Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Though I disliked the movie, which was absolutely nothing like the book (and not in a good way,) Under the Tuscan Sun is so beautifully written that you almost feel as though you’re walking through sunlit fields of sunflowers in the countryside surrounding Cortona. Normally, I don’t go for these types of memoirs, simply because the majority of them – and I’m looking at you, Eat, Pray, Love – are such self-absorbed, whinily written, so-called journeys of discovery by wealthy, pampered, spoiled women who don’t appreciate what they have. Frances Mayes’ gorgeous tale of her life in the stunning countryside of Tuscany, however, is truly a voyage of discovery.

2017-11-20 08.12.59_resized

The author is a teacher who, with her husband, buys a rundown villa in the town of Cortona. They fix it up when they return each summer, and it becomes not just a second home, but a true oasis for them both. They become friends with the natives of Cortona, and eventually truly become citizens of this magical little town tucked into the hillsides of Tuscany.

2017-11-20 08.15.50_resized

I’ve actually visited Cortona and found it as beautiful as any place in Italy. Pitched roofs, pigeons, a historic town square, the ubiquitous flowers and trees that scream Italy, cornerside bars and cafes, yellow-striped canopies that wave in the breeze………Cortona is the quintessential small Italian town that charms and seduces. Below is a photo I took in that wonderful town. It is a place that is filled with happy memories, not to mention it had one of the only hotels that still had on the heating during that chilly late spring.


The house Frances buys in Cortona is called Bramasole. Isn’t that just gorgeous? It means “yearning for the sun.” I think that is all of us, no matter where we are. We are all yearning for the warmth and comfort of the sunshine, especially in the depths of winter. And of course, one of the things she does in her new house is cook. She cooks up a storm, utilizing the seasonal bounty that is Italy in the summer and winter, and her cooking echoes the ongoing work she and her husband do to the house. She learns to use the raw materials to enhance the beautiful life in Italy they have created together, just as they have created this gorgeous oasis of a home in a country not theirs by birth, but by love.

2017-11-20 08.15.02_resized

I chose her recipe for sage pesto with basil, because I needed to use up some of my homegrown basil, and also because I just adore a good pesto and hadn’t had any in awhile. It is so nice to have around, to spread on toast or atop a piece of grilled meat, or  with roasted vegetables. And it is so simple, and yet so gratifying to make! Yum!

2017-11-20 08.13.46_resized

For the sage pesto:
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup sage leaves
1 cup walnuts
5 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Using a food processor or a small food chopper, finely chop the sage, basil, and garlic until very finely chopped.

2017-11-20 08.17.22_resized

Add the walnuts and pulse again until everything is finely chopped into an almost paste-like texture.  Add the olive oil gradually, in a thin stream, pulsing all the while.

2017-11-20 08.18.37_resized

Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper here if necessary. Add in the lemon juice and sprinkle in the Parmesan and pulse again until the sauce thickens. Taste again and season as needed. Set aside.

2017-11-20 08.19.15_resized

I served it atop some nicely grilled pork chops and it was sublime!

2017-11-20 08.14.31_resized

Even better as leftovers the next day, as you can see.

2017-11-20 08.31.19_resized

17 thoughts on “Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

  1. Your powers of description continue to impress, not only in your book review, but also in your merging of story and recipe…


  2. Your descriptive powers never fail to impress. And your seamless joining of your culinary abilities also very impressive. Keep writing and I will keep reading…


    1. Thank you! It really came out delicious and the lemon was a good contrast to the sage. I really enjoyed it and I think this is going to be my go-to pesto method from now on. If you do make it, let me know how it turns out for you.


  3. Oh my gosh, I loved the movie! I’m sorry you hated it though. I really love Diane Lane and that may by why I loved it so much. It was a little cheesy, lol. 💕 I agree the book seems better, although I still need to finish it!

    The pesto looks amazing! Sounds like a keeper. 😀🖒🤗 Beautiful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t hate the movie, I just didn’t like how they deviated so much from the book. I also thought the ending was so Hollywood cheesy. But it was a beautiful film and Italy, of course, is the most amazing place on Earth. The pesto was pretty damn tasty, if I say so myself. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve never been to Italy, yet I should say! One of my favorite chefs is Lydia Bastianich. Have you watched her before? Not to long ago she did a pesto that was similar to the one you make here. Anyhow, she’s on PBS on the weekends, lol. We only have local channels so all my favorite chefs are on PBS. 😆😊

        Your pictures always captivate me and take me places, I swear! 💕🖤 I would absolutely love to visit Italy one day.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I love Lidia Bastianich! She, along with Anna Del Conte and Marcella Hazan, are, in my opinion, the Holy Trinity of Italian chefs. I hear you about PBS, though I recently got a Smart TV and so can only get streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, so I don’t have PBS anymore. Which is sad. But Netflix has a ton of PBS stuff, so I’m not suffering too much. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. We use Netflix too and I wish they had more chefs from PBS although I haven’t checked recently. They’re always adding new shows. Amazon is awesome too! I really miss food network though. Especially this time of year when I really just want to watch cooking shows 24/7.

        Are you having turkey this Thanksgiving? We are doing traditional dinner it seems. 🍗😁

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s