Cooking Foraged Chicory in Roma

My HP Production crew devouring spaghetti cacao e pepe I cooked in my Rome kitchen
My HP Production crew devouring saltimbocca I cooked in my Rome kitchen

The last time I was in Italy I hooked up with my friend Luca and the crew from his video company, HB Productions. We spent days together shopping and shooting episodes of me cooking in my apartment near the Spanish Steps.

Here’s the first of those HB Production episodes just in time as early spring vegetables hit the farmers market.

I shopped every day in Campo dei Fiori, the huge open air market in the historical center of Rome. I was lucky to meet Alessandro who had a produce stand there. He was my guide to the spring vegetables he had to offer.

This day he had wild chicory, cicoria, he foraged early that morning in the hills near his home outside of Rome. He sold me the chicory with a condition. “Cook it with olive oil and lots of garlic, that’s all.” “And chili pepper,” I said. Alessandro agreed and added “but no lemon, no lemon.” Boy, these Italians are strict but that was my plan anyway.

What a wonderful Slow Food moment, scoring locally foraged cicoria to cook in my Rome apartment a few blocks away from the market! Watch me use a versatile, simple method to respectfully coax maximum flavor from this humble wild green. Here in the U.S. curly endive is the closest to the wild chicory I cooked in Rome.

You may have seen some of the Rome footage in this Hungry Village production. Get a peek of Luca and his aunt Giulia, the best cook in the family, who joined me in the kitchen for a couple of episodes.

I hope to have the other Rome episodes ready to post soon. Stay tuned but in the meantime here’s my saltimbocca recipe.

So You Want To Be An American? is the music in the episode. I love the tune. Here’s hip Neapolitan crooner Renato Carosone’s 1958 rendition of his Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cooking Foraged Chicory in Roma
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A simple chicory preparation that you can use for other leafy greens too.
Recipe type: Vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • 1 pound chicory (curly endive)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • pinch of chili flake
  • sea salt to taste
  1. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil in a pot.
  2. Add the chicory and blanch for a minute or two.
  3. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes to the pan and cook until the garlic just begins to take on some color.
  4. Drain the chicory and add it to the sauté pan. Add sea salt to taste.
  5. Stir well to dress the chicory with the oil.
  6. Serve immediately.



Cacio e Pepe: Spaghetti with a No-Cook Pecorino & Black Pepper Sauce

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Cacio e pepe
Cacio e pepe is a minimalist Italian version of mac and cheese.

It’s ridiculous how a few quality ingredients can make such a sumptuous pasta dish. When in Rome cacio e pepe is one of two pasta dishes that I order at one of my favorite restaurants as soon as I arrive.

If you’re really hungry and want something simple to eat this no-cook sauce is for you. Boil well-salted water, cook the spaghetti and you’re almost done.

When the spaghetti is al dente, fish it out of the water and put it in a big bowl. Pour a cup of hot pasta water over the spaghetti, stir in the grated pecorino & freshly ground black pepper, toss and your ready to eat.

The silky zesty pecorino sauce clings to every strand of spaghetti and the black pepper explodes in your mouth. I couldn’t stop eating this one.

Be sure to buy the best spaghetti from Italy that you can. I prefer pasta from a small producer in and around Naples. This pasta could cost you 4 or 5 dollars but it’s worth every penny. Their durum wheat pasta extruded through a bronze die has a deep nutty wheat flavor and the rough surface holds sauce well. In a pinch I use De Cecco.

Buy a hunk of pecorino romano from Italy and grate just before using to maximize its taste. Buy quality black peppercorns and coarsely grind or crush them so that you fully enjoy their robust flavor and texture.

Oh, and that other pasta dish I can’t wait to eat when I get to Roma, spaghetti carbonara. Let me know if you want me to make that one in a future episode. Just leave a comment.

I often make a spaghetti pie when I have cacio e pepe left over. Just add beaten eggs, mix and bake it until the spaghetti strands on top are golden and nutty. It’s an easy way of getting a second day of enjoyment out of this tasty dish. You can make a spaghetti pie too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cacio e Pepe: Spaghetti with a No-Cook Pecorino & Black Pepper Sauce
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Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano
  • freshly coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • sea salt for the pasta water
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2. When the water reaches a rapid boil add the spaghetti. Toss the spaghetti to make sure it doesn't stick.
  3. While the spaghetti is cooking grate the pecorino, half on the coarse grate and half on the fine grate.
  4. Coarsely grind black pepper or crack them with a pan or a meat pounder.
  5. When the spaghetti is al dente fish it out with tongs and put it in a big bowl. (Save 2 cups of pasta water if you drain it in a colander.)
  6. Add a cup of pasta water to the bowl and toss to moisten the spaghetti.
  7. Add the grated pecorino and toss. If the pasta is too dry add more pasta water to form a silky sauce.
  8. Add the black pepper and toss the spaghetti well.
  9. Serve immediately. Have some pecorino and the pepper mill on the table for your guests to add more if they want.


New Gianni Video Now Live

Rome's Campo di Fiori, an open-air produce market
My produce guy in Rome’s Campo di Fiori

Sorry if you couldn’t access the video episode Gianni: From Italy to North Beach in my earlier post.

You can watch it now.

Here’s the Hungry Village video. Meet some of my friends from a week living in a Roman neighborhood and how that experience colors my Italian-American lifestyle here in San Francisco.

More from the Hungry Village people on Facebook and their website.

Keep on cooking.

Buon appetito!

Food, Family & Friends

Making My Mom's Lasagna with My Godson
Passing It On–Making My Mom’s Lasagna with My Godson

How often do you get to put something inside someone’s body?

No this ain’t a sex post but it’s close.

I just returned from 3 weeks in Italy when I sat down with my friends at Hungry Village. Cameras rolling I riffed on what draws me back to Italy each year and what fuels my passion for sharing my food with family and friends in my home and with you on my blog.

I hope you enjoy a short video of my time living in a Roman neighborhood and my Italian-American lifestyle in San Francisco’s North Beach.

The folks at Hungry Village shoot and produce my video episodes. Check out these talented Hungry Village friends on Facebook and on the Hungry Village website.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!


A Surprise Guest in My Roman Kitchen

Giulia, my Roman home cook guide
Giulia, my Roman home cook guide and the video crew devouring the last of the saltimbocca

Giulia, the petite and effervescent aunt of my Roman producer, stopped by the apartment as we were setting up for the video shoot.

She was doubtful that a guy from San Francisco could cook Roman dishes and she wanted to see for herself.

Giulia does most of the cooking when her extended family gathers. I was glad she was with us. I was sure she would teach me a thing or two.

She really liked my sautéed chicory and the spring vegetable stew. Now we were best kitchen buddies and I tried to absorb all she told me in Italian.

As we talked about what was next up for me to cook, I had an idea. Maybe Giulia would show me how she cooked these dishes. I’d be her assistant.

After a bit of hesitation, she agreed to go on camera, as long as she could freshen up a bit first.

What an unexpected gift to have a Roman share her family veal saltimbocca and spaghetti cacio e pepe recipes with me.

When we post the Roman episodes you can make these dishes your own too.

Buon appetito!

Roman Kitchen Inspiration

Roman spring bounty at the Campo di Fiori market
Roman spring bounty at the Campo di Fiori market

I met up with Alessandro, my produce vendor friend in the Campo di Fiori farmers market as the sun began to break through the early morning clouds.

I was especially interested in what he harvested from his garden and from the wild. He had these wispy asparagus stalks no bigger than a thin straw that poke up from the ground for a brief spell this time of year.

I had to buy some for a frittata, a thick Italian flat omelet, the eggs flavored with grated pecorino, salt and freshly ground black pepper that would tide us over as we set up for the video shoot in my Spanish Steps apartment kitchen.

Fans suggested that I make on camera some of the classic Roman dishes that I made in North Beach to get ready for my trip.

Alessandro had wild cicoria, tender chicory shoots that inspired the first episode. It’s an easy dish but a universal method for preparing green leafy vegetables in a pan with olive oil, garlic and dried chili.

The second episode was vignarola, the Roman spring vegetable stew with baby purple artichokes, fava beans so young and tender they could be cooked right out of the pod and sweet spring peas.

Antica Norcineria Viola (pork store) right behind Alessandro’s stall had guanciale, cured pig jowl, to flavor this classic spring vegetable dish. Benedetto was my 4th generation Norcineria guide that his family opened in 1890.

I checked off the last item on my shopping list and we headed back to my apartment to cook.

In my next post you’ll meet Giulia, a wonderful Roman home cook, who happened to show up in my kitchen as we were shooting the video episodes.

In the meantime if you’re in the mood make an asparagus fritatta for yourself.

Buon appetito!


A Working Roman Holiday

Campo di Fiori Rome
Campo di Fiori Rome

Campo di Fiori, the farmer’s market in the historical center of Rome was ablaze in the morning sunshine.

The stalls were overflowing with spring bounty. Peas, artichokes, fava beans, chicory and other leafy treats, even early tomatoes, were everywhere.

I was scouting the market as I waited for Luca, my producer to show up with his video crew so we could plan tomorrow’s shoot. I wanted to see what I would cook in my apartment kitchen.

I came across Alessandro cleaning artichokes. When I took his picture he looked up and said I had to either give him one euro or a kiss. We settled on a Roman welcome embrace.

I can’t wait to share my market and cooking experience with you. New video episodes from North Beach and Roma are coming soon.

Buon appetito!



Roman Stewed Spring Vegetables

La Vignarola, Roman stewed spring vegetables
La Vignarola, Roman stewed spring vegetables

La Vignarola, stewed spring vegetables, is a simple dish that’s a real crowd-pleaser in Rome this time of year and you can be eating some in about 30 minutes.

Quickly braise each of the 3 spring vegetables separately. Brown guanciale or pancetta with a little extra virgin olive oil. Add the vegetables to the pan along with some of the cooking liquid to make a light broth.

When everything is heated through put the vegetables on a serving platter. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and your ready to eat. Serve La Vignarola as a side-dish or as a first course with a hunk of rustic bread to sop up the flavorful broth.

The sweetness of the peas is mellowed by the meaty fava beans and tender sliced artichoke hearts. With your first bite you know spring has arrived.

I’ll be in Roma soon and my Roman friend Luca and his crew will shoot a couple of episodes while I shop the outdoor markets and cook in our apartment kitchen near the Spanish Steps. You might have noticed I’ve been cooking Roman dishes lately to get in the groove.

We shot 2 new episodes last week at Cookhouse in North Beach as a run-up to my Italy trip. Watch me making a Roman favorite for your antipasti or afternoon snack (uno spuntino) and a classic main course from Naples. We’ll post the first one real soon.

Buon appetito!

Roman Stewed Spring Vegetables
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La Vignarola, stewed artichokes, fava beans and peas Roman-style.
Recipe type: Side dish
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 4 small artichokes
  • 2 pounds fava beans
  • 2 pounds spring peas
  • 2 ounces guanciale or pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 green onions
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl of water. As you clean the artichokes, put them in the acidulated water until your ready to braise them all. (This keeps the artichokes from oxidizing and turning brown.)
  2. Pull off the tough outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to leaves that are light green-yellow in color.
  3. Cut off the dark top of the artichoke.
  4. Cut off the stem evenly and peel off any green tough skin on the artichoke base.
  5. With a spoon, scoop out the choke (small purple leaves and fuzzy center) in the middle of artichoke. (If your using baby artichokes, they won't have developed a choke yet.)
  6. Shell the peas and set aside in a bowl.
  7. Shell the fava beans, remove the skin and set aside in a bowl.
  8. Put a cup of water in a small pot over medium-high heat and add the artichokes.
  9. When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
  10. Braise the artichokes until they are knife tender, about 10 minutes.
  11. With a slotted spoon, remove the artichokes to a bowl and set aside to cool.
  12. Add more water to the pot if necessary, raise the heat to medium-high and add the fava beans.
  13. When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
  14. Braise the fava beans until tender, about 7 minutes. (Don't over cook the fava beans or they'll lose their bright green color.)
  15. With a slotted spoon, remove the fava beans to the bowl with the artichokes.
  16. Add more water to the pot if necessary, raise the heat to medium-high and add the peas.
  17. When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
  18. Braise the peas until tender, about 5 minutes. (Don't over cook the peas or they'll lose their bright green color.)
  19. With a slotted spoon, remove the peas to the bowl with the other vegetables.
  20. Save the vegetable cooking water.
  21. Cut the artichokes in half and cut the artichoke half in 1-inch slices and put the slices back in the bowl with the other vegetables.
  22. Slice the green onions in 1-inch pieces.
  23. Cut the guanciale or pancetta into 1-inch cubes.
  24. Put another pan over medium-high heat and pour in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  25. When the oil is hot add the guaciale or pancetta and brown.
  26. Add the green onions and cook until soft.
  27. Lower the heat to meidum-low, add the artichokes, fava beans and peas to the pan along with 1 cup of the vegetable cooking water.
  28. Simmer until the vegetables are heated through.
  29. Put the vegetables on a serving platter and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste and a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil.
  30. Serve immediately.


Stracciatella–Italian Egg Drop Soup

This simple but elegant soup is at home in Rome or Naples. Little egg "rags" and spinach in chicken broth.
This simple but elegant soup is at home in Rome or Naples. Little egg “rags” and spinach in chicken broth.

After a slice of savory Pizza Rustica and some arugula salad, the first course for my Easter meal is Stracciatella, Italian egg drop soup.

Stracciatelle means “little rags” in Italian. They’re formed by whisking beaten eggs into hot chicken broth. My Mom made perfect little egg rags in her soup.

This is an elegant but terribly simple soup to make. Just heat up some chicken broth, whip in the beaten eggs to make little rags, tear in baby spinach leaves and eat.

Use your homemade chicken broth or a low-sodium broth you pick up at the market. Stracciatella will be ready in the time it takes to bring the broth to a boil.

I’m looking forward to having Stracciatella either in Roma or Napoli while I’m in Italia soon. It’s a popular dish in both cities.

The mild broth is the perfect bath for the torn tender spinach and the egg rags flavored with parmigiano and black pepper. Stracciatella is a wonderful light and flavorful first course.

Watch me making the bookends for my Easter meal, savory Pizza Rustica and sweet Pastiera Napoletana, traditional Easter deep-dish ricotta pies.

Buona Pasqua! Happy Spring!

Stracciatella--Italian Egg Drop Soup
Prep time
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Recipe type: Italian
Cuisine: Soup
Serves: 4-6
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves (rip larger ones into smaller pieces)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring the broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir the broth in a circular motion.
  4. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork or whisk to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute.
  5. Stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach starts to darken in color.
  6. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. (Put out some grated parmigiano and let everyone help themselves.)


Spaghetti alla Carbonara from Roma

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A Roman friend’s son Luca shot a video of Claudio, the chef/owner of Osteria Dar Bruttone making spaghetti alla carbonara, a classic Roman pasta dish. I had to share it with you.

Claudio is passionate about Roma and about its food. His osteria in the San Giovanni neighborhood where he serves simple traditional Roman fare is popular with locals and tourists alike.

Claudio beams as he talks about the virtues of the most beautiful city on earth and Roman culinary tradition, a vital part of Roman life. Walk with Claudio as he shops in the markets near his osteria for the food that he will cook at his restaurant that day.

The spaghetti alla carbonara video is in Italian but even if you don’t speak the language watch it anyway. The shots of Rome, the markets and the kitchen techniques are priceless. Everyone I know who watched the video, fluent in Italian or not, had to make spaghetti alla carbonara right away. Here’s my translation of Claudio’s recipe for you to enjoy in your kitchen.

Spaghetti alla carbonara only has 4 ingredients and is ready to eat in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti. Search out guanciale. It’s integral to the dish. (In a pinch you could use pancetta.) Use a dried durum wheat pasta extruded through bronze dies imported from Italy so the sauce will cling to its rough surface. Don’t be shy with the black pepper. Use pecorino for it’s more robust flavor, not parmigiano.

The spaghetti takes on a golden hue. Creamy, silky sauce coats every strand. Rich pecorino flavor plays off salty, crispy guanciale and black pepper tickles your throat with every bite.

I miss Roma. Buon appetito!


Experiencing Roma

Rome Forum

Rome Forum

I Love Rome.

Probably getting close to 20 times I’ve been. Bernini’s sculpture, Michelangelo everywhere, Baroque over the top, beautiful people, the Caravaggio triptych in San Liuigi dei Francesi church, the wonderful food and romantic outdoor meals, Santa Maria in Trestevere, potato pizza with rosemary a taglio (by the slice) from the ladies in cardboard hats, the farmer’s market at Campo Fiore, the Jewish ghetto and flattened fried artichokes and baccala to die for.

A friend of mine, Personal Chef Tom Herndon, saw one of my recent episodes and shared memories of a couple of days together when our paths crossed in Roma…

We were lucky to be able to meet John in Rome a couple of years ago. We had the insider’s tour. He took us to the oldest church in Rome and then to the Jewish Ghetto for some incredible food, including an impressive deep fried artichoke. He took the entire group of 14 to a lovely cafe in a small square where we ate al fresco, including these bread ‘puff balls’ as big as a football! Then he showed us the best place to get gelato and chocolate bundino.

He’s a true gourmand and a man of passion about Italy. Our time in Rome was truly memorable.

We did have fun together! I love to gather groups and travel to Italy. We rent apartments so that we can get into the local pace of life and do some of our own cooking wherever we are.

Have you ever gone on a food adventure to Italy? If so, please tell me about it in the comments!