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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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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Frittelle di Cavolfiore (Cauliflower Croquettes)

margherita.jpgRecipe by Margherita (Printable Version)

This recipe comes to us courtesy of Margherita, a very lovely lady from Lucca (Tuscany), Italy.
For 5 people


  • 1 cauliflower
  • 5 T all purpose flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup sparkling (mineral) water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 T Grated Parmigiano cheese
  • Vegetable oil for frying

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Cornish Hens Skewers over Polenta

From Serenella (Printable version)

CornishHenSkewer.jpgThis is a delicious way to prepare Cornish Hens. I do not have any quantities measured out for this recipe as I usually eyeball it and vary it according to the vegetables I’m using. Here’s my best shot at a formal recipe:


  • 4 Cornish hens cut in quarters
  • Pancetta thickly sliced (about 4 ¼’ thick slices, cut into quarters)
  • Sage leaves as necessary
  • Slices of day-old bread (thick crusted Italian bread is best)
  • Vegetables. This depends on what you like to use to alternate on the skewers with the hens. I use any of the following: tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms (cut in quarters or large pieces)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • long metal skewers
  • rectangular roasting pan

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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.

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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.

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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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