I learned that risotto is not any longer simply a risotto. It could be Fake Risotto
LUCCA, ITALY: You can be inspired by recipes and thousands of books. But the best and most enjoyable way to become a Pasta Master, is to meet up in Italy and get the inspiration and information you need to impress your fussy family. No other places are better to learn this kind of art than in Lucca.
Lucca has the atmosphere and the great history where the classic and the modern come together, also the way they serve local food.
Remember salt. Visiting this foodie region of Tuscany reminds me about a horrified story about salt and pasta came to my mind, one of the seven deadly culinary sins in Italy. Rule number one; add salt to the cooking water. From the Versilia beach to the mountains of the Alps, the valleys to the housewife and the Chefs at the elegant restaurants of Lucca; The flavours of your food is like a warm welcome for guests to get some extra out of Tuscany.
Pasta sauce. While cooking pasta, keep back a little of the pasta water and add this to the sauce, it makes all the differences. The sauce will be silky and differences and you are on your way to become a Pasta Master.
Cream or no cream. With interest I follow discussion regarding use of cream when making carbonara sauce and many chefs in this country have long been commenting on this subject. Carbonara came on table in mid-19th century Rome, purportedly as a hearty meal for coal miners. It´s hard to figure out the exact point when cream was first added, I don´t find anyone to blame.
Interestingly, on the menu for Pasta Carbonara, at some recipes cream is included. I wonder could this be for the benefit of tourists? From the original, there was five ingredients in carbonara; Egg yolk, cheese Pecorino Romano made from cheep´s milk, guanciale (cured pork), black pepper, and pasta. Carbonara done the right way has depth of flavour, balance, texture and the umami taste. Learn it and stay true to it.
Fake Risotto. After some days of food investigating and talking with locals and some chefs, I learned that the simple is best, you don´t need a long list of ingredients to make delicious food. But you need quality, seasonal food and ingredients should be the stars of the show.
And I also learned that risotto is not any longer simply a risotto. It could be Fake Risotto, made of anything else but not rice by Chef Massimo Minutelli and his staff at restaurant La Griglia di Varrone in Lucca. This is not fake news, but real and tasty food.
Traditional food. You can´t visit Lucca without try some spiced Tordelli, simply pasta stuffed with beef, pork or green vegetables and the flavour of nutmeg. Or the fragrant Spaghetti alla Trabaccolara, a splendid local bread or the cake Torta Squisita, all on a journey with traditional food. Don´t forget to taste Biroldo made with the head of pig, minced and boiled with blood for several hours. Then left to dry before boiled with salt, pepper and other spices. Simply delicious. Italian kids have Farinata as a favorite, east tasty flatbread at any time of the day with ingredients of chickpea and olive oil.
Food Guide. Food made on traditional recipes are served by Chefs at trattorias and restaurants, but also made by the locals at home. Don´t be afraid to ask for advice or even join Cooking Classes in the old town. We are happy to share inspiration and advice, hoping you will appreciate the charm of Lucca through its cuisine. You find places to visit by walking through some narrow cobbled streets bounded by the city walls, and you will not be disappointed.
For dinner: Gli Orti di Via Elisa. Via Elisa 17.
For lunch and dinner: Antica Locanda dell Ángelo, Via Pescheria 21.
For Sunday brunch: Osteria Al Manzo, Via Cesare Battisti 28.
For Gourmet dinner: Griglia Varrone, Viale Europa 797F
Front picture by Antonella Gianini, “L´Ora Blu”, Photographic Group, Lucca, Italy