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Eating our way through Calabria - Culinary Tour 2013


After spending a couple of weeks in Calabria and Sicily, I am back home.  During those weeks I spent 8 days with a fabulous group touring and eating our way through Calabria.   We had a great time and enjoyed many luscious meals. Take a look at some of the photos below and the remainder on Cooking with Rosetta Facebook Fan Page.

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Funghi ripieni di ricotta (Wild mushrooms stuffed with ricotta)


Here is the second recipe that we prepared during the culinary tour.

When the tour group went foraging in La Sila mountains near Camigliatello, we found a distinctive type of mushroom called macrolepiota procera, which is known as mazza di tamburo in Italian and “parasol mushroom” in English. Here is a picture of one that I found on that day.

I was not familiar with this mushroom, but our mycologist guide told us that this one was edible and to pick them all. It comes in various sizes; when they are small they have a tight cap but as they age the cap opens up and looks like an umbrella.

And let me reiterate the warning I've given in previous posts: please, please, PLEASE, don’t pick mushrooms unless you are trained to identify them or are with a mycologist. Some wild mushrooms are poisonous and can lead to severe illness or death.

I went to my grocery store to look for a similar mushroom and the closest I could come up with were portobellos and shiitakes. I used them for this recipe and both worked well.

Like the recipe of mushroom and potato soup in the previous post it is very simple and easy to prepare. The filling has fresh ricotta, breadcrumbs, pecorino cheese, and fresh herbs.

Mix all the ingredients well. Add salt and pepper.

I typically clean mushrooms with only a damp cloth or small toothbrush to avoid getting them wet. But for this recipes Chef Pietro Lecce of La Tavernetta washed the mushrooms. He explained that he actually wanted some moisture, which would help in cooking the mushrooms. I rinsed the mushroom caps and drained them completely, so whatever was absorbed was a small amount of water.

Remove the stems and sprinkle with some salt. Stuff the mushroom caps with about two tablespoons of ricotta filling, less if you're using small cap.

Oil a baking dish and place the stuffed mushroom caps next to each other. Drizzle with olive oil.

And bake. We had these stuffed mushrooms warm as an appetizer but they work well as a side dish also. Give it a try!

For a printable recipe

click here

Funghi ripieni con ricotta(Wild mushrooms stuffed with ricotta)

One dozen mushroom caps,  more if small

1 cup well-drained ricotta

¼ cup dried breadcrumbs

¼ cup grated pecorino cheese

2 teaspoons fresh mint leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, chopped

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven at 400F.

Remove stems from mushrooms and quickly rinse under water.   Drain well.  Set aside.

Mix the remaining ingredients until all blended.

Coat a baking dish with some olive oil.  Sprinkle the mushroom caps with salt. Stuff each cap with one to two tablespoons of ricotta filling, depending on size.

Place the stuffed mushroom caps inside the baking dish right next to each other.

Drizzle with olive oil.   Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes for large caps, 15 minutes for small caps.

Zuppetta di porcini e patate (porcini and potato soup)


Lots of things have kept me busy since I came back from my culinary tour in Calabria: my book launch happened last week and there is a book signing event every week from now until January. But I did promise everyone in the tour group that I would remake the dishes we cooked in Calabria and give them the recipes. So today, our first rainy day in the Bay Area, seems like a good time to start. Luckily most of the recipes that we cooked are in my book, but a few were new to me. The first cooking class of the tour was held at La Tavernetta restaurant in Camigliatello Silano, in the heart of the Sila mountains. This restaurant is one of the top restaurants in Calabria and its menu focuses on dishes based on local ingredients. We spent our first day foraging for wild mushrooms and for dinner, the chef and owner Pietro Lecce demonstrated two wonderful dishes using them. This week I will give you the recipe for the soup we had. Next week I will try the appetizer we made, roasted mushroom caps filled with ricotta and herbs.

This soup really showcases the simplicity of Calabrian cooking. We used the local potatoes that grow in the Sila mountains--our closest are the Yukon gold--and porcini mushrooms.

The two star ingredients of this soup, porcini and potatoes.

Cut the potatoes in small cubes, about 3/8 -inch by 1/2 -inch

Cut the porcini, cap and stem, into small cubes

Cook the potatoes in the broth until soft

Sautee the porcini mushrooms with a sprig of fresh thyme

When the potatoes are soft add the sauteed mushrooms and finish the soup following the recipe below. Yummy!

For a printable recipe, click here.

Zuppetta di porcini e patate (Porcini mushrooms and potato soup)

1.5 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut in small cubes, about 3/8 inch by 1/2 inch

Extra virgin olive oil

3/4 pound fresh porcini mushrooms

Sprig of fresh thyme

3 cups or more Vegetable broth or chicken broth

Salt and black pepper

In a small pot, warm up three tablespoons of olive oil. Add the cubed potatoes. Stir to coat and then add two cups of hot vegetable broth. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked and soft, about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, cut the porcini mushrooms into small cubes including the stems. In a 10 inch skillet place 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Set over high heat add the mushrooms and a sprig of thyme . Add more olive oil if dry. Saute quickly until the mushrooms are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Once the potatoes are soft stir and press against the side of the pot to smash some of them. Add the mushrooms to the potatoes and another ladle of broth. Let them cook together until the potatoes are soft enough that some start breaking apart, about 5 minutes. Stir and smash enough potatoes against the side of the potto make a thick creamy soup. Add more broth if the soup is too thick.

To serve, place a couple of ladles of the soup in a bowl and add a swirl of extra virgin olive oil. Add a few croutons on top of the soup, if desired.

Serves 4 to 6

Eating our way through Calabria


The culinary tour ended today but I haven't been able to add posts or upload any pictures because of the slow internet connection. Everyone on the trip thought it was a success, and the only complaint from them was that I fed them too much food. We did eat it all, tho', since it was too good to leave on our plates. We all had a wonderful time cooking, foraging for mushroom, visiting various producers, wineries, produce markets, and we even checked out castles and churches along the way. Check out some of the photos below and the remainder on My Calabria Facebook fan page posted in the Calabria culinary tour 2010 folder album.

Our first day up in the Sila mountains foraging for wild mushrooms:

Do you recognize any of these unusual mushrooms?

Here is our mushroom pick for the day ready for our cooking class:

Below are  photos of some of the foods we ate during the tour.

2010! The year of Calabria


Buon anno 2010! This is the year that you can learn even more about Calabria from me. First of all, my cookbook My Calabria will be published in November. But just as important, I will be leading a culinary tour of Calabria at the end of September. This trip is for all you foodies! Discover new foods that you can’t find in this country such as the famous ‘nduja di Spilinga,  prized salumi and cheeses, the famous tartufo di Pizzo,  the sweet red onions of Tropea,  bottarga di Pizzo, local handmade pasta, traditional pastries, famous Calabrian liquorice, spicy peperoncino,  foods made from local cedro and bergamot, and many more. 'nduja di Spilinga

Calabrian cheeses

bottarga di Pizzo

authentic assorted pastries

tartufo di Pizzo

Our trip will start up in the Sila mountains where we will hunt in the woods for wild porcini mushrooms and prepare a dinner with the chef of one of my favorite restaurants, La Tavernetta.  We will travel across Calabria to the Ionian coast and spend the next two nights at a beautifully restored farmhouse, Fattoria il Borghetto, and learn how to prepare some of the local fare.  Next, a visit to the wine country of Ciro to spend the afternoon on the Dattilo estate to taste the owner's wines and organic extra virgin olive oil.   The evening will conclude with a dinner at the estate restaurant, one of the best in Calabria. Along the coast we will stop in Rossano and visit the Amarelli’s factory, world-famous for its liquorice.

We then move to the Tyrrhenian coast and have another cooking class while staying at the Grand Hotel San Michele near Cetraro. We will visit one of my favorite towns, Diamante, also known for its murals. Here we will taste various foods made with Calabria's famous peperoncino and cedro and feast on a dinner based on local seafood. We will then head south and eat the famous tartufo di Pizzo ice cream.  We will have a home-cooked dinner prepared by Signora Callipo herself at Casa Janca and spend the last two nights at a famous five-star hotel, the Hotel Porto Pirgos near Tropea. Our adventure concludes  with a cooking class in this area where we will enjoy the famous red onions of Tropea, ‘nduja di Spilinga, and pecorino di Monte Poro.

Join me on this culinary odyssey to my native region of Calabria.  To find out more details and reserve a spot, click on the Culinary Tour link.

A "wild" day at the farmers' market in Vibo Valentia


I happened to be in Pizzo on Sunday and asked Signora Callipo of Casa Janca where to go for a typical farmers' market to take photos for my book. She suggested the market in Vibo Valentia on Monday, where all the stands are run by little old ladies who bring their bounty to be sold. They bring whatever they themselves grow or forage in the wild. They sell things that we don't often see in America. This picture below shows some of the wild vegetables like wild asparagus, wild chicory, and wild fennel:

Here's a bucket of wild asparagus, which are pencil-thin, tender and wonderful to eat in a frittata:

The little old ladies love to forage for wild chicory. I enjoyed the chicory cooked with potatoes by Signora Callipo:

They even sell freshly harvested camomilla (chamomile) that can be dried for tea. Every Calabrian mamma will give you this tea when you have a tummy ache:

There were fava beans and Tropea red onions everywhere, because they are right at the peak of the season:

The super-sweet Tropea red onions...

...and the gorgeous artichokes:

The seasonal fruit that I saw were strawberries (fragole) and loquats (nespole):

Here are lupini, a soft bean that Calabrians often eat as a snack. My friend Fanny says they are very popular in the ethnic neighborhood feste in Chicago.

And a bucket of cured black olives for antipasti or snack:

They also sell cured salumi and pecorino cheese in the market, all of which are homemade. In the photo below, there are (left to right) capocollisoppressate and salsiccie calabrese.

Look at the crust on these loaves of bread. I had to buy some of this bread because it looked so good:

Right within the market there are several butcher shops. I'll spare you the more grisly photos I have, with the offal and whole dressed animals. This is as good as it gets:

Photoshoot in Calabria: Riviera dei Cedri


I'm here in Calabria with photographer Sara Remington (go here for her pictures) doing a photoshoot for my upcoming cookbook, My Calabria. La Riviera dei Cedri, the "citron coast", is on the Tyrrhenian side of Calabria, stretching from Praia a Mare to Cetraro. It is known for the cultivation of cedro, or citron; this is also the area of Calabria where I was born. Below are some of my own pictures to show you the beauty of this area through my eyes.

Breakfast for two at Pasticceria Aronne in Marcellina, my favorite place to have coffee and pastries:

A view of my hometown, Verbicaro:

A street in the old section of Scalea:

A quaint and interesting doorknob in Scalea; anyone have a guess as to what animal is portrayed?

Another view of Scalea from the the castle that sits at the very top of the old town:

Here is a view of the beach in Scalea after a rainy day; even on May 1 there are still people at the beach:

Calabria's famous cedro hanging from the tree:

And here is a photo of Isola di Dino, Calabria's largest island, that sits just opposite Praia a Mare's beach:

One of the many murals found in Diamante (also known as the city of murals):

I stopped by Grand Hotel San Michele in Cetraro, where we will be staying during part of my culinary tour in September:

The view from the terrace of the Hotel San Michele; we can see Cetraro's marina and all the way south to the end of the Riviera:

I'll be posting more as we keep travelling through Calabria.