Every farmhouse family has a story. I find the energy, dedication and knowledge contained on a farm fascinating. Within their borders there’s a farm-to-table cook, an engineer, builder, animal caretaker, horticulture expert, soil scientist, weather specialists and a leader. The list of talents is hard to capture in a few lines of text. And with this thought, I’ve decided to feature various farmhouse short stories around my area and across the globe in a series simply referred as “Farmhouse”. I hope to capture the essence of family farms while sharing their favorite recipes. How can a foodie forget about the food?
The first farmhouse introduction is a wonderful little gem my family found a few years ago atop a beautiful mountain in Umbria, a region in Italy. In 1997, the current owners Letizia and Ruurd purchased this abandoned farmhouse. They restored it and replanted 250 olive trees plus various vegetables and herbs. A few of the farmhouse structures date back over five hundred years. It was named “Madonna del Piatto” after a little plate they found depicting a medieval lady holding flowers. How endearing. If I could only step back in time to meet the maker of their precious find.
Not only did they completely restore this land and home, they launched a Bed & Breakfast in 2003. They also offer rustic Italian cooking classes for their guests. During my stay I learned the proper techniques for making homemade pasta. Additionally, I gained an understanding on balsamic vinegars, olive oil and wild boar sausage. I’ll never be fooled again into purchasing balsamic vinegar products that are not authentic. Afterwards, a few of my lucky friends benefitted from my trip. The knowledge that I gained, I shared. A few pasta parties later, they too acquired the basic foundation and secrets to making fresh homemade pasta the Italian way.
Are you planning a trip to Italy? Do you like authentic Italian food? Then you must add Alla Madonna del Piatto as a destination. Not only will you make new friends, your appreciation for a farmer’s dedication and love of their land will grow. And, your bellies will be full and fond memories will be made. I cannot forget to mention my favorite fig-loving dog Google. I didn’t realize a dog could enjoy fresh figs as much as I had fun picking them. This is definitely a place my family will visit again.
Umbria is a beautiful destination bordering Tuscany, Lazio and Le Marche. This region is known for its colorful and artistic pottery, olive oil, wine and foraged truffles. The landscape is lush with dense forests and mountains dotted with medieval hill towns. I really enjoyed visiting the hill towns. And in the evening, a few are delicately lighted which reminded me of fireflies glowing against a dark woodland background. Oh my, fireflies! Well, it’s true. Each night I was mesmerized by the candle lights of the neighboring hilltop town Assisi as I sipped a glass of wine on the patio.
A visit during the holiday season will provide an opportunity to see the lights on Mount Ingino. Letizia shares that the citizens of Gubbio proudly claim that this is the largest Christmas tree in the world. She further clarifies that, “While it’s not a tree, it’s a sight to behold and a delight for Umbrian children and adults alike”. Winter would be more enjoyable if this happened at our farm’s neighboring mountain.
Recently on her blog, Letizia notes that “Winter is finally upon them and they see the first sprinkles of snow on the mountaintops. In contrasts with other parts of the world, they’re not busy with festivities. Christmas in Umbria is a modest affair and mostly dedicated to rest and meeting family and friends over lavishly long meals”.
Hmmm, I need a long lavish meal with a bottle of Umbrian wine.
In the countryside, she explains that it’s quite common for families to produce homemade cappelletti. Tasty squared pasta dough shaped into hats and filled with minced meat. Traditionally, they are served in a capon broth on Christmas day. This and many other regional farmhouse dishes are perfect for large crowds. We will be featuring a few of her recipes throughout the year on our blog.
Her cookbook, Kitchen With A View, is a collection of over 60 recipes. It’s an inside look into her farmhouse cooking style that’s light, fresh and delicious. I’ve tried many of her recipes and enjoy the simplicity on how to bring home-style Italian cooking to my farm. Her detailed explanations and step-by-step photos for making pasta, including fresh gluten-free pasta, is exactly the way she showed us at her home cooking school.
Two of Letizia’s popular dessert recipes added to our site include baci di dama cookies recipe (lady’s kisses) and Pear-Amisu recipe. The delicious Pear-Amisu is made with pears, wine syrup and lots of spices. Both recipes are perfect for entertaining.
May your winter be filled with Italian food.