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 oregano 1/2 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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Everything you need to know about booking a trip to Italy

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It might seem hard to wrap your head around, but the time to book your summer travel for Italy is NOW. As a result, I am reviving an older post which includes everything you need to know about booking a trip to Italy.

I think of this as your go-to Italian travel guide, and a one-stop-shop for all of the information you need to know. It’s a FAQ page of sorts, and you can use it to reference to all of my tips for traveling to Italy for a workshop at La Fortezza:

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How to Get the Best Airfare to Italy 

What to Pack in your Carry-on

What to Pack in your Suitcase 

How to Spend a Layover in Milan 

Why Mother-Daughter Trips to La Fortezza are a MUST

I’ll be in Italy for a few weeks in March checking-in on La Fortezza and readying it for guests. Then, after a short stint home in the States, I’ll head back to Italy for the summer. Our 2020 summer workshops are shaping up to be absolutely spectacular.

There are only a few spots left, so if you’re planning on joining us, grab your spot soon! Don’t miss your opportunity to come to Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!

xx Annette

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Sweet Crepes with Chocolate Mousse

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Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend. Today, I am sharing a fun recipe from Annette’s archives perfect for Valentine’s Day this weekend.

Even though Valentine’s Day is on a Friday this year, my husband and I have decided to skip the hoopla and stay home instead. However, staying in doesn’t have to be boring and bland, right? I discovered this recipe for sweet crepes, and I thought it would be such a fun way cook something together in the kitchen and get a sweet result in the end.

Here’s a recipe for sweet crepes with chocolate mousse. Let us know if you give it a try!

xo,

Nicole

Basic Crepes
Yield: 12 to 15 crepes, 4-6 servings
For the crepes, you will need:
– 1 ½ cups whole milk
– 2 large eggs
– 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
– 1 cup all purpose flour
– ½ teaspoon kosher salt
– 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To prepare:

Combine the milk, eggs and melted butter in a blender and puree for 10 seconds. Add the flour and salt and blend again until smooth.

Heat a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Add about a teaspoon of butter to the pan and swirl the melting butter around the pan into a thin, even coat. Pour two tablespoons of crepe batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds or until the edges begin to dry and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to a warm oven if serving immediately or to a plate to cool completely for storing. Continue cooking the batter as above – coating the pan with butter every after every 2 or 3 crepes.

*Note: Cooled crepes can be stacked, and stored in zip-top bag in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 2 weeks. Thaw frozen crepes at room temperature at least an hour before reheating. Reheat stored crepes in warm oven or a microwave just before serving.

**Note: Lore holds that the first crepe is always a flop. Think of it as a test of your pans heat and adjust the heat accordingly.

For the mousse, you will need:
– 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
– 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
– 2 cups chilled heavy cream

To prepare:

Fill a small saucepan half full with water and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Meanwhile find a small heat-proof bowl that will fit inside the saucepan without touching the water. Melt the chocolate in the small bowl over the simmering water, stirring frequently with a spatula. Once melted add the espresso powder and stir until dissolved. Remove the chocolate from the heat to cool while the cream is whipped.

In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream with a hand mixer on medium speed until slightly thickened, approximately 1 minute. Add the warm chocolate to the lightly whipped cream and continue whipping on medium speed until the cream achieves soft peak – approximately 1 minute longer.

Cover the mousse with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Art direction + Photography by Lesley Graham
Recipes + food styling by Meghan Splawn

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