Fall Italian Cooking – Working the Woods

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Of course you could try and recreate the pungent smoky fall cookery smells of an Italian kitchen from a cookery book, but why not instead step into Mamma Anna-Maria’s plentiful kitchen in Abruzzo?! Combine a taste adventure with an inspiring autumn holiday in Italy and return home knowing how to cook like an Italian Mamma.

The late flush of fall in Abruzzo means that, by the time of our Vendemmia (grapes harvest), we’ve allowed our Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes to sweeten naturally for longer on the vine. The leaves are turning, and the swirling evening mountain mists have every good Abruzzese and their faithful truffle hounds wistfully watching the woods, wantonly imagining the damp gently enticing delicious black & white truffles and wild mushrooms to pop up from their moist forest floor.

For safety reasons, and to help stop the problem of over-picking our region, central Italy requires a license to pick wild mushrooms, proof that you have done a mycology course and really do know your mushrooms from your toadstools.  If you’d rather truffle hunt and concentrate on the kitchen than swatting up on mushrooms, this is where ItaliaSweetItalia can step in! Our truffle guide is a fun guy called Carmine, and alongside his dogs Lara and Billy they ensure you experience the pleasure of exploring Abruzzo’s woods; afterwards you will learn how to cook with these intense, freshly foraged ingredients, with Carmine’s mother.

If you like fresh sweet nuts we invite you to market to try the stall-holders fresh harvest of walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts.   Sweet Chestnuts aren’t just for roasting in our famous regional Italian cuisine, they feature in hearty warming soups with the new harvest of air-dried legumes, our favourite being chickpeas that are then drizzled with the freshest vivid green new olive oil and sun-dried peperoncini.  For those with a sweet tooth try making caggionetti with Anna-Maria, a dish southern Italians traditionally eat over Christmas.  In southern Abruzzo into this fried chocolate ravioli dish we use chick peas, almonds and walnuts; in Teramo they add chopped chestnuts instead.  They make the perfect alternative to Christmas cookies as gifts.

One unforgettable experience that every foodie should savour is the taste of olio nuovo.  Not only can you harvest superior olives with us but you can take them to the mill to see the whole process that makes them into award-winning oils, nicknamed liquid gold.  It’s a delight used as a simple dressing over new fennel, this season’s game, or for frying slices of the new polenta.

Arrive by the middle of November and we’ll whisk you away to our famous harvest festivals that celebrate winter’s approach.  Our personal favourite is medieval Casalbordino’s  Castrum diVino, whilst you warm your hands around the bonfire you can enjoy the fruity intoxication of their vino novello, Italy’s own Beaujolais.   You’ll savor the flavor of the new olive oil and other unique Vastese flavours including pizz’e fuje, Ndrucioloni which are an experience no cookery book can equal.

2013 November feste dates to consider booking your fall Italian cookery holiday to coincide with:

Castrum diVino, Casalbordino  is held on the 17-18th November 2013

Prosit! Polu Uthar, Pollutri – 23rd November 2013

Borgo Rurale, Treglio 9-10th November 2013


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