Sunday, September 30

Outright Divine: Porcini Risotto with Truffle Oil

This year the mushroom hunting has been prolific! Every couple days we head into the woods with the Good Doctor, Gaggi and bring home baskets full in no time! The weather conditions are just right...(A full blog post with photos to come!) So what better way to enjoy our bounty than with a rich decadent porcini risotto topped with truffle oil made by our neighbor Alessandro Rossi!
The kitchen will smell outright divine!

Porcini Risotto
Risotto di Porcini

Serves 6

4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
8 oz of fresh Porcini diced ( or other type of wild mushroom)
5 cups or so fresh vegetable stock/ chicken stock
3/4 cup dry white wine
scant 2 cups risotto rice - Arborio or Carnaroli are best
salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese
chopped Parsley to taste
Truffle Oil (use it if you got it!)

If fresh porcini are not available in your area, try using crimini or chanterelle mushroom in combination with dried porcini that have been soaked in hot water to rehydrate. Do not discard this liquid!  It will have a strong porcini taste and should be added to the stock for the rice.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion & garlic and sweat for 10 minutes or so over med-low heat with out browning.  Add your mushroom  and sweat them slowly until tender with a little stock to ensure that nothing burns. Season with salt and pepper.

Now raise the heat, add the rice and saute for a minute or two. Add in the wine and let it cook out.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in another pot.  Add a ladle-full of the hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until it has been absorbed into the rice.

Continue adding the stock, a ladle-full at a time, constantly stirring until each addition has been absorbed. This will take 18-20 minutes.

When the rice is al'dente, turn off the heat, add in a handful or two of grated parmesan, a bit of chopped parsley and give the rice one more stir, check seasoning. (It's important to be still a little al'dente because it will continue cooking in the liquids even as you serve.) Rice should be thick & creamy but not runny. Cover the pot and allow the rice to sit for a couple of minutes.

To serve, spoon the rice into each bowl and drizzle with extra special truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

Before and After

Wednesday, September 26

Autumn's Apple Harvest: Apple Cinnamon Cake

I love fall's crisp cool nights, sweater weather & endless cups of tea. Along our property we collect crates of wild apples to make sweet desserts & compotes. Apple cinnamon cake is a easy & tasty way to enjoy Autumn's apple harvest - plus it's a perfect something to nibble on as you sip a warm cup of earl gray on a rainy afternoon.

This is Jason's Grandma's apple cake recipe - now, to set the record straight she was not Italian, but she did pass on this fantastic, no-fail, super moist apple cake recipe!

Grandma's Apple Cake 
Torta di Mele della Nonna

3 cups flour
1 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5-6 apples, thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup orange juice
3 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients except apples, beat until smooth.
In another bowl, mix sliced apples with cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
In  greased 10 inch tube pan, make layers of batter 1/3 at a time, then a layer of apples. (You should get 3 layers of apple) Ending with apples on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes until a pick comes out clean.

Saturday, September 22

The Polenta Feast

You know it's fall when you smell polenta in Piobbico! 
The Annual Polenta Feast (sagra) in Piobbico has become a rite of autumn - the first weekend of September we gather with our fellow villagers and eat heavy bowls of golden coarse ground polenta that has been stirred by hand over an open fire in a copper cauldron then topped with a rich ragu & handfuls of Parmesan.  What's not to love?!

I tend to, shall we say 'pig-out' at festivals like these and polenta is no exception (even though it can sit in your belly like lead).  I start with a glass of wine (a whopping 80 cents) and then split a bowl of polenta with carbonara - a meaty red sauce with Jason. We walk around, mingle, mix with the locals, you know - schmoozing it up! After I've had another glass of wine it's time to find the real dinner spot so we follow the jovial band through the old city walls up towards the castle.

Then we duck into our friend, the Pharmacist's family cantina (they only open the doors for special events) and I quickly order a bottle of red & two bowls of polenta with wild fennel and snails. It's an antique recipe that has been served in this valley for centuries. It's the only time of year it's served so I always make sure to savor it.

There we were greeted by il Presidente, the President of Club dei Brutti, or literally The Ugly Club (it's international!) and yes, Jason & I are card-carrying members. During the festival, the Club opens it's doors for the day & offers complimentary entrance to this elite society once they have judged your beauty - the uglier the better!

I ate and drank and ate until I was pieno come un uovo - stuffed like an egg! We waddled our way back through town, loving every minute of living in this tiny village with our friends & neighbors, i Piobbichese.

Thursday, September 20

Gourmet 3-Night Holiday, Autumn in Italy

 Crisp cool nights with the fireplace ablaze in a 300 year old stone farmhouse, trees colored red & burnt orange, fresh pressed olive oil & hearty vegetables from the garden - Autumn in Italy! Taste the flavors of fall in the Italian countryside at La Tavola Marche with a cooking class, five course feast & mushroom hunting in the woods!

3 Nights in a stone farmhouse
Make yourself at home in a cozy apartment with wood-bean ceiling perfect for two - one bedroom, one bathroom & a kitchen stocked with the essentials. Any three nights in October.

cooking class & mushroom hunt
Wake early & head into the woods to collect porcini & other local mushrooms with our expert guide! Back to the house in time for a caffe & nap. Later return to the kitchen & create local seasonal dishes with vegetables from the garden & the wild edibles you have collected in the woods. Take home a handmade apron as a gift to remember your holiday.

cucina povera
Prepared with fresh ingredients from our garden enjoy antipasta, primo, secondo, dolce, digestivo & caffe by candlelight with home-bottled wine from a local vineyard.

Flavors of Fall TOTAL ~ 360 Euro Per Person 
3 Nights Accommodations in Apartment Pesca (Open to dates of your preference)
Welcome Bottle of Prosecco
Breakfast Daily
Mushroom Hunt & Aperitivo
Half-day Cooking Class with Meal and Handmade Apron
Five Course Welcome Feast (Based on double occupancy in low season)

Click here: to book your culinary holiday in Italy

Tuesday, September 18

A Tomato Tasting

For a few weeks in late August/early September we serve a very special antipasto of heirloom tomatoes from our garden with a hunk of mozzarella di bufala and buttery extra virgin olive oil. It's off the charts amazing because when do you ever get to sit down to a plate of such amazing color & flavor!

With five to six heirloom varieties on your plate at once you can really taste the differences noting the diversity in acidity and sweetness as well as thickness of skin and seeds. It's a great way to either end or begin the antipasti, just make sure you have a chunk of bread in your hand to sop up all the juices -

Identifying the heirloom tomatoes above:
1. Green Zebra
2. Piccadilly
3. Roman Candle
4. Ukrainian Pear
5. Egg Yolk

We're still picking pomodori daily, another round of tomato jarring starts tomorrow!

Sunday, September 16

Absolutely Addictive: Fried Anchovies & Sage

For those out there that think of anchovies as "bait" taste again!

The oily anchovies pair perfectly with the savory flavor of sage, dipped in a light batter and fried quickly until golden they are absolutely addictive & perfect with a glass of white wine before dinner.   Commonly overlooked, but absolutely delicious is the blue fish family or pesce azzuro - anchovies, sardines, mackerel, etc.  they are not only flavorful but rich in omega 3 fatty acids.

We're posting this recipe of Fried Anchovies with Sage, not only because it's one of my all-time favorite antipasti but to celebrate the reopening of the Adriatic Sea for fishing. Every year, the Adriatic closes fishing for six weeks in the summer - hey even the anchovies need a holiday!

Fried Anchovies with Sage
Acciughe fritte con la salvia

1lb of fresh anchovies, cleaned, spine removed - you can use small sardines as well.
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 a crisp white wine like Verdicchio D.O.C.

Wednesday, September 12

Classic Italian Ragu: Age-old, Tried & True

Classic Italian Ragu, everyone has their favorite, a family recipe passed down scribbled on scratch paper. "No one made it like Grandma" - well until now! Here's our classic ragu (meat & tomato) sauce that is easy & delicious, perfect for spaghetti, lasagna, tagliatelle .... the list goes on!


1 small carrot, finely diced
1 med onion, finely diced
1 rib of celery, finely diced
1 clove of garlic
quarter pound of sausage meat
half pound ground veal
1.5 pounds peeled, seeded, pureed fresh tomatoes or 1 large can of peeled tomatoes
olive oil
salt & pepper

In a pot add a couple glugs of olive oil & sauté clove of garlic until brown then discard.

On medium heat sauté veggies slowly for about 10 minutes - so they are not brown but translucent. Raise the heat slightly & add in meat - breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon.  Season with salt & pepper.

Add tomatoes & half a glass of water. Bring up to boil.  Lower to a very low simmer for 2.5 hours stirring occasionally.

Toss pasta with a few ladlefuls of sauce  (just enough to coat) and a ladleful of pasta water as well. You can finish with a dollop of sauce ontop if you like. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan or Aged Pecorino.

Monday, September 3

How to Jar Tomatoes in 6 Simple Steps

It is full-on tomato harvest season at our organic farm in Central Italy, and has been for over a month. After we've eaten tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily it's time to start preserving them for winter so we can enjoy their deep rich flavors long after the garden is gone.

This year we scaled it back a bit and had only a couple hundred plants in about 12 varieties, each day yielding kilos of fresh ripe juicy pomodori prime for the picking.  Endless meals are devoured with this harvest of tomatoes, their flavors as diverse as their names; ranging from the classics like San Marzano, beefsteak & cherry tomatoes to rare heirlooms such as the egg yolk, Ukrainian pink pear, zebra and my favorite the black princess. 

Doctor Gaggi & Jason planted the majority of the rows in May using starters from our dear friends Beppe & Caroline, then we had two days of heavy frost and killed our entire production. Luckily we had wonderful guests from Texas in town & they all chipped-in and helped us replant the garden.  Jason spent the time this spring to painstakingly trim back the plant's leaves giving the fruit plenty of sun.  And boy did they get sun! After one of the hottest summers on record and near drought conditions the tomatoes are plump, warm & ready to be jarred. Here's our simple jarring process:

Time Saving Tip: There is no need to peel the tomatoes first. When you open the jars to use them -  pass them through a food mill.

Here's how we jar/preserve our tomatoes in Italy:
The most common tomato used for jarring is San Marzano but we use a mixture of our heirloom tomatoes with the San Marzanos.

1. Pick tomatoes when ripe. Leave in a cool dry place to deepen in flavor & mature for a couple days. Once they are nice & soft, deep red it's time to jar.

2. Wash well. Slice in half & scoop out most of the seeds (if they are large, cut in half again or into chunks.) Toss into a colander to drain.

3. In a clean jar pack in your tomatoes nice & tight - using a wooden spoon to push out all the air between the tomatoes. This process is very important - be thorough. When jars are full to the top add a pinch of salt and tightly close the lid.

4. Wrap jars in newspaper (to prevent banging around in the pot). Place jars in the biggest pot you have - it must be deep enough to fully submerge the jars. ONLY if your pot is tall enough - you can add a rack on top of your jars & add a second layer. DO NOT stack jars without a rack.

5. Fill the pot with water 1 inch above the jars. Bring to a boil and continue for 30 minutes. Then shut off the heat, keeping the jars in the water to cool completely before removing.

6. Store jars in a cool dark place for up to a year and half.

Enjoy your tomatoes all year round!

Photos by: Stephanie Hua @
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