Food historian and cookbook author “Francine [Segan’s] delectable, timeless, and earthy recipes reaffirm a beautiful and intangible aspect of cooking — that what nourished the souls and bellies of long ago is still the best of what brings us together at the table today."
— Mario Batali
About food historian and cookbook author Francine Segan
Francine Segan is American born but 100% Italian on both her father’s Pugliese side and her mother’s Sicilian side. Francine learned Italian as a little girl from her Italian grandmother and although she’s always been passionate about food her first career was as a child psychologist. This changed when Francine helped her 4th grade son with research for a school project about what foods people ate in Shakespeare’s England. It was the beginning of a new trajectory for Francine into food history, and cookbook writing.
Francine has written six cookbooks, all with a strong historical twist.
You can find Francine on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and her website.
Shakespeare’s Kitchen showcases the foods and dining customs of 16th and 17th Century Europe.
The Philosopher's Kitchen features historical recipes and customs from Greek and Roman banquets.
The Opera Lover’s Cookbook includes extras like opera trivia, quotes, lyrics and history, plus photos and drawings from the Metropolitan Opera's archives.
Movie Menus pairs classic movies with recipes.
Francine Segan’s two most recent cookbooks feature Italian recipes.
Dolci is a compilation of some of Italy’s best dessert recipes. Three of these are Rustic Tuscan Apple Cake - (Torta di Mele), Carnevale Crisps - (Cenci or Sfrappole) and the Amalfi Coast’s Chocolate Eggplant - (Melanzane al Cioccolato).
Cheapskate Pasta is the name Francine gives to one of the Pasta Modern recipes. It starts with a basic tomato sauce and then uses pantry leftovers like chopped nuts and candied fruit. Francine says this is her number one most loved recipe by family and friends.
Neapolitans who couldn’t afford fish for their Christmas eve pasta dish added pantry leftovers to their sauce to embellish it. It’s still a beloved pasta dish in Naples - originally known as ’O Sicchio d’a Munnezza. The restaurant best known for this dish is E-Curti a Sant'Anastasia.
A Carnevale Recipe
Carnevale is just around the corner and a great Carnevale recipe from Francine Segan’s Dolci cookbook is Carnevale Crisps - (Cenci or Sfrappole). Here’s the recipe from Dolci: Italy’s Sweets, by Francine Segan:
Sicilian Pasta Crisps - Pasta Fritta alla Siciliana
Twirled forkfuls of honey-sweetened angel hair pasta, crunchy on the edges and soft in the center--- scrumptious and a snap to prepare.
⅓ pound angel hair or vermicelli pasta
Sunflower or other vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
Zest of ½ orange, or 2 tablespoons finely minced candied orange peel
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
Pistachios, very finely crushed
Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the honey, orange zest or candied orange peel, orange blossom water and 2 tablespoons of boiling water.
Put about ¼ inch of oil in a small frying pan and heat until hot, but not smoking. Twirl small forkfuls of the pasta, drop them into the hot oil, and cook until golden and crisp at the edges. Turn, and cook on the other side for just a few seconds. Drain the pasta crisps on a plate lined with paper towels.
Arrange the pasta crisps on serving plate. Serve warm, drizzled with the honey mixture and topped with a sprinkle of pistachios and a pinch of cinnamon.
Castagnole di Carnevale is another wonderful treat for Mardi Gras!
Francine Segan’s lectures and tours
Francine still has the cookbook bug and is thinking through ideas for her seventh cookbook. In the meantime Francine travels around the world giving Italian food lectures (2015 Milan Expo World's Fair), and these days during the pandemic she offers many of these virtually. Francine offers in-person and virtual lectures through the Smithsonian (for example her past in-person lecture Fellini's Italy: Along the Via Emilia), and the AARP (for example Italy’s Chocolates, a free virtual lecture).
I make a small commission on purchases made through links on my website. Prices are identical for you, but purchasing through my links helps support my work to bring you great recipes, podcast episodes, culinary and travel information.