This entirely Italian menu begins with typical Tuscan crostini, made with chicken liver: an exquisite antipasto that is sure to win over even the pickiest eaters. Our teacher is Aurora Baccheschi Berti, who prepares them during her Tuscan cooking classes at the Castello di Vicarello, in Maremma.
The main dish in this meal is a meat ragù: this classic sauce from Italian cuisine – but closely tied to the city of Bologna – is ideal for any kind of pasta, although we suggest using maccheroni, either smooth or ridged. A domestic Sunday is the perfect occasion to prepare it, as the cooking time for ragù is very long. For this reason, we suggest making a large quantity and then freezing it. The worst thing that can happen when eating pasta with ragù is finding the pasta floating in a reddish liquid, so remember that the sauce should be very dense – which is why it needs to be cooked for so long. And drain the pasta very well, adding just a bit of cooking water to the sauce if needed to dilute it.
The second courses on our menu is a Sicilian dish that was suggested to us by José Rallo, the owner of the wine label Donnafugata, whose wines are known and appreciated all over the world. One time-saving suggestion: you can combine the first and second courses (in Italy, a traditional meal is composed of four courses), and dress the pasta with the sauce from the involtini, adding the pasta to the pan that you’ve cooked the roulades in, letting it mix together for a few minutes.
The lemon-based dessert is a recipe from a famous pastry chef from Naples,Salvatore De Riso, whose book attentively explains and illustrates how to prepare typical desserts from the Sorrentine peninsula. Of course, the recipe is at its best when prepared with the local lemons from the Amalfi Coast, the “sfusato”, but if you don’t have those lemons on hand, just make sure to use organic lemons, without wax or pesticides. Those who want to try the authentic recipe as made by De Riso himself, his desserts can be found at Harrods in London as well as his pastry shop in San Petersburg, Russia.
Photo courtesy Castello di Vicarello