Herb and Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce

Butter and Sage sauce is often what comes to mind when showcasing ricotta-filled ravioli, and especially spinach and ricotta ravioli. In Italy, meatless preparations like this are sometimes called “di magro” (literally, “of lean”), with reference to the foods that are allowed during lent according to the Christian tradition. Really, though, this dish is anything but lean – it’s a decadent buttery and cheesy delicacy that is technically not even vegetarian due to the presence of Parmigiano (made with rennet).

As a gentle twist to the common spinach flavoring, this herb and ricotta ravioli recipe makes use of Swiss chard (“bietola” in Italian), which is slightly more bitter, flavored with more sage, parsley, and a touch of garlic.

As for the origin of ravioli themselves, we need to go all the way back to the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, these early preparations have produced several regional staples, from Anolini and Cappelletti, to Tortelli, Tortellini, Tortelloni, Agnolotti, and Casoncelli, just to name a few!

Ingredients for two servings

For the dough
– 100 g flour
– 1 egg
– pinch of salt
– bit of water
For the filling
– 125 g ricotta, drained
– 1 egg yolk
– 20 g Parmigiano, grated
– 150 g Swiss chard
– 25 g fresh sage
– some parsley (optional)
– 1 clove garlic (optional)
– some olive oil
– pinch of salt
To boil
– 2 Tbsp coarse salt

For the sauce
– 30 g butter
– 10 sage leaves

For the plating
– More grated Parmigiano


Let’s start with the dough! Put the egg, the flour, and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Mix into a dry crumble, then add a tiny bit of water – just enough so you can knead it into a firm but elastic ball. Cover and let it rest for 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile, wash the chard and put it into a large pan. Put the lid on and cook at high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until it almost disappears!

Next, put the cooked chard into a potato ricer and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then, chop it coarsely.

Now, wash and dry sage and parsley and chop them finely. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan. Roast the sage and parsley for a couple of minutes, then discard the garlic.

In a mixing bowl, add the well-drained ricotta, the egg yolk, the grated Parmigiano, the cooked chard, and the crispy sage and parsley. Mix well.

Once a half-hour has elapsed, roll the dough until very thin (max 1 mm thick). Using a sharp round container (about 5-6 cm diameter), cut circles out of the dough. Re-knead the offcuts and re-roll the remaining dough to cut more circles. This is also a good time to start bringing a large pan of water to a boil.

Fill each raviolo with a teaspoon of ricotta mix. Fold the dough onto itself and press around the edge. Continue until all ravioli are filled. Lay them out on a wooden surface or on a floured tray.

Then make the sauce by melting the butter and adding fresh sage leaves. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the ravioli in plenty of salty water for about 4 minutes.

At this point, plate the ravioli on preheated dishes. Drizzle them with the sage butter sauce, and sprinkle them with some more Parmigiano.

Herb and Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce

Yield: 2 portions

Total Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Herb and Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce


    For the dough
  • 100 g flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • bit of water
  • For the filling
  • 125 g ricotta
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 20 g Parmigiano, grated
  • 150 g chard, can also use spinach
  • 25 g sage
  • some parsley (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • some olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • To boil
  • 2 Tbsp coarse salt
  • For the sauce
  • 30 g butter
  • 10 sage leaves
  • For the plating
  • More grated Parmigiano


  1. Put the egg, the flour, and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Mix into a dry crumble, then add a tiny bit of water – just enough so you can knead it into a firm but elastic ball. Cover and let it rest for 1/2 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the chard and put it into a large pan. Put the lid on and cook at high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until it almost disappears!
  3. Put the cooked chard into a potato ricer and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then, chop it coarsely.
  4. Wash and dry sage and parsley and chop them finely. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan. Roast the sage and parsley for a couple of minutes, then discard the garlic.
  5. In a mixing bowl, add the well-drained ricotta, the egg yolk, the grated Parmigiano, the cooked chard, and the crispy sage and parsley. Mix well.
  6. Once a half-hour has elapsed, roll the dough until very thin (max 1 mm thick). Using a sharp round container (about 5-6 cm diameter), cut circles out of the dough. Re-knead the offcuts and re-roll the remaining dough to cut more circles. This is also a good time to start bringing a large pan of water to a boil.
  7. Fill each raviolo with a teaspoon of ricotta mix. Fold the dough onto itself and press around the edge. Continue until all ravioli are filled. Lay them out on a wooden surface or on a floured tray.
  8. Then make the sauce by melting the butter and adding fresh sage leaves. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the ravioli in plenty of salty water for about 4 minutes.
  9. Plate the ravioli on preheated dishes. Drizzle them with the sage butter sauce, and sprinkle them with some more Parmigiano.

Home-Baked Sourdough Bread – At Last!

Never would have thought I could obtain these results in my regular oven and without special equipment. But after 11 months of weekly baking, fresh sourdough loaves have become a reliable tradition in our family.

I’ve been thinking of posting my method for a while, but only now feel confident that it’s sufficiently streamlined and repeatable–hence this blog post today!

It all began when my co-worker, Jules, kindly gave me part of her sourdough starter, which came from a restaurateur she knew along with their recipe. Baking bread, though, is very much something that one has to tune to their own equipment, method, and of course liking. Over time, I’ve been refining my technique to the point where I’ve been getting consistent results. But by no means is this the only way to bake bread at home and it can certainly be improved.

First, though, you may be wondering – okay, where do I get my own starter? Well, unfortunately, I can’t really help you with that. It is possible to grow it from scratch, but it’s not easy because it is made of a stable symbiotic mixture of yeast and lactobacilli. My friend Mark Preston describes the process in detail, but as you can read it’s a very difficult route that will take a lot of time (and money!) Instead, I recommend asking a baker if they can sell you a piece of their levain starter – or a piece of their uncooked, unsalted sourdough. Speaking of which, there are different kinds of sourdough, each with a different flavor and level of sourness. I like a very mildly sour sourdough, but more sourness (possibly an acquired taste), is appreciated by many (famous is San Francisco’s sourdough, which also names its bacterial culture).

So, say you were able to get a hold of some good sourdough starter, what should it look like? The starter is made of living microorganisms that need feeding and produce by-products. The metabolic process is slower at low temperatures and accelerates with heat. If kept in the fridge, after 5-7 days your sourdough starter will be hungry–it will look bubbly, may have liquid on the top (left image below), and it will smell a bit like beer.

Ripe sourdough starter ready to be fed (left). Feed consisting of 100 g of strong flour and 100 g of water (right).

If you forget to feed your starter, after a couple of weeks it will start to go bad. It’s possible to rescue a starved starter by repeated splitting and feeding, but sometimes it may be too late. If one knows they’re not going to be able to feed for ten or more days, it’s possible to slow down the starter’s metabolism almost completely by freezing it. However, freezing, just like starvation, causes some damage and the thawed starter will need some repeated splitting and feeding to fully come back to life. If at all possible, I recommend treating your starter like a pet and either taking it on vacation with you or arranging for someone to care for it during your absence.



  • Plastic mixing jar.
  • High precision kitchen scale.
  • Air-tight tub for storing.


  • 100 g starter to be fed.
  • 100 g high-gluten ‘strong’ flour.
  • 100 g regular tap water, or non-carbonated bottled mineral water if your tap water is especially soft, or very chlorinated. The recipe below assumes water at room temperature.


  • Use or dispose of all but 100 g of starter.
  • Mix 100 g flour and 100 g water and stir energetically.
  • Incorporate the 100 g of starter into the mix, stirring from bottom to top.
  • Put the mix in an air-tight container and keep it in the fridge for 5-8 days undisturbed.

Now that your starter has been fed, you are left with some excess starter that is ripe and ready to be used! The instructions below assume you have about 150 g of ripe starter. If you don’t have enough, keep feeding your starter weekly until you have enough feed leftover to bake with.



  • Proving basket. Using a wooden (rattan) banneton is essential to allow the dough to undergo its final slow rise without drying out while forming a “skin” – the beginning of your bread’s crust. I use a 20 cm round basket, similar to this one. If the basket comes with linen lining, the latter can be used to smooth out the basket’s walls. Since I like seeing the basket rings in the final product, I use the lining as a lid during proving.
  • Cast iron casserole, a.k.a. Dutch oven. A 4.7 liters one will work perfectly for the recipe I’m about to describe. A casserole is essential when baking in a standard oven because it creates an enclosed space that fills with steam during baking, allowing the bread to do its final rise and cook through without burning. A double-dutch oven (resting on its shallow pan) or a spun-iron baking cloche can also be used and are preferable to the casserole because they allow easier access.
From left to right: cast-iron casserole, double-Dutch oven, spun-iron baking cloche.
  • Scoring blade (optional), similar to this one. A very sharp paring knife can also be used.
  • Cooling rack (optional). Two wooden spoons placed flat on a cutting board can also be used to support the loaf while it cools down.


NOTE: These quantities make a ~800 g loaf (about 20 cm in diameter, 12 cm tall) that fits in a 4.7 l casserole.

  • 150 g ripe sourdough starter.
  • 150 g strong flour and 150 g water for the first rise.
  • 330 g strong flour and 150 g water for the second rise.
  • 1 tablespoon rice or semolina flour as a coating for the proving basket.

NOTE: The quantities above correspond to a 67% hydration (the ratio between water and flour). Higher hydration (e.g.: 80%) results in a lighter sourdough with a thinner and crunchier crust. However, high hydration also means a stickier dough during preparation which requires a lot of technique! Since I posted this article, I have been practicing increasing hydration to 72% by reducing the amount of flour for the second rise from 330 to 300 g. The improvement is noticeable, but the proportions above still yield a fantastic product that is also very easy to obtain.


NOTE: I’m presenting the slow-rise version of this recipe. It can be shortened by reducing or removing the resting time in the fridge, replacing it with a shorter resting time outside of the fridge (8 hours in the fridge equal to about 1 hour outside of it). However, I should warn you that, for reasons beyond my understanding, slow-risen bread will look and taste better!

Day 1

  • Mix 150 g flour + 150 g water then incorporate 150 g starter and leave out of fridge 4-6 hrs (4 hrs on a hot summer day, 6 hrs in winter). After this time, the mix should look quite bubbly and have roughly doubled in size. Put it in the fridge overnight in an airtight container.
The first rise, before and after.

Day 2

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 330 g strong flour and 10 g table salt. Then add 150 g water and the risen mix from Day 1. Mix as best as you can in the mixing bowl by using a big spoon (can use a food processor as well for this step.) Let it rest at room temperature for half an hour.
Strong flour and salt are weighed and combined. Then, the risen dough from day 1 is added, along with more water.
  • Place the dough on a stainless steel or stone worktop and knead every half hour for 2 additional hours.
  • Roll the dough onto itself to create surface tension as demonstrated in the video below.
  • Brush the proving basket generously and thoroughly with semolina or rice flour. These are preferable to regular wheat flour as the latter tends to become moist and stick to the basket during proving (a quite unfortunate event!)
  • Put the dough in the basket upside down (seam up), and leave in the fridge for 8 hrs or overnight to prove covered with a towel or linen lid. After this time, the dough should have increased in volume by about 50%.
Sourdough, second rise
The folded dough is placed in a proving basket. Then, after a slow rise at a low temperature, the dough is ready to be baked.

Day 3

  • With the proofing basket still in the fridge, preheat the oven with the cast-iron casserole inside for about 30 mins at 250℃ (480℉).
  • Take the proving basket out of the fridge, and flip it on a sheet of grease-free parchment paper.
  • Score the top with a sharp knife or razor blade. These cuts will expand during cooking allowing excess CO2 to escape and the crust to expand for the final in-oven rise. I like to make one big cut, at least 5 mm (1/4”) deep, and shallower cuts as a decoration. Bread scoring is a difficult and fascinating art, I only lately have started to obtain decent results – don’t be upset if your bread breaks in all the wrong places!
Sourdough scoring
Before baking, the risen sourdough is scored with a sharp blade.
  • Lifting by the parchment paper, place the dough into the super-hot casserole. This operation is easier if using a baking cloche or a double Dutch oven because they have a shallower bottom.
  • Immediately, put the lid on, put the casserole back in the oven, and bake for 40 minutes at 250℃ (480℉).
  • Remove the lid and bake for 10 more minutes lowering the temperature to 230℃ (450℉) if you have a fan oven, or maintaining 250℃ (480℉) otherwise.
Sourdough baking
The sourdough ball is placed in the hot casserole. After baking, the sourdough loaf is ready!
Baking in a double dutch oven
As an easier alternative, the dough can be baked in a cast-iron double-dutch oven (using its deep pan as a lid). The parchment paper is then optional.
  • After baking, lifting by the parchment paper, place the loaf on the wire rack to let it cool for at least half an hour before cutting into it. If the rise was sufficiently uniform, the scoring cuts will have uniformly expanded.
Sourdough cooling
The baked loaf cools down on a wire rack.
  • Allow the proving basket to dry in warm air (I leave mine near the oven as the bread bakes), then brush off the excess flour using a dedicated hard brush. If some of the dough is stuck to it, the basket can be washed in cold water without any detergents and then allowed to air-dry.
Sourdough slice
The resulting sourdough should have a spongy texture.

If things go well, your loaf should be fragrant, slightly chewy, and should have air bubbles of varying sizes trapped in it.

Using flour that is not very strong or mixing in whole-wheat flours will produce smaller, more uniform bubbles and a mealier texture. Small bubbles and a tougher, denser loaf may also result from an under proved or over proved fermentation, or the effect of machine kneading.

Home-Baked Sourdough Bread – At Last!

Total Time: 2 hours

Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Home-Baked Sourdough Bread – At Last!


  • 150 g ripe sourdough starter
  • 480 g strong flour
  • 300 g water
  • A generous tablespoon of rice or semolina flour (recommended).


  1. Follow the steps above.

Preserving baked bread

If the loaf is left whole, the crust will provide a natural barrier that will keep the bread fresh for a day. A slightly stale loaf will regain its fragrance if warmed up in the oven, or in a toaster if sliced. If the bread is not going to be consumed within the day, I recommend freezing it in halves or quarters as soon as it has cooled down. Allow the frozen loaf to thaw at room temperature for one hour, or for 5 minutes in the microwave set to the lowest power setting before consuming it.

Other Sourdough Recipes

The recipe I described is very much like a blank canvas! Different kinds of flours can be mixed in (e.g. whole wheat, spelt, sprouted grains), as well as other ingredients added (olives, nuts, dried figs, shredded cheese.) A tablespoon of olive oil will result in a softer loaf that will stay fresh for longer.

Cheese sourdough bread
One of my favorite variations is to add half a cup of shredded sharp cheddar into the last fold!

What about sourdough pizza, pretzels, waffles, donuts? Yes, please! All of those and more are possible and delicious. I’ve been using my coworker Zoe’s pizza recipe with great results, please see below for the instructions. I’ve also experimented with other sourdough preparations, but my results are still inconsistent. I’ll report back when I’ll know more–please continue to send me your recipes!

Zoe’s Sourdough Pizza

  • Ingredients:
    – 30 g mature starter
    – 380 g strong flour
    – 250 ml water
    – 10 g olive oil
    – 10 g salt
  • Mix the starter, the water, and the olive oil together separately first. Whisk together.
  • Add to the flour and the salt.
  • Mix and leave uncovered for an hour or two.
  • Fold it a bit.
  • Cover and leave out of the fridge for ~24hrs.
  • Shape the dough into 2 balls and leave to rise for 2 hrs before cooking.
  • Stretching – it literally falls right out into a pizza shape.
  • Cooking:
    • If using a pizza stone, leave it in the oven for it to heat up slowly to 250℃ (480℉). Slide the stretched dough with toppings onto the stone. Bake for 2-3 minutes, turn it around, bake for another 2 mins.
    • If using a perforated pizza tray, bake for 7-8 minutes at 240℃ (460℉) or until the cheese is bubbly.

Sourdough Breadsticks

Breadsticks, or ‘grissini’ in Italian, are another, quicker, preparation that can make use of a sourdough starter.

  • Ingredients:
    – 150 g mature starter
    – 300 g strong flour
    – 50 g butter, melted
    – 5 g salt
    – 2 g sugar
    – 1 Tbsp rosemary (chopped, optional)
    – 1 tsp dried oregano (optional)
    – 1/4 tsp black pepper (ground, optional)
    – 1 Tbsp milk or beaten egg (optional)
    – 1 Tbsp coarse salt (optional)
  • Feed the starter with 150 g of flour and 150 g of water at room temperature.
  • Let it grow for 3-4 hours outside of the fridge until it almost doubles in volume. Can rest overnight in the fridge if unable to bake on the same day.
  • Add the rest of the flour, the salt, and the sugar, mixing as much as possible in a bowl.
  • Work in the melted butter, then continue kneading by hand on a working surface. If desired, add chopped rosemary, or oregano, and/or black pepper.
  • Divide the dough in half, then in half again, and again until you obtain 8 balls of roughly equal size. Roll them into cylinders.
  • Warm up the oven to 225℃ (430℉).
  • Let the cylinders rest for 10 minutes for the gluten strands to relax, then pull them gently to make them thinner and longer, and cut them in half.
  • Lay the cylinders on a baking sheet previously covered in parchment paper.
  • If desired, brush them with milk or beaten eggs, then sprinkle with coarse salt.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until the tips darken considerably.
bread sticks
Cracked pepper and oregano breadsticks, brushed with milk and sprinkled with coarse salt.

[Thoughts on the Table – 66] Introducing Giuseppe D’Angelo from Pizza Dixit

This episode’s guest is Giuseppe D’Angelo, the author of Pizza Dixit, the blog on Neapolitan pizza in the world. Born and raised in Naples, Giuseppe made a mission for himself to discover the best Neapolitan pizzerias around the world. In doing so, he investigates how pizza makers outside of Naples can obtain an excellent product by operating on the variables they still can control, such as the dough, the oven, and the choice of ingredients, starting of course from tomato sauce and mozzarella.

During the episode, Giuseppe tries to define what Neapolitan pizza *is*, a controversial topic even within Naples itself, by stating what Neapolitan pizza definitely is not! He also describes how modern pizza ovens can approximate the results of traditional wood-burning ovens while helping pizza makers comply with city regulations.

You can follow Pizza Dixit in both English and Italian on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


Piadina Romagnola

Piadina is a traditional flatbread from the Italian historical region of Romagna.

The name piadina (plural: piadine) is a diminutive form of piada (used interchangeably to refer to the same preparation), which originates from the Greek pláthanon: “long dish, baking tray.” Since 2014, ‘piadina’ is registered as Protected Geographical Indication (Indicazione Geografica Protetta, or IGP, in Italian.)

Traditionally, piadina is made of flour, water, salt, and a small amount of lard (strutto in Italian). For a vegetarian recipe, the lard can be substituted with olive oil or margarine. Through the centuries, from a simple bread alternative, piadina has become an iconic symbol of the Romagna region and a widely popular product. Nowadays, it can be enjoyed in special establishments called Piadinerie (plural of Piadineria), which can also be found in big northern Italian cities outside of the Romagna region.

The piadina can be served as a kind of bread to accompany meals, but it’s more commonly enjoyed folded in half and filled with various cheeses, cold cuts, or roasted vegetables. One of the most popular fillings is Squacquerone (a fresh cheese which has a protected designation of origin from Romagna), prosciutto crudo (dry-cured ham), and rocket (arugula).

Having grown up in the province of Milan, I only became familiar with piadina during one of my family’s summer trips to the Adriatic seaside resort of Emilia-Romagna, a popular destination for Italian and north European tourists who are looking for long sandy beaches, shallow Mediterranean waters, amazing food, and exciting nightlife. I remember trying my first piadina in a small theme park called Fiabilandia, in Rivazzurra di Rimini. It was filled with prosciutto crudo, and for me, it was a welcome revelation—one of the first of the many kinds of Italian regional food that I went on to discover!

This recipe was given to me by a friend who was born in Romagna. It makes use of a small amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) which acts as a raising agent by releasing carbon dioxide at temperatures above 80 °C, making a light, friable flatbread.

Besides cooking, baking soda has many other uses as summarized in this comprehensive article.

Piadina Romagnola

Yield: 4 piadine

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Piadina Romagnola


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (or 1 1/6 if using unsalted margarine*)
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) (salted) margarine, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 cup Squacquerone cheese (which can be substituted with Quark)
  • one handful of rocket
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. In an electric mixer using the dough blade, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Add the margarine and mix until evenly combined.
  3. Slowly add the water, mix until the dough forms a mass around the hook. Knead until smooth, 5 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Wrap the balls in saran wrap and let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a thin disc, 7 inches in diameter. If you want perfectly round piadine, press a similar sized lid onto the rolled dough, then remove the excess around the edges.
  6. Warm up a non-stick pan on the small burner, at a medium heat. Allow 5-10 minutes for the pan to reach a stable temperature.
  7. Cook one piadina at a time, for about 2-3 minutes on each side. If big bubbles begin to form, flip the piadina sooner to keep the bubbles from growing. Continue cooking, flipping as necessary, until lightly browned small blisters appear on the side in contact with the heat.
  8. Remove the piadina from the heat and let it cool until lukewarm, then fold it in half and fill it with the cheese, rocket, and cherry tomatoes.


* Salted margarine contains 7 mg of sodium per gram, therefore 2 oz of margarine contain 400 mg of sodium, which correspond to 1/6 teaspoon of salt.




Chard and Spinach Gnudi, the Naked Ravioli

This recipe was adapted from Domenica Marchetti’s “Swiss Chard and Spinach Ravioli Nudi”, part of her great cookbook The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, entirely dedicated to the prominent role of vegetables in Italian food.

I chose this recipe because I wanted to recreate the gnudi I tasted in a restaurant in Florence during a recent Italian trip, which also happen to have been the first gnudi I ever tasted! Florence is a mere 300 kilometres from my hometown, but regional specialties often remain confined to their native areas.

As pointed out by Domenica, “nudi” (or “gnudi” in Tuscan dialect) means naked. This is because essentially they are “naked” ravioli, i.e. ravioli filling without the pasta wrapper. The use of ricotta makes them light and fluffy, unlike potato gnocchi, which are much denser. It’s important to note that gnudi are used in first courses instead of pasta or gnocchi, they’re not meant to be served with pasta like some kind of vegetarian meatballs!

Gnudi can be prepared in several different ways. The version chosen by Domenica (and which I recreated) sees the addition of spinach and chard (“bietola” in Italian) for a “green” dough that is delicate and smooth, and which pairs well with plain tomato sauce (described here). The process of rolling the gnudi into shape is relatively easy, but it requires time and some patience. The result is spectacular – gnudi are a great first course which can set the tone for a very special meal.

Chard and Spinach Gnudi, the Naked Ravioli

Yield: 2-3 servings

Total Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Chard and Spinach Gnudi, the Naked Ravioli


  • 8 oz (225 g) green chard* leaves, ripped (*a.k.a. Swiss chard)
  • 4 oz (115 g) fresh spinach leaves
  • 6 oz (170 g) cow ricotta, well drained
  • 1 yolk
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) Parmigiano, grated
  • 1/8 cup (15 g) white flour, plus 1/4 cup (30 g) to coat the gnudi
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (240 g) tomato sauce


  1. Wash the green chard, coarsely rip the leaves and place them, still damp, into a large pot. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes at a medium heat until wilted, stirring occasionally. They will reduce their volume considerably.chard, cooking
  2. Meanwhile, wash the spinach leaves and cook them in the same way as the chard, but only for 5 minutes.spinach, cooking
  3. Remove the greens from the heat and place them in a colander to cool. When cold enough to handle, squeeze them vigorously with your hands or by wrapping them into a clean tea towel. As Domenica predicted, these quantities yielded about ½ cup of squeezed, cooked greens. Place the greens on a cutting board and chop them finely.gnudi greens
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped greens, the ricotta, the yolk, Parmigiano (keeping 1 tablespoon aside), flour, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.gnudi mix
  5. As you bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil, start forming the gnudi. Prepare one bowl filled with flour, next to a plate coated in parchment paper. Using your hands, make balls of dough of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Roll them in the flour until uniformly coated, then place them on the parchment paper.ready to cook gnudi
  6. Boil the gnudi a batch at a time making sure not to overcrowd them (so that they don’t stick to one another, and to ensure the water remains boiling). Gently place them into the simmering water and allow them to cook undisturbed for 6-8 minutes. About half-way through the cooking, they will start floating.
  7. Gently remove the gnudi from the water using a perforated ladle, and place them into a colander. Keep them warm as you cook the next batch.
  8. Have the tomato sauce ready and kept warm in a skillet. Place 2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce in preheated bowls. Roll the gnudi into the skillet with the sauce until coated, then gently place them into the bowls. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano, serve immediately.

Spätzle-style Passatelli Sauteed with Radicchio, on Cheese Fondue

Passatelli are a variation of “stracciatella”, an ancient soup that can be found in various parts of Italy. To make stracciatella, a mix of egg, cheese and (optional) breadcrumbs is whisked into boiling broth, resulting in bits of ripped dough that resemble small tore rags (“straccetti”). To make passatelli, instead, the dough is forced through a heavy perforated iron, resulting in irregularly shaped short noodles of variable thickness (their name comes from “passare” = to go through). You can see the passatelli iron in action in this youtube video produced by a local television in the Romagna area. Passatelli are a classic dish of the Emilia-Romagna, Marche, and Umbria regions, where they are traditionally boiled in broth and served as a soup.

Since the passatelli iron is nowadays hard to find (even in Italy), some suggest using a potato ricer with large holes. You can see it demonstrated in the second part of the same video. While this can be effective, it produces noodles of uniform thickness, removing that irregularity that is characteristic of the dish.

For my interpretation of passatelli, I made use of a spaetzle maker, which is fairly common in kitchen stores (and on amazon.com). The resulting passatelli are slightly shorter and thinner than they should be, but I found that they work especially well when served dry, as opposed to in a soup.

As for the proportions between the ingredients, I went with the original recipe presented by Pellegrino Artusi in his famous recipe book: Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, which was first published in 1891. This differs from modern day passatelli which generally feature equal amounts (in weight) of breadcrumbs and Parmigiano. Also, Artusi calls for a small quantity of bone marrow “for extra softness,” which is no longer used. Instead, I kept the idea, but replaced the bone marrow with softened butter.

Even though I followed Artusi’s proportions for the dough, I served the passatelli according to a more modern tradition. Particularly, I tried to replicate the presentation suggested in the video mentioned above, in which boiled passatelli are drained and sauteed in butter with a small amount of radicchio, and then served over a light cheese fondue. The result was truly amazing! A very successful dish that can totally be the star of the show in a rustic and cozy meal.

Spätzle-style Passatelli Sauteed with Radicchio on Cheese Fondue

Yield: 2 servings

Total Time: 40 minutes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Spätzle-style Passatelli Sauteed with Radicchio on Cheese Fondue


     For the dough

    • 100 g (3 ½ oz) breadcrumbs (made from plain stale bread, without oils or additional ingredients)
    • 40 g (1 ½ oz) Parmigiano, grated
    • 20 g (¾ oz) unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 eggs
    • Sprinkle of grated nutmeg
    • 2 liters (½ gallon) of vegetable stock

     For sauteeing

    • 1 ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
    • ¼ of a small radicchio, sliced
    • Salt and pepper

     For the cheese fondue

    • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
    • 1 Tbsp white flour
    • ½ cup milk
    • 20 g (¾ oz) Parmigiano, grated
    • 40 g (1 ½ oz) Fontina, (or Swiss cheese), diced


       For the dough

      1. Mix all ingredients except for some of the breadcrumbs.
      2. Kneed for a few minutes until obtaining a soft dough that is not too sticky, adding the remaining breadcrumbs as needed to obtain a workable consistency.
      3. Squeeze the dough through the holes of the spaetzle grater. See here for the video.making spaetzle-style passatelli
      4. Bring the broth to a gentle boil, then toss in the passatelli.
      5. Continue boiling until the passatelli will float, then drain them gently.boiling passatelli

       For sauteeing

      1. Sautee the radicchio in butter until softened. Adjust with salt and pepper.sauteing radicchio
      2. Add the boiled and drained passatelli. Toss them gently to lightly sautee them.spaetzle-style passatelli

       For the cheese fondue

      1. Place the butter and a tablespoon of water in a small pan at medium heat to prepare a light bechamel.
      2. When the butter melts add the flour and mix vigorously until you hear a sizzling sound.
      3. Gradually add the milk, starting with a very small amount and mixing until completely absorbed.
      4. Continue until all milk is incorporated. Allow it boil for a minute to complete the bechamel.
      5. Add the Parmigiano and the Fontina, mix until they’re fully melted.making cheese fondue
      6. Assemble the dish by placing the cheese fondue in the bowls, then lay the sauteed passatelli over top.

      Home-Style Pizza Competition

      An unusual post for this blog, today. Three friends of mine have just competed in a pizza cook-off, and I had the honor to be the head judge 🙂

      The contestants were responsible for bringing their own ingredients, including their pizza dough (which they made beforehand). To cook the pizzas, they all used the same oven, set at its maximum temperature (550 °F), with the same pizza stone.

      We had two challenges: the first was on ingredients and technique; the second on the choice of the toppings.

      For the first challenge, everyone made their best Margherita. Here is what each did.

      The first contestant, Stefano, brought a slowly-leavened pizza dough which he had raising in his fridge for 2 full days (see below for his recipe). He used canned, peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes (which he seasoned with salt and olive oil), and fresh “bocconcini” mozzarella. The pizza was assembled and cooked for 7 minutes (until the mozzarella started to become bubbly).

      The second contestant, Sandro, used his 1-day leavened dough. He blanched and strained fresh Roma tomatoes, which he then seasoned with herbs, salt, and olive oil. He also used fresh “bocconcini” mozzarella, but he adopted the strategy to add it to the pizza only during the last 2 minutes of cooking (out of the 8 minutes total). He then finished the pizza with basil leaves.

      The third contestant, Samuele, also made a 1-day leavened dough. He used canned Molisana strained tomatoes, with some added salt. He used “bocconcini” mozzarella, added at the beginning of cooking, like Stefano’s. He finished his pizza with basil, a hint of Parmigiano, and a generous amount of olive oil.

      Here is how this challenge went.

      All three contestants used a bit too much tomato sauce. Stefano had the best dough of all three. Sandro’s dough was a close second. Stefano’s tomatoes were good but slightly under-seasoned. Sandro’s tomatoes had the most flavor but were a bit watery (possibly because he used fresh tomatoes). Samuele’s tomatoes were the best of all three, although he put a little too much salt on them. Overall, Sandro’s mozzarella tasted best: being it cooked just slightly, it kept its milkiness, tasting more authentic. Overall, Sandro won this challenge.

      For the second challenge, the contestants were asked to show off their best toppings.

      Stefano went with a proven combination: speck and fontina. He prepared his Margherita base, with fontina mixed in with the mozzarella. Half-way through the cooking, he topped up the pizza with slices of speck.

      Sandro also used his Margherita base, to which he added sautéed onions and gorgonzola cheese. After the pizza was cooked, he topped it off with raw prosciutto.

      At this point, we were all too full, and Samuele decided to drop out of the competition 🙂

      Overall Sandro’s toppings were considered more creative and with a more distinct flavor then Stefano’s; also because Stefano’s fontina was too mild and we couldn’t really taste it. Sandro also won the second competition!

      Stefano's Pizza Dough

      #Stefano's Pizza Dough


         Quantities per person.

        • 200 g all purpose flour
        • 125 g cold water
        • 5 g salt
        • 1.5 g fresh yeast (or 0.7 g dry yeast)


        1. I mix water and yeast until the yeast is fully melted. I then add half of the flour. I mix well, then add the salt. Finally, I slowly incorporate the rest of the flour, a bit at a time (it needs to be kneaded well, I use Kitchen Aid for at least 15 minutes).
        2. I then store it in the fridge for 2 days in a sealed container. I add a film of olive oil to keep the dough from developing a crust.
        3. The day of the pizza, I take it out of the fridge. I let it rest for another hour, then I divide it in equal portions, one per person. I put each portion in a different container to do the final leavening at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours.

        Tagliatelle Timbale with Wine Gravy – Baked Pasta in Pizza Crust

        A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be invited by Roz from La Bella Vita to write a guest post for her blog. She asked if I could present a traditional Italian Christmas dish. I didn’t really have a dish that is only for Christmas, so I chose a recipe for really special occasions – an Italian classic adapted from Silver Spoon’s “Pasticcio di Tagliatelle”.

        As I explained on Roz’s blog, “in Italian cuisine, a ‘pasticcio’ (sometimes referred to as ‘timballo’) is a preparation in which several ingredients (including pasta or rice, meats, and sauces) are baked in the oven within a pastry shell or a pie crust. The resulting dish, which looks plain on the outside but reveals rich fillings, was invented in the 1700s by palace chefs precisely to surprise and delight their noble guests. Today, pasticcio is still considered a dish for special occasions, including the Christmas meal.”

        Tagliatelle Timbale with Wine Gravy

        Yield: 3-4 servings

        Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

        Prep Time: 30 minutes

        Cook Time: 45 minutes

        Tagliatelle Timbale with Wine Gravy


           For the timbale

          • 2 Tbsp (30 g) unsalted butter (including some for greasing)
          • 7 oz (200 g) pizza dough (which can be bought in specialty stores)
          • Some flour (for dusting)
          • 4 oz (120 g) fresh spinach
          • 6 oz (170 g) Cremini mushrooms, chopped
          • ½ oz (14 g) dried Porcini mushrooms, re-hydrated and chopped
          • ¼ cup white wine
          • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) milk
          • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) heavy cream
          • 4 oz (120 g) tagliatelle pasta (either fresh or dried)
          • 1 egg
          • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
          • Some salt and pepper

           For the wine gravy

          • 1 Tbsp (15 g) unsalted butter
          • 1 Tbsp (15 g) all purpose flour
          • ½ tsp vegetable stock extract
          • 1 cup milk
          • ¼ cup white wine


             For the timbale

            1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
            2. Preheat the oven at 350°F (180°C).
            3. Grease an oven-proof dish with butter.
            4. In a large pan, roast the fresh mushrooms in butter for 5 min at high heat.
            5. Add the re-hydrated mushroom, cook for another 2 min at medium heat (a1).
            6. Add the wine (a2) and allow it to boil until it evaporates.
            7. Cook the fresh spinach in a covered pot (without any added water) at medium heat for 5 min (a3).
            8. When the spinach is ready, squeeze out as much water as possible and chop.
            9. Add the spinach to the pan (a4).
            10. Add milk and cream (a5), adjust salt and pepper.
            11. Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of salted water for 2/3 of their standard cooking time.
            12. Drain the tagliatelle and them to the pan. Incorporate gently (a6).
            13. Roll out the dough to the thickness of 1/8 inch (3 mm).
            14. Line the (greased) oven proof dish with the dough (b1).
            15. Spoon in the filling (b2).
            16. Beat the eggs with the Parmigiano. Pour the mix uniformly over the filling (b3).
            17. Fold the pizza dough fully wrapping it around the filling (b4).
            18. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350°F (180°C) until the top is well browned.

             For the wine gravy

            1. Warm up the butter in a small pan (c1) at medium heat until it barely melts, then add the wine (c2).
            2. Add the vegetable stock extract (c3). Let it reduce, then add the flour (c4).
            3. Mix until a ball of dough forms.
            4. Add a small amount of milk and whip until you get a creamy texture (c5).
            5. Gradually add the rest of the milk, as you continue whipping.
            6. While stirring constantly, boil for at least 2 minutes until the mix thickens (c6).
            7. Pour the gravy in the bowls, then place a slice of timbale in each bowl and serve immediately.

            Pasticcini, Italian Fine Pastries

            Check out the latest episode of Thoughts on the Table, the podcast on food and food culture. Also available on iTunes and Google Play Music.

            Pasticcini are exquisite Italian fine pastries which have been perfected over the centuries to achieve the best flavors, textures, and fragrances. In the Italian tradition, assorted pasticcini are served as a dessert, as a treat to accompany coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, or as a cake alternative for celebrations and other special occasions (in which case they are usually accompanied with ‘spumante’, the Italian sparkling wine).

            The word ‘pasticcino’ is a diminutive of ‘pasticcio’, which in turn derives from Vulgar Latin pasticium, a dish made by mixing various ingredients, mostly wrapped in dough (‘pasta’).

            A pastry shop display
            A pastry shop display.

            Pasticcini can be found in two sizes: standard (2-3″ in diameter) and mignon (1-2″). The latter has become increasingly popular thanks to its sampling size, a definite plus, given the great variety of pasticcini.

            Since fine pastries are difficult and time-consuming to make at home (especially if a variety of kinds is desired), Italians prefer to buy them fresh in a ‘pasticceria’ (pastry shop). Although some bakeries also sell pasticcini, most pastry shops are independent specialized stores, have extended opening hours (they’re often open on Sunday mornings, for any last minute pastry pickup), and sometimes even double as coffee bars.

            A small tray of paste da tè: chocolate and pistachio shortbreads, and'Baci di Dama' (Ladies' Kisses), a traditional Piedmontese cookie made of two crumbly hazelnut or almond halves held together with a layer of dark chocolate.
            A small tray of paste da tè: chocolate and pistachio shortbreads, and ‘Baci di Dama’ (Ladies’ Kisses), a traditional Piedmontese cookie made of two crumbly hazelnut or almond halves held together with a layer of dark chocolate.

            Along with pasticcini, pasticcerie often also sell shortbreads and other kinds of cookies and dry pastries. Those, however, are called ‘paste da tè’ (tea pastries) and are considered a distinct product. Nevertheless, pasticcini and paste da tè are often served side-by-side to appeal to every palate.

            The Italians are traditionalists when it comes to food, and pasticcini are no exception. As an interesting consequence, it’s on traditional pasticcini that most pastry chefs showcase their best techniques. Every pastry chef needs to know how to execute them flawlessly since it is on them that they are evaluated by their customers.

            There are several kinds of traditional pasticcini. Some are available all throughout Italy, some are exclusively regional, and some are only made during particular times of the year. The following can be found nationwide (although some have strong regional origins).

            Cannoncini (cream horns). Among the most popular pasticcini. Made with a baked horn of puff pastry (‘pasta sfoglia’), generally filled with pastry cream (‘crema pasticcera’), which may be chocolate or hazelnut flavored. They are not to be confused with ‘cannoli’ (see below), although they sound similar because both of their names derive from ‘canna’ (reed), which they resemble.

            Bigné (cream puffs). Also extremely popular. Made with choux pastry filled with pastry cream (vanilla, chocolate, coffee or hazelnut flavored), with Chantilly cream (vanilla-flavored whipped cream), or with zabaione.

            Sfogliatelle Napoletane. Made of a shell similar to the Greek phyllo dough and filled with ricotta and candied peel. Originally from Naples.

            Crostatine alla frutta (fruit tarts). A base of baked shortbread, with a layer of custard, topped with fresh fruit, often covered with gelatin.

            Crostatine con Marron Glacé (Marron Glacé tarts).

            Babà. A spongy cake dipped in sugar water and rum. Also traditional to Naples, though with Polish origins.

            Cigni (swans). Bigné which have been cut in half and filled with pastry cream (on the bottom) and whipped cream (on the top). A small squiggle of puff pastry is then applied on the bigné to form the neck and head of a swan.

            Cannoli. Made of a fried shell, with a ricotta-based filling and flavored with candied citrus peel or chocolate chips. Originally from Sicily.

            Fiamme (flames). Drop-shaped mousse (thick foams, generally chocolate-based), on a wafer or a shortbread base, usually covered in chocolate.

            Tronchetti (small trunks). Rolls of sponge cake and mousse, which are then sliced in cylindrical sections.

            Tartufi al cioccolato (chocolate trouffles). Chocolate and coffee ganache covered in cocoa powder.

            Mini strudel. A small version of the Austrian/German strudel, a kind of pastry filled with apples, raisins, and pine nuts.

            Cassatine Siciliane. A small version of the Cassata Siciliana cake, a dessert made with sweet ricotta, sponge cake, almond paste, and candied fruit. Originally from Sicily.

            Chiavi di Violino (treble clefs). Liqueur-drizzled sponge cake layered with cream, covered in dark chocolate and decorated with a treble clef made of white chocolate.

            Diplomatici. Layered puff pastry, sponge cake, and custard, which is then cut in squares and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

            Meringhe(1). Two crisp meringues enclosing a heart of whipped cream.

            A basket of pasticcini (2-3 mignon per person) is also a common hostess gift.
            A basket of pasticcini (2-3 mignon per person) is also a common hostess gift.

            (1) Contributed by Simona.