How to Have a Meal Like a True Italian: Do’s and Dont’s

Italians to do not add Parmigiano to any dishes with seafood (pasta or main course). Tuscan Meals and Drinks – Do’s and Don’ts

  1. ‘Just say no’ to Parmigiano: I must agree with Mario Batali (one of my heroes) when he says that Parmigiano Reggiano is the “Undisputed king of cheese.” Italians sprinkle parmesan onto and into many dishes, from appetizers to main courses.
    Exception to note: Italians to do not add Parmigiano to any dishes with seafood (pasta or main course).It is considered somewhat sacrilegious to add such a strong-flavored ingredient as Parmigiano to the (incredibly) fresh and delicate taste of fish or shell fish.I have actually seen waiters at restaurants in Italy refuse to bring Parmigiano to someone who has ordered seafood pasta!
  2. Names and sequence of courses in a meal:At a restaurant, or at home for special occasions, Italians meals flow in this order: Read more

Pasta Tordellata (Lucca Comfort Food): Recipes from Authentic Italian Women…

tordellata6.jpgIn the province of Lucca in Tuscany, cooks often make this dish called Pasta Tordellata.  Tordelli are the Lucchese version of ravioli and Pasta Tordellata is a pasta dish with the ravioli filling on the outside.

This is a hearty dish which is normally made during the winter months.

Pasta Tordellata (serves 8) Printable version


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Another Way to Enjoy Wine: As Dessert!

Italian Wine for gelatin dessert

I love Italian wines and always have a glass with my dinners.  I also use Italian wines for cooking and giving dishes more depth.

Here, from L’Italo-Americano,  is yet another way to use Italian wines – gelatin desserts!

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Zuppa Di Farrro: Farro Soup from Garfagnana, Lucca

Farro soup from Garfagnana, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

Comfort soup from Tuscany

Having just returned from my native Tuscany, I am busy cooking recipes that bring back wonderful memories.  As we head towards colder weather, there is nothing so comforting as good, fresh and very healthy Tuscan soups.  Those from the Lucca area are especially close to my roots. Plus my husband enjoys being used as a food guinea pig!

Buon Appetito!

Ingredients for 4-5 servings:
Farro – best if farro from the Garfagnana area near LuccaBorlotti beansOnion

Canned, peeled tomatoes, chopped

Pancetta, chopped or diced

Carrots, chopped

Celery, chopped


Tuscan kale, chopped
salt, pepper, peperoncino or pepper flakes, garlic (finely minced), sage, extra virgin olive oil.

 200 gr.250 gr.250 gr.

200 gr.

30 gr.

80 gr.

50 gr.

3  quarts

1 small bunch


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Tuscan Crostini: It’s the Interpretation That Counts!

When you are looking for “true” Tuscan (or Italian) recipes of any kind, you Crostini Toscani (Tuscan Chicken liver crostini)may become very perplexed over numerous versions of the same recipe. Which one is the right one? Which is the “classic?” Let me try to shed some light on this quandary: In Italy, each person or restaurant, puts a personal spin on a recipe. The variations depend on personal taste, family background, specific area of Tuscany (or Italy) and what is easily available and very fresh in that area. Tuscans are notorious for being fiercely independent, even when it comes to recipes.

Again, we can use a musical analogy. Many musicians can play the same piece of music but it is the interpretation that makes one stand apart from another. Each recipe has a personal interpretation.  To make it even more complicated, Tuscans will hardly ever be able to give you a precise recipe: It’s “A handful of this, a pinch of that” as cooking is often learned from watching other family members and done “a occhio” (by eye-balling) quantities.

Cooking is not a chemistry formula, it is an artistic experience; it is a way to express your creativity, enjoy all the steps of the process and render a wonderful result.

When Italians do give you recipe ingredients and measurements, it is always in weight (not cups or teaspoons). A perfect example of this is Tuscan Crostini (appetizers). First of all, when you say “Crostini” to Tuscans, they automatically assume you are referring to chicken liver crostini. If the crostini are any other kind, they are referred to by color or by naming the main ingredients (such as Crostini di Tonno – tuna – or Crostini di Pesce – fish). There are probably as many variations on Tuscan Crostini as there are Tuscans.

Have you tried making Tuscan Crostini? You should try the Tuscan way: Take a basic recipe, and adjust it to your taste by using variables or optional items, such as sage or bay leaves, chopped carrots, lemon juice, wine, etc. Just be careful not to overcook the chicken livers (they should not be too dry). Make certain that whatever you use is “in tune” with the rest of the ingredients. Then you will have your own “authentic recipe.” Please write in and let us know if you come up with something you really love!

Crostini Toscani (Tuscan Chicken liver crostini)
Printable version

Basic recipe (This is one version. There is another listed below in the “Recipes” section)

Preparation time: 20 minutes.
Cooking time: 20 minutes.


  • One onion
  • ¼ carrot (optional)
  • ¼ celery (optional)
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 300g chicken livers
  • Stock (optional)
  • One tablespoon capers
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • Freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley or sage (or preferred herb) roughly chopped 50g butter.
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 500g unsalted bread, preferably country bread
  • Wine (optional)


Chop the onion (carrot, celery) and sauté in the e.v.o.o. Clean and wash the chicken livers, cut them roughly, add to the sautéed ingredients and brown well. If they dry out too much, moisten with a little stock or wine, but allow it to evaporate. Cook until done but not dry or overcooked. Remove from heat. Add the capers, and anchovy fillets, chopped herb leaves and butter. Using a large kitchen knife, chop the entire mixture very finely. Lightly toast the slices of bread and spread with the liver paste. If the slices of bread are crisped under a grill, they may be moistened with a spoonful of stock before spreading with the liver mixture. Some like crostini crisp and some prefer them moistened. The liver paste could also be served in an attractive bowl, surrounded with crisply toasted bread and decorated with herbs.

7 Ways to save money and make great food using leftovers – Italian-style

stuffed eggplants (melanzane ripiene)In a previous article, I challenged readers to come up with some low cost, healthy and delicious recipes using leftovers and inexpensive ingredients – just like the Italians do. As you may know, Italians throw nothing away and utilize every part of the animals they consume (think of head cheese or pickled pigs feet)! This is true now more than ever. We all want to save money and not waste anything. It’s better for the earth too.

Following are reader suggestions and some recipes. Buon Appetito!

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Save money wisely: The antique Italian art of cooking with leftovers

I challenge you to come up with some low cost, healthy and delicious recipes using leftovers and inexpensive ingredients – just like the Italians do. As you may know, Italians throw nothing away and utilize every part of the animals they consume (think of head cheese or pickled pigs feet)! This is true now more than ever.

Some of my favorite meals as a child resulted from my father or mother using kitchen leftovers. Most people know about the delicious Tuscan soups (like ribollita or pancotto) made utilizing breads – usually stale breads. Have you heard of polpette (meatballs made from leftovers – sometimes coated and fried) or fresh pasta ravioli with stuffing made from leftover fish or meat? Have you heard of soups or pasta sauces made with fish bones and fish heads or those flavored with parmesan crust?

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The Italian quest for authentic, fresh and traditional ingredients

Being from a Tuscan family, it never amazes me how far Italians will go to maintain traditions or procure the right ingredients for family recipes.

There is a long history of food appreciation and gourmet cooking on both sides of my family. When I was a child growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s, the only espresso coffee house was Caffe Trieste on Grant Avenue in North Beach (where I experienced my first heavenly cappuccino). We did not see espresso shops on every corner (like Starbucks) or trendyAntique Coffe Grinder Italian restaurants that featured the regional foods of Italy. In an effort to maintain traditions and have authentic ingredients, my parents roasted their own coffee beans in a small, round tin roaster with a handle turned by hand over an alcohol-fueled can. The dark-roasted coffee beans were ground in an old, hand-cranked coffee grinder (I was responsible for this task). When we went on vacation, the first thing to be packed was an old (manual) espresso coffee maker and a small electric burner.
In the pre-Alice Waters California, Italian-American families grew their own produce in their back yards (or on window sills and terraces if they lived in apartments).

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Recipes from Authentic Italian Women, Mamma Leoni-3

Pasta with Smoked Salmon (Printable Version)


  • 3 oz. smoked salmon, cut into large pieces (1 inch squared)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T Tomato sauce
  • A few drops of Tabasco Sauce
  • 4T fresh whipping cream

Boil plenty of water for your favorite pasta.  Bow tie pasta is fun with this recipe.  Bring the water to a boil, add salt as needed. Follow the package cooking directions for the pasta. You can actually make the sauce as you are cooking the pasta.

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Recipes from Authentic Italian Women, Mamma Leoni-1

Here are some recipes from my own mother, a wonderful gourmet cook:

Spaghetti Sauce with Sun Dried Tomatoes (enough for ½ lb. pasta)
(Printable Version)

  • IMG_0928_1.jpg1½ T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 or 6 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Fresh Oregano
  • Fresh Basil
  • Salt, pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese



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