What do you write when you have longingly awaited a visit to an area that you have obviously underestimated? When it was better than your dreams? When you can’t find the words to say how inspiring it was and is? When you can’t capture the sounds and smells in a picture to share?
Have you been to Tuscany before? I hadn’t! So many wasted years!
The love of food brought us together for my visit but I fell in love with Tuscany in a different way. The velvety countryside with its swirling fog. The gentleness of the people and their heart-filled warmth for their region, their food, their traditions. Nothing complicated here to disturb the simple pleasures of life: family, friends, beautiful landscapes, a sense of peace and the enjoyment of traditional dishes and beverages that make you groan with pleasure. Everything accompanied by a smile and a good story.
We walked through Florence and Siena, drove up and down the rolling hills and valleys of the southern Tuscan countryside, had sweet breakfast in the delicious Pasticceri Sinatti, bought cheese in Pienza, sipped cappuccino at Robert Cavalli’s Caffé Giacosa in Florence, tasted pecorino, truffle oil and wild boar salami in Pienza, and sighed over the heavenly Panini in the Bar dell’Orso on the way to the fabulous Mercatale de la Val del Sa, the organic farmer’s market held only once a year in Montereggioni. We dipped our feet in the thermal waters of Bagno Vignoni and ate pici , tasted more cheese, sausage, same day pressed olive oil, local wine and beer and…… much, much more.
We awoke to the sounds of the birds chirping at the rising sun and the shots of the hunters chasing pheasants, and threw open the shutters excited at what the new day would bring, picking up our cameras to capture the mist, fog and light over Lano from the bathroom window of “I Tigli” the lovely home from which our hostess Guilia Scarpaleggia from Jul’s Kitchen leads her guests on Tuscan culinary adventures and holds her wonderful cooking classes. Sharing from the heart.
And it is there that we cooked pasta – not homemade as planned but delicious none the less in the traditional Tuscan way: cacio e pepe. With the young Tuscan sheep’s milk cheese Pecorino.
Based on Gulia’s recipe which she taught us, I have added my personal touch and recreated this pasta with the ingredients I brought home from what will surely only be my first visit to this enchanting region.
Thank you Guilia and buon appetito to all!
Pasta Cacio e Pepe
Ingredient for 2 hungry people:
150 grams young Pecorino Toscano (soft and moist, ripened approximately 2 weeks – max 2 months)
250 grams of pasta
1 TBSP salt
Water for boiling pasta
½ tsp freshly grated lemon rind from a washed organic lemon
3-4 drops of white truffle oil preferably from Pienza
Fresh ground black pepper
Putting it all together:
Bring water in a large pot to boiling add the salt, boil 1 futher minute. Add the pasta, bring to a new boil and reduce the heat and cook the pasta without a lid until somewhat softer than al dente.
In the meantime roughly grate half of the pecorino directly into a large non-stick pan or pot.
Melt the cheese in the pan/pot using medium heat and stirring gently, as soon as the cheese starts to melt add about ½ a ladle of the noodle water and stir to further melt the cheese and smoothen the sauce. Add more noodle water as needed, take care that the sauce doesn’t become runny and avoid boiling so as not to curdle the cheese.
Cut the rest of the cheese into the sauce, stirring to combine. Grind fresh pepper into the sauce and add the lemon rind. Simmer very low stirring often. Turn off the heat and cover the sauce if necessary to keep it warm.
Taste the noodles for doneness.
Pour off the noodles into a sieve than either transfer them with half the sauce back into the pot adding more sauce and noodles as you go along. Work quickly.
Add 3-4 drops of the white truffle oil from Pienza.
Serve in pasta plates and eat while hot, adding more fresh pepper to your taste.