By Diana Stidl
A couple of days ago some friends and I had the incredible experience of cooking with Antonietta Masini, one of the ‘Cesarine’ that offers cooking classes in her beautiful home in Lammari near Lucca.
Associazione Storica Cesarine is a non-profit cultural association born in Italy, a platform for non-professional cooks, where they can share their profound passion and knowledge of Italian home cooking. The Cesarine are Italian men and women who work together as a collective voice to safeguard and promote Italy’s culinary heritage. It is a precious legacy that is rooted in generations of family traditions, a treasure trove of ancient stories and knowledge that must not be lost. They understand that this heritage must be shared and experienced in order to keep it alive, and so dedicate their time to protecting it in order to hand it down to the next generation, as so many have done before them. The Cesarine believe in the value of food as a symbol of family, culture, history and society. Sharing is an important part of this, especially when it comes to home cooking, in which the kitchen represents the beating heart of family life. Sitting around the dinner table, they share experiences and pass on knowledge.
We drove there but guests without a car can be picked up in Lucca by her husband. Antonietta speaks very little English but thanks to a translator the communication was very easy. She welcomed us with open arms and made us feel immediately at home and like being part of her family.
Her very handsome husband Piero is obsessed with the Cowboys and Indian culture of America and – although he’s never been to the US – has transformed the family home in a Country-Western style ranch, like in a Wild West movie. He has horses and enjoys Western style horse riding. The living room is filled with Cowboy and Indian paraphernalia, like saddles, halters, horse shoes, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, American flags and license plates and pictures of John Wayne and Indian chiefs.
The kitchen walls are covered with a collection of vintage cooking tools, used by the family over generations.
We donned our aprons and Antonietta taught us how to make a basic pasta dough from scratch using flour, eggs, olive oil and some water. We also made a delicious tomato sauce for the pasta and bruschetta. See the recipe below. It was so much fun!
Then it was time to sit down for a typical Italian lunch. Holy moly! We started with a very tasty pumpkin soup made from pumpkin squash grown in her veggie garden. Then we moved on to the bruschetta with our tomato topping. Other appetizers were salami, prosciutto and warm chicken liver spread. And of course wine!
After indulging in the abundant appetizers we were already full but then came our pasta with the tomato sauce and it was delicious. For dessert we had homemade cookies, homemade limoncello and coffee.
This cooking class with lunch was a wonderful and fun experience!
Recipes for fresh egg pasta and tomato sauce with aromatic herbs
Fresh Egg Pasta
Ingredients for 4 people
200 grams flour (if possible organic, not too refined with some whole wheat, type Zero or One)
Some extra virgin olive oil
Two pinches of salt
Pour the flour on a wood surface, creating a mound. Make a hole in the middle, crack the eggs in the hole and beat the eggs well. Then gradually add a bit of flour from the wall and add some olive oil and some water (just enough that the flour isn’t sticky to the touch). Keep adding more and more of the flour to the eggs until it is used up and mix it until it turns into dough. Knead the dough with your hands rolling the dough away from you and then towards you. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and cover it with a plastic foil. Let it sit for 30 minutes. with a rolling pin roll the dough until it has the right thickness and it turns almost translucent. Cut it in the prefered shape of either maccheroni/tacconi, tagliatelle, lasagne, ravioli, etc.
Tomato Sauce with aromatic herbs
Tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, white wine, red onion, garlic, aromatic herbs (rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, chives)
Chop onions, garlic and the herbs. Chop the tomatoes. Heat the pan, heat the oil, add the chopped ingredients (not the tomatoes) and sauté them for 5 minutes on high flame. Add the tomatoes and white wine. Add salt and pepper, turn down the flame, cover the pan and let it cook for 30/40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a bit of the pasta water, add the pasta (cooked for 3 minutes in boiling water) and finish to cook the pasta in the sauce. Add basil and chives before serving.
Chop tomatoes, garlic and basil, add salt, pepper and lots of extra virgin olive oil, mix everything well. Top toasted bread slices with the tomato mix and serve immediately.
Antonietta Masini’s contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org