I have to apologize for being absence the last couples of weeks, I was in Italy enjoying the Italian life, wine and food with my handsome hubby. I’m just going to mention seasonal food, daily fresh markets for bread, meat, seafood and fruits and veggies, truffles, olive oil, wine, gelato and always real silverware, plates and glass for eating and drinking (I’m not going to mention the designer shopping and all the sights. Of course, we did those things as well!). This is not a place where you get Styrofoam and plastic utensils! Completely awesome. Now that we’re back and I hope to share some of our wonderful experiences with you.
Italy certainly lives up to its reputation of food, family and wine. The lifestyle and the people seduced us completely. Get up early, down time in the middle of the afternoon and back out late to enjoy the evening. My favorite times in both Florence and Rome was either late at night when most of the tourists had vacated the sights or early in the morning as the sun was popping up. We could actually enjoy hanging out, admiring the beautiful works of art without fear of being ran over by tour groups or being asked to move as not to ruin someone’s picture. It was also when the locals were out. We rode a carousel at midnight in Florence. How cool is that?!!!
It is possible to have bad food Italy. We learned quickly to stay away from the tourist area restaurants. The food just lacked so much in quality and taste from the real food of Italy, not to mention was so much more expensive and the service was terribly rude. But get a few blocks away from those areas and the food, service and people were so completely different. It was the same in both Florence and Rome.
We even took the time to get to a pasta making class with Chef David of A Cooking Day in Rome, whose my hubby’s favorite quote from is “You look at me.” The comment rang out several times over the evening as enthusiastic people jumped into making their pasta dough without waiting for the Chef to finish demonstrating the technique. It was such a fun evening meeting new people, making pasta and of course eating awesome food on the Chef’s rooftop terrace in the heart of Rome. I will have to admit, our pici noodle shapes were just a little lacking compared to the Chef’s but we all got it done and it was yummy eating them. The recipe I’m sharing today is Chef David’s recipe for the wonderful tasting pasta dish we made in our cooking class.
Pici is a hand-rolled noodle. You take a strip of pasta dough, hold it on the palm edge of your hand and using the palm of your other hand to roll into a noodle. It creates pockets in the noodle that fill with sauce, holding the flavors closely to the noodle. All I can say is YUM! The sauce we experienced, Amatriciana, is a traditional Italian tomato sauce using cured pork cheek, plenty of cheese and of course some wine. I have to admit to being just a little grossed out at first with the cured pig cheek because it was basically chunks of fat which when rendered turned into little bites of delicious jelly that just popped with flavor in the mouth. That is once I got over the idea of eating pure fat! It was awesome and I would eat it again in a heartbeat now, I just had to get my head out of the game before I enjoyed it thoroughly. Guanciale might be a hard ingredient to find in the US. Chef David mentioned that using bacon or pancetta for a substitute but if you can find it, do give it a try.
I can happily say we ate, drank and cooked our way through Florence and Rome and still didn’t try all the traditional dishes or the creative ones. I’m looking forward to the return trip to try plenty more news ones as well as our favorites. Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and pepper), carbonara, pear filled tortellini, seafood spaghetti, steak swimming in olive oil and pepper, eggplant Parmesan with walnuts and honey, gnocchi, gelato and many more were highly enjoyed. Who would have thought basic fresh noodles with a little olive oil, cheese and cracked black pepper could taste so good! It made me never want to eat dried pasta again and instead make it fresh all the time. I foresee my pasta maker being used way more often in the future.
Pici with Amatriciana
400 gr. of flour, Durum wheat (almost 1 3/4 cups)
200 gr. of water (a little over 3/4 of a cup)
4 pinches of salt
100 gr. guanciale, diced (cured pork cheek) (1/2 cup) (Use bacon or pancetta as a substitute)
2 glasses of white wine
200 gr. of Percorino cheese, grated (a little over 3/4 of a cup)
400 gr. diced tomatoes, fresh or canned (almost 1 3/4 cups)
1 onion, thinly sliced
Italian inspired recipes for you to try: