Cookbook Review: Tuscany

Tuscany by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi

At the heart of every Tuscan, there is a pride for their region and an incredible sense of responsibility and love for their surroundings. From the minute they look out of their windows in the morning to the last nightcap at the bar, Tuscans, like most Italians, are immersed in food.

In Tuscany, Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi take readers on a culinary journey through a Tuscan day. The rhythm of life pace that Tuscans cook is slow and calm. Breakfasts are considered, lunch often eaten at home with family, and weekend dinners a feast.

Try the Black Kale Bruschetta, a Tuscan Beef, Porcini and Chianti Stew, and the Cheat’s Spaghetti with Clams. In Tuscany, there is a dolci (dessert) for every month of the year, and Katie and Giancarlo do not disappoint.

Set against a backdrop of undulating hills, Tuscany takes you on a culinary journey across this diverse landscape, exploring the traditions and cooking techniques that make this food so extraordinary.

Tuscany: Simple Meals & Fabulous Feasts from Italy is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.


Pasta With Roasted Tomatoes, Chilli & Garlic

Pasta With Roasted Tomatoes, Chilli & Garlic

Photograph by Helen Cathcart

Aglio is garlic in Italian, so aglione means ‘lots of garlic,’ referring to the flavour of the dish. Traditionally this sauce is made from peeled plum tomatoes cooked with garlic cloves, served over thick strands of pici. However, we like our version, which takes very little time to throw together; the tomatoes roast as you prepare the pasta and the combination is heavenly. You can serve the sauce with fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle, or dried shell-shaped pasta is good as it collects the sauce.

Don’t be alarmed by the amount of olive oil. This will be the sauce when combined with the sweet juices from the tomatoes and the garlic.

 

Serves 4 as a main/ 6 as a starter

1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved around the equator (not pole to pole)

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves (skin on)

a little fresh red chilli, finely sliced, to taste, or ¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 quantity of fresh pappardelle (recipe below) or 320 g (11 ½ oz) dried pasta

handful of basil leaves, roughly torn if large

25 g (1 oz) grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 170ºC (340ºF/Gas 3). Put the tomatoes cut side up in a roasting tray and pour over the oil. Put the garlic cloves between the tomatoes and any tomato stems if you have them, as they will flavour the oil. Scatter with dried chilli (if using – add fresh chilli later on), season with salt and pepper, and roast for 15–20 minutes or until the tomatoes just start to collapse and brown. After 10 minutes stir the fresh chilli (if using fresh instead of dried) into the oil (fresh chilli might burn if put on top of the tomatoes at the beginning).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to coincide with the end of the cooking time for the tomatoes.

When the tomatoes are cooked, remove the tray from the oven and use the flat of a wooden spoon to squeeze the soft garlic out of their skins. Mix this gently with the tomatoes and discard the garlic skins as well as the tomato stems. Pour the drained pasta into the hot tray. Add the basil leaves and use a pair of tongs to combine, then serve straight away in warmed bowls, scattered with the Parmesan.

Fresh Pasta

This is the pasta recipe we always use and recommend (you can also find it in our Sicily book). It is: 1 egg to 100 g (3 ½ oz/scant 1 cup) ‘00’ flour. Ideally, roll the pasta on a wooden surface, as the tiny particles of wood that project from the surface add texture, helping the pasta to absorb the sauce that will eventually coat it. Many Italians use a tablecloth for the same purpose. To save time, the pasta dough can be made in a food processor.

Makes enough pasta for 6 as a starter/ 4 as a main

200 g (7 oz/1⅔ cups) ‘00’ flour, plus a little extra if necessary

2 medium free-range eggs (preferably corn-fed, for colour)

 

Pour the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the well. Using a table knife, gradually mix the flour into the eggs. Keep mixing the eggs and flour together until they form a thick paste.

Use the fingertips of one hand to incorporate the rest of the flour and form a ball of dough. Discard the dry little crumbs. The dough should form a soft but firm, flexible ball. If it is still sticking to the palm of your hand, add a little more flour – but be careful to stop adding flour as soon as it stops sticking. If it’s really dry and has many cracks, add a drop or two of water – do this in a bowl or the food processor.

Knead the pasta for 5–10 minutes, or until it springs back to the touch, the colour is uniform and, when cut open, the ball of dough is full of small air bubbles; this means you have kneaded it for long enough. Leave the pasta to rest for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 day, lightly dusted with flour and wrapped in cling film (plastic wrap) to prevent it from drying out while it rests.

 

Long Fresh Pasta

Long ribbons of silky fresh pasta are commonplace in Tuscany as they are in most of northern Italy. Unique to Tuscany, however, is pappardelle, the extra-wide ribbons of fresh pasta. As fresh pasta is so absorbent it is better not served with watery sauces such as seafood; in this case dried pasta is the norm.

Serves 6 as a starter/ 4 as a main

1 batch of Fresh Pasta (see above)

‘00’ flour, for dusting or coarse semolina, to stop the pasta sticking

 

Follow the recipe for fresh pasta above. After the resting time the pasta can be rolled out with a rolling pin or a pasta machine. To make any of the long pasta such as tagliatelle or pappardelle by hand, roll the pasta out into a rectangle using a heavy wooden rolling pin. Lightly dust the surface of the table, the pasta and the rolling pin with flour to prevent it sticking. If you use a pasta machine, flour the long strips on both sides. We tend to roll it out to a stop or two before the minimum (the finest setting on the machine), as in Tuscany ribbons of pasta such as pappardelle have a bite to them and are not as thin as in neighbouring Emilia Romagna.

As a general rule when the pasta is just transparent enough that you can see your fingers through it (about 1 mm thick) it is ready. Leave the pasta for 1–2 minutes to dry out in the air. Dust the work surface and the pasta with plenty of flour again to prevent it sticking to itself. Gently fold over one short edge, making a flap of about 3 cm (1 ¼ in). Now do the same with the other short edge. Fold the edges over again and again, sprinkling flour over the surface to stop the dough sticking to itself. Stop when the folded edges meet in the middle. Cut across the folds into the desired thicknesses to make the pasta lunga, the thinnest being tagliolini and the fattest pappardelle (2–3 cm/ ¾ –1 ¼ in) wide. Slide a long knife underneath the centre, matching the blunt edge of the knife to where the two folded edges come together. Hold and twist the knife in the air and the pasta ribbons will fall down in cut lengths either side.

When cut, pull out into individual strands and toss with coarse semolina or a little more flour. Don’t pile the pasta high but leave it in a single layer or the weight will cause it to stick together. Cook within the hour. The cooking time should be 2–3 minutes, or until
al dente, in a pan of boiling salted water.

Excerpted with permission from Tuscany: Simple Meals & Fabulous Feasts from Italy by Katie Caldesi & Giancarlo Caldesi, published by Hardie Grant Books.

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