Italy

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An Italian alternative to stuffing

Tuscan coccoli
Tuscan coccoli
Coccoli with prosciutto and stracchino. Photos: Sara Cagle

There might not be a more perfectly named food than coccoli, which translates to “cuddles” in Italian and refers to Tuscany’s favorite little balls of fried bread dough. Warm, pillowy, and torn in half to hug a salty piece of prosciutto crudo and a creamy dollop of Stracchino cheese, they really do taste like bite-size snuggles.

“Coccoli is something you know from when you are born if you are from Florence,” said Cristian Casini, a pastry chef at the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence. He grew up eating his grandparents’ homemade coccoli, served as an antipasto before pasta…


With 1001 recipes, 1974 masterwork ‘The Pasta Codex’ is finally translated into English

The cover of The Pasta Codex
The cover of The Pasta Codex
‘The Pasta Codex: 1001 Recipes’ by Vincenzo Buonassisi © 1974/2020 Rizzoli

“Is it a vicious lie that pasta makes you fat?” This is but one pressing issue that Vincenzo Buonassisi raises in the wide-ranging introduction to The Pasta Codex, his 1974 masterwork that has finally been translated into English for the first time. …


Marino Ristorante’s Giro d’Italia menu is a taste of Italy from Sicily to Lombardy

Cyclists race during the early days of Giro d’Italia 2020
Cyclists race during the early days of Giro d’Italia 2020
Cyclists race during the early days of Giro d’Italia 2020. Photo: Giro d’Italia

You can think of the Giro d’Italia as a 21-day crash course in Italian biodiversity. Known as Italy’s Tour de France, the cycling race starts at Mount Etna of Sicily, climbs north along the coastal farmland of Puglia and Emila-Romagna, and winds through the lakes and snow-capped mountains of Lombardy and Veneto before finishing triumphantly in Milan.

From a cyclist’s point of view, it’s a dreamscape of challenging and ever-changing terrain. Through a chef’s eyes, it’s a fascinating opportunity to explore the wildly different and well-preserved culinary traditions of 10 Italian regions.

Through a chef’s eyes, it’s a fascinating opportunity…


From how Michelangelo ate to an eggplant-intensive course, there’s one for everyone

An array of pasta fresca shapes
An array of pasta fresca shapes
Fresh semolina pasta from a Domenica Cooks Pasta 101 class. Photo: Domenica Marchetti

For those of us missing Italy, sipping Chianti or gesticulating with Duolingo might soothe withdrawals, but a cooking class led by an Italian professional could work even better. Here are a dozen virtual food and drink experiences — from a course about Michelangelo’s eating habits to a two-day eggplant intensive — that bring a bit of Italy to you.

1. Pasta and preservation with Domenica Cooks

The multi-part Pasta with Domenica Cooks series, taught by Virginia-based Italian cookbook author Domenica Marchetti, is well underway, with workshops on stuffed, hand-pulled, and whole-wheat pastas, plus more. Some classes have sold out as of this writing, but the series…


It seems so obvious

A plate of wide pasta topped with fried pasta and chickpeas.
A plate of wide pasta topped with fried pasta and chickpeas.
Ciceri e tria at Le Zie Trattoria Casereccia in Lecce, Puglia. Photos: Sara Cagle

Meat was once scarce in the southern Italian region of Puglia — but that didn’t mean that its classic dishes lacked in heartiness.

Just look at ciceri e tria. In true cucina povera fashion, the Pugliese enriched the flavor and mouthfeel of this brothy pasta dish, consisting of fresh tagliatelle and whole and mashed chickpeas, with what they had on hand: more pasta — this time, deep-fried into crispy, golden-brown ribbons called frizzuli. These fried filaments contrasted with the chewy pasta and smooth chickpea sauce so satisfyingly that the primo piatto is famous to this day.

The frizzuli are just…


Eating in the streets of Bari, Puglia, can be magical

Pasqua, wearing a blue-and-green floral dress, peers around thin white curtains next to pasta laid out to dry outside.
Pasqua, wearing a blue-and-green floral dress, peers around thin white curtains next to pasta laid out to dry outside.
Pasqua, a ‘pasta lady’ in Bari, Italy, takes a break from making orecchiette. Photos: Sara Cagle

“Mangia, mangia!” (“Eat, eat!”) said Porzia Petrone, the nearly 90-year-old Italian woman I’d met an hour earlier. We were eating lunch in her home in Bari Vecchia, the historic center of Bari in the Puglia region of southern Italy.

Porzia’s daughter, Rosa, busily refreshed my plate with tuna-and-tomato bruschetta and fried cod, my glass with red wine from a plastic jug, and, later, my bowl with homemade stracciatella gelato and juicy plums. I could barely keep up with the family’s conversation in the unfamiliar Barese dialect, let alone focus on the constant influx of food.

Meanwhile, the granddaughter modeled her…


It’s not the most delicious thing I’ve eaten, but it is the most rewarding

A panino al lampredotto in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, Florence. Photos: Sara Cagle

I will never forget my first panino al lampredotto.

It was a hot Saturday morning in July at Da Nerbone, a famous stall in Florence’s Mercato Centrale that has specialized in simple primi piatti, herby porchetta, and panini al lampredotto, the city’s famous sandwiches of boiled cow stomach, since 1872.

I ordered my panino piccante and received a hot plastic sack of meat with that particular offal smell and bread soaked in its juices. I ate with my elbows on the counter, sweating from the spiciness of the chile sauce and the searing summer heat. Cooking broth dripped down my…


Radicchio is having a moment in the U.S.

Photos: Kristy Mucci

Italian radicchio is having a moment in the United States.

These bitter leafy vegetables, members of the chicory family, come in a spectrum of colors, shapes, textures, and levels of bitterness. Chicories make their appearance when it’s cold out — their growing season is typically mid-September to late-January (but in the Veneto region of Italy and the Pacific Northwest, which have similar climates, they can grow through March). …


Here’s how long days in isolation are changing the way I cook

Photo: Sara Cagle

I thought that living through a pandemic would change my priorities.

Maybe I’d ponder the brief and instantly changing nature of life, or embrace the chance to explore things I’ve always wanted to learn about, like the deep sea or the cello.

Maybe I’d reconsider my line of work, which relies on freelance pay that’s unstable as it is.

Or maybe I’d at least consider sending out the postcards I wrote a month ago.

And, yeah, that’s all happening. A little.

But I’m still thinking about food, pretty much more than anything else.

My mind wanders to the subject of…


We’ve got traditional and vegan versions

Photo: Aya Brackett

Having just come back from Rome, I’ve had Pasta Carbonara on my mind, a simple four-ingredient dish with spaghetti, eggs, bacon, and parmesan. It’s all the more glorious because of its simplicity — so good quality ingredients really make a difference.

Since Italy is Italy, everyone you talk to is very opinionated as to the right way to make Carbonara (though Roman food isn’t as great as it was when I first started going there, decades ago, but that’s another story). Marcella Hazan points to variations on the dish, citing the American bacon-and-egg duo on spaghetti as having evolved during…

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Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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