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A Week at Tuscookany and Franco’s Pasta E Fagioli

I spent three weeks eating my way from Lake Como to Rome, but the best part of my trip was a return visit to Tuscookany for more cooking lessons at Torre del Tartufo with Franco. We made so many great meals but first I’ll share Franco’s Pasta E Fagioli–my new favorite soup.

I even had more fun this time because my friends, Steve and Jonna, joined me and we had a blast in the kitchen and on our road trips in our tiny, stick-shift, Diesel-fueled Ford CMAX–that I actually drove on the very narrow, two lane, cliff-hanging, switchback-filled roads through the hills of Tuscany.

I’ll give you a little tour of Tuscookany – here’s where we would have our lunch. And lounge in the hammocks afterwards.

We would also enjoy our 6 pm “coffee break” here where we would enjoy a glass of wine and snack on something we were making…

…like these fried squash blossoms that my group made. That’s Franco and Paola–and who knew I would love fried squash blossoms!

 Here’s the veggie garden–I want mine to look like this!

If we needed a break–there was always the pool. 

Or the wood-burning hot tub.

We learned how to make perfect pizza dough. As Franco said, the trick is to knead it until it’s BBS–baby butt soft!

And cooked them in a wood burning oven. I want one of those, too!

Franco taught us all the tricks to be a great Italian cook. And yes, I want a kitchen like that, too!

 Franco showed Jonna how to make really tasty gluten-free pastas.

 And Dan shared his “Two Minute Miracle” martinis.

At the end of the week we shared our last dinner with all of our new friends and fellow chefs! We were all sad to leave, but I know I’ll go back again! 

Now it’s time for Franco’s Pasta E Fagioli recipe.

  • 4 cups cannellini beans (soaked for at least 12 hours)
  • 5 cloves garlic, divided–2 chopped, 3 whole
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 2/3 cup chopped pancetta, about 1/4 lb.
  • 1 TBS. olive oil
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup broken pasta, like linguine
  • 3/4 cup canned San Marzano tomatoes, run through a mill
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 2 liters, or more, chicken or vegetable broth
  • fresh Parmesan cheese  
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Franco would divide us into four groups of three and we would each cook a different course for that night’s dinner. This is how our station would look–all the ingredients were ready for us.

 1. Soak the beans at least 12 hours. Boil them in the same water together with the 3 whole garlic cloves and the sage leaves until fully cooked. About an hour. In a separate pot, heat the chicken broth.

 2. In the meantime, fry the pancetta in a little olive oil. Add the chopped garlic, onion and celery and cook until soft.

 3. Run the tomatoes through the mill. (Or you could use sauce).

 4. Add the tomatoes to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the wine and heat on high until the alcohol evaporates.

 5. Add the cooked beans.

 6. Add enough warm chicken stock to cover the beans and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and stir to keep it from sticking. Continue to add broth as needed. Cook for about 12 minutes on medium heat, or until pasta is cooked.

You can also add a piece of Parmesan cheese to the pot for a little extra flavor.

Season at the end with salt, pepper and parsley. 

Garnish with Parmesan cheese and it’s ready to serve! 

Oh, I almost forgot! Here’s my new favorite after dinner drink. It tastes just like melted pistachio ice cream–very dangerous!

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