Today I chatted with Domenica Marchetti about Abruzzo food, her seven wonderful Italian food cookbooks, her online and in person classes, and the weeklong tours she runs in three different locations in Italy.
Domenica is an Italian American with 100% Italian blood lines that trace back to her family in the Abruzzo and Lazio regions of Italy.
Domenica says that she’s not a chef but rather an accomplished home cook educated by her mom, grandma and aunts in the best of Italian food traditions mostly stemming from the Abruzzo region.
Domenica’s first career and educational background is in journalism – Domenica holds a journalism degree from Columbia university. Her passion and career are now in Italian food. Domenica says her journalism degree has held her in good stead for research, cookbook writing and article writing.
As a child Domenica spent her summers in Italy between Lazio and the Abruzzo region. This is a photograph of Domenica cooking with her grandma in Italy as a small child.
Domenica’s family comes from Chieti in Abruzzo where she spent a lot of her time every summer, along with time spent in the Adriatic seaside town, Silvi Marina. Eventually her grandma and her three aunts, who never married and chose instead to pursue careers, moved to Rome. Domenica says the back bone of her culinary knowledge came from all of these amazing Italian women: simple home cooks with rich culinary tradition and knowledge and a focus on local, seasonal ingredients.
You can find Domenica on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or contact her directly by email. Her website is full of recipes, her class details, and all about her books and tours.
What Domenica loves about Abruzzo food is its genuineness. Restaurants are still mostly owned and run by families, often with the wife at the back of the house and the husband working the front of the house.
Abruzzo is rich in mountainous areas and has the highest mountain in all of Italy other than the Alps: Gran Sasso. Because of this the Abbruzzesi eat a lot of lamb and young delicious mutton; one of the classic delicious dishes is skewered and grilled mutton: arrosticini.
Potato Gnocchi and Avezzano Potatoes
Potato gnocchi originally come from the Abruzzo region and Domenica swears by the Avezzano potatoes, grown in ancient lake beds full of wonderful minerals.
Pasta alla Chitarra
Pasta, like most regions in Italy, is a mainstay and Abruzzo is best known for pasta alla chitarra. Pasta from Abruzzo is made from eggs, “00” all purpose flour and semolina flour. Then it’s often cut using a chitarra. First a sheet of pasta is rolled out to the desired thickness and then laid atop the chitarra – a wood frame strung with wires, just like a guitar. Then a rolling pin is rolled over the pasta back-and-forth as the chitarra strings cut through the pasta sheet and form what can best be described as a square-shaped spaghetti. In Abruzzo the favorite sauce for pasta alla chitarra is a rich meat ragù.
Ferratelle or Pizzelle
Another delicious Abruzzo food specialty are ferratelle or pizzelle. These can best be described as super thin waffles using a tool similar to a waffle iron, but with many gorgeous designs etched into the iron. Traditionally the iron was placed over an open flame, the batter poured onto the bottom piece of the iron and then topped with the second part of the iron. Ferratelle are super thin, delicious and crispy.
You can purchase some lovely ferratelle irons. Once you peel the ferratelle off of the iron you can quickly shape them into cones for gelato or into cylinders for cannoli.
Saffron from Abruzzo is some of the best saffron you can find anywhere and it has a long history in the region. The most popular dish that uses saffron is risotto alla milanese, but the sky’s the limit as to where you can use saffron. It imparts a gorgeous golden color to food – Domenica often uses it to color pasta – and a wonderful earthy flavor to dishes.
Città della Piece in Umbria is another wonderful saffron producing area in Italy. This photo is from one of the Flavor of Italy Saffron Harvest Tours that take place every fall.
Domenica Marchetti’s Italy Tours
Abruzzo Food Tour
Domenic and a local abruzzese couple organize this deep dive into Abbruzzo food and the region. The group explores the coastal area and the mountains with visits to many wonderful local artisans and food producers. There are also cooking classes: Domenica runs a cooking class in the gorgeous town of Sulmona famous for confetti.
This five day food writing workshop caters to a small group and Domenica runs it along with food writer, Kathy Gunstand. It’s a new trip: originally scheduled for May 2020 and postponed to May 2021 because of the pandemic and postponed yet again to May 2022. The trip includes visits to fabulous locations like Paestum, best known for the tastiest buffalo mozzarella in the world. There are excursions every day and then participants write about the excursion at day’s end.
Last but not least Domenica also runs small group tours in the Liguria region to showcase the beauty of the region and its exquisite food.
Domenica has published seven cookbooks.
All of Domenica’s books are her way of writing down and preserving traditional family recipes and saving them from obscurity. One of the recipes from her most recent cookbook, Preserving Italy, is for Amarene Sotto Spirito – cherries preserved in liqueur. This was one of her grandma’s recipes that Domenica remembers her making but, as is the case with so many of her grandma’s recipes, her grandma never wrote them down. Domenica transcribes each recipe from memory as best she can, along with lots of research and recipe reinterpretation.
Domenica has four new cookbook ideas she’s pondering and she’s deciding which one to move forward on.
Online and in person cooking classes
In the past Domenica ran in-person cooking classes but with the advent of the pandemic she’s moved largely into online classes and has found that she loves the format. It gives her the opportunity to connect with people from all over the country, and the world. Even as we move out of the pandemic Domenica plans to keep up with the online cooking class format and she’s currently designing more online classes.
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