copyright, 2009, Maria Liberati, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking
After our cooking program in a little town called Baschi, right outside of Orvieto (more on that tomorrow) and meeting with my good friends there Domenico and Paola at Borgo le Fontanile and Velia & Gianluca at La Champagnerie in Orvieto we headed for the Autostrada to continue our visit in Umbria..We headed in the direction of Todi- to a nearby little village called Sismano. A ‘piccolo paese’ of only 300 residents. Most of the land is still owned by a Contessa. part of the town is a beautiful natural reserve that has been preserved for truffles and hunting. Some of the old buildings are being renovated into private villas.
As I was there to visit a friend of mine Susan Evans at her villa- La Veranda, once owned by an Italian Contessa. Susan is an American who fell in love with the beautiful scenery of Umbria. She is the real life version of the ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ story of finding an old building and renovating it into a beautiful villa.
Needless to say my stay at La Veranda this weekend was wonderful…we could only visitifor 2 days but they were filled with everything possible..cooking in the beautiful kitchen at La Veranda to relaxing outside and taking in the view of the Umbrian Hills on a warm January day to a walking tour of a natural reserve and a view of wild cinghiale (boars) to a tour of the castello of Sismano and its’ renovation and getting a taste of local foods.
But my visit was also to map out the site of The Basic Art of Italian by Maria Liberati tm Cooking school. La Veranda not only has a large open kitchen for the cooking classes but also a wood burning oven outside in the courtyard perfect for cooking pizza, chicken, bread. The setting is perfect for giving anyone an experience of eating outdoors in Umbria at night or under the Umbrian sun for an afternoon picnic.
The villa is a perfect way to experience living in a true Italian villa and getting the full experience of the beauty of not only cooking Italian food but eating at home (and a beautiful one I might add)..
Our last lunch was held at on Osteria de la Posta..that was opened by a former postman (hence the name ‘de la posta’) that loved to cook. But while waiting for our lunch we were entertained with some history about the ‘Osterie de le Poste’ that were once typical places to be found throughout Italy. They were places that you would travel to in horse and carriage- to get your mail, send your mail and also get feed and water for your horses but also stop to have a meal. And sometimes ,yes, the mailman might also have been your chef…
Umbria is famous for Tartufi (truffles) my favorite dish this weekend there was a plate of Fettucini al Tartufi. This recipe is sometimes made with a pasta that is traditional to Umbria (known as Strangozzi) because there is an Umbrian legend connected to it.
Legend has it that during medieval times, in a castle in a town called Pissignano, the conqueror Barbarossa was there because he was planning to destroy Umbria. But legend has it that the cook in the castle served Barbarossa a plate of Strangozzi al Tartufo so good that it convinced him not to destroy Umbria (or something like that)…
Here is the recipe, but if you can’t find trufffles- use a drizzle of truffle oil to add some truffle flavor..
Fettucini al Tartufo
*1 lb of fresh fettucine pasta
*1 black truffle-(finely chopped)
*3 tblsps olive oil
* 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
*1 clove garlic (whole)
Place extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and heat, place in cloves of garlic. Saute garlic till just about golden. Remove garlic. Place in chopped truffles and let saute for approx 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Toss in cooked pasta. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
And for a perfect accompaniment-serve with Orvieto Classico white wine.
Mangia Bene, Vivi Bene
For more great recipes get your copy of the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at http://www.marialiberati.com