madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


“falsomagro” stuffed roast beef

how to arrange the stuffing

This is another recipe of the clever Italian mammas of the past. It’s called falsomagro or farsumagru a term referring to stuffed lean meat.

The stuffing was not meant to create fancy food. It was a way to stretch portions to feed the family using inexpensive ingredients such as inferior cut meats, bread, a little fat, a bit of cheese. My grandma, a young widow in postwar Sicily, fed her six children like kings by stuffing everything with bread.

Despite its modest background, the falsomagro is a splendid dish. It’s tasty in a very Southern, garlicky, herby, Italian way. It’s a great dish for a party as it can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature. And because of its inner surprises, it’s also somewhat healthy as the portion of red meat is relatively small.


  • 1 kg (2 lb) beef
  • 30 gr ( 1 oz) guanciale (subst. with pancetta or spicy salami), thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs
  • 250 gr ( 1/2 lb) mild cheese like caciotta (subst. with young provolone) sliced
  • 2 organic hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1/2 tablespoon raisins
  • 2 medium onions quartered
  • dry white wine, extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper
  • special equipment: kitchen string and parchment paper or two oven bags

For this recipe I ask my butcher 2 large slices of beef, approx. 25 x 25 x 1 cm ( 10 x 10 x 1/2 inch). Honestly, I have no idea which cut he gives me as he always disappears in the back of the shop to prepare it. I do trust him blindly as he is the best butcher in town.

Each slice makes one roll which is more than enough for 4 people.  For about the same effort, I  always make 2 rolls and I freeze any leftover for another meal.

Before stuffing, place the meat on a cutting board and beat it flat with a meat pounder or other heavy object of your liking.

Arrange the slices of guanciale over the slices, sprinkle with bread crumbs, pine nuts and raisins, then top with the cheese, eggs and a twist or two of black pepper. Now roll it. Beginning with the side nearest you, roll up the slice, gently pressing on the filling and making sure it does not  slip out from ends.  Tie the roll crosswise with string at 1.5 cm (3/4-inch) intervals, then tie one time lengthwise.

Preheat oven at 220 °C/430 °F.

Heat a cast iron casserole pan over medium-high heat and when hot add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the meat and brown it evenly, turning every few minutes. This step will take about 5-10  minutes, depending on the size of the rolls. I prefer to brown one roll at the time, but it’s up to you. Keep the pan covered to avoid messing up  your cooktop!

Using thongs or thick plastic gloves transfer each rolls on a sheet of parchment paper or inside an oven bag. Season rolls with salt and pepper, arrange a quartered onion along each roll, sprinkle with one tablespoon white wine then seal the paper parcel or oven bag and transfer in an oven tin.

the falsomagro rolls wrapped in oven paper. In Italy it's called Carta Fata, but you can use oven bags instead.

the falsomagro rolls wrapped in oven paper. In Italy it's called Carta Fata, but you can use oven bags instead.

Roast for 30 min turning once. Remove from the oven. The parcels will have puffed up with steam. Cover with a lid and let them rest 20 more minutes while indirect heat will cook the meat some more but keep it moist. This will also stabilize the rolls. Note that if you slice them when they are still hot, they will fall apart.

When cool enough to handle, cut the parcels open and pour the cooking juices and onion in the casserole which you have used to brown the rolls. Reduce over hight heat until creamy and liquidize with a blender. Pour onto a serving plate. Slice rolls and arrange on top of the sauce on the serving plate.  Cover with foil until ready to eat or briefly rewarm in the microwave.

Serves 8.

the falsomagro roast in all its rustic beauty


white lasagna with zucchini

light summer lasagna filled with goodness. It almost counts for vegetables ;)


You are looking for a zucchini recipe, are you? Are you getting weekly gifts of zucchini from your gardening friends? What should you do with it? Everybody is looking for a zucchini recipe at this time of the year.

Zucchini are exploding right now, growing at light speed, overflowing the market stalls.  I never tire of them though,  crispy and delicate, they can be used to add crunch and lightness to almost everything.

This is a fabulous recipe – and a very easy one – that can actually be adapted to all sort of greens like asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, whatever the season brings you.

Before starting however, please read my basic lasagna recipe. I will briefly remind you that to make good lasagna you need fresh lasagna noodles which must be blanched in boiling water before layering them with a modest, and I repeat modest, amount of condiments. Love yourself and don’t listen to Kraft telling you to take shortcuts.

Making a proper  lasagna might seem intimidating and time consuming, but it’s actually a breeze if one has good ingredients and follows a logical order in the preparation. In addition, lasagna freezes really well, so you can make it in advance and give some to your gardening friends as a gift :) .


  • 450 gr / 1 lb zucchini sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3-4 leaves fresh basil
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) grated Parmesan cheese plus 2 tablespoon
  • 1 and 1/2 cup Bechamel sauce
  • 250 gr (1/2 lb)  young cows milk cheese like caciotta, thinly sliced
  • 250 gr ( 1/2 lb)  fresh lasagna noodles
  • 120 gr (1/4 lb) ham, finely sliced then shredded

First of all empty your worktop so to have ample space to work.

Prepare  condiments:

  1.  Sautee zucchini in 1 tablespoon olive oil until slices just start to become golden . Make sure to use a relatively large non-stick pan so the zucchini will cook quickly and don’t boil in their own water. Add a pinch of salt, one finely minced clove of garlic and a few torn basil leaves, stir quickly and as soon as it is fragrant transfer into the bowl of a food processor .
  2. Make 1 and 1/2 cup of fairly liquid Bechamel sauce, season with salt and a pinch of nutmeg.
  3. Pulse chop the cooked zucchini until finely diced, add 2/3 of the Bechamel and 100 gr (3.5  oz)  grated Parmesan.

Assemble lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven at 200 °C (400 F). Butter generously a 30 x 22 cm (12 x 8 inch) roasting tin.
  2. To blanch the pasta sheets, place a shallow pan, half full with water on the heat and bring to the boil. Using thongs, deep one lasagna noodle at the time in the boiling water until just soft, approx 30 sec, strain and place in one single layer in the buttered tin.
  3. Once the bottom of the tin is covered by lasagna sheets, pour 1/3 of the zucchini mixture over the pasta sheets and spread it in a 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) layer. Top with  1/3 of the sliced caciotta and 1/3 of the shredded ham. Repeat two more times using all of the zucchini mixture, ham and sliced cheese.
  4. Top with one last layer of pasta sheets, cover thinly with the rest of the Bechamel, sprinkle with two tablespoon of Parmesan and bake for 25 min or until bubbly and golden around the sides.

Serve 4 as a main 6 as a primo  ( first corse)

For a vegetarian version substitute ham with smoked cheese or gorgonzola.


quick terrine a l’Italienne

galantina, a favorite holiday recipe of our family, quick, easy and delicious

GALANTINA. This is one of those recipes for which I’ll be grateful forever. It’s easy to make, can be prepared in advance, it’s a crowd pleaser and – with the appropriate presentation – it’s actually quite fancy, great for parties and holidays.

My mum called this dish galantina, but technically speaking this is a terrine . A galantine is made by stuffing de-boned fowl with a mixture of meat, eggs, spices. It’s then poached and served cold in aspic. It’s an ancient dish probably developed to use and add flavor to inferior cuts of meat. A similar preparation is mentioned as early as the 4th century AD  in the bible of aristocratic Roman cuisine, De Re Coquinaria.

A terrine is basically a galantine without the bird outside. Terra means Earth in Latin. The name terrine derives from the earthenware pot used to cook the stuffing.

This is a relatively light terrine baked in a loaf mold with no lining of fat, nor marinades or weighing after cooking. Simple, Italian style.


  • 200 gr (1/2 lb) each lean pork, veal, turkey breast
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz)  each mortadella (the real Italian one, not bologna), cured ham, grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs and one yolk
  • salt, pepper and nutmeg
  • a 1.3 lt. (5-cup) terrine mold or loaf pan

Find a kind butcher. Ask him to grind all the meats together. Alternatively buy ground meat and chop ham and mortadella very finely.

Preheat oven at 180 °C (350 °F).

Mix the ground meats, eggs, Parmesan, a pinch grated nutmeg, a sprinkle of black pepper and 1 teaspoons salt in a large bowl.

Butter generously a terrine or loaf mold. Fill terrine evenly with ground-meat mixture, making sure it is compact. Cover the terrine tightly with a double layer of foil.

Place it in a deep roasting tin, then pour around enough just-boiled water to come halfway up. Bake in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until a fine skewer inserted into the centre comes out hot and the juices run clear.

Take the terrine out of the bain-marie and leave to cool at room temperature for 3–4 hours. If you need to keep it, chill it before slicing for up to 2 days.

Cut in 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick slices. I always serve them on an oval plate surrounded by spoonfuls of lovely peas and ham.

Makes 24 slices, serves 8.


sformato di carciofi

meltingly delicious, I can have artichokes every day

ARTICHOKE TIMBALE .   This recipe reminds me so much of my mother that I can hardly bring myself to write about it. It brings good, happy memories as this was one of her favorite dishes for picnics.  Yes, other people had sandwiches and salads, we had lasagne, eggplant parmesan and sformato di carciofi. We also had a small folding table with a miniature table-cloth and real fork and knives, no plastic. So we lived in the ’70, eating good and proper under the spring sun.


  • 8 artichokes
  • 6 eggs
  • 100 gr (3 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 200 gr (7 ounces) mozzarella or cow’s milk caciotta thinly sliced
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 lemon

Put a large pan of water on the fire, squeeze the juice of the lemon in the water and add the squeezed lemon to it. This prevents the artichokes turning a scary turquoise color while cooking. Rinse artichokes and drop in the boiling water. Cook for 20 min or until one of the central leaves come away with a little give. Drain and cool. Pull away the outer tough leaves, peel and trim stems, and cut away the choke if there is any. Quarter artichokes and then cut quarters in half again.

Beat the eggs with the Parmesan and season. Butter a bundt-pan generously, then dust with the bread crumbs, knocking out the excess. Now build up the timbale in the pan by layering artichokes and cheese  ending with artichokes. Pour the egg and cheese mixture, sprinkle with an extra tablespoon or two of Parmesan and bake at 200 °C (390 °F) until set and golden.

Serves 8 as an appetizer, 6 as a vegetarian main. Serve at room temperature.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,325 other followers