madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


springtime berry tiramisu

sweet and fresh just like spring, berry tiramisu

sweet and fresh just like spring, berry tiramisu

Life is sweet in Umbria right now. Spring is here in all its over-the-top beauty. There are flowers everywhere, I can practically see the plants growing. In fact, it feels almost like summer, warm, bright and full of promise.

We are busy at the moment. Planning an Olive Harvest celebration for next autumn. Planting rosemary bushes outside the new vacation rental which is almost ready (more news soon).

Our B&B guests have returned to populate our house with laughter and stories. They often spend long evenings on the terrace around glasses of wine, gazing at the views until the stars start twinkling.

Poppies have made their arrivals and so have the strawberries. I want to be like Google, taking naps in the sun, but I must run, there’s so much to do!


  • approx 30 Italian lady fingers
  • brown sugar for dusting
  • a pan or plate that can hold the cookies in two layers

for the mascarpone custard

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoon /75 gr. sugar
  • 375 gr / 10 oz  mascarpone
  • 1 and 1/2 cup/ 375 gr. chilled heavy cream (whipping cream)

for the berries

  • 1 cup dry Marsala or other sweet wine
  • 600-700 gr (24 oz) mixed berries of your choice. Fresh is best, but a couple of bags of good quality frozen berries are a life saver if one is short of time or it’s not the right time of the season.


Prepare the berries up to 1 day before you need them. Place them in a glass or porcelain bowl, add 3-4 tablespoon sugar and 1 cup sweet wine. Let it macerate  a minimum of two hours so they release their lovely violet juice which you will need to soak the cookies (see below).

Make the tiramisu at least 4 hours before serving and up to one day ahead. I make  tiramisu with a zabaglione  instead of raw eggs, so it’s safe to keep it refrigerated for a little longer if needed.


Cream egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl then set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Keep beating using a whisk or an electric mixer until very warm to the touch but not quite boiling. Ideally the mixture should reach 70° C/ 160 °F.  Add 1 tablespoon Marsala and whisk thoroughly for another minute or so. Remove bowl from heat, place it in an ice bath and let it cool. Add the mascarpone and whisk until smooth.

Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold it gently into the mascarpone mixture.

Assemble tiramisu:

Line the bottom of a  pan or serving dish with half of the ladyfingers in a single layer, making compact rows. Spread 1/2 of the berries on top with about half of their juices. Make sure to drizzle the juice evenly over the cookies so they will be soft but not soggy. Cover with  1/2 of  the mascarpone custard. Repeat with one additional layer of cookies, berries, juice and mascarpone custard.

Cover the pan with clingfilm and chill for at least two hours and up to 1 day.  Dust with brown sugar before serving.

Serves 12

you can make it with strawberry or raspberry but I prefer a mixture of berries

you can make it with strawberry, raspberry, blueberry or a mixture of what’s in season


chestnut and mascarpone cream

a chestnut truck in our village market

October is an incredibly generous month in Umbria. The weather is still mellow and sunny, the winds have cleared up the sky to porcelain blue, we’re counting the days to olive harvest.

This will be the first year we’ll have enough olive oil to sell because we have acquired 40 new olive trees with our new house . We are thrilled and also a bit worried by so many goals, guests, rebuilding, harvest….but sorry, I digress.

Chestnuts have finally made their irresistible appearance on the markets. 

This humble fruit has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for millennia. Near Mount Etna in Sicily there’s a chestnut tree which is believed to be between 2000 and 4000 years old. Chestnut trees are magnificent creatures, the Sicilian one is said to have sheltered a medieval queen and her 100 knights during a storm.

Every year we buy the first chestnuts, roast them and devour  them in the evening accompanied by a glass of red wine. It’s a most convivial way to end a day and to celebrate the beginning of fall.

If you can’t buy them fresh, you can get your chestnut fix with this easy but sophisticated dessert. Look for chestnut spread, puree, paste or jam which is available from well know brands like e.g. Bonne Maman, Merchant gourmet or Faugier. The chestnut spread I use is very sweet, but you might need to add sugar if the product you buy is unsweetened. 


  • 250 gr. chestnut jam
  • 250 gr mascarpone
  • 125 gr fresh ricotta

To finish

  • 3 tablespoon toasted almonds or pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoon Cointreau or brandy

Stir the mascarpone into the ricotta and whisk until smooth. Swirl in the chestnut spread and distribute into 8 dessert cups or plates. Make sure to make small portions. It’s decadently rich, a tablespoon or so per person will go a long way.  Don’t be tempted by thick sauces or melted chocolate which will overpower the delicate yet intense flavor of the cream.

If the dessert needs to wait, cover with cling film and refrigerate. Just before serving, toast the nuts and sprinkle them while still warm on the cream. If you feel the portion is too little – I don’t –  serve with some additional decoration like ice cream wafers or other light biscuits.Drizzle with a little liqueur and serve.

chestnut decadence


limoncello melon mousse

my very own light, fruity and good looking melon mousse

my very own light and fruity  melon mousse

This dessert is like a bite of summer and I am proud of it as it’s my personal creation. It’s a love story between a limoncello based fruit salad and a delicate panna cotta.



  • g 150 (5 oz) cleaned cubed cantaloupe melon
  • 2 sheets gelatin
  • 70 gr. ( ¼ cup)  sugar
  • 150 ml ( 2/3 cup) whipping cream
  • ½ teasp vanilla extract


  • 1 slice of melon
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 scant tabsp sugar
  • 2 tabsp limoncello

Soften gelatin in cold water for at least 15 min.  Meanwhile, blend the melon and sugar with a mixer, add the cream and transfer it into a pan. Bring the mixture to low boil, remove from heat.  Meanwhile take the gelatin from the water squeezing the sheets with your hand to get read of the liquid. Add the gelatin to the melon, whisk it well in, add the vanilla extract and let the mixture cool down.

Pour the mixture into 4 serving cups or ramekins and place them in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Scoop out the rest of the melon with a melon baller and transfer it in a marinade of lemon juice, sugar and limoncello for at least 3 hours.
Serve the melon mousse prettily topped with the marinated fresh melon.

Serves 2

NB. Four sheets of gelatin are equivalent to one American or Canadian package of powder gelatin. One envelope should solidify 1 cup liquid. As explained for the panna cotta, try to experiment with the amount of gelatin to obtain a soft set pudding. If using powder gelatin, soften it not in water but in a small amount of the cream as indicated on packaged instructions. When softened, add it to the warm melon mixture.


classic tiramisu

classic, soft, creamy, fantastic tiramisu

classic, soft, creamy, fantastic, tiramisu

In Italy,  the zabaglione – a frothy custard made of egg yolk whipped with sugar and fortified with wine – has been administered to the weak, to fighters and lovers for at least 500 years.

Only in the early ’80s however,  Loli Linguanotto, the chef of a restaurant in Treviso near Venice, conceived a dessert that was meant to be good for everyone, the young and the old. He layered lady fingers dipped in espresso with a mixture of zabaglione and mascarpone cheese and sprinkled it with cocoa powder.

The now world-famous tiramisu had been invented and became an instant success. Indeed the tiramisu is known and appreciated probably way more than Loli would have ever anticipated.

Needless to say, the secret of the recipe is to use original ingredients. Take real espresso no coffee granules,  Italian mascarpone no bland cream cheese, good quality  lady fingers, no store bought sponge cake. When I can, I use Sardinian savoiardi which are larger, softer and more fragrant than regular lady fingers.


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoon /50 gr. sugar
  • 1/2 pound / 250 gr.   mascarpone
  • 1 cup/ 250 gr. chilled heavy cream
  • 1 and 1/2 cup cold  espresso coffee
  • 1/3 cup dry Marsala or other sweet wine
  • 30 Italian lady fingers
  • unsweetened dark cocoa powder for dusting

Beat egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water using a whisk or an electric mixer until smooth and fluid. Add 3 tablespoon Marsala and whisk thoroughly for another minute or so. Remove bowl from heat and let it cool. Add the mascarpone until just combined.

Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold it gently into the mascarpone mixture.

Add the rest of the Marsala to the coffee and transfer into a flat bottomed bowl which must be wider than the lenght of the lady fingers.

Now work quickly. Dip both sides of each lady finger into the coffee mixture for a few seconds. The cookies absorb rapidly and will disintegrate if left in the coffee. Line the bottom of a baking pan with one layer of ladyfingers, making compact rows. Spread a 1/2  inch/ 1 cm layer of  the mascarpone filling on top. Repeat layers of cookies and filling, ending with mascarpone.

Cover the pan with clingfilm and chill for at least two hours and up to 2 days.  Before serving dust with cocoa. This looks prettier and fresher than dusting before chilling.

Serves 8-10

Savoiardi, artisan made Italian lady fingers from Sardinia

Sardinia Savoiardi, artisan made Italian lady fingers

Tiramisu on Foodista


mousse di ricotta

a mousse of fresh ricotta served with marinated fruits

a mousse of fresh ricotta served with marinated fruits

HONEYED RICOTTA MOUSSE. I adore strawberries but this light and easy dessert can be served throughout the year with any ripe fresh fruits in season. Use  artisanal raw honey with a flowery aroma such as orange blossom. Figs, peaches, melon and mango are splendid alternatives to berries.


For the mousse:

  • 500 gr/ 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 100 ml/ ½ cup whipping cream or 2 tablespoon mascarpone
  • 4-6  teaspoon good quality honey

For the marinated fruits:

  • 1 basket strawberries or two peaches or mixed berries, cleaned and thinly sliced or cubed (do not cut up berries if they are small)
  • 1/2 cup white vermouth, Amaretto or other sweet liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • juice of half lemon

Toss fruit, liqueur, sugar, and lemon juice in large bowl to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 h. For children, use only lemon juice and sugar.

If using cream, whip until firm. Whisk the sugar into the ricotta and add carefully the cream or mascarpone. Cover and  keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, spoon the ricotta mousse on a plate or bowl, add the fruit and drizzle with honey.

Serves 4-6


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