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March Newsletter 2012

Fresh Recipes, New Kitchen Ideas, Food News & Fun Things To Do In Sunny Italy

As the flowers of March, Mimosa, Anemone-the wind flowers, Cynara-the flowers of the artichokes and Sweet Pea start to sprout, we know that Spring is almost here.  Marzo, or March takes its name from the Roman god Mars, and at one time was actually the first month of the calendar year.  It was the beginning of the Roman’s religious celebrations.  Feriae Martius, was once their New Year’s Day in the old Roman calendar.  On this sacred day a long time ago, the sacred fire of Vesta was rebuilt and laurel was hung on the Roman Forum building, Regia, the building where all the kings lived.  March 19 is Saint Joseph’s Day.  He was the protector and the saint of the family. It is also Father’s Day in Italy; and of course food celebrates the occasion.  Zeppole, small and big, golden or baked, sugared or plain, cream filled or not, are everywhere.  Everyone has their own recipe.  Whether the secret is a zest of lemon or pinch of nutmeg they are always delicious and celebrate the feast day.  We share with you my Mom’s recipe for Zeppole, read below for her secret for making the perfect little bites.

We have added several new hands-on cooking classes and programs!  From Tuscany’s Beatrice’s Villa In The Tuscan Countryside,  Nestled high within the Apennine Mountains lies the enchanting medieval town of Barga, home to Beatrice’s unique Tuscan cooking classes. Take a step back in time, Read more

Truffles & Traditions In Le Marche, for hands on cooking and truffles, Read more

Mamma Marie Lucia Teaches Italian Cooking At Eataly, April 3!

Join our family at Eataly, in New York City, as Chef Marie Lucia, my mom and everyone’s mom, hosts a cooking class and shares family recipes with dinner to follow.  Join us in the kitchen at Eataly on April 3.  The menu includes Spinach and olive pizza rustica, Paccheri & Zucchini, Aqua Pazza, and her famous wine biscotti!  Wine included.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 from 6:30pm-8:00pm (Eastern Time)
La Scuola at Eataly
200 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10010, United States
Call to register. Click here for more information.

Peter Ruta e l’Italia, Una Vita In Viaggio

Join our family in Ravello as we welcome our friend and great master painter, Peter Ruta, e l’Italia, Una Vita In Viaggo, translating to Peter Ruta And Italy The Travels Of A Painter.  Peter who paints in oil and gouache, will showcase 60 oil paintings spanning from 1950 to the present.  Set in the Villa Rufolo, the Museo will host Mr. Ruta’s work from April 7 to May 13.  You also may be able to see the artist painting on site.  Peter has been painting the sea, landscapes and beauty of the Positano and the Amalfi Coast since he first visited in and moved to in 1953.  Do not miss this extraordinary exhibit where his beautiful works will be showcased for all to see and experience.  Peter is known saying, “it is a mistake not to work from Nature.”



Table Talk

This year March has arrived in the best of ways – the snow’s all gone, the days are noticeably longer and when the sun’s out, you can even sit outside and soak up a bit of that welcome heat. The garden has suddenly sprung into life after a sleepy winter and there’s something a lot like excitement in the air. In the flower beds there’s good news and bad. The mice have decimated many of the tulips, crocus and snowdrops we planted last year, and had a good gnaw at the iris, but the daffodils seem to have gone untouched. The cold weather was too much for the daisies, but the dusty miller survived and all over the beds there are tender shoots breaking through the earth – peonies, monarda, lupins, echinacea, clumps of purple-blotched aquilegia petals, then asters and the first pretty lady’s mantle leaves that catch and hold the dew. And of course, it’s not just the garden that’s enjoying a new lease of life.

Down in the seaside towns, the streets are filling up, both with locals and tourists, and there’s definitely more of a spring (no pun intended) in folks’ steps. The beaches are no longer completely deserted: on sunny days, people flop fully-clothed onto the shingle shore, content to watch the kids play around them and listen to the waves lapping at the beach. A few brave (mad?) tourists may go for a paddle or even a swim, locals looking on, shaking their heads in disbelief. But of course, that’s all part of the fun.

Out and about there are lots of festivals and sagras to be visited, from the Chocolate Sagra ‘CioccoIitaly’ in Trento and the Boar Festival in Sassari on the island of Sardinia, to the Cuttlefish Sagra in Pinarella di Cervia near Ravenna. It’s also a great time to visit the many art cities before Easter hits and the tourist season takes off, with all the bigs like Rome, Venice, Naples and Florence offering an infinity of events and exhibitions. Then there’s the Feast of San Giuseppe, also known as father’s Day, on the 19th March; a scattering of Festa della Primavera festivals held all over the country on March 21st to celebrate the arrival of Spring; and on the 18th, the annual Rome marathon.

We hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter and that even if you can’t come to Italy, we manage to bring a little of Italy to you.

Food Notes

March – the month of transformation. Yes, all those wonderful winter veggies may be on their way out, but look at what’s just around the corner – the first tender asparagus, fava beans, peas, strawberries. In the vegetable garden, the prettiest thing has to be the romanesco – with its pointed florets, though the Savoy cabbages are also looking great and we have enough minestra and broccoli  to feed a small village. I just got a call from a friend who says he’s cooking up the last of the pigs’ bones that he keeps under salt (the flavor’s not unlike that of a ham hock) and that he’ll bring us some hot for lunch, with some minestra and potatoes as an accompaniment. It may not be haute cuisine, but I still get a thrill from living and eating the way people here have been doing for centuries, very much in tune with the seasons, and absolutely steeped in the area’s culinary traditions.

Meanwhile, one One of M’s uncles has already been round to remind us that we need to get the onions planted and bringing us a strange type of small red-skinned potato that grows in just a couple of months, meaning it can be harvested in May rather than August – perfect for eating in an early summer potato salad or roasting whole along with a joint of meat. We took a stroll round the garden to check on the plants we (okay, he) grafted last year – the cherry trees, the kiwi and Sangiovese vines – we had about a 60% success rate which, all in all, isn’t too bad. I watched him last year as he spliced and bound the different branches together, working with the precision of a surgeon, each plant looking smart and trim once he’d finished. Before he left, he rattled off a series of tips and reminders, making it clear that there’s no more time for lazing about. Spring is here and it’s time to get busy.

Our recipes this month reflect the fact that we have one foot on either side of the fence – celebrating the end of one season with pumpkin parmigiana and farro and porcini soup, and the arrival of another.

Happy Cooking!

Recipes Of The Month


Carpaccio Di Carciofi ~ Artichoke Carpaccio

Courtesy of our Secret Garden Positano

Number of servings: 6


  • 4-6 Artichokes, cleaned and remove outside leaves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as needed
  • Lemon Juice, as needed
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese, shavings
  • Fresh Parsley, to garnish


  • Slice artichokes finely and place on a serving plate.
  • Splash with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Turn the artichoke slices a couple of times to gently marinate.
  • Allow to marinate for 3-5 minutes.
  • Top with Parmesan shavings and chopped fresh parsley and serve.

Pumpkin Parmesan

If you’ve never tried this delicious twist on eggplant parmesan, you don’t know what you’re missing. Remember however, that pumpkins tend to release water as they cook, thus the need for breadcrumbs. Similarly, if you choose to use the smoked mozzarella, make sure it’s not too fresh. One last word: do try to use a rich, flavorsome tomato sauce. I once made this with a sauce made from oven-roasted tomatoes and the final result was spectacular.

Number of servings: 6


  • 800g pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 3 Eggs, beaten
  • 75g Flour
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Freshly ground Nutmeg
  • Vegetable Oil, for frying
  • 600g Tomato Sauce
  • Two generous handfuls of Breadcrumbs
  • 500g smoked mozzarella (not too fresh) or caciocavallo, sliced thinly
  • 50g Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • Few leaves of fresh Basil


  • Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.
  • Peel pumpkin and cut into slices approximately 1 cm thick.
  • Spread the flour on a shallow plate and season generously with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a deep frying pan then dip each slice of pumpkin first into the beaten egg then into the seasoned flour and fry until light golden brown on each side.
  • Working in batches, fry only a few slices at a time. Drain pumpkin on kitchen paper.
  • Layer half the pumpkin on the bottom of a rectangular ovenproof dish, season lightly with salt, cover with half the breadcrumbs then with half of the tomato sauce and a few basil leaves, followed by half of the cheese.
  • Repeat one more time.
  • Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.
  • Leave to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Farro & Porcini Mushroom Soup

Farro is a grain also known as spelt, but it is in fact emmer wheat. Most types don’t need to be pre-soaked, but read the instructions on the packet just in case. Farro is available in specialty shops and some supermarkets, but pearl barley would make a good substitute.

Number of servings: 6


  • 50 g dried Porcini Mushrooms
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small Celery rib, finely chopped
  • 50 g Pancetta, diced
  • 50 ml Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Concentrate
  • Bouquet garni with Rosemary, Sage, Bay leaf and Thyme
  • 200g Farro
  • 1 litre Vegetable Stock, boiling
  • Handful of Parsley, finely chopped


  • Place the porcini in a small bowl and cover with hot water.
  • Leave to soak for 30 – 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large earthenware pot, and add the chopped onion, celery and pancetta.
  • Cook over a low heat, stirring often, until the onions are transparent.
  • Squeeze the extra liquid from the porcini mushrooms and chop roughly, reserving the liquid.
  • Add the porcini, the chopped potato, the tomato concentrate, the herbs and the farro to the pot and toss together for a couple of minutes.
  • Filter the porcini liquid through a strainer into the hot vegetable broth and pour over the contents of the pot.
  • Simmer for 30 – 40 minutes or until farro is just tender, adding more hot water if necessary.
  • Garnish with the chopped parsley and a final drizzling of extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

Pappardelle Con Fungi ~ Pappardelle (long, thin flat pasta) With Mushrooms

Courtesy of Beatrice in Barga

Number of servings: 6


  • 400 g of Pappardelle
  • 300 g of Fresh Porcini Mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 6 tbs Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Handful of Mint or Mentuccia, chopped
  • 50 g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Meat Broth, as required
  • Salt & Pepper


  • Wash the mushrooms thoroughly and cut into slices.
  • In a frying pan heat the olive oil and brown the garlic, add chopped mint (or mentuccia) and mushrooms.
  • Sauté for a few minutes and then add the broth, salt and pepper.
  • Continue cooking over a low heat until reduced.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil with plenty of salt.
  • Add the pappardelle and a spoonful of olive oil.
  • Once cooked drain the pasta and add the mushroom sauce.
  • Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Mamma Marie Lucia’s Zeppole

My Mom’s Zeppole. You can never eat just one! That is what we say in Italy. This easy and healthy way of making Zeppole, without frying, gives you even more reason to not count while eating the tasty bites!

Number of servings: Makes about 18 to 20 Zeppole


For the Zeppole:

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 8 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

For the Filling – yellow cream:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 to 8 tsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • Put the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Beat the eggs very well and add the vanilla.
  • Add the flour last and mix well.
  • Then cook slowly over a low, low heat and keep stirring.
  • Wait until the cream cools, put in fridge for at least one hour, before filling the Zeppole.
  • It will not get thick until it is cold in the fridge.
  • To fill the Zeppole, open the Zeppole three quarters way round and fill.
  • Preheat the oven at 450F.
  • Grease your pan.
  • Mix the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to high heat and boil.
  • As soon as the butter melts, add the flour and stir well.This process will only be a few seconds.
  • Add the eggs, one by one and beat well.
  • Add the zests. Mix well until very smooth.
  • Spoon out the mixture on the pan, keeping them about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350F and continue to bake another 15 minutes.
  • Cool completely.
  • Fill and sprinkle with Confectioner’s sugar.

Melody’s Vine Picks

Carpaccio Di Carciofi ~ Artichoke Carpaccio
Pair with: De Conciliis Falanghina 2008 750ml
Artichokes are not an easy food to pair with wine and add the lemon and it becomes even more difficult.  For some taste buds, wines will taste sweet after Artichoke and for others, may leave a bitter taste.  But don’t give up, try this refreshing spring dish with De Conciliis Falanghina, a native Campania grape, for a nice freshness and fruit!

Pumpkin Parmesan
Pair with: Valle Dell’Acate Il Frappato 2008 750ml
If you prepare this recipe without tomato, you may prefer a white or a bubbly with the sweetness of the pumpkin, but with the tomato reach for a red instead.  This Sicilian red from the Frappato grape grown in the mineral rich Valle Dell’Acate in Southern Sicily is a great value and not one you’ll see everyday.

Farro & Porcini Soup
Pair with: Bisson Pigato 2007 750ml
Try a delicate white wine such as Cinque Terre’s native Pigate grape to allow the subtle flavors of the Porcini to stand and the herb notes complement perfectly.

Pappardelle Con Funghi Porcini
Pair with: Fattoria di Fubbiano Colline Lucchesi San Gennaro 2007 750ml
This Sangiovese- Canaiolo-Ciliegolo blend pairs nicely with the earthy flavors of this dish. As you’re taste-touring though Italy, try the local wines with the local foods and this Colline Lucchesi is just nearby Beatrice’s Villa in Tuscany.

Pair with: Limoncello
Coming soon- contact us if you are interested in ordering Limoncello of the Amalfi Coast, a lemony-sweet digestive liqueur to leave your palate cleansed and refreshed.

Cooking Vacations Program Of The Month

Beatrice’s Villa in the Tuscan Countryside
Cooking with Chefs Beatrice, Emma, and Anna in Barga

Nestled high within the Apennine Mountains lies the enchanting medieval town of Barga, home to Beatrice’s unique Tuscan cooking classes. Take a step back in time as you make your way down the Villa’s captivating and majestic garden path and through the century-old grand doorway. Beatrice and her team of chefs are waiting to take you on an unforgettable culinary adventure where you will learn the ancient secrets and methods of Italy’s most humble cuisine. Click here for more information on the 5-Day Program or 8-Day Program.

Italy On A Plate

By Germaine Stafford

Germaine continues her roundup of what’s happening in the culinary world in Italy and gives you her chef of the month, book recommendation, and a list of seasonal foods for March.

What’s in Season?

Pork products (salami etc.)
Sea Bream
Swiss chard
First asparagus
First fava beans (broad beans)
Jerusalem artichokes

Restaurant Of The Month

Caffè Pedrocchi, Padova

Situated in a handsome, historic palazzo in the centre of Padova, Caffè Pedrocchi is more than a mere café, it’s a veritable institution: a gathering place, a place of culture, a literary club, the style of café you imagine providing the perfect backdrop to the exchange of important ideas. The Caffè has played, in fact, an important part of the city’s cultural and musical history, and the structure has been given a boost by management over recent years, to revitalize both the atmosphere and the quality of service.

The upstairs rooms are museums of sorts, and it’s here that you can attend the various cultural events. This month, for example, sees a series of jazz nights, readings from Nietzsche entitled ‘Philosophy as Therapy’, and an exhibition by the English artist Jasmine Pradissito. But there are also Fathers’ Day celebrations, gastronomic evenings, meetings on economy and politics and even the occasional fashion show.

But let’s get back to the café proper. As you’d expect, the coffee is excellent as are the pastries, and anyone near enough to enjoy breakfast here would be well advised to do so. You might even want to try their signature coffee – Caffè Pedrocchi- an espresso laced with cool, fresh mint and given a sprinkling of cocoa. Perhaps even more enjoyable, however, is stopping off for a pre-dinner aperitivo or cocktail – and here you’ll really get to enjoy the staff’s skills, as mixed drinks are a real specialty – then sit back for a spot of people watching. If you feel peckish, there is a lunchtime menu available, offering everything from smoked salmon, a platter of local cheeses, and homemade pastas including another of Pedrocchi’s specialties, their coffee scented tagliatelle with scampi. After which you might opt for some grilled lamb, guinea hen, steak or catch of the day. To finish, it’s difficult to resist Pedrocchi’s zabaione, but if you manage, you might as well reward yourself with a crème caramel. After all, it’s not every day you come to Caffè Pedrocchi…

More information:
Caffè Pedrocchi
Via VIII Febbraio 15
Tel: +39 049 8781231

Book Of The Month

Cucina Povera, Tuscan Peasant Cooking

by Pamela Sheldon Johns, Andrew McMeel Publishing

Who would have thought that Italy, the land of culinary plenty and excess, had a history of hardship and famine? And yet it’s true. At the turn of last century and after the Second World War especially, from north to south, many families survived on a handful of humble ingredients, growing what they could on whatever land was available and often foraging for wild greens to supplement their diet. But, as Sheldon points out in her latest work, this experience led to home cooks developing great skill in the kitchen, and their learning how to transform the very simplest of ingredients into nourishing, tasty dishes for the family. Tuscan peasant cooking is the perfect example of this type of philosophy, where seasonal ingredients are the cornerstone of local cuisine, where nothing is wasted and every last scrap of food or leftovers transformed into wholesome meals.

Sheldon’s story of moving to Tuscany and embracing local culinary customs makes for interesting reading and comes as a timely reminder that very often less is indeed more. As she takes us from antipasti and soup recipes to pasta and grain dishes and those using meat and fish, the author’s marvel at such delicious results deriving from such humble origins is apparent. Antipasti often feature preserved foods such as salami or cheese, or make use of year-round staples like chestnut flour or eggs. Soups make the best of whatever is to hand resulting in onion soup, zuppa di farro, tomato soup and the wonderfully named ‘cooked water’. Pastas and grains are combined with wild hare, tomato sauce or simple breadcrumbs, and meat and fish dishes are based on traditional Tuscan fare – pork, pork liver, pigeon, rabbit and even beef cheeks. Desserts come in the form of fruit tarts, walnut and honey bars, ricotta cake, almond cookies and baked apples, to name a few, and are perfectly fitting with the down to earth, country-style feel of the book – no fuss but delicious.