Anne's Blog

Near Assisi, a Christmastime Rural Feast with a Torrone Ending

Date: December 18, 2018 - categories: , , , , , , , - 2 Comments

Even the torrone – Christmas nougat – closing our mid-December Christmastime feast with a sweet note, was homemade. A Nello specialty.

          Nello, hard-working farmer and torrone-confectioner

       Nello’s torrone


            Pino favors Nello’s chocolate torrone

At Mariella’s and Nello’s table, I think only the sugar, salt, coffee – and parmigiano –  aren’t of produzione propria (“of one’s own production,” i.e., homemade).  Every meal there is a feast. Always.

We’ve known Mariella and Nello since 1975 when Pino worked the grape harvest on the farmland near Assisi that Nello managed.  He and Mariella and their two small children lived there until 1982.

Mariella and Nello live in a modern house now in Bastia (near Assisi) and their children, Barbara and Andrea, have children of their own.  But our friendship has spanned the years.

And as the years pass, Mariella’s astounding cooking just gets better and better. She admits it: “Ho la passione.” 

And what ingredients she couples to that passion:  they may be retired but not from the land for they still cultivate a vineyard, make their own wine, harvest their olives, raise chickens turkeys, ducks and guinea fowl  – and what a garden they have.

They slaughter a couple pigs each winter; after all, prosciutto, salami, sausages, pancetta and capocollo are needed for the families of Andrea and Barbara, too.

The kitchen table is a long one. Sunday lunch always includes Andrea’s family (they live upstairs) and might even include Barbara’s family, too. We’d dropped in on a Sunday morning about 11 20 to bring our Christmas greetings, deliberately NOT wishing to arrive at the 1-pm-ish Italian lunchtime.

Well, that didn’t work.  Mariella insisted we stay for their 12: 15 lunch with son Andrea, his wife, Patrizia and their sons, Marco and Matteo.

….and so we chatted with her as she finished up the last details:  roasted pork shank (from their pig, naturalmente) to carve….

…and deboned stuffed duck (raised by Nello) to slice with a gadget neither of us had ever seen (and Mariella had no idea of its name).  Pino was intrigued and pitched right in with the slicing:

….and Mariella arranged the stuffed duck rounds in a pan, then drizzled them with their cooking juice: 

The roasted potatoes with dill and rosemary and the baked fennel were in the oven. Time to eat.

Marco helped his Nonna Mariella weigh the pasta:

Our primo was homemade tagliatelle  with a delicate meat sauce made of bits of turkey, duck, pork, beef and Mariella’s tomato sauce (put up last August).  Buonissimo!


…and then came the secondi..

  Patrizia serves the deboned duck

               Patrizia and son Matteo, ready for the duck

          ,,,,and not just duck as a secondo


Pino expressed the appreciation of  all of us:  “Squisito! Che buono, Mariella!


And he told me I missed out not trying the pork shank


But who had room? Not after the pasta, a bit of duck, a few roast potatoes…and that baked fennel Parmesan:

When there was no room for more, out came the “more”: panettone, the Italian Christmas bread.

No, not of produzione propria:  il  panettone was the  only food at that lunch not homemade.

But the accompanying wine was:

…and then Nello’s torrone followed: the final curtain on our feast. Produzione propria.

Read more about Mariella and Nelloand rural goodness


  • Barbara and Rick Nelson says:

    Did you ever find out the name of the slicing gadget used for the stuffed duck? Please tell me. Also please tell me the recioe for the baked fennel with parmesan. It looks so delicious!
    We hope to see you again in 2019 spring when we come back to Assisi.

  • Anne Robichaud says:

    No, have not found out but researching! Mariella has no recipes – so come visit and join her in baking fennel.
    OR>…email me, please and I can write you an approximation

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