Beer Batter Fried Artichoke Hearts – Carciofi Fritti

Italians love artichokes. A walk around Radicondoli reveals the extent of the love affair in my own village–nearly every garden has a dedicated artichoke patch. By the first of May, everyone is eating them several times a week–boiled, steamed, battered and fried, cooked Roman style head down in olive oil, baked into a savory tart, tossed with pasta or scattered atop  pizza, dipped raw  in pinzimonio (olive oil, salt and pepper), tossed with parmesan, olive oil, and lemon juice as a salad and finally, as the season comes to a close, sott’olio–marinated in vinegar and oil–thus sustaining artichoke heaven several months into winter, until the last jar from the cantina is empty. Then we just start waiting for Spring again, and the next crop.

I have a serious weakness for fried artichoke hearts.  There is simply nothing quite like beginning your meal with carciofi fritti, washed down with a nice cold glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Here is how a woman in the village taught me to make them:

Carciofi Fritti – Fried Artichoke Hearts

Appetizer sized portions for 4 people


6 medium sized fresh artichokes–they should be hard when you squeeze them.

2 lemons

1 cups flour – half for dredging, half for the batter

2 eggs

½ cup beer


peanut or sunflower seed oil for frying


  • Heat the oven to 325 Fahrenheit and place an oven proof dish large enough for the artichokes inside to warm.
  • Fill a large bowl ⅔ up with cold water and squeeze one lemon into the water.
  • Trim the artichokes*, quarter them into wedges, then cut the quarters in half and place them immediately into a bath of water and lemon juice (this is to keep them from turning brown at the cut edges).
  • Pour half cup of flour into a large bowl, drain the artichokes in a colander and toss them around in the flour so they are all lightly coated.
  • Heat the oil, at least 1” deep in a wide pan suitable for frying.
  • While the oil is heating, make a batter of 2 eggs, ½ cup beer, a pinch of salt and ½ cup flour.
  • The oil is the right temperature when a drop of the batter dances and sizzles in it. At this point, dip the artichoke wedges one by one into the batter and place into the hot oil to fry. Fry until golden on both sides, turning them half-way through the cooking.
  • Place a double layer of paper towels in the oven proof dish, and as the artichokes are cooked, transfer them into the dish in the oven. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle with fine sea salt. When all the artichokes are battered and fried, turn the temperature down to 200 F and leave them warming in the oven for another hour or so until it’s time to serve them.

 *To trim the artichokes, snap off all the tough outer leaves until you reach the tender ones in the center. Then using a sharp knife, cut off the top third of the artichoke and discard. Next, cut off the stem of the artichoke, leaving an inch or two remaining. Pare the tough green or purple flesh from the base of the artichoke with a sharp knife, so that all the remains is tender and light green in color. Cut artichoke into quarters, remove the furry center from the heart of the choke, then cut the quarters in half. Immediately place them into the lemon water bath to keep the fresh light green color intact.

Join Il Campo Cucina for a weeklong adventure into the delicious pleasures of cooking authentic Italian dishes. Click here for more information.


Walnut Lasagna of Podere La Fonte

This walnut lasagna, made by Emanuela Giua at Podere La Fonte with nuts from her own trees, was the most scrumptious dish of the season. If you don’t have the patience to make your own pasta, buy fresh lasagna sheets if possible from your local Italian market.

Ingredients for 8 full-sized servings:

4 cups bechamel sauce (recipe below)

16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese

2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

2 cups chopped or roughly crushed walnuts

Handmade egg pasta (see recipe below) made with 2 cups double zero flour, 2 cups semola grano duro flour (or 4 cups all purpose) and four eggs, rolled into sheets approximately 4 inches wide and 8 inches long, or to cut to fit into your baking dish.

Assembling the Lasagna:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Bring a large kettle of water to boil, then add 1 generous tablespoon of sea salt.
  • Boil the pasta in a few sheets at a time, and remove before it is completely cooked.
  • Spread the sheets out to cool on clean cotton towels as you finish cooking all the pasta.
  • Spread a thin layer of bechamel sauce on the bottom of a baking pan approximately 17 inches long and 10 inches wide, with sides at least 3 nches high.
  • Place a layer of pasta over the bechamel.
  • Spread more bechamel over the pasta.
  • Sprinkle  chopped walnuts  over the bechamel.
  • Place generous dollops of mozzarella cheese over the walnuts, then sprinkle generously with parmigiano reggiano (top grade parmesan) cheese.
  • Repeat layering until all the pasta is used. The last layer should be parmesan cheese. If you run out of space, make another pan.
  • Bake approximately 45 minutes in at 375 degrees fahrenheit, or until lightly golden on top. Let rest ten minutes then serve.

Egg Pasta Recipe

8 servings

2 cups of semola di grano duro*

2 cups of 00 grade flour (or all purpose or whole wheat)

4 eggs

2 cups of tepid water


1 tbsp olive oil

The proportions of liquid to dry ingredients depend upon the size of eggs and type of flour.

Place the flour on the board with salt and form a volcano (or do the same in a bowl to avoid a premature dam break!). Make a well and add the eggs into the center of the flour. Being careful not to break through the walls of the flour crater, stir the eggs with a fork until blended. (Gradually stir in the from the center of the crater, until the egg/flour mixture is thickened to a gooey paste.) Then knead in just enough more flour with hands to make an elastic dough that is neither sticky nor dry. If it is too dry add a little water; if too sticky add more flour. Knead another five minutes, then cover with a bowl and let rest 15 minutes on a lightly floured board or marble slab.

To roll out the dough by machine, which is easier, start at the number 1 (thickest) setting, and run a flattened ball of dough roughly the size of your fist through the pasta rollers repeatedly, each time turning the dial to a higher number (tightening the space between the rollers) for a progressively thinner sheet of pasta. For lasagna noodles stop when you roll it out to the number 4 setting; for ravioli or pappardelle or tagliatelle, keep going until you reach the number 6, thinnest setting.  In this way you will knead the dough as you roll it out and when you are finished, the pasta will be the correct thinness for making lasagna, ravioli, pappardelle or tagliatelle.

To roll out by hand, using a floured board, marble slab or clean cotton table cloth, generously flour the surface and, if using the recipe for four eggs, place the whole ball of dough on the surface and start rolling it out, using a very wide wooden rolling pin or dowel rod, ideally a dowel rod that is 3 “ thick and two feet long and cured with olive oil. Lightly flour the surface of the rolling pin and begin rolling first from one side, then the other, then a third side, and a fourth side.  As the dough becomes thinner, you can wrap it around the rolling pin and then roll it back out into a flat sheet with a snapping motion, thus ensuring the dough is all the same thickness.  If you use a smaller rolling pin, your dough will come out all different thicknesses and then not cook evenly in the end. So if you must use a shorter rolling pin, roll out smaller batches of dough that do not become wider than the pin.  This process takes at least 30 minutes.

*Semola is not the same as semolina. Semola is a finer grind. Do not subsitute with semolina—it is too heavy. If you can’t find semola, just use all purpose flour or whole wheat.

Béchamel Sauce Recipe

(for layering in lasagna)

5 tbsp Butter

4 tbsp Flour

4 cups of milk

pinch of salt

a few gratings of nutmeg if you like

Melt the butter in a pot, being careful not to brown it.  Stir in flour until smooth and make a roux. Cook until the roux is golden brown.  Heat the milk in a separate pan and add the milk slowly to the roux and stir until smooth and thick but still and semi-liquid velvety (a wire whisk is good for this purpose).  Add a pinch of salt to taste.



Balsamic Glazed Onions

Balsamic Glazed Onions – Cipolle Glassate di Luana

Balsamic glazed onions are a flavorful sweet and sour side dish, scrumptious with any roast meat, or served cold in antipasti or in salads. Make extra—they are good for a week kept in the fridge and make excellent left overs! This recipe is a staple in Luana Vaghegini’s cucina. Many thanks to Luana for sharing it with us!

Ingredients for six servings:

1 Tablespoon white sugar

Balsamic vinegar, enough to cover the sugar

6 medium sized onions (or 1 per person, any kind—red, white, or a few shallots per person)

Olive oil



  • Quarter the onions, place in a bowl, then toss in plenty of olive oil and approximately 1-2 tsp salt. Set aside.
  • In a large nonstick pan (a wok is nice for this), add sugar, and pour in enough balsamic vinegar to cover the sugar.
  • Stir and cook over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and the balsamic starts to boil. Watch the bubbles, and keep stirring. The bubbles will be big at first, and after a few minutes, the vinegar will thicken and the bubbles will become smaller. It is starting to caramelize now.
  • Cook 1-2 minutes more (be very careful not to wait until it is syrupy thick, as it will quickly become hardened like glass!) then add the onions and toss them around in the balsamic glaze.
  • Add enough boiling water to nearly cover the onions. Cook about an hour, over medium high heat, uncovered.
  • Allow water to evaporate, stirring occasionally. When finished, the onions will be soft with a rich brown caramel color.



Wine Cookies of Podere La Fonte

Ciambelline al Vino

Ciambelline al Vino


270 grams or 2 ¾  cups white all purpose flour

120 grams or ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated white sugar

100 ml or 7 Tablespoons sunflower seed oil

100 ml or 7 Tablespoons white or red wine

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt


Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3/8 inch, then cut into approximately ½ inch wide strips about 6 inches in length.  Form a ring by pressing the ends of each strip together, then dredge each ring in the white sugar.

Bake in oven at 320 degrees x 12 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden.

Let cool, then serve.

The cookies will keep for a long time. Store them in an airtight container.



Lasagnette alla Fiorentina

Lasagna Rounds with Spinach Ricotta Filling

These individual sized red, green and white Lasagnette alla Fiorentina are a colorful tribute to Italy and as delicious as they are beautiful. You can prepare them the day ahead and then bake them at the last minute for an elegant and heart warming primo piatto. These were created by Chef Francesco Costagli of the Michelin one star restaurant Albergaccio di Castellina. You can learn from this renowned Terra Madre chef in Il Campo Cucina’s week long Food and Wine Adventure programs:

Recipe for 4 servings



2 eggs

200 grams or 2 cups 00 flour

Tomato Sauce:

200g or 1-1/4 cups or 8 oz. tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste


100g or 3.5 oz. spinach

150g or 2/3 cup ricotta cheese

50g or ¼ cup parmesan


200g ¾ cup milk

10g or 2 teaspoons butter

10g  or 5 teaspoons flour



First make the pasta:

Make a mound of the flour on a wooden board or marble slab and form a well in the center.

Crack the eggs into the center of the well and, using a fork or your fingers, stir the eggs into the flour, gradually absorbing the flour from the sides of the well into the liquid center. Be careful to keep the sidewalls intact. Keep stirring in flour just until you have a dough that sticks together and is not too dry. Push aside the remaining flour and knead the dough with the heels of your hands, folding it over and turning it a quarter turn with each push, for 2-3 minutes or until you have a nice elastic consistency. Incorporate more flour as needed to keep the dough from turning sticky, but be careful not to add too much as this will make it tough. Place the dough in a bowl covered with a dishtowel or wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

While the dough rests, make the sauce, bechamel and ricotta-spinach filling.

To make the tomato sauce:

Blanch the tomatoes and remove the peels (or use canned plum tomatoes imported from Italy). Place a saucepan with 2 tablespoons olive oil on the stove. Coarsely chop the tomatoes into the pan over medium high heat, and let cook 20-30 minutes until the tomatoes cook down into a sauce.  Turn off the heat. Puree the tomatoes with an immersion blender, add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

To make the béchamel:

In a large saucepan, melt the butter, whisk in a small amount of the milk and 5 heaping tablespoons flour. This will form a dry paste. Whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in the remainder of milk. Cook and continue whisk until the béchamel begins to boil and thicken. Turn off the heat. Add salt to taste. Cover the sauce with a sheet of baking parchment to keep it from forming a skin.

To make the spinach and ricotta filling:

Thoroughly wash the spinach then cook it until the leaves wilt and the stems are tender. Gather the spinach into a ball and wring out all of the water, then chop it up into small pieces. Place the ricotta in a bowl and mix it with the spinach and then add the Parmesan cheese. Stir until well blended.

Now roll out and cut the pasta rounds:

After the dough rests for at least 20 minutes, knead it a few more times then begin rolling it out. Cutting off pieces about half the size of your fist, roll out each piece of dough on a lightly floured board into an oblong slab approximately ¾ to ½ inch thick and 6 inches wide (narrow enough to run through a pasta machine). Set the machine at the thickest setting, and feed the dough through the two rollers, cranking the pasta out into a long sheet. Turn the rollers to the next setting and continue running the pasta sheet through the machine in decreasing thicknesses down to the thinnest setting. Rest the dough on a clean dishtowel or cotton tablecloth, and continue rolling out the dough until all of the pasta is finished. (If the weather is damp, you might need to slightly flour the surface of the dough to keep it from getting sticky.) Use a 4 inch round cookie cutter to cut out circles of dough, or simply cut the dough into squares with a pastry cutter, keeping them all the same size. You should have at least 20-24 circles (or squares) for four lasagnettes.

Then assemble the lasagnettes:

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Count the dough rounds and make each lasagnetta with the same number of rounds. Now—if you have a metal round you can use this as a form inside which you can build the lasagnette, but don’t worry if you don’t. Make stacks of lasagna in this order fro the bottom up:

1.    Teaspoon béchamel

2.    Pasta round

3.    Spinach/ricotta filling

4.    Pasta round

5.    Half teaspoon béchamel

6.    Spinach/ricotta filling

7.    Pasta round

8.    Half teaspoon béchamel

9.    Spinach/ricotta filling

10.  Pasta round

11.  Spinach/ricotta filling

12.  Pasta round

13.  Spinach/ricotta filling

14.  Half teaspoon béchamel to finish.

The lasagnette can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Before baking, preheat the oven to 390 F (or 200 C).

Bake the lasagnette for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Just before serving, pour a ladle of tomato sauce in the center of each plate; place the baked lasagna rounds over the sauce. Drizzle a tablespoon of béchamel artfully over the sauce. Serve immediately.


Panna Cotta with Peaches and Red Wine Reduction

Panna Cotta with Fresh Peaches and Red Wine Reduction

Panna cotta means “cooked cream”. Well, that’s true–it’s cream and it’s cooked; but besides that, it is the creamiest, most seductively light tasting dessert in the Tuscan repertoire. It is also perhaps the most common. Chef Francesco Costagli created this uncommon version with a red wine reduction sauce and a fresh peach topping that renders up an easy, cool and elegant dessert with four layers of flavors and textures. It is a delight to the eyes and the taste buds. Make it the day before, or at least 6 hours ahead to allow the dessert to gel before serving.

Ingredients for 8 servings

For the panna cotta:

1 ¼ cups whole milk

2 ½ cups whipping cream*

2 packets of powdered gelatin (½ ounce)

6 tablespoons sugar

For the fruit and amaretto topping:

1-3/4 cup fresh peaches or nectarines

½ cup sugar

16 amaretto cookies, half of them crumbled; 8 whole.

For the red wine reduction sauce:

1 bottle (750 ml) good quality Chianti Classico or other dry, medium bodied red wine

1 cup white sugar

*Note: You can change the proportions of cream and milk if you want a lighter dessert.


First, make the red wine reduction sauce:

Pour a bottle of good quality Chianti Classico wine and a cup of white granulated sugar into a nonreactive pan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium high, or so the liquid continues to bubble, and let it continue boiling until reduced to half. Turn off the heat and let cool.

Next, make the panna cotta:

Place the milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the gelatin. Pour milk mixture into a heavy saucepan and stir over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and sugar. Stir 5 to 7 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.

Then assemble the parfaits:

Choose a clear parfait dishes or wine glasses or even attractive glass or crystal tumblers that allow to see the layers of this pretty dessert.  There should be one dish per serving.

Pour approximately 3 tablespoons of the red wine reduction sauce into the bottom of each parfait or wine glass. Gently spoon equal amounts of the panna cotta mixture over the top of the red wine reduction sauce in each dish, being careful to keep the two layers separate.

Cool slightly. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or overnight. This dessert keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Prepare the fruit topping and finish the presentation:

At least 30 minutes before serving, peel and cut the peaches or nectarines into small cubes and mix with the sugar. Wait at least 20 minutes for the sugar to bring out the flavor of the fruit. Just before serving, spoon the fruit over the top of each panna cotta, then sprinkle with crumbled amaretto cookies and one whole amaretto over the top.


Pasta alla Contadina – Pasta with Sausage, Leeks and Saffron

Pasta alla Contadina

Pasta with Sausage, Leeks and Saffron

- Ristorante Nazionale, Radicondoli (Siena)

Il Campo/Cucina guests always enjoy this dish at Ristorante Nazionale in the heart of Radicondoli. It is a surprisingly light and delicately flavored pasta with finely ground sweet sausage and just a touch of cream. The chef, Maria Rosa Barducci, serves it with tagliatelle (cooked al dente, of course); but it can also be served with penne, or spaghetti.

10 Servings


6 or 7 leeks

8 Sweet Italian sausages (or 2 pounds)

1 cup dry white wine

1 pouch of powdered saffron (or 6 threads)

½ small box panna di cucina* or 4 ounces whipping cream

salt and pepper


Mix the saffron powder or threads with the panna di cucina or whipping cream and let steep in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or overnight if you have time. This makes the cream a rich yellow color.

Trim off the tops of the leeks, then slice them lengthwise in half and rinse thoroughly. Chop the leaks into ¼ inch dice.

Place a large skillet or sauté pan over a medium high flame with 3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil, then sauté until wilted and soft.

Remove the casings from the sausages and break them up into small pieces with your fingers, then mix in with the leeks.

Cook the sausage and leeks together over medium high heat, continuing to break up the sausage into small bits with a wooden spoon.

When the color of the sausage changes, add the white wine. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine evaporates.

The sauce can now be set aside or refrigerated until time to serve.

Before serving, warm the sausage mixture in a pan then stir in the saffron cream mixture and a handful of finely minced parsley with minced garlic to taste.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meantime, boil the pasta to al dente, drain and then toss into the sauce until well coated. Serve immediately.


The delicate flavor of the saffron is best appreciated without parmesan cheese.

You can find panna ci cucina in some Italian food markets; it is simply a thickened, long-conservation rendition of fresh cream. It is not critical to go searching for the Italian version for this recipe.


Caramelized Fig Tart with Cinnamon Cream – Crostata di Fichi Caramellati

Yesterday afternoon was glorious. The golden late afternoon light tinged the leaves and blades of grass so that heaven and earth seemed one blissful creation. Strolling past the lovely farm of some friends, Rosano popped out of the branches of an olive tree and asked me if I would like some fresh figs. How could he have known? I had been waiting all year for some nice plump golden figs! He took me over to his house, came out with a plastic bag, and filled that bag up with the softest, sweetest, most syrupy golden figs I had ever seen. He pointed out that you pick the ones that have a drop of sap dripping from the bottom. Oh, yes! I trundled home with the sweet treasure, holding it as carefully as possible so as not to arrive with a bag full of jam. So, what am I going to do with two kilos of fresh figs? I’m going to make this delicious crostata:

Crostata di Fichi Caramelloti con Crema alla Cannella

Caramelized Fig Crostata with Cinnamon Cream

First, make the pasta frolla (pasta frolla is softer and more melt-in-your-mouth than a French tart crust):


½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 egg plus 1 yolk

3/4  cup fine sugar

Zest of ½ lemon

2 cups flour

Pinch of salt


Cream together the butter, sugar, egg, egg yolk and lemon zest in an electric mixer. Make a mound with the flour on a clean board or marble surface and form a well in the center. Spoon the butter-sugar-egg mixture into the well and blend the wet and dry ingredients together with your hands as quickly and lightly as possible. If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour, and if too dry, another egg yolk. Form a ball with the dough and then flatten it into a thick disk. Cover it in plastic wrap  and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Before using, let sit out at room temperature until soft enough to roll out.

Second, make the Pastry Cream:


3 egg yolks

150 grams or ¾ cup fine sugar

1 tablespoon potato starch or corn starch

500 grams or 2 cups milk

Cinnamon to taste


Set aside about 1/3 cup of the milk.

Pour the remaining 1-2/3 cups milk along with the cinnamon into a large pot over medium high heat and bring to a boil, then turn off the flame.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl beat the egg yolks, sugar and cinnamon with an electric mixer until light and frothy. Continuing to beat, slowly pour approximately 1/3 of the milk you have set aside into the sugar and egg yolk mixture. Next, stir in the potato starch (or cornstarch).

Pour the mixture of eggs, flour, sugar and milk into the pan with the warm milk. Put everything on the stove and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn the flame down to low.

To thicken the mixture, let it simmer on low heat for a few minutes, beating continuously with a whisk to avoid lumps (but if lumps occur, don’t worry—at the end you can use an immersion blender to smooth the custard out again). Now take the rest of the cold milk that you have set aside, and slowly pour it into the custard, stirring occasionally, and stopping when you have a nice thick velvety consistency. You may not need all of the cold milk. Turn off the heat and let cool, covering with a film of melted butter or baking parchment placed directly on the surface to avoid the forming of a skin.

Third, Caramelize the Figs:


1 pound fresh figs  (note: if figs are in short supply, you can substitute with pears, or mix the two)

1 scant cup sugar


Wash, dry and cut the figs into quarters. If they are very large, cut them into sixths.

Pour the sugar into a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, and stir until it melts and starts to bubble.

Add the figs and stir; continue cooking the figs in the caramelized sugar for another five minutes or until they begin to soften and turn gold.

Assembling the Crostata:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper into a 12” round and and place it over a 10” tart pan, gently peeling the plastic off once the dough is placed in the pan. The dough breaks easily, so handle it very gently; if it tears, repair it with your fingers but do not overwork.

Spoon the cooled pastry cream into the crust.

Gently spoon the caramelized figs over the pastry cream.

Place the tart into the preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool until the filling is gelled, about an hour.

Delicious served warm.


Alessandra Panzieri’s Skinny Eggplant Parmesan

Melanzana Parmigiana Magra di Alessandra Panzieri

For 8 people

This is as light as Eggplant Parmesan gets—the only fat is in the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and you don’t need very much! Even the sauce is made without oil. Alessandra owns the very beautiful, eco-sustainably restored 17th C. farmhouse, Il Bel Canto B & B, where Il Campo/Cucina’s  guests stay during their week in Radicondoli.


8 whole medium eggplants, stems removed

4 cups fresh tomato sauce (see below)

½ kg (1 lb) fresh mozzarella, cut into ½ inch cubes

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

salt and pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then put in the eggplants, whole. Boil the eggplants until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant.

While the eggplants are boiling, make the sauce (see below).

Remove the cooked eggplants from the water, let cool slightly,s then slice lengthwise one half inch thick.

Layer the ingredients in an oven proof baking dish with sides at least 2 ½” high.

Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of eggplant, then mozzarella cheese, then Parmesan cheese, then the thinly sliced basil, and finally salt and pepper.  Repeat. Make 2-3 layers.

Bake 45 minutes in a ventilated oven 185 degrees Celsius or 365 degrees Fahrenheit.

Serve warm.

Fresh Tomato Sauce:

1 kg (2.2 lb) garden fresh tomatoes

2 ribs celery

½ cup fresh basil or oregano

Roughly chop the tomatoes and cook over medium heat with celery and fresh basil and/or oregano for about 30 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste. Puree all with an immersion blender or food processor.



Eggplant Parmesan

Melanzana Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmesan

This dish, a recipe from Podere La Fonte,  was the hands-down favorite of Il Campo Cucina students this fall. And surprise, it was not made by Emanuela, but by her husband, Marco, with the help of their son Lorenzo and his girlfriend Jessica. It takes time to prepare, but is so worth the effort. Make a large batch, because you will want seconds and maybe thirds, and then left-overs. Enjoy this crispy cheesy tangy savory treat with your own homegrown eggplants or run to the market and buy everything you need. But by all means make it!

(8 servings)

2 medium eggplants, preferably the light violet colored Italian variety
1 liter of sunflower seed oil (or substitute with peanut oil)
½ pound fresh mozzarella cheese (ideally the kind sold in a water bath)
½ pound finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups aglione sauce (see recipe below)

First, prepare the aglione sauce and set it cooking at a low simmer (see recipe above).
While the sauce is cooking, prepare the eggplant. Cut the eggplants into ½” thick disks and spread them out on a layer of paper towels. Sprinkle fine salt over the eggplant slices and let them sweat for at least thirty minutes, then turn over and repeat on the other side. After a half hour more, blot dry with clean paper towels. This process is important for removing the bitterness from the eggplant; it also makes the eggplant softer when it cooks.
Next, heat approximately ¾” sunflower seed oil in a wide bottomed sautee pan or skillet over medium high heat. The oil should be hot but not smoking. Fry the eggplant slices in batches, turning the slices over as they turn golden brown and cooking on both sides until tender and golden. Remove the cooked eggplant from the skillet and let drain on a sheet of paper towels. Continue cooking until all the slices are done.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius
Using a casserole dish 3-4” deep and 12 – 15” wide, begin assembling the eggplant parmesan. First, place a layer of the cooked eggplant slices on the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread a thin layer of aglione sauce over the eggplant, then arrange ½’ to 1” chunks of fresh mozzarella over the sauce. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese, then plae another layer of eggplant slices over top. Repeat this process until all the ingredients are done. The final layer should be a generous slathering of sauce, followed by more mozzarella, and finally a very generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Place the casserole in the oven and let cook for 40 minutes or until a lovely rich red-golden crust forms over the top.
Remove from the oven, let cool for ten minutes then serve.

Sugo Aglione
Garlic Tomato Sauce

Gently sauté many whole cloves of garlic in about a ¼ cup of olive oil, until blonde and soft inside. Mash the garlic into a paste with a fork. Add to the oil/garlic mixture 1 teaspoon chili flakes, 1 fresh bay leaf, and 32 oz good zesty home made tomato sauce or store bought in a pinch, fresh flat leaf parsley, and celery tops.  Let it all cook down slowly for approximately an hour. Add salt to taste.