As a youngster I loved spending time with my paternal grandmother in her kitchen. Nonna Marietta, was Sis’s wife. I remember her as a large, good-looking woman, very strong willed. She was a very astute businesswoman. She had followed her husband from Italy when she was just 19 years old. She brought with her my two-year-old aunt, Lena, and my father, a six-month-old baby. She travelled alone with her children, walking the best part of the way until she got to Rome to get a train. Her story is one of courage and determination.

She was a natural cook and taught me a lot of what I know. I remember as a child helping her make the stuffing for the chicken. It makes a moist, flavoursome roast.



250g fresh ricotta

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons chopped smoked pancetta (optional)

50g freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 tablespoon fresh breadcrumbs

1-2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon of sultanas (optional)

Rind and juice of and unwaxed lemon

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Beat all the ingredients together in a bowl adding enough dry breadcrumbs to bind the stuffing. Season well, adjusting to taste. The stuffing needs to be firm enough to stay in the cavity of the bird but not too solid as the egg firms up as the stuffing cooks.

Add the pancetta and the sultanas if you want to.


Pre-heat the oven, 200C/Gas 6

Free range chicken, 1.5-2 kilo

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Unwaxed lemon


Remove the chicken from the fridge an hour before cooking.

Remove the giblets from the cavity and trim off any excess pieces of fat.

Rub the chicken inside and out with extra virgin olive oil and season well with Maldon salt and ground black pepper.

Stuff the cavity with the ricotta stuffing.

Fold over the flap of skin at the cavity of the bird using some toothpicks or small metal skewers to close it over.

Roast the chicken for approximately an hour and a half until the skin is browned and crispy.

(Calculate 18 minutes per 500g plus 15 minutes or so extra at the end to crisp up the skin).

Check that the chicken is cooked right through.

Push a skewer into the thickest part of the flesh, between the leg and the breast. The juices must run clear. If there is any sign of pink then cook for another 10 minutes or so.

Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serve the stuffing sliced with the chicken.