Every season of the year there is different beauty to be appreciated but I especially love the summer months here in Tuscany because the town seems to come alive with the sunflowers blooming, the mediterranean sea reflecting the golden sun, the vineyards producing grapes and all types of colorful flowers popping up in places unexpected. Summer is the season for outdoor concerts, bbq picnics, beach days and lazy afternoons.
I will never forget the moment I first stepped foot at Aia Vecchia, one of the properties E and his family own. I was mesmerized by the gorgeous nature surrounding me,
the huge golden colored Tuscan villa surrounded by olive and cypress trees and bushes of lavander plants. E took me to meet the horses first, Gianco and California, who have become so precious to me now, and are so important to all of us. Gianco is the brown horse and he is the oldest of the two, he actually came with the land when they bought it 30 years ago. California is the black horse, she is female and they are the best of friends. One thing I love doing is coming to visit them and bring them treats such as apple slices, strawberry pieces or carrots to munch on. Calling them by name and having them slowly walk towards the sound of your voice to greet you with their grace and beauty is something I truly cherish. I did not grow up around horses and rarely got to be around them, so being able to see these two on a regular basis is special to me in many ways. Gianco has lived a good and long 33 years of life but aged a lot this year and was having a tough time gaining weight and we knew his time left with us would be short. It is with a heavy heart that I say Gianco has recently passed away. It was a sad day for all of us as we morn the loss. He was such a sweet soul and I know he is happy and healthy now watching over us. Rest in peace sweet Gianco, you are forever in our hearts.
Summer is the season for tomatoes, oh glorious tomatoes. E’s grandma grows rows and rows of them and I am so fortunate to be able to have fresh tomatoes any day of the week, all summer long. There is a popular dish here in Italy called ‘Pasta al pomodoro’ and it’s so simple to make but incredibly delicious and has been my summer craving. One thing that is vital to true Italian food is the fresh and organic ingredients, it makes a huge difference. So for this dish I recommend finding the juiciest, freshest tomatoes you can find. I recommend using tomatoes that have a high juice content and are nice and mature. I usually use a mixture of San Marzano tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.
Pasta Al Pomodoro
Serving size: 2
2 San Marzano tomatoes and 6-7 cheery tomatoes
1 large garlic clove (peeled)
1 small dried peperoncino
5-6 leaves of fresh basil
Spaghetti alla chitarra
Boil a large pot of water, fill a little more than half way full. In a sauce pan on medium heat put olive oil, a whole garlic clove peeled and a small peperoncino. This is to infuse the oil with the flavors without being too overpowering. While that heats up nicely, slice your San Marzano tomatoes into little pieces and slice your cherry tomatoes in half. Once the oil is nice and hot, carefully add the tomatoes (I like to squeeze them right as I put them in, but be careful because oil will splatter) and cover with a lid for a bit to prevent splattering. Turn down the heat to medium low and let the tomatoes simmer a bit to extract the juices and start making a sauce. I take a fork and smash some of the tomatoes to help the process along. This will end up being a creamy tomato sauce with little pieces of tomato. There are many different ways you can make pasta al pomodoro, but this is my favorite way to do it.
I remove the garlic clove and peperoncino and add most of the basil leaves and stir into the sauce.
The water should be boiling by now, so at this point you would need to grab a large pinch of salt and put it in the pot directly before you put the pasta in. I use spaghetti chitarra which means “guitar spaghetti” for it’s distinctive square shape and it is traditionally pressed through a chitarra instrument which looks like the wires of a guitar. We enjoy a thicker spaghetti with this dish but you can use regular spaghetti or penne and it will work just as well. The cooking time for spaghetti chitarra is 11 minutes but it is important to take it out at 7-8 minutes and then cook for a few minutes in the sauce so that the pasta absorbs the sauce, adding pasta water if needed. This is an important step and makes all the difference. The Italian way to eat pasta is ‘al dente’ and it is truly the only way because who wants mushy pasta? It’s all about taste-testing until you can understand that the consistency is firm to the bite.
You will be able to see that the pasta has absorbed the tomato sauce and it will be ready to plate. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh basil leaves on top and get ready to indulge. E likes to grate fresh Parmigiano Reggiano on top but I prefer without.