Franceschetta 58, Modena

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We rented a car on our second day in Bologna and I got a crash course in how the Italians drive, i.e. a bit crazy, but it was fun too.

The car took us to Modena, the city most famous for balsamic vinegar and the second best restaurant in the world right now; Osteria Francescana.

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We were sadly not lucky enough to nab one of the twelve tables there, despite being waitlisted for every meal, so I guess we’ll just have to come back. I would sooo like to try Massimo Bottura’s iconic cooking.

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But when I researched restaurants in Modena I discovered that chef Bottura has another restaurant in town; the much more low key Franceschetta 58, so that’s where we had lunch. They only serve a buffet for lunch, but it was very very good. I would have liked to try the a’la carte as well though, so I need to come back here one evening.

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The buffet had both a cold and a warm section. The cold section (above) contained charcuterie, parmesan, bread, salads and cakes for pudding.

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I tried most things from the cold buffet and everything was excellent. The charcuterie was very nice, just like the aged Parmesan. I also got to try proper ricotta (light years away from what we can buy in a packet at Waitrose), and it was mild but salty and very fluffy in texture. The salads were also very good and I especially enjoyed the one with bitter leaves, pears and crutons but also liked the one with farro, feta and courgette.

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The hot dishes the staff plated for us. We had the pasta as primi and then came back for the main courses.

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Both pasta dishes were amazing! The spaghetti hoops to the left (does anyone know the proper name for this pasta shape?) with speck, walnuts and endive was very earthy in flavour and very nice. But the orecchiette with salsiccia and tomato sauce was out of this world. I still dream about it; it was that good.

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The main courses were great too. I absolutely loved the beef stew with cream and mustard (top right) and the sweet roasted vegetables. The potato purée was heavenly creamy and the pork stew with an undefined bitter vegetable was nice too.

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There were two types of cake for pudding, one with chocolate and nuts that was rather dry in texture and not really my thing, but Caroline liked it. I preferred the other one with apple and pears.

If you find yourself in Modena I urge you to go here. It’s one of the best buffets I’ve ever had. And although it’s simple cooking and not extravagant in any way it’s done very very well. It’s also very good value for money; all of this gorgeous food only cost €17!

Franceschetta 58, Via Vignolese, 58, 41124 Modena, Italy

Clams with sherry and potatoes

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Seafood for me is Friday food. Probably because we had Atlantic prawns every Friday of my childhood (it’s pretty normal in Sweden, actually). First of course, because it’s yummy and, second, it doesn’t take long to prepare, which is why my mother thought (and still thinks) it’s the ultimate way to start the weekend.

These clams with cream, sherry and potatoes are just amazing as a Friday evening dish. Serve with bread and maybe some aioli if you want a more elaborate meal. For me, this and a glass of bubbly is all I need.

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Clams with sherry and potatoes, serves 2

500 g clams

3 medium potatoes

a knob of butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

50 ml dry sherry

100 ml cream

salt & pepper

chopped parsley

Peel and cube the potatoes. Boil until soft, approx 15 minutes. Drain. 

Rinse the clams in a colander and discard any clams not closing. Melt the butter in a saucepan and fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat without browning. Add the sherry and let some of it evaporate. Add the cream and then the clams. Put the lid on and wait for a minute or two. Check that the clams have opened. (If not, put the lid on for another minute.) When the clams have opened, season the sauce and add the potatoes. Scatter with parsley and serve immediately.