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Buratta stuffed ravioli

Buratta-stuffed ravioli, on a swirl of pesto & topped with lightly caramelized cherry tomatoes. At Garibaldi Ristorante, Rome.


Making homemade ravioli.

Tropea onion tart

Tropea onions from my garden lent themselves beautifully to these onion ricotta tarts.

Arch Malborghetto

Arch of Malborghetto, whose core structure is datable to 4th century, sits on Via Flaminia right at Sacrofano train station. And it’s a delightful country walk away from


Did you know kiwi are a Lazio region fruit? Just one more reason I love Lazio!


Summer’s best: garden tomato sauce with succulent mazzancolle.

Tomino cheese

Many ways to love Piemontese soft Tomino cheese: pan sizzled, topped with toasted walnuts & drizzled with honey.

Blackberry pies

Tomato Ricotta Tarte Tatin



It’s that delightful time of the year when our vegetable garden is exploding and yielding scrumptious produce in spades. We always plant lots of varieties of tomatoes; it’s the true staple in Italian cuisine and we won’t settle for anything but the best in the tomato department.

Maurizio’s favorite snack is bread, tomato and olive oil and he particularly loves the beefsteak variety. What I really love about beefsteak tomatoes is that they have lots of small seed pockets rather than four big pockets like so many other tomato varieties. The seeds don’t dominate the tomatoes and they’re beautiful when sliced. That’s why I opted to use them when I prepared this tart.

I spread just a thin layer of the ricotta mixture over the pre-cooked crust and topped it with a single layer of tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of thyme and the result was amazing. We had tomato tart for our country lunch with friends yesterday, and then again for dinner!

Here’s the recipe; the key thing is to make sure you use luscious, flavorful tomatoes because they’re the star here!


Tomato Ricotta Tarte Tatin

Serves 6-8

One of the most delightful dishes summer can offer…and a great way to use those tasty tomatoes you have in your garden.

Special Equipment

A 28 centimeter (11 inch) tart pan. This is not absolutely necessary, but it’s ideal because the sides are about 2 centimeters (slightly more than 3/4 inch) deep…two thirds the depth of a regular pie pan. You can make do without it, but I strongly suggest using a tart pan.



For the topping:
Tomatoes, about four large (preferably beefsteak) or enough to cover your tart in a single layer, sliced 1/2 centimeter thick (just under 1/4 inch)

Salt, as needed
Fresh thyme, 2 tablespoons
For the filling:
Ricotta, 375 grams (13 ounces)
Egg, one medium
Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
For the crust:
Flour, 240 grams (8 1/2 ounces)
Butter, ice cold, cubed, 120 grams (4 1/4 ounces)
Ice water, about 1/4 cup
Olive oil for drizzling

Cooking Instructions

For the topping:
Salt the sliced tomatoes on both sides and drain in a colander for an hour or more.
Remove fresh thyme from sprigs until you have two tablespoons.
Prepare the crust:
In a food processor (or use a pastry knife) pulse the flour and butter together until crumbly.
Pulse in ice water by the tablespoonful just until the dough holds together. The less you work the dough the better.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
While the oven is heating roll out the dough so that it fits your tart pan.
Place the dough in the tart pan and use a knife to trim the edges.
Use a fork to prick the dough all over: I usually prick about 30 times. This will keep your crust from puffing up when it bakes.
Bake the crust until golden, about ten to fifteen minutes.
Cool the crust completely.
For the filling:
Whisk the ricotta, salt and eggs together until creamy.
To assemble:
Use a spatula to spread the ricotta mixture onto the crust.
Top with the drained tomatoes, in a single layer.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme.
Bake for about 20 to 22 minutes.
The tart can be served hot or cold, as an appetizer or main course, along with a salad or soup.


The Tornesi Brunello Winery


About fifteen years ago we first visited the Tornesi winery on a Brunello wine buying trip. Since then we’ve been back every year. The owner, Maurizio Tornesi, has become a friend, and we’ve watched his winery grow and transform…always for the better.

On our visit last week we joined the family for lunch in their home. Maurizio’s almost ninety year old mother, Renata, showed us her chicken coop and introduced us to each of her chickens. Although she gets around supported by a cane she still manages to clean the chicken coop early every morning, and collect eggs for the family’s home-made pasta and scrumptious frittate. Renata made sure we knew that our delicious potato frittata served at lunch owes its flavor to the freshness of her eggs. I can hardly disagree; anything made with fresh eggs is distinctly better.

Lunch was simple and delicious: fave & pecorino, homemade pasta, potato frittata, fruit for dessert, and minestra for the nonna. All accompanied by some Rosso di Montalcino.




Fave just picked from the garden, with pecorino cheese:



Minestra for Nonna Renata:


Melon & strawberries for dessert:


Renata and I sat next to each other at lunch and she was curious to understand what I was doing with my iPhone and Snapchat story, so I gave her a lesson in Snapchat…bridging the generations! How fun!


Maurizio’s wife…also Renata…loves having guests with the family for meals and it’s something she’s used to. Renata comes from a family of six sisters, all with families of their own, and most of the time impromptu get-togethers happen at her house.
When we first met Maurizio his father was still alive, although frail, and Maurizio was taking over the full management of the winery. Years passed, and as Maurizio and Renata’s two daughters became adults, Maurizio pinned his hopes on their eventually taking over the family winery. Instead, they opened a coffee bar in Montalcino and it looked like the family-owned aspect of the business might be coming to an end.

Instead, daughter Elisa, has drifted back to the business, drawn by a lifelong love of winemaking that she has lived and breathed since she was a little girl. Maurizio is thrilled and is grooming her to take over every aspect of the business. The instinct and passion for producing great Brunello is something she has always felt, first with her grandfather and then her father, as she trailed them in hand-picking the grapes, the harvest, care of the vines. Elisa now travels with Maurizio to wine fairs worldwide, most recently to Los Angeles.

Elisa demonstrates a cleverness beyond her wine-making expertise. She designed these chairs made from old Tornesi wine barrels:


Bottling, labelling and boxing is done on site at the winery.


Tornesi wine-making has existed since the mid-1800’s, and Maurizio’s antecedents (I’m not sure exactly how many great-great-great grandparents ago) have been making wine for the past 500 years…half a millenium ago! Last week Maurizio shared his family story with us, dating back to the siege upon Montalcino in the 1500’s. I don’t think I know anyone else who can directly trace their family back so many years. In 1969 Maurizio’s father Gino was one of the first to register his vines as Brunello within the Brunello Consorzio. Later on in 1993 Maurizio began production and bottling with the first vintage of Rosso di Montalcino and then in 1998 with Brunello. Initially their wine was stored in a cellar beneath the family home, then in 2009 Maurizio built a much larger cellar with a gorgeous terrace overlooking the Montalcino hills and a tasting room for visitors.


The Tornesi family has five hectares of land and produce 60 quintals of wine per hectare. The vines are from seven to thirty years old. Only organic fertiliser is used and no herbicides. The harvest is done manually in October and November, mostly by Maurizio and a few local workers.

Maurizio’s winery produces Brunello Riserva, Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino, IGT (a step above table wine), Brunello Grappa and olive oil. The winery is walking distance from the town center of Montalcino; well worth a visit!



Secret Rome: Courtyards

The Palazzo Borghese trumps all other courtyards for its beauty; the photograph below features one of the many sculptures to be seen in this courtyard. The courtyard is enormous and majestic and is still owned by the powerful Borghese family, with the exception of some apartments that have been sold. How often have you strolled…

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It’s time to toss away all your preconceived notions about anchovies and give them a second chance. The anchovy in your Caesar salad or on top of a pizza..packed in oil and salt…is not the same thing as a fresh anchovy. A fresh anchovy is a tiny, delicately flavored oily white fish. And there’s more….

Fresh Fruit Photographs

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Traditionally this is a summer dish; it’s one of the wonderful ways to use the abundance of red and yellow peppers from the garden. It happens to be great just about anytime of the year…warm & hearty, it falls squarely into the great comfort food category. This dish is usually served as a main course,…