I have a feeling that I may end up living in Italy as my heart, soul – and stomach – sings whenever I spend time there. I was lucky enough to do so last week, enjoying a few days basking in the Tuscan sunshine with my family. We ate peaches from the local markets, big bowls of cherries as deeply crimson and luscious as one could ever imagine a cherry could taste, and courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and lightly fried just to seal in the flavours. And I couldn’t help nibble at the slabs of Parmesan each time I passed the fridge!
There is such an ease and elegance of living in Italy, and a celebration of food and eating together that continues to inspire me now I’m back home. I’m cooking my favourite Tuscan bean soup, ribollita, which I love to serve at room temperature on a hot day, as the intensity of the tomato and bean flavours just pings out. Our Nourish recipe includes tinned tomatoes but, in the summer, the soup tastes even better if you use deep red fresh ones – just cut them in half and grate the flesh, discarding the skins. It can be a challenge to find tomatoes as flavoursome as those you get in Italy, but one trick is to resist the temptation to put tomatoes in the fridge as this kills their flavour. I also like to tear a handful of basil leaves to stir into the soup just before serving. You get much more of a herby hit than if you chop the leaves. And finish with a good drizzle of thick green extra virgin olive oil, which I always like to bring back with me to rekindle the memories of happy Italian days and nights.
One particular highlight of this trip was a night in Luca with friends, family and Lenny Kravitz! Ooh, to dream of Italian food and Lenny Kravitz…
Pasta with tomato sauce & Parmesan
Fresh pasta dough
Cappelletti in brodo
Orecchiette with sprouting broccoli, kale & chilli
Potato gnocchi with parsley & chilli butter