Phoenix Home & Garden


The culinary pleasures of Italy capture American heart –  Test by Roberta Landman

American vacationers who are flocking to ancient villas in Tuscany are toting back more than souvenirs.

They’re bringing home an appetite for the regions flavorful food and tantalizing wines.

While often called “simple”, the cuisine of Tuscany can be traced in some measure to the gourmet taste of 16th-Century Italian royalty and nobility, notes Jeni Wright in Tuscan Food and Folklore (Laurel Glen). It was the tradition of the time to pass on culinary arts to the lower classes, according to Wright, and with game birdies and fresh ingredients of this rural region readily available to all, peasants were able to eat as well as the nobility.

Many of those noble-cum-peasant dishes have become part of the Tuscan tradition and today the cuisine is known for simplicity, in the best sense of the word: delicious meats that are cooked over an open fire; easy-to-make and fresh-tasting sauces; soup, at times meals in themselves, that often combine such staples as bread and beans; and simply made pleasures, like they-old-or-more bread soaked in the region’s superlative extra – virgin olive oil.

On a recent trip to Italy, several Phoenix Home and Garden staff members learned first-hand about Tuscan pleasure of the palate. They toured wineries with such romantic-sounding names as Castello della Volpaia and Fattoria dei Barbi, and roomed and dined at charming Villa Collalto.

Of 11th-Century vintage, is located in the province of Siena, 30 miles south of Florence and 7 miles west of Colle di Val D’Elsa, a tiny walled city built in the ridge of a hill.

The atmospheric villa, foodies will want to know, also in the sometimes work place of one Maria Sangiacomo. In American parlance, or any language, she is one heck of a chef. Cooking since age 11, she is an artist study as she crafts dough into wondrous pasta shapes. No photographer could pass her up, and ours didn’t.

So good in her cooking that American tourist constantly invite her to visit and cook for the in the U.S.A.

You can get a taste of Tuscany without leaving home by trying the following easy-to-prepare recipes that Sangiacomo sends with  amore.

For import wine to go with her dishes, call Sportsman’s wines, AJ’s, trader Joe’s and other local purveyors. If they don’t have what you need, they’ll special-order or find a great substitute; or contact Unite Beverage Co., a Valley wine distributor, for more information at (602)233-1900.