Sep 6, 2020

Guest on the Dear Food Podcast

Dear Food is a podcast created by and intended for food lovers. You can imagine how thrilled I was when the creator, veteran Hollywood host and producer Ashley Chaney, asked me to be a guest on the show's maiden voyage!
guest on DEAR FOOD podcats

The claim is, "If food makes you feel happy, comforted, and loved, this show is for you. Whether or not you know how to cook, Dear Food speaks directly to your soul."

When Ashley asked me to be the first episode guest, she made it clear she wanted us to talk about Italian food and droolworthy descriptions of my favorite flavors, but mostly about the importance of how some foods connect to personal history and identity.

"Italian food is not just food. It's eating, sitting down with the family, with friends or loved ones or by yourself and making that moment the most important moment of the day."
You can play the full episode and enjoy all the others on Apple Podcasts to fill up your plate with conversations about the foods that make us feel something; and you'll be transported to kitchens around the world, to hear the stories behind our favorite dishes. Happy listening!

Aug 24, 2020

Live Eggplant Parmigiana Class!

Join my online cooking class!

I've always dreamed of having you over for dinner. Now's my chance to make that dream come true and your chance to travel virtually to Italy, straight to my kitchen in Rome!

Are you following me on Instagram and Facebook? Then you know that in 2015 I co-founded an independent tour company called Casa Mia

Given the current situation, Casa Mia has shifted its attention from in-person food tours and cooking lessons to online experiences. The format however is the same: lessons are held in the comfort of our homes, and recipes are geared for the home cook, like us. 

single portion eggplant parmigiana

We launched our live interactive online cooking lessons when Italy was in lockdown and it's been a huge success. Our classes bring people together, bringt smiles and a taste of Italy to kitchens far and wide. My partners and I cook, bake and whip up our favorite recipes, live via Zoom. These recipes are the ones we know how to make with our eyes closed, the ones we feed our loved ones, the ones that evoke the sweetest memories.

Our lessons are fun and adapt to all kinds of cooks. We even organize private classes if you prefer learning one-on-one, or if you want to host a fun virtual party with friends and family who are far away. We can also arrange special lessons geared for kids!

Some examples? In April, when the Roman countryside gave us its purple bounty, I taught participants how to cook Artichokes 3 ways. the following month I demystified the local pasta classics and shared all my secrets to perfect Carbonara & Amatriciana. With my business partner Gina, I hosted several Wine & Cheese Pairing lessons. I even made Tiramisu in 2 ways; and as the summer season hit, I taught Italian food lovers across many continents my favorite summer staples, like Pomodori al Riso and my mother's Eggplant Parmigiana.

The latter was such a success that a waiting list formed, and many other people requested I offer the lesson again.

This is the time: the eggplant, basil and tomatoes are at their peak. Once you sign up you'll receive a confirmation with a link + password to join the live Zoom class, and a shopping list via email a week prior to the lesson.

Sign up here and don't miss the chance to cook, laugh and drink a glass of wine with me on Sunday, September 20th! Aprons on at 3 pm Eastern, it will be evening here in Rome.

I hope to see you!

Jun 1, 2020

Let's cook together! Join our interactive online cooking classes

How long has it been since you last took a cooking class?

I started this blog Aglio Olio e Peperoncino as my virtual kitchen, sharing recipes and travel journals. During these months of lockdown my business partners with Casa Mia Tours and I took that concept one step further and decided to open our actual kitchens, inviting you in to cook with us.

Like many other businesses, our travel planning company immensely suffered the new reality. All of our clients' bookings were canceled overnight. With heavy hearts we had to call off engagements with guides, cooks, drivers and service providers that rely on the work we hire them for, all across Italy.

This new reality however has given us the gift of spending more time in our homes and in our kitchens. At a time when social distancing, fear and adapting to a new normal has shifted our habits and changed our lives, we felt that the next best thing to traveling to Italy was going there virtually, recreating the convivial warmth and flavors typical of the Italian culture.

Our live interactive online cooking lessons create a connection, a warm feeling of closeness across continents, at a time when closeness is not an option.

We offer simple interactive cooking lessons as a way to bring the universal us together. Classes are geared towards home cooks like us, and are open to all.

In this unprecedented moment, we look forward to welcoming you into our kitchens, tying on aprons, and getting to know you virtually, until we can do it in person.

Below is a summary of our June calendar.

A word of advice: book your online live cooking classes fast, because spots are selling like hotcakes.

June lessons, pairings and beyond

  • June 4, 2020 : Roman Classics, by popular demand – Learn to make Gricia & Amatriciana with Carolyn. The simple combination of Pecorino Romano cheese and guanciale – cured pork jowl – form a delicious base for most Eterna City pastas. ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT!
  • June 5, 2020 : Italian dolce : Tiramisu 2 ways taught by me – Boost your dessert game by learning two versions of Italy's most popular dessert. This is a fun, easy and safe lesson that's also suitable for the young foodies in the family. ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT!
  • June 11, 2020 : Fresh Pasta – Cavatelli al Pesto taught by Carolyn – you'll combine water and flour to make cavatelli, a delicious vehicle for a vibrant, herbaceous pesto. LAST FEW SPOTS LEFT!

  • June 13, 2020 : Cheese & Wine Club – Summer in the Italian South led by me and Gina – During our interactive wine & cheese pairing lesson we taste 3 summer wines (a white, a rosé and a lightly chilled red from southern Italian regions) paired with 3 cheeses made in different styles and with an assortment of milk types
  • June 14, 2020 : Sunday comfort – Neapolitan Ragù aka Sunday gravy taught by Gina – During our 90-minute live interactive cooking lesson, we’ll enjoy a morning coffee while preparing the base of the legendary Neapolitan ragù
  • June 20, 2020 : Fresh Pasta – Lemon Ricotta Tortellini in Brown Butter Sauce taught by Carolyn – Stuffed pastas aren't as intimidating as you may think. At the end of this class you’ll not only have a delectable dinner, but also acquire the knowledge and confidence to create a variety of stuffed pastas. ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT!
  • June 23, 2020 : Sicilian specialties – Caponata taught by Gina – quintessential Sicilian salad/stew consisting of fried eggplant, celery, tomato and olives in a sweet and sour sauce. Learn to master densely flavored caponata and discover a number of variations
  • June 26, 2020 : Complete meal recipes – Pomodori al Riso taught by me - Learn to master rice-stuffed tomatoes, a classic Italian complete meal, or piatto unico, made with Arborio rice baked within the hollowed-out plump heirloom tomatoes.

You can find details and book your spaces for our group virtual online cooking classes here

Email us if you'd like to book a private lesson just for your family/friends.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen in Rome!

online cooking classes Casa Mia Tours

May 21, 2020

Guest on the Ciao Bella podcast

I was thrilled when my friend Erica Firpo invited me to talk about my passion for cheese on her Ciao Bella podcast. I naturally steered the conversation towards blue cheese.

You can play and download the full The ABCs of Italian Cheese episode below:

Apr 26, 2020

Bella Ciao!

April 25th. In Italy this date marks the liberation from Nazi-fascism. Festa della Liberazione is a public holiday, schools and businesses are normally closed and people get the day off. On this day we normally go on a picnic, or take a walk in the park. We snack on the first fava beans of the season, pairing them with sharp aged pecorino romano. We snooze after a few glasses of wine. We each celebrate the recurrence in our own way. One thing that's common on venticinque aprile however, is signing "Bella Ciao!"

bella ciao album cover
"Bella Ciao!" album cover
Younger generations may know the song from La Casa de Papel. People my age and older know it's actually the anthem of anti-fascism.

Italian partisans in the mountains
Partigiani in the mountains, along the Gothic Line

"Bella Ciao!" was originally a protest folk song of the mondine women, protesting against the harsh working conditions in the paddy rice fields of Northern Italy, in the late 19th century. The song was later modified and adopted as the hymn of the anti-fascist resistance by the Italian partisans between 1943 and 1945 during the Italian Resistance against Nazi German forces occupying Italy. The author of the modified lyrics is unknown.

Italian partisan women
Valentino Petrelli / Public domain

It's a song we all know the words to. My friend Laura's mother would sing it to her as a lullaby. I used to hum it to myself when I was racing down the dark corridor in the big house where I grew up.

"Bella Ciao!" is a song about Rememberance and Courage. It's a song of Resistance, of Sacrifice. It's a song that talks about the invader and of death.

A new kind of invader has recently entered our lives. It has broken our courage. It has us locked us into our homes, divided us from family. It has ruined our life. The enemy, silent and faceless, has taken away our jobs, our freedom. It has taken many, too many lives. This year there were no picnics, no naps in the park. We sang "Bella Ciao!" from the window, confined in our homes.

thanks to those who resist
Banner in Bergamo: "Freedom is like air: you realize its value when you're short of it.
Thanks to those that resist. Now and always."

In addition to the difficulty of living in lockdown, I personally am still in shock for having lost someone I knew to the new invader. Matteo was an old love and for the past 17 years a dear, dear friend. He was a romantic, an artist and an epicure. Matteo was handsome, witty, smart, talented, kind and gentle. Anti-fascist to the core, he was dearly loved. He leaves behind one big incredulous and heartbroken family spread across Bari, Sydney, Puerto Rico, New York and Rome. Yet, he died alone in an ICU unit in New Jersey, unconscious. A true partisan fighting in a battle that he lost in only 4 weeks.

It was surreal singing "Bella Ciao!" this year: a song about freedom as prisoners. I opened the window at 3 pm and sang. Shyly, a little choked. Then the somber remembrance of the victims of Nazi-fascism––with every word I uttered––turned into a loud, hoarse scream against the cruel new invader that took the life of so many, including my friend's.

"Bella Ciao!" is the hymn of the partisans who helped liberate Italy from fascism 75 years ago, giving their life for freedom. From now on "Bella Ciao!" has a new, added significance: it's also the anthem of all those that are still fighting against the faceless enemy, and I will continue singing it in remembrance of those victims defeated by the new invader of 2020.