Ilaria Marino: Pasta and pulses from Lazio

Monte Amiata

Rome, at the foot of the Palatine Hill. Every weekend, you’ll find Ilaria Marino here, selling her organic pulses, flour, biscuits and gluten-free pasta in the farmers’ market beneath the former homes of the Roman emperors. It’s a suitable introduction to the self-styled ‘cuoco contadino’ or ‘peasant chef’, who’s appeared on Italian TV knocking up various shades of pasta.

The rest of the time she’s at Predio Potantino, her farm and agriturismo, north of the capital, in the hilly panhandle where Lazio pushes up in between Tuscany and Umbria.

This is some of Italy’s most beautiful countryside, in the foothills of Monte Amiata, a dormant volcano that’s bigger than Vesuvius, and near Lake Bolsena. Ilaria, husband Piero and son Federico came here in 1995; they’ve spent the 25 years since then growing organic pulses and grains.

Pitigliano, across the Tuscan border

The volcanic soil between Monte Amiata and Lake Bolsena is highly fertile

This is a real farm-to-table operation – they even produce gluten-free pasta from their peas and chickpeas.

We’re selling a range of Predio Potantino’s pulses, gluten-free pasta (made from those same pulses), and biscuits. Everything is organic, and every purchase comes with a selection of Ilaria’s recipes.

We work with the very essence of nature – it feels almost mystical: Ilaria

Everything is done painstakingly by hand

 

Organic pulses:

Split green peas (piselli decorticati): These are ‘decorticati’ – the ‘skin’ has been removed – so they’re easier to cook.

Chickpeas (ceci decorticati): Again, the skin has been removed so that they cook cook faster and are more easily digestible. If you prefer them with the skin, we can switch.

Purgatory beans (fagiolo del purgatorio): Forget the name – grown in this area where Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria collide, these beans have been popular since Etruscan (pre-Roman) times. They look like cannellini beans but have a thinner skin and a more delicate taste. Bonus: they cook fast (in about an hour) and don’t need pre-soaking. Purgatory beans are classed as at risk by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, because of their “small size and delicateness that has made them difficult to commercialise.” Help save them from ‘purgatory’ today!

Verdolino beans (fagiolo verdolino): Ilaria’s signature bean, and a very pale green, it works either with pasta or rice, in a soup, as a side dish or on its own. A thin skin but known for its rich taste.

Soup mix (zuppa Potantino): Lentils, split green peas, purgatory beans, spelt. This winning combination was a result of a happy accident when a machine went wrong and bagged them all together.

Civita di Bagnoregio, half an hour away

Organic gluten-free pasta:

Pulse-made pasta: Made entirely from chickpeas, lentils or split green peas. Both types come in either ‘long’ (like thin penne, to make classic pasta dishes) or short (stubbier, good for soup). Just select the type and the size you prefer.

Organic biscuits:

Brutti ma buoni: ‘Ugly but good’, these do what they say on the tin. They’re not the prettiest biscuits, but they’re delicious: rich hazelnut, sugar and egg white whipped up together. Note: nut allergens.

Taralli: savoury loops famous in southern Italy, Ilaria makes hers from spelt flour. We’re selling four types: plain, rosemary, chilli-infused and mixed (which also includes fennel flavour). Made in a kitchen with nut allergens.

 

Ilaria in the TV studio

About the area: Two and a half hours north of Rome, Predio Potantino is on the edge of some of Italy’s most famous landscapes – Monte Amiata is the backdrop to the Val d’Orcia. But this, south of the volcano, is a less manicured area. It’s also famous for its Etruscan heritage and its cultivation of pulses, which that pre-Roman civilisation started. Italy’s largest volcanic lake, Bolsena, and Civita di Bagnoregio, an Instagram-famous village perched on a crumbling bluff, are south of the farm, while the Val d’Orcia and Siena are north.

How we know her: We were lured in by Ilaria’s wine-soaked biscuits at Rome’s farmers’ market at the foot of the Palatine Hill in 2019. We’ve been enjoying her pulse-made pasta ever since.