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Reminiscence: Dinner at an 18th-century mansion in Italy

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The ability to travel is such a beautiful thing. It’s a blessing to interact with different cultures, lands and other humans of the world. Along the way, we are lucky to find our tribe in the most unknown places; speaking a whole different language but connected through something far more significant, than the physical. 

I have been very fortunate to have met friends who are like family while wandering around the Earth. Dario is one such human I met from Italy who has become a very close family friend to me. His father, Mr.Rossano is always a delight to meet.

The last time I visited Italy was in 2018, where I had the pleasure to stay with Dario in his 18th-century mansion, his home in Baricella near Bologna. His house has been modified many times since, but still retains its past glory and the many frescoes outlive.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, it was home to Cincinnato Baruzzi who was a sculptor, a pupil of Antonio Canova. It was originally the Summer house of a wealthy Bolognese family, surrounded by fruit orchards and wheat fields, some of which one can still see around the building. 

Fast-forwarding to the summer of 2018, it was the place where I had one of the best Italian homecooked meals of my life. It was cooked by my amazing friend, himself. The menu was healthy & delicious.

The appetisers were fried eggs with grilled asparagus and some caperberries, followed by a plate of flavorful artichokes. The main course was a simple pasta. All of this Dario whipped up in front of me in his kitchen, in less than 30 minutes. The pasta was a simple fettuccine cooked with some vegetables. And must I add, even the table olive oil was excellent. 

I am sharing the recipe with you of what I recreated from my memory recently. You may use this recipe with any vegetables you have available at home. Though make sure you use the main ingredients as your base. 

Recipe for the most straightforward and health-filled, veggie pasta:

Main ingredients for your base

  • 350 gms of fettuccine (Pasta, any type)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic 
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped tomato 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 

Other Vegetables and such (you may use the available veggies you have)

  • 1 chopped zucchini  
  • 1 cup blanched string beans (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • A handful of capers & basil leaves

Directions

  • Boil the pasta in boiling hot, salted water. 
  • Cook the pasta al Dente, at most. (Keep 1/2 a cup of the pasta water aside. You will need it for the base) 
  • Drain water and toss the pasta in olive oil. (so it doesn’t stick)
  • In a separate pan heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic. Let it cook for a minute. 
  • Next, add the rest of the veggies in the pan (except the capers & basil leaves) and lightly sauté with salt & pepper. Add half a ladle of pasta water, cook for a minute. 
  • Ensure you do not overcook the veggies, as they are almost ready. You want to keep the texture of the vegetables alive.
  • Add the pasta to the pan-give it a quick toss. Add the capers plus Basil leaves. The pasta is ready to serve.

P.S. Add a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or any other Italian hard cheese.

We finished the night with numerous games of Cabo, great conversations with my sisters and friends who flew in from America and some excellent red wine. 

After dinner, I sat next to the magnificent hearth on the ground floor of the house, absorbing the nostalgia of this spectacular adobe. While there was a sense of grandeur, it still felt cosy like home. I wondered about the many, many stories and rich heritage the belly of this house must have seen pass by.

I am impatient to go back to this land of cobbled roads as they never fail to enrich my own life journey with unending joy and magical food. Italy, you are terribly missed!

If you like this recipe do tag @hearth&I and @warp_core while posting. Enjoy! 

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