If you envision rolling fields of verdant vineyards, ancient olive groves and regal cypress trees when you think of Tuscany, you’re not the only one. It’s a picturesque region of Italy that’s long been discovered by tourists, and for good reason. Scenes like the one above mesmerized me on my recent trip, requiring a stop at nearly every bend in the road to snap photos. Grab a Vespa and come along for a short hop through one of Italy’s most beautiful regions.
It’s a region that continues to inspire painters, like this one working in Castellina in Chianti.
Its beautiful towns and stone buildings make an impressive backdrop for wedding photos.
But the countryside is what’s most captivating. You’ll pass plenty of scenic vineyards on your drive and will want to drop in on at least a few.
My son and I stopped at I Selvatici winery and tasted a sampling of wines courtesy of owner Giuseppe Sala. You don’t even have to travel to Tuscany to taste his fabulous wines. He and his partner Barbara Singer travel to the U.S. each year with a personal chef and arrange wine tastings and gourmet dinners in your own home for you and a group of guests. They’ll even ship your order to the U.S., but I also managed to find room in my luggage for a bottle of his flavorful vin santo.
Barbara recommended we stay nearby at Borgo di Fontebussi
, a hotel made up of an enchanting collection of buildings and gardens in the countryside with magnificent vistas.
She also suggested we eat dinner at Malborghetto
, a restaurant near Gaiole in Chianti, where the gnocchi was served in a parmesan cheese bowl, smothered in shaved truffles. It was almost too beautiful too eat – but I perservered.
Naturally, back at home, I had to try making the parmesan cheese bowl in my kitchen, even if I didn’t have any fresh truffles. It’s easier than you think, although it might take a couple of tries until you get the hang of it. Just start out with about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese (depends on the size of your pan) and sprinkle it in a small non-stick pan that’s been slightly heated.
Keep cooking the cheese over moderate heat. Don’t touch anything. In a few minutes you’ll see the cheese start to melt. Be patient.
When the edges look like they’re starting to brown, take a heat-proof spatula and lift the edges all around.
Carefully pick it up and lay it over a small bowl. No need to grease the bowl because the cheese contains enough fat. Do this quickly because it starts to harden as soon as it comes off the heat.
Wait a few minutes while it hardens, then you’ll be able to invert it.
And if truffles are not in your future, you can always use the parmesan cheese bowl to serve a much-easier-on-the-pocketbook herb risotto