August 15, 2012

Ferragosto- Vacation Time

All of Italy used to shut down for August.
The first signs of vacation are casts appearing on arms and legs. 
Shops start to close.
Things start to break or you get sick.
Trying to get something done in summer is almost impossible, but little by little things change.
Fewer and fewer people can afford to leave for a whole month. But almost everyone celebrates August 15-  Ferragosto. 

As most holidays, there is also a religious connection, it is the celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Almost all religious holidays can be traced back to Roman pagan celebrations.
Emperor Augustus declared all of August to be a celebration.

Things haven't changed much.

August, although hot, is a fabulous month for festivals. 
August 10th was the "Night of San Lorenzo"refered to as the night of the falling stars.

In Italy all festivals can be associated with food. In Florence, pasta with ragu and watermelon are served in the main piazza at the San Lorenzo church.

Ragu is a very personal recipe, each family has their own version and each region of Italy varies in their  recipes. Some recipes are large pieces of meat stewed for hours in a tomato sauce, the Tuscan version i learned is almost all meat and not a lot of sauce.

Today we are relaxing at home and cooking and breaking with tradition.
No trips to the beach. No food festivals.

Just relaxing at home and cooking with what is in the house.

Today I decided to try one of the new Gragnano pasta's i was gifted on my tour to the factories.

One of the most unusual shapes was a huge pasta shell called a Caccavella, by La Fabbrica della Pasta di Gragnano.

This over-sized shell was fun to use for presentation. They are parboiled for 16 minutes then stuffed and baked in the oven.

I used some already cooked zucchini with garlic and mint and stirred in a jar of a tomato sauce with wild fennel greens I bought at Tenuta Pignatelli at cooking school with Gabriella Becchina.
Topped with a thin slice of smoked provolone.

I adore  cleaning out the fridge! It is my favorite way to be creative!

Enjoy your holidays and relax in the kitchen and have fun!

Sometimes you will surprise yourself and your family.

Today  would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday. She inspired so many people.
When I was working at the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco, she would come in often when she was teaching in the area. She was charming.

Later when I moved to Italy, and was teaching cooking myself, I had many chances to meet her at our culinary conferences. She was down to earth and fun!

I love this homage of her on PBS.

Keep the spirit of joy in the kitchen.

Embrace your inner Julia or Marcella---


  1. I embrace a bit of both... Julia AND Marcella!

  2. Why casts on arms and legs???

  3. Anne and Kirk- as soon as they get vacation, they start breaking things!!! really!!! it is a classic

  4. adore the post! lovely pasta! Celebrated Ferragosto here in our little part of the U.S. by honoring the virgin and myself (it was my birthday!) with a lovely dinner and loads of champagne and wine and pici with rabbit ragu and all the luscious fresh harvested stuff within twenty miles I could get my hands on! Again, thank you for sharing all of your food adventures with the world...I, for one, love it!

  5. Wow, I've never seen such huge pasta shells!! And love the sound of the stuffing you put in them.

  6. Charles in New Mexico9:18 PM

    Not just the locals who break things.. My wife's grandson was invited to study voice at Milan's Conservatory of Music this summer. He just returned to New Mexico complete with cast from shoulder to fingers.

  7. I just found your blog and I am SO happy I did....I LOVE it! Our tastes are so similar and I love what you've done to yur Pearl!

    Great pictures and!!! :)

    vakantiehuizen dordogne|vakantiehuis dordogne

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. That food looks amazing! I've been dreaming about going to Italy for years! I am researching which region in Italy would be the best to visit and I think I've decided on renting one of the luxury villas in Tuscany and taking day trips to all of the famous cities and regions. I think I am most excited about visiting Rome, because I am a huge fan of history. do recommend any specific places to visit?

  10. @james reynolds not sure why you put a link to the villa rental place in the comment? looks like spam--- or are you really asking?

  11. @ judy witts Hi Judy! I just wanted to share in case anyone needed some ideas about where to find a villa! But, I am interested in places to visit, do you have anything in mind that is history oriented?

  12. James,is it your company? Italy is all about history, everywhere you go. Any specific period?

    1. No, it's just the company i used to help me select my villa. I really love ancient Roman history, but the Renaissance is a close second.

    2. James, ust send me n email, easier tobwrite. Divinacucina at gmail dot com

  13. I got very mixed up first time. Second I could compare with the pics. Thanks,