two things



Nine years ago today, March 8th 2005, I didn’t pack anything and went to Gatwick airport. I picked a destination from the departure board in much the same way that you might grab the first book off a shelf. A few hours later I boarded a flight to Naples; a city that invaded all my senses and slapped me in the face – I needed it –  and a week later I took a nightboat to Sicily. Two months later I arrived in Rome. It remains the most impulsive and disorienting thing I have ever done, also one of the best, give or take a cliché. Over the years I have talked and written, been earnest and irreverent about this moment in my life. Today I am simply noting it, and later, toasting it with a negroni.


Good bread, spread thickly with fresh ricotta and then finished with extra virgin olive oil, salt (ideally flakes with sharp edges that crumble into tiny shards) and some black pepper is mysteriously more delicious and satisfying than the sum of its parts.


Bread, ricotta, olive oil and salt

serves 1

  • a slice of good bread
  • some ricotta
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Spread the ricotta on the bread thickly, crumble over some salt, pour over some olive oil and grind over a little black pepper. Eat.



Filed under bread and pizza, food, olive oil, Rachel's Diary, ricotta, Uncategorized

55 responses to “two things

  1. This does look delicious, and I will try it the next time I make my own bread. (An easy feat using Jim Lahey’s No Knead Recipe.)

    I have made your peperonata three times already, each time with two red peppers and a small carton of cultivated mushrooms, which I sauté in olive oil and butter before adding to the sludgy bright-flavored stew. It is out of this world. And I thank you profusely for this permanent addition to my repertoire.

    As for a negroni – I use Gabrielle Hamilton’s recipe since she and I (and Winston Churchill) favor Plymouth Gin. It is the perfect before dinner elixir. It just whets – and does not curb – the appetite.


    • rachel

      I have just looked up that recipe/article (it’s great) and now I need plymouth gin (once we finish this bottle of Tanqueray – which she said is wasted here, oops). Thanks as always for your stupendous and dynamic contribution, this space is a much nicer one with you in it- baci R

  2. Well done for making the move. It takes a lot of guts and the simplest things in life are the best!

  3. How simple and delicious! In fact I will put this together this afternoon. Nine years ago sounds like a positive thing.

    • rachel

      It was in the end….and thank you all for being so nice about this rather self indulgent post. Simple and delicious; yes it is. Best R

  4. Helen M.

    …and serve with a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo!

  5. Eha

    I wish to hell more of us had that kind of a gut feeling and the passion to see it thru’!! In spite of professing to be a Buddhist methinks we only have this one lifetime . . . too many do not have the nous to really make it count!! God’s blessing and always follow your dream: mistakes and all!!

    • rachel

      Thanks Eha, and thank you all for being so nice about this brief, rather self indulgent outpour – I am lucky. I agree though and I am very glad I did what I did, mistakes and all. Rx

  6. laura

    Your journey to Italy and, subsequently, into our lives is definitely – from our point of view – one of the best things you have ever done. Thank you.
    Cin cin!

  7. Amy

    yes and yes – cheers

  8. I am so happy for your bold brash decision. and a supply of fresh ricotta.

  9. Mitico! We had some friends over to supper last night and guess what we served as antipasto … it’s just doctor’s orders, isn’t it! Come and see me some time and I’ll take you to the Sardinian shepherd in them thar hills close to where we live, for one of the best ricottas you can find in and around Rome.

  10. I toast your ‘trip of a lifetime’, too :).

    That bread looks amazing! Did you make it?

  11. HI Rach, Raising a glass (while, serendipitously, bread made with sour dough starter is rising in my fridge) to your life-changing move. xN

  12. So beautifully written!! What a good reason/moment to toast, with a negroni no less! And the ricotta on sourdough reminds me of both my favourite breakfast in Brazil – queijo minas (like ricotta) on toast, v clean and delicious – and Spanish pan tumaca – grated or rubbed tomato on bread with salt and olive oil. I’ll definitely try this with some top notch ricotta from Neals Yard

    • rachel

      Thank you and your brazilian breakfast sounds exactly what I would like to eat now. Glad to have you reading along RX

  13. May I suggest something? (Since I truly enjoy your posts and reflections?)

    “Pick” is a physical action – picking fruit, picking fleas off the dog, picking up something one drops, etc.

    “Choose” is the correct word for the intellectual process of selection.

    So, “picked a destination” should really be “chose a destination.”

    You will find plenty of people who defend “pick.” I find their position defenseless.

    By the way, I did almost the same thing when I was 20. I sold a perfectly good car (that I wish I had today) for $550 and bought a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to London, then messed about for a year, on about $50 per month until my money ran out and then I got a job cooking in Amsterdam.

    Had to force my way out of a protective home to finally grow up.

    best, Leon Sterling


    L. C. Sterling

    *Compelling Concepts, LLC.*

    O: 505.750.8757 / *M: 505.239.6907*

    Because good enough never is.

    • rachel

      HI Sterling and this is a very very good point. I chose picked though because It didn’t feel like a choice more like a grab or pick….but maybe that is still a choice. Words for thought. So glad to have you reading along, best R

  14. Without your life changing move, we would not have been enjoying reading about your adventures in Rome and your delicious recipes. I raise my Negroni to you. Cent’anni.

  15. This is why I come. Thing One and Thing Two. Better, even, than The Cat in the Hat (tell me, does he get into the same scrapes, there in Rome?). And Seuss is no easy man to beat, my friend.

    Happy book-writing to you,

  16. So brave and inspiring. Here’s to looking back nine years from now on what choices you made have given you more to write about than ever dreamed!

  17. Sergio

    Simple things always surprising

  18. I will toast you too, Rachel, with a cup of strong tea. Here’s to you, Rome and lots of good and surprising things to come. Sophie xxx

  19. here toasting you with my mug of now-cooled coffee, but still, a toast is a toast, right? sometimes, these kind of leaps are the greatest. here’s to yours!

  20. nine years, eh? there are few decisions in life that can be as portentous as where we choose to live – and I believe in this day and age that many of us are fortunate enough to have some ability to choose it. Congratulations/auguri! May you reflect happily on where you’ve come over that time with a negroni, as I will certainly do later this month when I celebrate my tenth anniversary of moving to the States on almost as much of a wing and a prayer.

    • rachel

      I look forward to the day we can talk about all this, which I am imagining will be in a large trattoria near Rome with space for three little ones to run wildly while we all drink and talk and drink. Hope you are all well? RX

      • Me too. I have imagined that scenario too and it’s a large trattoria in trastevere, the kids are running around the adjacent square and we’re working our way through a liter carafe of frascati frizzante. We’re all well, thank you. Tired but well. Best to you and Luca.

  21. Chela Anderson

    Auguri for the anniversary of your life-defining moment. I applaud your courageous curiosity then, and the way you continue to express it through you current endeavors 🙂 MiChela

  22. Hilary

    I am blown away that you picked a flight to a random destination and 9 years later, on the other side of the world, I am planting puntarelle as a result of that decision. For some people that impulsiveness might have spelled disaster, but I am sure that wherever you ended up that day, you would have been doing great things now; but I am really pleased it was in Italy!!
    Huge congratulations for everything you have achieved so far!! xxxH

    • rachel

      Well, this is simply brilliant, I love that you are planting puntarelle and thank you for all your support and cooking and editing over the years, I feel very lucky to have such great people around me here xox

  23. I was drinking a Campari and soda on Saturday when this popped up in my email and I immediately thought again about when we might get to have that drink. Here’s to 9 years xo

  24. Aman

    Inspiring story on your arrival to Rome, Rachel. On the food, I love that you put simple, quality ingredients together for fabulous meals. This is the true secret. My mouth is always watering. Keep the great stories coming and thank you for sharing a piece of you in each post

  25. Christine

    Happy belated anniversary. Funny where life takes us sometime. xoxo

  26. Happy belated anniversary, Rachel. Sometimes, most times, following an impulse is the way to go. It certainly seems so in your case.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s