Hello Beautiful Italy
Opio Home Travelogue
Day one in PIENZA, Italy - November 2022
All the colors of Tuscany in one click of the camera. Golds, browns, and terra cotta. Celadon greens. The blue and yellow in the sky. The stone gray wall. A picture that is worth a thousand words leaves us speechless. The final destination is Montefalco, Italy…the source of our Italian Linens - but more on that in a bit.
Day two in Pienza
Who knew! “Pecorino Romano di Pienza” is a cheese with historic origins in this mountain village. “Pecorino” is the Italian term for sheep’s milk cheeses made in Italy. When aged it becomes a hard cheese…salty, peppery ,nutty and best used grated over pasta. Young pecorino is a semi-soft cheese with a creamier, milder taste and makes delicious risotto. (Parmesan is made from cow’s milk. Cheese labeled “Romano” is made in America and made from cow’s milk).
Fast forward a few days and many pasta dinners (see below for our new favorite)…
On the way to Montefalco, a stop at an organic olive mill. Huge crates of half-ripe olives surround a mechanical press. The fruity aroma of crushed olives perfumes the air. A family owned business, the mother greets us with a flight of olive oils to sample. The son, siphoning oil from large vats into bottles, is headed to agricultural school in a few weeks. He will be taking over the family business.
Arrival in Montefalco...
It fees so good to revisit the village, the mill and the staff. Our emails to each other during the early COVID years were both personal and business. Italy was in lockdown then and we inquired about each other's families. Were they well and safe?
Today we share espresso and friendly hugs, write a new purchase order and travel back to the hotel. The room has a view.
A few weeks later:
The order has arrived and we hold in our hands the colors and landscape of Tuscany and Umbria.
We need to make pasta with grated Pecorino cheese for our families.
Tutti i Migliori
(All the best),
Brenda and Tina
The Recipe: Cacio e Pepe alla Roma Sparita
For more information on the recipe please visit Food Lover’s Odyssey.
(Serves 2 people)
Half pound of good quality, spaghetti About 6 cups well-salted boiling water
For the Cheese and Pepper “Sauce”:
About 1 1/2 cups (2 large ladles) of the boiling pasta water 1 tablespoon freshly, coarsely grated pepper, plus more for garnish 2 tablespoons butter 1 3/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
For the Parmesan bowl:
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Regiano cheese
To make the Parmigiano bowl, spread a very thin layer of the cheese onto a slightly warmed non-stick pan in the form of a circle, about six inches in diameter. (The cheese should slowly start to melt when you place it into the pan.) Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling. Using a spatula, slide the cheese circle out of the pan and onto a turned over bowl. (To create a pretty bowl like that at Roma Sparita, it’s best to use a mold/bowl that’s not higher than 2 inches, letting the excess fan out with creases at the edges.) Use tongs to press the cheese down or out, as you like. Do this only while the cheese is still hot an easy to mold. Make the second bowl in the same way. Let them cool while you make the pasta.
Cook the spaghetti according to the directions for that brand, usually about 8 or 9 minutes. Start the sauce when the spaghetti is not quite cooked, about 3 minutes before you would normally take it out of the water. In a already heated saute pan big enough to eventually hold your pasta, add the boiling pasta water, the butter and the pepper. Pull the pasta out of the water and let it drain. Add the drained pasta to the pan and toss through the water mixture until the pasta absorbs almost all of the water. Remove from the heat, and add the grated cheese to the pasta. Very quickly, stir the cheese into the pasta so that it becomes creamy. If it starts to clump or becomes too dry, add a little more of the pasta water as you are stirring. Place the pasta into the Parmesan cup and garnish with more grated cheese and freshly grated pepper, to taste. Buon Appetito!