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February 21

Saint of the day:

Saint Peter Damian

Patron Saint of Olympic Style Sports, Free running or Parkour

Saint Peter Damian’s Story

Maybe because he was orphaned and had been treated shabbily by one of his brothers, Peter Damian was very good to the poor. It was the ordinary thing for him to have a poor person or two with him at table and he liked to minister personally to their needs.

Peter escaped poverty and the neglect of his own brother when his other brother, who was archpriest of Ravenna, took him under his wing. His brother sent him to good schools and Peter became a professor.

Already in those days, Peter was very strict with himself. He wore a hair shirt under his clothes, fasted rigorously and spent many hours in prayer. Soon, he decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines of the reform of Saint Romuald at Fonte Avellana. They lived two monks to a hermitage. Peter was so eager to pray and slept so little that he soon suffered from severe insomnia. He found he had to use some prudence in taking care of himself. When he was not praying, he studied the Bible.

The abbot commanded that when he died Peter should succeed him. Abbot Peter founded five other hermitages. He encouraged his brothers in a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more for himself. The Holy See periodically called on him, however, to be a peacemaker or troubleshooter, between two abbeys in dispute or a cleric or government official in some disagreement with Rome.

Finally, Pope Stephen IX made Peter the cardinal-bishop of Ostia. He worked hard to wipe out simony–the buying of church offices–and encouraged his priests to observe celibacy and urged even the diocesan clergy to live together and maintain scheduled prayer and religious observance. He wished to restore primitive discipline among religious and priests, warning against needless travel, violations of poverty, and too comfortable living. He even wrote to the bishop of Besancon complaining that the canons there sat down when they were singing the psalms in the Divine Office.

He wrote many letters. Some 170 are extant. We also have 53 of his sermons and seven lives, or biographies, that he wrote. He preferred examples and stories rather than theory in his writings. The liturgical offices he wrote are evidence of his talent as a stylist in Latin.

He asked often to be allowed to retire as cardinal-bishop of Ostia, and finally Pope Alexander II consented. Peter was happy to become once again just a monk, but he was still called to serve as a papal legate. When returning from such an assignment in Ravenna, he was overcome by a fever. With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on February 22, 1072.

In 1828, he was declared a Doctor of the Church.





Duomo di Faenza

(Faenza Cathedral)

Piazza XI Febbraio

48018 Faenza, Italy

*St Peter Damian was born in the nearby town of Ravenna yet always retained a strong connection to Faenza. It was here that he studied early in life and later where he founded a hermitage and a monastery. He was known in life as a reformer, a scholar, and a diplomat. He died in Faenza and his remains were interred in a monastery within this city. In 1826 they were transferred to the cathedral where they rest today. They can be found solemnly displayed within an urn in the sixth chapel on the left side of the nave.




Emilia-Romagna that seems to lie at the heart of "Italian" cooking. Emilia-Romagna is the home of Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di Parma, tortellini, and much more.

Lasagne verdi – Bologna’s spinach green pasta sheets layered with ragout and bechamel.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)


This recipe is separated into 3 main steps: the spinach pasta, the beef ragu, and the bechamel sauce. The beef ragu takes the longest time to make, so I tackled it first and let it simmer, then I can move on to roll the pasta. The bechamel sauce comes last.

To make the spinach pasta, I can easily make the dough using the KitchenAid, but I intend not to and I am so glad that I didn’t.

It gives me great satisfaction to see it slowly coming together.

The recipe says two jumbo eggs for the dough, and I used two 70gram eggs and they are perfect size. Some says the mixture is too dry to form a dough, and add more egg. It actually doesn’t need more egg, as my mixture is also pretty dry to start with and stick to my fingers everywhere. I just keep kneading and folding the dough for a good 10 minutes and eventually it will form a nice firm smooth dough.

As for Bechamel sauce, I was quite surprised how easy it is to make. Instead of using nutmeg, I actually add mixed spice includes cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamon which gives the sauce a stronger flavor.
The beef ragu is the most time consuming phase. I actually cut down the recipe given and just use beef mince for the ragu, then using the prosciutto as an extra layer while assembling the lasagne. Have to say the beef ragu is fantabulous! I had some leftovers ragu, and I just heat it up and spread it on toasts. 


I baked the lasagne for an hour at 180°C, and it came out nice and hot. However, the melted cheese on top is still uninvitingly pale so I decided to crank the heat up to 250ºC and baked it for a further 15 minutes. This time the lasagne came out of the oven with a nice layer of golden brown molten cheese on top. That’s how I like it.

I actually couldn’t taste the spinach in the lasagne. Spinach is actually full of iron and calcium which is good for your body.

Lasagne Verdi al Forno

  • 10 quarts (9 litres) salted water

  • 1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1

  • 1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2

  • 1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3

  • 1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

       Working Ahead:

  1. The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature

  2. (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

  3. Assembling the Ingredients:

  4. Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

    Cooking the Pasta:

  5. Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

    Assembling the Lasagne: 

  6. Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Layer 3 to 4 slices of prosciutto neatly on top of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

    Baking and Serving the Lasagne:

  • Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 1 hour, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil, turn the heat up to 250 degree Celcius and bake another 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden brown. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve.

  • #1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

  • 2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)

  • 10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped

  • 3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose plain flour

       Working by Hand:

  • Equipment

  • A roomy work surface like kitchen benchtop, any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

  • A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

  • A wooden dowel-style rolling pin.

  • Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

  • Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

    Mixing the dough:

  1. Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.


  2. With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

    Stretching and Thinning:

  3. If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

  4. Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

  5. Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm).

  6. Hang the pasta up and ready to be cooked.

    #2 Bechamel

  • 2 & 2/3 cup milk

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or Extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 tablespoons corn starch

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice (or nutmeg)

  1. Mix the corn starch with ½ cup of cold milk. Heat the rest of the milk in a small sauce pan until steaming but do not boil. Add the milk/cornstarch mixture to the steaming milk. Stirring constantly, raise the heat and heat the mixture until thick. Once it is thick, remove it from the heat and add the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Have the béchamel warm or at room temperature ready to assemble the lasagne. Whisk the sauce occasionally if it becomes stiff or thick.

    #3 Beef ragu

  • 1 medium onion, minced

  • 1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced

  • 1 small carrot, minced

  • 500gram premium beef mince

  • 1 packet (100gram) thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma

  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine

  • 1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock

  • 2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk

  • 3 canned plum tomatoes, drained

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Working Ahead:

  1. The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

    Browning the Ragu Base:

  2. Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Add the beef mince into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

    Reducing and Simmering:

  3. Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

  4. Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

  5. Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.


​Chestnut Bread Recipe

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup roasted whole chestnuts (shelled)*

  • 1/4 cup sugar (optional) plus 1/2 teaspoon (required)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup warm water (almost hot)

  • 1-1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil



  1. *TIP: Roasted whole chestnuts that are shelled and ready to eat are available online and at grocers and specialty food stores. Prepare a bread pan by applying non-stick spray to all sides and coating it with flour. Shake off excess flour. Set aside. In a food processor, add chestnuts and chop until finely ground. Set aside.

  2. In a coffee mug, add 3/4 cup of very warm water, dry yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Briskly stir. Let the yeast rise to near the top of the mug. In the meantime, add to a stand mixer bowl 2 cups of flour, ground chestnuts, 1/4 cup sugar (optional) and salt. Slowly mix together. Add risen yeast mixture and olive oil to the flour mixture.

  3. Drizzle 1/4 cup warm water along the inside of the coffee mug to remove any leftover yeast and pour this into the mixing bowl. Mix together to form a dough ball. If the dough is too hard (dry), add a tablespoon at a time of warm water to it while mixing. If too soft (sticky) or has too much liquid in it, add a tablespoon of flour at a time while mixing. The dough is ready when the dough pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl and forms a dough ball. Spread some flour on a clean, flat surface. Pat hand in flour and remove the dough ball and any remnants from the mixing bowl onto the prepared work area. Knead the dough for a few minutes. Shape it to fit in the prepared bread pan. Flour all sides of the dough, lightly rubbing off excess. This helps prevent the bread from sticking to the pan when done and creates a nice crust.

  4. Place the shaped dough into the prepared bread pan. Cover dough with a clean hand towel and let rise. The dough is ready to bake when stretch marks form over its surface. NOTE: Depending on the room’s temperature, this may take up to an hour or more. The trick is to allow the dough to rise. Risen dough makes for a better textured bread.

  5. Preheat oven to 450°F (232°C).

  6. With a sharp knife, cut through just the dough's surface every 1-2 inches. Bake the bread for 20-30 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from the pan. If the bottom hasn’t browned, turn the bread upside down in the oven and let bake for a few more minutes. When done, remove bread from the oven and wrap it inside the same hand towel previously used during the dough's rising period.

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