Corso Vanucci with the Cathedral of San Lorenzo just as mass ended.

Piazza IV Novembre with the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (just as mass ended).

For most Italians, the weekend lasts a single day, Sunday.

Kids get a one-day break from school.

Stores are closed (except the cafes and bakeries).

Families go to church and then meet relatives for Sunday lunch, the biggest meal of the week.

There is an elegance and energy on the streets.  It feels like a holiday.  In fact, a common greeting in Italy is “Buona Domenica!” (Happy Sunday).


By 11:00 this morning, Corso Vanucci was full of people.  Many stop by Sandri, one of the oldest cafes in Perugia, to buy pastries for dessert.  In Italian bakeries, trays of sweets are wrapped in paper and tied with ribbons. (I love seeing people carrying presents down the street.)

Pasticceria Sandri.  A popular spot on Sunday

Pasticceria Sandri


Residents from the outskirts come into the city to take walks and meet friends in the piazzas.  Some go to church.  As usual, Italians know how to look good, even when they are all bundled up.



Because no one has to work today, meals are a little more extravagant and take longer to prepare.  A traditional Sunday lunch may includes lasagna or another pasta al forno (oven baked pasta).  Because Ray was especially interested, I asked around and found a couple recipes.  Most of them require a ton of ingredients and take all afternoon to prepare, so we try to make enough to serve on Monday too.  One of our favorites is made with sausage meatballs, béchamel sauce, tomato sauce, hard boiled eggs, breadcrumbs, herbs, fresh penne, parmesan and provalone.


The meatballs are ready to add to the tomato sauce where they will cook before becoming one of the layers in the baked pasta

The meatballs are ready to add to the tomato sauce where they will cook before becoming one of the layers in the baked pasta

Ray adds a layer of sliced hard-boiled egg and cheese then I cover it all with the pasta.  Once it's assembled, the trays of pasta al forno cook for a half hour.

Ray adds sliced hard-boiled eggs and cheese, then I cover it all with béchamel sauce and tomato pasta with meatballs. Once it’s assembled, the trays of pasta al forno cook for a half hour.

While the four of us often spend Sunday visiting cities outside Perugia, the boys prefer to stay here where the pace is less dependent on train schedules and restaurant reservations.  There are times when I agree.  Cold winter days like today remind me how easy it would be to settle into the comfortable Italian pleasures of relaxing at home with the family while cooking lots of good food.

5 thoughts on “Domenica

  1. Will you share your recipe? Your meal looks fabulous and I am sure it tasted as good as it looked and sounded! We all got together today and celebrated Max’s 3rd birthday. There was a pinata, cupcake decorating and we sent balloons up into the sky with our own special messages to Max. It was a good day. Love to you all!

    • Pasta al Forno
      (Italians measure ingredients by weight. You can either use a scale when the recipe calls for grams or just eyeball it based on the photo in the blog or convert it on Google. Good luck)

      Ingredients for the meatballs
      150 grams of sausage
      250 grams of ground pork
      100 grams of Parmesan cheese
      100 grams of breadcrumbs
      2 tablespoons chopped parsley
      2 medium eggs
      1 clove of chopped garlic
      1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
      salt and pepper

      Ingredients for the sauce
      4 cups of tomato puree
      1 chopped onion
      1 clove of garlic
      4 tablespoons of olive oil
      6 basil leaves
      salt and pepper

      For the béchamel sauce
      50 grams of butter
      50 grams of flour
      4 cups of cold milk
      1/2 teaspoon of salt
      1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg

      For the assembly of pasta al forno
      600 grams of rigatoni
      4 medium hard boiled eggs, sliced
      3-4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
      300 grams of provolone cubed.

      1. Begin with the meatballs. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with your hands for five minutes. Set the mixture in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
      2. In the meantime, make the sauce by sautéing the onion and garlic for 10 minutes in over low heat. Add the tomato sauce. Simmer while you finish the meatballs.
      3. Remove the meatball mixture from the fridge and make little meatballs (just like the picture on the blog). Then add to the tomato sauce and cook for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to the tomato sauce if needed along the way. Tear up and add the basil leaves and cook for a minute.
      4. Boil water and cook the pasta. Remove the pasta when it is half-way cooked. (It will finish cooking later in the oven). Add the pasta to the tomato sauce and meatballs.
      5. Make the béchamel by melting the butter over medium heat. Slowly add the flour and stir and stir and stir for several minutes. Then add the milk. Continue stirring until it thickens. But do not let it boil. Then turn off heat. Add nutmeg and salt
      6. Grease a large oven pan or several small pans. Begin layering the pasta al forno. Start with a layer of béchamel, cover it with half of the pasta and meatballs. Then add half of the sliced hard-boiled eggs, then some provolone, then half the béchamel, then sprinkle Parmesan on top. Next add the remaining pasta and meatballs, then eggs, provolone, béchamel and finally, Parmesan.
      7. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. The top will form a nice crust. Keep an eye on the pasta al forno to make sure it gets super hot all the way through without burning.
      8. Let the pasta sit for 10 minutes before serving.

  2. Sunday dinners to me used to mean a pot roast dinner at Gramma Brownie’s home with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We loved the ritual and looked forward to being with a big family after church every week. The “adults” were in the kitchen while we young cousins played on Grandpa’s black bear hide and poked our fingers in his open mouth. Then we would run upstairs and slide down the bannister until being told to go outside and play! The Italians have their priority right on this day of the week. Thank-you for another wonderful blog and a reminder of past Sundays. Love, Mom

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