Fagioli all’Uccelletto

Fagioli all’Uccelletto (with or without Italian sausages) Printable version

Serves 4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hours, 30 minutes

Tuscans are known as Fagiolari or Mangia-fagioli (bean eaters) in Italy. You can be sure that meals in Tuscany often include beans in a variety of preparations.

The Tuscan dish Fagioli all’Uccelletto is quick, easy and delicious. The name all’uccelletto refers to the fact that this preparation uses ingredients (mostly sage and garlic) classically used in cooking small game birds.


  • 1 pound (500 g) dried cannellini, navy or great northern (white beans), soaked overnight in abundant water* 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • 7-8 leaves of fresh sage 
  • 1-2 peeled fresh plum tomatoes or a small can of tomatoes 
  • Boiling water 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 8 Mild Italian link sausages (optional; see below)

*If you’re in a hurry, you can substitute 2 cans of cannellini beans. They won’t be quite the same as the soaked beans but very good just the same.

Read more

Standing in line – an unfamiliar concept in Italy

I was just thinking about my last trip to Italy. It is in remembering the little episodes and nuances that make each trip a study in all aspects of my culture.
One warning I always give travelers to Italy: the term “fare la coda” (standing in line) is an Italian term in words only.
On my last trip, as I walked away from a very popular cheese shop, I heard shouting emanating from the store as three women and a man argued with each other and with the clerk over who should be served first. Standing in line patiently awaiting one’s turn is a concept foreign to most Italians who would prefer to show how furbi (cunning) they are by triumphantly stealing a spot in the queue.
Many are the times I have seen confused and confounded tourists trying to figure out how to get to the head of a line (or cluster)  of competing Italians.
Admittedly, I have noticed that more and more locations in Tuscany are using the “take a number and wait in line” method. This is intended to wean Italians from their old ingrained habits. 
But as the antique Italian proverb says, trovata la legge, trovato l’inganno” (establish a rule and someone will find a way to cheat their way around it). At locations where numbers were requested, I observed people avoid taking numbers by walking up to the person in charge to drop names of influential people they knew so they would not have to stand in line. ‘Influential people’ could be anyone from the prime minister of Italy to the grandmother of the clerk. It worked. Another part of Italian culture is getting things done through connections.
Oh well…

Life as an art form – Italians have 3 times more holidays than Americans do

Those of you who are regular readers probably realize by now that Tuscans (and all Italians) live life as an art form; using all the senses, paying attention to each moment or detail, celebrating traditions and family, being endlessly inquisitive, highlighting one’s individuality and finding many outlets for creativity. Life is like a blank canvas and you must execute the painting that is most meaningful for you. What you may not know is that Italians also have more time at their leisure to enjoy life than anyone else.

holidays.jpgApparently, the Italian government is on board with the concept of living life to the fullest. I read with interest a report from the World Tourism Organization (WTO) on the number of official holidays per country per year. Italians have more holidays (42) than citizens of any other major country. You will probably not be surprised to know that US citizens have the lowest number of national holidays of any major industrialized country (13). Even the super industrious Japanese have 25 official holidays. The ever efficient Germans have 35 holidays, and the French have 37.

I have to wonder what this all means. Why is there so much difference between the number of holidays in the US as compared to other countries? What do other countries know that we don’t know? The high number of U.S. working days does not seem to help in a bad economy and it probably impacts our overall attitude towards life. Americans just don’t have as much time to enjoy life and have fun.

As we move towards a new year, and ponder more than ever on what is really important in life, we might learn something from the Italian attitude. Although our new administration will probably not be moving towards 42 official holidays anytime soon, let’s concentrate on making the most of any free time we have and live a more Dolce Vita (sweet life).

Buon Anno (Happy New Year)!

Watch your head on New Year’s Eve – celebrating in Italy

fireworks_12_.jpgNew Year’s Eve is known as la Festa di San Silvestro (Feast of St. Sylvester) in Italy. New Year’s Day is called Capodanno. On either day, you will find people celebrating by eating lentils (symbolizing wealth) or pork specialties such as cotechino or zampone (stuffed pork sausage or stuffed pig’s trotter) symbolizing richness for the coming year.
If you possessed x-ray vision, you would find yourself in a sea of red as many Italians don new red underwear to bring good luck in the New Year.

At midnight, there are fireworks displays throughout Italy with the largest and longest taking place in Piazza del Popolo in Rome. The fireworks last for an hour and this is a true celebration for all (no reservations). As a result, people camp out for as much as a week in advance to secure a good spot. They are also treated to a concert that goes on for hours both before and after the fireworks.

Read more

Recipes from Authentic Italian Women: Arista aka: Tuscan Pork Roast from Serenella

arista_al_forno.jpgArista refers to the pork saddle.  In Tuscany it is usually cooked on the spit but it can also be delicious roasted in the oven.

The story, as told by the author Pellegrino Artusi in the historic Italian cookbook “L’Arte di Mangiar Bene” goes back to the year 1430 in Florence.  At that time, the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches were having a church council meeting.  When the Tuscans served this roast to the Greek bishops, they all exclaimed “Aristos, aristos, aristos!” (the best) in Greek.  From that day forward, the Tuscans have called this roast Arista.

Read more