Tuscany – Day 3 – Bread and pasta and so much more!

This morning we set out with our host, Francesca, for what was to be a wonderful day of learning, eating and laughing!

Along the way we learned about an earthquake that struck the region 5 years ago.  Some buildings sustained considerable damage.  In some cases (Francesca and Paulo’s local church for example) there are insufficient funds to repair buildings so they have been stabilized, but not repaired. In other cases, like a tower in a nearby village, the repairs have just been completed recently.

We stopped into a small, but well stocked grocery store and a local news vendor. The news vendor is a family operation. The mom of the family also does ceramics in an attached room.  These are beautiful creations – we bought oil ad vinegar decanters!

We continued along the road and stopped for cappuccino at 11am.  “It is almost mandatory to have cappuccino at 11”, said Francesca. Neither off us had any problems with this requirement!

Our next stop was a local, artisan bakery with a difference. La Marocca di Casola is owned and operated by Fabio Bertolucci who produces bread made from chestnut flour. The bread is deep brown with a sweet nutty taste. We’ve been told that it’s the perfect breakfast when spread with ricotta and honey!  We also learned that the delicious honey in our lodging is chestnut honey.  It has a very distinct, lovely flavour.

Faabio was very happy to answer all our questions, as long as they weren’t about details regarding the recipie.  He did tell us that the bread contains chestnut flour, wheat flour, potato (which keeps the bread softer for longer) and an active yeast culture.

From the bakery we moved along to our final destination or the day, the farm of Sylvia and Carlo Pozzoi.

Silvia and Carlo are terrific people who participate in Agri-tourism – that is they a working farm (olives primarily) and host people for cooking events and/or accomodations (they rent two or three units), etc.  Their place is even further up the mountain than where we are staying so the view is fantastic+! It’s a lovely property where they welcome you warmly and you are free to wander and relax.

After some relaxing time outside, we went inside to cook!

There were two recipies:

Pasta – 1 egg to 100 g flour plus a tiny bit of salt (there may be need for a few drops of water to which white wine may, or may not, have been added)

All’amatriciana sauce for the pasta. The sauce is from the village of Amatrice, in Lazio region. Another simple recipie with a few more ingredients (these according to Carlo who was the master sauce maker of the day). According to online sources this particular sauce may or may not have onion, etc. Like so many things of this sort there are likely as many recipies as there are families in the region from which it comes.  At any rate, this particular combination was delicious!

For the sauce:

Tomatoes (there was a lot of tomatoes) cooked then put through a ‘potato ricer’ – the kind with the handle that goes around. Use a fitting with holes just small enough to keep back the seeds – medium on the one he used. Cook them down in their own juices – “NO oil” according to Carlo. Add one medium white onion, on carrot, one stick of celery, a little basil and two bay leaves. Simmer.

Pork cheek cut into small pieces. Fry in pan until rendered and crisping. Add some white wine to barely cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the meat. Keep the liquid.

To finish – add tomato sauce to the pan with reserved frying liquids. Simmer.  Add the meat. Simmer – but no too long, you don’t want the meat to go soft.

Pasta – cook in well salted water. When almost done, add to the sauce and finish cooking in the sauce over heat. This will ensure the sauce adheres to the pasta.

Serve!

We were eight in total who ate together, including a journalist from Australia.  We talked about food, learned the right way to eat ravioli (one in your mouth, one on the fork, looking at one on your plate – thank you Francesca!), laughed, talked more, ate, drank some wine, then continued with a second course of Swiss chard & pecorino ‘cake’ (sort of like the Greek spanakopita) and finished with a fruit crisp and ice cream.  We then retired to the veranda for some espresso and a nice relaxing time to sit and enjoy the beautiful view!

We thank Francesca for arranging this, and Silvia and Carlo for teaching us and hosting us!  We look forward to pizza with them tomorrow night!!Q

Tuscany – Day 3 – Bread and Pasta and so much more!