Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranato

Blood Orange, Bufala and Pomegranate Salad

Everything you see, said Sophia Loren, I owe to spaghetti.

Sophia Loren

Beata lei.  Lucky her.  The carbohydrate load of a heaping plate of pasta asciutta doesn’t do quite as much for the rest of our curves.  Every once in a while, especially as the spring arrives and we shed our layers of clothing and begin to think of summer, a salad is called for.This post really wasn’t supposed to be.  We were supposed to be writing right now about Tagliatelle al tartufo.  Except that yesterday evening, Rocky, our new 18-month-old adoptee Great Dane, ate all of Stefano’s hand-made tagliatelle as they lay spread out on the kitchen counter waiting to be tossed into a pot of boiling water.

Rocky1Thus, the salad post.  It’s actually a well-times recipe.  The late winter blood oranges are still around.  The salad’s bright colors and freshness invokes the spring months that are just around the corner.

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranato

Mixed greens
Red and green endive
Toasted bread
Blood oranges
Mozzarella di bufala
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut slices of rustic bread into cubes.  Toast in the oven until one side is crispy and then turn them over and do the same to the other side.  Let cool.

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranatoChop the endive and place it along with the mixed greens a large salad bowl, or on individual serving plates.

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranatoInsalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranato

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranatoPeel and section the blood oranges, paying attention to eliminate as much as the pith as possible.  Add them to the greens.

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranato

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranato

Toss the toasted bread on top.

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranatoDeseed the pomegranate and sprinkle the seeds onto the salad.

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranatoDrizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt and grind black pepper on top.  Toss, and enjoy.

Insalata alle arance rosse, bufala e melogranato



Carciofi alla romana

Few vegetables are as revered in Roman cuisine as the artichoke.  Late February marks the start of the artichoke season in Rome, and the lovely thistle vegetable makes its appearance in fruit and vegetable markets and on menus across the city.  The variety of artichoke found around Rome and throughout the region of Lazio is called the Romanesco, notable for it’s green and purple hues.  It is more tender than the artichokes we’ve been able to find here in the States, but we make due.

Photo from

Photo from

In Rome, artichokes are prepared in one of two ways: alla giudia, or Jewish-style; and alla romana, Roman-style.  In carciofi alla giudia, the artichoke is deep fried to a savory crispness.  Too cumbersome to do at home, carciofi alla giudia are on the menu of every Roman trattoria, especially those found in the historical Jewish ghetto neighborhood.

Photo from

Photo from

An easier recipe to prepare at home is carciofi alla romana.  In this recipe, the artichokes are cleaned, stuffed with a mixture of garlic, parsley, mint and breadcrumbs, and then braised in olive oil and water until tender.  Intended as a side dish, these roman-style artichokes steal the show every time.

4 globe artichokes
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons of flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons of mint, chopped
1 lemon
50 g (1/4 cup) Bread crumbs
1 dl (1/2 cup) olive oil, plus a few tablespoons extra.

Carciofi alla romanaCarciofi alla romanaDirections
Clean the artichokes by removing the tough, outer leaves until you get to the tender part of the artichoke, notable by the soft yellow coloring at the base of each leaf.

Carciofi alla romanaSlice off the top 1/3 of the artichoke.

Carciofi alla romanaOpen up the artichoke and remove the choke, or the fuzzy white part.  Chop off the longest part of the stem, leaving about 5 cm (2 inches) of it.  Use a paring knife to clean the remaining stem by stripping away its outer layers.

Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a bowl of cold water (the lemon keeps the artichokes from turning brown), and let the artichokes bathe.

carciofi alla giudia In the meanwhile, chop the garlic, mint and parsley.  Mix the garlic and herbs together with the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt.  Add just enough olive oil to form a paste.

Remove the artichokes from the water.  Using a small spoon, stuff the breadcrumb mixture into the center of each artichoke.

carciofi alla romanaSalt the outside of the artichokes.  Place each artichoke head down into a saucepan. Pour the olive oil over them, and let them cook for a few minutes over medium heat.  Add water until the artichoke bulbs are half-submerged.

Cover, and cook over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes.   Check them for tenderness by piercing them with a fork.  Allow them to cook a little longer if necessary.

carciofi alla romanaServe your carciofi alla romana with a little of the cooking liquid spooned over them.  A local wine, like Tenuta Pietra Porzia Regillo Frascati Superiore, pairs well with this regional artichoke dish without overpowering its nuanced flavors.

Carciofi alla romana

Alla salute!

Italian food, we were once told, is the most unhealthy of all ethnic food in the U.S..  Worse than Asian food, worse than Mexican food.  Sadly, in America and other countries outside of Italy, it is true.  Italian food has become synonymous with pasta, cheese, tomatoes and meat.  When we think Italian, we think heavy meals of gigantic portions, and rich desserts.

Insalata mozzarella, tonno e pomodoroAt a recent party, the hostess, holding a plate full of catered Italian-American food and talking to us about Due Spaghetti, asked us how we manage eat Italian and yet stay so thin.  We didn’t know how to answer her.  “This isn’t Italian food.” would not have been polite, despite being true.  We were actually eating Italian-American food.  The difference is substantial.  While Italian cuisine certainly includes some rich dishes, authentic Italian food, especially that originating from the southern Italian regions, is among the world’s healthiest.

Insalata mozzarella, tonno e pomodoroThe much-acclaimed Mediterranean diet was inspired by the culinary traditions of Southern Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco, where olive oil, vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains serve as the foundation of people’s diet.  Fish and seafood is also a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), and wine is moderate, while meat and meat products are rare.

In Italy meals are balanced.  A carb-based first course of pasta or rice is followed by a protein-based second course of fish, eggs, or lean meat.  Consumption of red meat is infrequent, portions are small, vegetables are abundant, and dessert is a simple fresh fruit.  Where that diet still prevails, people boast among the highest longevity and the lowest disease rates in the world.  It is a far cry from the Italian-American fare that has become known around the globe as Italian cuisine.

In the warm summer months, meals are often light and simple in Italy.  The piatto unico, or single course meal, is increasingly common for lunch and sometimes for dinner.  One of our favorites is a refreshing summer salad made of lattuga (romaine), fresh corn, tuna, mozzarella and tomatoes.  It is light, yet filling enough to make a meal of.

Insalata mozzarella, tonno e pomodoroDSC_0077

(quantities are all as desired)

Hearts of Romaine
Canned whole kernel corn
Fresh mozzarella
Tuna, in olive oil
Roma tomatoes
Ground pepper
Olive oil

Chop the romaine, tomatoes, and mozzarella into bite-sized pieces, and place into a salad bowl.  Drain the olive oil off of a can or more of tuna, and add it to the salad.  Add sea salt, ground black pepper and a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil if desired.  Toss, and enjoy.

oInsalata mozzarella, tonno e pomodoroDSC_0074

Torta Pasqualina

Pasqua con i tuoi, Pasquetta con chi vuoi.

Torta Pasqualina

Easter, the saying goes, should be spent with family.  Traditions abound at Easter time in Italy, and of course many of them revolve around food.  Easter breakfast at Stefano’s house is always pizza dolce with hard-boiled eggs and salami.  Abbacchio, young suckling lamb, is a Roman classic that is never missing at Easter lunch, and someone will likely bring a homemade Neopolitan Easter tart, pastiera.  The meal ends with a slice of dove-shaped Easter cake called a Colomba  and a few pieces of Uova di Pasqua, a giant chocolate Easter egg.

Torta Pasqualina

Easter Monday though, according to the saying, can be spent with friends.  It is a public holiday, and tradition calls for a picnic in the countryside.  In many parts of Italy, torte salate are common picnic fare, and torta pasqualina has become a quintessential Easter time shepherd’s pie.  Originally from Liguria, torta pasqualina is now made all over Italy.  It is characterized by its multiple layers of crust, swiss chard or spinach and ricotta filling, and by the eggs which are cooked whole inside the pie.  Recipes vary, and some traditionalists mourn the loss of authenticity that the dish’s popularity has brought.

It was our first time trying torta pasqualina, and it will definitely make a return to our Easter Monday picnic basket.

Torta Pasqualina

For the crust
600 grams (4 and 3/4 cups) all purpose flour
350 ml (1 and 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
35 g (1/4 cup) olive oil

For the filling
1 kilo (2 and 1/4 pounds) fresh spinach or swiss chard
500 grams (one 16 oz. tub will suffice) whole milk ricotta
150 grams (2 cups) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
12 eggs
Olive oil

You will bake your tart in a 25-30 cm, or 10-12 in. tart pan, such as this one.

Prepare the dough
Measure the flour and place it into a bowl.  Dissolve the salt into the water, and add it to the flour.  Add the olive oil, and stir with a wooden spoon until it the dough unites into a rough ball.  Turn the dough onto a smooth, lightly floured surface and knead it for 5-7 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.  Cut the dough into four pieces – two of them approximately 300 grams (10 and 1/2 oz.) each, and two of them approximately 180 grams (6 and 1/2 oz) each.  Cover them with a cloth and set aside.

Torta Pasqualina

Prepare the filling
Wilt the spinach or swiss chard in a few tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Only fill the pan with as much spinach or swiss chard as fits.  When that is wilted, remove to a separate bowl and place more fresh spinach or swiss chard to the pan, adding more olive oil if needed.  Set the wilted greens aside to cool.

Torta Pasqualina

In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, 1/3 of the Pecorino Romano, 3 eggs, and a generous pinch of salt, a dash of pepper and another of nutmeg. Mix well and set aside.

Return to the greens, which by now should be cool.  Place them in a strainer and press all of the liquid out of them.  Turn them over onto a cutting board, and chop them coarsely.  Return them to the bowl and add half of the remaining Pecorino Romano, 2 eggs, salt and pepper to taste.   Set aside.

Torta Pasqualina

Preheat the oven to 180° C, 350° F, and return to your dough.  Take one of the two larger pieces, and roll it out so that it is quite thin and larger than the tart pan.  Brush the bottom and sides of the tart dish with olive oil, and place the dough in it, pressing it tight to the edges of the tart dish.  You want the dough to wrap over the sides of the dish.  Brush this layer of dough with olive oil.  Roll out the second large piece of dough, and place it on top of the first piece.

Torta PasqualinaTorta Pasqualina

Return to the spinach or swiss chard.  If it has released more liquid, drain that off and then spoon the spinach into the tart dish, pressing it down and toward the edges.  Add the ricotta mixture on top of the greens.

Torta PasqualinaTorta Pasqualina

Using a soup spoon, make 7 deep indentations into the filling – one in the center, and three on each side to form a circle.   Crack each of the remaining 7 eggs, one at a time, separating the whites from the yolk.  Preserve the whites, and carefully drop each yolk into an indentation in the filling.  Carefully spoon some of the egg whites on top of the ricotta mixture.

Roll out each of the remaining small pieces of dough and place them one after another on top of the tart, brushing the first piece of dough with olive oil before adding the second.  Carefully lift the excess bottom dough up around the top of the tart, pressing the bottom and top pieces together.  Brush the remaining egg yolk over the dough, with particular attention to sealing the edges.

Torta Pasqualina

Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into it.

Torta PasqualinaTorta Pasqualina

Torta salata con pomodori, olive e ricotta salata

Cooking in summer is more fun than in any other season.  The flavors are explosive and intense, the days are longer so dinners are later, and everything is more relaxed.

This weekend at the lake we cooked in our swimsuit coverups and we ate outdoors on the patio while watching the Azzurri cheerfully knock England out of the Euro 2012 soccer quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals against Germany.  It was reminiscent of warm Sunday afternoons at Stefano’s parent’s house near the sea, when we’d all sit around the table under the portico of the house with la partita  (the soccer match) playing on a little black and white television that sat upon a table at the far end.
Our cooking inspiration came from a recipe in the most recent edition of Italia, a British magazine about Italian culture, cuisine, and property.  It’s a a rustic tart, but a lighter, summertime version of the one we wrote about this past spring.  Easy-to-use puff pastry makes up the base, which is topped with a colorful mélange of red, yellow and orange cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and black olives.  The flavors are as bright and intense as the colors, and ricotta salata adds to the rustic simplicity of this tart.

for two tarts

2 sheets of puff pastry
250 grams (approx. 1 pint) of red, orange and yellow cherry tomatoes
125 grams (4.5 ounces) pitted black olives*
100 grams (3.5 ounces) sun-dried tomatoes**
50 grams (1.75 ounces) ricotta salata shavings***
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

*Choose a high quality Italian or French black olive, or Greek Kalamate olives.

**You can use dried tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes in oil.  If use use dried tomatoes, rehydrate them before use according to the directions on the package.

***Ricotta salata is a dried, hard cheese. Parmigiano Reggiano or Feta will also work, for variation or if you cannot find ricotta salata.

Preheat your oven to 220° C, (425° F), with a baking sheet inside.  If frozen, allow your puff pastry to thaw according to the directions on the package.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl.  Drain any liquid off of the olives, and add them to the bowl,  Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into halves or thirds, and add them to the mixture as well.  Pour the olive oil over the tomatoes and olives, and salt and pepper generously to taste.  Stir together.

When the oven is preheated, remove the baking sheet and carefully place the puff pastry on top of it.  Use a fork to prick holes over the surface.  With a slotted spoon, arrange half of the tomatoes and olives over the tart’s surface, spreading them out into a single layer and avoiding the juices that have developed so that the tart does not become soggy.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, while you repeat the process for your second tart.  This torta salata can be enjoyed warm or cold.

Torta Rustica (Rustic Farmhouse Pie)

I’m not sure what made us crave a torta rustica this weekend.  Perhaps it was the dark and stormy week we’ve had that gave appeal to the scent of a savory pie baking in a warm oven.  Or, maybe the farmhouses and chalets situated among the rolling foothills of the Dolomites that we saw this morning while researching our summer trip to Trentino-Alto Adige and other northern Italian wine regions put us in the mood.

We don’t have a proprietary torta rustica recipe; neither Stefano’s mom nor his grandmother made it frequently.  Our sister-in-law Valentina makes one, the recipe almost certainly passed down to her from her mamma, Marinella.  Without Valentina and Marinella’s recipe at hand, though, we perused our copy of the The Silver Spoon for the perfect pie for this Sunday afternoon.

There are many different types of torte rustiche.  Many call for leafy greens, like the arugula e taleggio version that we almost made, or like .  Some are heavier on cream and cheese, like the classic torta pasqualina, or Easter Pie, recently made by fellow blogger Pola at an Italian Cooking in the Midwest.  Although many call for spring vegetables like leeks and artichokes, the woodsy mushroom pie with walnut cream inspired us to fold the corner over and make note for fall.

We settled on a rustic farmhouse pie that is a nice balance of vegetables and and cheeses, with pretty colors and complex flavors.  We put our own touch on The Silver Spoon’s original recipe, and loved the results.

385 grams (2 and 3/4 cup) flour, plus extra for dusting
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 packages frozen, chopped spinach
30 grams (2 Tablespoons) butter, plus extra for greasing
125 ml. (1/2 cup) heavy cream
35 grams (1/4 cup) grated Parmigiano
1 bunch thyme
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
6-8 slices of thinly sliced cooked ham (deli ham)
200 grams (7 ounces) fontina cheese, thinly sliced
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper

Add a pinch of salt to the flour, and form a mound on a clean smooth surface.  Make a well in the center of the mound, and pour the wine and oil into it.  Using your fingers, gradually work the flour into the liquid, working from the center outward and gradually incorporating the flour into the dough.  Knead the dough lightly until if forms a smooth ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the meanwhile, add the spinach to boiling water and cook until tender, approximately 5 minutes.  Drain well, squeezing out as much of the water as you can.  Melt the butter in a skillet.  Return the spinach to the skillet, and add the cream and Parmigiano.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently.    Remove from heat and set aside.

Halve the bell peppers, removing stems and seeds.  Place the pepper halves onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and place in oven under a high broiler until the skins are deeply charred and blistered.  Remove the peppers from the oven and place them into a paper bag.  Close the bag tightly and let sit until they are cool enough to handle.  Peel off the skins, and then slice the peppers thinly, keeping the strips of red pepper separate from the yellow ones.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180° C/350° F, and butter a pie plate or a tart pan with tall sides.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into two pieces, one piece slightly larger than the other.  Roll out the larger of the two pieces of dough on a flour-dusted smooth surface, until it is just larger than the diameter of the pie plate or tart pan.  Place the dough carefully into the the pan, allowing it to fold over the edges.

Arrange a layer of ham on the bottom of the pie. Add a layer of spinach, using half of the spinach, Parmigiano and cream mixture.  Follow with a layer of all of the red peppers.  Top with a layer of fontina, using half of the cheese slices.  Repeat the process with another layer of ham, the rest of the spinach mixture, and then the yellow peppers.  Add another layer of ham on top of the peppers, and finally the last layer of fontina.

Roll out the second ball of dough, and cover the pie.  Roll the edges of the bottom layer of dough up over the top layer, and pinch together with your fingers.  You may wish to wet your fingers to help seal the crust together.  Beat the egg yolk and add a small amount of water to it.  Prick the top of the pie with a fork, and brush with the egg yolk.

Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours, until the top is golden brown.  Let sit 30 minutes before cutting.  Serve hot or cold.


Mens sana in corpore sano.  A sound mind in a healthy body.

This Latin phrase, which originates from the 1st century Roman poet Juvenal’s  Satire X and is attributed to the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Thales, reflects the symbiotic relationship between physical health and mental acuity.

Regrettably, Italian food in the U.S. has garnered a reputation for being the least healthy of our myriad of ethnic cuisines.  Worse than Mexican, Chinese, or Middle Eastern.  Italo-American food is too often characterized by pasta, cheese and tomatoes, rich sauces, cured meats and heaping bread baskets.

This is simply not what authentic Italian food is all about.  Each region of Italy specializes in foods native to its land.  Food is locally sourced, and quality is valued.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are staple foods.  Pasta is balanced by rice and other grains, and seafood and legumes are valued sources of protein, while meat is consumed more sparingly than it is stateside.  Processed food is much less common, and homemade meals are prioritized.

With this in mind, this week’s recipe is a healthy, vegetable-based dish that Stefano’s mom Maria often makes.  Although it is a simple recipe, peperonata is a flavorful and beautiful marriage of red and yellow peppers, potatoes and onions, cooked slowly until the vegetables yield and release their lovely flavors.

serves 6-8

1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
3 medium potatoes
1 small onion
1/2 cup strained tomatoes, such as Pomi
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper, if desired

Peel the potatoes and chop them into half-inch cubes.  Core and seed the peppers and cut them into one-inch square pieces.  Chop the onion into half-inch to one-inch pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes.  If you like a bit of heat, add a dash of crushed red pepper.  When the onions and peppers soften pour in the white wine and strained tomatoes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and let cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.  If needed, add a little water to the peperonata to prevent it from sticking, and turn the heat down.  Remove the lid for the final five to ten minutes in order to allow any excess liquid to cook off.

Serve hot or at room temperature.  Peperonata stores well in the refrigerator and can be reheated easily for several days.

Download a pdf of the recipe Peperonata

Insalata di arance

It’s time to lighten up a bit!

The Thanksgiving meal is now behind us, but December being the season of winter parties and holiday baking, more hearty, rich food awaits us.

We’re not complaining, of course.  We love this time of year and can’t wait to blog about some of our favorite seasonal foods – polenta con funghi e salsiccia, tozzetti, and panettone are a few of the recipes on deck at Due Spaghetti for the coming weeks.  We just think it’s a good idea to celebrate a few light and refreshing winter recipes, too.

Our inspiration for insalata di arance came from Luigi Vitali, baker-in-residence for Cossetta’s in St. Paul, recent recipient  of the Best Focaccia award in Minnesota Monthly.  Luigi, who comes from the village of Acquaviva delle Fonti in the Apulia region of Italy, was our guest for Thanksgiving dinner.

Serving such a traditional American meal to international guests inevitably leads to conversations about typical foods from their part of the world, and about half-way into our third wine, while musing over the presence of blueberries in our salad, Luigi told us how salt, pepper and olive oil are added to oranges in Southern Italy for a refreshing salad.

Oranges are a common winter food in many parts of Italy.  Each December, the citrusy smell of oranges and orange peel reminds us of Christmas time at Stefano’s mom’s house.  Two days following Thanksgiving, we still could not stop thinking about that orange salad! Ignoring the left-over mashed potatoes, wild rice, turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin and pecan pie in the fridge, we set about researching insalata di arance. 

Like so many recipes, there are variations on this one.  The one we settled on calls for oranges, fennel, anchovies, fresh oregano, black pepper, salt, and olive oil.  It is spectacular – the freshest, most aromatic salad you will ever enjoy, and the perfect break from the heartier foods of the winter season.

Ingredients for 2-4 servings
2 oranges*
Fennel, 1 small bulb or 1/2 of a medium bulb
2 anchovies
1 sprig fresh oregano
Olive oil

*Dark red Sicilian blood oranges would be spectacular, if you can find them.  If not, any orange will work fine.  We couldn’t find blood oranges, so we used one naval orange and one large, firm tangerine in order to have some variety in color and flavor.

Use a paring knife to cut away the peel of the orange.  Slice past the white of the peel just into the flesh of the orange to remove all of the the bitter pith.  Slice the orange lengthwise into round discs, and then cut each disc into halves and then quarters, removing any white pith from the center.  Place the orange pieces into a bowl.

Cut the stems and fronds off of the top of the fennel bulb.  Remove any damaged outer layers from the bulb of the fennel.  Remove a thin slice off of the base of the fennel and discard.  Turn the fennel on its side and cut the bulb into thin slices.  Chop the slices into smaller parts, and add it to your salad.

Cut the anchovies into small pieces, and add them to the oranges and fennel.  Chop the oregano and add it, as well.  Salt and pepper liberally, and drizzle with 3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Stir, and serve.

Download the recipe Insalata di arance.

Wine Pairing
Cusumano Insolia 2010

We wanted a wine that would not interfere with the zesty citrus of the oranges and the variety of flavors in the salad, but that instead would emphasize and highlight them.  Cusumano Insolia, a bright and lightly sparkling white, is produced in the same land where oranges grow under the warm Sicilian sun.  It was the perfect compliment to our insalata di arance.

Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

We just can’t get enough tomatoes this summer.

Big, red beefsteak tomatoes, oblong juicy grape tomatoes, sturdy romas and ugly heirlooms – we’ve had them all.  We had the most delicious yellow tomatoes from a friend’s garden.  Mild-flavored and juicy, with a bit of salt, oil and basil they were perfect.  I thought for a moment that these would be our favorite tomatoes of the summer.

But then we saw these eye-catching little cherry tomatoes in a variety of summer colors at the Minneapolis farmers market, and all bets were off.  “They are too pretty to eat,” stated the woman next to us.  

The mixed-variety basket was fun to photograph – red, yellow, black, orange and green cherry tomatoes, and yellow, red and orange pear tomatoes.

We added little ciliegine di mozzarella (small, bite-sized mozzarella), basil, salt, and ground black pepper.  Dressed in olive oil, it became a quintessential summer salad.  And to the woman  at the farmers market – we had no problem at all eating it.

2 pints mixed variety cherry tomatoes
2 eight-ounce containers of ciliegine di mozzarella
1 bunch basil
Ground black pepper
Olive oil

Serves 4-6

Wash the tomatoes.  Quarter or halve the larger size tomatoes and place them into a salad bowl.  Toss the small ones in whole.  Drain the water from the ciliegine di mozzarella, halve them, and add them to the tomatoes.  Wash the basil and using kitchen shears, snip into pieces over the tomatoes and mozzarella.  Salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle olive oil liberally over the salad.  Allow to sit 15 minutes at room temperature.  Serve with crusty bread to soak up the juices.


No-one could cook up a pot of greens like Stefano’s grandma, or Nonnetta, as she was known to us.

Rapini, sometimes called broccoli rabe, or cime di rapa in italian, were her specialty.  They were mildly bitter and perfectly seasoned from their sauté in olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper.  Served with just the right amount of liquid, she had us sopping up the juices with pieces of bread and then asking for seconds.

In Italy, it is common to boil greens and then sauté them in olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Nonnetta’s secret was to add a spoonful or two of tomato sauce – just enough to add a touch of flavor and color.

Although a staple of southern United States cooking, sadly, greens are not as readily embraced here in the northern states.  Yes, they smell a bit when boiling (Hi, come in. Sorry about the smell, we’re cooking greens), but the pungent smell is quickly forgotten in favor of their deeply satisfying, peppery taste.

Rapini are our favorite green, but we can’t always find them at our local farmer’s markets so we often use mustard greens or turnip greens instead.  They are never quite as good as Nonnetta’s, but almost.

1 bunch of rapini, turnip greens or mustard greens
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper
2-3 spoonfuls sauce from whole, canned tomatoes
Crusty bread

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Wash the greens and remove the thick parts of the stems.  When the water boils, toss a handful of coarse salt into the pot, and add the greens.  Boil until tender, approximately 8-10 minutes, and drain.

Sauté 2 tablespoons olive oil, two cloves of garlic diced into small pieces, and a bit of crushed red pepper in a skillet for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is golden brown.  Add the greens and 2-3 spoonfuls of tomato sauce.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature with good bread.