Pasta Madre for Easter Cakes

Francesco Costanza, the chef and owner of Pasta Madre near Porta Romana in Milan. (Via Bernardino Corio 8, Milan +39 02 55190020) describes himself as a Sicilian who happens to live in Milan. For many years, he was a photo journalist in war zones, then made a complete change when he moved to Milan to open his restaurant/pastry shop. He makes all of his pasta, bread, pastries and “Colombe” (the traditional Italian Easter Cake in the shape of a dove) from “pasta madre” (literally “mother dough” which means “starter dough”) that has been passed down for generations in his family.


Everything is made from organic ingredients and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. You can stop in to pick up something from the counter or sit down for lunch or dinner.

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I love the greens from the south as as starter that Francesco cooks lightly in the pan with a little hot pepper.

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He adds a twist to traditional recipes, creating food that is “Southern Chic”: authentic but with a modern flair. This time, I tried “polpette di baccalà” (usually polpette are meat balls but Francesco made them with light, white fish) with “finocchio” (fresh, crispy fennel).

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Francesco’s wines are 90% from the South, all organic or biodynamic or “natural” and all from artisanal producers. I ordered Marco De Bartoli’s Lucido 2012 IGT made 100% with the native Sicialian grape, Cattarato. It was light, delicate, crisp, full of Southern aromas and flavors. De Bartoli, one of the great Italian winemakers of all time, passed away recently, but his family continues the tradition.

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For dessert, there was a pistachio flan…

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and raspberry tart….

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and of course, La Colomba.


Francesco let me into the kitchen after lunch to take this shot of row after row of Easter cakes hanging upside down to cool. It seemed metaphorical for Francesco’s creativity and style: turn things upside down a little and see what happens!

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