Cooking with an Italian grandmamma

By Jennifer Severson

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The author, Jennifer Severson, makes the first stage of tagliatelle noodles with Italian cooking expert Loredana Betti at Spannocchia. Photo by Nina Furstenau

CHIUSDINO, Italy – Loredana Betti, an Italian grandmamma and exceptional cook, leads classes at the Tenuta di Spannocchia after retiring from being the farm head cook. Lucky us. During our stay at the farm, the study abroad family was able to participate in said cooking classes where we were guided through a five course Italian meal:

Antipasti (appetizer): Crostone al Pomodoro (tomato crostone)

Primo (first course): Tagliatelle all’Ortolana (fresh tagliatelle pasta with gardener’s sauce)

Secondo (second course): Rotolo di Petto di Pollo (stuffed and baked chicken roll)

Contorno (side): Patate al sesame (potatoes with sesame seeds)

Dolce (dessert): Tiramisù

The class started with creating the last part, the tiramisù, as it needed time to chill in the fridge. We were each given bowls to assemble our own mini treats and watched as Loredana demonstrated the process of creating the tiramisu components. Each bowl was topped with different cookie decorations to mark whose tiramisu it was.

After the dessert we started the chicken roll, with a majority of our time spent just watching Loredana cook with eyes full of adoration. To prepare the chicken roll, Loredana first used a sharp knife to butterfly a boneless chicken breast, place a half an omelet across it plus steamed asparagus before rolling the stack and securing it with kitchen twine. It was then cooked in the oven with a mixture of herbs, butter, olive oil, lemon and white wine.

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Chicken breast rolled with an egg omelete and asparagus ready to bake with olive oil and white wine. Photo by Nina Furstenau

Up next was the crostone, also commonly called bruschetta. We were all given very official cutting boards and knives to chop the tomatoes for the mixture. The topping was made and Loredana recruited a few of us to rub cloves of garlic right onto the toasted bread to transfer the taste in a subtle way.

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Fresh tomato, garlic and basil top toasted bread at Loredana Betti’s cooking class, Spannocchia. Photo by Jenna Severson

Our hard work thus far warranted a break, so after we assembled the crostone, our group was brought to the outdoor patio where there were glasses of crisp white wine and refreshing elder flower juice waiting for us.

The last, but certainly best part of the class was learning how to make fresh pasta – something I did not realize was a lot easier than it seemed. Everyone in the room had smiles on their faces as they assisted Loredana in the flattening and formation of the tagliatelle noodles. Life was good.

Finally, class ended with us back on the patio, enjoying the fruits of our labor. Grazie mille Loredana for enlightening all of us about the joys of cooking a true Italian meal – it will not be forgotten.

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Filed under Chiusdino, MU Journalism Abroad, pasta, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Spannocchia

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