A Week In A Magical Italian Village
|Daniele Kihlgren and his omnipresent bulldog
Like many rural villages in Southern Italy, young people were fleeing to the larger cities, leaving behind empty homes and a sagging economy that was destined to become worse. The population had dwindled to about 100 at the time, from about 3,000 in the 16th century when Santo Stefano di Sessanio was a thriving way station on the wool trade route. Kihlgren, whose mother is Swedish and father Italian, decided to do something about it. Fortunately he had the means to fulfill his vision, since his family had made a fortune in the cement industry. He bought up much of the uninhabited buildings, and set about creating Sextantio, an albergo diffuso.
|Top row, Julie and Lori and Cynthia. Seated, Linda, Kathryn and Diane|
Helen instructed the group on Abruzzese traditions that link us with our past, regardless of nationality.
We read the words of Italian writers such as Ignazio Silone, who wrote about the long-ago struggles of peasants in Abruzzo, struggles that are still relevant around the world today. We walked in the footsteps of shepherds who led their flocks in a twice-yearly migration over hundreds of miles of rocky, mountainous paths in search of warmer climes, a custom known as “transumanza.”
Near the Gran Sasso mountains we ran for shelter as the rain fell, while the cow nearby didn’t budge:
|Lori, Diane, Juli, Linda, Helen and Cynthia|
|Santa Maria della Pieta
We had time to walk below the town where poppies bloomed beside a church boarded up since the 2009 earthquake:
Gabriella’s Torta Di Crema e Ricotta
Printable Recipe Here
This recipe was enough for a very large pan – probably 10 to 12 inches in diameter.
for the dough:
2 1/4 cups flour
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
For the filling:
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
grated peel from one lemon
1/2 cup to 1 cup ricotta, depending on taste
amaretti cookies crumbled on top – about 1 cup or so
Blend the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl. Add the softened butter by hand or put everything in a food processor until it forms a ball. Roll out and place into a buttered 10 to 12-inch baking dish or tart pan.
per la pasta base ingredienti:
325 grammi farina
175 grammi burro
100 grammi zucchero
una bustina lievito
Procedimento: Impastare il tutto e intanto preparare il ripieno:
per il ripieno:
150 grammi zucchero
75 grammi farina
buccia di limone
500 ml latte
100-150 grammi ricotta
Procedimento: Far bollire il latte con il limone e intanto sbattere le uova, lo zucchero e la farina.
Stendere la pasta e metterci la crema e la ricotta. Sbriciolarci gli amaretti sopra. Cuocere a 180 gradi per 25 minuti.
The views of surrounding fields were mesmerizing too, swathed in yellow and red flowers from mustard greens and poppies.
I ate wonderful meat, vegetable and dessert dishes too, but I’ll save some of them for my next post. But I will show you what was offered when I arrived – a glass of prosecco, some breads, crackers and the freshest and creamiest ricotta I’ve ever tasted –
Until then, here’s a recipe for pappa al pomodoro. For those of unfamiliar with it, be warned, it’s not at all liquidy – it’s a very thick tomato soup – almost more of a bread pudding with tomatoes – perfect for when those red beauties start ripening in the garden. The recipe below is from Napa Valley’s Michael Chiarello, one of my favorite chefs.
Pappa Al Pomodoro
Printable Recipe Here
Stir in the basil. Season, to taste, with pepper. Add extra-virgin olive oil, if desired. Let the soup continue simmering for 10 more minutes, then serve immediately in warmed soup bowls. Garnish, to taste, with Parmigiano-Reggiano.