Fornacalia recipes


MUSTACEI Savory wine biscuits                                                                                                   6 persons

In On Farming, Cato writes that that these cakes are made with must, thus the name.  Must is partially fermented grape juice, and only available at winemaking time. I have used a mixture of wine and sweet vin santo, instead. GianCarlo, originally from Rome, and now living in Elmo, a town neighboring Sorano, recalls that, as a child whenever he went to the cinema, at intermission the vendors would offer gelati, caramelle, e mostaccioli- ice cream, sweets and the contemporary Italian version of mustacei.  He remembers them as being made with honey instead of grape juice, and pepper instead of the cumin and aniseed, and being so hard that they were also known as straccaganasce- jaw breakers.  Sandra, who runs the tourist office in Sorano, insists that mostaccioli are originally from her native Calabria, and different than the Roman version because they are also dipped in chocolate.  This recipe remains relatively true to Cato.

75 ml white wine

75 ml vin santo

1 teaspoon cumin

1 pinch yeast

500 grams emmer flour

50 grams      butter

50 grams pecorino cheese

1/2 teaspoon aniseed

12 fresh bay leaves

Warm the wine and vin santo until tepid.  Stir in the yeast and set aside for five minutes.  In a large bowl rub together the emmer and the butter until it is like breadcrumbs.  Add the grated cheese, cumin and aniseed.  Mix well.  Pour in the liquid and kneed to a soft dough.  If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour.  Shape the dough into 12 small cakes.  Place each cake onto a bay leaf and bake in a 180 C oven for approximately 20 minutes.

FARRO CON CAVOLO NERO     Emmer, Borlotti Bean, and Tuscan Black Cabbage Casserole

Amparo, my Colombian friend, introduced me to emmer several years ago, and this recipe is based loosely on a dish she served at her restaurant, the Taverna Etrusca.


250 grams borlotti beans (soaked overnight)

50 grams pancetta

1 medium sized onion

1 carrot

1 celery stalk

2 tablespoons olive oil

200 grams Italian plum tomatoes

500 grams tuscan black cabbage leaves

250 grams emmer (soaked overnight)

Rosemary sprig

Salt and pepper

Drain and rinse the borlotti beans.  Place in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until tender.  Once cooked, remove half of the beans and puree.  Finely chop the pancetta, onion, carrot, and celery and fry with the olive oil in a pan until soft.  Add the tomatoes and cook for ten minutes.  Remove the tough inner core of the black cabbage leaves, then roughly chop into small pieces.  Add it with the tomato sauce, black cabbage, borlotti bean puree, emmer, and rosemary to the pot with the beans. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring regularly, and adding water if the mixture becomes too thick.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with a good drizzle of olive oil.

PIADINA DI FARRO   Emmer flat bread with onion and rosemary

Although bread was beginning to be made with yeast in Cato’s time, he remained partial to unleavened breads. However, the yeast helps the emmer bread be lighter and softer.  The panis militaris, being a flat crisp bread is more like the piadina, which is traditionally associated with the Romagna region of Italy. This recipe can also be made with whole-wheat flour, to be eaten with a companatico- vegetables or cheeses of your choice.

15 grams yeast

1 kilo sifted emmer flour

150 grams olive oil

20 grams salt

2 large red onions

2 sprigs rosemary

Mix the yeast in 500 ml of warm water and set aside for a few minutes.   Make a mound of the flour on your work surface, and form a well in the middle.  Pour into the well the olive oil, salt and yeasty water.  With a fork, stir and mix the liquid, gradually absorbing the flour.  Knead the dough for about seven minutes, or until it has become smooth.  Roll the dough into a ball, and leave it in a bowl covered with a damp cloth for an hour.  Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and knead it again for about four minutes.  Divide the dough into ten balls and, on a well-floured surface, roll the balls out into 20 cm. rounds, to about 1/2 cm. thickness.   Thinly slice the two red onions.  Bake the flat breads on a metal tray in a oven set at the highest temperature for five minutes.  If any bubbles form, prick the surface of the bread with a fork.  Flip the breads over, garnish each with olive oil, sliced onions and rosemary leaves.  Bake for another five minutes.  


I have had boar on many occasions, usually served as a sauce with pappardelle pasta, but no one makes boar better than Ivana, and this is her simple recipe.  She says that the same recipe can be used with pork, lamb, or pheasant.

1 kilo boar chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves

1 sprig rosemary

1 chopped chili pepper

1 cup white wine

400 grams peeled Italian plum tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Brown the boar pieces in a large pot with the olive oil, halved garlic cloves, rosemary and chili.  Add the white wine, and let it evaporate, while stirring the ingredients, so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water if the tomato sauce becomes too dry.  Salt and pepper to taste.


This is a delicious companatico vegetable dish, that would go well with a piadina flat bread.  Ivana turned me on to the ingrassa marito (husband fattener) and the papalle (poppy greens.)  Both of the plants self-seed in the garden, producing a large crop of the edible leaves in the late winter and early spring.  They then grow wonderfully into sizeable plants with the beautiful bright red Papaver rhoeas blossoms and the small delicate lilac blue flowers of the field scabious (Knautia arvensis).  The leaves can be steamed by themselves, or mixed, as I have done, with other winter greens from my garden.

1 kilo assorted greens, like the field scabious, poppy greens, Swiss chard, turnip greens, spinach, and fennel tops I have in my winter garden.

3 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Steam greens for five minutes.  Chop garlic and cook in a pan with the olive oil until soft.  Toss in the roughly chopped greens and cook for another five minutes, stirring regularly.  Season and serve with a good drizzle of olive oil.


Martin is the first cellist of a German orchestra, married to Katrin, a violinist in that same orchestra.  Katrin, daughter of a German father and an Italian mother, has been coming to Sorano even longer than I have and her family are very good friends of mine.  Martin came to one of my dinner parties bearing an incredible linzer torte, made by his aunt who lives in the Black Forest.  I altered the recipe to make it more like a Tuscan crostata, and used emmer flour- appropriate for the Fornacalia feast.

200 grams ground and chopped hazelnuts

150 grams emmer flour

100 grams all-purpose flour

100 grams castor sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

250 grams butter

300 grams cherry jam

Bake the hazelnuts in a 170 C oven for about 5 minutes, or until they have just started to brown.  Once the nuts have cooled, place them in a food processor with about 100 grams of the emmer flour and process until the mix is finely ground.   On a working surface form a mound of the nut mix, remaining flour, sugar, ground cinnamon, grated lemon zest, and baking powder.  Form a well in the middle, and drop one whole egg, one egg yolk, and the softened butter cut into small pieces.  Mix and knead until the dough is homogeneous. 

Take two thirds of the dough and press it into the bottom of a 25 cm. baking tin.  Put the tin in a 170 C oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown.  In the meantime take the remaining third of the dough and form ten strips, all about 1 cm. wide and 1/2 high, of varying lengths (from 25 cm. to about 5 cm.) to cover the top of the round tart.

Spread the jam over the cooked bottom of the tart, and then lay five of the strips, evenly spaced, over the jam.  Turn the pan and place the other five strips perpendicular to the others.  Trim the slices so that they fit the tin precisely.  Take the remaining dough and roll into thin cylinders, all together long enough to go around the circumference of the baking tin. Take these pieces and place them on the outer edge of the tart, and press into place to seal the edge.

Place the tart back in the hot oven for another 15 minutes, and then remove and let cool.  The crostata can be served the day it is made, or refrigerated and eaten within a week.




Cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts are all members of the same genus and species: Brassica oleracea.  They descend from wild cabbage, which is native to southern Europe and has been bred over thousands of years into the various cultivars that one might never think are so closely related. Annetta makes my favorite cabbage dish with cauliflower.  She, too, uses a touch of vinegar.

2 medium sized cauliflowers

3 sliced garlic cloves

1 tablespoon Olive oil

Sliced Tuscan bread

3 teaspoons vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the stem of the cauliflowers, and then quarter them.   Place them in two centimeters of boiling salted water and simmer for about 8 minutes.  Remove the cauliflower from the pot, reserving the liquid.   Put the cauliflower into a pan with the sliced garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil.  Set the pan on low heat, breaking the cauliflower up into smaller pieces with a spatula while cooking until the cauliflower is tender and the garlic soft and lightly browned.   Toast the slices of tuscan bread.  Briefly dip the slices into cauliflower liquid, and then put one each onto individual plates.   Spoon the cauliflower onto the toast.  Drizzle each serving with about a teaspoon of vinegar, a good dollop of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.


Fennel bulbs were much appreciated in Roman times.   Cato suggested that sniffed fennel bulb macerated in wine is a good cure for snake bites, and Pliny wrote another 22 remedies derived from it.  Giacomo Castelvetro in the 16th century added that it “tastes delicious and is incredibly healthy as well.”  The bulb is also particularly good sliced raw and dipped in olive oil and salt.

3 large fennel bulbs

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper

100 grams finely sliced parmesan

Cut the fennel bulbs in half and steam until tender.  Arrange the fennel in a buttered ovenproof dish.  Season with salt and pepper and place the parmesan slices on top.  Bake in a 200 C oven until the cheese is lightly browned.  Serve.


Broccoli rabe, or rapi, is of the cabbage family, but is of a different species than broccoli and actually much more closely related to the turnip.  Turnip greens can be substituted for broccoli rabe, as they have a similar bitter flavor.  Although this classic dish is usually made with orecchiete, I prefer it with shell pasta.  For different tastes, and an equally satisfying meal, 6 small anchovies can substitute the sausage.

750 grams broccoli rabe

750 grams spicy Italian sausage

5 sliced garlic cloves

750 grams shell pasta

Grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt to taste

Put on a large pot of salted water to boil.   Roughly chop up the broccoli rabe, toss it into the boiling water and cook until tender- about five minutes.   Remove the rabe from the water and set aside to drain.  Remove the skin of the sausages, break them up in a pan and cook until browned.  Once done put the sausage pieces on a plate, then cook the garlic in the pan with a tablespoon of olive oil until lightly browned and soft.  Empty the pasta into the boiling water that the rabe was cooked in and cook until al dente.  Add the rabe and sausage to the pan and simmer for two minutes until hot.   Drain the pasta, then put into a large bowl with a good drizzle of olive oil.  Mix in the rabe and sausage pieces, and serve with grated parmesan.


A very popular, quick and easy recipe, probably found on most Roman restaurant menus.  It won’t “jump in the mouth” as the name indicates, but it is an exciting and delicious combination of flavors.

12 slices of veal or turkey- 100 grams each

50 grams of flour

12 slices of prosciutto crudo (cured Italian ham)

12 sage leaves

12 toothpicks

2 tablespoons olive oil

250 ml dry white wine

75 grams of butter

Salt and pepper

Season and flour the meat slices.  On top of each one lay a slice of prosciutto and one sage leaf.  Fasten together with a toothpick.  Heat oil in a pan and add the saltimbocca, cooking them for about two minutes on each side.  Remove the saltimbocca and place on serving dish.  Drain excess oil from pan, pour in the white wine and allow to nearly evaporate.  Add the butter, and when melted, mix the sauce well, pour over the saltimbocca and serve.