To bring my little Italian detour sadly to an end. I hesitate before revealing the name of this veritable little ‘Brigadoon’ of a village…..the added bonus being the journey to get there took us through some of the most stunning countryside in Tuscany
My daughter, Kate, bought us a book about the loveliest ‘secret’ villages in Tuscany for Christmas last year and it is in this book that I stumbled across ‘Quirca d’Orca’ I must add that I am not too worried that I am going to introduce it mass tourism, as it took us three attempts to actually find it and that was with the GPS. It obviously evaded others also, as we spent about four hours in this lovely little hamlet, and only saw two other non residents’ (an American couple)
Sleepy little back streets, a plethora of medieval buildings (many 12th and 13th century) an Italian garden and ancient ruins. Add to this some gorgeous little restaurants and very friendly locals and you have the recipe for a perfect Tuscan Sunday afternoon.
We ate in one of these little restaurants that boasted pasta made from its own organic flour from its own mill, and our very simple pasta dish took a full 25 minutes to prepare, and we, being French (well one of us French and the other indoctrinated!) used to eating lunch MUCH earlier than the Italians, were the first to arrive.
I tried to emulate the dish back at the apartment (by using ‘fresh’ pasta from the local supermarket (I know this is a contradiction of terms…..)
The results were very good, but not in the same league………But here goes………
6 (3 if serving as a starter) ‘Fresh’ lasagne divided into four (place each sheet long size across the top and cut in half and half again)
A handful of fresh green beans
1 medium (small) waxy potato
1 tablespoon of fresh pesto (see below)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice to garnish
Cook the potato whole in boiling salted water for around 20 minutes until just cooked, remove from pan and leave to cool a little while cooking the pasta and green beans.
Cook the pasta and green beans together in boiling salted water for around 7 minutes until ‘al dente’, drain and separate the pasta from the beans and toss the pasta in the fresh pesto (you can of course use shop bought, but it is so simple to make your own, trust me!) mixed with half of the olive oil to ‘loosen’ the mixture a little.
Slice the cooled potato and gently toss this along with the green beans into the pasta.
Drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper
Italy on a plate!
For the pesto
50 gm of pine nuts
50 gm of freshly grated parmesan cheese
A large bunch of fresh basil
1 large clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil + extra for storage
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
Lightly toast the pine nuts and leave to cool
Put the cooled pine nuts, parmesan and basil in a food processor and blend for 20 seconds son the slowest speed
Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, checking the consistency
Add a little salt and pepper to taste
What you do not use, can be stored in the fridge in a sealed jar, covered in a little extra oil and kept up to two weeks. To make a lighter sauce for pasta, the pesto can be mixed with crème fraiche, to give a milder flavour and a more fluid consistency.