By Gay París


Who wouldn’t love to sit in the sun at an outdoor café in Italy sipping a chilled glass of wine and eating a favorite Italian dessert?  Coleen Kirnan, owner and host of Tuscan Women Cook, the unique and popular culinary vacation resort located in the heart of Tuscany, brings the cuisine and culture of this delightful region to home kitchens with her cookbook, Tuscan Women Cook: Nonnas ▪ Memories ▪ Recipes 

The cookbook celebrates the generational recipes shared by the nonnas of Montefollonico during the week-long Tuscan Women Cook culinary program.

“The Tuscan Women Cook cookbook is a collection of delicious, shared family recipes from our beautiful nonnas and the wonderful restaurants of Tuscany. But it also contains favorite memories associated with cooking and our glorious days spent in Montefollonico,” Coleen says. “Most of these dishes were created centuries before we ever tasted them, refined by each generation of family cooks who adjusted the ingredients to the agricultural and technological changes that inevitably took place with each new branch of every family’s tree.”

Tiramisù, one of Italy’s most popular desserts, is usually made with espresso as a key ingredient. Tiramisù translates to “pick me up,” due in no small part to the surge of caffeine that comes with every creamy bite.

Tuscan Women Cook presents a tiramisù recipe that replaces coffee with fresh strawberries and Alchermes, a bright crimson Italian liqueur, which is still made today by the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy in Florence with the exact same recipe formulated back in 1743. It is infused with a variety of common spices, along with the most unusual ingredient, dried insects, which contributes to its vivid scarlet color.  If you want to leave out the Alchermes you can.  The recipe will still be authentically delicious without it. Instead, substitute Fragoli wild strawberry liqueur or Chambord.

Strawberry Tiramisù

Serves 8

Guests of Tuscan Women Cook love this strawberry tiramisù served at Ristorante 13 Gobbi in Montefollonico. It’s become a house specialty as a result of a partnership the restaurant forged with an organic strawberry farmer near their restaurant. Strawberries are in peak season right now.


For the cream: 

500g mascarpone cheese, room temperature

500ml heavy cream

5 egg yolks

3/4 cups granulated sugar


For the strawberries: 

2 1/2 cups of strawberries, chopped

1/3 cup Alchermes liqueur,* Fragfoli wild strawberry liqueur or Chambord

1 tablespoon sugar

2-3 tablespoons rum

1 cup orange juice

1 box dry ladyfingers (Pavesini brand preferred**)


Put the strawberries, Alchermes liquor, sugar, rum, and orange juice in a bowl. Set aside. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks, sugar, mascarpone, and heavy cream on medium speed for 5-10 minutes, until creamy.

In a small bowl, strain the strawberries and keep the juice in a separate bowl. Dip the ladyfingers in the juice (a quick dip, you don’t want them to be soggy), and arrange cookies on bottom of a baking dish.

Cover with half the cream mixture, then cover with the chopped strawberries, repeat cookies for another layer, and cover with remaining cream mixture.

Decorate it top with strawberries just before serving and dust with powdered sugar. Chill for 2-3 hours before serving. It can stay chilled for up to 2 days.

* Alchermes is a scarlet-colored Italian liqueur made by infusing neutral spirits with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla, and other herbs, and Kermes, a small parasitic insect.

** Pavesini ladyfingers may be difficult to find in stores. However, they are readily available online. Other brands may be substituted.



Filled with beautiful photos of Montefollonico and recipes, chapters in Tuscan Women Cook cookbook cover Starters, Soups, Pasta, Meat, Vegetables, Desserts, and Drinks. Want a taste of Tuscany without renewing your passport? Tie on an apron and try delicious and authentic recipes that have been handed down from generations of the best family cooks in Montefollonico, Italy.


Recipe and photo reprinted with permission of from the Tuscan Women Cook cookbook.