We are in Tuscany for Easter, at an agriturismo near Montepulciano with friends. Just wonderful. It is raining today, but we had a glorious say yesterday with lunch in Montepulciano.
Montepulciano is famous for wine, especially the vino nobile di Montepulciano….
…and the Brunello di Montepulciano are also amazing.
We had lunch here, at La bottega del Nobile.
Crostini, with carciofi, tartufo, fegato, garlic and spicy tomato. Lovely.
We had gorgeous pasta: pici con ragu di cinghiale, pici con ragu di anatra, and ravioloni with pork. Then cantucci with vin santo, and a wonderful Sambuca to finish. After wine and Sambuca shopping, we wandered up the hill for coffee at Polizano.
It is touristy, but so pretty! And you can find olive wood cutlery…
… Tacky fridge magnets….
Old masonry, set into a wall….
An Easter-yellow Vespa
Signs welcoming the bishop
And this on top of a tower.
Then we headed out to our agriturismo, among vineyards and cypresses. Wonderful day!
Pienza is a lovely small town in Tuscany, in the province of Siena, between Montalcino and Montepulciano. We went there Easter last year, and came back laden with pecorino cheeses, biscuits, red wine, vague plans to move to Tuscany and grow sunflowers, and yes – some pici al tartufo.
Pici is a local pasta, like a thick spaghetti, originating near Montalcino. (You might see a very similar pasta in Umbria called stringozzi.) It’s quite fun to make, just flour and water and you roll it out by hand. This is shop-bought pici with tartufo, truffles. I’d been saving it for a Pienza reunion dinner, but not everyone is wild about truffles, so the pasta languished, semi-forgotten at the back of the pasta shelf. Until now! It should really be served with porcini mushrooms, but we made do with plain supermarket mushrooms and it was just delicious, with the truffle smell wafting through the kitchen.
Pici al tartufo from Pienza, con funghi (for two)
Four skeins of pici al tartufo (you may need to go to Pienza to buy some pici, which may take some advance planning but is an excellent idea)
A small knob of butter
350 g mushrooms, sliced
A few stalks of parsley, chopped
Pinch of salt
First step: boil water for the pasta, so you can get the pasta started. These pici needed 22 minutes (add them to water once it is properly boiling). Sauté mushrooms in a separate pan in a little butter (just a little), until they are soft and golden, and add half the parsley. Also a pinch of salt.
Enjoy, and plan your trip to Pienza. Just LOOK at those shelves of jams and cheeses! Pecorino in wine leaves, in ashes, in hay, with peppercorns……. Mmmmmmmm.
PS if you cannot get yourself to Pienza, here is a great article on how to make pici, on Food52 last week by the amazing Emiko Davies: Pici con le Briciole (Pici with Breadcrumbs). Doesn’t that look wonderful?
For our last holiday dinner we had ordered paella at Da Tony, which was just wonderful. It seemed pricey, at 48 euro, and the menu said minimum two people. However, as you can see it was more than enough for four people to share, with masses of fresh seafood piled on. Definitely something to enjoy again. I should dig out that paella pan (wedding gift) and try, though I am not sure where to find paella rice in Rome. Castroni, possibly? Or would using risotto rice in paella be an abomination?
Next morning: Luggage packed, all set for going back to Rome. Some by car, and some by taxi, ferry, bus, a very hot train, and bus…… Very warm experience. That shower waiting in the other end was very appreciated, before unpacking all the laundry and piles of holiday books. Also, some last-minute purchases.
On the left: Amaro del Giglio, which is fantastic, one of my favourite amari. We bring some back to Rome every summer. Amari (bitters) are Italian herbal liqueurs, usually bitter-sweet, served as a digestive after the meal. Lots of variations, beside the classics (Averna, Lucano, Montenegro, Ramazotti) and the homemade ones can be interesting. Ingredients may include herbs, spices, roots, citrus peel and more. Plus two new bottles to try, we found them in Giglio Porto: an amaro from the “antica farmacia” on Giglio (have not seen that one before) and a finochietto (fennel liqueur).
Now, settling back to Rome in August heat, and craving more seafood………