Wanda Tornabene

The Da Vinci Code by

Photo: © Michele Evans

About the Author

Wanda Tornabene and her daughter, Giovanna, live in the interior Madonie Mountains in Gangivecchio, Sicily, in a restored fourteenth-century Benedictine monastery, where they have operated a restaurant since 1978.  The Tornabenes opened a nine-room albergo with a second restaurant, called Tenuta Gangivecchio, on the property in 1992.  Tenuta Gangivecchio is run by Wanda’s son, Paolo, and daughter-in-law, Betty.

Michele Evans is the author of thirteen previous cookbooks, and is also a travel writer.  Her Caribbean Connoisseur: An Insider’s Guide to the Islands’ Best Hotels, Resorts, and Inns is in its third edition.  She and her husband, Tully Plesser, are residents of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.


From the Hardcover edition.

Books by Wanda Tornabene

Author Essay

A MOTHER’S DAY MENU from Giovanna Tornabene

As time goes by, our parents again become the children they were, and their tastes become, in some ways, capricious. In my personal experience, my mother has become a little more exigent than in the past, especially when her children are cooking for her! But I think we have the duty to make our parents happy, after they spent so many years making us happy!

I chose this menu based on her personal wishes: her favorite Pecorino with Honey and Pistachios that Paolo cooks so well. And even if her stomach complains, she never would give up the Ruote with Radicchio and Gorgonzola. The Veal Rib Roast so delicious and the guests are always full of compliments for it. And the Orange Cream and Marmalade Tart reminds her of childhood, eating golden fruits in the garden.

So this menu is a gift for my mother, and all of your mammas as well.

–G.T.


Antipasto: Pecorino Fresco con Miele e Pistacchi (Fresh Pecorino with Honey and Pistachios)

Primo: Ruote al Radicchio e Gorgonzola (Ruote with Radicchio and Gorgonzola)

Secondo: Vitello Deliziosi con Funghi (Delicious Veal Rib Roast with Mushrooms)

Dolce: Crostata di Crema con Marmellata di Arance (Orange Cream and Marmalade Tart)



Pecorino Fresco con Miele e Pistacchi
(Fresh Pecorino with Honey and Pistachios)

Serves 4

4 tablespoons sunflower oil
Four 3 1/2-ounce, 1/2-inch-thick slices fresh pecorino cheese
1/4 cup honey
4 rounded teaspoons chopped pistachios

In a small nonstick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, fry a slice of cheese for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the slice to an individual, small microwaveable dish. Repeat with the remaining oil and cheese slices. Spoon 1 tablespoon of honey over the top of each slice and microwave for 30 seconds. Sprinkle each with a teaspoon of pistachios and serve immediately.


Ruote al Radicchio e Gorgonzola
(Ruote with Radicchio and Gorgonzola)

Serves 6

2 cups freshly chopped radicchio
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 pound ruote
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the radicchio and boil for 4 minutes, stirring often. Lightly drain.

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan with the gorgonzola, stirring continuously until the cheese has melted. Stir in the radicchio. Simmer over very low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a pot. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. Stir in the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring often.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water. Add the pasta to the radicchio and gorgonzola sauce in the frying pan. Toss well. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper, adding a little hot pasta water if necessary. Toss again and serve immediately.


Vitello Deliziosi con Funghi
(Delicious Veal Rib Roast with Mushrooms)

Serves 4

2 1/2-pound boneless veal rib roast, tied
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/4 cup freshly chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced boiled ham
1/2 pound crimini or field mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups water
1 vegetable bouillon cube

Put the veal roast into a large nonreactive bowl and add the onion, carrots, celery, parsley, and white wine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.

Remove the veal from the marinade. Reserve the marinade.

Wipe the veal clean and dry it with paper towel. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and brown the veal all over. Transfer the veal to a large saucepan just large enough to hold the roast comfortably.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the butter in the large frying pan the veal was browned in. Add the onion, all the ham, and the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the reserved marinade, the water, and the bouillon cube. Bring to a boil. Pour the mixture over the veal. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring and turning the veal occasionally. Let rest 10 minutes before carving into thin slices. Serve with the mushrooms and sauce. Boiled spinach flavored with lemon juice and salt and pepper is a good side dish.


Crostata di Crema con Marmellata di Arance
(Orange Cream and Marmalade Tart)

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup orange marmalade
2 cups pastry cream (see below)
3 large Red Delicious apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons pine nuts

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and sugar. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Mix them well with a wooden spoon and stir in the melted butter. Combine ingredients into a dough, knead on a work surface for a few minutes, then cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour an 8-inch round baking pan.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch circle. Fit the circle into the prepared baking pan. Trim the top of the dough evenly.

Spoon the marmalade onto the shell and smooth evenly. Top with the pastry cream. Arrange overlapping layers of the apples slices across the cream in 2 circles. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Cook for 45 minutes or until gold brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.


Crema Pasticciera
(Basic Pastry Cream)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups of pastry cream

2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Peel of 1 or 2 small oranges, cut into 1 or 2 long pieces
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch

Over low heat, slowly bring the milk, vanilla, and lemon peel to a boil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring often.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk in the cornstarch and blend well.

Remove the pan from the heat and discard the lemon peel. In a slow, steady stream, whisk 3/4 cup of the hot milk into the eggs.

Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the remaining milk in the saucepan, stirring constantly. When it is thoroughly incorporated, return the pan to high heat and let the crema boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick and creamy.

The pastry cream will keep, covered, in the refrigerator, for 2 days.

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