CHIUSDINO, Italy—In Italy, being a Florentine from Florence, Romano from Rome or Milanese from Milan is more important than country of origin. This pride spreads to each of the 20 regions in Italy where each resident believes his or her region is supreme. In a country similar in size to the state of Florida, a 20-minute difference can mean a complete change in culture and cuisine. We see these differences in the most common Italian meal, pasta.
Pasta differences range from the shape, size, wheat content and sauce placed on top. Ingrained custom dictates what goes together and what would never be thought of as an acceptable dish. When we made fresh pasta for lunch at Spannocchia, an agro-tourism farm estate outside of Siena, it was understood the gardener’s sauce was the only acceptable option.
The farm of Spannocchia has a vast garden installed in parcels across their land. All meals are prepared in accordance to the season and what vegetables they are harvesting. When making the sauce, we were greeted with a large bowl of zucchini, carrots, peas, a bell pepper, tomatoes, an onion and cloves of garlic. The cooks followed no recipe or guidelines when choosing these ingredients. Rather, the freshness of each vegetable and the idea that it would combine perfectly in their sauce was key.
The vegetables were blended together in a food processor. Then the green puree with sprinkles of orange and red simmered in a frying pan with olive oil, mushrooms, salt and pepper. As a fresh aroma filled the air, tomatoes were added once the onions became translucent.
When the sauce was done cooking we tossed it together with the fresh tagliatelle noodles, adding basil and olive oil on top for last minute added freshness. Outside the window, the veggies were growing–this was a meal definitely suited for the environment.