Viva Viva Sant’Antonio!

You might have understood that being a mama to me means being able to pass down my family and regional traditions. So here you go, this is another Italian tradition my family has never failed to honour: the day of Saint Anthony, which is celebrated on the 17th of January. This guy is considered the father of modern monasticism, the first abbot and also patron saint of domestic animals. This special relation to animals, which is the reason why is super famous in my area, is not directly related to the Christian tradition, but it stems from the XIII century Germany where communities used to provide pigs to their local hospitals where the monks of the order of St. Anthony used to serve. The implementation of pork into these hospitals’ kitchens led to the discovery of the excellent nutritional properties of this meat, which is said to have really carried a Christian medieval Europe into the modern era. For this reason the Saint with the long and white beard started to be associated and represented with a piglet and other domestic animals. This guy is one of my favourite Christian celebrities, maybe because I feel more like a beast, a wild animal too often obliged to respect human’ stupid moral more than that beautiful natural instinct, but I have always kept a small picture of him, like the one below, in my wallet as mean of protection


This patron saint had many devotees especially in the last century when Italy went through one of its most profound economic crisis, the industrial revolution had not started yet and farming represented the only food-assuring kind of trade. The saint’s picture was often put up outside stables’ and barns’ doors to protect animals and on the 17th of January local churches used to bless animals and  loaves of bread which were distributed to devotees for them and their livestock. In popular folklore St. Anthony was translated into an old dude with a long beard; he is called vecchiò, a pejorative term that literally means old and robust men. During the evening of the 17th one or more men used to dress up with a long monk’s robe, used to knock on the neighborhood’s doors to scare the household’s kids and ask for a little sausage, a slice of lard, pork chops or anything else that tastes meaty. He was followed by a procession of old and young men that in front of each door sang what we call Pasquella. This song goes like:

Se ce dai na sargiccetta                           You can give us a sausage,

non importa se piccoletta                         it does not matter if it is a small one

ma che faccia lo sugo vono                      but it has to make a good gravy

viva viva Sant’Antonio!                             long live to Saint Anthony!

Ahh this is incredible; we also had a small musical interlude, amazing. Anyway, after these guys had sang, scared the shit out of the kids and collected enough meat they would have all gone to the nearest cantina – a wine cellar that also serves as a locals’ hangout- to devour all that delicious meat and get absolutely hammered on the wine, as my granddad remembers. Even though during the 50’s in my area started a drastic industrial revolution that has profoundly influenced the lifestyle of Le Marche, our regional and most rural traditions have never really vanished and the cult of St. Anthony is still very popular nowadays. . As I already said this day has always been part of my family weird heritage; first of all because parents have a good reason to tell off their kids and scare them, “if you are not good lo vecchiò will take you away with him”, for fuck’s sake if they’d told me it was all about getting smashed with a bunch of funny chaps at the cantina I would have gone straight away without shedding a tear. Second, it has always been a special day because my granddad allows us to ride into the town and take the horses literally in front of the town church for the blessing of the animals; this has always been my favorite part as I love showing off my equestrian skills in front of people I know; yes i am slightly egocentric so what?! And finally for the ritual of the blessed bread, which my great-grandad Mario Mamao initiated. On the 17th of January, he used to wake up super early to go to the “blessing of the bread” mass and then go to the church oratory to collect enough blessed bread for our animals and for us . But my granddad died almost two years ago and last year for the first time we did not have any blessed bread, there was something missing hence this year my grandmother decided to call all her grand-kids to attend this tradition and go with her to the collection of the blessed bread just before we’d ride away for the horses blessing mass.


This year felt right, it was as it should have been, we had our blessed bread, our little ride through the town and at dinner my grandmother surprised us with another culinary traditional gem: la frittata sbrozzolosa, scrambled eggs with big chunks of sausages that used to be eaten on this day. Bring on Saint Anthony 2015!



Pastarelle of the Epiphany

There is a variety of cakes that are made for the Epiphany fest, nevertheless all around Italy they tend to be biscotti, cookies made with short pastry and baked. In my region, Le Marche, they are called pastarelle and they are the simplest cookies recipe you could ever find. They are also super cheap as they were made by the poor Italian mamas of the last century, poorer than the current ones, and given to kids in place of chocolate, sweets and presents on the Ephiphany day. The recipe involves the use of strutto: pig fat, commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or spread similar to butter; for this recipe you will also use baker’s ammonia, which you could find in any drug-store, which I swear is not an instrument of death but only a culinary mystery. I don’t really know why they used to use ammonia for the leavening instead of baking soda but I know that the main advantage of using it is that the mix can stand unbaked for long hours without losing its leavening power.



  • 2 eggs
  • 300gr of sugar
  • 250ml of milk
  • 100gr of “strutto”
  • 30gr of ammonia
  • grated lemon
  • vanillin flavoring

Before beginning switch the oven on to 180°C and line baking trays with baking paper. Break the eggs and mix the sugar, when is well combined grate the lemon, as much as you like, and add the vanillin flavoring. Then add the milk in which you had previously mixed the ammonia and don’t worry if the mix looks a bit weird.


Finally add the flour and knead until the dough is smooth enough, but remember to not over-beat it otherwise it will become too hard. Once you are done, roll out small pieces, shape and decorate as you wish. Happy sweet Ephiphany.


I say potato You say wild herbs

DRUMS ROLL: trrururuururururur.                                                                                           I am proud to present to your attention the only “Erbe troate co patate” recipe you could ever find on the web. Admittedly it is not such a famous recipe and in fact I think it is mainly prepared in my hometown, Montegranaro, and the neighboring area. If I have to be honest I don’t even know how to find an appropriate Italian translation to the its dialectical name “erbe troate co le patate”. Erbe troate means erbe spontanee di campo literally wild herbs, that spontaneously grows in the fields and on the side of countryside’s roads, with potatoes. The herbs involved belong to the family of wild chicory and according to their availability you can use them all or just one; they mainly are: cime di rapa (turnip tops), wild spinach, chadsgrugni (chicory) and crespigne- name of which I don’t even know the Italian correspondent. They used to be a staple on families’ tables before WWII as they were free, tasty and really good to give to husbands as leftover packed lunch, as my great-grandfather used to tell me. This recipe is in fact his; my great-grandpa was a brilliant chef and he used to make it often as a rich side to winter dinners when wild herbs grow faster. This dish used to be and still is one of my favourite dish ever.


  • 1 kg of wild herbs
  •  3 potatoes
  •  oil
  • salt

Now remove the yellow and damaged leaves and cut the bone of the stalk before rinsing them. The only kind of herb that you have to clean a bit more carefully is the wild turnip as you will have to check that it does not bear the turnip’s worm, as my grandmother called it,by cutting a cross across the stem itself.


Now wash them carefully and place a big pan of water with salt on the cooker. Immediately place the intact peeled potatoes, 3 for each kilos of herbs, into the water and only when the water boils place the rinsed herbs. Do stir them with a wooden spoon every now and then otherwise the still water will make them  go yellowish. After around 15 minutes the herbs will be soft enough to be drained and be S-mashed with the potatoes. Now, follow carefully the description of this technique: firstly mash the potato with a proper potato-mashing movement then mix the potatoes to the herbs with a more this-food-is disgusting-i-am-just-playing-with-it gesture, which involves stubbing the vegetarian mixture repeatedly with the edge of your utensil as if you are literally digging on the ground.


When your tray of herbs and potato looks smoothly enough dress with salt and oil and you are done. However if you feel naughtier peel a sausage and cook it in small pieces on a fraying pan, when they are crunchy mix them to the herbs and potato and just  fucking enjoy it.