madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


Gloria’s peposo stew

meltingly tender, the Tuscan peposo stew served with crispy roast potatoes

This is a guest blog post from my dear friend Gloria, an eclectic, ironic and multi-talented  Tuscan. She is a linguist pursuing an academic career, runs a popular travel blog, a couple of holiday rentals, collaborates to all sort of other projects I’ve lost track of, and she is – of course – an excellent cook.   I have tasted and loved this hearty stew at her country home in Southern Tuscany. It’s perfect for a chilly fall evening after a long walk in the woods.

Il Peposo, also known as Peposo del Chianti or Peposo alla Fornacina, is one of the most ancient dishes of the Tuscan cuisine. Despite the fact that it is a meat dish, it belongs in all respects to the “cucina povera”, that is, the culinary tradition of the humble households which resorted to simple, inexpensive and easily available ingredients.

Il Peposo was traditionally a hearty meal for the kiln workers of the Chianti (hence the name Peposo del Chianti). They spent long hours by the kiln making terracotta tiles and utensils and they took advantage of the heat from their ovens to slow cook the meat in pots placed just outside the kilns (hence the name Peposo alla Fornacina, as fornace is an Italian word for kiln).

In the area where my village is located, south of Siena, on the border with the Maremma, Peposo was usually eaten by wood charcoal burners. They would place their pots of Peposo on top of the turf piles under which the wood was slowly burning. In the woods which surround the village, some of the old wood charcoal burning sites are still visible in the growing underwood, and it is quite common to see pieces of broken terracotta pots scattered around the ground.

Peposo is a very easy dish to prepare. It can be prepared either  in a terracotta pot in the oven or in a pot with a heavy lid on the stove (that is what I do, which is also the traditional way around here). For this dish, you need a “poor” cut of meat rather than a tender, good quality cut, because, otherwise, the meat would melt in the slow cooking process. Traditionally, Peposo was made with scraps: the “worst” pieces of beef meat that were relatively cheap to buy. Stewing steak, better if with a bit of fat or callosity, is usually ideal. If you can only find a good cut of beef, then it’s necessary to reduce the cooking time. With the right type of meat, you will typically need 3 hours.


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 handful of sage leaves
  • 450gr ( 1 lb) of beef meat, cut in approx.  1 inch x 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 lt (2 cups) red table wine (best if a modest Chianti)
  • 1 lt (4 cups) hot water

Preheat the olive oil in a Dutch oven and briefly sauté the garlic cloves. Add the peppercorns, the sage and the meat and sear for 5 minutes, until the meat has a nice brownish colour on all sides. Pour in the wine, cover and let it simmer on very low heat or in the oven at 150 °C (300 F°). 
When the wine starts to reduce, add 4 cups (1 lt) hot water and let simmer slowly for 2 hours, checking regularly to see that the liquid has not evaporated completely.

If the liquid dries up, add some more water to cover the meat. After 2 – 2 1/2 hours, remove the lid, and let the liquid evaporate until the meat is left in a thick brown juice. There is usually no need to add salt.

Some people add a few tomatoes to the meat, which results in a creamier dish.
 Il Peposo is best accompanied by a good, hearty red wine, and possibly a salad to compensate for the rich taste of the meat. Some people serve Peposo on stale or toasted Tuscan bread. If you choose to do that, don’t let the juices evaporate completely.

Buon appetito!
Serves 2-3

a country walk and a good dinner afterwards, what else do you need?


porcini mushrooms sauce with lots of red wine


the ultimate store cupboard recipe, egg pasta curls with porcini and red wine sauce


SUGO AI PORCINI E VINO ROSSO   There are days one simply has no time. Somewhat it gets late even to shop for food. And after so much hell, the saddest thing is to get a scrambled egg or an instant soup for dinner.

Here is my revenge to a hurried day.

Dig that package of porcini mushroom out of your larder. I am sure you have some pasta and some cheese. Open a bottle of decent red wine. Now throw the mushrooms in warm water to soak and relax on the sofa. Drink a glass of wine. Only after you have finished the glass, get back to the kitchen, the mushrooms will be soft by then.

Start preparing the sauce,  making sure that every time you pour some wine in the sauce you go back to the sofa and relax.  Put the pasta pan on the heat. More sofa. Start cooking the pasta. More wine.

You only really need to stand by the stove when you need to drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce.  A worthy, last effort of the day.


  • 40 gr / 2 tablespoon dried porcini mushrooms
  • 15 gr. / 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon EVO oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2  cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoon  unsweetened whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 200 gr / 7  ounces dried pasta, preferably egg noodles

Soak the porcini in warm water about 20 min. Once they are soft chop them in smaller pieces using the tips of cooking scissors. No need to drain them, you can do this in the bowl where they are soaking.

For the sauce, use a shallow pan with high sides (e.g. a wok). Over low heat, sautee the pressed garlic with the butter and olive oil until just fragrant.

Add the mushrooms together with their soaking liquid and let them simmer. After the first 5 min. start adding the wine, 2 tablespoons at the time and continue simmering. Cook until all liquid is reduced to about 1/3 of the total volume and the mushrooms are tender. Add the cream and set aside. If you have no cream whisk-in a teaspoon or two of additional butter.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain and transfer the pasta in the pan that holds the sauce.Turn the heat to high and quickly stir so that the sauce is partly absorbed by the pasta. Add the Parmesan cheese and 1-2 tablespoon of the pasta water. Stir some more until the additional liquid is absorbed and serve immediately.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired.

Serves 2



In net contrast to everything stated yesterday about sauce and Italians eating light meals, today we polished up a whole  pan of  glorious cannelloni al ragù. It was not a holiday, but we innkeepers must work throughout most of the occasions when others celebrate holidays. As a consequence we have to nominate a grey, cold and boring winter day as “special”and cook something worth a Christmas party.

To prepare good lasagne, cannelloni or a heart lifting plate of tagliatelle, one needs a good ragù.  NOT like that one in this picture please. More like in the picture below.

homemade egg fettuccine,perfect with a slow cooked pork ragu

homemade egg pappardelle, perfect with a slow cooked pork ragù

Then one needs time, good meat, good tomatoes, good EVO oil. I use finely minced pork neck, but beef or a mixture of meats is fine. My ragù is Southern in style so it has relatively more tomato than meat. I use little EVO oil for cooking but I drizzle a bit on the ready dish so the oil enhances the flavor of the sauce. I make a huge pot and freeze it in batches, it keeps perfectly.


  • 2.1 kg bottled tomato puree equivalent to 5 14-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 300 gr./ 10 ounces ground pork meat
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 cup white wine

Soften the onion in 3 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Use a covered, low, heavy bottom pan. When the onion is translucent but not caramelized, increase the heat and add the minced meat stirring quickly until light brown. Deglaze with the wine. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the bay leaf, the clove and cover again. Cook over the lowest possible heat for at least 1 and ½ hours, but up to three hours is desirable. Season with salt and black pepper.

Serve ragù with pasta or other starchy foods that have a rough surface, so the sauce does not slip away from it. Therefore, besides lasagne and cannelloni, use with ravioli, egg noodles of all sizes, gnocchi, polenta. Preferably do not use with spaghetti, penne and other smooth pasta.

Makes 2.5 liter (2.6 quart)

Fettuccine Al Ragu on Foodista


summer and fall pasta

PORCINI AND SWEET PEPPER SAUCE. This is a variation of the basic tomato sauce using the last good summer peppers  and the first porcini available in the fall. Vegetables are added to the onion and slowly stewed for a long time like a creamy compote.

lumachine pasta in a sweet pepper and porcini sauce

lumachine pasta in a sweet pepper and porcini sauce


  • One 400 gr. (12 ounces)  can diced tomato
  • 15 gr. (1/2 ounce)  dried porcini soaked in 2/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 red or yellow sweet peppers cut into 1 cm. (1/2 inch) wide, 4 cm. (2 inch) long strips
  • 3 tabsp heavy whipping cream
  • 400 gr. short pasta like penne, rigatoni or lumache ( or gluten-free alternatives)

Use a shallow, thick bottomed pan with a lid over low heat. Soften onion and sweet peppers in 2 tablespoon EVO  oil until soft and falling apart, about 30-45 min. When the mixture starts to dry out, add the soaked porcini with their water.  Simmer until the soaking water is completely reduced. Add the tomato and cook for additional 10 min. until slightly thickened. Add cream, but do not cook it. Use with short pasta with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley or basil, if desired. This sauce can be prepared ahead and frozen. Serves 4.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,324 other followers