Reinvention in Ravello (and Tuscany Too!)

For a moment, come with me to Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.

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Imagine you are seated at this table. In front of you are lemons just picked from the trees that crowd the terraced landscape of the family farm you have been invited to, to learn and feast. Just beyond the railing of the covered patio where this beautiful table is set, is this view:

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The day is spent alternating between being in the kitchen with the ultimate “nonna” (grandmother) Mamma Agata, —whose classes and kitchen have been populated with food lovers and celebrities since the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo twirled spaghetti here and discovered the quiet beauty of this place—and sitting and eating what is produced there.

Like this impossibly perfect “farmers’ spaghetti” with freshly plucked tomatoes and a dash of alchemy.

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Mama Agata and her daughter, Chiarra treat us like family and for a day we feel as lucky as they are to be living and working in this paradise.

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After this blissful day of shared food memories, great conversation, local wine, artisanal breads, homemade Lemoncello and unrelenting smiles that make your face ache, we walk down up a short incline to our private villa, where you retreat to your room for a nap, or grab a book and lounge on the patio to soak up more of the dazzling Mediterranean view.

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That evening might be spent taking a slow walk into the village that dates back to the 9th century to sit in the piazza, have wine, some small plates of food and watch local life unfold.

And that is just one day of a 7-day journey that is a trip-of-a-lifetime, that includes private dinners with 5-star chefs, tours of family owned vineyards and hands-on experiences in the workshops of cheese, candy or bread artisans; visiting lemon, olive and cherry orchards and doing tastings, private tours of historical sites and cultural events punctuated by amazing off-the-beaten path meals; staying in private villas or boutique gem hotels, being driven by private drivers, and ushered into exclusive experiences.

Wanna come? You can. I’m ecstatic to say I am partnering with my newest friend and associate, Carol Ketelson of Delectable Destinations to bring these amazing trips to life. We did our first trip together this past May 2016 (she’s been doing these for 15 years), and it was a delicious, life-changing trip for everyone who came along, including me. For more details, read here; or visit Delectable Destinations and Carol’s glorious galleries; or contact me with any questions.

In the meantime, until we meet at Mamma Agata’s make her Farmer’s Spaghetti and dream….

ingredients

Mamma Agata’s Farmer’s Spaghetti (Spaghetti del Contadino)

400 grams or 1 lb Spaghetti (dried or fresh)
1 1/4 1b ripe cherry tomatoes – the riper the better!
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
24 green olives, pitted
24 black olives, pitted
1 Tbsp capers, packed in salt and rinsed
1 cup fresh arugula leaves

directions
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl with the chopped parsley.  If the cherry tomatoes are very large, you will need to cut them into quarters.

  • Add the parsley to the tomatoes before cooking them in oil to enhance the flavor of the tomatoes. As the parsley sautes in the hot oil, it will lose some of its flavor.  Do not let the parsley burn.

  • Thinly slice the garlic or leave it whole but smashed, depending on the degree of garlic flavor you desire, and add it to the room-temperature extra virgin olive oil.  Slowly heat the garlic and oil over a very low temperature so that the flavor of the garlic will infuse the oil as it is cooking.

    Note:  Add the garlic to room temperature oil and gently heat them both at the same time because if you heat the oil before you add the garlic, the oil will be too hot and will burn the garlic, making it taste very bitter.

    When the oil and garlic are warm and have been gently cooked, add the halved cherry tomatoes, parsley, oregano, green olives, black olives, and rinsed capers to the pan.

  • Boil the pasta until it is al dente.  Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the sauce.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the arugula leaves to the pasta and sauce just before serving so that it does not loose its flavor in the cooking process.

    Drizzle olive oil over the pasta just before serving.

    (Recipe adapted from Mamma Agata, Ravello, Italy)

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