Gianna is not a Michelin Star cook. She is not the proud chef of her own restaurant. Gianna is simply an “ordinary” Italian Mamma, who loves cooking and is extremely good at it. Everybody who has had the pleasure of trying one of her dishes is raving about her skills: Her pizze, for example, are a mouth-watering combination of a perfect base, genuine mozzarella, homemade tomato sauce and fresh toppings, and reveal their wonderful flavour after their passage in a wood fired oven.
This shy woman lives in Le Marche, a beautiful region in the centre of Italy, perhaps less known as her Tuscany or Umbria neighbours but with a strong food culture. Gianna prefers to prepare dishes for guests in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by her beloved utensils, but will on occasions cook in the kitchen of another house should the menu require perfect timing. Other signature dishes of hers include the very simple but heavenly combination of melon and prosciutto (cured ham), pork or beef stews served with grilled vegetables or scrumptious fruit tarts to give the meal a final sweet note.
She of course excels at preparing many pasta variations. Her ravioli di ricotta are a must, but even more so is a specialty of the Marches: Lasagna Vincisgrassi. Instead of being prepared with a Bolognese and therefore beef mincemeat, veal is used for the fragrant, non-tomato based sauce. Other ingredients include fresh vegetables in the form of porcini mushrooms, celery, onions and carrots, as well as cream, Marsala wine and a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The recipe originated from the pretty town of Macerata and the story surrounding its name is interesting: Lasagna Vincesgrassi was allegedly invented by a local chef for an Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was leading a branch of the Austrian army stationed in Le Marche at the end of the eighteenth century. His name was given an Italian twist and has remained ever since.
With the importance of the Slow Food movement, which incidentally was started in Italy by Carlo Petrini in the mid-eighties, authentic dishes prepared with local, often organic ingredients and traditional farming and cooking methods are getting more popular every day. People’s concern for what appears on their plates is growing, and easily found information is helping them with their food choices.
Given this prominent trend, Gianna’s cooking style and the succulent lasagna Vincisgrassi are here to stay for many, many more years.