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Buone vacanze!

August 8, 2016 — 5 Comments


August in Italy is vacation season. At the moment, the news reports are full of exactly how many Italians have taken to the road, trains, or planes to spend their annual vacation in or outside of Italy. The August holiday peaks around the 15 August, which is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, otherwise known as ferragosto or ‘the August holiday’.

So, I am joining my compatriots and jetting off for two weeks in the sun in Spain. Not that I’ll be leaving behind any bad weather, because August in Italy is also hot, with temperatures pushing 30 degrees celsius (86 fahrenheit). Be prepared for some Chestnuts and Truffles on holiday posts however concentrating on the wonderful Spanish and Catalan cuisine that I am going to experience.

In the autumn I will be starting a new series of video blogs to accompany the blog on my Youtube channel. If you are not a subscriber already please click on the Youtube icon on the top right of this page to do so. As a teaser for the new series I have uploaded a short video about Venice, which will feature in my first post (liked to above). Check it out and click like if you do.

So, until the next time, buone vacanze or have a nice vacation!


Tozzetti are the Umbrian version of cantucci (aka biscotti or biscotti di Prato) and are slightly different containing hazelnuts as well as almonds and being flavoured with aniseed. I first had these at the Saio Winery in Assisi, where they served them as part of the food to taste with their wine. Cantucci are traditionally dipped in vin santo but they encouraged us to dip the tozzetti in red wine before eating. The effect was incredible, because what was a sweet biscuit, became in effect savoury; the aniseed a perfect partner to the wine. I promised the recipe after that blog post, but as these biscuits are traditionally eaten at Christmas time, I thought I’d save it for now.

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For Tuscans, panforte means Christmas. A centuries-old tradition from the province of Siena, panforte is a rich cake made of almonds, candied peel, and honey peppered with winter spices, with a unique flavour and texture. There are several variations on the recipe for panforte, but to create this one, I went back to the official requirements of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture for Panforte di Siena IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta). The only requirement I could not fulfil was to make it in the province of Siena, as I live in the neighbouring provice of Arezzo.

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Watch me make peposo, an amazing Tuscan winter warmer stew. This dish originated with the workers in the terracotta factories of Impruneta, near Florence, back in medieval times. Like them, I use a traditional terracotta pot, but you could make this in a slow cooker, or a normal dutch oven. Nowadays, some people add a small amount of tomato puree to this dish, but it was invented long before the arrival of the tomato in Italian cuisine. You need to cook this for a minumum of two to three hours: four, five, even six is better. The Tuscans eat this on top of a slice of toasted pane sciocco, which is unsalted, but any good rustic bread will do.


Peposo d’Impruneta

Serves 4
1kg (2 1/4 pounds) beef
18g (2/3 ounce) salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 liter (2 cups) Chianti
4 slices of Tuscan bread
  1. Put all the ingredients into a terracotta pot, dutch oven, or slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook in the oven at 150-160°C (300-320°F) for 2-3 hours.
  3. Toast the bread and serve the stew on top.

What’s your favourite winter warmer dish?


This hand-rolled pasta is popular all over Tuscany with local variations on the name. My local town of Anghiari calls them bringoli and even has a festival dedicated to them in early November. Visit the festival and watch as I show you how to make them, just like an Italian would, in the video above. You even get to see two cats!



Ingredients (per person)
100g (3/4 cup) ’00’ flour
3g (1 teaspoon) extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch salt
50g (1/4 cup) water
extra virgin olive oil
semolina flour
1 liter (4 1/4 cups) of salted water
  1. Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Put the olive oil and salt in the well.
  2. Add the water, little by little, mixing it in with a fork. Be careful as you might not need to use all the water.
  3. When the mixture comes together as a dough, place on a floured worktop and knead for 15-20 minutes. Then wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  4. Roll the dough out to about 1cm (1/2 inch thick) and lightly paint the surface with extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Cut the dough into thick strips. Roll each strip into a long thing string with your hands.
  6. Place the string on a try covered with semolina flour and leave to dry for about 30 minutes.
  7. Bring the salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for about 3-5 mins depending on the thickness.
  8. Serve with a pasta sauce of your choice.