Pasta, gnocchi & risotto: luscious Italian primi, Snaps’n’Snippets

Snaps’n’Snippets of Italian primi!

Italy is characterized by starting off each meal with delicious first courses, or primi. Oftentimes a primo and salad can be enough for a whole meal. Only rarely will you see Italians skip their scrumptious primo!

It’s September so we’re now enjoying the last of our summer zucchini; a luscious sauce with pancetta, Parmesan & onion.

Penne with zucchini, pancetta, Parmesan and onion

Spaghetti with Gorgonzola and sage…

Gorgonzola and sage spaghetti

Spaghetti with mazzancolle; delicious Italian shrimp.


Buratta-stuffed ravioli with pan-seared cherry tomatoes…

Buratta stuffed ravioli

Ravioli Caprese, a signature dish from the island of Capri, are stuffed with mozzarella cheese, a soft caciotta cheese, eggs and fresh marjoram.

Ravioli Caprese

A scrumptious homemade pasta with wild asparagus and guanciale from a casareccio restaurant in the countryside outside of Norcia.

Homemade Pasta with Wild Asparagus and Guanciale

Risotto alla pescatore…seafood risotto…from il Moro restaurant in Fiumicino.

Risotto alla pescatora

Herbs & Spices

I use a lot of herbs and spices in my cooking, mostly what is growing on our property, both planted & foraged. Fresh is my preference; the flavor is richer and I love the colors of  fresh herbs.

I buy spices from all over the world at Rome’s largest market in Piazza Victoria to make fanciful curries, tajines and other dishes.

In September the Roman countryside is covered with wild fennel; use it with lemon & garlic to roast fish. Dry the stems and flowers to use all winter long. I picked this fennel on our property.

Wild fennel roast fish with lemon and garlic

Spaghetti with Gorgonzola cheese and finely chopped fresh sage leaves is one of the easiest and most delicious dishes. Sage grows year round in a Mediterranean climate. Each spring our sage bush is covered with gorgeous purple flowers.

Gorgonzola and sage spaghetti

Marjoram is the key flavor ingredient in the filling for Ravioli Caprese. Process marjoram with fresh mozzarella and a fresh caciotta cheese for this fabulous ravioli filling.


Use rosemary for everything you roast: meats, fish, vegetables. It grows prolifically year round in Rome and makes a great hedge and border plant.

Rosemary bush; I use tender sprigs for cooking

Not to be missed each spring is FloraCult, a plant and plant paraphernalia show in North Rome. One stand features these edible herbs and a cooking class on how to use them.


Mentuccia Romana grows wild year round in the Roman countryside but it’s at its best in the fall when temperatures cool down. Good thing because it’s primary use is in the preparation of Carciofi alla Romana…stuffed artichokes…and artichokes come into season in late fall.

For this dish artichokes are stuffed with mentuccia, garlic and breadcrumbs, along with a drizzle of olive oil, then cooked until tender.

Mentuccia has an extremely delicate mint flavor which lends itself beautifully to the Roman cuisine. In addition to artichokes it’s often used in other vegetable and meat dishes.

Mentuccia Romana

The Best of Sperlonga

Sperlonga captured my heart more than three decades ago when we first started spending the month of June here each year. Some of Sperlonga’s appeal is intangible, it occupies your senses in ways you can’t even describe. Yet, so much of what there is to love in this amazing coastal hill town is easy to quantify. Here’s a list of things that I adore about Sperlonga.

1. INCREDIBLE VIEWS abound here, particularly the views from archways throughout the town are breathtaking!

Archway views in Sperlonga

2. SEAFOOD is Sperlonga is delicious; fresh and local. Last night we enjoyed a frittura of fried calamari, shrimp and anchovies.


3. ITS WHITENESS. When you look up at the hill town of Sperlonga from the beach it’s entirely white. As you wander through the narrow winding stairways the entire down is a blast of chalky white speckled with colorful geraniums and bougainvillea.

Whitewashed Sperlonga

4. Up in the heart of the historic center is a 12th century church, CHIESA DI SANCTAE MARIAE, now used mostly for cultural events. It’s rarely opened but when it is the remaining frescoes dating back 800 years are a must see!

Frescoes Sperlonga

5. CATS. I often come upon the occasional local cat wandering freely through the town. They’re all well cared for by the townspeople. There’s nothing sweeter than coming upon a litter of kittens living in a doorway.

Kittens Sperlonga

6. Gorgeous SUNRISES AND SUNSETS are abundant in Sperlonga.

Sunset Sperlonga

7. If you’ve never tried TIELLA, then you’ve missed one of southern Lazio’s coastal delicacies. Tiella is a scrumptious filled pasta, originally from Gaeta, but available is Sperlonga at our favorite alimentare. Every day around 9:30 in the morning freshly baked tielle arrive from Gaeta. My favorite is tielle stuffed with seafood, but I also love eggplant tiella, onion tiella…just about any kind is wonderful!


8. AWARD-WINNING BEACHES. If you’re looking for a fabulous beach not far from Rome then Sperlonga is ideal. The town takes great pride in the fact that each year it is awarded the “Bandiera Blu” attesting to the cleanliness of its coastal waters for swimmers. There is a “secca”, or sand bar, along the beach which allows children to walk out quite far without reaching deep swimming water. It’s also great for anyone who just wants to cool off without swimming.

Sperlonga beach

Cooking Classes at Flavor of Italy: Snaps’n’Snippets

Making ravioli and gnocchi

Take a look at what we do in our cooking classes: they’re fun, you learn a lot, enjoy great food & wine, and take home a host of new, simple to prepare, delectable recipes. Our cooking school is based in Rome, but we also offer cooking classes throughout the year in the United States and…

Gelato & Ice Cream & Frozen Desserts: Snaps’n’Snippets

Neve di Latte Gelateria

Delicious photographs and hints on where to go to find the very best cold treat! Mostly Rome and Lazio. Neve di Latte (Via Luigi Poletti, 6, Rome) is just about as good as it gets! A tad off the tourist track, but near the MAXXI museum so do a double header. My personal fave is…

Appetizers: Snaps’n’Snippets

Clams and mussel Sauté

Photographs of tasty beginnings to your meal! Delicious clam & mussel appetizer with lots of sauce to slurp up or dip your bread in:

Rome Views: Snaps’n’Snippets

Fiat 500

Life in Rome: from monuments to people to pets to fashion. Just about anything that depicts the eternal city and its lifestyle!   Side view of Rome’s breathtaking Piazza Venezia & its rich colors… Three original vintage Fiat 500’s: Italy’s best car ever! Wine bottle cork wedged into the sampietrini pavement: quintessential Rome! One of…

Pasta, Gnocchi, Risotto: Snaps’n’Snippets

Gorgonzola and sage spaghetti

Every Italian meal begins with a delicious “primo”. Sundays in Rome are family lunch days and call for homemade pasta; Thursdays are gnocchi day in Rome. Every town and region has its own specialty and tradition. What they all have in common is simplicity and delicious flavor! I’m addicted to the easiest pasta dish on…