Culinary Tours in Italy

Happy New Year!
Ciao a tutti!
We wish you all a very happy and healthy new year! We hope everyone had a great holiday season and that your 2018 is off to a great start! Gina's restaurant is going great and we're looking forward to our tours this year. We'll be heading over to Puglia soon to do additional research for our upcoming tour to this fabulous southern region next year in 2019! Stay tuned.

Since we are in the deep freeze of winter right now in the U.S., we thought it a perfect time to feature warming soups!  Or if you're lucky enough to be in warmth and/ or the Southern Hemisphere, stay healthy with soup.

Buon appetito!
Gina and Mary
Warming Italian Soups for the New Year
There's something comforting about a bowl of warm soup during cold winter days. A lovely couple came in for dinner the other night and asked about a dish they had enjoyed at the restaurant last winter, hoping I'd give them the recipe, which of course I did. They'd been raving
about it for a year and, with the wintry weather setting in, wanted to recreate it at home.  It's a Tuscan favorite: chestnut soup, flavored with bits of Italian pancetta, fennel, leeks and rosemary; it's warming, rich and fulfilling.

So this caused me to look at the photos I had taken over the last two winters, where I found all kinds of delicious soups that I'd forgotten I made!  Butternut squash with a drizzle of
new olive oil (pictured here on the right), cauliflower and rosemary, minestrone with tiny sausage balls, rich duck broth with parmigiano crepes, wild mushroom with cream and crusty croutons, lentil with carrots, celery and kale - I love starting the dinner with a welcoming antipasto of hot soup!

Soups are so easy to make, and so satisfying to eat.  Together with a little bread and cheese or salad, it's a complete and light meal.  Or you can start with a soup and move on to something for a heavier meal.  All you need are some fresh vegetables, herbs and water, a little fire and an hour or two to simmer.  Add wine as needed to keep the winter chills away!

Here's the recipe for you to try - or to make again...

Zuppa di Castagna (Chestnut Soup)
6 oz pancetta, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
½ bulb fresh fennel, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
4 cups chestnuts, or two cups meat, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 cup cream
Boil the fresh chestnuts in enough water to cover for 20 minutes. Peel the chestnuts, taking them from the pot of water one at a time. If they are at all difficult to peel, put them back in the water or reheat the water. Chestnuts peel easiest when very hot. If using dried chestnuts, place them in boiling water, turn the fire off and leave them to soak until softened. Or get packs of them already shelled, soft and ready to go!
Sauté the pancetta in a soup pot with half the olive oil until warmed, add the butter and rest of the olive oil to the pan and sauté the onion, leek, garlic and fennel until soft and translucent. Add the rosemary and saute for a minute, then the chestnut meat. Stir to coat with the oil and warm through, add enough water to the pan to cover, add the bay leaves, salt to taste and simmer for 45 minutes. Just before serving add the cream. Serve with croutons. For a vegetarian option, you can omit the pancetta. 
This Month's Italian saying...

"Avere le braccine corte" means - "to have short arms"

In Italy, cheap people are said to have " short arms." Here, we say "they have alligator arms" - if you can imagine an alligator trying to reach into it's pockets for it's wallet. This is one of the only sayings that is similar in English as in Italian!
What are your travel dreams for 2018 and beyond?

Well, if a culinary focused tour is on your list consider joining Gina and Mary to explore
thewonderful regions of Italy. Dates are on our website for 2018/2019! (click here)
Beginning next year we're going to Puglia! We've always loved this region of Italy since the very first time we visited many years ago. 
This region in the heel of the boot of Italy is famous for it's beautiful beaches, blue water and truilli yes - but more importantly, the agriculture (think olives and ancient 300++ year old olive trees!), along with delicious wines (Primitivo and wines of the Salento region), the freshest seafood, just made burrata (our mouths are watering), sun dried tomatoes and so much more!   
We will return to Piedmont and Tuscany next year as well. Find out more details on our website:
Brolio to the west
Our full immersion food and wine tours of Tuscany, Piedmont, Campania and Emila Romagna are all inclusive: accommodations in the lovely villas or quaint hotels, winery tours, classes, all meals,excursions and transportation to these excursions are included and we're there every step of the way to show you the best each region has to offer. We lead small groups of 8-14 people and our excursions are carefully thought out to entertain and educate, introducing you to local people who love to share their vineyard or city or farm with you.   
Bologna Parmigiano
Wheels of Parmigiano! 
We are offering the Best of Bologna in Emilia Romagna again this year. If you can only make it for a few days and love the foods of this region (who doesn't love them?!), this is the perfect tour! We'll meet in Bologna for a few days, before and after our Tuscany tours. Want to see the famous king of cheese Parmigiano Reggiano being made? Or learn (and eat!) prosciutto di Parma? Besides learning about these and the real - tradizionale balsamic vinegar we include a cooking lesson focused on hand made pastas along with an up close and personal tour of this wonderful city!

Not sure where to start? Give Mary a call (972) 342-8308!

At the Italian Table in Louisville - Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs
Gina's restaurant has been very successful and if you're planning to go to Louisville to see her, be sure to call and get a reservation. She was featured in the Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs series! Check it out here: Watch the segment!
Interested in traveling to Italy...or looking for something?
Are you interested in traveling to Italy on your own to celebrate a milestone anniversary or birthday? Or - how about a special interest group like photography or antique shopping? We can help you plan something on your own for that special celebration or join a group that we organize and lead for you! If you're looking for the perfect picture - or the perfect armadio or table, join like minded people and explore Tuscany with us.
This September we are offering a Tuscan photography tour where we'll be staying in the beautiful Val d'Orcia famous for its cypress trees and rolling fields and lead by a talented professional photographer!
Contact Mary to learn more and start your planning!
Val dOrcia
Gina Stipo and Mary Stipo Potter | Ecco La Cucina| 1-972-342-8308| Email | Website