To the people of “Toscana”, it is called asparagi . To those of us in the “ Stati Uniti ” it is known as asparagus. Either way, asparagi or asparagus, it provides a wonderful foundation to a marvelous sauce for pastas such as pici, trenette or tagliatelle. But alas, I am a bit ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning of our day in Tuscany.
After a sumptuous breakfast at Casa Bellavista our B & B of choice for Tuscan holidays , we enjoyed a morning visit to Lucignano , a medieval village near Casa Bellavista. As we travelled through the Tuscan countryside on our way back to the B & B, we anticipated a pasta making lesson around the marble topped table, the “command center” of Simonetta's kitchen. This would be the first cooking lesson for our friends Marg and Bill who were travelling with us.
When we returned to Casa Bellavista, we learned that Simonetta had been to market and bought fresh asparagi with which to make the sauce for the primo piatto of our dinner. Immediately our curiosity was peaked. As we entered the kitchen to begin the pasta making lesson, we noticed that Simonetta's “mama” was busy helping prepare the asparagi . We eagerly anticipated our cooking class and the dinner to follow.
It was not long before mounds of flour with volcano like centers were filled with eggs and a little extra virgin olive oil.
The mixing of the ingredients began and soon the blend of flour and eggs was transformed into a golden dough. Now the fun for Bill and Marg began...the moment of getting their fingers into the pasta dough.
and kneading it on the marble topped table until it was smooth and ready for the pasta machine and cutter.
It did not take long until the “ pasta fresca ” was ready. Bill and Marg made sufficient pasta dough so that lasgna and tagliatelle could be made.
The lasgna pasta would be used to make melanzana alla bechamella . While Bill and Marg made the pasta, Edie had been preparing the melanzana and the bechamella sauce.
The “ melanzana ” was for a weekend party Simonetta was planning. The tagliatelle con asparagi was for the primo piatto of tonight's dinner.
As Simonetta and her “mama” continued working on the asparagi, Bill and Marg finished up the pasta project. Focus now turned to the stove where the asparagi was being cooked. Later, the pasta would be cooked in the same water, bringing a fuller flavor to our primio piatto .
The cooking class was pretty well complete. Pasta had been made. The melanzana alla bechamella was completed and chilling in the refrigerator. La cucina was cleaned and the sauce for the night's primo was just about complete.
It was time to enjoy a glass of wine as we set the table for an evening of outdoor dining and the beauty of a Tuscan sunset.
We had experienced a marvelous afternoon at Casa Bellavista, learning the true joy of la cucina Toscana .
In case you would like to try this fantastic sauce; the recipe (in Italian and English) follows.
Buon Appitito :
Dave and Edie
TRENETTE CON ASPARAGI E PISELLI
· gr. 400 trenette o tagliatelle
· gr.500 asparagi
· gr. 300 piselli
· 1 cipolla
· sale e pepe
· buccia di limone
· olio extra vergine di oliva
Bollire la parte inferiore degli asparagi in acqua bollente salata, quando sono teneri, scolarli. Nella stessa acqua bollire per pochi minuti l'altra parte degli asparagi.
Tagliare finemente una cipolla, metterla in una pentola con un po' di olio e rosolare, aggiungere la parte bassa degli asparagi e dopo pochi minuti frullarli, aggiungere un po' di acqua della cottura e aggiungere i piselli cucinare fino a cottura, sale pepe e la buccia del limone grattugiata e le punte degli asparagi. Nel frattempo bollire le trenette nella acqua di cottura degli asparagi, scolare e condire ed aggiungere il parmigiano.
TRENETTE CON ASPARAGI E PISELLI
· 400 grams of trenette or tagliatelle
· 500 grams of asparagus
· 300 grams of peas
· 1 onion
· salt and pepper
· Rind of lemon
· Parmasian cheese
· extra virgin olive oil
Cut the asparagus in to pieces about one inch long. Boil the lower parts of the asparagus in salted water. When they are tender, remove them from the water. In the same water boil the other parts of the asparagus for a few minutes.
Mince the onion finely and brown in a pan with a little oil. Add the lower parts of the asparagus and after a few minutes whisk (use of a blender or food processor is ok) them adding a little of the cooking water and the peas, cooking them until finished. Salt and pepper and add the grated rind of the lemon and the points of the asparagus.
In the meanwhile boil the trenette or tagliatelle in the water used to cook the asparagus. When cooked, drain, combine with the sauce, season and add the Parmesan.