madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


pasta therapy: maltagliati

colorful dreams of the past

I have a wonderful 1950 copy of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. The first couple of pages show  pictures of the company’s test kitchens. One is a red and white “polka dot” kitchen. It’s a dreamy place populated by  an adorable, immaculately dressed and coiffed housewife. She is enjoying an ironing session against the cheerful backdrop of a yellow wall.

The kitchen’s photo caption says :

“….Gayest, most colorful of all, with stainless steel counters and a laundry unit for experimental work with appliances”.

How dreams have changed, don’t you think?

We are crushed under a mountain of boring chores. We have so little time to do things with our own hands, to do things for ourselves, to just take the time it takes.

Sometimes I rebel to the crush and I make some pasta. When I make pasta I take my time. It’s mine, totally.

I find it truly therapeutic. It’s creative, it’s intensely relaxing and it makes other people happy. It’s much, much better than ironing ;)

Maltagliati  is a pasta shape which was originally made from scraps left over after making other pasta by hand. It’s particularly popular  in Emilia Romagna where it’s served with beans. In my attempt to be a health-lover housewife I have made these maltagliati with 50% whole-wheat flour. Be sinful if you wish and use 100% white flour, it’s good for you anyway.


  • 100 gr. / 3.5 oz Italian 00 or pastry flour
  • 100 gr /3.5 oz whole-wheat or farro flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Make the pasta dough in 3 minutes using my food processor recipe. Cover with a tea towel and let it rest at least 10 min. Whole-grain flours are more difficult to work with than white flours. They tend dry out and crumble and that’s why I add olive oil. If you are not an expert pasta-maker try first with white unbleached flour and use whole-grain next time.

Roll the pasta into 25- 30 cm (10-12 inch) long sheets using a pasta machine. Please study carefully the method explained in the  pasta dough recipe.

Place the pasta sheets on a large wooden board or on cotton tea towels until dry but not brittle, 10-20 min. Using a pastry wheel cut the sheets into irregular 2.5 x 5 cm (1 x 2 inch) lozenges.

The whole-grain version pairs well with some robust sauce like norcina, porcini or tuna. The white flour version is wonderful in a lemon sauce. You can also use it in my fabulous bean soup instead of taglierini. If using for soup, cook the pasta in water first and then serve with the soup. It will cook in one minute.

Serves 2 with sauce and 4 with soup.

home made wholewheat maltagliati




farro and lentil soup

ZUPPA DI LENTICCHIE E FARRO. Castelluccio di Norcia, in the South-East of Umbria is a tiny village located on a lonely outcrop at the centre of one of the most spectacular areas of Central Italy, the Piano Grande . The fields of this magnificent plain produce farro wheat, and the most delicious, tiny, tender  lentils.

lentil fields in the Piano grande di Castelluccio

lentil fields in the Piano grande di Castelluccio

Farro is an ancestral wheat with a characteristic nutty flavor. The term “farro” is a collective name of 3 species of grains, i.e.  emmer, einkorn and spelt. It is considered a healthy food for its high protein and fiber  content.  Ginger was used in Italian cuisine centuries ago, but virtually disappeared after the Renaissance. For a more traditional Mediterranean flavor, ginger  can be  substituted with a  sprig of rosemary or a handful of sage leaves, not both together!


  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup/250 gr.  small brown whole lentils
  • 1 cup/250 gr.  farro
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cups/ 1 lt. water or vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 large garlic clove, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 slice toasted Italian crusty bread/person
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan/person

Some brands of farro might need to be soaked overnight in cold water. Most farro sold nowadays is pearled so does not need soaking.

In a 4-quart heavy saucepan make a “soffritto” by softening the  onion in olive oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden.  Add ginger and stir for 1 min. Add lentils and spelt, hot water or stock  and simmer, stirring occasionally, until soup is thickened and lentils are soft but still retaining their shape, about 30 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper only when cooked.

At this stage the cooled soup can be frozen. When ready to serve defrost, add some water –  it will be quite solid – and bring to a low boil.

Toast bread slices, rub generously with fresh garlic and then cut them into small cubes. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, scatter over each bowl the chopped parsley,  bread cubes , a  teaspoon of good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Serve immediately.

a light, healthy soup, almost a meal in itself

a light, healthy, nutritious soup, almost a meal in itself


Submitted to a Tasty Recipes and Cooking Station event


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