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Photo: Christine Davis

Food & Drink

Learn to cook like an Italian

Lake Iseo, a one-hour drive east of Milan, has its own cuisine and high quality, sparkling Franciacorta wines. Maria Pasotti introduces you to the local gastronomy and teaches you how to prepare genuine Italian food – while you enjoy a glass of wine.

“Pour the flour mix into the bowl and break two eggs and an extra yoke into the flour. Then knead the mix while ensuring you don’t get any cracks in the dough,” Pasotti says.

Pasotti runs Good Food Good Mood, a company that offers food trips and cooking lessons, and promotes Italian food.  Her passion for food started at an early age, when she helped make pasta at home from being knee high to a grasshopper. She now has a master's degree from the Università di Scienze Gastronomiche di Slow Food.  Today, Pasotti is based by Lake Garda, at Castelveder, a vineyard in a beautiful country village called Monticelli Brusati, not far from Lake Iseo.

“The lakes in North Italy and Lake Iseo in particular, are not just beautiful to look at, they are also an area rich in wine and gastronomy.”

“I want to show guests where good Italian flavors come from,” Maria Pasotti of Good Food Good Mood tells Scandinavian Traveler. Photo: Christine Davis

Oil, wine and fish

The mild climate and low water temperatures in the lakes make this area so fascinating for people who love food.

“We have an exceptionally mild micro climate here, that makes it possible to grow Mediterranean olive trees, for example. The olive oil is of very high quality and with a delicate taste that goes very well with local fish.  It is also rich in vitamins. Perch and trout from the lakes taste good and are rich in fats thanks to the low temperature of the lake water. You absolutely must taste the sardines dried the way they did it in the old days. This method is now protected under the Slow Food Presidia label. High quality dairy products are also produced in the valleys around Lake Iseo.

And obviously you should eat the pasta. Once we guests have kneaded the dough, we’re going to run it through the pasta machine. After the first part of the pasta dough has been run through the machine, we knead it together and run it through the machine again. And a third time. You realize that even if, at first sight, pasta seems a simple and uncomplicated dish with few ingredients, it takes time to produce.

“Even Italians don't have time for this, nowadays,” says Pasotti.

“Women go out to work these days. Not many are housewives with the time to prepare pasta dough. However, I want to keep old traditions alive and explain about all the wonderful tastes in Italian cuisine.”

Franciacorta wine

Camilla Alberti at Castelveder.

While we crank the pasta machine, we sample the wines from the vineyard we are staying at: Castelveder. They produce a sparkling wine here, Franciacorta, that also has its own appellation. It is produced by methode champenoise using chardonnay and pinot noir grapes.

“Our wines are delicate, fresh and rich in minerals, thanks to the terroir and cool climate,” Camilla Alberti, owner of Castelveder, tells Scandinavian Traveler. “The wines are nothing like Prosecco that is produced in Veneto where they add carbon dioxide to the wines.”

When the dough finally reaches the right consistency, it is left to rest for an hour. In the meantime, we make pesto and tomato sauce. Pasotti has gathered basil from her own garden and the sun-drenched scent of the herb, fills the kitchen. Everything takes just minutes to make.

“In Genoa, they maybe use a mortar and pestle to get the right flavor, but you can just as easily use a hand blender. Many people claim pesto from a blender is more bitter tasting than from a mortar, but you can avoid that by adding an ice cube to the ingredients. You also need to cool the bowl,” she says.

In the bowl of basil and an ice cube, we add cheese, olive oil, naturally from Brescia, and pine nuts. The tomato sauce is just as simple: Sweet tomatoes, tomato purée and oil.

A delicious meal

What freshly prepared, homemade tagliatelle looks like.

Once the dough has rested, it is divided in two: one half is for tagliatelle, the other half for ravioli filled with cheese and lemon zest. The tagliatelle dough is rolled out into thin sheets. The sheets are then cut across into 5mm wide strips. We now have a wonderful tagliatelle, maybe not as smooth as factory made pasta, but all the more beautiful to admire. For the ravioli, we cut the dough with a circle shape, but a glass would work just as well. We add the filling, the lemon scent of which, promises a delicious meal to come.

The pasta is cooked al dente for a couple of minutes and we are ready for dinner after hours of pasta making.

“Mmm.”
“Delicious.”
“Ooohhh.”

The chefs sigh over the pasta. It is undoubtedly amongst the best we have ever tasted.

“Italian food is all about the quality of the products,” says Pasotti.

Nobody around the table had any objections to that.

Last edited: October 25, 2018

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