Maria has a soft voice and a very easy manner, nothing seems to stress or worry her.
Even though she is planning a wedding for her daughter in 3 weeks, we are welcomed in and offered cakes and coffee around the large table before getting started.
Maria is unable to sit still and if she is sitting, her hands are at work on the tombolo (to make lace) or embroidering a bedspread, or crocheting clothes for her grandchildren. Even the caciocavallo hanging in the cantina are homemade and having watched this regional formaggio stagionata a pasta filata (stretched curd cheese) being formed by the strong arms of the lavoratori in the artisan caseifici of the countryside, we are stunned not only that she has the time, but the strength.
The amarena are ripening on her trees so we plan to be back making sour cherry jam over the next weeks. But tonight we are cooking in two groups: the first to make ravioli con ricotta e spinaci al burro e salvia, the second to make contorni ripieni.
The pasta is pummelled and rolled first by Mary who is a natural, being a bread maker, the rest of students were not so skilled, but everyone has a go.We roll the pasta through la macchinetta over and over before it’s smooth enough to go in the moulds and filled with ricotta e spinaci. Very satisfying and worth the effort!
Next is the simple, southern Italian cucina povera recipes of melanzane, peperoni e zucchini ripieni, hard to grasp how stale bread crumbs and a few bits of seasoning can be so tasty, but the fresh seasonal ingredients put together in just the right amounts combine to make a delicious dish.
Around a big long table in the garden outside, the students were joined by some of Maria’s family and friends, we share the meal and had a relaxing conversation in Italian over dinner. Everything we have made is delicious, and we finish off a lovely afternoon and evening with Maria’s crostata di albicocca.
Cooking and sharing a meal together is a great way to loose any inhibitions about speaking Italian and this group of students is fantastically open and easy, really taking every opportunity to find conversation. It’s been a great start to the sessions of summer.