Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm Back From Italy and I May Never Eat My Own Cooking Again!

I apologize in advance for the screwy formatting of this post.  Just when I thought Blogger had its act together on such matters, it goes haywire on me again.

What a fabulous trip I had!  It exceeded my expectations in every way.  I could not have had a more perfect 10th anniversary celebration.  Everything was fabulous.  This post will be about the food, of course, but you can read more detailed stories of the trip here, or just look at the full set of photos.

During our trip we did not eat out.  When I first planned this trip, I was actually a bit sad about this.  Restaurants are one of the best ways to explore a foreign country.  I had little trouble getting over that disappointment once we arrived.  The food on this trip was fabulous in every way.  Each day was full of wonderful home-cooked food from the farmhouse kitchen cooked by our host, Sadio, or their housekeeper/cook Gioia.  Most of the food was local, often coming from their own kitchen garden. 

Any regular reader of this blog knows of how I have to cook around the delicate widdle tum-tum of my darling husband, Sir Pickypants.  I never know the whims of his digestive system and often things that should be on his "safe" list leave him complaining of tummy trouble.  On top of that he is prone to migraines and has to be careful about his consumption of alcohol.

Not once on this trip did he complain of an upset stomach or a headache.  He ate cheese daily.  He drank wine - red wine - with abandon.  We both ate bread and pasta, undoing months of trying to see how removing these things from our diets might benefit us.  We were never healtheir.  Every day we ate this fabulous food and had energy to spare for hours spent in the saddle. 

It makes me wonder exactly what is in my food here in the States.  What are we all eating?  How is it being prepared?  That's why I concentrate as much as possible on fresh food these days.  When you spend time eating real food, you understand just how bad processed food is for you.  Your body knows what it needs and tells you in the subtlest of ways sometimes.

Rather than go day-by-day as I often do with vacations, I'll just showcase our meals.


This was the simplest meal, eaten around the farmhouse table.  Every morning we had a selection of salame along with hard boiled eggs (often still warm).  We had homemade walnut bread daily with a selection of interesting jams.  There was cake as well and homemade yogurt.  Sometimes it was chocolate cake.  For two days we had a thin rustic cake topped with lemon curd. 

There was always a fruit bowl as well, served atop this charming table that had once been the farmhouse sink.

Always served with table wine, sometimes served with an aperitif.  On chilly nights we ate them by the fire. 


When we rode the full day we had picnics in the fields.  There was always a cold pasta dish such as penne with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, or bowties with pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes.  One time we had spicy couscous instead.  There were always fresh garden tomatoes and a selection of local cheeses to accompany them.  The wine flowed freely. 

The days we rode half of the day we had lunch on the club house patio. 

One day it was ribollita.  Another day it was gnocchi with pecorino sauce, followed by a homemade pizza covered in cauliflower, pecorino and olives. 

On the last day lunch was this.  What's this Scooby Doo box about?
Pizza!  We decided to try the local pizzeria.  Sadio set the table with cute themed plates and we had an accompaniment of zucchini carpaccio.  My pizza was covered in prosciutto while my companions tried a caprese pizza with cherry tomatoes and an artichoke pizza.  The pizza had a very thin crust and a very nice quality cheese.  I am still pretty loyal to NY pizza though.  Italy may have invented pizza, but NY perfected it!


There were always two courses at dinner.  The first course usually pasta, but sometimes it was other types of starch.

Spaghetti pomodoro, followed by a lovely mixed grill of ribs, sausage and chicken (this was on my first night and it was quite a welcome to have several of my favorite foods on one plate!). The fried potatoes were so crispy, but Gioia doesn't disclose her secrets on how she got them that way. Also on the side was some braised swiss chard. They don't add much seasoning to it, so they encourage us to pour lots of olive oil over it.

Bread is typical Italian bread made without salt. It's quite bland, but once you get used to it, you understand it's meant to be eaten with the salty foods on the table.


Chianti risotto followed by zucchini parimgiana (Sadio is a vegetarian and he tended to cook accordingly) and chick peas.  I like zucchini parmigiana more than eggplant parmigiana.  Then again, I like zucchini better than eggplant.

Lasagne Bianche with zucchini followed by free-range beef stew and white beans with more of those crispy potatoes.   Kevin had local chicken sausage, which he shared with me. 


Bowties with cauliflower and broccoli, followed by chicken saltimbocca. I had to apologize to Sadio about my issues with peas. He was cool with it and never cooked with peas again that week. (Our cauliflower pizza from lunch had olives on it and I had to explain that I wasn't fond of olives either. He said olives were, "big black peas." I think for the rest of my life I will refer to olives as "Big Black Peas.")


Fettuccini with cherry tomato sauce followed by thin and delicate frittate.  One was made with onion and one was made with potatoes.  We had white beans on the side.

Pasta in a simple sauce of garlic, oil, and parseley and then some stuffed turkey roulades.  The stuffing was made with eggs.

Our last night was a lighter meal of Pappa Al Pomordoro (tomato and bread soup) and then eggs baked with asparagus and tomatoes (tomato version not shown).  The potatoes were thinly sliced and roasted with parsley this time.

We teneded to just have things like store-bought ice cream, but sometimes we would have biscotti with vin santo (sometimes we had that for lunch too!). 

We did make sure to buy gelato when we had an afternoon in Siena though.  I had my favorite - nocciola (hazelnut).

How about some chestnuts literally roasted on an open fire?


This was a riding and wine-tasting tour, so we drank more than just the table wine served at meal times.

We joke that we drank wine with every meal except breakfast, but one day we came close to even having it for breakfast.  On our third day we rode to Arceno vineyards.  They sold mostly chianti wines with one more complex blend in the mix.  After tasting all four, I had trouble getting back on my horse.

Another day we went on foot to Castello Brolio.  This is the birthplace of Chianti wine . They have a much wider range of wines to try.  I went for a very robust chianti that day, while my husband stuck with an ice wine.

We rode to the organic vineyards of Pacina the next day.  They make a robust chianti, Collo Senese (named for the hills of Siena that surround them), a milder chianti, Secondo, named because it comes from younger vines less rooted in the soil, and a Syrah.  The Syrah grapes do surprisingly well in the dry, clay-like soil.  We were given a tour their cellars so we could see the winemaking process.

They gave us a bottle of Secondo for our picnic, which I loved.  We had a bottle of Collo Senese with dinner that night, which I found it a bit too oaky. 

After eating all of this fabulous food it really is hard to want to eat anything else.  It's a good thing I have this blog so I am always challenged to keep going in the kitchen.

Donatella saw my interest in the food with all of my photographs and such and said I should open a trattoria back home.  At many of the meals she ate with us, she would say, "You can use this recipe for your trattoria."  Not a bad idea, but it would be hard to make such a place fly in a country where people think the Olive Garden is the pinnacle of Italian cuisine.

 Buon Appetito Everyone!


Proud Italian Cook said...

Welcome Home! What a fabuolous trip, the food all looks outstanding, home cooked with love, the very best kind. What varity, I want it all!

Barb Spizzirro said...

Thanks for sharing Rach!! I am now officially starving and longing to be back in Tuscany!!

Barb Spizzirro said...

Thanks for sharing!! Now I am starving and awaiting a flight to Tuscany!!

Stacey Snacks said...

This food is better than any restaurant! I am gaining weight just looking at it! BEAUTIFUL!

I never get a headache from red wine while in France, but at home, I often do. Same goes for everything else. What is in the water here? That's why I don't drink it!
Welcome home!

The Blonde Duck said...

I WANT to go! IT sounds amazing!

Sue said...

Wowee! It really does sound like paradise. As far as no had THE REAL THING! What an amazing opportunity.

I remember after we came back from Napa, I couldn't cook for days. Nothing matched those ingredients...especially the vegetables. It must be triply true for Italy.

Thank you for posting that. I loved hearing about it all.

bellini said...

If you could see me now you would see me drooling over all of these delicious dishes, I can't wait to travel to Italy again!!!!So glad to had such a memorable tome!

Astra Libris said...

WOW!!! SO beautiful!!

Emily said...

Ewww Olive Garden. I strongly dislike that place.

All of the food looks amazing. In particular, the white zucchini lasagna, the gelato, and the chestnuts! Mmm. I'm so jealous of you!

How did you like the cauliflower on the pizza? I think that sounds kind of good.