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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My Italian Mamma

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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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Gnocchi di Patate (Potato Gnocchi), Serenella

PotatoGnocchi005.jpgThere are many types of gnocchi in Italy (cornmeal gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi, gnocchi alla Romana, etc.). Probably the best-known gnocchi are the gnocchi di patate (potato gnocchi).

Gnocchi are an economical dish to make and a great and creative experience to share with children. Although a little difficult the first time you “try your hand” at this, gnocchi become fun when you get the hang of it.

The original and most classic version of potato gnocchi (according to the great food experts Carnacina and Veronelli – as well as my grandmother) is made with very good potatoes and flour only. Over the years and for the sake of ease in restaurants, eggs have been added to the recipe. I find the addition of egg makes the gnocchi less fluffy but it is certainly an option to make the process easier.

This is one recipe where you will need a kitchen scale to weigh the ingredients to take into account the relative humidity of your cooking environment. So, get out your equipment and have a go at it!

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Recipes from authentic Italian women: Spaghetti with Dungeness Crab from Serenella

Spaghetti with Dungeness crab (printable version)

ChristmasEve08_002.jpgMy grandparents’ first stay in the San Francisco area was between 1912 and 1919. During this time, they were befriended by many other Italian-American families. My grandmother Nonna Assida, who was a wonderful cook and later ran her own restaurant, learned to make spaghetti with Dungeness crab from the wives of Sicilian fisherman.

This dish soon became my family’s traditional Christmas Eve pasta- a tradition that continues to this day. We serve the pasta as the first plate or primo and serve the cooked crab as a main course with a side dish or salad.

For this dish it is important to have the freshest possible crab. Buon appetito!


  • One large red onion finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • (1) hot chili pepper, sliced or Chile pepper flakes (according to taste)
  • 1/2 glass red wine
  • 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed or chopped
  • 2 large (2 1/2 pounds each) very fresh Dungeness crabs, preferably live. Clean and break the crab into pieces (or have the store do this for you). The crab should be all broken apart. For example the claws should be in separate pieces. Crack the pieces of crab with a crab or nut cracker.

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Recipes from Authentic Italian Women – Tuscan Comfort Foods

My  friend Ambra (see previous article) sent these recipe for a classic dishes of Tuscan comfort food.  The first is called Matuffi or Pallette. With a base made from polenta flour, these matuffi are truly stick-to-your-ribs kind of food! Next is Zuppa Casalinga or home-style vegetable and bean soup. The last is  another classic winter polenta-based soup.

Matuffi or Pallette

This is a typical dish of Viareggio & Province of Lucca- There are many versions of this recipe. This recipe can be made richer and heartier by adding 2 sausages and a handful of mushrooms (or soaked dry porcini mushrooms) to the sauce.  Printable Version

Note from Serenella: Definitely better with the sausage and mushrooms!
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Recipes from Authentic Italian Women – Morena’s Tiramisú

Serenella and Martina MorenaThere should be a volcano named after Morena.  She is the quintessential earthy, boisterous and passionate Italian woman, full of vim and vigor.

Even in her 50s Morena is such a life force and so self-assured that heads turn when she walks down the street (like in the old Italian movies of Sofia Loren)!

Things have not been easy for Morena.  As a survivor of both an abusive marriage and lung cancer, she has had to draw on inner strength not only to ‘start over’ multiple times but also to re-invent herself in order to gain independence.

Morena left her husband about 10 years ago and started a small business taking care of villas for tourists.  She supervised the cleaning and cooked meals upon request.  Her incredible cooking skills soon evolved into a full-blown catering business – meals for tourists and catering for Italian celebrations of baptisms, communions, weddings and business meetings.

I met “Hurricane Morena” when I took my first tour group to Italy.  She looked after and fed us, just like an Italian mamma.  Although Morena speaks little English, everyone understands her passions of cooking and taking care of people as well as her pride in the work she does.

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Liquore di Caffe della Nonna (Grandma’s Coffee Liqueur)

Tom, a Toscana Mia reader currently living in Jordan, takes his stove-top espresso maker wherever he goes and he has moved around a lot! Tom’s family comes from the enchanting region of Puglia (in the ‘heel of the boot’) where life is till slow and wonderful.

Tom makes his own Italian liqueurs (limoncello and Liquore di Caffe) at home.  He has generously sent in his Italian grandmother’s recipe for Coffee Liqueur.

Liquore di Caffe della Nonna (Grandma’s Coffee Liqueur)
Printable Version

  1. Make a cup of very strong espresso with a stove-top macchina – stove-top coffee maker (of course).
  2. When it is done, pour the coffee into a measuring cup.
  3. Clean la macchina and re-pack it with espresso and ready it for another pot of coffeeBUT, do not use water the second time, use the coffee from the previous pot thereby making it very, very strong —   too strong to drink.
  4. Pour into 50%/50% alcohol and water (pure alcohol is too strong to drink but diluted with water is a good base for liquore (I don’t know if you can get pure alcohol in the U.S. but it is sold in Europe).  Or use vodka and sweeten to taste.