Cooking Italian

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Have you ever missed something so much, you could almost taste it???

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This week, I called in reinforcements to bring me back to the place that I love. He is a dear friend and was born in Italy and he showed me how to make an authentic, homemade Italian pasta dish.

One thing I realized when I was in Italy is that I have been cooking Americanized Italian food. It was quite devastating actually. I bought several cookbooks while I was there but nothing beats being taught in person.

That morning, I was in the grocery store with my list that he provided. All of the ingredients for this meal were different from what I would have used in the past. I found all of the ingredients I needed and then thought to get some extras to have a nice little tasting of some of the things I brought back.

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He started off making the sauce. He used his hands with the tomatoes. The Italian cook is not afraid to get their hands dirty, that is for sure. He told me I should buy a food mill… I have never heard of a food mill before but I will be sure to purchase one. As he combined the ingredients in the sauce, and it started to boil, I smelled it immediately. This kind of Italian cooking smells different from the Americanized versions.

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Then came the pasta…. The flour is made into a ring on the countertop an the eggs go inside the ring. So, as it mixes (again, with your hands), the flour is added very slowly and you can keep track of the texture.

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When the dough was finished, we wrapped it and let it sit, stirred the sauce and then sat at the table for tasting!

First, I made a Caprese salad with tomato, mozzarella and basil. We split it into two on our plates to try two different versions of balsamic, one an 8 year and one a 30 year. This brought me right back to the vineyard in Italy where I first tasted both of these. I know that I’m here in my home , in my dining room, in Pennsylvania… But my mind is back in Tuscany with every bite. I remember waking up the morning that we found that vineyard and looking out the window thinking that it looked like a painting on the wall, like that view could not be real but something created only in someone’s beautiful mind and translated with a brushstroke. I remember that view creating a calm in me that I’ve never before felt. The fact that I had the opportunity to see that view with my own eyes is still amazing to me. A struggling, lost, poor, 21 year old girl with a dream of what life would be like at 30 created this opportunity. Today, I thank that young girl… I think my 21 year old self knew that at 30, Italy would be the beginning of my future beyond the challenge and hurt of my 20’s.

Next, I got the rosemary focaccia and two kinds of olive oil from two different vineyards we visited. I poured two bowls and we dipped. I remember the smooth taste of the bottle from the Casanova winery. This olive oil is wonderful and what we are using for the pasta and sauce too. The next one brought back the familiar, unique spicy accent in the oil. I really enjoyed this one but I remember Karrie didn’t care for it. I went back for more.

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So, now it’s time to make the pasta. These tools belonged to my grandmother. I clearly remember rolling pasta in these tools when I was a little kid. My mom’s kitchen was full of women including my mother, grandmother and great aunts. The island had a removable countertop and it became a huge wooden block to be used for pasta making on those days. It was loud and full of personalities. Today, there are just two of us and I am so excited as the pasta comes out. You have to bunch it but spread it out so it doesn’t stick. Each piece of dough is a process. Then, it goes in the boiling water. Pasta made from scratch does not take long at all to cook, which is nice because at this point, your mouth is watering.

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The pasta gets tossed with the sauce, you grate fresh Parmesan over it and get ready to enjoy!!!!

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What a great reminder of my trip, I could smell and taste it in my kitchen and I went right back to that special place!

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DELIZIOSO #2

The food in Italy has been wonderful. I keep forgetting to take pictures of it but that is what people have asked for the most. Here are some:

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I liked the little sandwiches in the cafe in Venice.

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The food in this local restaurant in Chianti was phenomenal. We all absolutely loved it.

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Lunch in Sienna was perfect.

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Dinner from the sweet woman who ran the apartments we were in.

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A cafe in Rome.

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This local place in Rome made me fall in love with Ricotta.

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Trastevere in Rome provided all the Roman traditions. I tried three kinds of cheeses and three kinds of pasta. I can’t move!