The beauty of learning to cook in a place we recognize as having the most sensational cuisine in the world: we must learn to let go, make lots of mistakes with flour flinging everywhere and trust ourselves that the recipes may be finished without being “perfect.”
During my time living in Florence, I took a cooking class with my professor named Giulio. Every other day I would walk along the narrow cobblestone path down to the LDM cooking classroom or the Central Market. While this may have been one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken, from having to memorize exact measurements of olive oil and the history of cheese (not kidding, it was very difficult), I came away from this class feeling like I could finally cook for my family at home. I could finally make something other than packaged banana bread that listed three ingredients on the box.
I still remember my last class with Giulio in December 2018, where he came to class dressed in his Christmas sweater and tie, saying we were his favorite class he’s ever taught. He is one of the most patient teachers I’ve ever had, and he had to be, with all these American students not even knowing the exact ingredients of an authentic carbonara or that meatballs are not true to Italy.
While strangers visiting Florence would peer at all of us in our giant chef hats and chocolate-smeared aprons with thumbs-ups and “you can finish it in time!” looks, sometimes I did not have the confidence to complete a recipe with this level of efficiency and perfection. I quickly learned that no recipe is perfect, even with 3 cups of sugar and lots of melted butter.
That is the beauty of learning to cook in a place we recognize as having the most sensational cuisine in the world: we must learn to let go, make lots of mistakes with flour flinging everywhere, and trust ourselves that the recipe may be finished without being “perfect.”
I now consider a perfect recipe to be one filled with a lot of extra love. No matter the bits of eggshell or cracks in a crust, it is the heart of the cook that matters.
Even while in quarantine, I hope this list of recipes from Florence will open your eyes that you CAN cook. Believe in yourself and take a risk!
*Note: All of these recipes use the metric system, so be sure to convert these measurements on Google if you want to use cups and tablespoons!
1. Tagliatelle Pasta with Basil & Tomato Sauce
Ingredients for pasta (serves 4)
- 300g flour
- 3 eggs
Ingredients for tomato sauce:
- 500g cherry tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- Fresh basil leaves
- 1 fresh chili pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
Combine the flour with the eggs, knead well for about 10 minutes. Let it rest for 30 minutes. Chop the garlic and sauté in a pan with the chili pepper. Wash the tomatoes and cut them into halves, then put them in a pan with the garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add a few basil leaves to the sauce and season with salt. Roll out the dough and cut the tagliatelle with a knife. Sprinkle the pasta with durum flour to prevent it from sticking.
Boil the tagliatelle in salted water and cook the pasta for 5 minutes. Drain the pasta directly in the pan together with the tomato sauce and continue until creamy.
Serve on a hot plate and decorate with basil leaves.
2. Torino Alla Gianduia Con Crema Alle Pere – A Pear Tart With Chocolate
Ingredients for the tart (serves 2)
- 100g gianduia chocolate
- 50g butter
- 30g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 50g flour
For the pear sauce:
- 20g sugar
- 2 pears
- 1/3 vanilla bean
- Half a stick of cinnamon
For the tart:
Melt the gianduia chocolate with butter over a double boiler. In a separate bowl, whip the eggs together with the sugar. Sift in the flour, whisking until completely incorporated. Fold in the melted chocolate mixture, stirring until fully incorporated. Pour butter into buttered and floured baking molds. Bake at 180 degrees for 10 min.
For the pear sauce:
Peel and slice the pears. In a sauté pan add the pears to the cinnamon, split the pieces of the vanilla bean before adding, and add the sugar as well. Cook until the pears become tender, adding some water if needed. Once ready, remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean and set aside. Transfer the pear mixture to blender and puree until smooth, adding water as necessary to thin the desired consistency. Plate together as desired.
3. Risotto Alla Milanese Con Ossobuco in Gremolada
Ingredients for the broth (serves 2)
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 stalk of celery
For the risotto:
- 160g “Carnaroli” rice
- 1 shallot
- 1 packet of saffron
- 50g white wine
- 40g butter
- 40g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
For the veal:
- 2 slices of veal shank (150g each)
- 1 onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 20g parsley
- 40g flour
- zest of 1 lemon
To make the broth:
Boil the onion (half), the carrot, and the celery stems in a pot with water for 10-15 minutes minimum.
To make the risotto:
Heat a dollop of olive oil in a pan. Add the chopped shallot and a pinch of salt and sauté. Don’t let it change color. Add the rice and toast until nutty and fragrant. Deglaze with the white wine. Cover the rice with the broth. Add salt and let simmer, adding a little extra broth when needed (to cover the rice). After about 10 minutes, dilute saffron in half glass of broth and stir in. Continue cooking till your risotto is “al dente” (in total about 20 minutes). Then remove from the heat, and add the butter and Parmigiano cheese. Stir quickly incorporating air in the meantime (mantecatura).
To make the veal shank:
Score the side of the medallion, then dredge it into the flour. In a pan, fry the chopped onion with some olive oil. Once the onion becomes golden brown, add the veal shank slices. Fry the veal shanks on both sides, then deglaze with some white wine. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer. Add some broth, when needed. Cook for a minimum of 40 minutes. Once ready, stir in the lemon zest with the chopped parsley and garlic. Serve with the risotto.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 3 egg yolks
- 35g sugar
- 100g double cream
- 200g mascarpone cheese
- 40g chocolate flakes
- 6 biscuits
- 100ml espresso coffee
- cocoa powder
To make the cream:
Prepare a double boiler. Whisk eggs and sugar together in a small bowl over the boiler until pale and thick. Remove from heat and whisk in the mascarpone. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream to medium peak. Fold whipped cream into prepared mascarpone cream until fully incorporated, taking care to not break the whipped cream while also maintaining volume.
To assemble the Tiramisù
Start by preparing 2 cups of strong coffee. Pour cooled coffee into a bowl and dip each biscuit into the coffee. Layer the cream, chocolate flakes and coffee-dipped biscuits in desired serving vessel, creating a rotating pattern of cream and biscuit. Build to desired height. Top with cocoa powder and chocolate flakes as desired.
Ingredients for the dough mixture (serves 2)
- 150g flour
- 70g water
- 2g natural yeast
For the pizza:
- 200g flour
- 80 g water
- 200g tomato sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- Basil, chopped
- 1 mozzarella cheese
To make the dough:
Prepare the dough mixture by combining the flour, warm water, and natural yeast. Allow to sit overnight to pre-ferment. The next day, mix together the flour, water, and dough mixture. Place in an oiled bowl, and wrap the top of the bowl in plastic. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap and punch the dough down. Turn the dough out onto an oiled sheet tray. Press the dough into a square sheet to fill the tray. Wrap with plastic wrap and rest for 10 minutes more.
While the dough rests, make the tomato sauce. Sauté chopped garlic and basil until fragrant. Add the tomato and cook until the sauce is slightly thick. Cool slightly.
Unwrap and punch the dough down for the final time. Top with prepared tomato sauce and cheese. Drizzle with olive oil as needed. Bake in a 200 degree Celsius oven for 10 minutes.
6. Ravioli Di Patate Al Burro E Salvia
Ingredients for the dough (serves 2)
- 200 g plain flour
- 2 eggs
For the filling:
2 small potatoes
20 g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
30g ricotta cheese
For the sauce:
- 75g butter
- 30g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
To prepare the pasta dough:
Combine the flour with the eggs in a bowl, working the mixture until it forms a dough. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic and rest the dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
For the filling:
In a large pot, boil the potatoes with the skin on for 20 minutes in hot water until soft. Peel the potatoes and mash them with a fork. In a bowl, mix the Parmigiano with the mashed potatoes and the parsley, seasoning with salt and pepper.
To make the ravioli:
Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Using a pasta machine, run the dough through the rollers, beginning at the largest setting and working your way down to the thinnest setting, creating a long, thin ribbon of pasta. Use semolina flour to dust as needed to prevent sticking. Repeat process to create a second ribbon of dough. Lay 1 ribbon of pasta flat on the work surface and pipe desired amount of filling in circles down the middle of the pasta, leaving about 3 fingers length in between each pipe. Make an egg or water wash. Using this as glue, take a pastry brush and paint around the filling. Carefully lay the second ribbon of pasta across the top of the first sheet. Starting around each piping of filling, press the sheet together, working your way toward the edge of the sheets, while taking care to remove all air from each ravioli and to seal each very well.
For the sauce:
In a pan melt the butter and add the sage. Let fry for about 3 minutes. Cook ravioli in salted, boiling water. Drain the pasta and plate using the Parmigiano for garnish.
7. Cannoli Siciliani
Ingredients for the dough (serves 2)
- 100g flour
- 38g Marsala wine
- 10g lard
- 10g sugar
- 2 liters peanut oil for frying
For the cream filling:
- 300g ricotta
- 40g powder sugar
- 10 g dark chocolate
- 10g pistachio
- 50g dark chocolate
- Powder sugar
To make the cannoli pastry:
Mix in a bowl the flour, sugar, Marsala wine and lard. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Roll out the cannoli pastry dough to its desired thickness; cut and wrap each piece of pastry around cylindrical molds. Fry the dough-wrapped molds in hot peanut oil until pastry is brown and crispy. Set aside on a paper towel to drain and cool. Once cool, gently remove the fried dough from each mold. Set aside.
For the pastry filling:
First sift the ricotta in a strainer, then chop the chocolate into small flakes. Combine the sifted ricotta and powder sugar. Fold the chocolate flakes into the cream mixture and put into a pastry bag. Place the bag of cream in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to rest.
To assemble the cannoli:
Start by slowly melting the chocolate over a double boiler. Paint the inside of the cooled pastry tubes with the melted chocolate. Allow chocolate to set slightly, then pipe the prepared pastry cream into each tube. Chop the pistachios, and decorate as desired with cinnamon and powder sugar.