Archives for the year of: 2013
Rebekah and Verdine

Rebekah and Verdine

I promised to post the recipes we learned in September 2013 from Franco Mazzei, chef, after I tested them at home in Hawaii with local ingredients. I dare to publish only the ones for the fresh pasta and sauces; those are the only ones for which I took fairly complete notes. Even so, I am a little reluctant because the taste is simply not the same as I remember it in Italy.

The taste is close, but not exact, for a couple of reasons: In Italy, the highest quality of ingredients is available. Organically grown and home grown and farm raised, for example; or the freshest and the best—wine, for example, is so much better and so much more flavorful that there is no need for seasoning with additional herbs and spices. Secondly, Chef Franco did not use measuring spoons or measuring cups, so in the recipes below, the amounts are approximate.

Regardless, making the food from scratch still tastes better than dried pasta or the ready-made Chinese wonton wrappers and noodles you can buy from the refrigerator case at the store.

All the recipes combined make enough for 8 to 10 people. It takes three hours or more for one person to prepare and cook the whole menu, that is, two hours cooking time alone for the sauces on the stove top. Consider enlisting the help of other family members, or have a hands-on dinner party where the guests make the food together, as our group did with chef Franco. (You’ll need more than one rolling-pin.) Or, do all the prep work ahead of time. As mom used to say, “Many hands make light work.” The recipes may be divided for fewer servings.

To keep ravioli for future meals, arrange uncooked ravioli in a single layer in a pan and place in the freezer. When the ravioli are frozen hard, place them in a zip top freezer bag; return to freezer. If you cook them frozen, add 2 or 3 minutes to the cooking time. A mixed green salad rounds out the meal. Add freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, if you wish.

Fresh pasta

1/2 kilo (500 grams) farina TIPO “00” (white all-purpose flour)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup water (and more, 1/4 cup at a time as needed)

In a large bowl, add 2 eggs to flour. Add salt. Add 1/4 cup water. Mix dough in one direction, squeezing with your hand. Dust your hands with flour to keep them from sticking. Add more water a little at a time until the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball. If the dough is too moist to handle, add a little flour. Lift dough ball out of the bowl and knead in both hands using this method: Stretch open the dough ball, fold under and close, press; rotate 90 degrees in a circle and repeat. (This is similar to kneading dough on a board, but chef did it in his hands.) Knead for about 10 minutes into a ball. Cover with a damp towel to keep from drying out and let dough rest for 30 minutes.

Chef Franco demonstrates to Kevin and Rae his method of kneading pasta dough.

Chef Franco demonstrates to Kevin and Rae his method of kneading pasta dough.

While the dough is resting, mix the filling for ravioli. Allow 1 teaspoonful per ravioli. Refrigerate fillings until you are ready to fill the ravioli.

Ravioli Filling #1 – Mix 1 part cheese to 2 parts pork. For example, Chef Franco used
250 grams fresh Stracchino cheese (A soft, creamy cheese made from cow’s milk. You may substitute mascarpone and cream cheese if you can’t find Stracchino.)
500 grams ground seasoned pork sausage with casings removed, “special for ragu”

Ravioli Filling #2 – Mix together until evenly combined. Thaw first if frozen.
20 ounces cooked chopped spinach, well drained (squeeze out excess water)
10 ounces ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 cup flour, approximately, added to make the mixture less wet and to bind the ingredients

Fresh pasta, continued from above

After dough has rested for about 30 minutes, divide into 4 parts. Roll out 1 part evenly on a well-floured board until dough feels like a very thin chamois, about 1/16 inch thick. Keep the rest under a damp cloth to keep it from drying out. Dust your rolling-pin with flour to prevent it from sticking. Press down hard on the rolling-pin as you roll.

The big wooden kitchen table was ideal for four couples to roll out the pasta dough.

The big wooden kitchen table was ideal for four couples to roll out the pasta dough.

With a knife, cut the rolled out dough into 2-1/2-inch squares. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling #1 onto the middle of each square. Fold each ravioli in half and seal the edges by pressing together with the tines of a fork. Each ravioli will look like a rectangle.

The shape of the spinach and cheese ravioli (filling #2) is a half moon. Roll out a second part of the dough thinly, as above, and cut out rounds with a 3-inch cookie cutter or the floured rim of a beverage glass. Fill each with 1 teaspoon of the spinach mixture, fold in half, and seal the ravioli by lightly moistening the edges with water and pressing the edges to close.

Spinach and cheese ravioli

Spinach and cheese ravioli

For long noodles, roll out the third part of the dough into a long, thin rectangle. If you run out of rolling space, divide the dough in half and roll one smaller section at a time. Sprinkle the top with flour. Starting with the short side, roll up loosely like a jelly roll. With a knife, cut the roll into round slices about 1/2 inch wide. Unravel into noodles and dust with a little flour to keep them from sticking. Set aside. This pasta is called tagliatelle.

Flour-dusted tagliatelle on the left, and macaroni on the right don't take long to cook: 2 to 3 minutes.

Flour-dusted tagliatelle on the left, and macaroni on the right don’t take long to cook: about 2 minutes.

Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 1-1/2 inch squares for macaroni. Pinch each into bows, flowers, or other interesting shapes.

COOKING THE PASTA. Set a large pot of water to boil. When water reaches a boil, add each type of pasta separately. Start with the meat ravioli and cook until al dente, 5-7 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 135 degrees F. (Take one out of the boiling water to test.) Carefully lift out of water with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce. Do not pour into a colander to drain. The small amount of pasta cooking water will help to thicken the sauce. Combine the pasta and the sauce gently to avoid breaking the ravioli. Next cook the spinach ravioli 3 to 5 minutes. Lastly, the noodles and macaroni, about 2 minutes. Serve with sauce.

Pork filled ravioli combined with ragu sauce

Pork filled ravioli combined with ragu sauce

Ragu Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium white onions, peeled and finely chopped
Water
2 pounds (500 grams) ground beef (with 20% fat)
Good quality Chianti wine (look for the label with the black rooster)
1 can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 5″ (discard bare twig before serving)

Brown onions in olive oil. Add a little water to the onions, little by little, so they don’t burn, and cook until they are soft, about 7 minutes. Avoid boiling. Add ground beef to the onions. Stir to combine. Cook and mix for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
When beef is fully cooked, drain off and discard the fat, then add Chianti to the pan to cover the meat mixture. Bring to a boil.
Add canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, rosemary, and 1 cup water. Cover sauce and cook on medium-low heat for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Check frequently and add more water as needed to keep the meat covered.
Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Serve with pasta.

Tomato Basil Sauce

3 to 4 fresh Roma tomatoes per person
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil per person
Water, start with 8 ounces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for 3 minutes. Lift out carefully and peel under cold water. Skin should slip off easily. Set aside to drain.

Cut tomatoes in quarters and sauté with the basil in olive oil for 10 minutes. Add water. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 2 hours. Check frequently to make sure there is water in the pan and the sauce does not burn. After the first hour, stir and break up the tomatoes further. Continue cooking for the remaining hour.

Serve with spinach ravioli or other pasta.

Pass the Chianti

Pass the Chianti

While it feels like home when I’m at Villa Minghetti where I’ve stayed with family and friends twice in one year—in Spicchio village outside the small Tuscan town of Lamporecchio—there is no place like Hawai‘i, my real home.

I write from my studio in Ka‘a‘awa before daylight. Paint and prepare for an art show planned for November after sunrise. I have time to reflect on the recent journey to Italy and the beautiful extended family we all got to know.

My friend Debbie sums it up: “Over there, they adopt you.”

The experience designed for my painting students is unforgettable:  the keys from Federica to the three-story house, garden, and swimming pool for two weeks; five days of oil painting lessons by her husband Agostino Veroni; Tuscan cooking lessons by Franco Mazzei, chef; meeting their children and parents; free time to take the train to the glorious city of Florence and elsewhere; and the chance to enjoy Italian hospitality and experience the culture.

I want to return the hospitality in Hawai‘i. When would be a good time?

Federica, Agostino, and baby Giulio

Federica, Agostino, and baby Giulio

Our painting teacher Agostino Veroni showed us how he paints from start to finish in about two and a half hours. Amazing!

Our painting teacher Agostino Veroni showed us how he paints from start to finish in about two and a half hours. Amazing!

This family works hard to run a cottage industry, literally. The villa is on an olive farm where Federica’s grandfather had grapes planted once, but wine making is more labor intensive than getting oil from olives, so now it’s just olives. In a back room we watch Agostino bottle the olive oil as it runs out of the spigot of a big vat, one of five. The oil is from last November’s harvest; we were there when they shook the olives from the trees last year! Federica caps and puts on the labels.

Agostino uses a power rake to harvest the olives last November.

Agostino uses a power rake to harvest the olives last November.

The olive oil is stored in stainless steel vats and bottled by hand to the customer's order (our order).

Olive oil is stored in stainless steel vats and bottled by hand to the customer’s (our) order.

Federica carefully applies the labels.

Federica carefully applies the labels.

Every day he can, when he isn’t personally marketing his work on weekends or helping out with the property, Agostino paints. The land inspires his original oil paintings en plein air. Sunflowers, poppy fields, olive groves, mountains and the sea. His gallery agent has arranged to show his art in Naples, Florida, in February. Would I come? Federica asks. How far is it from Hawai‘i? She has little idea it is half a world away, only that it is “paradise.”

Agostino paints while daughter Giorgia, 7, watches

Daughter Giorgia, 7, watches Agostino paint sunflowers.

The artist's working studio

The artist’s working studio

And, of course, Federica manages and cares for Villa Minghetti, part of a family real estate business. A private wing that is a former servants’ quarters now houses the painter’s studio, viewing room, and kitchen. We have great fun baking pizza from scratch in the old, old olive-wood-burning oven!

Agostino selected the exterior of his studio, formerly servants' quarters, to demonstrate how to paint a textured rock wall. It looks plain in real life, so he decides to add wisteria flowers.

Agostino selects the exterior of his studio, formerly the servants’ quarters, to show how to paint a textured rock wall. It looks plain in life, so he decides to add wisteria flowers.

This is the finished oil painting by Agostino Veroni of the wisteria. He liked this one a lot.

This is the finished oil painting by Agostino Veroni of the wisteria. He likes this one a lot.

View from the kitchen into the viewing room.

View from the kitchen into the viewing room.

Agostino makes pizza

Agostino gets ready to shove his pizza into the hot oven behind him.

Aloha, ciao ciao, until we meet again. Your friend,

Rebekah

P. S. I’m still trying to duplicate chef Franco’s recipes. They may not be exact, but they’re close. I’ll post them soon.

Now, one of the attractions at Villa Minghetti that I rented for two weeks for my group of painting students is the beautiful swimming pool with a view of Spicchio village and beyond in Tuscany. Last year in late October it was empty—too cold to swim. Federica suggested we come in September to enjoy it.

I decided to make an oil painting inspired by the pool, trying to follow her husband Agostino Veroni’s technique. His underpainting is a strong mid-value ochre in fast-drying acrylic. He paints or dots wet-in-wet, top to bottom of the canvas. He organizes his color and sections of the canvas by a design that he has in his mind before he begins. And he puts lots of contrast and interesting color in the foreground.

The swimming pool has meaning for our Italian friends because it is where Federica and Agostino first met each other, when he came to Villa Minghetti to repair the pool five years ago.

In my painting attempt, several more things were new to me, even though I have painted for about 20 years: a smaller canvas, a much smaller brush, and painting with fast and juicy strokes without a painting medium to make the paint flow (It wasn’t available. On our second paintings—this was my first one—my students and I tried the mixture of 30% cobalt drier and 70% linseed oil to use as a medium. Much better.); speeding it up. Veroni painted a large canvas in each of his daily demonstrations in 2-1/2 hours!

When you see the images below, please keep in mind that a photograph is a photograph, and a painting is a painting.

I am happy that our teacher in Italy pronounced my work “Good” and that I have my souvenir of this lovely place.

"Pool at Villa Minghetti," oil, 30 cm x 40 cm, by Rebekah Luke

“Pool at Villa Minghetti,” oil, 30 cm x 40 cm, by Rebekah Luke

In the garden

In the garden

Poolside

Poolside

Nighttime skinny dip, anyone?

Nighttime skinny dip, anyone?

One morning this was the view from my upstairs room of the pool and the village of Spicchio and the Tuscany beyond.

One morning this was the view from my upstairs room of the pool and the village of Spicchio and the Tuscany beyond.

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Santa Croce in Florence, Italy

Santa Croce gothic church in Florence, Italy, is an architectural site our tour-guide-for-a-day recommended we visit. There wasn’t enough time to go inside on her full itinerary that included the Accademia – location of Michelangelo’s “David” – and the Uffizi that houses the important Renaissance art.

So we took the train from Empoli to Florence on another day while we were in Tuscany to see the church that has the Star of David on the front; its architect was Jewish. Inside are the tombs of many greatly accomplished men, for example, Michelangelo, Galileo, Danti, Machiavelli, and Rossini.

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Michelangelo’s tomb

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Galileo’s tomb

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Rossini’s tomb

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Danti’s memorial

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Machiavelli’s tomb

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Pipe organ at Santa Croce church

The church is large. If you go around the exterior to the back, you’ll arrive at the entrance to Scuola del Cuoio, the workshop, showrooms, and retail shop of a leather artisan school where you can buy well-made goods by the students and help to support the school.

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Exterior, Santa Croce church

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Another exterior view of Santa Croce church

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Entrance to the leather school is well marked

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Entry to the leather school’s showrooms, etc., is up the steps at the back of this courtyard.

For refreshment, lunch, tea, or dinner, my recommendation is Boccadama on the right side of the plaza as you face the front of Santa Croce church. Ask for a table inside for a quiet, intimate atmosphere and attentive service.

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Good food at this ristorante

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Tiramisu from Boccadama

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

When Pete, Linda, and I arrived in Rome by train as tourists for three nights, the first thing we did was purchase the three-day Roma Pass for 34 euro from the counter at the station. It’s similar to the Firenze Card. For the money it’s a good deal because you get admission, or discounted admission, to museums and other visitor attractions, avoid queues, and can use the card for public transportation. It comes with a city map and handy phone numbers and internet links.

To see the Sistine Chapel (no photos allowed) and the Vatican Museums in the separate country of the Vatican City, our hotel concierge booked a guided tour for us with LH Tours; we took the Metro to meet Lucilla Paola Favino, M.A. Ph.D., our guide who is an archaeologist. Also well worth the money to skip the lines and have an informative and amusing interpretation of what you are seeing.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square

Recessional at St. Peter's Basilica

Recessional at St. Peter’s Basilica

There is so much in Rome. With limited time, we had to be selective for our first visit. The Roma Pass got us into:

• Colloseo/Palatino to see the Anfiteatro Flavio, or Colloseum, “the largest arena of the ancient world used by the Romans for gladiatorial combats, and other spectacles until the 6th century” (quotes from the Roma Pass Guide); the Foro Romano, the forum that “served as the centre of public life in Rome for over a thousand years,” and the site and extensive grounds of an ancient Flavian palace.

My friend Linda, at right, Pete, and me in the Colloseum.

My friend Linda, at right, Pete, and me in the Colloseum.

Beneath the floor of the Colloseo was the backstage area for the animals and the players. For perspective, note the visitors in the lower right of the photo.

Beneath the floor of the Colloseo was the backstage area for the animals and the players. For perspective, note the visitors in the lower right of the photo.

The Farnese Gardens on the grounds of the Palatino (palace) near the Colloseo

The Farnese Gardens on the grounds of the Palatino (palace) near the Colloseo

• Museo Nazionale Romano, an archaeological museum with sculpture, frescoes, and mosaics — much of it showing how the Romans loved Greek art and were inspired to copy it.

Detail of The Boxer sculpture in the Museum Nazionale Romano

Detail of The Boxer sculpture in the Museo Nazionale Romano

Peplophoros (a sculpture). She is wearing a peplos of thin, clinging fabric carved in the manner of Ionic garments. In the Museo Nazionale Romano.

Peplophoros (a sculpture). She is wearing a peplos of thin, clinging fabric carved in the manner of Ionic garments. In the Museo Nazionale Romano.

The Italian mosaics fascinate me. The tiles are about 1/8-inch square. This one is of a cat and a bird (top half) and of two ducks (bottom half). The mosaics covered the floors, while frescoes decorated the walls.

The Italian mosaics fascinate me. The tiles are about 1/8-inch square. This one is of a cat and a bird (top half) and of two ducks (bottom half). The mosaics covered the floors, while frescoes decorated the walls.

Left corner detail carving of a battle on the sarcophagus of Portonaccio, depicting victory over barbarians

Left corner detail carving of a battle on the sarcophagus of Portonaccio, depicting victory over barbarians

il Bacio copy

Il Bacio, the kiss, a modern bronze sculpture by Fanor Hernandez in the courtyard of Museo Nazionale Romano

• The opera “La Traviata” by I Virtuosi dell’opera di Roma performed at Teatro Salone Margherita (with a discount).

We sat in the middle of the fourth row in this small-sized theater for "La Traviata."

We sat in the middle of the fourth row in this small-sized theater for “La Traviata.”

Pretty red velvet seats of the opera house

Pretty red velvet seats of the opera house

• The underground Metro transportation system (wave the card over the yellow pad at the turnstile and go).

We entered the 20-centuries-old Pantheon – Basilica Santa Maria Ad Martyres, the inspiration for St. Peter’s Basilica, for free; it is a church.

Pantheon, front view. Note the diameter of the columns.

Pantheon, front view. Originally a temple to all the gods, it has been in continuous use since its construction. Note the diameter of the columns.

Side view of the Pantheon exterior. You can see the round shape behind the columns.

Side view of the Pantheon exterior. You can see the round shape behind the columns.

Detail, Pantheon exterior

Detail, Pantheon exterior

Interior of the Pantheon

Interior of the Pantheon

The floor of the Pantheon

The floor of the Pantheon. Eighty per cent of the floor of polished stone is original from 1,800 years ago.

The dome of the Pantheon, with round window at the top letting in sunlight, and original rectangular windows at lower left of photo.

The dome of the Pantheon, with round window at the top letting in sunlight, and original rectangular windows at lower left of photo.

We booked a suite at Hotel Nazionale for three of us, next door to The Parliament, and we felt very secure. A high-class establishment Giolitti was down the block with pastries, candies, gelato, and fancy coffee drinks.

Italian sweets from Giolitti

Italian sweets from Giolitti

My lunch

My lunch

Rebekah and Linda on the Spanish Steps on an uncommonly uncrowded morning, we're told.

Rebekah and Linda on the Spanish Steps on an uncommonly uncrowded morning, we’re told.

Trevi Fountain at night

Trevi Fountain at night

 

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