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Published on Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ever heard of Pellegrino Artusi?


If not you have some wonderful eating, drinking and living to do in the warm company of the father of Italian home cooking. Start with our two recipes…

In 1891, At the tender age of 70 Pellegrino Artusi, a rich travelling Florence-based merchant got his final refusal from yet another publisher.

This delightful, energetic gentleman's life-work was to travel the length and breadth of Italy prior to unification and collect authentic local home recipes from all over soon-to-be Italy. And, of course, each recipe had both a story and a taste!

Anyway, Artusi, not to be deterred, went ahead self-published his first volume of 475 recipes called "Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well" And, of course it quickly sold out. 122 years later it is still one of Italy's best selling books and has never been out of print.

Artusi travelled throughout the Italian peninsula. He became familiar with many of the regions and their culinary traditions, and he began collecting recipes that later became the foundation of his book. Family wealth enabled him to retire at the age of 45 and he devoted himself to his passions, culture and cuisine.

Born in Romagna in the town of Forlimpopolo, this successful fabric merchant and bon viveur had moved to Florence as a young man. Luckily for us, because when Italy was unified in 1861 only 2.5% of the country's population could speak Italian. So the book, written in Italian was a unifying force in itself - speading opportunities and understanding together with the recipes.

"Two are the pleasures of life - the tablecloth and the bedsheet"

And it's no wonder that the book has been so successful, Artusi himself was leery of books about cooking. In his preface he says, "Beware of books that deal with this art: most of them are inaccurate or incomprehensible, especially the Italian ones.  The French are a little better. But from either, the very most you will glean are a few notions, useful only if you already know the art."

He considered his book a teaching manual, "I practice using this manual, one simply needs to know how to hold a wooden spoon," he wrote.  "The best teacher is experience. Yet even lacking this, with a guide such as mine, and devotion to your labours, you should be able, I hope, to put something decent together."

But, most importantly, and typically, - in his 14th edition he says this he says this "Finally, I should not like my interest in gastronomy to give me the reputation of a gourmand or glutton. I object to any such dishonourable imputation, for I am neither. I love the good and the beautiful wherever I find them, and hate to see anyone squander, as they say, God's bounty. Amen"

He saw 15 editions published before his death in 1911 at the age of 90.  Originally containing 475 recipes, the last edition of Artusi, as the book is simply called, contained 790 recipes.

Casa Artusi, established in 2007, is a tribute to the man who single handedly put Italian home cooking on the culinary map.  Housed in a renovated monastery and church in his birthplace of Forlimpopoli, Casa Artusi has a restaurant, l'Osteria, wine store, culinary school, library, meeting space, art exhibits and museum.  It is a place to read, learn, practice, taste and appreciate the treasure that is "Italian home cooking."

The Restaurant and l'Osteria serve traditional, regional dishes and prepare some of Artusi's recipes, depending the season - all at incredibly low prices.  The wine cellar is associated with the Enoteca Regionale Emilia-Romagna and has over 200 different kinds of wine from the region.

The library contains around 45,000 books including Artusi's personal library, bequeathed to the city, the Italian Gastronomy Collection (books, magazines, films, etc. about food culture, especially home cooking), and the Forlimpopoli Council library.

There is a restaurant at Casa Artusi and a less formal "l'Osteria", and wine cellar housed in the complex. 

The Cooking School offers a variety of day classes with some of the area's best chefs.  Also demonstrating regional and traditional Romagnolo home cooking is the Associazione della Mariette, named after a woman whom Artusi said, ". . .is both a good cook, and a decent, honest person. . .".

Cathedral to good food

Since 1997, Forlimpopoli has held an annual gastronomic event dedicated to Artusi, The Festa Artusiana. For over a week every night between 7pm and midnight, Casa Artusi and the historical center of the town  come alive as a "city of taste." Streets, alleys, courtyards and squares become stages for food stands featuring Artusi's dishes, exhibitions, performances, multi-media productions, tastings and gastronomic tours, concerts, children's events, cultural events, art displays, and more.

In 2013, the Festa Artusiana   will be from June 22 through the 30.

And more details about Casa Artusi at

More Romagna experiences including a visit to Casa Artusi at

And, two delicious Romagnolo Recipes

Quick easy unusual satisfying, mouth-wateringly delicious … Bon aptìt,(that's Romagnolo for good appetite!)

Piadina Romagnola

La piadina, Romagna's flatbread, is tasty to bite into, wonderful when spread with cheese, an excellent foil for cold cuts, and (when folded) perfect for containing all sorts of things…and it's easy to make.

No family in Romagna makes Piadine in exactly the same way, so use this recipe as a base and make your own unique version!

Use a cast iron piadina pan or stone (if you haven't got a Piadina stone (yet!) use a big frying pan or a griddle or a skillet!)

Take… 1kg plain flour, 80-100gm lard (or olive oil); teaspoon of baking powder, dried yeast or bicarbonate of soda; teaspoon of sugar (or honey); 25cl of sparkling water, 25cl warm milk (or beer); a good pinch of good salt.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk with the sugar. Make a pile of the flour on a work surface and use your hands to work in the all the ingredients. Put in the salt last. Knead the dough until it's smooth and let it rest for at least 60mins.

Use your rolling pin to roll out the dough to maximum half a centimeter thick. Cut out circles between 15-30cm diameter. Make sure your pan is really hot and dry. Cook like a pancake until the piadina is spotted on both sides.

Eat NOW while they are hot with your cheese or salami or whatever - you won't be able to restrain yourself!

Piadine and good friends

Pellegrino Artusi's Ravioli Romagna

Very special, very quick, very easy, very delicious…

Take… 150gm Ricotta cheese, 50gm of strong plain flour 00 if possible (and 50gm for rolling), 40gm of grated Parmesan, one whole egg and one yolk.

Enjoy mixing the lot together with your hands as the pan of water is coming to the boil. Roll the dough on the extra flour into little AA battery-size cylinders.

Toss them in the boiling water and boil for 2 or three minutes. Drain and serve with anything you like. Bon aptìt!

Valere Tjolle

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  • Best cooking school in Italy in Bologna - Emilia Romagna

    We went to the best cooking classes we ever attended in downtown Bologna. CIBO or Culinary Institute of Bologna (For Foodies) was unique in their array of interesting courses They offered a full day course and the group went to the market and decided as a group what to make that day. We made so much food and my wife and I in one day learned how to make 12 dishes! The course also included wine and the group of 5 people must have consumed a case !! The price was very reasonable and we prepared both our own lunch and dinner. We loved working with the various chefs who taught us that day.. Stefano, Illaria, Sara and Anthony. There website was great and Marcello was outstanding sending us walking maps and lists of places to see in Bologna. We will go back next year!

    By Marcello DiFava, Thursday, July 11, 2013

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