indoor grown thyme

Never Enough Thyme

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Our indoor grown thyme

This evergreen herb, sought after by the Ancient Egyptians for its culinary and medicinal properties, has been considered the herb of vitality and courage for centuries. Now, mystical powers aside thyme is truly a culinary treasure used in cuisines all over the globe. Commonly thyme is mixed with oregano and parsley to aid in the aromatics of a particular dish.

Like all relatives of the mint family (Lamiaceae), Thymus vulgarism, the leaves adds a pungent aromatic flavor to dishes. Giving them a slight minty-earthy flavor without being overwhelming. With over 100 cultivars of thyme, you may get flavors of lemon, chocolate, caraway, or even orange. Thyme is an aromatic herb, meaning use as much as you can!

Inclusive of its distinctive and delightful flavor, this herb contains many healthy benefits too. The essential oil of common thyme  (Thymus vulgaris), contains 20–54% thymol. Thymol, an antiseptic, is an active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes such as Listerine. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages. It has also been shown to be effective against various fungi that commonly infect toenails. Thymol can also be found as the active ingredient in some all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizers. Brewing thyme as a tea or in a bath can aid in treating respiratory illness and bronchitis.

Thyme is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or dividing rooted sections of the plant. It tolerates drought well. The plants can take deep freezes and are found growing wild on mountain highlands.

*So if your diet doesn’t have enough thyme, come on down to Dueminuti and get your fill of the wonder herb!

Arjun Varma
Sustainability Manager

Creative teamwork in the kitchen: OXTAIL RAGOUT

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At dueminuti, we believe that teamwork is the only path to success, also in the kitchen. As we continuously research new flavor and textures combinations, everyone is involved in the process, from the cashier to the head chef. Everyone tastes a dish during the different phases of its development, leveraging on the diverse culture and tradition of our team. If I had to pick a dish that summarizes our work environment it would be the Oxtail Ragout.

Oxtail is a traditional dish from Rome, “Coda alla vaccinara,” but I only started to cook it during my time in Beijing. At the San Yuan Li market, you could choose your own goods from the continuous small kiosks on the two sides of a long hallway. Shellfish, live fish, produce, fruits, cheese, tofu, tea, nuts of any kind, dozens of varieties of eggs, lamb, goat, pork, game and beef. It was there that I first saw a full oxtail and out of curiosity, I bought one and I cooked it for one of my pop-up dinner events, served with a saffron risotto and sweet and sour cipollini onion.

As soon as the cold weather arrived in Seattle, we knew that it was time to dismiss some of our more summer oriented dishes for more comfortable, warming ones. I am a deep lover of slow cooking: sous vide and brazing are the techniques that I cherish the most.

Noah (our sous chef) and I decided that an oxtail ragout would be the perfect recipe for our winter beef-dish proposal. We sourced Pittman Hills beef from Oregon: an amazing grass-fed and sustainably grown cattle. We braised the meat overnight in the oven, we assembled the dish and then we topped it with some horseradish gremolata for a refreshing zing. The flavors were bold, layered and very distinguished. But something was missing in the equation. We pondered for a while how to add a green note, a refreshing flavor and a note of crunchiness but in all honestly we were a bit stuck. Luckily our policy of having all of our team members taste every dish paid off.

A few days later Arjun, our sustainability manager, was playing in the garden with various seeds that he avidly collected. It was also a few days that he was pushing us in the kitchen to use his sprouts. I called him to taste the oxtail ragout and he joined the brainstorm of how to add some crunchiness and lightness to the dish. Later on, meanwhile rinsing his seeds he yelled: “Dude, sprouts! Use this sprouts….” They were alfalfa sprouts: the perfect healthy/green note to the dish.

RECIPE (serves 12 people)

For the oxtail sauce

10 lb       Beef Oxtail

2 lb         Red onion (minced)

12 oz       Carrot (minced)

12 oz       Celery (minced)

8 oz         Parsnip

2 oz         Garlic

2 sprigs  Thyme

1 sprig     Rosemary

1 cup        Tomato paste

3 cups      San Marzano Tomato

5 tbsp.     EVOO

4 tbsp.     Salt

2 tbsp.     Black Pepper (ground)

2 tbsp.     Bay leaves

4 quarts  Brown beef stock (see recipe on the blog)

Full body red wine, one bottle (we use a Chianti ’14)


  1. Cut the oxtail at the joints, season it with salt and pepper and let it rest overnight in the fridge.
  2. Take a thick bottom sauce pot, on medium/high heat sear the oxtail pieces on all sides until dark brown.
  3. Decreased the heat to medium/low. Add the minced onion and sweat until translucent, around 8/10 minutes. This will make the vegetation water evaporate and you will be left only with the sweet flavors of the onion.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the carrot, celery and parsnip. Cook until the vegetables are soft.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook it until the tomato turns to a rusty red color.
  7. Add the San Marzano tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the thymes and the bay leaves.
  9. Add the red wine, the meat and then the brown beef stock.
  10. Bring to the simmer, transfer to oven trays, cover with aluminum foil and braise for around 8 hours at 250 F.
  11. The meat should be now fork tender. Using tongues remove it from the braise and place it to cool on a rack until it is cool enough to handle it.
  12. Shred the meat and remove all the bones. Return the meat to the braising liquid, reduce it and adjust the seasoning.

For the horseradish gremolata

1 tbsp.     Horseradish (grated)

3 tbsp.     Italian parsley (minced)

1 tbsp.      Orange zest (grated)

  1. Mix the horseradish, the parsley, and the orange zest.

For the rosemary garlic EVOO

3 sprigs      Rosemary

1 cup           Garlic (peeled cloves)

4 cups        EVOO

  1. Place the ingredient in a tray and roast in the oven for 25 minutes at 300 F.
  2. Filter the olive oil and reserve it.

Finish the plate

2 tbsp.      Parmigiano reggiano 24 months aged

2 tbsp.      Alfaalfa sprouts

1 tbsp.        Horseradish gremolata

  1. Cook your favorite pasta in boiling salted water.
  2. Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding some pasta water. Off the heat fold in the cheese and keep tossing until well incorporated.
  3. Plate and top with the horseradish gremolata and a round mound of the alfalfa. Drizzle some rosemary olive oil and serve.

Lesson learned from MIT

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My two weeks at MIT are over. The time flew by. We talked to people, presented our ideas and received positive feedback. Day by day, we developed a clearer idea of our concept.

During this time, we also received our first extruder machine: our little “Monferrina Dolly”. The Dolly machine allows me to push my experiments to the extreme. The strength of the machine is such that the starch molecules of the different flours I use assume a structural role in place of the gluten. Our nutritionally balanced pasta is now at a point that was hard to imagine just a few weeks ago. It feels good to see that the months spent experimenting our flours mixes are finally coming to fruition. Our pasta has 25% less carbs, three times the amount of fibers and 50% more proteins compared to the normal pasta. The flavor is complex, nutty and sweet. It is never boring and always intriguing, like savoring a glass of red wine. When I taste our pasta I like to close my eyes as I do when I taste a newly open bottle of Chianti. Why I close my eyes only with the Chianti wine? It is the wine of my region, the one I grew up with, the wine that flows in my veins, and the only one that starts an emotional reaction inside myself when I drink it. My pasta is the same, the flavor is pleasant and very distinctive from anything else I have tried before. It is about the people that produced those flours, and of the soils that nourished those berries gently grounded in flours and powders. It represents my cooking. My Italian heritage is only the start, on top of that I add skills, experience, techniques and ingredients unheard back home, skills that I had the luck of learning during my many trips around the world. In the same way our pasta starts with the Semolina from the best durum wheat available as in the Italian tradition, but incorporates flours from different part of the world, each adding a particular nutrient and flavor to the final product. Pasta 2.0.

We run user tests and focus group to confirm that our product was what people want. We iterated based on the feedback and we will continue to do that to improve the product and adapting to the modern palate and lifestyle.

It seems like everyone wanted to be part of our testing, unfortunately the time was limited, as were our flour supplies. We got the final confirmation that we have something potentially big in our hands. Incredibly people are already asking if we can ship our pasta to the east coast. The judges of the two panels competition at MIT showed strong interested in our product and they got excited about it after tasting it. The main feedback from the two panel was: “Forget about the restaurant and go and sell fresh pasta to restaurants and groceries”.

It was not easy to defend our idea of a fast casual restaurant based on pasta, but this is what we are passionate about. We remain fully committed to start the first Italian Fast casual chain, but I won’t be surprised if you will find our fresh pasta, the same that we will use in our stores, at your local supermarket or at the restaurant down the road. To give a bigger contribution to society and to help spreading a healthy Mediterranean diet among the population we have to be easily available to everyone. I envision professionals coming to our store for lunch and going to buy our pasta to the local grocery so that they can share the advantages of our products with their family once home.


Entrepreneurship: an emotional roller coaster!

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The idea of an Italian fast casual chain based on pasta came to us almost four years ago in Sydney. Davide and I, both tired of having sandwiches or Asian food for lunch, identified what was missing – Pasta!  After toying with the idea for over a year, we came up with a plan: we would open in Melbourne in Australia soon after finishing my PhD! However, after a year we decided that San Francisco would be a bigger market and also a possibility to realize the California dream. I had to convince Janet, my wife, that it would be great to live in California!

In November 2015, we carefully re-evaluated the location of our first store, considering only the business side of the decision without getting influenced by personal preferences. Among the different USA hubs considered, the city of Seattle emerged as the clear winner.

I had to convince Janet again! This time it took a little bit longer, but what a great wife I have, in about a week she was supportive and ready to go, again! Then, my thoughts were that we had not even started the company yet and we were already experiencing many ups and downs. I now know that those were only a harbingers of what was laid ahead of us.

Starting a company and investing every resource that you have is a big decision. Having to change continent and uprooting your family has I had adds just a little bit more “excitement” to the whole process. The path itself is an emotional roller coaster. One day you are happy, confident and optimistic. On other days, you are completely uncertain and overwhelmed and it takes a great will and effort to bring yourself out of that emotional state. Emails and phone calls become the judges of your emotional swings. You wake up in the middle of the night to check your emails for the seller’s signature on the purchase offer you sent. You obsessively control your phone to see if the architect, the lawyer, the real estate agent, the advisors, the immigration lawyer, the Embassy.. called you for that update that you are longing for. It is very though, you even hear your phone ringing when no one is calling you!

We have had many bad news in these years as well as some good one. Bad news hit you like a stone in the head, they leave you stunned. You stand there, like in a coma,  unable to react for a few minutes until you rationalize what has happened. Then you realize that you need to react and you find the strength to fight back. You frame the problem, and quickly find a solution. It drains your physical energy and your soul. The good news are sadly not as powerful. They are just small achievements in comparison to the big picture. In the end, you need to believe in what you are doing and believe in yourself like never before. You can find the support of your loved ones, but the truth is that you are fighting with yourself and with your own emotions. You dream during the day; your venture becomes your dream and you no longer dream at night. If you are lucky, at night, you get good ideas that wake you up but rarely do you have sweet dream.

For those of you out there that are deciding whether to start your own company, I can only say – go for it! Enjoy the roller coaster ride! After all, the worst thing that could happen is that you learned the biggest and best lesson of your life.


Fresh Spaghetti Broccoli Leek Sausage Pinenuts

A vitamin and protein packed Pasta dish

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At dueminuti we are committed to bringing you the most delicious pasta dishes that value your health. We work  hard to ensure that even our sauces will provide you with your body’s nutritional needs. Our improved pasta formula, together with our sauces will satisfy the pickiest of the eaters without leaving anyone feeling guilty.

Try this recipe at home! Served with our improved pasta it contains 760 cal, 35 grams of proteins, 13 g of fibers and 50% of the daily recommended value of Vitamins A, 120% of the vitamin C and 130% of Vitamin K together with an incredible array  of minerals like Calcium , Iron, Manganese and Potassium. How about the “bad guys”? Only 25 g of fat with merely 3% of the recommended daily value of Cholesterol,  and only 32 % of the recommended Carbs! Not bad for a delicious pasta dish!

Serves 4 people (list of the ingredients at the end)

  1. Place a big pot of water on the stove, add salt and bring to the boil.
  2. Add the olive oil to a sauce pan on a medium heat. When the oil is hot add the sausage (skin removed), using a fork to separate the minced meat. Allow the fat to render and the meat to take on a nice golden color (about 1o minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, minced the garlic and prepare the leeks. Halve the white part of the leek length wise and unrolled to obtain a small sheet. Then, cut the sheets into long thin strips to form “leek spaghetti”.
  4. Remove the florets from the broccoli, halve each floret and set aside.  Minced the stalks of the broccoli.
  5. When the meat is nice golden brown, remove it with a slotted spoon and place it on the side. Discard half of the fat from the pan.
  6. Place the leek strips and the minced broccoli stalks in the pan and stir until become tender (about five minutes). Add the garlic, chilly flakes to your liking and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes more and then return the meat in the pan together with the vegetables.
  7. Add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan. Once the alcohol has evaporated,  add the bay leaves and cover with a lid.
  8. Blanch the broccoli florets in boiling water for two minutes and then shock in ice cold water.
  9. Place half of the broccoli in the pan with the leek and sausage and cook thoroughly (or for about 15 minutes). Reserve the other half of the florets.
  10. Place the pine nuts in a 150 ºC oven (300 ºF) to toast for 5 minutes. As long as they are laid out evenly they do not need to be turned.
  11. Put the spaghetti in the boiling water and gently stir to prevent sticking.
  12. When the pasta is al dente, remove it from the water and toss it together with the sauce. Add the remaining broccoli florets and the parmesan cheese and toss vigorously. If it is too dry add some pasta cooking water.
  13. To serve, divide the pasta among four warm plates and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.





Spaghetti, 400g  (3.5 oz.)

Tuscanian Pork Sausage, 200g  (7 oz.)

Garlic (minced), 20g  (3/4 oz.)

Leek (white part), 350g  (12 oz.)

Broccoli, 600g  (21 oz.)

Dry White Wine, 130g   (1/2 cup)

Parmesan cheese, 60g   (2 oz.)

Pine nuts, 20g   (3/4 oz.)

EVO, 30g   (1 oz.)

Black pepper

Chilly Flakes


Bay leaves


Truffle Fettuccine

Healthy Fettuccine with Black truffle from Norcia

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The day before departing for Seattle I decided to treat my family, in particular my father and my wife as they are real truffle lovers. “Fettuccine with Black Truffle of Norcia” was my way to say thank you to my family. Of course it was also an opportunity for me to test another innovative pasta formula with some picky eaters and a way to combine everything that I learned through my research in the previous month.

My father is gluten intolerant so I had to find a way to reduce gluten in the pasta. After various experiments I decided to stick with an ancient grain from Tuscany (2000 years old seeds have been found in the Tombs of Etruscans, a population that was living in central Italy before the Romans) with lower gluten content compared to modern varieties of wheat and an incredible nutty and sweet aroma, Quinoa flour and Teff flour. I sourced the best eggs I could find (I just asked my dad whether the hens laid any eggs that day and he returned with six still-warm eggs). The perfectly balanced olive oil from my garden was ideal, despite not containing the prized peppery flavor typical of the Tuscan olive oil produced in the Chianti region, as it does not overpower the flavors of the pasta.

The traditional proportion for an egg dough is one egg for every 100 g of flour. However, at Dueminuti we are committed to bringing you only the best of the Italian tradition. So in developing the final egg dough recipe, I kept track of the protein, fat, carbs and vitamins content of each ingredient. The scientist in me took charge and with the help of excel and a scale, I finally arrived, after a few attempts, at the perfect nutritionally balanced pasta recipe. I experimented with different flours, egg yolk and egg white combinations thinking about how the proteins of the egg white and the fats of the egg yolk affect the structure and texture of the pasta. In the end, a modern recipe that reproduces the silkiness and lightness of the traditional pasta recipe was born. The new recipe is derive from the Italian tradition not forgetting my grandmother’s lessons and the wisdom of all the grandmothers of Italy. Making a well in the flour with the fist, breaking the eggs inside the well, slowly incorporating the eggs with flours and finally kneading the dough with the palms of the hands and dancing with the dough using the whole upper body is what traditional pasta making is all about. My innovative egg dough follows exactly the same procedure but I used the scale to be sure that the ingredients are in the exact proportion.

The result was stunning. The dough sheet I made that day was one of the most fragrant I had ever came across. The color was vibrant, the texture was very light but with a lovely bite at the end, and the flavor was unmatched. The sweater and nuttier flavor of the ancient wheat grain perfectly masked the somewhat metallic taste of the Quinoa flour, the Teff imparts a nice yellow hue and added a bit of nuttiness to the flavor. Free range fresh eggs from my garden played a huge difference as well, which is why at dueminuti we are committed to using only the best eggs we can find.
The pasta cooks in thirty seconds and it did not lose a bit of its quality while sitting in the pan for the routine pictures,  and not even after the five minutes I spent trying to gather the family to the table as they were too busy playing with my six-month old nephew.

I personally cannot wait to bring the products we are developing at dueminuti to Seattle. We will come soon! Stay tuned!


The freshest egg ever.. the shell was still wet when we collect it..
The eggs sitting in the flour mixture.
Slowly incorporating the eggs with the flour
Slowly incorporating the eggs with the flour
adding some olive oil to increase the plasticity of the dough
adding some olive oil to increase the plasticity of the dough.
"Dancing" with the dough
“Dancing” with the dough.
Rolling the dough
Rolling the dough.
Paper thin sheet of pasta dough.
Fettucine on the making.
Fettucine on the making.
Lunch is almost ready.
Lunch is almost ready.
Town Castelluccio view

The Italian way to a great dish

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After having finish my PhD in January I took more flights than ever before in my life. Literally it was a flight a week: Seattle, Seoul, Seattle, Beijing, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur… recording a TV cooking show, setting up dueminuti, brushing up the remaining PhD work, visiting my Malaysian family… it was thrilling and exhausting.  I needed some time to stop and reflect. I had a chance to do that in March, when I spent 3 weeks in the comfort of my parent’s house in Tuscany, with my wife Janet and my family all reunited again. I had to go undergo a small surgery and I took the chance of the forced relax (aka convalescence) to rediscover my culture: I talked about food with whoever I met. The older, the better.

I took cooking classes from my grandmother as a way to understand classic Italian food… and of course to get some quality time with nonna :). She is certainly not an ordinary teacher and often doesn’t know why things are done in a certain way, but I could see in her methods the wisdom of centuries of knowledge. Dinners with my uncles family and my mom’s untie where others priceless moment of culinary wisdom exchange.

My wife and I went to discover the Umbria region. Our plan: to taste as many traditional food of the region as we could. Coratina (innards of the lamb slow cooked on a wood fire), Castellucio Lentils, Prosciutto DOP of Norcia, Black Truffle of Norcia, Pork Liver Sausage, Roveja, grilled lamb and the finest ricotta I have ever tasted in my life. We talked with the chef of each restaurant we had the pleasure to dine at, it was definitively a fantastic experience. A truly unforgettable memory was a meal in a restaurant in the small town of Castelluccio, an old borgo at 1400 m above sea level that surmounted a plain famous in the word for lentils. Everything we tasted was speaking of that country side. Dishes were so simple and at the same time so tasteful that you could almost feel the farmers’ energy behind each produce. Ricotta was of such a lightness that it was a blessing. The chef was definitively one of the best chef I ever met. There was no trace of her in her dishes: her best skill, a rare one among chefs, was to respect each ingredient, and let it shine for itself. I talked to her for quite a bit and I will never forget that the most common sentence she used was “I did not do anything special to that”. She told me where each ingredient was coming from, the story of each farmer behind a particular item and how every product would fit in her cuisine.

Taking only the best ingredient was her secret, respecting them was her skill. “The greatest dishes are very simple” used to say legendary chef Auguste Escoffier about 100 years ago. We couldn’t agree more.




The desk I set up as working space in my parent’s garden: the perfect place where to think.


Sunset from my hometown Castle.


An early breakfast in my parent’s house porch. A view that gave me new energy everyday.
Making bread has always been my way to recharge the batteries but making bread for my family in the wood fire oven brought everything to a new level.
Visiting the local butcher shop to order unusual meat part like sweetbread and spinal bone marrow.
Nonna’s wisdom..her way to make Tuscanian meat ragu’.
A simple dish that left me speechless, The cheeses arranged in a dubious presentation were simply stunning, the pairing with a Red wine from the Sportoletti winery in Spello was sublime.
A simple dish that left me speechless, The cheeses arranged in a dubious presentation were simply stunning, the pairing with the red wine from the Sportoletti winery in Spello was sublime.
A view of the Castelluccio's plain where the most amazing lentils are grown.
A view of the Castelluccio’s plain where the most amazing lentils are grown.
The town of Castelluccio view from the fields
The town of Castelluccio view from the fields below.