Pesce di San Pietro and the First Lagoon Vegetables of the Year

We always look forward to the last week of March when – usually – the first produce (le primizie) growing on the Lagoon islands is arriving at the markets in Venice. On the blog, we inaugurate this special time by introducing you to a favorite fish recipe accompanied by candied tomatoes. Read More

Le Veneziane: How To Make Venetian Frittelles At Home

In the last few years, frittelles have taken the culinary stage of Carnival in Venice, and there’s a good reason why they were so successful 🙂 After all, le fritoe, as frittelles are called in Venetian, have been the Venetian National Sweet ever since the 13th century.

But then, frittelles, prepared in the Venetian manner, taste great and soft and so warming on a humid Venetian winter day. So last weekend, we sorted through our family recipe journals and the books in our library. There’s an incredible variety of frittelles and other pastries eaten during Carnival in Venice, and the good news is, you can still eat them today at some pastry stores and cafes in town. Read more in our article dedicated to the story of the Venetian Carnival cakes.

Every family in Venice have their own recipe for fritoa, and now we are sharing ours with you. Hope you’ll enjoy it! Do try it, frittelles can be prepared in less than 90 minutes and that means, they qualify for breakfast !




180 gr flour (universal type), 8 gr yeast, 1/16 liter of milk, 1 egg, 3 spoonfuls of grappa, vanilla sugar, 10 gr butter, a pinch of salt, 5 spoonfuls of granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder.


In a bowl, carefully work the yeast and one spoonful granulated sugar into the warm milk. Add flour, grappa, vanilla sugar, butter and a hint of salt. Mix well and cover the bowl with a towel. Leave in a warm place until the the dough has doubled in size (it takes approximately one hour). With a spoon, form little heaps of dough and fry them in sun flower oil. Coat your fritole with a mixture of granulated sugar and cinnamon powder.


Like in the cover picture, you could prepare ricotta all’acqua di rose – rose-flavored ricotta, to add an exotic flavor to your frittelles. And that’s no invention of ours – that was the original crema with which the frittelles were filled.

PS – My article, originally published on the Liquid Press, tells more about the history of Venetian sweet pastries. Click here to read it.

Download ten healthy cooking tips from Venice !

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La Pinsa Venexiana – The Original Venetian Christmas Cake

When Grandmother was young – she grew up in the northern Lagoon – this was the cake her mother prepared on 24 December, but also on the morning of Epiphany Day – January 6. So to celebrate L’EPIFANIA, and LA BEFANA, of course, we are sharing this family recipe today.

This is substantial food, so badly needed when the nights are long in late December and in January. It’s a cake that was prepared early in the morning when it was still dark. Just like it is in the pictures in this blog post.  Read More

A Venetian Menu for New Year’s Eve

On 31 December 2017, the sky in Venice looked pale white. You felt inundated by a strangely weak light against the marble stones, so characteristic for the short days in December and January. On such a day, the sun isn’t strong enough to draw reflections on the water. The air is very moist and can be even sharp, depending on where you are going. Such a labyrinthic city as is Venice also has refreshing spots (which is good to know on a hot summer day, by the way 🙂 but they can be awfully wet in winter ).

While there can be cold and clear hours when the light isn’t strong enough to illuminate the facades of the building in town, in general, December and January is called la stagione senza colore – the season of invisible colors.  White and blue days like these call for red and yellow food, according to the tradition of the Venetian spice masters – speziéri.

You relax in a cozy environment at home or spend an hour in the afternoon with hot chocolate in one of the Grandi Caffé on the Piazza. Then it’s back out on the Piazza again, and this time we have company. People are looking for protection from the cold and moist air under the arcades, and many have come here well before night falls, I think just to secure their spot and witness whatever happens on the Piazza tonight. They are enjoying le luminarie – the Christmas lights and a new view of the Christmas tree that in 2017 is poised in the midst of the Piazzetta.

According to the calendario contadino – the farmer’s moon calendar, it had to be a simple, yet warming meal, and just like Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve was a thoughtful day. In the 1990s, the New Year in Venice was welcomed with fuochi d’artificio.

Breakfast on 31 December is thus much like breakfast on 24 December – starting with a pinsa – a polenta cake, flavored with grappa and raisins.

La pinsa was prepared in the morning and eaten as hearty breakfast, lunch, enriched with home-made fig-cardamom jam. This is the food Nonna has been eating all her life, on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and also on the day Venice celebrates Christmas a second time, on 6 January.

In the campagna veneta, in the Veneto, so to say, four spices were used in winter and to prepare a traditional New Year’s Eve menu, Grandmother tells me. Spice ingredients meant to instil strength and health during the white and blue days of December and January. We will use this mixture for our menu this evening.

Miscela de spezie par 'e zornate blu

  • Servings: 3 portions
  • Difficulty: easy
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We use this spice mixture to flavor creamy soups- le velluate, but also meat, potato pies, vegetable pots … this is an invigorating spice mixture, chasing away any blues one might get due to cold and foggy weather: 

DSCN8314Ground lemon peel, black pepper corns, dried peperoncino, oregano and mustard seeds …

It’s very delicious, and we have added a home-made red curry mixture to flavor the crema di lenticchie – lentil soup garnished with baked slices of sweet potatoes and puntarelle salad.

The spice mixture also works well to make insalata calda speziata alle lenticchie, bietola, cicoria, puntarelle, pere e cipolle dolci – warm spicy salad made from lentils, bietola, cicoria and puntarelle salads, pears and sweet white onions – in case you have any of the lentils left. Or, use it to flavor fish, exceptionally. This is how we prepared the pesce di San Pietro fish.

So, this lentils soup is a traditional course of the Venetian New Year’s dinner, and the second is fish. Fish should also be eaten on the first day of the year, according to ancient proverbs eating fish will make good luck and riches swim towards you.

Menu del Cenone per il Capodanno

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Vellutata di lenticchie al forno con patate americane e puntarella (the lentil cream soup mentioned above)

IMG_3293Tacchino al forno al pepe verde, fernet branca e miscela di spezie – Turkey baked in the oven with green pepper corns, Fernet Branca (herbal liquor) and the spice mixture, garnished with puntarelle and radicchio salad flavored with a cream made from boiled eggs and sweet peppers.

Sorbetto al Campari e anice stellato – Star anise-and-Campari-flavored sorbet

Cioccolatini fatti in casa al profumo di bergamotto – Home-made chocolates flavored with bergamot juice. These chocolates are also heaven if you add a few drops of neroli essential oil.

Thank you for following La Venessiana in 2017, for your all your questions, comments and your support ! We wish you all a healthy and generous New Year, or Bon Ano, as we say in Venice !

Treating you to Venetian Hot Chocolate

It looks thick, brown and enticing. It tastes only slightly bitter and rich, velvety and dense. What’s the secret to preparing exactly this kind of cioccolata densa for which Venice has become famous in the world ? In my opinion, this is the best soul food ever invented in Venice 🙂 It has all the ingredients to get you up and about on a cold winter day.

Unlike coffee, cocoa powder arrived in Venice rather late, only in the 18th century. Yet it became hugely successful at once. It never went through the process of first being used as farmaco (medicine) and then for cooking. When Casanova was alive and Caffé Florian first opened in Piazza in 1720, hot spicy chocolate was the favorite of Venetian noblemen and the public alike. Venetians used to flavor it, adding vanilla sugar above all, to camouflage its bitter taste. And it must be the mix of sweet spices and bitter cocoa powder that won over Venetians. And we can safely say that Caffé Florian was the first cafe in Venice offering this sweet spicy chocolate variant.

Venetians became masters in creating edible works of art made from cocoa powder, both solid and liquid. If you want to see some of these masterpieces, visit Cioccolateria Vizio e Virtù, you will be marveling at their shop windows …

Flavoring hot chocolate with cardamom and cinnamon became standard in Venice in the 18th century, and a few of these recipes for spicy chocolate have survived to this day in town. One is flavoring hot chocolate with gianduia or even with pistachio paste or amaretto liquor. By the way, you can taste this amaretto-flavored chocolate at Caffé Lavena in Piazza San Marco.

Our family recipe uses milk flavored with star anise. Always for Christmas, we add home-made chocolate-cinnamon liquor.

  • Difficulty: easy
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1. To prepare two cups of hot chocolate, slowly heat, in a pan, four tablespoons of milk, three heaped teaspoons of cocoa powder and two teaspoons of corn flour (amido di mais).

2. In a second pan, heat 1/4 liter milk, one tablespoon of brown granulated cane sugar and one piece of star anise. Boil at low heat for about 10 minutes.

3. Add the cocoa mix and slowly bring all the ingredients to the boil, stirring constantly.

4. Before serving, either flavor with a few drops of essential bergamot oil or a teaspoon of chocolate liquor for each cup.

We use Majani chocolate liquor. My grandfather used to make chocolate-cinnamon liquor for Christmas, and I will share this recipe in our e-book Venice and the Moon – Befana and Epiphany Traditions – online soon 🙂

La Dosa Calda – The Winter Drink Venetians Loved 300 Years ago, Celebrating La Festa della Salute

There’s one ancient Venetian winter drink almost never mentioned in cookbooks. It seems it has disappeared at all, and yet it was so popular in Venice until 100 years ago. Dosa calda. Literally, this is a spice and fruit drink popular in Venice before vin brule became popular in town. In Venetian, vin brule means vino caldo spezia’. Vino spezia’ has a predecessor, if you will, and that’s the version not flavored with alcohol, or just a tiny bit with grappa.
Before Venetians went to celebrate the Mass at the Basilica della Salute, they kept themselves warm with a drink called dosa calda, whose recipe dates back to the 14th century. It was also a favorite during the Venetian winter fairs, for the end of November and early December were dedicated to fairs and exhibitions at the Rialto and other campi in town.
Treasures, garments, artefacts, carpets, curtains and the latest spice trends and boxes the Merchants of Venice had shipped to the Lagoon just before winter were exposed during these fairs. The Merchants conceded themselves a winter break and usually, no cogs left the Lagoon until 01 March, the day on which the Venetian New Year was celebrated.
Dosa Calda is the drink you would have enjoyed at the Rialto Market and during the Festa della Salute. You would have bought it on Campo della Salute just where today stalls are located next to the Grand Canal, selling sweets and the long white candles called ceri. Dosa Calda was also sold in the bacari and at the stalls which popped up along the Erbaria in winter. Here, you could buy fritelles, arancini di riso and dosa calda. And later, hot chocolate !
Retracing this recipe wasn’t easy but I found a mention of it in the book A tola co i nostri veci, and I discovered a recipe for a similar drink which had survived in the northern Lagoon where Grandmother lived as a child. We are now sharing this family recipe with you.
Our variant of dosa calda survived in a corner of the northern Lagoon, in Iesolo to be precise, in a family cooking journal written around 1880. Iesolo isn’t just the pine-fringed beaches looking south onto the Adriatic shores. Part of it is the Lagoon and looks west, onto the area now called L’Orto del Doge, the Doge’s Garden, comprising Lio Piccolo, Lio Mazor and Le Vignole. Many fine yet simple Venetian recipes were created in this area of the northern Lagoon.
Dosa Calda – Venetian Fig and Citrus Winter Drink
Cut three dried or fresh figs into thin slices, put them into a pan and add two tablespoons uva passa (raisins) and half a teaspoon liquorice root. Instead of liquorice root, you could also use a teaspoon aniseed. Bring the ingredients to the boil with two cups of water. Leave to simmer for five minutes, then take the pan off the heat. Leave to stand for five minutes in a warm place and stir in one teaspoon honey (we use miele di acacia) and another teaspoon grated lemon peel. Cover the pan with a lid, add a hint of cinnamon and 1-2 cloves and leave the ingredients to infuse for another five minutes. Now, your Venetian winter drink, la dosa calda, is ready, taking you right back to the early years of the 17th century when La Festa della Salute was first celebrated in Venice.
 Dosa calda not only restores warmth after being exposed to the humidity of late November in Venice (or anywhere in the world!) but has also got all the natural benefits to strengthen your immune system. Figs and citrus fruit, coming in small doses provide Vitamin C, and the spices do the rest.
During the days preceding and following La Festa della Salute, people ate a special menu, and it wasn’t just all castradina. Castradina, a mutton stew cooked with cabbage, was the main dish amongst other autumn food made from ingredients easily retrieved in orchards. Join and travel to Venice virtually when she celebrates La Festa della Madonna della Salute on 21 November in this article on our Venice Lifestyle Blog, La Venessiana. Subscribers to our Monthly Postcard from Venice will receive the ancient Menu of La Festa della Salute via email on 21 November. Would you like to receive this gift ? Click here and subsribe to our Postcard + Welcome Kit !