Handmade Ricotta

So... when was the last time you were in a rustic farmhouse in Sicily eating handmade pasta and handmade ricotta?

If you were us, the last time would have been this afternoon.

George, our landlord at Villa Modica is unbelievable. He arranged a luncheon for us today at a farm outside of Modica where the owners made homemade ricotta, homemade pastas - that's plural - plied us with drink, meats, cheeses, baked pasta hors d'oeuvres and antipasti, 7 or 8 courses of food that went on for hours.

Yes. Hours.

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I can't even begin to describe the day. But you know I'm going to, anyway!

When we walked in they were stirring the milk, heating it to the proper 180°F. Victor makes ricotta, so the process wasn't unfamiliar - but the final product was just unbelievable. It's the ingredients. They milk their cows and sheep and make cheese. No middleman. It's unbelievably good.

The pastas were a cappelini, a ravioli, and a stuffed fried dessert ravioli shaped like a priests hat. I don't recall the name, but that's the literal translation.

We started off with antipasto.

Olives, salumi, eggplant, fritatta, cheses - the cheeses made at the farm.

Then diffeent baked pastas - It looked like sheets of pasta spread with different fillings and then rolled and baked - in a brick oven, of course.

Small rolls made of semolina - a bruschetta of olive oil made at the farm - and garlic and herbs. All of it was a gastronomic delight.

And then bowls of ricotta curds fresh from the pot.

Again, a taste sensation you just can't experience elsewhere. Rich, creamy, with the slightest almost-hint of lemon. I ate a lot.

And then the food started to arrive.

"Wet Ricotta" with hunks of a semolina bread that just soaked up the liquid. It was like eating a bowl of chunky cream. I went for it and finished the bowl.

That was cleared and the pastas started arriving.

First the cappelini. Every one of those were make by hand. Perfectly made by hand. Again, Victor makes homemade pasta - and his pasta is stellar. But every one of these looked exactly the same. By hand. It was in a sausage and tomato sauce that was rich yet not overpowering. Simple and perfect.

And ravioli stuffed with the fresh ricotta. I've made ravioli and can't cut a straight line for beans. She cut every one of them effortlessly in perfect squares while talking and barely paying attention. Perfect squares.

And when we couldn't possibly eat anything else, the meats arrived.

Pork chops, bacon, and sausages grilled on a wood-burning grill. OMG!  A squeeze of lemon - just a simple squeeze of lemon - sent it over the top.

And while all of this was going on, liters and liters of wine, beer, waters and sodas kept arriving at the table.

Finally, when we just couldn't possibly eat another bite, dessert arrived. the simple fried priests hats - filled with a cinnamon and lemon ricotta that was to die for.

Along with the dolce came homemade lemoncello and espresso. Personally, I think Victor's lemoncello is better, but this was damned good And a shot of lemoncello in an espresso is a great way to end a meal.

Over three hours of eating and talking and having a great time.  And then we went to a winery for a bit of wine-tasting.

It was a really small winery - no idea how many cases they produce a year - but we tasted a few great wines and brought a couple of bottles back with us.

The had a no-sulfate wine named Rememorie della terra - Remember the Earth - that was excellent. I wish they could ship directly to our home and not have to deal with the sate system.

Five hours after leaving the house, we crawled back in and down to the pool to moan and groan and relive the fabulous experience.

No dinner tonight.

Just great memories of a once in a lifetime experience.

And... some great ideas for dishes when we get home. Some of the dishes are going to be replicated.



The Food! The Food!

I'm sitting in a gazebo by the pool, trying to put words to the gastronomic sensations we have had in just a few days.



What a difference between food that was grown down the street and picked at its peak vs food that was grown thousands of miles away and picked for shipping - not eating.

I wanna move.

To say we haven't had a bad meal, yet, is an understatement - every grape, peach, tomato - OMG the tomatoes - are just fabulous. And the cheeses! The mortadella! The breads! The pastries!

I'm in gastronomic heaven.

Our second night here, Phoebe made a papardelle with pancetta, onions, and red wine.

Stunning in its simplicity. And unbelievably delicious.



George, our landlord at Villa Modica brought over olives he grew and cured, himself. Laced with hot peppers, they have a salty bite that you just won't find elsewhere. I'm eating handfuls at a time. Just fabulous.



The fruit has been spectacular. The difference, here, is the fruit doesn't have that perfect look that we expect at the grocery store. But what it lacks in perfect looks, it gains in perfect taste. The food hasn't been bred for looks - it's all about what it's supposed to taste like.





We had our first Sicilian Pizza last night...





I made hand-spun pizza for many years and always thought mine was pretty good. This was better. The flavors just exploded. The version I got was called a Modicana. It had mozzarella, ricotta salata, onions, sausage, and arugula. What a taste sensation.

There are several fish markets along the street. Here, they're advertising fresh swordfish. It doesn't get fresher.

There are produce stalls everywhere. We've been going to one in particular where we can park the car. There is one guy there who is a total hoot - a real charmer and salesman. His English is about as good as our Italian - and we're communicating perfectly.




And we've picked up some chocolate and some fun liqueurs. I see some really different biscotti in our future.

I knew coming in we were going to love the food. I had some pretty high expectations - and in just three days, they have been exceeded a hundredfold.




The First Meal Out


We woke up to a bit of a gray day, today. Since we had been following the weather, we knew we had a bit of a rainy day, today, so we didn't plan anything other than a bit of recovery from the crazy travel day...

Of course, we all were up by 6am due to time-zone changes, so by 11, we decided to go out and at least see a bit of the town. It had stopped raining, and while still overcast, was quite pleasant.

By 1, we were ready for a bit of lunch, so we wandered into a small trattoria...

We had a blast between the owner's lack of English and our lack of Italian. And the food was stupendous.

We started off with an anti pasti rustica - local salumi, a local cheese, local olives, local eggplant, home-baked bread, a fritatta, and a focaccia that more closely resembled what we would call a stromboli.

I have a feeling I'm going to be raving about anything and everything we eat. All of it was awesome.



My secondi was a tagliatelle with beef, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms... with toasted bread crumbs on top. So simple. So fabulous. Victor had a fritatta that was divine.



As we waddled around town and back towards the car, we found a paticceria. Cannoli. Filled to order as all cannoli should be.



But they took it a step further. Not only were they filled to order, they were placed on a heavy tray and wrapped like a present. All for 18 Euro! (That's 2 bucks apiece!)



If you're ever in Modica, it's Chantilly Pasticceria - http://www.pasticceriachantilly.com. Another place where English was not widely spoken, but we had a lot of fun communicating!



And they're even better than they look!

Tonight we're going to stay in and eat light. We have two weeks of meals to get through - one at a time!