In the Kitchen at Agriturismo “Il Pozzo”
My mother came over from Texas to visit this June and we decided to take the kids on a short holiday to an agriturismo about 10 km north of Arezzo in the heart of the Casentino area. Staying in an agriturismo in Italy is one of the best ways to enjoy the countryside. An agriturismo is a working farm with renovated farmhouses turned into small apartments for families/couples to rent for several days or weeks. Most agriturismos have private swimming pools, beautiful grounds for walking and relaxing, a restaurant, and the ability to purchase products produced by the farm itself such as olive oil, jams, preserves, wine, etc. They are usually very kid-friendly too. Staying in an agriturismo is a great way to support the local economy as they, by law, are required to purchase food from local producers for their restaurant and use their own grown vegetables, fruit, and oil when available. Agriturismo “Il Pozzo,” where we stayed, is one of the nicest I have been to. We had a wonderful 4 day adventure there which included a FABULOUS cooking class with Carla, Il Pozzo’s owner and manager, and her mother Rosy. I learned so many unique and delicious recipes and they are graciously allowing me to share a few of them with you.
The afternoon started promptly at 3:30 where I met Carla and Rosy in the kitchen. They had already been busy preparing for that night’s dinner for their guests. If you are not familiar with the traditional Italian meal it consists of an antipasti (appetizer), primo (first course), secondo (second course) with contorno (side vegetable), and dolce (dessert). It takes a lot of preparation and Carla and Rosy take it very seriously as everything in their kitchen is made 100% from scratch! Carla says that even though she runs the restaurant, her mother is the l’inspirazione piu grande (biggest inspiration) and her maestra personale (personal teacher) in the kitchen. Many of their recipes are inspired by the traditions of Rosy’s childhood learning to cook side-by-side with her mother Giovanna.
We started off by preparing the spreads for the crostini which are served during the antipasti. Rosy taught me one of her specialties: Crostini ai Porri Salsiccia e Arancia (leek, sausage and orange crostini). It is a surprising mix of flavors that only a real Tuscan cook would put together. It is so simple to make and was a favorite among the guests that evening. See the recipe below.
Once the antipasti were ready it was time to start working on the primo. The first courses for that night were fresh pasta with sugo (meat sauce) and a specialty sauce from the Casentino area: Sugo di Cipolle e Semi di Finocchio (Onion and fennel seed sauce). I finally mastered the art of fresh pasta making!
We continued on and started the secondo and contorno: Pomodori al forno (herb baked tomatoes) and Pollo con Limone (roasted lemon chicken). Two simple recipes that require very few ingredients and little prep time become an elegant and savory combination that will leave you wanting more.
The final component of the cooking class was dedicated to making dolci (desserts). Rosy is truly a master when it comes to preparing dolci; she knows how to combine the perfect ingredients without any one of them overpowering the others. In combination she creates to most decadent desserts that target all parts of the palate. Some of her specialties include: Torta al Cioccolato (flour-less chocolate cake), Torta di Mele (fresh apple cake), and Crostata di More (Mulberry tart with berries picked from their farm). You will have to go and visit Il Pozzo for these recipes as Rosy keeps them locked up…with good reason!
I will admit, the best of part of the day was finally being able to sit down to relax and enjoy the wonderful meal that Carla and Rosy had prepared. And even though I “helped” in the kitchen, they were the masterminds behind the delicious food we ate! The dinner started around 7 and I am pretty sure we were still sitting around eating dessert and sipping Sangiovese wine (Tuscany’s most used grape variety for wine) well past 10. My son David especially enjoyed his Pasta al Sugo and even finished off the pot. He truly has Italian blood in his veins!
Carla and Rosy offer cooking classes to guests of Il Pozzo. The classes are held in English or Italian (Carla speaks perfect English!). For more information visit their website http://www.agripozzo.it/
- 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks finely chopped
- 2 cups Italian sausage removed from casing
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1 orange
- Orange slices for garnishing
- 24 slices of toasted baguette
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds of chopped red onion
- 2 tsp of fennel seeds
- salt/pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
- Sauté leeks in the olive oil until the leeks are soft. Add the sausage and sage and cook for 10 minutes (or until sausage is brown).
- Stir in the orange juice and cook until most of the juice has evaporated out.
- Spoon onto baguette slices and garnish with orange slices. Serve warm.
- Sauté onion and fennel seeds in olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and bring to boil. Cover pan and let simmer on low until the onions are soft and transparent (about 30 minutes). Salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions (long pasta such as spaghetti or fettuccine go best with this sauce).
- Poor cooked pasta into pan with the sauce and stir until the sauce is incorporated then stir in the cheese.