Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Nidi di Rondine (Swallows' Nests) + Stone Mothers #FoodieReads

Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly* was our Lit Happens Book Club pick this month.  Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm led the online discussion. Cooking isn't part of that club, but as she and I often find inspiration in what we read, I ran with it.

Wendy wrote:  "As you finish this novel, please feel free to chime in on discussion. I have several things I want to talk about.
1. Life Long Secrets
2. Life in a Small Town
3. Mental Illness
4. Relationships

5. Looking at Life with other eyes."

All great discussion points. And I look forward to hearing more from the gals in the group.

Wendy posed some though-provoking questions, including: "Treatment for Mental Illness has come a long way. Were you shocked by the things they believed were "illnesses" in the past? Not wanting children. Wanting a career. Wearing pants. Being "unfeminine". Do you think ECT ever worked? Do you think Greenlaw suffered mental illness? Do you think that Honor's illness is being properly treated? Do you think that mental illness is still greatly misunderstood?"

And "Relationships are funny things. Do you have any relationships that you retain due to unusual circumstances? In Marianne and Jesse's case, they had different reasons for holding onto the relationship. Do you think Marianne had any relationships in her life that were completely honest? Do you think this dishonesty maintained or weakened her relationships?"

On the Page

I start with this: when I turned that final page, I actually said, "Eeehhhhh." Out loud. I'm glad I was able to participate in Wendy's discussion, but this book seemed much more successful as an idea than in execution. Sadly, I find that true in so many books these days.

In case you're wondering, the title of the book comes from the fact that the Victorians used to call their mental hospitals 'Stone Mothers. The book is divided into parts with three narrators at three different periods in time. The first section follows Marianne, told by her first person point of view, as a 40-something wife and mother looking back on her teenage years. The second section is told from Helen's point of view, but as an observer, so third person point of view. And, then, we have Honor who is Marianne's daughter telling her story from a first person point of view.

I wanted to like this book, but its pacing was glacial-slow and I didn't really care for the characters.

Nidi di Rondine Swallows' Nests
Nidi di Rondine, literally 'swallows' nests', are a stuffed pasta dish from San Marino. Traditionally the nests are filled with beciamela sauce and topped with cooked ham and some fontina cheese. That's it. I took some culinary liberties, adding in leeks, greens, and ricotta cheese. The boys all declared this dish as 'red book-worthy.' Sweet!

I started thinking that I would make lasagna, as that's the dish that Marianne was making for a family dinner. "The lasagna I made from scratch bubbles in the oven and I'm crushing Mum's yellow pill to put in her yogurt when the kids bring the house back to noisy life. Jack, bumfluff beard and long hair up in a man-bun, dumps a stack of books on the kitchen table; he's doing all three sciences at A level. He wants to be an engineer like his dad. Maisie's hair is wet from swimming and she won't meet my eye" (pg. 58).

Then I shifted to Nidi because I liked the 'swallow' part of this dish. And I know it's about the bird swallow, but I felt that Marianne got swallow-ed by her past; Jesse was swallow-ed by his need for retribution; and more. You get the idea. Corny? Perhaps, but this was delicious.

  • 1 package lasagna noodles 
  • 1 C beciamela sauce* (directions below)
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 C pancetta, cubed
  • 1/2 C whole milk ricotta
  • 2 C mixed greens (I used baby kale, baby spinach, and baby chard)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 C marinara sauce
  • 1 C shredded parmesan cheese, divided in half

*Beciamela Sauce
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 C milk
  • salt to taste

Melt butter in a small saucepan and add the flour. Whisk to create a roux. Pour in the milk. Keep whisking until sauce thickens. Season with salt to taste.

Cook just a couple of lasagna pieces at a time in salted boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on kitchen towels.

Saute the leeks and pancetta in a small skillet until the leeks are softened and beginning to turn translucent. Fold that into the ricotta with the greens, and 1/2 C shredded parmesan. Season with some salt, pepper, and the parsley.

To Assemble
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with the marinara sauce.

Lay a lasagna noodle on a cutting board or plate. Place 1 T of filling in the top left corner. Fold the lasagna noodle in half length-wise, covering the filling. As tightly as you can, roll the noodle to the right, creating a cylinder that's open at the top. Place the nest, fold-side, down on top of the marinara sauce.

Repeat until you run our of noodles or run out of space in your pan.

Spoon the beciamela sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The noodles will be soft and some of the parmesan shreds with be crisped. As I said, this was a hit! We will definitely make this again.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

Click to see what everyone else read in September 2019: here.


  1. I'm finishing reading this book right now!

  2. I'm made the lasagna. I haven't posted it yet but plan on doing so before Abruzzo day as that is my pairing.


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