Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Our friselle in cookbook “Piatto Unico” by Toni Lydecker!

About two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting distinguished cookbook author Toni Lydecker and her husband while visiting at the lovely Il Poggiolo, the country home and vacation rental of a common friend in the Valdarno area. She was working on a new cookbook, she announced, and the topic was “piatto unico” – single servings that make a meal. Toni asked us for suggestions, but never did I think that our suggestion of friselle, a simple, southern italian summer food, would make it into the book.

The concept of the multi-course Italian meal, as my readers surely know, is reserved for special occasions (like Sunday lunch at my in-laws, or for Christmas Eve menus). More often we’ll just eat a “primo” (often rice or pasta based). The “piatto unico” actually has a historic role in Italian cooking, and is well suited to our current busy lifestyle. As the book summary explains:

The traditional, classic peasant style of cooking known as cucina povera features dishes that are well-balanced with ingredients emphasizing grains, legumes, and vegetables and smaller amounts of costly meat, seafood, and cheese. Piatti unici are also often associated with religious festivals or funerals, times when regular meal-making is interrupted and people rely instead on dishes that can be made in advance and reheated.

Tommaso and I suggested friselle as something we often make for a fast lunch in the summer – in fact, we bring it for picnics at the beach! Friselle are like dried out bagels cut in half, that you dip in water to soften, and then top with oil, tomatoes, and if you want also mozza or tuna. Toni has developed this into an actual recipe, check it out! In my version, the mini tomatoes are cut into 2-3 pieces and touch the bread first, which allows the bread to absorb the flavour and water of the tomato. Mozza I then add in cubes, though I prefer tuna.

The book is one worth having if you’re looking for simple dinner ideas: it includes a substantial number of vegetarian options presented in eight chapters: Prime-Time Pastas; Minestroni and other Big, Bountiful Soups; Mostly Grains and Vegetables; Braises and Stews; Roasted, Grilled, or Sautéed; Insalatone and other Cold Plates; Eggs and Cheese; and Pizza and Panini.

Interested? buy Piatto Unico on

Taglionlini with arugula pesto and cherry tomatoes, Photo: Tina Rupp

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Laura Debenedetto

    Friselle a ‘piatto unico’ ? Friselle are an appetizer / starter in South of Italy rich and never-ending lunches / dinners :-)

  • Laura Debenedetto

    Altro dettaglio: friselle con la mozzarella!? Mai assaggiate (poi ci credo che si ammosciano…)! La ricetta tradizionale prevede di bagnare leggermente la frisella, strofinarla con uno spicchio d’aglio, schiacciare i pomodorini e condire con sale e abbondante olio d’oliva extravergine. SLURP !!!

  • arttrav

    La fetta di mozzarella pare sia una addatamento americano… noi lo facciamo con il tonno (e senza aglio), ma ogni tanto se manca il tonno uso mozzarella a dadini. Comunque, Laura, ognuno interpreta ogni ricetta al suo gusto, o al gusto del suo pubblico, no? Vediamo se poi ti risponde la chef.

  • Laura Debenedetto

    Certo ma perchè parlare di “real Italian meal” inserendo varianti che nessun italiano (specialmente pugliese) apporterebbe mai? 

  • Toni Lydecker

    I’d never argue with a pugliese on the traditional way to eat friselle! Yes, as an antipasto or spuntino is the usual thing–just as the traditional place in the meal for a minestrone or pasta is as a primo. But the recipes in my book reflect the reality that Italians (and certainly Americans) sometimes eat these dishes as a simple but well-balanced meal. In my view, if Alexandra and Tommaso eat friselle as a one-course meal, done deal–it’s a piatto unico! I like friselle the way Laura describes, with just tomatoes and olive oil, but mozzarella and tuna are delicious too, so why not? 

  • Laura Debenedetto

    Yes, why not! And try the (not so healthy but real one-course meal) “Riso patate e cozze” from Taranto and “Melanzane (or Zucchine) parmesan” for the second edition of your book. PS I’m sure that Tommaso and Alexandra have a rich “merenda at 17.00 after eating just a frisella for lunch ;-)

  • arttrav

    Usually we eat 2 friselle each at lunch in the summer at 12:30 or 1pm, especially at the beach, so we can swim again in the afternoon. Then yes, one might eat a few cookies at 6pm to hold out til dinner at 9pm. It’s not all that light if you consider that the ingredients are similar to half a pizza or a small plate of pasta, in terms of amount of tomato used and portion of starch. That’s me thinking like an American. It’s not very balanced, though, and maybe this is where, Laura, you’re hanging up… I agree that the real piatto unico should be better balanced, but then you know my diet… I probably don’t eat anything balanced!