Giuseppa was her name. My grandmother on my dad’s side was a vertically challenged (barely 5 ft tall) feisty and sweet lady.


Camera shy, Nonna has taken very few pictures.

Giuseppa was totally the opposite of my Grandma on my mother’s side.

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Nonna Peppa, like we confidentially called her, wasn’t into fancy clothes or shoes. She never wore make up. I can’t remember a day when her hair had any other color other than the one of a cloud on a sunny day: a pristine white with hues of light baby blue.

Her hands were weathered by years of hard manual labor. As a young child, she had to wash clothes in the dead of winter at the public “lavatoio” or wash house.


This meant that she had to break the ice sheet first, with her little fist. She then grew and had 3 children, a husband and a farm to tend.

Self advancement was not a word she knew. She was brave, resilient and compassionate, but she could barely write. Peppa spent her life raising 3 children and running the household.

Nonna Peppa was the quintessential Domestic Diva. Untouched by any glamour, grounded like any matriarch.


I didn’t get to spend much time with Nonna since she was always busy running a small feed store. However, holiday time was when our family gathered around her kitchen table in front of a huge fireplace. The Caminetto (fireplace) was the size of a walk in closet. One step up from the rest of the living room, with two wooden benches, one on each side of the fire pit. The walls around it were pitch black from years of wood burning. I did spend countless hours staring at the fire. Hypnotized by the flickering of the flame and inebriated by the smell of it.


Fireplace similar to the one at Nonna’s

What I remember about Nonna Peppa’s cooking is its frugality. Simple dishes that didn’ t lack in taste though. She also wasn’t taking no as an answer. No fussing, no being picky or finicky. Lamb’s brains or cows tong were just food. Delicious, as I remember it.

I grew up eating anything that was placed in front of me. I developed both an appreciation for food and a curiosity for cooking.

Nonna forte’ was pasta: homemade noodles, that is. I believe that I learned most of my kitchen frugality from her. By osmosis, almost..watching her and eating her delicious creations. Simplicity, after all, is the ultimate sophistication.


Today, I would have made Nonna Peppa proud. I made Spinach pasta dough with Quail eggs, shaped it two ways, and prepared a simple sauce to go with it. Can’t wait for leftovers!

Here’s how to stretch a batch of pasta, Nonna’s way.

[gn_box title=”SPINACH PASTA DOUGH makes enough for 4″ color=”#0A3″]
DSCF6706 Tacconi or Quadrucci (Square) are the pasta shape I use in soups.


200 gr flour ( more if needed)

2 lg eggs (or 12 quail eggs)

a pinch of salt

1/4 C wilted spinach, drained and chopped

Elbow Grease :)


Make a well with the flour and crack the eggs inside it.

DSCF6692 Quail eggs: get crackin’!

With a fork, start breaking and beating the eggs, keeping them inside the well, add the salt.

11080945_10203597601436113_1159515510680398071_n Incorporate the flour as you go.

Now add the Spinach (wilted and minced)

DSCF6694 Things get messy!

Now it’s “Elbow grease” time. Add all the flour to the egg mixture and create a paste.

Keep kneading for 10 to 15 minutes~adding flour~ until the dough is smooth, not sticky and smells like fresh pasta dough.

DSCF6697 Here it is, the dough.

Cover the dough and let rest for about 30 minutes.

Then, if you are using a pasta machine, roll out the dough to a medium setting (#5 on an Atlas machine).

Then trim the strips of pasta into rectangles, trying to waste as little dough as possible.

KEEP THE TRIMMINGS ~ this kind of pasta is called MALTAGLIATI

DSCF6712 these “scraps” of dough are great as pasta in a simple sauce.

Now proceed to cut the large rectangles into squares of about 1″ in diameter.

DSCF6701 Tacconi

So, we got two different pasta shapes with the same dough!

You can dry the Tacconi, but we can eat the Maltagliati right away.



4 Tbs of butter~Unsalted

Fresh Sage to taste (I used about 10 leaves)


Place the butter in a large pan (eventually you will have to toss the pasta in there, so plan accordingly on the size) and add the sage leaves.


Constantly stirring, brown the butter until it’s honey color.


Remove from heat.

Cook the pasta al dente and strain it. Toss the pasta into the butter and sage to coat.


Garnish with grated cheese.

Until next time, Mangia! and Ciao!