— Life —


All photographs @Brenda Coffee, 2017
pin it

If you saw the video tour I did, last year of my new house, then you may remember my favorite food is prosciutto. Just the mention of the word ‘prosciutto’ is akin to food porn foreplay, and when I’m actually in the presence of thinly sliced prosciutto, I’m more than ready to go all the way and indulge myself with wild, orgiastic abandon. On my recent trip to Italy I not only ate copious amounts of prosciutto, I indulged in fresh pasta, figs—straight from the tree—and gelato. Lots and lots of gelato.

Every time I’m in Italy, I’m reminded of how much better and how different the food is from the Italian American food we find in our neighborhood restaurants.

For starters a “sauce” in Italy generally enhances the pasta. It doesn’t smother and overpower it. You’re more likely to find some tagliatelle with a light basil pesto, some lemon and shaved parmesan; pumpkin and red onion filled tortellini drizzled with a small amount of aged pecorino cream; handmade pappardelle with a small portion of duck ragù or handmade tagliolini with black truffles. While tomatoes are found in pasta dishes in Italy, the “spaghetti sauce” from the jar we think of is primarily American. The Italians have a way of elevating pasta to a near sinful status with just a little olive oil, fresh vegetables and herbs.

One of the best pasta dishes I had during my two weeks in Italy was “Tagliolini di pasta fresca fatti a mano con zucchine, cipollotto e ricotta salata di capra.”

Fresh pasta made by hand with thinly sliced, sautéed red onions and some thinly sliced zuchinni, grated ricotta and cracked black pepper added at the very end.

This may sound like a less than noteworthy dish, but since I continue to think about it, I assure you it was anything but… In fact, it was the first thing I made when I got home. I’m sorry to report my version was disappointing! It bore no resemblance to what I’d eaten at the Osteria del Leone in Bagno Vignoni, a Tuscan village known since the Etruscan and Roman times for its hot springs.


Since my first, unsuccessful attempt to duplicate this dish, I’ve done some research on “ricotta salata di capra.” It is not your average ricotta you buy at Whole Foods. The words ‘ricotta’ means re-cooked and ‘salata’ means salted. Ricotta Salata is an Italian cheese made from the whey part of sheep milk, or in this case, ‘di capra,’ which is goat’s milk. It is then pressed, salted and aged for at least 90 days, and because it’s a harder cheese, it’s great for slicing, crumbling or grating.

If I can’t find a Ricotta Salata di Capra cheese, I’m not sure what I could use as a substitute. Pecorino might be an option. Do any of you know? La Contessa and your handsome Italian… Can either of you weigh in on my dilemma? BTW, if you don’t know The Vintage Contessa, you must stop by her website and follow her on Instagram! She and her pig–not her charming husband–will become a delightful addiction.

Just know I will continue to tweak this dish until I get it as close to what I had at Osteria del Leone or my thighs beg for mercy!

Love, Brenda


  • Charlesñjoycee Silverman October 7, 2017 at 1:19 am

    And figs are in season,,,,especially stuffed with honey goat cheese…..french wine….

    • Brenda Coffee October 7, 2017 at 10:24 am

      Joycee, The fresh figs plucked right off the tree were an amazing revelation to me! Previously I’ve not eaten figs. I thought they were mainly used in jam or when Cleopatra stuck her hand in the basket of figs and waited for the poisonous snake to bite her. So much to learn, even at my age. Thank you for the suggestion of figs with honey goat cheese! My thighs! My thighs! Brenda

  • Rose October 7, 2017 at 4:51 am

    Please share your recipe for this once it’s perfected. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. When I visited Italy I was also surprised with the amount of sauce placed on pasta and yet it was delicious, Notlike the way we eat it here in the U,S,

    • Brenda Coffee October 7, 2017 at 10:28 am

      Hi Rose! Let’s hope I perfect a recipe good enough to share. The Italians consider pasta as a light main meal or as “Prime Piatti,” a first course followed by a “Second Piatii” that may be wild boar, duck, rabbit, beef or chicken. Their way of eating, plus they walk everywhere, explains why the American tourists are the only ones who are overweight. Thanks so much, Brenda

  • Hilda Smith October 7, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Brenda…I love your writing….I am salivating as I read..Off to follow the contessa xx

    • Brenda Coffee October 7, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Hi Sweet Lady, Thanks so much for the compliment. It fuels me because I like to write! You’ll love the Contessa! xoxox, Brenda

  • Barbara October 7, 2017 at 9:59 am

    It’s not even 11am and I am craving pasta now! I make my own sauce and try all different varieties of pasta but, you are correct. Nothing touches the pasta dishes in Italy!
    I’ll say thank you but, my thighs won’t! 😉

    • Brenda Coffee October 7, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Barbara, Are your thighs like mine? They don’t check in with me until it’s nearly too late to do something about them! Very inconsiderate if you ask me, and I do everything for them! One of the big reasons our pasta dishes are never as good are the raw ingredients they use to make everything! We can’t duplicate that. xoxox, Brenda

  • LA CONTESSA October 7, 2017 at 10:51 am

    I am SO PROUD of YOU as YOU GOT IT!
    The AMERICAN tends to smother the pasta with SAUCE!Let’s NOT even DISCUSS THE JAR SAUCES!!!
    Now, another secret to GOOD ITALIAN PASTA is a palm full of ROCK SALT in the water as you bring it to a BOIL.
    Drain it and immediately cover THE pasta with OLIVE OIL or BUTTER…….this depends on the SAUCE.ADD the sauce IMMEDIATELY……….NO hanging out chatting at the KITCHEN SINK!PASTA must be eaten WARM right off the STOVE!
    AS for the cheese MY ITALIAN says to try a FETA.
    A HARD FETA not a crumbled one…………….as they both are made from Goat Milk.
    Something gets LOST………….XO

    • Brenda Coffee October 8, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      Elizabeth, Today I bought some hard Feta at Whole Foods and some organic pasta from Tuscany. One day this week I’ll try my dish, again, and let you know. Thanks for the input, my friend. xoxox, Brenda

  • Alana October 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    My mother in law has been to Italy, too, and has talked about the food so many times (including the “sauce as light accompaniment”) BUT I also have to admit – I detest prosciutto, sopresetta, Genoa salami and most other Italian coldcuts. I’m sure though, that I would love the “Tagliolini di pasta fresca fatti a mano con zucchine, cipollotto e ricotta salata di capra” Let us know if the hard feta works; I just had some today on NY’s Tioga County Farm Trail. (and I just followed La Contessa on Instagram.

    • Brenda Coffee October 8, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      Hi Alana, I’m not a coldcuts fan of any kind and put prosciutto in a different category entirely! Actually I have a photo of the very first time I ate prosciutto. I was a passenger in a car, leaving Florence, and set the sandwich on my knee. It had one bite taken out of it. I wanted to remember that moment, because I’d never had it before and loved it so much! I used to gear up several times a year and make fresh tortellini filled with spinach and prosciutto and would serve in “brodo,” a clear chicken broth, or bathe it in a little butter/olive oil and cracked black pepper. Also love to make pizza with arugula, pine nuts and parmesan and top it with prosciutto before it’s done cooking… Just enough time to warm the prosciutto a bit. FYI, I bought the Contessas’s husband’s suggestion of Feta cheese, today, and will try my dish again this week. Will let you know! Thank you! Brenda

    • LA CONTESSA October 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      THAT was taken before I arrived on the scene!
      I’m antique goddess as I owned an ANTIQUE SHOP AT THE TIME!!!!!!

  • Mamavalveeta03 October 7, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    It’s 10:45pm and I’m craving your pasta dish!!! I’m going to bed before my thighs start walking into the kitchen all by themselves. 🙂

    • Brenda Coffee October 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      My thighs went to the kitchen yesterday and forced me to fix pasta with butter, olive oil, halved cherry tomatoes and cracked black pepper. I made them promise not to do it again tonight. xoxox, Brenda

  • Sandra Sallin October 8, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Well, keep me in the loop. I love the simple pastas. I love the Roman one with simply cracked pepper and olive oil. Adore your prosciutto photo. Having book group over and I think I’ll start with that dish. So continue with the Italian stories they never grow old.

    • Brenda Coffee October 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      Hi Sandra, Last night I made pasta with cracked pepper and olive oil… simple and decadent. Today I bought some Feta, what Elizabeth’s husband suggested I buy for my recipe, so that’s on my list for this week. I also bought some blood orange juice to add to my opened bottle of prosecco! Ciao, Bella!

  • kelly smith http://kitchentuts.com/ October 11, 2017 at 7:09 am

    It is a good way to explain. I am regular visitor your site and getting more information.

  • You Might Also Like


    Sign up to our list and we’ll send you our sought-after guide “45 Ways To Change Your Life”
    I'm happy you've joined us! If you like what you read, I'd love for you to stay and subscribe to our updates by email. We have a great community of like-minded women, and your presence can only make it stronger.