Having taken in such enormous pleasure in exploring Rome, I now leave this sublimely charismatic city to a more quieter part of Italy. I get more and more excited as the vistas from my train journey evolve into rolling green hills, with sloping vineyards and historic buildings that seem to date as the my journey lengthens. I feel like I am travelling into a different part of Italian history and lifestyle…and my heart races as I wait for my arrival at a destination I have been dreaming of most of my adult life…
I have no poetic licence to describe the most enthrallingly, visually delicious place I have visited in Italy, nestled secretly in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. Camucia is a quaint, hidden village, with stone hewn houses elaborately strewn in pretty flowers and filled with little lanes, some leading into even quieter forest paths….I chose to stay in this quiet hamlet at the foothills of gently sloping hills that lead up to the sunshine filled streets of Cortona. Tuscany has completely kept its promise of serenity, charm and truly is a sensory overload with all it’s pretty sweeping views….and I settled on Camucia with its access to on e of the most famous art cities of central Italy such as Arezzo, Perugia, Siena , Florence and Assisi.
I arrive at the grand iron gates of my home for the next seven days, “Il Falconiere,’ a 16th century former family home converted in a countryside Relais and also housing the formidable wine making Baracchi estate. It has everything my soul needs – classic, refined Tuscan charm, full of antiquities, sweeping vineyards…views from my window that will ease away every last drop of weariness in my body. Most importantly, it is an estate that celebrates food. In their own words…
‘As it is so often said, this sun drenched country is a feast for the senses. The sweet perfume of fresh tomatoes, the unique yet delicate taste of newly pressed olive oil, a glass of wine, fresh seasonal products are the ingredients of our cooking classes help by the Michelin Star Chef Silvia Baracchi accompanied by Chef Richard Titi, these are an experience of pure pleasure, friendship and laughter.’
I can truly say they live up to their word. From the raucous and charming welcome of the husband and wife team that run this extraordinary property, to the sleek – discreet world class hospitality from all the staff…I am truly in the most perfect paradise. With an endless welcome drink of their infamous and addictive champagne to the taming of a falcon…my adventure has only just begun in this formidable place…
Today, I share a very simple but truly delicious traditional recipe from the kitchens of Il Falconiere and it is something I have made repeatedly much to the delight of my family since my return. It’s an authentic Tuscan staple and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do….
First make the pasta. Mound the flour on a board and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well and slowly mix the flour into the eggs, adding a little water from time to time as the dough comes together. You are aiming for a soft but not sticky mix with elasticity. Knead gently, pulling and rolling until you have a smooth surfaced round ball. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for the 30 minutes.
Next, prepare the filling. In a bowl, mix together the chopped spinach, ricotta cheese, nutmeg and eggs, seasoning with, pepper and the parmesan cheese.
Spread a sheet of pasta on the lightly floured board and dot half the sheet at regularly spaced intervals with little blobs of the spinach mixture.
Fold the other half of the pasta over the spinach stuffing and use your fingers to mould and press around each of the ravioli to eliminate air pockets.
Cut into squares with a ravioli roller and place them in a large tray dusted with semolina to keep them from sticking.
Just before serving time, drop the ravioli into boiling and cook until the pasta is done – about 8 minutes. Turn the pasta into a colander and serve into a preheated platter. Melt some pure butter into a pan with some sage leaves . Pour this over the steaming pasta and finish with a heavy layer of parmigiano – reggiano.