I consider myself a foodie. Yes, I’m addicted to Food TV and all the food competitions shows especially Top Chef, Master Chef, Guys Grocery Game, Chopped, and Hell’s Kitchen. So of course, when we planned our trip to Italy I created an itinerary that would take us through the great food regions of Italy.
Italy has so much diversity to offer in cuisine. We had a week long stay in the Region of Umbira, just outside the walls of Assisi. Umbria is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, culinary delights, artistic legacy, and cultural influences. We fell in love with everything Umbira – the sites, the people, the culture, the art and of course the food.
We needed a way to capture everything about our food experience in a way that we could bring it back home with us. We signed up for a cooking class with Letizia Mattiacci. We were so lucky, she didn’t have a class scheduled, but if we agreed to simply eat from her pantry finds she would hold a class just for us. I was ecstatic. We would have four hours of Letiszia’s time devoted just to us and the food of her home – Umbria.
Letizia and her husband own and operate Agriturismo “Alla Madonna del Piatto” – a farmhouse bed and breakfast, vacation rental and cookery school near Assisi, in Umbria Italy. She offers authentic Italian home cooking classes in her farmhouse kitchen.
Letizia specializes in healthy organic locally produced products. Their property boast a beautiful olive orchard and she has herb gardens surrounding her entire house. The view is spectacular, our only regret was that we were unable to experience a stay at her agriturismo (farm stay).https://incampagna.com/
We would have a four course meal before the day was over. We were in for a real treat. The first item on the agenda was desert since it would have to bake while we made and ate the other courses. I have always made my own pastry and pie dough, but I learned a new tip from Letizia. She keeps rinds from lemon, lime, and other citrus fruits in the freezer and pulls them out to zest into her pie dough. She used lemon zest in the apricot tart and it added a fresh hint of citrus to the tart. I have used this tip in pie dough I have made since this trip. While the apricot tart was baking, we started on the aperitivo .
We were a little surprised by what we were going to have – scrambled eggs basically. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what she called this dish. But it wasn’t just scrambled eggs. We sauteed sliced zucchini squash in rich fragrant olive oil, added the beaten eggs and lightly scrambled while piles of freshly grated parmesan cheese was sprinkled into the cooking eggs. This was such a light appetizer. The eggs were served with a beautiful fresh salad of fennel and tomatoes with a drizzle of course of olive oil. Letizia was talking about the local produce and mentioned fennel, when I told her I had never had fennel, she added the fennel salad on the fly to accompany our eggs. I now love fennel and we have started growing it in our garden every year.
The next course was going to be gnocchi. I will say, I was disappointed to learn this was on the menu. I have never liked gnocchi and Steve had just had a bad experience with gnocchi in Rome. Oh well, we agreed to a menu from her pantry since we scheduled last minute and Letizia would not have time to shop before our class.
I welcomed the opportunity to learn to make this famous Italian pasta. We were really hands on and made the gnocchi ourselves of course with her patient instructions. It was fun watching Steve work the dough, roll and cut the gnocchi. He was into this class as much as I was.
The gnocchi was truly amazing. I have always found gnocchi to be heavy and doughy, but her’s – well our’s were like pillows of air. The gnocchi was served tossed in a light simple tomato and olive oil sauce with authentic Parmesan cheese. Oh my, we had heaven on a plate.
Our protein was chicken, it’s what she had on hand and was actually a great choice since we eat chicken often at home. One more chicken recipe for me to add to my menus at home. Served with the grilled chicken breast was a unique wild green from the region – Agretti. Italians most often make agretti sautéed with oil and garlic, or a bit of lemon. Which is exactly what Letizia taught us. Agretti has a very short growing season in early spring. It reminded me of seaweed, but so much better.
Our final course was the apricot tart and we were treated to a toast of homemade limoncello. It was the perfect ending to a more than perfect meal. We learned so much about olive oil, balsamic vinegar, produce of Umbria, and the traditional foods of the region. We purchased Letizia’s cookbook – A Kitchen With a View. You can find it on Amazon at this link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MRJUD2G/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01MRJUD2G&linkCode=as2&tag=allmaddelpia-20&linkId=a41aef9d975d8ec43f6a4e1b0fd09921
All four of our courses were served on her patio high on a olive orchard covered hillside overlooking the town of Assisi. The view was spectacular and food was memorizing. Letizia also opened several bottles of wine during the four hours we were cooking and dining – this was truly a once in a lifetime food adventure.