It was on a sojourn to Puglia, in the secluded heel of Italy’s boot, that Collette Dinnigan finally kicked off her own shoes. The designer has spent much of this year working from a temporary residence in Rome, conjuring everything from luxury apartments to a new children swear line for Aldi, but when summer beckoned she and her brood escaped to a tranquil farmhouse in the south. For two weeks, Dinnigan, her husband Bradley Cocks, daughter, Estella, 12, and son, Hunter, 4, unwound within the centuries-old walls of Masseria Potenti. The rustic estate, located in the countryside of Manduria, is dotted with olive trees, scented with myrtle, rosemary and jasmine, and blessed with a kitchen and cooking school that turns out Pugliese cuisine as sensational as it is traditional. “I just loved the idea of being in a small, family-run hotel where the food came from their own garden,” says Dinnigan, who invited delicious. to join her for a recent lunch. “It’s simple but fantastic fare, and everything from the chilli jam to the orecchiette is made by hand.”
The ‘cucina povera’ recipes on these pages make produce, rather than technique, the star. Dinnigan speaks rapturously about her affection for Puglia’s zucchini, broccoli, ricotta, mozzarella, red prawns and anchovies. “The anchovies are bought at the market that morning, marinated for six hours and served as an antipasto on the same evening,” she says. Living in Italy has afforded her a new appreciation for seasonality and regionality. “If you fall in love with something, like artichokes, it’s devastating because they’re gone so quickly.” Yet a stream of delicacies, such as porcini mushrooms, tempt her anew.
In Rome, she tends to cook for her family and friends on weekends. At a nearby organic market, she is constantly floored by the affordable prices. “I come away after spending 50 euros and we’re eating like kings and queens for two days,” she says. All the more reason to invest in vintage linen, ceramics and glassware discovered at artisans around the country. As her Italian odyssey comes to a close, Dinnigan is already plotting a return. In fact, she is determined to buy and redesigned a string of masteries. “We’ll probably collect a few, and rent them out,” she says. Airbnb, meet your new competition.
Collette Dinnigan’s second children swear collection for Aldi debuts October 19.