madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


beef straccetti with asparagus and spring onions

Umbria Agricultural Fair: majestic Chianina bull, an ancient breed from Central Italy wheighing up to 1700 kg/ 3700 lb and up to 1.8 m / 6 feet tall


Spring, spring, spring! Quick, quick, quick! Who wants to be inside with this beautiful weather? Who wants a complicated dinner when there’s lavender to prune, petunias to plant, dry leaves to sweep?

I love this dish, it’s light and juicy, it has the crunch and aroma of my favorite vegetables and it’s ready in 10 min. The term “straccetti” means small rags, referring to the messy shape of the thin strips of beef. I use carpaccio from Chianina, the powerful cows raised by the Etruscans and Romans 2000 years ago and respected ever since for beauty and quality.

Serve the straccetti on a bed of boiled grains  and you will have a wholesome Italian stir fry. Here I buy a mixture of farro, barley and brown rice which is parboiled and cooks in only 12 min.


  • 200 gr. / 6 oz very thinly sliced beef
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 350 gr / 2/3 lb green asparagus, woody stalks removed
  • 3-4 spring onions sliced

I hope you are lucky and you have a gorgeous spring out there. Should you be able to tear yourself from all that beauty, cut the meat slices into strips, place them in a bowl, add the lemon juice, one crushed garlic clove, two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, toss to distribute the marinade and set aside. Refrigerate if you plan to marinade for more than one hour.

Clean the asparagus, toss them with one tablespoon of EVO oil and broil under a grill until just beginning to char but still bright green. Take out of the oven, add one finely minced clove of garlic and cover to infuse.

Now you can go outside and sit on your balcony or plant the petunias. When is almost time for dinner, bring the meat at room temperature and cut the asparagus in 5 cm / 2 inch long pieces. Slice the spring onions and soften them in a tiny bit of EVO oil, increase the heat to very high, add the beef strips  -marinade and all – and stir vigorously until just starting to color. Add the asparagus and their juices and stir some more until just warm. Serve immediately, it’s for 2-3 gardeners.

so good, so easy.


broccolo romanesco

broccoli romanesco, a beautiful cousin of cauliflower

ROMANESCO BROCCOLI or CORAL BROCCOLI, it is actually a variant form of cauliflower. Awesomely beautiful, it is also a mathematical plant. Its shape is fractal, meaning that each bud is arranged along a logarithmic spiral and each small spiral participates to a larger spiral to obtain the final form. Mind boggling.

This recipe – originally from Puglia – exemplifies the just discussed use of umami-rich ingredients in Italian food. A tiny bit of anchovy combined with a healthy sprinkle of cheese brings out the vibrant flavor of the vegetables and makes a perfect pasta sauce. It is ready in 20 min. Happiness for dinner.


  • 350 gr (12 ounces) short pasta like orecchiette or penne
  • 1 head Romanesco broccoli, though base stalk trimmed, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoon EVO oil
  • 1 anchovy  fillet
  • 1 large clove of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 chili pepper (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoon Parmesan, grated

For the sauce, use a large sauté pan or, even better, a wok.  Add garlic, chile pepper if using, olive oil, anchovy and saute over low fire until the anchovy is melted. Do not brown the garlic. Set aside.

Please keep in mind that broccoli cook in about 5 min. so you need to boil them for less time than the pasta.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until 5 min. before the end of the cooking time indicated on the package. Add the broccoli florets, cover and bring quickly to the boil again.

After 5 min. strain the vegetables and pasta, and transfer in the wok containing the garlic mixture. Add 2-3 tablespoon of pasta water, half of the cheese and stir vigorously over high fire until all moisture is absorbed . Serve immediately with more cheese on the side.

For a vegetarian version omit the anchovy and use aged pecorino cheese instead of Parmesan. This recipe can be made with regular broccoli and sprouting broccoli as well.

Serves 3-4

penne with Romanesco broccoli

Broccoli on Foodista


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