Feelin’ like Florence Tonight

I’m in the mood for Italian again. I remember when I first came home from Florence, I couldn’t stop raving to my friends and family about ‘real’ Italian food; stocking my kitchen with high quality olive oils, balsamic vinegar, honey and pastas. Even though I was only in Italy for 10 days, I could immediately tell how much effort and passion is put into every meal created for a family. A lunch could take a whole morning to prepare, while the whole family would take 2-3 hours to finish eating the meal.

Although I would love to spend a few hours a day preparing a meal for my loved ones, my schedule simply does not permit it. Fortunately, the Fall semester just ended and I have a few days to breathe. As a mini thank you present to my parents for putting up with my whining and stressful rants during finals week, I decided to cook them a special meal tonight, inspired by my trip to Florence.

Rigatoni w. Homemade Tomato Sauce:

I picked up this pack of Rigatoni from this small Italian market near my home, which brought back memories of my visit to a pasta factory back in Florence.

Mini lesson about the production of pasta:

Fresh pasta is pushed through what is called a “die”, which gives the pasta it’s unique shape. Dies can be made from different materials; teflon and bronze being two of the more popular ones. Bronze dies produce a tougher (and higher quality) pasta texture that is said to hold the sauce better!

A bronze die from Mr. Pasta Guy's pasta factory

The finished product:

The sauce recipe was given by Jacopo, our chef/instructor in Florence. I lovelovelove this recipe because it’s simple and tastes really fresh. I chopped up one carrot, one stalk of celery, one small onion, 2 cloves garlic, and 2 lbs tomatoes. Then I sauteed the garlic, onion, carrot and celery in some olive oil, added the tomatoes, some salt and pepper,  and allowed it to simmer for half an hour. Top it of with some fresh basil and the result is super yum. You could puree the sauce in a blender or food processor for a smoother texture but I left it the way it was.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
Originally wanted to make this with pancetta..but we just happened to have a pack of bacon in our fridge.

Main course:
Spinach and sun dried tomato stuffed pork tenderloin with gorgonzola cheese.

The filling!

The final result!

My kitchen is a mess, tomato sauce is splattered all over my clothes, and my hands smell like garlic. However, dinner was delicious, and I can’t wait to cook this meal again for someone special:)

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