Saturday, October 3, 2009

The art of Italian cooking

Happy anniversary to us - 28 years we celebrate today!

We had very little planned for today - maybe a drive this afternoon. But this morning, well, this morning we are learning to make and cook pasta the Italian way, courtesy of our hostess Sarah.

At 10:30 am Michael and I and another three young Italians staying here join Sarah in her commercial kitchen, don aprons and get ready to get busy! She begins by telling us that there are few hard and fast rules to making pasta and that there is never such a thing as a correct measure because it depends so much on the flour, or the eggs that you are using.

We begin with strong O flour and semolina flour, a little olive oil, salt and for some of us, an egg. The semolina flour is mounded on the marble kitchen top in front of each of us, we make a depression in the centre, add oil and salt, then slowly add water and begin to work the flour in, adding water bit by bit all the time while keeping our right hand busy drawing the flour in.
We work all the flour in and then begin to knead - "not with the fingertips", Sarah instructs, "use the ball of your hand. Draw and push, not too hard", she admonishes. Easy for her to say - she does this every day - literally! She uses a variety of pasta in the prima patti course she serves every night.

Before long, the pasta dough is ready. Far from it being something relaxing, it takes too short a time! We are kept busy using both a pasta machine and doing it totally by hand (my lot!). We make spaghetti, tagliatelle and parpadelle, ravioli, tortellini, cheppo (cigarette shaped) and potato gnocchi. The tortellini had a chicken filling and the ravioli was filled with ricotta cheese, truffles and grated fresh nutmeg. We made a raddichio sauce for the cheppo and a tomato and speck sauce for the tagliatelle.

All too sudden our 3 hrs time in the kitchen was done and we set the table for a shared lunch. Gosh it was so good! I asked Sarah how long she lets the pasta dry before she cooks it. Her reply - "I don't!! Remember, no rules!" Gosh, great fresh pasta, crusty Italian bread and San Gervaise red wine - there is a God and she lives in Umbria!!!!

Bugger the drive - after lunch I retire with a book and a pillow!

Ahh it is very good to be having a couple of days relaxing and the beautiful countryside around us is encouraging quiet and contemplation. The view out over the countryside just echoes the silence and peacefulness.

Then as dusk falls, the most beautiful sunset casts its wash over the hills across the valley. It is easy to see why people like Sarah and Alessandro have traded their former lives to be in places such as this, doing what they love

Dinner tonight consists of an antipasti plate of hard and soft cheese, tiny figs and huge grapes, plus a light savoury pastry, cheese and olive slice. This is followed by gnocchi with broad beans and then slices of beef olive with roasted eggplant and tossed salad leaves and we finished with a ricotta and chocolate chip tart. OMG! And I know that today I have eaten far too much - especially carbs! Thank goodness we do not do it every day.

No comments: