Day 4: Pasta, braciole, wine lessons and the black mariah

Today is May Day, also known as Labor Day, so the town is mostly at rest. Every day, the church bells toll every 15 minutes. But today, after what I’m calling our daily Fat & Happy Nap, the bell’s chimes woke us and rang for 15 minutes straight. We thought, at first, that some kind of evacuation was in order until we remembered the holiday. Apparently, there was a procession of townspeople making their way through Carunchio. Relief. I guess we Americans are easily alarmed.

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Cooking Class

Our morning class started off with a lesson on braciole, (bra-che-o-le). Each of us were presented with a plate containing a thinly sliced piece of culatello (pork  butt), pancetta, a sweet Italian sausage link, a pearl of garlic, a leaf of parsley and a sliver of pecorino.

We seasoned the culatello with salt, pepper and nutmeg before Chef Dino showed us how to lay the pancetta over it create a barrier between the open pork seams. Then, we layered the sweet Italian sausage atop that, and nestled it next to the parsley, pecorino and garlic. Finally, we rolled everything up and sewed it shut with a toothpick before Dino seared and cooked for over an hour.

cavatelli

Next came the cavatelli, a seriously labor-intensive pasta also known as gnocchiette. Chef Cheryle showed us how to mix semolina, flour, olive oil, salt, baking powder and water before kneading the mixture for 8 minutes.

Once it was “smooth as a baby’s bottom,” we were instructed to cut off a plum-sized piece of dough, roll it out into a long skinny worm-like line, and cut it into tiny squares.

From there, we used the side of our thumbs to roll each little square of dough down a small wooden paddle with lined grooves to create the individual furrowed cavatelli. Each piece of pasta was supposed to contain a small trench in the center (if done correctly) to absorb the soon-to-be-added ragu. Reserve a Sunday afternoon and try this recipe at home.

Here, pasta is always served first, followed by an entrée and sometimes salad. Finally, an elaborate dessert is presented. I’m not sure how I’ll go back to one-course meals after this.

Today’s lunch and photos of lunch:

  • From-scratch cavatelli with tomato ragu topped with parmesan cheese (recipe)
  • Braciole (recipe)
  • Blood orange and fennel salad (recipe)
  • Sorbetto di limone mixed with white wine and limoncello

At 6 p.m., we met for an informative wine class, taught by our host and sommelier, Massimo. With clear contempt for the “defective” white wine, he focused his talk on a pair of red Montepulcianos.

Top things things to note, says Massimo:

  • Visuals / color
  • scent
  • sensory response

Tonight’s “peasant food” dinner:

  • Bruschetta over wood-fired bread, anchovies, garlic parsley and truffle oil
  • Rustic torte of puff pastry filled with artichokes and cheese
  • Frittata
  • The Black Mariah, a double chocolate sponge cake filled with chocolate cream and Abruzzo Punch Liqueur (below)

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