December 24, 2018

Buone Feste! Holidays in Italy

Buone Feste literally means "happy holidays". has nothing to do with being politically correct, Italians are just being practical as there are many holidays in this period: Christmas eve, Christmas day, Santo Stefano (the 26th), San Silvestro (the 31st) and the New Year! 

As most of you already know, each region has its own typical dishes and traditions. This also applies to the holidays. Many areas of Italy celebrate Christmas Eve with a big seafood meal, for others its an evening just like any other while there are many “in the middle traditions”. I for example, like to host a seafood dinner with friends on the 24th. Each year I have fun changing the menu with the only constant factor being with friends and different from the previous year.  This tradition began when my husband’s family who usually hosts Christmas day lunch is always the same. If anyone tries to change it, my father –in-law complains loudly.  

It just goes to say how traditional things are in this area. If you ask other Bolognese families, they are eating exactly the same thing, every year.   

This year I am hosting Christmas lunch for the whole family so won’t be able to host Christmas eve dinner with friends. But no, we will not save ourselves any calories, we will make up with our friends on the 27th.

Christmas in Bologna. 
The main meal on Christmas day is lunch so on Christmas morning we generally have a very light breakfast, if anything other than our morning coffee. When the family arrives, I will serve various antipasti including smoked salmon on buttered bread, anchovies served on buttered crostini, culatello salami , Parmigiano Reggiano in chunks and honey. As a first course, the meat filled tortellini served in broth are a must followed by the cotechino which is very much like a salami except it hasn’t been cured so needs to be cooked for a long time. My in-laws love it! I prefer something lighter so I’m planning to also serve bollito, a selection of boiled meats with salsa verde (parsley and caper sauce) and Mostarda di Cremona (cooked fruit in syrup and mustard essence). All of this accompanied with mashed potatoes, lentils my Roman grandma’s way and salad. At the end we will have 2 kinds of pan speziel (or certosino), panettone, dried figs, walnuts and panettone.

Pan speziel is a typical Bolognese cake served during the holidays. I will post a second article talking about the history and comparing the two famous brands of pan speziel in depth.  

Photos of my holiday meal will be forthcoming as it all develops. Check Facebook ( and my Instagram (@Maribel_Italy_Pasta) accounts to see the photos as soon as they are available.

#inmykitchen #italianholidays

August 23, 2018

The Secret to Italian Cooking: Recipe

Italian cooking is all about the ingredients. A few, well chosen ingredients is all you need to make an excellent meal.

Take for example, Naples' Spaghetti "sciuè sciuè". "Sciuè sciuè" means fast and quick in Neapolitan dialect. It is a pasta dish that does not require any special skills from the cook, just his or her ability to choose the best ingredients for this dish. Herein lies the secret to its success.

January 24, 2018

Tortellini vs Tortelloni, do you know the difference?

I wonder why so many people ask me about cheese tortellini. Perhaps someone at some point must have gotten the tortelloni and tortellini mixed-up or maybe someone began stuffing the tortellini with cheese thinking it wouldn't make any difference. Ha! that's because they don't know the Bolognese take their food extremely seriously - as seriously as some people take their sports teams.

Tortellini, stuffed with meat, are a specialty of Bologna and they are served in a brodo (soup). The pasta stuffed with cheese are Tortelloni and they are traditionally served in a sage and butter sauce so you can taste the amazing and light stuffing.

January 9, 2018

THANK YOU, 2007-2017.

Just a quick note to say THANK YOU to all the students I have encountered in the past 11 (eleven!) years.

When I first taught how to make pasta, I hoped that my students would feel they had learned something useful and that they would be able to recreate the experience successfully at home. I never expected that I'd spend more years as a pasta teacher than in any of my previous careers!

Despite some doubts, I continued teaching because several school teachers, who have studied the Reggio -Emilia methods, as well as professional chefs and cooking teachers have given me positive feedback and encouraged me.