World Pasta Day at La Cucina Caldesi

World Pasta Day

On 25th October we held a special World Pasta Day event at La Cucina Caldesi which took the form of live demos, talks, tastings and the largest display of pasta shapes outside of Italy.


Pasta is eaten in all five continents of the world and according to a study of global food trends by Oxfam, it is the world’s favourite food. The aim of World Pasta Day is to underline the economic feasibility, gastronomic versatility and nutritional value of pasta. The day is recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO nonetheless.

“Pasta is a feeling as well as a fuel. In our opinion there is nothing quite so satisfying to eat as a bowl of hot pasta clinging to a rich, intense sauce – from the aroma of the sauce warming in the pan, the look of a dish that will surely quash your hunger to the first bite into al dente pasta that slides easily from fork to mouth”.

The Beginning


No one can say for sure where pasta appeared first in the world. In its basic form it is a mixture of flour and water and as such could have been thought of by many people.

It is a common misbelief that pasta was first bought to Italy in the 13thcentury from China by Marco Polo. Historians point out that while Polo was away on his travels in the 1270s, there is a reference to a soldier in the northern Italian city of Genoa, who owned a basket of “macaronis.”

At Cerveteri near Rome, we have seen Etruscan tomb paintings which show a bowl with flour and water, a rolling pin and even a cutting wheel dating to the 4thcentury BC.  It appears that the Etruscans created Pici, a hand-rolled pasta still massively popular today. And ancient Roman writer Apicius described making lagana, a forerunner to lasagne made from cooked sheets of flour and water.

In 1154 AD an Arab geographer, Al-Idrisi, wrote of strands of pasta made in Sicily, it was a technique introduced by the Arabs from Palestine. The lengths of pasta were dried and exported in huge quantities

than fresh pasta. from Norman Sicily. There are documents dating from 1371 that reveal that the prices of macaroni and lasagne in Palermo were triple those of bread. As such it was a food enjoyed mostly by the aristocracy and the Jewish population.

From the 13th century, references to pasta dishes—macaroni, ravioli, gnocchi, vermicelli—crop up with increasing frequency across the Italian Peninsula.

There is a great history of pasta production in Campania. The famous ’ndunderi’ – a type of gnocchi made from flour and cheese – from Minori are an ancient, possibly Roman recipe and have even been recognized by Unesco as one of the first types pasta.

Though Italians can’t say they invented pasta, it was in their land that pasta was developed further than in any other culture. From perfecting its manufacture to exportation and embracing it as their own they have made Italy synonymous with pasta in their reputation around the world. There is even the Museo della Pasta, a museum of pasta in Parma which demonstrates the ancient and modern production of pasta from grain to milling to fresh and dried pasta making.


Difference between dried and fresh pasta

Italians don’t judge fresh or dried as “better” – they are just different. Generally, fresh pasta is made with egg and flour and dried pasta is made with water and flour but there are some anomalies such as Picimade only from flour and water or dried egg pasta usually sold in cardboard cartons to protect its fragile form.


All pasta in Giancarlo’s household was fresh until the 1950’s when dried pasta came onto the market and his mum was no longer tied to the kitchen table making it every day. I am sure she loved her new found freedom and time saving packets of spaghetti. However she and many other Italians never lost their love of freshly made pasta. Southern regions such as Sicily eat less fresh pasta than their northern counterparts and when it is made in the south it frequently contains semola flour and no egg in contrast to the rich egg pasta from the north.

Dried pasta

Originally pasta ribbons were hung over wooden poles outdoors and dried in the sunshine and light breezes of southern Italy. It could then be transported which allowed the sale of it. Most dried pasta in restaurants is cooked before, there simply isn’t time to cook it from scratch to order. This is different for fresh pasta which is much quicker to cook, so if you are watching your carbs but still want to eat pasta then choose a small portion of dried pasta.


Dried pasta these days is made in factories and the lengths are extruded through metal dyes which gives it a smooth, slippery finish. This means it is less absorbent than fresh pasta and is ideally suited to wetter sauces made with wine and cooking juices such as a sauce made from clams and white wine. If you can find pasta extruded through bronze dyes (it will say trafilata al bronzoon the packet) it has a slightly rougher surface than a pasta made with a Teflon dye. The slight roughness mimics pasta made by a traditional wooden rolling pin which helps the sauce stick to the shapes and gives a better result to the dish.

The ideal flour for dried pasta is grano duro 00 (pure durum wheat flour). The “00” refers to the milling, it means it has been through the mill more times than any other flour, each time it is refined so the flour is very white, light and fine like talcum powder. The Italian producers make the best flour in our opinion although British producers are now producing pasta flour it is not usually as fine or light as the Italian 00 flour. Europe produces the highest yield of durum wheat (1,516,000 metric tonnes) globally with China 2nd(1,297,000 metric tonnes). Combined they grow more durum wheat than the rest of the world put together.

Shapes and sizes


There are at least 300 different shapes of pasta (some say as many as 350 with regional variations). There is a size and shape for particular sauces; peas or halved cherry tomatoes slip inside paccheri, the wide short tubes made in Campania and ragu made with finely chopped meat is trapped inside penne. Tiny florets of broccoli and crumbled sausage meat sit snugly in orecchiette, the little ear shapes. Ragu alla Bolognese is never served on top of spaghetti, only tossed into fresh egg Tagliatellemade so thin you are supposed to see the bells of the local church through it. Over the border in Tuscany wide ribbons of pappardelleare robust and opaque, dressed with game or duck ragu. Stellineor little stars and ditalini, little fingers, go into soups. The combinations preferred by Italians are endless and each family, town and region has their favourites.

What to eat if you can’t eat pasta?


Giancarlo was hit with a double whammy when his doctor told him some years ago he not only had Type 2 diabetes but was also gluten-intolerant. Pasta is a treat for him now and has to be gluten-free. After much experimentation we developed our own recipe for gluten-free pasta which works for stuffed or ribbons of pasta. However to help avoid the spike of glucose in his blood from carbohydrate we have been really happy to discover vegetables as an alternative.

Just because Mamma would never have had her ragu with anything but freshly made ribbons of pasta doesn’t mean that her son couldn’t enjoy his ragu with similar looking ribbons of steamed cabbage tossed in black pepper and butter. He is very happy to eat his favourite Caldesi sauce on roasted courgettes, onions and aubergines and topped with a scattering of parmesan and basil leaves. Courgetti, the spiralised lengths of courgette, are wonderful if very briefly sautéed with garlic, chilli and olive oil before being topped with sauce.

To demonstrate the versatility of pasta here’s a very quick recipe (and variations of) which makes an ideal midweek supper:-


Very quick Anchovy Pasta Sauces

(Anchovy-Lemon, Walnut-Anchovy and Red Onion-Anchovy)


After cooking dried pasta lengths such as spaghetti or linguine, drain and toss them into a hot frying pan with extra-virgin olive oil and one of the following combinations:

Salted anchovies, freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice


Finely chopped toasted walnuts and chopped anchovies


Finely chopped fried red onion and salted anchovies

Although fish is not usually eaten with grated Parmesan, a scattering is often welcome.


Our latest book ‘The Long and Short of Pasta’ published by Hardie Grant is a compendium of some of our favourite pasta recipes from across Italy using both fresh and dried pasta. See HERE for signed copies.


Supperclub Cooking at Williams

Last weekend we were invited to cook for William Sitwell’s monthly supperclub at Weston Hall. We chose to cook from two of our books, Rome: centuries in a Roman Kitchen and Tuscany: Simple Meals and Fabulous Feasts both published by Hardie Grant. It gave us a chance to cook some of our favourite recipes such as the Roman porchetta, a rolled belly of pork stuffed with sage and rosemary as well as Giancarlo’s famous tiramisu made with Tuscan dessert wine, Vin Santo. However to start with we made a recipe which we know is a crowd pleaser.


Titziana’s stuffed aubergines

This is Giancarlo’s cousin Titziana’s recipe from Buonconvento in Tuscany. She makes stuffed aubergines (eggplant) quickly for a standby lunch or starter. They keep well in the fridge so you can prepare them the day before and cook them just before serving.

Serves 6

3–4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 aubergines (eggplant), sliced into 1 cm- (1/2 in-) thick lengths

salt and freshly ground black pepper

250 g (9 oz/1 cup) ricotta, drained

small handful of chives, finely chopped (optional)

small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped

10 g (½ oz) Parmesan, finely grated

6 tablespoons homemade tomato sauce or tomato passata (see here for recipe)


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Cut the aubergines lengthways with a long, sharp knife.  Try to get them no wider than 1cm and ideally they should be cut evenly so they all cook in the same time. You can throw the ends away. Brush a little of the oil over an oven tray and lay the aubergine slices in a single layer over it.


Brush the tops of the slices sparingly with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste and bake for 20–25 minutes until soft and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the rest of the ingredients (except the tomato sauce) together in a bowl to form the stuffing. You will need a good handful of mint to provide the flavour, do taste the mix before you use it. Do add more mint, chives and seasoning as necessary to give the stuffing punch and strength.


Put a dessertspoonful of the stuffing onto one end of each aubergine slice. You may have a little stuffing left in which eat it on hot toast, its delicious.


Roll them up and place them seam side down in a lasagne dish. Spoon a little tomato sauce over each roll and bake for 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling hot and just starting to brown. Serve warm with a green salad.


This recipe appears in Tuscany: Simple Meals and Fabulous Feasts published by Hardie Grant UK.

Details of William’s Supperclub can be found here.

A Fun Recipe From a Fun Day…

We were recently invited by Paolo Arrigo to perform a demonstration at his Harrow based business Seeds of Italy (see his website here) where he sells Italian seeds that we use every year to grow vegetables and herbs in our garden. We chose to show the crowd how to make some wintery recipes from our latest book Tuscany: Simple Meals and Fabulous Feasts (signed copies available here).
Tuscany Low Res
Paolo also has a small deli in his warehouse where he sells a top quality selection of Italian foodie goodies including ricotta so we chose to make our standby quick pudding (or breakfast according to Giancarlo) which is a heavenly combination of silky ricotta whipped with espresso and brandy. In fact Paolo had rum in his office (don’t ask why!) so we used that and for containers we used little empty jars instead of glasses. The recipe is based on the memory of fresh ewe’s milk ricotta that Giancarlo used to collect from the local shepherd when he was a little boy in Tuscany. Once a week his mother asked him to go by bicycle to collect the cheese. When he got home he was allowed a small bowl of it with honey. His father poured espresso over it and sprinkled it with sugar. It was that combination that inspired this recipe which we eat regularly in our house today.
Ricotta al caffè 
Coffee and ricotta shots
This is one of my favourite recipes in the book. It is an old way of eating ricotta in Tuscany as a breakfast or merenda (an afternoon snack). It is simple and effective as well as light to eat and not too sweet. I like to serve this in shot glasses for breakfast or after dinner.
Serves 6 in small liqueur glasses
250 g (9 oz/1 cup) ricotta, drained
4 tablespoons cold espresso
3–4 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar, to taste
2 teaspoons Cognac, Rum or other liqueur, optional
20 g (¾ oz) dark (bittersweet) chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
Whisk the ricotta in a bowl with the coffee, 3 teaspoons of the sugar and the Cognac. Taste and adjust the sweetness as necessary, adding more sugar if you wish.
Spoon into glasses, taking care not to splash it onto the sides of the glass. Use a sharp knife to shave curls of chocolate and scatter them over the top.
Keep them in the fridge until you are ready to eat them (up to 1 day). Serve chilled.

For more recipes from the book keep an eye out for forthcoming blogs or purchase a copy here.

Hard at Wok…

We were very lucky to welcome Jeremy Pang from School of Wok to La Cucina Caldesi to celebrate Chinese New Year in early February.
While we’re known for being a specialist Italian cookery school every now again it’s nice to explore the cookery of other cultures. The one thing Italian and Chinese food have in common is pasta and we all had to admit that actually it has nothing to do with Marco Polo nor China! Pasta was brought to Sicily via the Arabs years before Marco Polo set off on his travels.
Jeremy is a enigmatic teacher and made the evening so much fun while imparting to us the many tricks and nuances that make Chinese cookery truly authentic.
Giancarlo relished the opportunity to learn new skills and enjoyed creating the stuffed Chinese dim sum ready for steaming… which he likened to making tortellini.
Jumping behind the wok the main thing to remember is to get it nice and hot before adding any ingredients.
We stir fried whole lobster tails for a lavish stir fry on noodles. It was Chinese New Year after all!
For me the dish of the night was the crispy pork belly with it’s unctuous silky flesh and crispy crackling.
We often have guest chefs visit us at La Cucina so make sure you check out our course list here for any updates. Giancarlo and I are going back on July 22nd to make pasta and salad at School of Wok. We can’t wait to show Jeremy what we do with pasta, Italian style.

All about the oil…

We recently held an evening at Caldesi in Campagna to celebrate the new season’s Italian olive oil. Along with some samples from Filippo Berio and the knowledge of our cookery school’s expert Stefano we’d arranged a tutored tasting followed by a feast cooked by Giancarlo and Head Chef Gregorio.
I’d arranged the restaurant to look like a traditional taverna and we set up long communal tables to give the feel of a ‘sagra’ the Italian version of a food festival. It really added a fun, family dining feel to the evening and it was so warming to see the people of Bray and surrounds enjoying the evening’s events as one.
Giancarlo was so excited about the menu as he had designed it around the dishes he remembered as a boy and the new season olive oil played a major part in its focus. He even insisted on using his grandmother’s old copper cauldron which we scrubbed out for the occasion.
The dishes included:-



Toasted bread to taste the new oil

Rigatoni al ragu 

 served family style

Pollo fritto 

crispy baked chicken


borlotti beans

Winter salad and fried potatoes


Giancarlo’s famous doughnuts


The evening went on pretty late for a mid week night and there was lots of laughter and the wine flowed. I think it’s safe to say that everyone who wasn’t driving ended up pretty well oiled 🙂

We held another of these evenings at Caffe Caldesi on the 24th of February… it was such fun we will hold more later in the year so make sure you are signed up for our newsletters.


A Feast Fit for a Caesar…

We’ve been holding some very special Roman themed dinners at Caldesi in Campagna and Caffe Caldesi to coincide with the launch of our latest book ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’. Our menu for the evenings was designed to showcase some of the dishes that we discovered in our many months of research and to take our guests on a culinary journey through Rome.
The evenings kicked off with the serving of a cheeky little cocktail we’d named the ‘Wonky Madonna’ after a portrait of the Madonna which hangs askew behind a bar at the Trastevere in Rome (see below for the recipe) and to go with this we served a selection of antipasti. First Suppli al telefono – named because the melting mozzarella inside these crispy rice fritters resembles the wires between telegraph poles as you break them in half to enjoy them.
IMG_2705 2
Next up was Lagana, a Roman flat bread that dates back to the days of Julius Caesar. It is eaten with ricotta and a relish made from sardines, celery, basil, parsley, honey and black pepper.
lagne and fish pickle
Next was a Carpaccio di Manzo – lemon and vinegar marinated raw thinly sliced beef fillet and then onto Gnocchi alla Romana.
gnocci makingJPG

Making the Gnocchi all Romana – You need a strong chef such as Marco to make sure there are no lumps.

These are a very traditional Roman gnocchi made with semolina, milk, cheese and lots of butter.

The finished dish.

Our secondo included a choice of the famous Ossobuco all Romana – even though the Milanese claim that Ossobuco is their dish the Roman’s passionately claim it is theirs.
Osso Buco
There was also a choice of Guinea Fowl alla Cacciatora cooked with rosemary and vinegar in the ‘style of the hunter’ and Orata in Crosta d’erbe – sea bream in a herbed crust.
Such was the fun and enjoyment of the evening (and perhaps the free flowing Roman wines helped) I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the meal but we finished off with a Torta Bianca – a cheesecake that dates as far back as the middle ages when ‘white food’ was seen a decadent and contained expensive spices, in this case ginger. The evening was completed with the traditional espresso and much satisfied groaning as we pulled ourselves up from our chairs to wish our guests a pleasant journey home. Our night of Roman excess was an all round success.

The Wonky Madonna

Just right for a Christmas party cup it contains all those warming spices you associate with the festive season, this is a sweet, innocent-tasting drink with a hidden kick of chilli and alcohol. To make a non-alcoholic version, remove the Grand Marnier from the recipe, add a little sugar for sweetness and top up with tonic or soda water instead of prosecco. The spiced orange juice needs to be made the day before you want to serve the cocktail, to allow the flavours to infuse. If you buy the juice make sure it is only juice and doesn’t contain any other flavours or additives.
Makes 8–10 cocktails
For the spiced orange juice
300 ml (10 fl oz) freshly squeezed blood orange juice (either from fruits or a chilled carton)
200 ml (7 fl oz) water
3 ´ 8 cm (3 in) strips of orange zest (use a potato peeler to peel off the strips)
5 tablespoons Grand Marnier, Cointreau or brandy
1 small dried red chilli or 1/2 fresh chilli
1 ´ 5 cm (2 in) cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
To serve
1 bottle prosecco
Slices of orange to serve (optional)
Star anise to serve (optional)
Small cinnamon sticks to serve (optional)
To make the spiced orange juice, put all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes and crush the spices gently with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and chill in the fridge overnight (or at least a few hours) to infuse the flavours.
Pour the syrup through a sieve into a jug and chill. When you are ready to serve, pour 50 ml (2 fl oz) of the Spiced Orange Juice into each champagne glass over a couple of ice cubes and top with prosecco. Decorate the glass with orange slices, star anise and cinnamon sticks if you like.
You can buy signed copies of our latest book ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ here.

A Night in Venice… at the RAC!

We were recently asked to hold an event at the historical Royal Automobile Club in London’s Mayfair. Our theme of the evening was our recent book ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found’. We designed a menu based on recipes we had discovered as we researched the region’s dishes.
Giancarlo, with the kind assistance of RAC Head Chef Phil Corrick and his brigade, prepared a banquet which included Crostini of Whipped Salt Cod on Toasted Polenta, Ricotta and Walnut Pesto on Crostini, Beef and Potato Patties and Spiced Fish Patties.
The fish course was at the truly fine flavours of Cisame De Pesce or in English Sole and Prawns in Soar.
Our main course is a dish truly highlighted the spice trade roots of the city and was a dish of Chicken with ginger, saffron and dates, this was served with a pomegranate bejewelled rice and spinach. If you have seen us doing our live demo this week then this is a dish we feature at food festivals this year.
Our dessert was the crowd pleasing Fritelle Allo Zabaione – doughnuts filled with a zabaglione cream. I remember eating these gorgeous morsels when I was supposed to be studying art and sculpture in Venice when I was 21. I don’t remember a single painting but I do remember the doughnuts; I should have known then that I would have a career in food!
The meal concluded with coffee, mascarpone and ‘S’ biscuits. This is something we learnt from Casanova’s writing. ‘S’ biscuits were and are still made on his native island of Burano. He used to eat them at Florians in St Mark’s Square which is still there today. He dunked them, we believe, in coffee or sweet wine, then into the mascarpone. We invited the guests at the RAC to try – “absolutely delicious!” was the resounding conclusion.
Maternity, Children & Family Photographs
As is traditional on these occasions I was asked to put on my public speaking hat and give a talk on the writing of our book which is the 2nd in a series that we started with our book on the food of Amalfi and will continue to feature the food of Rome, which comes out in September. So perhaps our next trip to the RAC will include togas, laurel wreaths and suckling pig.
Maternity, Children & Family Photographs
*All photos courtesy of LGM Photographic.

Going Wild in the Country…

Earlier in October we held our second ‘Go Wild in the Country’ cookery courses at Bruern Cottages in the Cotswolds. The concept of the weekend was to teach a course that maximised on the fresh, seasonal produce available in the English countryside creating a range of dishes using local game, fish, vegetables and hedgerow foraged ingredients. Then using some of the preserving techniques and skills we wrote about in our book ‘The Gentle Art of Preserving’.
Smoked Salmon
A small group of 10 enthusiastic attendees took on a range of tasks from preparing salmon ready for hot and cold smoking to making sourdough bread, from making chutney to using local milk to make labneh.
Simply hot smoking tomatoes gave a whole new dimension to the fruit which became the centre piece of a simple salad.
Smoked Tomatos
It was a packed weekend and our guests were busy either cooking or eating for most of the waking hours. We took an early morning foraging expedition on the Sunday which proved (excuse the pun) pretty fruitless as a wet night previously meant the edible fungi were all in hiding, though we did find sloes and picked young nettles for nettle gnocchi. The season’s blackberries were on their way out and the squirrels had beaten us to the cob nuts but an early morning walk did wonders for blowing away the cobwebs and rejuvenating the appetite.
Nettle Gnochi
As our most recent book ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found’ was a week away from launch and very fresh in our minds we also cooked dishes from the book. Including a ‘Good Game Pie’ and the wonderfully different ‘Chicken with Ginger, Saffron and Dates’ which has its roots firmly in the spice trading past of the Venetians.
Good Game Pie
Of course no cookery weekend with the Caldesi’s would be complete without fresh pasta and we made many types, including tasty beetroot pasta which we stuffed with our own smoked bacon, ricotta and thyme… truly delicious!
Beetroot Pasta
We created so many dishes and explored so many different techniques of preserving over the weekend it would create a book in itself but high points included the sour dough breads which rose to the occasion e despite the starter foaming out of the kilner jar in the heat of the car as we travelled to Bruern.
Sour Dough
One of the reasons that both Giancarlo and I teach is that we really do love it when we ignite a spark for the passion for great food in people. We we’re therefore delighted when all the course attendees started an email chain after the course sending pictures of their efforts post course. From Barry who went home and built his own outdoor cold smoker using a rabbit hutch to Anne who took our starter and baked some delicious looking sour dough loaves and Sheila who recreated our Venetian apple cake.
Rabbit Smoker
Apple Cake
Our next ‘Go Wild in the Country’ course will be in the Autumn of 2015 and details will be released next year. If you’d like to be kept up to date on dates and offers then subscribe to the Caldesi e-letters here.

The Rise of the Real Bread Movement

The Real Bread Campaign is helping to bring Real Bread back to the hearts of our local communities.
It’s all about banishing the artificial additives and eating healthier and it starts at grass-roots level with the excellent ‘Lessons in Loaf’ initiative, which is all about teaching our children what makes great Real Bread and how they can make it themselves.
To this end I hosted a ‘Lessons in Loaf’ event at La Cucina Caldesi recently where I taught 16 secondary school teachers how to make some wonderful breads, the idea being that they can now pass these skills on to their colleagues and the children they teach.
In three hours we covered a range of breads from a simple white focaccia, a rustic pizza dough and wholemeal seeded rolls.
It’s a fantastic campaign, which I hope really thrives as there’s nothing worse than the processed white loaves we see on the supermarket shelves that are packed with enhancers, preservatives and additives… but still manage to remain remarkably flavourless.
'Lessons in Loaf' event at La Cucina Caldesi
Here’s the recipe for the seeded wholemeal rolls we made. They’re easy to make at home with kids who can make them into snails, hedgehogs, mice etc and always delight when served with a bowl of winter warming soup.
Pagnottine integrali ai semi - seeded wholemeal roll
Pagnottine integrali ai semi
Seeded wholemeal roll
Makes 10 rolls

  • 200g wholemeal flour
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 100g mixed seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, sesame
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 1 heaped teaspoon salt
  • 1 flat teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of rapeseed or olive oil
  • 300-325ml tepid water

Use a spoon or dough scraper to mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Now pour in the water and olive oil and stir together using the spoon or dough scraper. When the flour is mixed in thoroughly with the liquid use your hands lightly to bring the mixture to a ball of dough.
Lightly flour a clean work surface with flour and knead the dough for ten minutes. Now roll it into a fat sausage shape still lightly dusted in flour. Weigh the sausage and divide by ten so that you know how much each roll will weigh. Divide the sausage of dough into 10 even sized pieces; they should weigh approximately 80g to 90g each.  For each roll push the corners underneath and roll between your hands to form a smooth, round ball. At this point you could make a plait or hedgehog with a pair of scissors. Dust these with flour and leave to rise with at least 10cm between them on a lightly oiled baking tray for one hour covered with a tea towel.
After one hour they should be twice their size. Bake the rolls in a pre-heated oven at 200oC for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.
For more information on the Real Bread Campaign visit
Real Bread Campaign

Paola Rocchi at Caldesi in Campagna for Frescobaldi Fortnight

On Monday an Italian chef by the name of Paola Rocchi arrived at our house all the way from sunny Tuscany.  She is staying with us whilst we stage Frescobaldi Fortnight at Caldesi in Campagna – A chance to enjoy Paola’s Tuscan food and the wines of her employers, the Frescobaldi family. Living with four men (two young and small, one husband and one elderly dad) it was lovely to have some female company for a change, and even better she is a fellow foodie. As Paola speaks no English I have also planned to get her at least saying a few phrases.
Paola is Head Chef at Castelgiaconda in Montalcino, one of the beautiful wine estates belonging to Frescobaldi. Originally from Lazio she now lives and works in Tuscany. She rides to work every day on her Harley Davidson loving the fresh air and changing landscape around her.
Day 1 
I assumed after her journey she would be tired but instead she asked if she could help me as I looked rather stressed (a quite normal expression on my face really). In no time at all I had her making muffins with my son for our Halloween party that night. After that she got stuck in making edible spiders, carving out pumpkins and the rest. I knew I liked her already. I gave her Beetroot, walnut and English goat’s cheese salad followed by my homemade turkey and broccoli pie with an English red wine. The food scored better than the wine.
Day 2 
I drove Paola to our restaurant in Bray to meet the team and get preparing her dishes to be included on the menu. Having only been to the UK once before she was curious to see what our country looked like.(She thinks Maidenhead is lovely and is amused to see the houses looking different to one another and quite low in height!).Once at the restaurant she soon settled in and started preparing the mushroom and spelt soup and the slow-cooked stracotto. That is my favourite. It is a big piece of veal that cooks over four hours with onion, carrot and celery as well as a whole bottle of Frescobaldi white wine. The veal is then sliced and served with the cooking juices blended with the vegetables. Simple, but absolutely delicious. My kind of dish and pure comfort food when combined with soft polenta stirred through with Parmesan.
Paola's Dish - Stracotto
We finished the day with a glass of Tenuta di Castiglioni ICT 20008. Paola then explained she used to be a sommelier and how she was still fascinated by wine as well as cooking. We decided this wine was equally good with or without food and at £27.95 on the menu it wasn’t going to break the bank. As we left the restaurant around 11pm we bid farewell to the remaining customers and Paola wished them “Good Morning”!  At least I got her speaking English, just not at the right time of day!
Day 3
I was giving a pasta making course at our house in Gerrards Cross (see the section on this site for courses in you are interested). As the mise en place was complete in Bray and Gregorio, our head chef, was on the case with the wild boar, the ribollita and the cacciucco, the Tuscan fish stew, she stayed behind to help with the course. Despite the fact Paola speaks no English she was great at demonstrating her pasta making skills with the students. I asked her to show us her cannelloni, which she made with my leftover turkey, eggs and Parmesan (great way to use up turkey at Christmas I thought).
That evening we shared her Tuscan wild boar stew cooked with red wine and chilli on black kale with Morellino di Scansano DOC 2009. Powerful and robust enough to cope with the gamey wild boar as well as having enough fruit and vanilla to soften the heat of the chilli. Pretty good way to finish the day really.
Day 4
Its back to the restaurant to finish the ribollita, the beans were soaking all night. And more duck ragu to make to go with the hand rolled spaghetti known as pici. For supper we had the Cacciucco, a dish from Livorno on the Tuscan coast made from as many fish as there are “c’s” in the name with Pomino Benefizio DOC, Castello di Pomino 2009. A gorgeous combination, another day over and I drove Paola back home around 10.30pm. She managed to say “Good night” this time and was very pleased. On the way home a large rat ran across the road in front of us and she announced “Mouse, big”, great I thought, things are improving.
Paola's Dish
Day 5
At breakfast this morning she saw Berlosconi plastered over the newspapers and knew the British were laughing at him, she exclaimed “Oh my God”, another British expression perfectly used!
Paola's Dish - Timballo Di Melanzane

Gala Dinner Competition

We are holding a Gala Dinner Night on the 10th of November and would like to offer you the chance to win two places at our gala, simply enter our competition! To have a chance to win email us on and tell us which region is Paola from and which restaurant she will be cooking at during Frescobaldi Fortnight. Entries must be in by 8th November 2011 to qualify.
To book a table at the restaurant during Frescobaldi Fortnight call 01628 788500 or visit