madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


the red wine risotto and how life changes in one day

risotto, the ultimate Italian no-wheat marvel

There are days that change your life.

Have you ever wondered why so much of our lives is spent waiting for a situation to change?

Those days you wait so long for, they finally happen. This – in one or another way – is often a relief. In fact, for a few minutes, even hours if you are lucky, you don’t hang over the unknown. But then, after that fleeting moment, you are looking ahead again. The future with all its needs is calling you once more.

SO THE NEWS is that I have been diagnosed wheat and egg intolerance. I have known for years to be dairy intolerant. I don’t know if I am celiac, I will know it in a few weeks.

In any case for the moment I’ll have no eggs, no wheat pasta, no bread, no butter and cheese.I have been having bad digestion problems for so long that just knowing what I should eliminate from my diet is a relief.

Of course, it does feel like my world has gotten upside down. Me, that one who wanted to convince the world to make their own fresh pasta at least once a week. Me, that one who loves to cook for others, who basically exists on cooking for others.

The good news is that I can still cook for those I love. I’ll just need to make two menus now. And not even every day.


  • 500 gr. / 1 lb Italian fresh sausages, grilled
  • 250 ml / 1 cup good quality red wine
  • 1 lt / 5 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter or EVO oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups arborio, vialone nano or carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or pecorino shavings
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Before starting please revise my risotto principles.

Grill the sausages, set aside and keep warm. I use our fantastic Umbrian sausages which are seasoned with garlic and black pepper but I would not be adverse to fennel seasoned sausages.

Make the risotto. In a large pan over low heat,  sauté the onion in butter, EVO oil or a mixture of the two until tender, about 8 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium/high and add 2 tablespoon wine. Cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the wine, one tablespoon at the time, stirring until it is absorbed.

Now lower the heat  and add 1/2 cup broth and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. After this initial stage you can continue to cook , adding more broth by ladlefuls and allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding more, stirring only after you have added the liquid.

When the rice is tender, but still has a bite, add more salt if necessary, 2 tablespoons Parmesan and once last ladleful of broth. For extra creaminess, add in 1 tablespoon cold diced butter which you need to stir vigorously. Cover and wait 5 min before serving. Serve topped with sliced sausages, a sprinkle of parsley ans shavings of Parmesan or pecorino.

For a dairy-free version omit the cheese and butter and serve with a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil. It will still be delicious!

Serves 3-4


“priest chokers” made with farro flour

here they are, peasant beauties, the stranged named strozzapreti

STROZZAPRETI.  Priest stranglers? Isn’t this a crazy name? Sounds like a recipe of the Swedish Chef .

The origin of the name is unclear but it is surely evocative of our farmers’ long suffering under centuries of papal domination. Having to part with hard earned food as a tax, they wished the greedy clerics to choke on it.

The strozzapreti are short, eggless noodles, not dissimilar to the Umbrian stringozzi. They are simply made with flour and water and rolled by hand to obtain irregular pasta curls. This is a nicely rustic, wheat-free version I made today with farro flour. You could also use spelt, whole wheat or regular wheat flour or a mixture of any of the above.


  • 300 gr (3 ) farro flour plus additional for kneading
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt

To make the strozzapreti dough use the same food processor method which I have explained for egg pasta. The dough must be firm but pliable so you might need to adjust the amount of water depending on the type of flour you are using.  Roll the dough with a pasta machine until it’s thin, but not transparent, one setting before the last one. While the pasta is still soft, cut the dough into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch)  ribbons, then…

...take a pasta ribbon on the palm of your hand....

....roll the pasta ribbons to make it curl.... this.

With a sharp knife cut the ribbons into 5 cm (2 inch) long pieces and set them on a floured worktop or cotton towel to dry.

Cook in salted boiling water for one minute, they overcook fast! Toss with sauce and a little pasta water as as explained here. Serve immediately.

The strozzapreti need a robust sauce like ragù , a Norcina or a porcini mushroom sauce. In Romagna they serve them with seafood. YUM.

Serves 2-3 as a main.


pickled watermelon rind

sometimes even the un-eatable becomes delicious.

I am always grateful for a new good recipe. Each new recipe is a true slice of happiness for me. It becomes part of my life, I will make over and over again, I will warmly recommend it to others.

Immodestly – and despite all my experiments –  I have to confess that rarely I find something that is so memorable, simple and intense that I fall in love with.

This recipe is a splendid gift of John S. whom I will thank forever. It is exotically American but it pairs beautifully with our Prosciutto di Norcia or a nice aged pecorino. This is my type of fusion food.


I use the rind of one watermelon. When we have a good watermelon, every day I remove the rind from the slices we’ll eat after our meal. I keep the rinds in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until the watermelon is finished, generally 3-4 days. This way I don’t have to clean a whole watermelon if I don’t need to.

  • 1 water melon
  • salt
  • 2 kg (9 cups) sugar
  • 1lt. (4 cups) vinegar
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp of allspice or ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods

Cut the rind into strips and remove the green outer skin. Dice into cubes about 1 cm (1/2 inch) long. Don’t make the cubes too small or they will become mushy when cooked.

Place the cubes in a large bowl and cover with water adding 2 tbsp. salt per liter (quart) of water. Place a weight over the rind and let it soak overnight.

Drain and rinse in fresh water. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the rind until just tender, approx. 1/2 hr. Drain and cool down in ice water.

In a separate pan prepare a spiced syrup using  4 cups of water,  the  sugar,  vinegar and spices. Bring the mixture to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add rinds and boil for 1/2 hr.

Pack the rind cubes into sterilized jam jars and cover withe the hot syrup, seal. Wait at least for 4 weeks before using.

One whole water melon yields about 2. 5 kg. (5 lbs) rind and makes five 1/2 lt (1 pint)  jars

letizia mattiacci on Foodista

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carciofi fritti

a tender spring artichoke

a tender spring artichoke

FRIED ARTICHOKES. When the first young artichokes appear in the markets one starts to hope that winter is  getting to an end.

An artichoke is a flower bud. A fresh artichoke is bright and unblemished, leaves are tightly packed. If the flower starts to open the artichoke will be full of choke and the leaves will be stringy, tough and virtually inedible.


  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 young artichokes
  • oil for deep frying like sunflower oil
  • 2/3 cup regular flour (use rice flour for a gluten free alternative)

Cleaning artichokes requires a little practice but it is easier with the young and tender flowers which, by the way, can be eaten raw as a salad ingredient.

To clean artichokes first pull off the lower petals until only the pale tender ones remain. Then peel and shorten the stems leaving about 5 cm (2 inches). Using a sharp knife, cut off at least 1 cm (1/2 inch) of the top of the the artichoke and trim the sides in a conical shape to remove all the dark green fibrous parts.

artichoke trimmed in a conical shape

artichoke trimmed in a conical shape

Cut artichoke lengthwise into 8 wedges and remove the fuzzy choke and some more fibrous tips using a small pairing knife. Make sure to work quickly otherwise the artichokes will darken.

remove choke and cut into wedges

remove choke and cut into wedges

Prepare a bowl of acidulated water with the lemon juice. As soon as the artichoke wedges are ready,  transfer them into the bowl to preserve color.

keep cleaned artichokes in acidulated water

keep cleaned artichokes in acidulated water

Drain artichokes with a colander and pat dry. In a resealable plastic bag mix the flour and artichokes and shake to coat all of the wedges.  Remove from the bag,  shake off excess flour and deep fry in plenty hot oil until pale golden.

crunchy outside, tender inside, the taste of fried artichokes is unforgettable

crunchy outside, tender inside, the taste of fried artichokes is unforgettable

Drain well on paper towels and season with salt. Serve immediately as part of a mixed appetizer for 4.


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