Update on La Fortezza, Tuscany Italy

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I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how we’ve been doing at La Fortezza during these challenging times.

As some of you might know, I was in Italy March 1-7th working on my next cookbook, the La Fortezza Cookbook, (Rizzoli,NY)  fall- 2021. I had all intentions of staying until March 23rd, but COVID-19 had other plans for all of us. After talking to with family, I made the difficult decision to postpone the shoot and head back to the US. I self-quarantined for 14 days, and I am happy to report at this time, I am healthy. We are continuing to stay home. My husband, Frank, a doctor, is starting to televisit with patients, and it’s working well.

We continue to communicate with the staff in Italy. They check on our property, and they work on the property following the work and lockdown guidelines when possible. Last week, our vintner worked in our vineyard. Our gardener is preparing our garden to plant. We continue slowed down progress on the swimming pool. Everything should amp-up towards the end of April and in May as people are able to work outside and leave the lockdown in Italy. We continue to pay our staff and help them however we can in these challenging times in Italy. The good news is that our staff is well and healthy, and our friends like us are doing the best they can during the lockdown. I text or talk to everyone at least once a week. We can only hope that the cases in Italy continue to decline.

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Workshop Updates:

We have made the decision to cancel the “How to Publish Your Cookbook” workshop in June. We will also postpone the “Mark Making with Nature” until late August

All of our fall workshops remain the same as we believe that most of this will pass by late spring or early summer, and we continue to stay optimistic. As of this moment, we intend to conduct all of our fall La Fortezza workshops and experiences. We are hopeful that this will pass, and slowly, we will be back to the new normal. Just know that we always have the best interest of our instructors and attendees in mind, and if anything changes, we will let you know.

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New Cancellation Policy:  

Our current policy is on our website. It states no refunds on deposits. However, because of these unprecedented circumstances, we have decided to issue credits to all attendees that decide to pass on fall 2020. This credit can be redeemed at any time and for any future workshop. You may also transfer or sell your spot if you wish. We will honor your credit however you choose to redeem it.

Once again, we feel strongly that we will be able to conduct fall La Fortezza workshops, and we are confident because of our remote location and secluded compound, everyone will feel safe.

We think that La Fortezza (a medieval fortress) has seen many rough times, some worse than this, most likely. We wholeheartedly feel one thing is for sure: Italians (and all of us) are resilient, and we will get through this and again enjoy aperitivo on the terrace at La Fortezza.

In the meantime: Our La Fortezza workshop Chef Philip and I will be doing some online cooking lessons on Instagram stories. So keep an eye out for that! It will be a fun thing until you can all join us in Italy and cook with us in person. I know that Betty Soldi has been doing some online art courses as well.

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Just know that we are eager to see you in Italy and have faith that this will happen soon. Please email me with any questions annettejoseph@mac.com. Keep the faith, stay home, and stay well.

xx, Annette

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Spaghetti and Meatballs with Mutti

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As most of you already know, I am super picky when it comes to ingredients. That’s why I work with Mutti, the best tomatoes in the world. Besides perfection in a can, I know exactly where these tomatoes come from. I drive past the tomato fields regularly outside Modena, not far from Parma.

Last Sunday while still in quarantine, I made my husband’s favorite meal: spaghetti and meatballs. It’s the perfect Sunday supper. Mutti is available at World Market,  and are the perfect pantry addition. They are truly the most delicious tomatoes in a can you’ll find anywhere. So delicious you can eat them right out of the can; they taste so fresh. Trust me, try them from the can and let me know if you do! Here’s my recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. Let me know what you think! If you have not yet tried Mutti, I highly suggest you do.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serves 4-6

For the sauce, you will need:
– 1 small onion chopped
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 14 oz can Mutti chopped tomatoes
– 1 28 oz, can Mutti chopped tomatoes
– 3 cloves minced garlic
– 3 tablespoons dried oregano1/2 teaspoon salt

To prepare:

In a saucepan, add oil and onions cook until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and garlic oregano, salt and stir. Simmer on low for at least 3 hours.* Note you will be adding the meatballs into the sauce.

For the meatballs, you will need:
– 1½ pound ground beef
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– ¼ red onion, diced fine
– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
– 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
– 1 egg
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
– 1 cup olive oil for frying

* One box of spaghetti

To prepare meatballs:

In a large bowl combine, beef, 3 cloves of garlic, onion, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, and 1 teaspoon salt and rosemary. Mix ingredients by hand until completely combined. Form 2-3″ balls place on a cookie sheet and into the freezer for 1 hour. While meatballs are in the freezer put together the tomato sauce. Pull the meatballs out of the freezer Fry the meatballs. Place oil into a large frying pan, heat over medium heat, place meatballs into the hot oil, make sure to fry in batches, and they will need room to roll and fry evenly. Fry until golden, remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel. Add the meatballs to the sauce, simmer for at least 3 hours. Serve with spaghetti, follow cooking instructions on the pasta box. Serve in bowls with grated Parmesan cheese.

To redeem a coupon from Mutti please click here!

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xx Annette

Thanks to Mutti for sponsoring this post!

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My Pantry Staples

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It. has. been. a crazy week. Well for me, it’s been a crazy few weeks. As most of you know by now from following me on Instagram, Frank and I went to Italy only to return a few days later. We immediately went into self-quarantine and have been at home ever since.

While it’s not entirely what we had in mind, it has given me time to work on recipe testing for the new La Fortezza cookbook. It’s also inspired me to think creatively about meal planning.

A few years ago, I posted my pantry staples, and I cannot think of a better time to repost that post than right now. Use this guide to order your groceries to be delivered. I even include a few recipe ideas at the bottom!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you more Easter ideas along with a few faithful recipes to get us all through this difficult time. We’re all in this together.

Annette’s Pantry Must-haves

– Tomatoes, crushed and sundried
– Organic Marinara Sauce
– Pimientos
– Olives
– Beans, white, black and pinto
– Artichokes
– Capers
– Dijon mustard
– Salsa
– Pasta
– Soba noodles
– Rice
– Couscous
– Polenta
– Broth, veggie and chicken
– Flavored oils, garlic, sesame and lemon
– Balsamic vinegar
– Soy Sauce
– Salts, truffle and garlic
– Dried spices, parsley, basil, curry powder
– Honey, flavored with truffles
– Jam, raspberry, fig, apricot, lemon curds
– Nuts, walnuts and almonds
– Crackers
– Popcorn, microwavable
– Tortilla chipa
– Flour
– Sugar
– Baking powder
– Corn starch
– Vanilla
– Spices such as cinnamon
– Chocolate chips
– Graham crackers

Fridge and Freezer:
– Eggs
– Parm cheese
– Soft cheese
– Fresh garlic
– Onion
– Lettuce
– White wine
– Veggies
– Chicken
– Ground beef, turkey or buffalo
– Salmon
– Tuna

Quick Appetizers
– Olives
– Popcorn with truffle flavored salt
– Baked artichoke spread, artichoke, parm cheese, garlic salt, Dijon mustard, olive oil serve w/crackers
– White and black bean salad, with pimento, stir in salsa
– Salsa and chips
– Parm cheese with honey and crackers or jam and crackers
– Salmon with capers with dried parsley, and lemon oil and crackers
– Artichoke and egg, frittata
– Soft cheese with salsa ( pineapple or mango) and crackers

Quick Dinners
*I serve all of these with a salad with balsamic, olive oil and salt and pepper*

– Pasta with lemon-flavored olive oil, and crushed nuts, with dried basil
– Pasta, sun-dried tomato and chopped olives, and parm
– 3 Bean soup with balsamic vinegar reduction.
– Couscous with tomato and artichoke and pimento, almonds, with dried basil, with a pinch of cinnamon, served with baked basil, garlic salt and mustard rubbed chicken.
– Chicken with rice, sliced almonds, dried basil and chicken stock.
– Chicken and tortilla chips with salsa and rice, chicken broth
– Curry Chicken and rice soup
– Soba noodles and sesame sauce, frozen edamame
– Baked Polenta, with marinara sauce, parm cheese
– Chili, with turkey, beans, tomatoes, garlic, and chicken stock. serve with tortilla chips and salsa

xx Annette

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Savory Baking: Olive Bread

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Have you ever felt intimidated by baking bread? I feel like it’s one of those foods that worry people. However, fear not! There are some awesome bread recipes out there that make baking a breeze, and this is one of them!

Let me know if you tackle your bread fears by baking this olive bread. It makes the most delicious late afternoon snack.

Olive Bread
makes 4 small loaves or 1 large one

You will need:
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
– 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 1/2 cup drained and chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil  (available at specialty foods shops and some supermarkets), reserving 2 tablespoons of the oil
– 2 large eggs
– 1 1/2 cups milk
– 1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives
– 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leaved)
– 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
To prepare:

Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, the salt, and the sugar.

In a small skillet cook the garlic with the rosemary and the pepper in the reserved oil from the sun-dried tomatoes over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is softened and fragrant but not brown.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, the milk, butter, and the garlic mixture, add the flour mixture, and stir the batter until it is just combined. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, the olives, the parsley, and the Parmesan. Divide the batter among 4 buttered and floured loaf pans, each 5 3/4 by 3 1/4 by 2 inches, and bake the breads in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Remove the breads from the pans and let them cool, right sides up, on a rack. The breads keep, wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil, chilled for 1 week or frozen for 1 month.

(Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

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Easy Flower Arranging

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While it might seem like a daunting task, arranging your own flowers can be simple yet stunning, and honestly, nothing gives me more pleasure than to arrange flowers for my own home or parties. If you follow a few easy steps, you’ll be arranging your own flowers in no time!

When beginning the design process, I start with what’s available at my local market (and even Trader Joe’s!), and I try to select a strong color theme like pink or even white. Selecting just one color flower, but choosing several varieties in that same color, is an easy way to pack a punch without a lot of thought. It honestly cuts way down on the stress, especially if you’re not quite ready for combining colors.

However, if you want to give it a go, follow these steps. For this arrangement, I selected a few colors that go well together like pink and lavender.

Step one: clean the bottom of the stems, and make a fresh cut.

Step two: place all the fillers in your container. For this arrangement, I’ve chosen a pitcher for my container, and Queen Anne’s Lace and Baby’s Breath as fillers. Pro tip: this pitcher from Ikea (one of my favs, as you know) is an ideal flower container!

Step three: add in your larger blooms. Here, that’s ranunculus and hyacinth. Be sure to work your way around the vase or pitcher. Either move around the table as you work, or spin your container to make sure your stems are even.

Step four: step back and fluff your arrangement as needed. Try to change the water every 2-3 days, and cut the stems on a diagonal every few days, too. This will keep your arrangement fresh and pretty!

xx Annette

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