Well thankfully August 15 has come and gone, taking with it the frenzy of pre-Ferragosto, when people are either away, rushing to get away or making life difficult for everyone because they are not getting away. I usually stay in Rome in August by choice because I love the deserted city which reminds me of the Rome I fell in love with but this year I have been travelling in Italy on family holidays.
On my way to join Nicola and Chris in Cortona I visited my friends Helen and Keith Richmond at Boggioli in Tuscany, and was thrilled to come away with a bottle of their delicious prize-winning olive oil. I carried it carefully back to Rome and will use some of it in my olive oil tasting sessions. I have always been rather put off Cortona by all the hype about the Tuscan sun but the weather has been strange this year and there was very little sun in July. On the other hand I loved Cortona. We cooked one meal each day then explored the restaurant scene. We ate well and I was thrilled to discover many places offering pasta with truffles. It is one of my passions so I often gave in to temptation. Our favourite was La Bucaccia and Romano won my heart when he offered me several glasses of Ribolla Gialla which I did not expect to find in Tuscany. He showed me his cooking school facilities and I am going to try and fit in a few days cooking with him in the autumn.
At the beginning of August Georgina and I took her daughters to Sant’Agata where we stayed in a lovely green Agriturismo. We dropped in to say ‘hello’ to everyone at Don Alfonso and Livia insisted we had a light lunch in the garden. I was a little apprehensive because young children and elegant, gourmet food is not a natural partnership but Livia chose zucchini and calamari in a light batter from the antipasti menu and they loved the pasta with Alfonso’s organic tomatoes.
Before the holidays I was lucky to find an electrician willing to work in August to rewire the cooking school. My last class in July was dramatic and traumatic. We were about to finish the pasta for lunch when one of the power points started a continuous, piercing ring. The oven started to reply, and it was pandemonium, as if someone had a finger on the doorbell. When I went to call the doorman, Micelangelo, I could smell burning plastic. I asked him to switch off the power and call an electrician. As we were sitting down to eat the pasta ( remember, pasta waits for no one) the two palace electricians arrived. In Italy the workmen all eat at 12.30 and nothing usually is more important. I think it was only the spectre of Palazzo Doria Pamphili burning down that brought them up to me. We then sat to eat the pasta in front of them. I explained it was part of the lesson but I am sure that was reflected in the eventual bill. They discovered one wall was almost completely black in the hall and we had had a serious electrical fire inside the walls. There are two flights of wooden stairs and everyone told me to be thankful it had not happened while I was asleep.
This week I am off to Rhodes and Symi to run a ‘gourmet adventure’ and I am looking forward to the calming waters of Greece. I will return to Greece in October to set up my Mani adventure for next year .http://www.cittadeinicliani.com/
Plans for 2015
In February I am going to Sri Lanka to explore the possibilities of a Gourmet adventure based in my friend, Ken’s, B and B. Anyone want to join me ?
April Marrakech and Seville
May Sant’Agata, Amalfi Coast followed by Sicily in June
Mani, Greece to be fitted in for food, wine, sea and sun, and Cortona, Tuscany
Budapest 4 – 9 October
Pasta con fagiolini, pomodorini e caccioricotta
Pasta with green beans, tomatoes and cheese
In Puglia this dish is made in the summer months using young green beans and small red tomatoes. Traditionally a pungent, hard, white cheese is grated on top. It can be replaced by Pecorino. Thick long pasta is usually broken into three lengths so that , when cooked, the beans and pasta look the same size. Visually the dish is very attractive, but it will taste just as good if you substitute a shorter pasta.
500 g small short pasta, like piccole penne, or bucatini or perciatelli broken in three
300 g thin green beans, trimmed
250 g small, red, full-flavour tomatoes, cut into halves
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 fresh basil leaves
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T freshly-grated hard white cheese, like cacioricotta, or Pecorino
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
Heat the oil and let the onion soften and begin to change colour before adding the tomatoes. After a few minutes add whole basil leaves and seasoning. Cook gently for a few minutes, but do not let the tomatoes start to break or shed their skins. Season lightly. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt, then throw in the pasta and the green beans. When the pasta is cooked but still al dente, drain and turn the beans and pasta into a large, shallow serving dish. Arrange the tomatoes and basil over the top and sprinkle with the cheese .At the table stir together and serve at once.