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Margherita’s Recipes

From Nonna Ghita’s original notebook

From Daniela Sacerdoti’s Bestselling Novel

Acknowledgements Daniela Sacerdoti would like to thank her mum, Flavia Spinello and Rosa Frison for their help in collating these recipes.

Note: most ingredients in these recipes are readily available – the farina di mais fioretto, the chestnut flour and the Marsala liqueur can be found online at reasonable prices.

Margherita’s Recipes ~ From Nonna Ghita’s original notebook


Recipes from the novel



Pane di Nonna Ghita Nonna Ghita’s bread (Pane: panay) Making bread is better than therapy. So there you are. Ingredients 2 teaspoons dry yeast 2 teaspoons sugar A glass of warm water 600g bread flour (I avoid the extra-strong one – just plain bread flour will do, to make the bread softer) A big pinch of salt (never goes amiss) 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Place the yeast and sugar in the glass of warm water (it has to be warm to help the yeast along) and mix. Let it rest: this activates the yeast. Mix the flour, the salt and the oil in a bowl. Add the mix of yeast, sugar and warm water and work everything together. Pour in the glass of warm water and keep working the dough until it’s soft and elastic. Transfer to a baking sheet so you’re free from the constraints of the bowl. This is the fun bit: working the dough is so calming, and it smells divine. When you’ve had your fill of dough working, make a ball, place it in a bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let it rest in a warm place for two hours, but the longer the better, even up to four hours. When you’re ready, rework the dough for a bit and shape in any manner you like, rolls or a loaf – I love making a braided loaf, because when you cook it you get the perfect balance of crust and soft white insides. Place the shapes in greased baking trays and cook at 220 degrees for 20 minutes or so, depending how dark you want your crust. When it’s ready, savour it fresh out of the oven with a bit of butter before the family devours it! This bread dough can easily be turned into pizza, if you don’t use the strong bread flour – just add some more oil. You can also be inventive with your bread, adding sundried tomatoes and rosemary, or walnuts, or even honey and raisins, for tasty variations.


Amaretti Little bitter ones (Amaretti: amarettay, stressing the double T) More than cookies, these are metaphors: biscuits for women who’ve been thrown in hot water and have emerged bittersweet, vulnerable but tough. Ingredients 300g bitter almonds 300g sweet almonds (You can play with the quantities, depending on how sweet or bitter you feel) 400g caster sugar A hint of natural vanilla essence 5 egg whites 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil A bit of white flour Throw the almonds in boiling water just for the time necessary to take the skin away; drain them, cool them down in cold water and make sure they have no skin left. Toast them in the oven for a few minutes. In a mortar (or an electric mixer, if you have one – but if you use a mortar you get more time to think about what you’re doing, and you give the ingredients more time to blend into each other) mix together the sugar, the vanilla essence, the almonds, and then add the egg whites. Watch as the hurt almonds become a thing of beauty. Oil and flour a baking tray, and with a piping bag make little round shapes. Further temper the almonds as you cook the biscuits in a warm oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes; then let them cool and calm down. Enjoy with passito wine or a cup of coffee, preferably with a girlfriend or two, and ponder how such bitterness can turn into something oh-so heavenly.


Brutti ma buoni Ugly but tasty (Brutti ma buoni: broottay mah buonay) Ugly but tasty – substance over appearances, and a call to patience: the recipe requires calm and mindfulness. Ingredients 2 egg whites 160g caster sugar A pinch of cinnamon A hint of natural vanilla essence 150g finely chopped hazelnuts Place the egg whites in a pot. Whisk them until they make stiff peaks then slowly add the sugar, cinnamon and the natural vanilla essence, making sure you don’t spoil the firmness of the egg whites. Fold in the chopped hazelnuts extra carefully – take your time. Cook on a very, very low heat – be patient – until the mixture is strong enough to detach itself from the walls and bottom of the pot. Mould into little mounds shaped a bit like walnuts and place on a greased baking tray. Cook for 20 minutes at 160 degrees, but watch them with your life so they don’t become too brown. This success of this recipe depends on being calm and taking the right time to do things – a lesson for life, I think.


Paste di meliga Meliga biscuits (Paste di meliga: pahstay dee melegah) Meliga is a Piedmontese word that means farina fioretto di mais, which is the fioretto (flower) of the corn plant or its softest, finest part. It sounds like an exotic ingredient, but it can be easily found online. These biscuits are simple, humble but incredibly tasty, made with ingredients that in old times were cheap and plentiful. A hymn to simplicity. It’s not Sunday without a tray of paste di meliga to be had with your coffee (corretto, possibly – which means with a cheeky pinch of grappa!) Ingredients 250g farina fioretto di mais 100g granulated sugar 3 egg yolks 200g butter A bit of butter to grease the baking tray A pinch of plain white flour Mix the farina fioretto di mais, sugar, egg yolks and the softened butter. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin, using the flour to avoid it sticking to the table and the rolling pin, and then cut them into any shape you like – round or finger-shaped are the most traditional ones – and there you go: ready to go onto a greased baking tray! Cook at 180 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.


Torcetti The little twisted ones! (Torcetti: torchettay) This is a recipe from our neighbouring Val d’Aosta, but they’re so popular in Piedmont we’ve decided we co-own it! Every summer we spent in Castelmonte, my nonna and I made these together. Ingredients 500g plain white flour 2 teaspoons active dry yeast 2 teaspoons granulated sugar A hint of natural vanilla essence 1 teaspoon of salt 200g soft butter 150–175ml warm water 150g caster sugar to decorate Sieve the flour and yeast together, then mix in the sugar, vanilla essence, salt and softened butter. Mix everything together, adding the warm water slowly. When you have a soft dough, work it on the table with your hands for a little while. Place in a bowl, cover with a moist kitchen towel and let it grow in a warm place until it doubles in size (it should take just over an hour). When it’s ready, switch the oven on and preheat to 180 degrees. Cut the dough into little snake shapes – roll them into the sugar, then close their extremities overlapping them slightly, making the typical torcetto shape, which is like a circle that isn’t quite closed. Alternatively, you can use a piping bag. Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 10 to 20 minutes (until they look golden) at 180 degrees.


Nocciolini “Hazelnuttini!” (Nocciolini: noccholenay) Piedmontese hazelnuts – nocciole – are famous for their sweet, intense flavour. The best variety is the nocciola gentile rotonda, literally the “kind round hazelnut”: I love the way the name describes the flavour. They are the secret ingredient in the “gianduja” chocolate (pron. djandooya), the hazelnutflavoured chocolate that inspired the famous Nutella. And don’t get me started on the gelato al gianduja . . . Ingredients 500g hazelnuts 300g caster sugar 4 egg whites Toast the hazelnuts in the oven until golden, then chop them extra finely (or you can use hazelnut flour). Whisk the egg whites until they make stiff peaks then add the sugar and hazelnuts carefully so the whites don’t collapse. Using a piping bag, place tiny dots on a greased baking tray. Cook them until golden, approx. 2 minutes at 180 degrees. Serve in little bowls, with gelato or panna cotta.


Baci di dama Ladies’ kisses (Baci di dama: bachay dee damah) Enough said. For happy times. Ingredients 100g peeled almonds 150g flour 200g caster sugar 130g butter Zest of one orange A hint of natural vanilla essence A pinch of salt 150g milk or bitter chocolate, whichever you prefer Let the almonds toast in the oven for a few minutes, chop them finely, then mix with the sugar. In a bowl, mix (with your hands) the softened butter, the flour and the chopped almonds. Add the orange zest, the natural vanilla essence and a big pinch of salt. Cover with a cloth and let it rest in the fridge for an hour. When it’s hard, shape it into little balls of happiness, which you’ll place on a greased baking tray. Take care to flatten them slightly so that the chocolate will sit well on them. Place the tray in the fridge again for another hour – I know, I know, it’s a bit long, but be patient: it’ll be worth it. Bake at 160 degrees for 20 minutes. Once cooked, let them cool. In the meantime, chop the chocolate and then melt it in a bain-marie, slowly. Remember: the chocolate has to remain solid enough to be spread on a biscuit, a bit like Nutella. Give each biscuit a chocolate kiss (using a teaspoon or a piping bag and cover with another biscuit. Place them on a tray to cool, after all that kissing.


Torta di nonna Rosa Nonna Rosa’s cake (Torta di Nonna Rosa: tortah dee Nonna – stress the double N – Rosa) This recipes comes from Rosa Frison, our neighbour in Castelmonte. She often made it for us for our breakfast, as it’s a light, healthy way to start the day, accompanied by hot milk. Ingredients 4 eggs, separated 150g caster sugar 150g plain white flour 100g corn flour 80g butter Zest of one lemon 2 abundant teaspoons of baking powder A very small glass of milk Icing sugar to decorate If you fancy a filling, jam or Nutella Whisk the yolks with the sugar until nice and foamy (don’t fall to the temptation to try a bit!). Sieve in the flour, the corn flour, the lemon zest, the softened butter and the baking powder. Work the mixture until smooth, then add the milk. Whisk the egg whites until they are like snow, and then fold them into the mixture softly and gently, so they don’t lose their firmness. Cook for 40 minutes at 180 degrees. Decorate with icing sugar. Rosa sometimes halves the cake and spread it with her own cherry or apricot jam . . . I love it with Nutella.


Bignole al caffe Bignole with coffee ganache (Bignole al caffe: bee-nee-olay al caffay – stress the double F) These are celebratory little cakes to be had on special occasions – such as after a lovely Sunday meal, which in Italy is long and abundant, a real feast. Ingredients ¼ litre of water 120g butter 150g plain white flour 4 whole eggs and 2 yolks 100g granulated sugar A glass of milk A cup of espresso 2 tablespoons of corn flour Boil the water and add the butter, letting it melt in the water. Add the white flour, mix well and let it cool. When the mixture is cool (not before, or the eggs will cook) add the whole eggs one at a time, mixing slowly and carefully. Place the mixture in a piping bag and make little mounds on a greased baking tray. Cook for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees – check they don’t become too brown and hard. Whip together the sugar and the yolks. Warm the milk and pour in your espresso, the corn flour and the mixture of sugar and yolks. With a baking syringe, fill the bignole with the lovely mixture and listen to the angels sing as you taste them.


Tortine di mele Apple tarts (Tortine di mele: tortenay dee melay) There are many varieties of apples in Piedmont – one of my favourites, but hard to find, is the mela Carla, an incredibly sweet variety. If you can’t get them, use the lovely Golden Delicious instead. Ingredients 1kg apples 200g caster sugar 1 glass of Marsala (or rum) 4 eggs, separated 200g butter 100g honey 200g plain white flour 2 teaspoons of baking powder Peel and cube the apples and place in a pot with the sugar and Marsala (or rum). Whisk the yolks into the apple, sugar and Marsala mixture, then add the softened butter, the honey and the flour, and mix well. Whisk the egg whites and add the baking powder in very gently, then fold the mixture in. Pour into little greased ramekins, then gently spoon over each ramekin the apple and Marsala mixture. Cook for 1 hour at 200 degrees. These tortine can also be made as one big cake, of course, but I love the daintiness of them. A word of warning: the mixture tends to grow in the oven, so allow space in the ramekins or the baking tray.

More tales from Glen Avich by DANIELA SACERDOTI Watch Over Me RRP: £7.99 ISBN 978 1 84502 528 1

An ethereal and beautifully written debut novel, Watch Over Me is a poignant story about letting go and moving on. Eilidh Lawson’s life has hit crisis point. Years of failed fertility treatments, a cheating husband and an oppressive family have pushed her to the limit. Desperate for relief, Eilidh seeks solace in the only place she’s ever felt at home – a small village in the Scottish Highlands. There, Eilidh slowly begins to mend her broken heart but soon learns she is not the only one in the village struggling to recover from a painful past.

Take Me Home RRP: £7.99 ISBN: 978 1 84502 746 9

Heartbreaking and uplifting, Take Me Home is a beautiful story of love, loss and never forgetting who you really are. Inary Monteith’s life is at a crossroads. After a stolen night with her close friend Alex, she’s just broken his heart by telling him it was all a terrible mistake. Then she has to rush home from London to the Scottish Highlands when her little sister’s illness suddenly worsens – and in returning she must confront the painful memories she has been trying so hard to escape.

Set Me Free is the latest novel from the author of the bestselling Watch Over Me and Take Me Home Margherita’s marriage is slowly falling apart. Getting pregnant after trying for so long may have been a fabulous surprise for her, but for her husband it was the last straw. When she needs him most, her husband is just not there for her or their children and she realises that they need time apart to figure out where their marriage is going. As she struggles to come to terms with her new life, Margherita decides to leave London and spend the summer in Glen Avich, where her mum and stepdad have just opened a new coffee shop. She needs time away to reconnect with her daughter Lara and sort out her life. But Glen Avich can have a strange effect on people, and when she and Lara start working for Torcuil Ramsay at a rundown local estate, everything begins to change. Margherita finds her heart awakened in a way she never thought possible and Lara begins a new friendship with a mysterious local boy, Mal, which makes her mother feel increasingly uneasy. And just when Margherita is finally beginning to discover who she really is, she finds out quickly how things can change and how hard it can be to make brave choices. Set Me Free is available as a paperback and an ebook from all good bookshops. PBK RRP: £7.99 ISBN: 978 1 84502 951 7 This recipe book is also available to download for free from and, or by scanning the QR Code:


Margherita's Recipes from Daniela Sacerdoti's Set Me Free  

Margherita's Recipes. From Nonna Ghita's original notebook. All recipes feature in Daniela Sacerdoti's Bestselling Novel, Set Me Free. Mor...

Margherita's Recipes from Daniela Sacerdoti's Set Me Free  

Margherita's Recipes. From Nonna Ghita's original notebook. All recipes feature in Daniela Sacerdoti's Bestselling Novel, Set Me Free. Mor...