagna Bianco with Porcini

Roasted Rack of Lamb Chops

Roasted Potoates

Mandarin Oranges
Visciolino (Home made cherry liquor)
Nocino (Home made walnut liquor)
Limoncello (Home made)

Buon Appetito~ Fore more festive Italian recipes visit our recipe box!

Friday, December 11

Eat, Speak, Italy: Learn Italian in the Marche countryside

Learn to speak conversational Italian while sitting around the table in the rustic kitchen of our 300 year old stone farmhouse - now that's authentic! Learning even just the essentials will transform your trip into an experience - have the confidence to fumble through a conversation with locals & most importantly - order food!In collaboration with Scuola Italia a prestigious center of Italian Language and Culture based in Urbania, we have created a personalized Italian Language course at our wonderful farmhouse in the Marche countryside. (Only 40 minutes to Tuscany)

Eat, Speak, Italy: A food & language lovers holiday
4 days, 3 nights ~ 310 Euro a Person

~ Five course feast on the night of your arrival with local wine
~ 1 Language lesson
~ 1 Half day cooking class with local wine
~ Breakfast daily
~ Accommodations in self-catering apartment with kitchen, private bathroom, wood beam ceilings & tile floors

(*Based on double occupancy, low-season, apartment Pesca. Including taxes.)

A qualified teacher will accompany your learning process step by step. In a friendly and informal atmosphere you will enjoy yourself while learning the Italian basics - from greetings to how to order! On nice days classes will be held al fresco - outside under age-old oak trees. Guests are welcome to visit our garden & enjoy lunch from the farm to the table.

We have created an array of language packages/programs available for you to choose based on your holiday. Stay at our farmhouse during your holiday with our self-catering guest apartments.
Combine your language lessons with cooking classes, horseback riding, guided hike, wine tasting & more!

Learn Italian in Italy!
Class sizes 2 - 10

Individual lesson of 60 minutes: Euro 40
Individual course of 5 lessons (of 60 minutes): Euro 190
Individual course of 10 lessons (of 60 minutes): Euro 370

Course of 5 lessons (of 60 minutes) for 2 persons: Euro 240
Course of 10 lessons for 2 persons (of 60 minutes): Euro 470
Teaching material is included.

Contact for more details:

A different language is a different vision of life. ~Federico Fellini

Sunday, December 6

The Best Lasagna. Period.

Photo credit to our Guests from

Lasagna ahhh, a classic meaty cheesy mess. But it doesn't always have to be - This recipe however is one of my favorites & not that cheesy Italian restaurant cliche'. The key is to use fresh pasta in this recipe - for a lasagna that is light & delicate. If possible use your own tomatoes, we use jarred tomatoes from the garden - you just can't get that kinda flavor from a store bought jar.


Ragu (see recipe)
Parmesan cheese
4 sheets of pasta to cover your dish

In your casserole dish ladle a little of the ragu.

In plenty of boiling salted water, cook your pasta to al dente (to the tooth). Cook only 1 -2 sheets at a time (otherwise they will stick & it will be a mess)

Lay down the sheet of pasta in your dish, ok if it comes up over the edge of the dish (that will make for the good crunch bits!)

Add a ladle of ragu - cover completely but don’t over do it - less is more.

Dot bechamel.

Now a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Repeat these steps ending with sauce on the top layer of the pasta

Bake at 375/190 C oven for 15-20 minutes until the top is brown & bubbly!

Friday, November 27

Fabulous Ferrara

On the banks of the Po River stands Ferrara with a rich history in music & art. In the 13th century the Este family transformed the city into one of the most culturally important & vibrant cities of the Renaissance.
Ferrara is often skipped on the tourists must-see list - not enough time with Venice, Cinque Terra...La Tavola Marche! But this stately & regal town is with worth a stop! With a fairy tale castle - it's got a moat!, the cathedral, palaces around every corner of this Renaissance village it's picture perfect! The cherry on top - the villagers cycle about town making it even more quaint. You wander about & question why there aren't more tourists -yet happy to be the only one!

14th Century Castle Estense

The town is surrounded by more than 9 kilometers of ancient walls, built in the 15th and 16th centuries.- they are thought to be the best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy.

The Palio of St. George is a typical medieval festival held every last Sunday of May. The Buskers Festival is a parade of the best street musicians in the world. Additionally, Ferrara is becoming the Italian capital of hot air balloons, thanks to the ten-day-long Ferrara Balloons Festival, the biggest celebration of balloons in Italy and one of the largest in Europe.

I would recommend a stop for gelato at Gelateria Venchi (Corso Martiri Della Liberta', 12 Ferrara) they had cinnamon gelato! I had that flavor once before in Rome & have been eating my way through every gelateria looking for it again! Seriously it's delicious.

Ferrara is a 2 hour drive from our farmhouse, inn & cooking school in Le Marche. It is worth the drive for a long day trip for sure! We went up for lunch a few weeks ago on a lazy Sunday & are planning our return for sure!


Friday, November 20

Peperonata ~ Stewed Peppers and Grilled Sausages ~ Perfect for the Game

This year we had over 80 pepper plants in the ground yielding hundreds of pounds of peppers!! Needless to say we ate A LOT of peppers this summer & fall! They have such a great flavor & we used them in tons of dishes. But everyone's favorite is peperonata or stewed peppers. They are delicious piled on crostini to soak up the juices or even better with grilled sausages - awesome! (Not to mention - this is THE perfect lunch or dinner to feed a hungry crowd for a football game!)

Stewed Peppers

4-5 bell peppers, cut into large pieces, cleaned
a big handful of whole cherry tomatoes
1 yellow onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil

  • In a large skillet or pot , heat 1/3 cup of olive oil.
  • Saute garlic until golden brown & then discard.
  • Reduce heat to low & slowly saute the onion 12 - 15 minutes until well cooked. but do not brown it.
  • Raise heat & add peppers.
  • Season with plenty of salt & pepper.
  • Allow peppers to cook, stirring frequently 10 minutes until the ends start to shrivel.
  • At this point, throw in your cherry tomatoes & allow to cook another 10 -15 minutes until the peppers are soft & not mushy and the cherry tomatoes have let their juices out.
  • Taste to check the seasonings.
  • Serve hot, warm or cold.

a perfect pepper from our garden

Wednesday, November 18

Eating Your Way Through Le Marche ~ December 2009

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go!" (I sing that verse all the time, this time of year!) Well, this months festivities are more directed to the
lovers of Christmas, Santa, Babbo Natale, La Befana & holiday markets than just food ...'cause it's the holiday season!

December 2008

Candele dal mondo - 6th, 7th & 8th
Candles from the world - Christmas market of candles & crafts, exhibitions, musical entertainment, living nativity scene and local food & wine - all day. Free shuttle form 10am - 9:30pm. During the festivities they shut down all the lights of the town - only to be lite by candle-light!

Eventi natalizi - all month
Christmas events all month with entertainment in the old center, Christmas markets, concerts & more.

Mercatino di Natale - 1st Sunday
Christmas market all day at the cloister di San Marco

Montemaggiore al Metauro
Mercatino di Natale - 1st Sunday, 8th of December & 2nd Sunday
Christmas market from 2:00pm in the old center

Christmas market with gift ideas, artists & chestnuts for everyone!

Christmas events on Sunday afternoons with typical products of the season, tastings, music, entertainment for children & more in the old center.

Nel castello di Babbo Natale - 1st, 2nd, 3rd Sunday & 8th of December
Christmas market in the castle.

Sant'Agata Feltria
Il paese del Natale - 1st, 2nd, 3rd Sunday & 8th of December
Christmas goodies, live entertainment with a visit from Santa Clause and pipers, special menus for Advent in the restaurants of town.

Borgo Pace
Mercatino natalizio - first 2 weeks
Christmas market all day in the old center

Il vecchio mercato a Mercato Vecchio
Opening of wine cantinas (Saturday evening). Christmas market and refreshments on Sunday all day. +39.0722.75110

Fiera di Santa Lucia - Sunday after December 13th
Christmas market, antiques, local products, refreshments & more -in the old center.

Mercatino di Natale - Sunday before Christmas
Christmas market all day

Traditional festival of Christmas events, with "father Christmas" descending from the bell tower. Holiday markets & much more.
Santa Clause arrives in town with little presents for the girls & boys

After midnight Mass, children are presented with candies & gifts

Festival under the tree - chestnuts, wine & music under the Christmas tree

San Leo
Spettacolo pirotecnico dalla fortezza - December 31st
Firework display from the fortress

Monday, November 16

The Colors of Fall in Le Marche

Here are a few of my favorite photos we snapped along our road, via Candigliano & the road to Urbania. The pictures don't do it justice!

Not a bad drive into town ~

Thursday, November 12

So You Think You Know Your Funghi? Mushroom Hunting in Italy

Gather your baskets, pull on your rubber boots & grab a walking stick - now you're set to head off into our back woods for a proper mushroom hunt!

This fall we made many excursions with our guests, some more bountiful than others. Regardless if you bring home any that are edible or not it is such a great experience foraging for your food. But who are we kidding, it's always more fun when you find baskets full of the 'good ones'! Guests love mushroom hunting in Italy, what a story to take home!

For example check out those HUGE suckers in the photo above - they were toxic - not to the touch, only if you ingest it. And they were just so big & hysterical - we came across a whole family of them!

Jason & I are not experts on funghi species, we rely on the experience & knowledge of our dear friend Dott. Gaggi. He also controls the mushrooms & inspects each & every one to determine if they are safe to eat. Dottore Settimio Gaggi

One beautiful fall afternoon, Jason & I decided to head-out for a walk & see what we'd come across. I was shocked! The leaf covered floor of the woods was filled with beautiful betolus (the latin word for the porcini family) - I was able to identify them by sight as the same family as the delicious porcini. I thought - Damn! we are good as we headed home with a basket full of these juicy jewels! Oh the doctor will be so proud!

Upon first glance he threw them out - "toxico" was all he said.
"But...aren't they in the betolus family," I stammered - proud to pull out my latin. "Yes, but these are betolus satanas!" We found kilos of Satan's Porcini - the Devils version of the wildly popular edible mushroom! Well with a name like that's its pretty cut & dry that this one should not be eaten! This is exactly why we have Dott. Gaggi inspect them!

Since then we've been out dozens more times & have brought home loads! From the famigliole to the coral reef looking manine or fingers, each outing out we are more familiar with the woods, where they like to grow & what's edible.After the inspection we add them to sauces, dry them or even stick them in the freezer to be used later as they conserve great!
Just a quick note: For more on identifying mushrooms check out: Rogers Mushrooms

Next we wait for the morrels....

Thursday, October 29

Monday, October 26

Eating Your Way Through Le Marche ~ November 2009

Just in time to get a few more truffle festivals in before the close of the season! But this month is all about olive oil! It's the perfect time of the year to try fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil....mmmmm...peppery, green & delicious- soooo good on bread!

November 2009

Typical menus at fixed prices in diverse restaurants, osterias & trattorias of the province of Pesaro e Urbino

Mostra mercato dell'olio e dell'oliva 1st & 2nd Sunday
This event promotes the PDO (protected designation of origin) olive oil from Cartoceto with the participation of local producers. Starting at 3pm in the old center.

Fiera nazionale del tartufo - 1st & 2nd Weekend
The most famous truffle festival in Le Marche! The national truffle festival specializing in the promotion of the truffle & other typical products of the area & season. Truffle stands and tastings of both truffles & local dishes; arts & crafts, conventions & live entertainment. Starting at 10am in Piazza Mattei

Fair celebrating the Talamello cave cheese - soooo good!!
from 9am in the old center

Mercatello sul Metauro
Evento enogastronomico
Wine & food exhibition, conventions, tastings, stands & "islands of taste" - all day in Palazzo Gasparini & Piazza Garibaldi

Castagna in piazza - 11th
Chestnuts in the piazza - in the evening Mercato Vecchio

San Leo
Giornata del ringraziamento - Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day, an event to celebrate the fruits of the earth, the farmer world & ancient traditions. Refreshments & live entertainment all day

Sapori e aromi d'autunno - 3rd & 4th Sunday
Autumn fragrances & flavors - exhibition of local typical products & agricultural machineries, local crafts, tastings of specialties. The fruit & vegetable market is running as well. All day
Mostra mercato dei vini novelli dell'Italia centrale - last weekend
Vino novelli is the new wine of the season, just picked grapes! Exhibition & market of new wines from central Italy, new wine competition in collaboration with the Associazione Italiana Sommelier (Italian Sommelier Association) & guided wine tastings. Market of typical local products & opening of the 'fossa' (caves where cheese is housed maturing for months). Festivities start at 10am Conventino dei Serviti di Maria

Nel castello di Babbo Natale - Last Sunday of November (continuing through the 3rd Sunday of December)
Christmas market in the castle - how festive! I will be there for sure...hopefully with some hot cocoa!

Throughout the Region
A special day in which the public is allowed entrance to the region's oil mills & invited to taste the year's new olive oil!

In several restaurants of the province of Pesaro e Urbino it is possible to taste the extra-virgin olive oil of Cartoceto with typical dishes of the rural cuisine of the past, baccala' - dried salted cod

Saturday, October 24

Motorcycles & Mushrooms ~ A Revved Up Truffle Festival

What seems to be an unlikely combination couldn’t be more of a perfect fit! Every weekend in October the streets of Sant’Angelo in Vado are filled with vendors selling mushrooms & truffles in all forms for the 46th Annual Mostra Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco - National White Truffle Show.But the party really gets started on the 3rd weekend when the sounds of revved up motorcycles echo through the streets for the motoraduno - an Italian Sturges! Motorcyclists from all over the world unite in this tiny town, lining its cobble stone streets with thousand of bikes from the classic Moto Guzzi to the crowd pleasing Ducati.
I love hitting up this festival becuase the streets are filled with the most handsome Italian bikers!Now here is the inside scoop - head to the registration tent & buy a wine mug for 6 Euro & you can drink for free at three cantinas in town. The mug is party friendly - full equiped with a necklace so your cup is always near! The cantinas are jam packed with bikers drinking & singing - you can't help but have a good time!
(me & my mug)

My favorite wine of the night was the Brule' a mulled spiced red wine perfect for those chilly fall nights! With a mug full of wine we'd meander down the street stopping to listen to jazzy vocals in one piazza & classic rock in another. We popped into a packed little cantina that was opened for dinner, shared a bottle of wine with some friends & had a great plate of passetelli with mushrooms & white truffles. Later we visited Enoteca Vinitaly (we know the owners) and they just kept on feeding us - more wine & this time polenta with mushrooms & truffles - a huge bowl for each of us - they called it just a taste - we called it our 2nd dinner! We rolled ourselves outta there just as the rain started to fall -full bellies & time to head home!

Sunday, October 18

Crispy, Light, Flaky & Delicious ~ Fried Anchovies with Sage

If you have not tried anchovies before - you must try them now! Get over any weird apprehensions or that its just bait or a punchline for a joke about pizza ("extra anchovies")! These little suckers are delicious & actually good for you! Baked, fried & grilled - they are ohh so good and worth a try. If your not up to it, then pass me your plate because I love'em!
Here is my favorite - Fried Anchovies - the recipe below adds a sage leave to each piece of fish as well for an extra burst of flavor & color.

Fried Anchovies with Sage
Acciughe fritte con Salvia

1lb of anchovies cleaned, spine removed
sage leaves (optional - if you are not a fan of sage just omit)

1 cup of flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
seltzer water

vegetable oil for frying

In a bowl combine flour, eggs, salt & baking powder. Slowly add in seltzer water & mix until forms a thin batter. Cover with plastic & set in the fridge for at least an hour.

Heat oil in a pot to 350 degree.

Remove batter from fridge and mix once or twice (batter will have separated)

Take a sage leaf & anchovy put them together & dip into the batter - allowing access batter to drip off.

Fry 20 seconds a side until golden brown.

Remove from oil & drain on a paper towel.

Sprinkle with salt & serve immediately.

Pairs great with prosecco or white wine.
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