Recipes from "Under the Tuscan Sun" author Frances Mayes

In 1990, American professor and poet Frances Mayes felt an irresistible urge to buy a derelict 300-year-old property in Tuscany, transforming it into one of the most famous villas in in the world, thanks to her international bestselling memoir, "Under the Tuscan Sun." That was followed by more books extolling the beauty and traditions of her adopted village of Cortona – not to mention the food.

Mayes, who is profiled by correspondent Rita Braver on a special edition of "CBS Sunday Morning" May 19, offers some delicious dishes to our viewers.

Eggplant Involtini, from "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen" by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes. Steven Rothfeld/Clarkson Potter

Eggplant Involtini

Mayes writes: "Italians love the involtini concept – something filled and rolled. I experimented with this idea, since I had a nice firm and gigantic eggplant. For this dish, choose the brick-shaped part-skim mozzarella, because it has less moisture. For beauty, tie the involtini with chives."

Eggplant Involtini
Serves 8

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the parchment
1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into 8 slices
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1½ teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
8 tomatoes or 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, almost drained of liquid, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
8 slices prosciutto
8 slices mozzarella
1 ounce (¼ cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Oil a parchment-lined baking sheet pan.

Clarkson Potter

Place the eggplant slices on the pan and brush on both sides with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle on the oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake 10 minutes, turning once. They will then be supple.

While the eggplant is in the oven, make a simple tomato sauce by whirring the tomatoes briefly in a food processor. In a medium skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion for 2 to 3 minutes in the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Stir in the tomatoes and cook the mixture briefly, just to blend flavors, about 2 minutes.

Remove the eggplant from the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF.

On each eggplant piece, place a slice of prosciutto and a slice of mozzarella. Roll the pieces from the small end forward, and secure the neat little bundle with a toothpick or by tying a chive around it.

Slather the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with some tomato sauce, and arrange the involtini seam side down. Over each bundle spread some more sauce and a scattering of the Parmigiano. Warm well in the oven, about 15 minutes. Finito!

From "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen" by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes. Copyright 2012. Published by Clarkson Potter.  Reprinted with permission. Available in Hardcover and eBook formats via Amazon.

Steak With Olives

Mayes' latest book, "See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy," features a selection of recipes discovered during the author's travels through the country. One dish comes from Perugia-born chef Silvia Baracchi, who hails from a family of restaurateurs, and whose Tuscany restaurant, Il Falconiere, was awarded a Michelin star.

Mayes writes: "Silvia Baracchi, starred Michelin chef, has a genius for using local ingredients in stunning new ways. I have made this with veal chops and with filet mignon. All good."

Vitello Scottato con Pomodoro Verde in Olio Extravergine d'Oliva ed Erbette Aromatiche
(Steak With Olives, Herbed Green Tomatoes, and Pickled Red Onions)
Serves 4

4 cups kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
4 boneless rib steaks, cut 1½ inches thick
Extra-virgin olive oil, QB*
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, QB*
3 green tomatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges
3 cloves garlic, slivered
2 to 3 Tablespoons freshly chopped herbs of your choice: parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano
Pickled red onions (recipe below)

*QB (quantobasta, or "enough, up to you")


Preheat the oven to 175°F.

Spread the olives on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake them for at least 4 hours or overnight, until they are dried out but not burned. Let cool, then transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.


Trim excess fat from around the steaks. Brush lightly with olive oil. Season the meat lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Press the ground olives onto both sides of the steak to coat completely. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before cooking.

In a bowl, toss the green tomato wedges with ¼ teaspoon salt and a generous grind of pepper, the garlic, herbs, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Line a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) with parchment paper. Pour in 3 tablespoons olive oil and set over medium-high

heat until hot. Add the steaks and sauté for 1¼ to 2 minutes on each side until nicely browned. Transfer to the oven. Roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until the meat is rare to medium-rare.

Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Do not tent.

While the steak roasts, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the green tomatoes, their juices, the garlic, and the herbs. Sauté over medium-high heat until they are softened but still hold their shape, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, cut the steak against the grain into thick slices. Arrange on plates with alternating layers of the sautéed green tomatoes and pickled red onions.

Pickled Red Onions

¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
2 medium-size red onions, thickly sliced


In a medium-size saucepan, combine 4 cups water with the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the red onion slices and simmer for about 3 minutes, until the onions are just softened but still hold their shape.

Transfer the onions to a glass container. Let the brine cool slightly, then pour over the onions. Marinate for at least 30 minutes before using. If you have extra, let cool. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

From "See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy" by Frances Mayes. Copyright © 2019 by Frances Mayes. Published by Crown. Reprinted with permission. Available in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats via Amazon.