Hey guys! How is everyone holding up? Crazy times we are living in...
As for me, I'm doing ok. We are in the third week of lockdown here in Italy. Pretty much everything is closed, except for the essentials like supermarkets and pharmacies. I go grocery shopping once a week and apart from that I do not leave my house. Luckily in Marche, I haven't seen many shortages in food (unfortunately masks, hand sanitizers, 90% isopropyl alcohol, etc. are still in need), and the line to get into the grocery store is not that bad. It's surreal to see the streets so empty though.
I've got to be honest, the first week of lockdown was a nightmare. I pretty much cried in bed all day. I only got up to feed the cats and use the bathroom. I do not remember much of that week, but I think I lived off of cookies.
But thankfully those days have passed. I still have ups and downs, yes, but I manage to get out of bed every day (before noon). It's okay that this isn't the most productive time in our lives. But instead it should be a time to learn how to be more gentle on ourselves. I don't know for you guys but I have always been extremely harsh on myself and I am my own worst critic.
In my opinion, the most important things to do right now are to do things that make you feel good and to do things you actually feel like doing! I mean when was the last time we did such a thing?
If we lived in a perfect world, we should be taking this time to do things we do not have time to get around in our normal lives. But that was a little bit too overwhelming for me. I started to feel so much guilt that I was wasting my time. So I stopped thinking like that and now I do what I feel like with a little bit of routine (so this way I still can be a somewhat functioning human being when thing whole ordeal is over).
This is what my day looks like,
I am not saying I am proud of my routine. But it is much better than crying in bed.
Also, I started taking self-portraits again, something I have not done in AGES, and I try to take some pictures(with my camera, not my phone) at least every other day.
This may sound stupid but this lockdown has made me re-realize my passion for photography. It truly is something that will get me out of bed.
See, something good can come out of these shitty times!
Here are some free course that I've found
Last but not least, how are you holding up? Any crazy ideas on what to do during these weird times? I'd love to hear from you!
Hi, there! I know it's been a while since I last posted... Sorry, I need to schedule better my life.
Today, we have the recipe for Taralli al Vino Bianco (Sweet White Wine Cookies).
Those of you have been to Puglia I'm sure you have tried plenty of them. A specialty of the South, basically they are like a cracker that can be either savory or sweet. The salty ones are great to accompany your evening aperitivo, and the sweet ones I like to serve as dessert, together with some sweet wine that you can dunk them in.
Enough with the chit-chat, here is how they are made!
Taralli al Vino Bianco (White Wine Cookies)
P.S. The whole process is more enjoyable/challenging doing it with your cats!!
In case you didn't know, I am a HUGE fan of beer. Yup, more than wine... Yup, even though I'm living in Italy...
As all of you know Italy is one of the largest and oldest wine-producing country. So obviously nothing beats wine here... Beer is something you drink in the summer when it's hot and you're at the beach. OK, it used to be like this! Nowadays beer is not considered a cheap drink, secondary to wine, but it is (FINALLY) beginning to be appreciated for what it is. Many industrial beer makers are putting more effort nowadays, you'll find IPAs from Poretti or a Blanche from Peroni. Lots of non-alcoholic and some gluten-free as well!
But today I want to introduce one of my favorite local brewery, DueP!
They are a small craft brewery, run by two brothers from the town of Monte Urano. The pictures were taken at their brewery a few months backs when they held a sort of "Open Day" for the brewery and the launch of their newest addition, "100 Quota".
From the color, you may expect a beer that's extremely rich and heavy, this beer (as most Dunkel style beer) is "malty" and very refreshing. This particular one, I'd say has a slight floral aroma, a hoppy bitterness and above all such smooth texture! I cursed myself for buying only one bottle because it goes down so easy!
I've decided to pair the beer with my latest and greatest invention Ciauscolo Pancakes! Post coming soon on Ciauscolo so for now just a quick introduction! Ciauscolo is a specialty from Marche that's a "raw" salami, eaten spread on a slice bread just like Pâté. If you are ever in the region PLEASE try some. It's one of my favorite specialties from here.
The beer not being necessary so heavy I though it would be a great match with these pancakes instead of cold cuts or some cheese. The beer helps the pancakes go down smooth, let me tell you!
For those who are interested in doing a beer and food tour here in Le Marche, let me know!
Today, we have the gorgeous town of Campofilone, the birthplace of Maccheroncini, and a great local pasta factory (Pastificio in Italian) to explore!
Let's start off with the pasta factory, Marilungo. It's a family run business dating way back to 1958! Shown above is the current owner Giovambattista (the grandson). Apart from the notorious Maccheroncini di Campofilone, they have all sorts of dried egg pasta!
And look at the packaging! The ones with Italy shaped on them are just PERFECT for souvenirs (FYI a box of pasta starts at 2.50 euro). The shop is enough to get you hyped up, but I went inside the factory for a private tour. The shop is open to the public (9-12:30/14-18:30 closed on Sundays and National Holidays) but if you want the tour contact me here since my boyfriend and I run customized tours to visit Le Marche. (Sorry for the time being the website is only in Japanese but please feel free write to me in English for any questions!)
OK, back to the tour! You are not allowed to document the inside of the factory, so sorry guys I have no pics (which means you'll just have to come and see for yourself)!
Once you go down the steps into the factory, you are immediately welcomed with the delicious smell of flour as if you've stepped in a bakery! At Marilungo they use only Semola di Grano Duro (Durum wheat flour) from Marche, Umbria, and Tuscany. When I asked Giovambattista why not use only local flour, he answered,
"The outcome of flour changes year by year. If I buy only local flour and Marche had a bad year in Durum wheat, it will mean I'll be using crappy flour. For me, the priority is not local but the highest quality, even if that means it's not from here."
He went on explaining,
"I know many pasta factories own land to grow their own wheat. But this means even in a bad year for sure you are going to use yours. It may sound nice that one grows its own wheat, but this doesn't mean their flour is the best."
Giovambattista told me about the eggs as well, the only other ingredient used for his pasta.
"We specifically use local free range-eggs. They are not just any free-range eggs, but from hens that are kept indoor. If you have a few hens for yourself at home then it shouldn't be a big problem even if they go roaming outside. But we need A LOT of eggs. Many free-ranged eggs, in reality, are full of antibiotics. Hens are actually very sensible animals, so for example, if they get wet from rain they are prone to get sick. When they are raised on a big farm it doesn't mean that there's someone constantly checking the weather for them, right? Plus think of all the abnormal weather we have these days! So if the hens get sick they get treated antibiotics, or worse most of the time they are automatically given, even to the ones that aren't sick for precaution."
I have to be honest. I have never given much thought about eggs or chicken. I simply thought "Organic" or "Free-Range" is just better. I must say, Givambattista gave me a new insight into food.
Even though Marilungo is a factory, they are a small family run business. They have only one production line. Therefore each day they make one type of pasta depending on what's lowest in their stock. The day I visited was "Tagliatelle al Tartufo" day. LUCKY ME! I'm telling you it was such a heavenly smell inside.
I repeat, contact me here for the tour to experience this first hand!
Next off the town of Campofilone.
It is a small town with less than 2000 inhabitants, situated in the province of Fermo. (The town is about 70km from the capital, Ancona. Sorry no public transportations that I know of to reach Campofilone.)
Situated on top of a hill, you can enjoy the view of both the Adriatic coastline and beautiful the valley of Aso.
During August's Sagra di Maccheroncini the town is FULL of people, but if you visit on a regular day it's nice and quiet. Once you reach the highest point of the city, there is a large field that is sometimes used as an outdoor theater. There you can enjoy a gorgeous view! Also, there are medieval castle walls still standing that surrounds the town.
Although it's a small town this is still Italy! Of course, they have a duomo and tiny little streets to get lost in ;) I'd say it's the perfect place to go exploring before lunch to build up an appetite!
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever heard of Maccheronici pasta, a specialty from the tiny yet beautiful town of Campofilone? If not, YOU HAVE TO get your hand on these babies! Life-changing yummy-ness and I assure you I am not exaggerating.
From the name "Maccheroncini", the first thing that pops up to your mind is probably "Maccheroni". However, Campofilone's Maccheroncini is something completely different!
It's a long and thin (they are to have a thickness of less than 0.7mm and a width of 1mm), angel-hair like egg pasta.
The origin of the pasta is said to be from the peasant's kitchen in Campofilone, dating way back to the 1400s! Usually egg pasta is made to be eaten fresh, instead, Maccheroncini became popular as a method to preserve a large number of fresh eggs. This way the people could enjoy egg pasta all year round, even in winter when eggs were scarce.
Maccheroncini is also the first egg pasta in Italy to be given the IGP certification, which means the product is legally guaranteed by the European Union that it is "authentic". It certifies that the product is linked to the place where it is produced, processed or prepared.
What's particular about Maccheroncini is that there is no added water (or salt). The ingredients are super simple, 10 eggs for every kilo of flour! That's it! And this goes also for the factory-made Maccheroncini as well, not just the ones the Italian Mammas make.
The flour also, is not just any flour but Semola di Grano Duro (Semolina in English if I am not mistaken) only! Semola flour has a more grainy texture which gives the pasta an unsmooth surface. This rough texture helps the pasta to entwine better with the sauce.
There is one tiny problem though. Maccheroncini is way longer than any regular long pasta, making it hard to mix with the sauce. Normal pots and pans are not going to help... Solution: a large wooden pastry board! You put the boiled pasta, followed immediately by the sauce and you mix the two there, not in the pan where the sauce was. And technically it's not simply "mixing" but you want to pull the pasta upwards which will avoid them of sticking to each other and being cut off.
The pictures were taken during the Sagra di Maccheroncini (Maccheronici Festival), held every year (2019 was there 56th!!) on the first weekend of August (starting from Friday and ending on Monday. Dinner time only!).
Campofilone is usually a quiet town but during the Sagra, it gets SUPER crowded! So have some patience (long ques for parking and ordering the food) because the food is worth the wait. The menu is very simple, Ragu Maccheroncini only!! Some fried food such as Olive Ascolane, crema fritta, and french fries, wine and beer of course and that's it! A big plate of Maccheroncini is 7.50 euro so I repeat, well worth the wait.
Last but not least, how to enjoy Maccheroncini at home!
The most traditional way to eat them is with ragu sauce. Here in Marche not only do we use ground pork and beef but also ground chicken and beef chuck as well when making ragu. Some Mammas might use duck meat too. If Mamma approves, I'll post her ragu recipe shortly but then again ONLY IF she approves, fingers crossed. Italians are very secretive about their family recipes...
Making ragu is a time-consuming job so it is not eaten frequently but some Sunday lunches or during the holidays, or any other occasions that call for a feast they are likely to show up.
Apart from a meaty ragu, Maccheroncini goes great with seafood-based sauces as well or my personal favorite "Maccheroncini Cacio e Pepe". I'm sure you understood by now that they go great with pretty much any kind of sauce except for Carbonara! Don't pair egg pasta with egg sauce, that's a big no-no.
To finish off this post, 2 important tips when cooking Maccheroncini.
Hi there! I wasn't sure what was an appropriate as my FIRST blog post, so I decided to go with something that brought a big change in my life; slaughtering a chicken.
Please if this may be something that will make you feel uncomfortable don't scroll down!
Here we are at my boyfriend's aunt's backyard, where they keep the chicks (and some other farm animals). Some chickens were getting "too old" (about 4 months of age) so unfortunately, it was their time to go. Simple as that. The older they get the stiffer the meat. I suppose no one wants to eat tough meat!
I was there documenting, not sure how and where everything was going to happen. Somehow I was convinced that they were literally going to chop off its head with a guillotine of some sort though. Instead, the aunt grabbed the chicken, brought it to a grassy area, got out a sharp and small (in my opinion) knife and slit it down its throat. Blood immediately started to trickling down its neck and the bird remained alive for a couple of more minutes but it was done. So splatter of blood or birds screaming in agony or any sort of drama to my surprise.
Once the birds were brought to the garage/kitchen, it was time to pluck out their feathers. Another step in which I had no idea how it was to be done.
It turns out it's exactly as one would imagine it to be; you just start plucking. OK, before you soak it in hot water to help the feathers loosen up, but after that just "pluck, pluck, pluck".
Boy oh boy, was I mesmerized by how fast 90-year-old Nonna was! She just went right in there with her bare hands and started pulling them out. A born natural (if I may say so).
Once they were plucked clean, some final tweaks by scorching off tough and tiny feathers that were left and cleaning/declawing the feet.
At this point I declared,
"Well, that wasn't so bad! Next time I think I'll actually participate in the butchering and not just document the process."
Which I truly meant. By all means, it wasn't something pleasant to see, but at the same time, it is something that has to be done if you were to eat meat. And watching how hard these ladies were working it truly maybe me rethink,
"How could it be that the chicken sold in the supermarket is so cheap?!"
which may sound cliche but there truly is A LOT of work (and more to come) in butchering one single bird. Of course, the ones we see in the supermarket, everything is done mechanically, but do we want to be eating that kind of meat? And do we need to be eating that much meat in the first place? 90-year-old nonna lives off carbs (bread and pasta) and eats only a tiny piece of meat or one slice of prosciutto a day. And she's here with us butchering a chicken at 90!
So as I have said, up to this point I was fairly OK about the whole ordeal. That's because I thought we were pretty much done. NOPE, WRONG. You have to clean the insides as well OBVIOUSLY (I don't know why that part didn't cross my mind).
Pictures are worth a thousand words. Yes. But it cannot transmit a smell. And I'm telling you that was the worst part. Sure the gutting and intestines are gross and everything... but that smell was just plain old nasty, no other way to put it.
While I was freaking out by myself, Mamma goes,
"Would you rather eat it with the inside? "
No, ma'am no. If I ever slaughter one myself, I think this part I'm just going to hand to over to Mamma for the time being. In the end, it took us about 2 hours from killing to cleaning (another 2 hours or so if you want to add the cooking and eating part) to finish.
Of course, the experience made me appreciate more, the food that's on the table but furthermore, it made me realize how lucky I am living in this kind of surrounding. It's not easy living in the countryside of Italy, especially as a foreigner, I'll tell you that but I would not have been able to have this kind of experience, great food or the old fashioned Italian lifestyle if it weren't for Le Marche. This is something I should be truly thankful for (and of course the chickens that we just slaughtered).It's almost one year since I've moved here and I was starting to take things for granted I suppose!
Thanks for reading and see you next time!