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Sunflowers and a Tuscan Summer

Posted in Caro Diario.(dear diary..), Chianti, cucina, cucina povere, entertaining, La Dolce Vita, recipes, Share the Joy!, slow food, the Mediterranean diet, Travel & customs, Tuscan, Uncategorized, and wine


“Every friend is to the other a sun, and a sunflower also. he attracts and follows”

Jean Paul Richter (German novelist and humorist 1763-1825)

copyright 2010 Maria Liberati/art of living,PrimaMedia,Inc

This phrase rang so true in my head spiraling along the winding curves of the hills of Chianti. Rows of sunflowers seemed to be bowing to the beautiful Tuscan sun, and they almost seemed to be smiling as a welcome to this beautiful region.

Along Route 222 passing through the beauty that is Chianti, I begin to remember that  here may have  once passed DaVinci, Michelangelo, Giotto.. My eyes dance in the landscape of  castles and villas and vineyards that in some way may have been touched by these artistic masters and I  begin  to feel as if I am in a colorful kaleidoscope..or  in a living painting..for the scenery is too perfect to be real.

Driving through the Hills of Chianti part 1

Continuing the drive along we almost become hypnotized with  the vines that seem to decorate the hills. Well, for me it’s  a problem I’m only the   passenger, but Alfonso is driving and although he has been silent for over a half  hour, too dazzled to speak ,we quickly remember that we are going back to our castle in Radda in Chianti and have lost our way..”Are you looking for Route 222? he mutters. “Yes, Yes” I answer, just to appease him..I really had no idea where we were..but wanted to just continue riding along (what seemed to be) the endless hills..

Luckily when I regained my consciousness, we were really on Route 222 continuing back to Radda in Chianti…passing through the little towns of Impruneta, Greve in Chianti and then Radda in Chianti..we both breathe a sigh of relief and decide that tonight we will go for a coffee and a passeggiatta in Radda in Chianti..a warm August night  will make the perfect canvas for an evening walk.

Driving thorugh the Hills of Chianti Part 2

As we drove up the Piano D’Albola (the plains of Albola)  I tried to imagine how the nobility that once lived here entered the gates and the long drive up to the main house, but I could hear my stomach rumbling as I thought of the fresh porcini mushrooms we bought at the market today..a pasta dish with porcini mushrooms was definitely in order.

Under castello D’Albola in the Original Cantina

Lunch for that day was a yummy Penne ai Porcini  ( a plate of penne pasta with porcini mushrooms),served with white wine from Castello D’Albola-produced here. Since this dish includes fresh mint the preparation included a mandatory  walk outside along the castle walls to follow my nose and  pick fresh bunches of mint… it only calls for a  small handful but the fragrance was so enticing I picked a bit more and put  the remainder in a  (makeshift vase) – large  plastic water bottle cut in half- with some fresh water- and used it as our table centerpiece..

 Penne ai Porcini (Penne Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms)


1 lb of penne pasta

5 funghi porcini

1/4 lb of pumpkin

1 scallion

1 handful of fresh mint chopped finely

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

dash of freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste

Chop scallion. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel and cut into slices. Take off sin of pumpkin and cut into small cubes.

Place olive oil in saute pan, place in scallions and saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, then place in mushrooms,saute. After 5 minutes place in cubed pumpkin. Saute for 10-15 minutes over low heat, stir gently. Add in salt, then add in chopped mint and toss, saute for 2 minutes and remove from heat.

Place penne in boiling water and cook as indicated on package directions till al dente. Drain and place into sauce, toss gently, grind black pepper on top and serve

For more great recipes get your copy of the award winning The Basic Art of Italian Cooking : Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition the book that was selected as the Best Italian cuisine Book in the USA by Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

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