Disgraces on the Menu Turned Six – Time to Blow Out the Candles Again!

Another year has elapsed – this blog just turned six!! As usual, I’d like to stop for a moment and look back at the last twelve months of blogging and podcasting. Before I do that, I would like to thank all who have been supporting me by reading, by listening, and especially by sharing their thoughts via personal messages and comments. It means a lot to me, please keep sending your feedback!

Now, back to my “retrospective”, so to speak. Podcasting seems to have become my main focus. This past year, I have published ten episodes featuring amazing new and returning guests: Hannah Solomon, Diana Zahuranec, Rick Zullo, Gino De Blasio, Domenica Marchetti (twice), David Scott Allen, Silvia Arduino, Alida from My Little Italian Kitchen, and Giulia Scarpaleggia, thanks for participating and for putting up with me and my questions! Recently, I also began posting full transcripts of some of my favorite episodes, and narrations of meaningful articles, starting with Il Mercato – the Tradition of the Italian Street Market.

During the year, I posted seven new recipes for as many favorite dishes: some old staples (Valdostana Onion Soup, Squash Risotto, Passato di Verdure, Oven Roasted Vegetables Stripes), and some preparations I recently discovered and fell in love with (Pesto alla Trapanese, Spaetzle-style Passatelli, Chard and Spinach Gnudi).

I also wrote three articles on food and culture; two were published as guest posts: Dried Pasta vs. Fresh Pasta (for Experience Italy Travels) and The Basic Rules of Italian Food (for Once Upon a Time in Italy), which was written after consulting with several Italian food bloggers. The third article, which was published on this blog, deals with Personal Space and the Italians, a topic I have been meaning to discuss for a while. All three posts were great fun to write, I hope you enjoyed them.

I am also happy to have connected with five more bloggers who, like me, talk about the authentic food of continental Italy. Of course, I promptly gave them the Cannolo Award. David from Cocoa and Lavender, Luca Marchiori from Chestnuts and Truffles, Coco from Coco’s Bread & Co – Eating Healthy, Giulia Scarpaleggia from Jul’s Kitchen, and Viola Buitoni from Viola’s Italian Kitchen, congratulations again!

Finally, I’d like to add a note on a technical detail. Last October, this blog was migrated to WordPress! I can’t say it was a trivial task, but the process was much smoother than I initially thought – a testament to the platform and its amazing community. I hope you are enjoying the new layout and functionality.

All in all, year six has been a great year, with lots of new connections and ideas. I am very much looking forward to year seven with the same enthusiasm as when I started in 2010!

Thanks again and… Salute!

[Thoughts on the Table – 44] A Culinary Tour of Abruzzo with Domenica Marchetti

Food writer and cookbook author Domenica Marchetti is back on the show to talk more about her mother’s native land – the Abruzzo region in central/southern Italy. In the episode, Domenica paints a colorful picture of the region – from its geography which spans from majestic natural parks on the Apennines to beautiful beaches on the Adriatic coast, to its people, and – naturally – to its traditional food.

Domenica also describes a culinary tour of Abruzzo that she organizes along with her partners at Abruzzo Presto. The 2016 edition took place on September 18-25.

Music by: www.purple-planet.com.


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.

[Thoughts on the Table – 42] A Chat with Domenica Marchetti, Cookbook Author and Food Writer

Domenica Marchetti is an American food writer and cookbook author of Italian heritage. In 2012, I gave her a much deserved Cannolo Award, and I’ve been following her since. I knew she was busy working on her next book, so I was very happy she found time and kindly accepted to be in the podcast. After our extensive chat, I must say that Domenica is exactly how I imagined her – she is approachable and funny, genuinely passionate about Italian food, and very knowledgeable on the topic.

In this episode-interview, Domenica talks about her Italian origins and her relationship with food, as well as how her former career as a journalist led her to becoming a cookbook author. Domenica also brings her authoritative contribution on various themes with plenty of examples and colorful stories. For instance, we discuss the existence of the Italian palate, the importance of technique as well as ingredients in Italian cuisine, and the role of tradition as the necessary base for innovation.

During the podcast, Domenica mentions the following resources:

You can follow Domenica Marchetti on her website and blog, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest.

You can also join Domenica in her upcoming Abruzzo culinary tour! It will take place September 18-25, 2016. Check out the tour’s page for more info.