Sunday, February 24

{Photos} A Snowy Night in Le Marche

Last night's snow was beautiful! We grabbed the camera, tripod and a flashlight and trudged into the storm, capturing a few cool images of our front yard and farmhouse in the falling snow.  (The night photos were achieved by simply using a long exposure and painting the house with a flashlight.)

 Buona domenica - Have a great Sunday!

Friday, February 22

{Podcast from Italy} #42 - The Mindset of Moving to (& Living in) Italy

This week's podcast is for those of you contemplating a move to Italy & have a million questions about what to do, where to begin and how to wrap your head around it all!!  We reply to many of your emails regarding the intangibles of moving - more than how to get your VISA, we discuss the mindset you need to be in to make a life-changing move to Italy and the importance of becoming part of the community. This is our ra-ra, you can do it podcast, meant to inspire you to take the leap knowing how difficult it may be! 

(The photos are of the antique Greek scale (from the 1700's) we mention in the podcast.)

Thursday, February 21

Amatriciana - Pasta Porky Goodness

Amatriciana is a simple, delicious sauce you can make while the water for your pasta is boiling! Move over regular old ragu because this savory porky tomato sauce is my favorite go-to winter sugo (pasta sauce)!  For centuries it has been prepared with guanciale di maiale (cured pigs cheek) and grated local pecornio (sheep’s milk cheese).  The sauce is originally from Amatrice (at the intersection between Le Marche, Abruzzo and Lazio). Of course the recipe varies slightly depending on what region you are in, a big debate is with onions or without. While tomato-less version Gricia is still prepared in some parts (especially Lazio), it is the tomato-enriched Amatriciana that has become a “classic” sauce all over Italy.

For any of you that know Dr. Gaggi & his wife Rossana she always reiterates the importance of the pasta you choose with your sauce. "For amatriciana, you should use only bucatini or spaghetti no. 5!" She would be horrified to see the photo above since we tossed the sauce with fresh homemade tagliatelle - call the pasta police! (I still ate every last bite.)

I am a huge fan of guanciale di maiale (so much so I sing a song about it every time Jason uses it in a recipe), it is basically the best bacon ever! Here is another mouthwatering recipe using cured pig's cheek as a simple antipasto/appetizer:  Crostini di Guanciale di Maiale

 Amatriciana with Bucatini

4 oz./120 g cured pig's cheek (guanciale di maiale) or fresh pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic
glug of olive oil
12 oz./325 g puree tomatoes (freshest, highest quality as possible) or jarred tomatoes passed through the food mill
grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
chili flakes
bucatini or spaghetti pasta

In a heavy pot heat the olive oil, add the clove of garlic & onions on low heat season with salt & chili flakes as you like. Sweat slowly without color for 10 minutes.
Add guanciale or pancetta cook for an additional 5 - 6 minutes without browning.
Remove garlic clove & add tomatoes. Bring up to boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer for 30-35 minutes. Stir occasionally. Check seasonings.
Toss with fresh cooked pasta (bucatini is best) & fresh grated pecorino or parmesan and a little pasta water.

Thursday, February 14

{Podcast from Italy} #41 - Recorded at Sea

We've recorded our podcast while on a boat floating along Adriatic & Ionian Sea heading to Greece! No breaking news  - actually, I can't remember what we even talked about - our boat was delayed 8 hours at sea (and this podcast was delayed 5 days from getting posted). I know there was talk about butchering whole pigs, food (as usual) and other interesting topics I'm sure...  Enjoy!

Listen to Podcast from Italy on iTunes!

Friday, February 8

Celebrate Fat Tuesday with Italian Carnival Fritters

photo courtesy of

What better way to celebrate Carnival & Fat Tuesday than with traditional Italian fritters fried in pork fat?!

Castagnole are a specialty of Carnevale and eaten across Italy during this period. The name castagnole derives from the word castagna or chestnut because of the color & size when cooked. I prefer them drizzled in lots of honey, but traditionaly in our area they are rolled in sugar & drizzled with the liquor alkermes - giving it that bright red color.
Don't be put-off by frying with lard, as this is the traditional method & its just freakn' delicious!  The good Doctor Gaggi recommends frying in strutto and this is coming from a Cardiologist! It is possible to fry them in oil, however in his opinion, "Then they would not be castagnole!"
You only eat it once a year - so dig in!

Castagnole Recipe
Italian Carnival Fritters

Wednesday, February 6

Norcia: A Land of Pork, Butchers, Boar and Truffles

We recently spent a night in Norcia (Umbria) a land famous for it's pork, butchers, wild boar and truffles. (Not so different from our neck of the woods in Le Marche.) Just over two hours from Rome (and about two hour from our farmhouse) time seems to stand still, it is the perfect place to unwind and loosen your belt because you are about to eat pork for every meal!

We stayed at the gorgeous Palazzo Seneca in the center of town. (The family seems to own a bit of everything in Norcia.) It was nice being the guest instead of the host! The hotel was luxurious yet comfortable with a cozy fireplace & chess room, library, spa and restaurant. The breakfast was irresistible with hand sliced prosciutto di norcia and a half dozen homemade cakes and pastries (Jason kept sending me back for more)!

Breakfast at Palazzo Seneca

After a stroll through town to get our bearings (and making reservations for dinner) we decided it was time to eat! We hoped in the car and headed to scenic Scheggino (a tini tiny Venice) for a lunch of grilled trout that was out of this world and worth the drive. (We knew that dinner would be pork-heavy and we had already stopped at a few butchers to sample the goods so fish sounded good for lunch!)  In a restaurant perched on the river we ordered the mixed antipasti and was blow away by the black truffle crostini (better than either of us had ever had.) The trout was moist and flavorful sourced locally and the veggies done up perfectly. (The total bill for two including antipasti, wine, secondo & veggies = 40,00 Euro)
Scheggino & the Italian flags
mini Vencie - Scheggino
  Strolling around Norcia signs for butchers and stuffed boar heads are everywhere. The prosciutto from this village is famous, Prosciutto di Norcia is sweeter than salty and melts in your mouth when cut by hand paper thin.  Even if you don't speak a lick of  Italian you will know at least one word before you leave this town, "norcino" a pork butcher. Visit Ansuini, the oldest butchery family in the area. But make sure you visit the shop outside of town in the 'zona industriale' the other shop in the center of town (with the same name) bought them out years ago and it's not the same quality, price or family history. (I had read so many articles about the area, where to eat, what to do & of course I came across this name "Ansuini" a dozen times, all with the photo of the original shop in the center of town. But it wasn't until we meet with the owners did we discover the real story and how they were bought out.)

in the center of town - beware of imposters
the real deal - Ansuini Family!
Before dinner, if you get a chance visit the crypt in San Benedetto to hear the monks chanting, it is spine tingling hearing their haunting voices echo off the cold stone. (I grew up Catholic so it could be just the rush of memories from weekly mass growing up.) As the snow began to lightly fall we made our way across the empty cobblestone streets and enjoyed one of the most memorable meals I've eaten!

Directly across the street from the hotel is the best restaurant in the area (and one of the oldest), Granaro del Monte. We settled in for a full meal. (Jason jokes that I ordered the entire right side of the menu - so what if I did!)  The area is famous not only for it's pork products but lentils as well (from Castelluccio in the Sibillini Mountains) so I started with the lentil soup.

Then came my second primo (most people only order 1), the fluffiest, melt in your mouth, truffle topped gnocchi. I died and went to fatty heaven! Red potatoes are used for their creamy consistency. I was hooked  - this dinner was amazing! After I licked my plate clean, the secondo arrived - pork tenderloin with truffles, pecorino, potatoes & tomatoes, dry fried chicory and a poached pear in red wine. (Basically all five flavors balanced on one plate). Jason didn't order nearly as well as I did opting for fish which ended up to be a vehicle for prosciutto & cheese. (Lesson learned: never order fish in a pork town). In fact, I ordered so well they brought me out a commemorative plate to take home! We waddled across the street stuffed like a ...pig and fell into bed as the snow continued to blanket the hills. 

Twenty-four hours in Norcia was the perfect weekend getaway! (We'll visit again the spring when the lentil fields are in bloom in Castelluccio...)

Where to STAY:
Palazzo Seneca
Via C. Battisti 12 Norcia (PG)

Where to EAT:
Granaro del Monte
Via Alfieri 6 Norcia (PG)

Del Ponte
Via del Borgoo II Scheggino (PG)

Ansuini (Butcher)
Zona Industriale Norcia (PG)

For more photos of our trip to Norcia & Scheggino visit our Facebook Fan Page

Saturday, February 2

{Video: Un Caffè Italiano} How to Use a Moka

What's the best part of waking up in Italy? A proper Italian caffè! This short film shows you how to use and clean for a Moka to make Italian coffee (caffè, macchiato & cappuccino) at home. The Moka is the most widely used home coffee maker in Italy & makes a great caffè, we use it everyday!! 

Click on the photos below to buy the essentials for un caffè Italiano vero!

Friday, February 1

Sunset in Le Marche {Photos}

I just simply wanted to share the spectacular colors of last night's sunset. Yesterday, we spent the day at our friend's Carlo & Gigia farm outside of Urbino butchering & processing 3 cinta sinese pigs. Our hard work was rewarded with a delicious dinner, warm fire and amazing sky!

(I shot TONS of footage and will be editing together a few butchery and charcuterie videos...keep an eye out!)
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