Sunday, June 9, 2013

Road Trip to Pienza and La Foce

 On the advice of our daughter and other friends, we took off for Pienza on Wednesday.  Pienza is about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Spello, in Tuscany and the town was rebuilt by Pope Pius II.  He had the village rebuilt as the ideal Renaissance town, and it was his retreat from Rome.  What I know about Pienza, is that it is where the best Pecorino Romano cheeses come from!  A little jewel, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and situated in the Val d'Orcia close to La Foce, and since La Foce was open on Wednesday it was the perfect stop before touring La Foce with Dr. C.

On the recommendation of friends, we stopped at this ristorante, La Latte de Luna

Dr. C. had the ribolitta

I had the porcini lasagne with truffle sauce
Lunch was delicious, and since I love porcini, I had to have the lasagne!  I've included a recipe to replicate at home, it's awesome!
Then it was off to La Foce.  Since it has rained almost everyday since I went last month, I didn't know what to expect.  The flowers from the wisteria were gone, but the rest of the gardens are still worth the visit.

As the tour ended there were crashes of thunder through the valley and we knew it was time to head home to Spello.  Here is a simple recipe to replicate the lasagne at home.  Since porcini are not available in most most markets, sub in cremini, or white buttons and season well.  Don't try and use dried porcini, they are too strong, and overpower the truffle flavor.  Buon Appetito!

Mushroom and Truffle Lasagne

For the Filling
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound cremini mushrooms stems removed and sliced ¼-inch thick
 Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan, heat the oil, add the mushrooms and sauté until the liquid begins to evaporate and the mushrooms begin to color.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside to cool.  You can cover and refrigerate the mushrooms for up to 2 days, drain off any liquid that may have accumulated in the storage container before proceeding.

Pecorino Romano Cream Sauce
Makes about 6 cups
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 ½ cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup white or black truffle oil

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter.  When the foam subsides, whisk in the flour.  White bubbles will begin to form on the bottom and sides of the pan.  Once the bubbles begin to form, cook the roux whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes.
Gradually add the broth, whisking until blended.  Add the milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. 
Remove the sauce from the stove and gradually stir in the parsley, cheese, until it melts, and the truffle oil; taste the sauce for seasoning and correct with additional salt and pepper as necessary.  

To Assemble

1 recipe Pecorino Romano Cream Sauce (see preceding recipe)
One 9-ounce package Barilla no-cook lasagna noodles
1 recipe sautéed mushrooms (see preceding recipe)
8 to 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into ½-inch slices
1 cup freshly grated imported Pecorino Romano cheese

Coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch ovenproof pan, with non-stick cooking spray.
Spread 1 cup of the cheese sauce into the bottom of the pan, and top with lasagna noodles. 
Distribute some of the mushrooms over the noodles, top with a bit of the sauce, another layer of noodles, and continue to layer, ending with a layer of noodles, and the remaining cheese sauce.  (You should have 4 layers)  Any remaining lasagna noodles can be sealed in zipper top plastic bags and frozen for future use)
Sprinkle the casserole with the remaining cheese, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.  (or bake immediately)  If freezing, defrost for 36 hours in the refrigerator before baking.
Bring the lasagna to room temperature for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and bake the lasagna covered for 30 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 20 to 25  minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling.  Allow the casserole to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.  

 A note about truffle oil---buy good quality from a gourmet retailer that you trust---if you are in San Diego, Great News has a great selection.  D'Artagnon also sells excellent truffle oil. 

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