Poggio Pots and Pans – Creamy Peach Almond Cups

Poggio Pots and Pans:  Cheer up, it’s almost peach season! According to certain people we are what we eat, and maybe that is why Italians are so focused on enjoying delicious food, like Antonella Pavanello’s Creamy Peach Almond Cups.  And let’s face it: we frankly need some cheering up.  From personal experience during lockdown in Milan, we know that mood improvement CAN and DOES pass through the taste buds! Here is Antonella’s easy but delicious creamy but crunchy peach dessert.  Plus, these cups are beautiful to behold, and give whoever makes them the satisfaction of creating something attractive using your hands.  

Wow your family or just yourself with these colorful cups to end your meal; this is a dessert worth the small effort required to make them.  

Starring in this recipe, again Sheryl and her friends from Alabama and Georgia.

Sheryl and her friends tasting the amaretti cookies

Tasting the amaretti before adding them to the cups


Creamy Peach Almond Cups


Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 9 oz.  vanilla yoghurt
  • 5 oz. fresh cream
  • 2 large yellow peaches
  • 2 T confectioners sugar
  • 1 carton raspberries
  • 12 amaretti cookies
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • Cocoa powder to dust

 

Preparing the cups

Preparing the cups with chef Antonella

First of all, peel the peaches and food-process the pulp with 1 tablespoon of confectioners sugar and 4 raspberries to obtain a pinkish coulis. In a bowl, whip the cream with the remaining confectioners sugar and gently incorporate it into the yogurt.

Next, toast the almonds in a non-stick pan for a couple of minutes without seasoning, until they begin to color.

Place an amaretto on the bottom of a small glass or small clear bowl; pour over a spoonful of peach coulis then layer a yoghurt cream and crumble over a little amaretto and some almonds. Add more peach coulis and another layer of cream; garnish each dessert with some raspberries, another crumbled amaretto, and the remaining almonds.

Sprinkle lightly with cocoa and serve immediately or keep it in the fridge until serving. 

Be careful not to refrigerate them too long, otherwise the amaretti cookies become soggy and lose their crunch.

And here they are! Enjoy!

Voilà! Creamy Peach Almond Cups

Creamy Peach Almond Cups ready to enjoy

Check other Poggio Pots and Pans recipes for Linguine with fava beans and polenta rounds!

Day in Valtellina: Castel Grumello

The steep slopes on the north side of the beautiful Valtellina valley are covered with vineyards growing mostly nebbiolo grapes, which are made into some lovely wine. In fact, the wine was our reason for going to Valtellina in the first place. We had made the drive up and down the valley many times to have a wine tasting at Aldo Rainoldi and lunch at Fracia Ristorante, then stop in for the local meats and cheeses at Fratelli Ciapponi or La Fiorida before returning to the villa. We did notice the castle up there on the outcropping, though, and finally drove up to check it out and have been back many times since. The castle itself, Castel Grumello, was really interesting but the nice surprise was the amazing views up and down the valley, too.

 

Because of its strategic location between Italy and Central Europe, Valtellina was once home to numerous castles. The Castel Grumello, a “twin castle” with a military and a residential area, was begun in the 13th century and destroyed in 1526 by the Gray League (which also destroyed many of the other castles in the area).

 

 

 

 

We’ve visited the castle on sunny and rainy days, before lunch and after lunch and it’s always a treat.

 

It’s a great spot to take group pics!

 

One of the paths down from the castle passes through a little “restoro” with grapes hanging above the patio, and then by a private home with a balcony and a stunning view to the east.

 

Day in Valtellina: Ristorante Fracia

Ristorante Fracia, which we visited on our first day trip to Valtellina from Poggio Verde, remains our favorite. Its location is superb, nestled as it is among the Nino Negri vineyards, and its outdoor dining area is unforgettable. In the spring the purple wisteria hangs down from the pergola and in the fall the seed pods provide the interest. The indoor dining room is also very pleasant. Chef Luca Cantoni prepares reliable and tasty local food and our server, Fabrizio, is professional and friendly and we are always so glad to see them both.

 

The chef, Luca Cantoni, and his assistant in the kitchen turn out wonderful local food, beautifully and simply presented.

 

As Fracia is owned by Nino Negri, the excellent wines served there come from the vines surrounding the restaurant. We typically treat it as a sort of second wine tasting (in the morning we often visit Aldo Rainoldi, which we love).

 

When there’s time, and the group is so inclined, we take a post-prandial walk a few minutes up the hill to an overlook to take in the views. On a recent trip, we noticed that one of our group had walked on past the overlook and when he didn’t reappear immediately we went to find him and see what he was up to. He had come across a grape harvesting crew, quite a wonderful surprise! The crew foreman told us in broken English about the grapes and gave us some to taste and to take back to the villa.

 

We have also thoroughly enjoyed the Michelin-starred La Presef at the Fiorida complex west of Morbegno, and can certainly recommend it, but we do love Fracia for its location, the warm welcome we always receive, and the well-prepared, simple local food.

 

 

Poggio Pots and Pans – Linguine with Fava Bean Pesto

Welcome back to “Poggio Pots and Pans”, here, take a seat! We were just about to get started with a new recipe from Poggio. But first of all we would like to really thank you all for the comments, the kind words of support and the messages! Hearing from you brings us joy and a feeling of connection with our Poggio friends. 

While looking for a recipe to share, we came across some pictures from a cooking lesson with the talented chef Antonella Pavanello and Sheryl Lott’s fun group of friends from Alabama and Georgia.  

Chef Pavanello cleaning the Basil

Antonella taught us how to make Linguine with pesto made from fava beans, basil, dried tomatoes, mint and Pecorino cheese, a satisfying spring recipe to bring some color into your meal! In addition to being beautiful, this dish is packed with useful nutrients: favas and cheese are protein, pasta is a great source of carbs while fresh mint, basil and tomatoes are fibers and vegetables.

Favas are available in American food stores such as Publix and on-line.


Linguine with fava beans, dried tomatoes,  mint and pecorino pesto


Ingredients for 6 to 8 people:

  • 500 gr linguine or spaghetti

For fava bean pesto:

  • 16 ounces fresh or frozen fava beans (canned can be used in a pinch but they are not as green)
  • 2 ounces or 3 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese (you can substitute parmigiano)
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons dried tomatoes in oil (substitute halved cherry tomatoes sprinkled with salt and sugar and baked for 45 minutes at 360°F)
  • 1 bunch basil leaves (about 30 leaves)
  • A few mint leaves (about 15)
  • 1 clove garlic (if desired)
  • 1 cup or more Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Let’s get started!

  • Cook the beans in lightly salted boiling water for 4 or 5 minutes. Drain and cool them under running water and remove the outer coat (if not already peeled).
  • Clean, wash and dry the mint and basil leaves. Combine the fava beans and the other ingredients in a food processor and slowly add the oil until you obtain a homogeneous mixture. Add salt and pepper and mix again until you obtain the consistency of a liquid pesto.
  • Pour the pesto into a bowl. Cook the linguine in rapidly boiling salted water for the time indicated on the package; dilute the pesto with a spoon of cooking water. Place the colander on top of the serving dish in the sink, then drain the linguine in the colander so that your serving dish gets nice and hot. Empty the hot cooking water from the dish, add the linguini and pesto. Mix well and serve.

Let us see your Linguine with Fava beans pesto if you try making them!

Previous recipe by “Poggio Pots and Pans”

Next recipe by “Poggio Pots and Pans”

Silver Lining Chronicles – Virtual Museums

One of the positive aspects of working at home during Italy’s lockdown (apart from the infinite availability of blankets and cozy sweaters whenever I want!) has been the leap in interest in Italian culture and art on-line. All that beauty we Italians took for granted is now temporarily out of reach, leaving us with a lot of empty time to consider everything we could have done but didn’t when we still could go out, like visiting that museum or exhibition everyone was talking about.

Yet technology makes it possible to partake, even without leaving the house. And isn’t Italy famous for its cultural heritage? Museums all over the country have been making virtual tours available for us to enjoy. It is definitely a good way to use our laptops and tablets!

And that is why, Poggio friends, we would like to share with you our Top Three virtual museums and tours.

  1. Pinacoteca di Brera. We are partial to this museum, it’s in Milan, in the beautiful Brera nieghbourhood! The online collection features high quality digital versions of the great masterpieces. They have recently implemented a virtual tour in English.

  2. Musei Vaticani. Despite being one of the richest tourable exhibitions on the planet, visitors are often scared by the long line it takes to enter and visit.  That is not a  problem anymore with a virtual tour here. Most areas of the museum are available online, even the outstanding Sistine Chapel and Raffaello’s frescos in Pope Julius II chambers!

  3. Galleria degli Uffizi. Last but not least, the Uffizi! When visiting Florence, the Uffizi is a mandatory stop. Many of the most renowned masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance are kept there for visitors to appreciate. Even though it takes a whole day to see everything in the Uffizi the museum has made available online many of their recent exhibitions which investigate the connection between ancient art and modern perception.

If after these tours, you still are hungry for art, here are some other links to European museums that can help!

 

Welcome to “Poggio Pots and Pans”

 

Trissy, Ann and Lindsey are learning her techniques while enjoying an aperitif.

Trissy, Ann and Lindsey are learn Marzia’s techniques while enjoying an aperitif.

We’re stuck at home here in Italy, so cheerful pictures like this one of chef Marzia showing us how to make polenta rounds really bring joy!  Food is a staple in Italian culture and we love cooking together with family and visitors.  Here we’ll share some delicious and easy recipes that you can try making at home, bringing a little bit of Italy into your kitchen.

Marzia Di Luzio, dressed here in her bright red chef jacket, gave us a memorable lesson on how to make Gorgonzola Polenta Rounds. Satisfying and cheesy, these rounds are easy and tasty: enjoyed with a mixed salad it makes a wholesome Italian meal.

Here we’ve adapted the recipe using some southern grits, a gift from Poggio Verde guest Peggy Lee, easily available in American food stores.

Trissy and Friends hit their stride in the Poggio Verde kitchen. Hooray!

Welcome to Poggio Pots and Pans!

Upcoming recipes:  Pasta Carbonara, Riza’s delicious meatballs and more!


Gorgonzola Polenta (or Grits) Rounds


Ingredients (4 servings or 14 rounds):

  • 1 cup grits or polenta (follow the recipe on the package; usually calls for water, salt and a touch of butter)
  • 6 oz. gorgonzola, blue or flavourful cheese
  • Flour for the work surface
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans 
  • A whole garlic clove to flavour the nuts
  • salt
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven on the grill setting to 420°

  • Follow the grits (or polenta) recipe on the box (or use leftover grits or polenta).  Turn the hot polenta out on a wax-lined baking sheet, spread it out somewhat and let it cool completely.  
  • Use your hands or the back of a spoon to press out the polenta ½ inch thick on floured wax paper or a floured marble surface.  Use a cookie cutter or upside down glass to cut out the rounds.
  • Arrange the rounds on an oiled baking sheet, brush tops with olive oil and bake until browned (about 25 minutes)
  • While the rounds are browning, saute the chopped walnuts or pecans in a small frying pan with a drip of oil, whole garlic clove and salt, for about 10 mins.
  • Remove rounds from the oven when brown.  Place about a spoonful of cheese on each and place a few toasted walnut pieces on top.
IMG_5794

These scrumptious rounds can be made with either grits or polenta

Other recipes by “Poggio Pots and Pans”:
Linguine with fava beans pesto
Creamy peach almond cups

Silver Lining Chronicles – Balcony concert

Hi, I’m Fran and I assist Gretchen and Judith on Poggio Verde. I’ve been one of the voices of Poggio on Instagram, the Newsletter and sometimes also here on the blog since October. If you have booked a stay in Poggio Verde this year, it’s highly probable that you know me.

On top of being Assistant, I also happen to live in Nothern Italy.

My beloved country has been under the spotlight more than ever due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We at Poggio Verde want to add something to the news everyone has been reading about the Italian lockdown.

Being indoors for such a long time can get to you, but I am amazed by how Italians have been reacting positively to the lockdown. The internet was flooding with practical ideas on how to go shopping, how to get permission to walk the dog or go care for you grandparents and so forth.

But people have understood from the first the importance of a positive mindset to see it through. So we’ve been deluged online with ideas on how to stay positive, by reading, taking up yoga and listening to music. Still, I guess we all missed the feeling of doing something together physically.

Hence was born the biggest party Italy had ever seen.

And that’s how we ended up, from Milan to Naples, on our balconies singing our hearts out. People played the guitar or their tambourines, others took the opportunity to give us an amazing opera performance, and others just started to sing while hanging the laundry out.

It was meant to boost morale, but it didn’t just do that. We felt connected. We felt alive and happy to be here, safe and sound, still capable of appreciating music and company. If this is not silver lining, I don’t know what is.

For once we have a good reasons to be the “loud Italians” we are. Louder than the bad news and louder than sadness.

Gretchen (on the keft) and Fran (on the right) having a meeting.

Gretchen and Fran having their daily meeting to stay in close to our Poggio Verde friends.

Day in Valtellina: Winemaker Aldo Rainoldi

Eric Asimov, the wine writer for the New York Times, wrote an article a few years ago about a lesser-known wine area in Northern Italy called Valtellina. We decided to check it out with one of our food and wine groups (“Taste of Northern Italy“) and have had the pleasure of returning many times since. It’s a bit longer drive from the villa than most of our day trips, almost 1.5 hours, but well worth it, not only for the wine but also for the beauty of the valley, the medieval castle ruins overlooking the valley, the 19th century grocery store and the restaurants we’ve come to know and love there, especially Ristorante Fracia.

 

Valtellina

The beautiful Valtellina looking west from the overlook above Ristorante Fracia in May. Photo by Austin Mann.

Valtellina shares its northern border with Switzerland, and it looks it. How grapes came to be grown, and wine made, in such rugged territory is quite a mystery. The work involved in terracing the steep hillsides to grow grapes is mind-boggling, but wine has been made here since before the Romans arrived (for over 2000 years). Leonardo da Vinci mentioned Valtellina in his Codex Atlanticus, describing the mountains as “fearsome” and the wines made there as “powerful.” Both are still true!

Valtellina

Walking up from Ristorante Fracia in Teglio toward the overlook

The very steep terraces grow excellent grapes, primarily the same grape used for the famous Piemonte wines (Barolo, Barbaresco, etc.). In Valtellina the grape is called “chiavannasca” and in Piemonte it’s known as “nebbiolo.” We’ve visited several producers, including Nino Negri, Sandro Fay, Ar.Pe.Pe and Aldo Rainoldi, but the one we tend to visit for tours (and for purchasing cases to take home or back to the villa for future enjoying) is Aldo Rainoldi. We have come to know the young current owners, who enthusiastically welcome our groups and many other guests we’ve encouraged to visit. We begin with a tour of the cellars…

 

…and continue with a tasting of four or five of the wines. Most of the Rainoldi wines are made with the chiavennasca grape but they do also make a couple of very nice whites and a lovely sparkling wine and then a visit to the boutique to make our selections to ship home or take back with us to the villa.

 

When we return to the villa, we unload the cases to enjoy during the week or to take to the cantina for aging and sharing with future villa guests.

Rainoldi Poggio Verde

 

Albergo Silvio Restaurant (Bellagio)

One of our “Taste of Northern Italy” groups happened to try Albergo Silvio restaurant in the fall of 2018 and we are so delighted we did! The location is a perfect for lunch. It’s situated overlooking Lake Como and is just a 10-minute walk or so down a pretty path to the south entrance of the Giardini Melzi. The after-lunch stroll to the gardens, and then along the lake into Bellagio, is perfect! (See our recent post on the Giardini Melzi).

The dining rooms are lovely and provide a beautiful setting for a leisurely lunch of local specialties at any time of year.

 

The patio is also beautiful!

 

The food is very tasty (and pretty!), the wine list offers plenty of nice options…

 

…and the service is excellent; professional and friendly.

 

Cheers to discovering Silvio with this lovely group and to enjoying this place and this day and this trip with friends and family!

 

Join us on one of our next “Taste” (or other) trips or contact us for this day’s itinerary to do on your own.