Over the next three weeks, I will be traveling so I will share with you some old stories which I’m sure you will enjoy. I chose to start with the series Cooking Il Volo Style because not only do I tell you about foods from the regions the guys live in, I also tell you a little bit about the history of those regions.
I remember when I first wrote this series, a woman wrote to me to say that her husband enjoyed reading the histories so much that he finally is going to take her to Italy. It seems he made some connection with Piero and Ignazio’s stories since his family was from Sicily.

Originally, my decision to write about this was made when I read Daniela’s article on *The Support of Il Volo about the porticos of Bologna being nominated for recognition by UNESCO. I remembered that I did a series on Cooking Il Volo Style and, with Ignazio’s recipe, I spoke about the Portico of San Luca.

Of the three, Ignazio certainly is the cook!

Where did this love of cooking come from? None other than Nina! You will recall in Ignazio’s story he said, “Nina gave me a passion for cooking.”

Today we will be Cooking with Ignazio and we will make Ignazio’s own recipe for Chicken Marsala. We actually have a video of him making it.
But before we begin, I think we need a song by Ignazio! I always listen to the guys sing when I’m cooking! It makes the preparation exciting!

Ignazio was born in and lived as a child in the region of Emilia-Romagna in the city of Bologna.  A few years back, Ignazio took up permanent residence in Bologna. So, let’s start in Bologna where Ignazio was born. I decided to include a recipe from both the Emilia-Romagna region and the region of Marsala where Ignazio moved to when he was 10 years old.

In an article posted by il Resto del Carlino, Ignazio was asked: What do the arcades mean to you?
Ignazio replied: I have wonderful memories, the Sunday morning walks with the family, in the center under the porticos. And then Lucio Dalla always mentions the porticos in his songs, I think of ‘Le Rondini’. A great emotional value, as well as in Bologna I also lived in a small village, Molinella, where I remember under the porticos there was a lady who made fresh pasta. There we bought tortellini and then at night they were wonderful! If I could, I would always take long walks.
So, Tortellini it is!
Let’s begin with some history of Bologna where Ignazio was born and some history from Marsala where Ignazio moved to at the age of 10.

Bologna is a city in northern Italy that is about a one-hour drive north from Florence. Over the centuries, Bologna has acquired many nicknames: “La Grassa” (the fat) refers to its cuisine, in which the most famous specialties are prepared using rich meats (especially pork), egg pasta and dairy products, such as butter and Parmesan cheese.
To discover Bologna, we need to step back in time to the 6th century BC when it was known by the Etruscans as Felsina. It was one of the most important settlements in the Po Valley. Bologna has numerous archaeological remnants of an early civilization.
Eventually, Bologna fell to the Romans, a colony was set up and it was renamed Bononia. Its strategic position on the ancient Via Emilia Road gave it a certain prestige in the area. During the Roman occupation of Bononia it is believed that as many as 20,000 people lived there.
When the Roman Empire declined in the 5th century AD, so too did the city. The city was sacked and variously groups such as the Goths, the Huns, the Lombards and the Visigoths occupied it. Bologna’s fortunes declined but, it managed to slowly regain its former political and economic stability.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the city expanded and extended beyond the confines of its defensive wall. It was in the mid-18th century that the **Portico of San Luca was built.

The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is known for its porticos. In all the cities the shops are covered by porticos so you can shop in any weather. Entire blocks are covered by porticos. The most famous being the Portico of San Luca. 

The history is quite long but briefly, the portico was built to protect the painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus (which is believed to have been painted by St. Luke) as it is processed from the Basilica of San Luca on the top of the mountain to the Basilica of St. Peters in the city center. The Portico was built to protect the painting from the rain. This procession happens every May. The San Luca portico is the longest covered walkway in the world.
Let’s turn to Marsala where Ignazio moved to when he was 10 years old.
But first, before we head to Marsala, let’s make a stop in Naples to listen to Ignazio sing his Pino Daniele medley?

Marsala is a town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily.  It is built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city of Lilybaeum, and within its territory is the archaeological site of the island of Mozia, an ancient Phoenician town. (Mozia is a small island, formerly known as Motia and San Pantaleo in the Trapani province, in Sicily. It lies in the Stagnone Lagoon and is generally included as a part of the commune of Marsala.)
The Carthaginian army set out to conquer Selinunte in 409 BC and landed and camped near the site of the later Lilybaeum. In 397 BC when the Phoenician colony of Mozia on the southwestern coast of Sicily was invaded and destroyed by the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius I, the survivors founded a town on the mainland nearby, the site of modern-day Marsala, which they called by a Punic name meaning “Town that Looks on Libya.”

                             TEMPLE OF SELINUNTE
The First Punic Wars began here when the Punic army landed at Lilybaion in 265–264 BC, then marched across Sicily to Messina.
Many armies invaded but, with the arrival of Arabic Berbers at the nearby Granitola mount the rebirth of the town started. The town was renamed Marsala. The modern name, Marsala, likely derived from the Arabic (marsā llāh) “God’s Harbor.”
Since the end of the 11th century, the area has been conquered by Normans, Angevin and  Aragonese troops. During this time, Marsala became wealthy, primarily through trade. However the blocking up of the harbor of Punta Alga, decreed by Emperor Charles V to stop Saracen forays, brought an end to this period of prosperity.

The development of Marsala wine at the end of the 18th century, headed by English merchant John Woodhouse, from Liverpool, who exported the fortified wine, triggered an economic expansion in Marsala. Other English and Sicilian businessmen followed his example, and it was in fact one of these men, Joseph Whitaker, who began excavating and piecing together the history of Marsala.
On May 11, 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi landed at Marsala, beginning the process of Italian unification.
On May 11, 1943, in the lead-up to the World War II, the Allies invaded Sicily, and an Allied bombardment of the town permanently damaged its Baroque center and claimed many victims.
The history of Bologna and Marsala are long and rich and, it would take too long to talk about here. Take the time to look it up. It’s interesting!
Food and emotion go hand in hand, but nothing is more emotional than a song by Ignazio! So, before we start cooking let’s listen to a very emotional song!

Now to the recipe. The first recipe today is Tortellini with Pesto Sauce and I’m going to make this very easy for you.
Let’s start with a little inspiration! These pictures are for those ladies who just can’t get enough of Ignazio!

I had to include the following picture because the reaction to this picture when I posted it as the cover to my story “A Man of Passion and Emotion,” made all the ladies delirious! It certainly is a photo full of passion and emotion!  Thank you, Ignazio!!!

I think that’s enough inspiration!
Let’s start cooking!
Tortellini with Pesto Sauce 
Tortellini is a ring-shaped Italian pasta stuffed with cheese or meat that is most traditionally served in broth. For our recipe we are using Pesto Sauce but, many people make it with tomato sauce. It can also be made with a tomato sauce with mushrooms or meat. Tortellini originates from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and it is particularly associated with Bologna. (Just a note Pesto Sauce has pine nuts in it so, if you are allergic to nuts or tree nuts perhaps you shouldn’t eat this.)

Tortellini with Pesto Sauce.
Tortellini – there are different kinds of Tortellini. The most common is stuffed with cheese.
Pesto Sauce in a Jar (Pesto Sauce has pine nuts in it so, if you are allergic to nuts or tree nuts perhaps you shouldn’t eat this.)
Boil the water for the pasta. Add a handful of salt to the water. This will prevent the Tortellini from sticking together. When the water boils, throw in the Tortellini and follow the cooking instruction on the package.
For Pesto Sauce just open the jar and add it to the pasta. It is not necessary to heat. The hot pasta will heat it.

Now to Ignazio’s Chicken Marsala! It’s easy to make!
The ingredients are:
Chicken Cutlets (not too thinly sliced)
Marsala Wine
Olive Oil
Just a pinch of Cinnamon
In a frying pan add olive oil, salt, Marsala Wine (be careful when you add the wine because it is alcohol, and it could flare up) and a pinch of cinnamon. Keep the flame low until the Marsala is in the pan. Then slowly raise the flame but not too high. Dredge the cutlets in the flour and shake them off so you don’t have an excess of flour. When the liquid in the pan starts to bubble, carefully add the cutlets to the pan (you’ll see in the video when Ignazio added the cutlets, the liquid splashed back). Judge for yourself when it is done. Chicken cooks quickly.
Quick, easy, wonderful dinner! Don’t forget the wine. You can drink red or white wine with Tortellini and Chicken Marsala. In Sicily they drink many wines some from the De Bartoli Winery in Marsala. (I don’t know if we are related even though I know some members of my family went to Marsala in 1800 – 1850). I know everyone knows Cantine Fina, Kika’s family winery. For me it’s always Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. What can I say? My mother’s family is from Abruzzo!
With dinner there must be music! What could be better than Ignazio singing the very romantic “Quando l’amore diventa poesia?”

I know Ignazio would be happy if we tried this recipe which he made for the guys when they lived in LA.
Buon appetito!
For Ignazio, good food and family go together. The family’s Sunday dinners were an important part of their week. It was the one day every one could be together, go for a stroll and bring home some fresh pasta for dinner.
I hope you enjoyed Cooking with Ignazio! Before I end my story let me add one more song.
When asked if there was one song in the Morricone Tribute that Ignazio liked, he said, “I like them all but if I must choose it would be ‘Here’s to You’ because it is associated with a historical event!”

Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
If you would like to share a story with me, please email:
To read more Il Volo stories visit us at
*To read Daniela’s story, “The Support of Il Volo” about the porticoes of Bologna being nominated for recognition by UNESCO. Go to:
**If you would like to read more about the Porticos of San Luca go to: 
Credit to owners of all photos and videos.


  1. I love watching Ignazio cook. Chicken Marsala has always been a family favorite but since I saw Igna add that “pinch of cinnamon” I have added it too. It makes a tasty addition to an already fine dish. Just make sure you use a MArsala that you would drink and not that cooking wine stuff. The photos are tasty too.

  2. Thanks Susan! Great story and subject matter 😋, the history you added is like a cherry on top ❤️, but Ignazio as the main character is what makes me want to read it again and again. 😍

  3. Your superb educational writings add such depth of history to the Il Volo musical ambassadors of Italy as they mature. Il Volo enriches, revitalizes, refreshes & contemporizes the cultural image of Italy, Il Volo certainly romanticizes and revives the beauty of Italy; they modernize the entire old-fashioned snobbier Opera world. We not only fall in love with Il Volo’s musicality, beauty, and depth of character, but consequently fall in love with Italy via your very educational writings. Thank you so much.

  4. Susan, I also like the recipe. Amazing that Ignacio, with his golden voice, can also cook!

  5. Thanks Susan for this article showing us different aspects of our guys. I loved to see Ignazio prepare Chicken Marsala for the guys while in the USA back in 2013 – didnt-t know he was capable of that at this young age and so far from home :-). And – stupid me – did never relate the dish Chick Marsala to Italy or rather Sicili – I always thought it was some kind of a spicy Indian dish not to my liking. Ha ha – I did never link lthe Marsala wine with this dish… Now I would like to try it out. Thanks Ignazio. Susan, please keep your interestin articles flow along – I enjoy reading them all.
    Warm and sunny regards from Copenhagen, Denmark. Kirsten

    1. Ignacio probably learned to cook to give Nina a break when she had to be the mother of the family for awhile.

      1. He he I did only realize the other day when reading this article. How stupid, as in fact I am rather familiar with the Marsala wine which I do often use in Tiramisu. But I did never think of using it in the sauce for a chicken Marsala. So I was confused when reading it, as I thought Susan meant Chicken Tikka Masala (which I don’t appreciate due to the foreign spices of the Far East cuisine). My son told me today that Masala means herbs/spices in the Indian language. And well, the names are spelt differently – the Marsala with r is the wine and Masala the spice. Now I have learned my lesson and will try to make Chicken Marsala in the near future. Thanks for making us aware.

  6. Must try cooking that chicken marsala, even if only for one!!! But, what do I do with the remainder of the wine???? Not a red wine drinker, but will probably find someone who would like it.

    1. Don’t worry about the left over wine. It is a sweet dessert wine and is also perfect when making Tiramisu. For Tiramisu you can use either Amaretto or Marsala (or even Vino Santo). Enjoy!

    2. There are many recipes that call for a bit of wine. The alcohol evaporates and you are left with the flavor. Try putting it in stews and some soups and your pasta sauce!

  7. Thank you so much for your beautiful articles they’re so interesting. I so enjoy learning more about Italy and about our beloved Illivolo members. Your writing is very wonderful and I can see how much effort and research goes into them. I have been following this group for quite some time and they only continue to amaze me more. Honestly I can’t understand anybody who loves music wouldn’t love this group. They are truly a gift. I hope they are always close love each other and make music together.

Leave a Reply