Seeing the Tuscany region for the first time was like diving into a fairy tale world. I am not even talking about the famous cities like Florence –wow!!- but rather all the small towns sprinkled through the hills and valleys. Time truly appears to have stood still there.
The impressions walking through narrow alleyways are hard to describe. A tiny bakery where you can see right into the old wood fired oven. The breads still warm, spreading this fragrance that only comes from those ingredients that make your bread the highlight of a meal …. A small butcher shop with men wearing meat soiled aprons while swinging enormous knives and cleavers. One butcher deboning a small rabbit so gently, so carefully but quick and accurately for a customer …
There are no take-out coffees in paper cups to be had. My sweetest treat was a bar owner letting me have his espresso in a juice cup to take with me, and I savoured every drop of it while moving on through alleyways lined by ancient stone walls, linens drying on cloth lines high up window to window. Each house has its flower boxes on the sills with blooms so vibrant and cared for, each wooden front door worn and beautiful as a painting, doorknobs so gorgeous you want to just hold them in your hand.
And the food …. Oh gee, the food …..We found a tiny single restaurant, over-filled and noisy, with local guests sitting with plates of pasta, risottos, salads, salumis, smoked meats, cheeses, marinated vegetables looking too delicious. Sad and disappointed we turned to leave, when the owner waved at us to come in and started moving people closer together on a bench, so we could have a seat. No English spoken, words were not needed here.
A green salad with just a hint of balsamic vinaigrette and Pasta Carbonara must have been one of the best meals I ever had. Served on thick, rustic plates, grated cheeses along all tables, and glass jugs with red wine. You can’t help but feel warm and cozy, welcome and looked after, just like home. One day, I will go back, and I hope that the old couple who so passionately cooked for their guests with love, is still there.
It took a bit of juggling before my Carbonara tasted almost identical to what I had memorized from this trip, but I am as close as I’ll ever get. Serve it to your family and see if this might just become everybody’s favourite.
- Bring water for your pasta to a boil. Add salt.
- Slice the pancetta in ¼ inch slices, then in strips crosswise. Fry it in a heavy pan until just crisp.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl which fits your cooked pasta generously. Whisk, add pepper, parmesan, cream, nutmeg and just a little salt.
- Cook your pasta al dente. Drain. Place pasta in your bowl with egg and Cheese, stir. Put pasta pot back on your stove at medium heat, place everything back in the pot and stir for just a few seconds until the egg reaches a creamy (not solid) consistency.
Serve in warmed pasta plates and enjoy the comfort.
- 250g Taglierini Egg Pasta (6 nests)
- You can find them in Italian shops – or use your favourite pasta
- 160g Pancetta
- 50g freshly grated parmesan
- 50g freshly grated pecorino
- 4 medium eggs
- 4 tbsp cream
- black pepper
- a hint of nutmeg (optional)
- salt to taste, but careful, the pancetta adds saltiness