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Pasta con piselli – Pasta with peas

Although this dish can be made throughout the year with frozen peas, it is always satisfying to use fresh seasonal produce. The dish is simplicity in itself, and takes almost no time to cook. The peas can be cooked at the same time with the pasta.


  • 300 gram pasta, e.g. farfalle or penne
  • 900 gram peas (unshelled weight), podded
  • 100 gram uncooked ham, like prosciutto di Parma
  • white part of a few spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon extra vergin olive oil
  • pepper and salt
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add salt and cook the pasta al dente. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a pan, add the spring onions and fry for a few minutes (don’t let them brown). Add the peas and a few tablespoons water. Let simmer for 5 minutes and then add the ham. Season with pepper and salt, and continue the cooking till the peas are ready. Taste often, so that you don’t overcook them. Drain the pasta, and mix with the peas. Serve immediately.
If you want, you can add some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Polpettine di ricotta e spinaci – Ricotta and spinach balls

The combination of ricotta and spinach is a classic one in the Italian kitchen. The mixture is used to fill ravioli (ravioli di magro) and is sometimes cooked in water (ravioli gnudi). The dish is often served with a simple sauce of melted butter flavoured with sage leaves, and topped with some grated Grana cheese.

In this recipe, the ricotta and spinach balls are breaded, and then deep-fried in olive oil, and served piping hot as part of an antipasto misto.


  • 450 gram cooked spinach, drained well
  • 450 gram ricotta
  • 60 gram Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • pepper and salt
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • flour
  • fine dry breadcrumbs
Roughly chop the spinach, and add to the ricotta. Add the Parmigiano and 2 tablespoons bread crumbs. Mix well with a fork and season with pepper, salt and the nutmeg. Divide into 20 portions and shape each into a ball.
Beat the egg with the milk and a pinch of salt. Lightly coat the ricotta balls in flour and then in the egg mixture; then roll in the fine dry breadcrumbs. Deep fry in hot olive oil (180°C) until golden brown (4 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper and serve at once.

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Spaghetti al pomodoro crudo


Crudo means uncooked, so basically this is a pasta dish with some chopped up tomatoes. Quick and easy to make, but the quality of the ingredients is all the more important.  Do use the best quality artisanal pasta available (Latini or Martelli are good examples).  This pasta is rougher on the surface so that the sauce clings better to the spaghetti strands. Finding good tomatoes is getting easier nowadays.  Buy them on the vine and store them for a few days on a window sill (never in the fridge of course). A delicate olive oil from Liguria made from the Taggiasca olives would be a perfect match.

Obviously variations on this simple idea are plentiful: add some garlic, or peperoncino, olives or diced mozzarella and so on.  I would recommend to stick to the original though.


  • 300 g spaghetti, of the best possible, artisanal quality
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra vergin olive oil
  • fresh basil leaves,torn
  • salt and black pepper

Remove the hard core and the seeds of the tomatoes and chop them up. Put them in a large bowl, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the basil, and season with salt and pepper.  Let marinate for at least one hour (not in the fridge).

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add salt and cook the spaghetti al dente. Drain, and add to the bowl with the tomatoes.  Add  the remaining olive oil and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.

Further reading:

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Ristorante La Mora


During a recent trip to Tuscany, I had lunch at Ristorante La Mora, which is situated at Ponte a Moriano, not far away from Lucca,

The history of La Mora goes back to 1867, and the current owner, Sauro Brunicardi, has been specializing in the regional foods of Lucca and the neighbouring Garfagnana. This love for rustic food has not prevented the restaurant from obtaining a coveted Michelin star.

The menu reads like Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ Flavors of Tuscany: zuppa alla frantoiana, garmugia lucchese, farinata garfagnina, pancotto al pomodoro for soups, crostini di rigaglie al vinsanto, tordelli, tacconi, castagnaccio, buccellato and so on.

My lunch consisted of:

  • budino di peperone dolce: a budino is a cooked pudding, often made of ricotta, or chocolate, sometimes even chestnuts; this version was made with yellow bell pepper, and as light as a feather;
  • gran farro is a soup made of cooked, and then mixed beans, in which the farro grain is cooked. The soup is always finished at the table with a drizzle of olive oil, and some freshly milled pepper. From the collection of olive oils in the dining room, Sauro chose the delicious Fubbiano brand.
  • il lombatino di maiale senese was a piece of pork loin of the famous Cinta senese pigs, served with oven roasted potatoes and chard.

I drank an excellent half bottle of Chianti Classico DOCG Péppoli 2005 from Antinori. The wine list is impressive with more than 500 wines to choose from. The cantina is in a separate building, on the opposite side of the street. Prices are more than reasonable: 3€ for a glass of house wine, and bottles start at 20€, although 2.500€ is also a possibility !

I finished the meal with a coffee (no dessert) and some home-made cookies. Including a bottle of water the bill was a more than reasonable 43€. This might seem expensive compared to the local Tuscan trattorie, but then this is top cuisine, made with immaculate produce and first class service.

Not to be missed if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Ristorante LA MORA

Via di Sesto di Moriano, 1748
Ponte a Moriano (Lucca)
tel. +39 0583 406402

Posted in restaurants, Tuscany.

The wines of Italy

The brochure might be a bit outdated, but still gives a good overview of the wine production in the regions of Italy. And the pictures are magnificent.
You can also find various other documents of this type in the documentation pages.


Posted in wine.