December 18, 2010

Buone Feste, Happy Holidays!

The Christmas holidays in Bologna are yet another reason for the Bolognese to eat. While people around the world are busy baking cookies, people here make tortellini, small stuffed pasta with different types of pork meat and Parmigiano-Reggiano), a fundamental holiday primo in most households. During the holidays tortellini are always served in a hot chicken and beef broth or a capon broth, no exceptions!

Other classics on the table of the 25th or 1st are the cotechino or the zampone, a sort of boiled salami, the zampone encased in an empty pig's foot. Other classics side dishes include mashed potatoes and lentils. Other side dishes may be served and the antipasti will vary as well as the dessert but often includes at least one of the following: Panettone, Certosino (or Pan Speziel) or the Panone. The first two are rather labor intensive so many people buy these at a bakery. The Panone is often made at home and each family seems to have their own version of the recipe.

In Bologna, we usually eat magro on the 24th. Magro, which literally means "thin" and meant as "light meal"was supposed to be a light no-meat meal for Christmas eve. A typical primo would be tortelloni, this pasta is stuffed with ricotta as well as Parmigiano and either spinach, swiss chard or parsley and served in a butter and parsley sauce. And in case you think that this one dish is pretty light, you should consider that this is only the first course and does not include a number of antipasti, second course and side dishes... and naturally dessert.

I'm not sure that Bolognese ever took the "light"meaning very seriously as yes, they generally do not eat beef, pork or chicken on Christmas eve but they definitely do not hold back on the variety of seafood goodies they bring to their tables! That said, the 7 seafood dishes on Christmas eve is not a tradition in Emilia Romagna. So magro today only means no meat and it has nothing to do with being or getting thin. We think about thin come January!

Happy holidays!

December 1, 2010

Chocolate aroma fills Bologna

The flurries arrived in Bologna as stands were filled to the brim with chocolate at the 2010 Cioccoshow. Despite the cold, the fair went on. Several piazzas and small streets throughout the city were bustling with chocolate lovers meandering from stand to stand. Chocolatiers from various regions in Italy patiently waited, bundled up from head to toe, as customers strolled by searching for their choice. All shapes, sizes and varieties of chocolate were scattered all through the market. Soccer balls, Santas, tool sets, syrups, and all different types of chocolate filled the air with the sweet confections.

One particularly interesting stand offered chocolate kebabs and chocolate bark with hot peppers inside. Noticing my confusion, a man nearby informed me that the southern regions of Italy tend to use peppers in a large variety of ways, somewhat unlike northern Italy. Apparently, including chocolate.

Each of the stands had a uniform sign displaying the name and region from which they came. A trend of similar choices at the stands from neighboring regions was interesting. Each had their own methods and variety of offerings.

“There is a stand at the Cioccoshow from San Francisco,” said Liz Olive, a student studying abroad from the United States.

Just then she realized that she had, in fact, passed Pasticceria San Francesco, one of the stands from southern Italy, not a chocolatier from the United States. She chuckled at herself for a moment as she made her way to another stand to try some rich, melted chocolate, more commonly known as hot chocolate.

More details about the fair can be found at:

November 22, 2010

Cioccoshow Bologna

It’s finally that time of year to fill up on hot chocolate and treats as the sixth annual Cioccoshow (Chocolate Festival) makes its way to Bologna, Italy. The festival will take place Wednesday, November 24 through Sunday the 28th. The festival gives a chance for chocolatiers from all over Italy showcase their product in the heart of Bologna. Workers have been setting up tents in preparation for the festival for over a week now, building the anticipation. This years’ festival will take place in several of the city’s main piazzas including Piazza Maggiore and Piazza Santo Stefano, among others. Each day there will be special demonstrations, events and opportunities to see the master chocolatiers at work.

For more information go to the website:

The website is written in Italian, but it has some helpful information with important dates, times and locations listed. Remember, in Italy, the dates are written day/month/year and military time is used. (i.e: 20 is 8pm)
Quick- look Italian:
Lunedi - Monday
Martedi - Tuesday
Mercoledi - Wednesday
Giovedi –Thursday
Venerdi - Friday
Sabato -Saturday
Domenica -Sunday

Stay tuned for pictures for a better look in to the festival. If you have any questions – feel free to comment or send an email to: info AT

July 28, 2010

Gluten-free Pasta lessons coming soon

After some requests (and encouragement from my students) I have decided to create a pasta making lesson with gluten free flour. After many tests we have found that it tastes excatly the same as regular pasta so why not treat yourself to this lesson?

Write to us for details!

June 29, 2010

Taste of Italy featured in Italianicious

Anyone in Australia this summer? "Italianicious", an Australian cooking magazine, has come out with an issue (May-June) dedicated to the region of Emilia-Romagna and I am one of the featured cooks... check it out!

Click on the IMAGE in order to read it


May 30, 2010

Late Spring Market News Update

The warm weather is finally here and so are peas, artichokes and asparagus. I am using as many of these ingredients in the lessons as possible. Last Friday I was told that we were seeing the last of the artichokes until the September variety arrives! :( That's bad news for artichoke lovers!

However, we are now seeing some excellent varieties of local vegetables show up in the market: light green zucchini, string beans, cranberry beans (borlotti) as well as tomatoes. Where possible I always include local vegetables, they are fresher, travel less and pollute less too!

Please be flexible when you book a cooking lesson that includes seasonal vegetables. Your favorite produce may not be available! If its available, we will use it in our lesson.

Happy Cooking!

March 7, 2010

Cooking on a rainy day

Ciao everybody! So what do you do on a cloudy, rainy day like today? For starters I try not to look out the window, then I put on some happy music and start cooking something tasty.

For example, why not try this pumpkin and sausage sauce with some fresh pasta? This is a popular sauce among my students. The sweetness of the pumpkin contrasts nicely with the pork sausage, the onions and thyme. It is tasty and guaranteed to get you in a good mood. The pork sausage should be made of only pork, salt and pepper. A very good sausage doesn't need anything else.

Another thing I like to prepare on a rainy cold day is a minestrone where I start off with an Italian soffritto (equal amounts of diced celery, onion and carrots) and then add a mix of chopped vegetables, whatever is in season and on hand: fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, potatoes, beans, string beans, pumpkin, a few spinach leaves, peas, zucchini, etc etc.

After about 20 minutes of cooking the minestrone, I add a short pasta or maltagliati and add some leftover Parmigiano crust diced. Cook for the time suggested by the pasta maker or 3 minutes if using fresh maltagliati. Its always a nice surpise to find some melted bits of Parmigiano in your mouth. Yum!

Sometimes I substitute the pasta for some spelt or kamut.

Well now I am going to bake a cake for later, so arrivederci!

Bon Appetito!

PS I could have added the recipe for the minestrone but its like making any minestrone. My secret is that the soup is as good as the ingredients you put in it! So make sure you are using fresh and seasonal ingredients which are the tastiest.

February 16, 2010

Its Mardi Gras

Pasta per Carnevale!
Its Martedì grasso in Italian. While my son was home sick and his friends were at a Carnevale party at school, I tried to cheer him up with some colorful pasta strings. Kids usually throw colored paper strings at each other while they are dressed up in costumes.

First you make a regular yellow pasta, then make a green pasta with spinach and also a third pasta with tomato concentrate in order to have a yellow, red and green tagliatelle, just like the paper ones, only edible.
After each dough ball has rested at least 30 minutes, proceed to roll out the dough. Once all three sheets have been rolled out and ready, lay them one on top of the other and roll up. This step will make sure that the colors are mixed in in equal proportions.
Colored pasta
Pasta making techniques
Then quickly slice and separate the strands. Allow them to dry on the board until ready to use.
Cook for about 2 -3 minutes depending on their thickness and serve in a simple butter and sage sauce sauce and sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano OR slice some prosciutto crudo in a similar width as the pasta and toss in melted butter. Then toss sauce in (cooked) pasta. Enjoy!
My son was really happy to have his own Carnevale party at home!

January 8, 2010

My Favorite Pastry Shops in Bologna

Bologna is NOT known for its pastry making, but that does not mean that the people of Bologna don't enjoy excellent cakes and pastries.

Here is a list of the best pastry and cake shops in the center of Bologna in alphabetical order. Some of these, by the way, are also cafès and/or bars so you can stop by and eat something as well as take some home with you.

Atti (as in Paolo Atti & Figli) in via Caprarie no. 7 and its smaller sister store in Via Drapperie no.6 in the very heart of the old city's outdoor food market near the two towers. Here you will find all of Bologna's traditional cakes and pastries such as the typically Christmas certosino and Panettone, the ricotta cake, the rice cake and the tagliatelle cake. You will also find unfilled meringue shells that you can fill as you please (with layers of sweetened whip cream, crushed meringues and fresh fruit, preserved fruit or chocolate). They also make bread, fresh pastas (that Bologna is especially known for) as well as "take out food" such as lasagne that only require heating up.

Gamberini - Via Ugo Bassi 12, Bologna. Tel 051-741-7961
This shop was renovated a couple of years ago, however inside it still has a feel of years gone by. Beautiful and delicious pastries and cakes.

Laganà - Via Santo Stefano, 112, Bologna. Tel 051-347869
An old looking but excellent pastry shop, it boasts an old fashioned counter with excellent service. My personal favorites are the meringue halves filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit!!

Zanarini - Piazza Galvani 1, Bologna. Tel 051- 275-0041
A very chic place to get coffee, they are serious about their cakes and pastries. The shop was done over a few years ago, different yet reminds me a little bit of Gamberini.

Other fabulous pastry shops outside Bologna:

Rinaldini in Rimini - Piazza Mazzini 32 - Rimini tel. 0541 1833631 or Via Coletti - Rivabella di Rimini - Tel. 0541 27146
Looks and taste combined into works of art. The shops are amazingly beautiful and modern and their pastries are likewise almost too beautiful to eat.

and Dino's Pasticceria in Via P.C.S. Nasica, 40055, Castenaso, Bologna. Tel 051-786768
Although everything at Dino is fabulous, I think its buttery breakfast pastries are delectable and particularly recommend its artisanally made Christmas Panettone, Easter Colomba, Chocolate Easter eggs.