* Marina Midolo with her new earthenware pots.
A Sicilian cook is ditching plastic packaging to launch a new range of classic Italian meals contained in reusable pottery dishes.
Marina Midolo, 51, will be unveiling her authentic lasagne made with homemade pasta at Llangollen Food Festival on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.
She set up her kitchen at her smallholding in Cyffylliog, near Ruthin, with the help of a development grand from Denbighshire County Council.
Initially, Marina concentrated on producing Italian sweets, cakes and savouries which are on sale at delicatessens, community shops and hotels across the region.
Now Marina is looking to expand her product range but wants to ensure there is no plastic packaging or anything else about her products that could harm the environment.
So she and her partner Peter Lamb have come up with the idea of a new reusable pottery dish that can be refilled with new meals or returned and the deposit paid at the time of purchase returned to the customer.
The idea is very much in the development stage but Marina, who grew up watching her mum and grandmother cook in Catania, Sicily, says she will be ready to launch her first pottery dish lasagne meal at this year’s Llangollen Food Festival.
It will be her second visit to the popular event which has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK.
Marina said: “Last year’s festival was fantastic and a real springboard that helped me get my Italian sweets, cakes and food business better known.
“My idea is to launch a new lasagne meal at this year’s festival. The meal will be prepared by me and will be sold uncooked.
“Customers can buy a pot which they then put in an oven at home for around 30 minutes and then eat the lasagne straight from the earthenware pot.
“The dish can then be returned to the point of purchase for the deposit to be refunded or the customer can keep the pot. But the main thing is there is simply no plastic packaging involved.
“We want to take it things back 50 years or more before we began blighting the environment with plastic waste.”
She added: “The biggest problem I face is how to seal the pots as I don’t want to have to cover the pots with a plastic film. However, we have found a food friendly sealant that we can use to seal the lids in place and keep the uncooked food fresh.
“The lasagne will be oven ready and made with my own homemade pasta. It will be a true lasagne made using only the finest herbs and in the traditional Italian way. Let’s just say it won’t be an Anglicised version of an Italian classic!
“Once I’ve tried and tested the lasagne then I’ll look at other dishes, traditional Italian stews and casseroles. Each will be prepared and will just need popping in the oven for 30 minutes.”
And Marina says after several experiments she has now agreed on the shape and design of her pots which will be produced by Anvil Pottery which is based in Llanrhaeadr, near Denbigh.
She said: “It’s even possible the pots could be made from clay from our own farm. We have been digging a new wildlife pond and we are testing the clay to see if it’s suitable.
“The main thing is to ensure we add absolutely no plastic waste into the environment. The idea will be customer led, if people like the idea and are happy to use and return the pots then it will be fantastic. Of course some may want to keep the pots and use them in their own kitchens.
“Currently, my Italian cakes and sweets are on sale in delicatessens and community shops in Llangollen, Ruthin, Mold, Rhuddlan and Chester.
“I’m sure once I’ve launched the idea at the Llangollen Food Festival then community shops and deli’s will sell the lasagnes around the region. My butcher Stan Jones of Ruthin has agreed to sell my dishes from his shop.
“And we are even thinking of beginning to make our own cheese. We are contemplating having a goat herd and use goat milk to make our own Italian style cheese.
“That could be my next project but I want to launch the non-plastic earthenware pots first at the Llangollen Food Festival and I’m sure the idea will prove popular.
“I’m just so looking forward to exhibiting at the Llangollen Food Festival again. I have been attending a few food festivals but Llangollen is a favourite.
“It’s got a great atmosphere and a fantastic range of products on display. I loved it last year and I’m excited about this year’s event.”
Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phill Davies says the event is the perfect launchpad for Marina’s classic Italian lasagne served in an environmentally friendly pottery dish.
He said: “It’s a brilliant idea and I’m sure visitors to this year’s food festival will support Marina’s plastic free initiative.
“It’s such a simple idea but one that should be taken seriously. We all need to think more about plastic waste and the damage we are doing to the environment and this idea perfectly addresses the waste plastic issue.
“And of course Marina’s customers also get to taste the authentic taste of classic Italy too.”
He added: “This is what the Llangollen Food Festival is all about, new innovative ideas and products and the opportunity to try some amazing dishes and products that our exhibitors bring to Llangollen.”
* For more information about the Llangollen International Food Festival please visit www.llangollenfoodfestival.com