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Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun

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Chianti Classico plus Chianti Rufina

Four Chiantis in a wide range of prices — plus a pinot grigio.

Chiantis are the best-known wines from Tuscany and from the sangiovese grape, but they can range over a wide variety of territories and a wide range of prices. Plus, we’ve thrown in a Tuscan pinot grigio to set your palate.

Banfi “San Angelo” Toscana pinot grigio 2013 ($18). Pleasant, full, lightly sweet with minty green flavors.

Coltibuono “Cetamura” Chianti 2013 ($10). This is a pleasant but light-bodied Chianti — the kind your granddad drank in college — with good cherry flavors and lots of acidity.

Ruffino “Ducale Oro” Chianti Classico riserva 2009 ($34). Lots of nice cherry and raspberry fruit followed by the typical sangiovese raspy minerality in the finish — very elegant, yet quite lively.

Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2012 ($18). Classic, straight-down-the-middle Chianti with plump cherry flavors and raspy finish.

Selvapiana “Bucerchiale” Chianti Rufina riserva 2010 ($34). A delightful, fruity Chianti — lots of lovely raspberry and savory flavors with a gamy, raspy finish.

17 tuscan sun pasta Recipes

Tuscan Stuffed Pasta Shells (Vegan)

Tuscan Stuffed Pasta Shells (Vegan)

Toss It Together Pasta Surprise!

Toss It Together Pasta Surprise!

Tuscan Garbanzo Bean Soup

Tuscan Garbanzo Bean Soup

Creamy Tuscan Tomato Pasta With Chicken

Creamy Tuscan Tomato Pasta With Chicken

Tuscan Bean and Pasta Toss

Tuscan Bean and Pasta Toss

Tuscan Shrimp Over Spinach Pasta

Tuscan Shrimp Over Spinach Pasta

Tuscan Chicken Milano

Tuscan Chicken Milano

Tuscan Rigatoni & White Beans

Frances Mayes’ “Tuscan Sun” Recipe for Delicious Ragu

If you are traveling to Tuscany soon, then buonjiorno! If you’re not—most of us, right?—then the next best thing is to cook up some Tuscan deliciousness. Frances and Ed Mayes’ cookbook The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen allows you to really experience Tuscany as a participant in their Cortona, Tuscany, kitchen, serving up the warmth and essential simplicity that is Tuscan cooking.

“If on your visit, I hand you an apron, your work will be easy. We’ll start with primo ingredients, a little flurry of activity, perhaps a glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and soon we’ll be carrying platters out the door. We’ll have as much fun setting the table as we have in the kitchen. Four double doors along the front of the house open to the outside—so handy for serving at a long table under the stars (or for cooling a scorched pan on the stone wall). Italian Philosophy 101: la casa aperta, the open house,” she writes.

Here is her recipe for a Tuscan ragu sauce, a rich meat sauce to be used in lasagna or over pasta.

“Slow and easy—long-simmered ragu is the quintessential Tuscan soul food. There are as many ways with ragu as there are cooks. This is ours, learned originally from Giusi, who's made it a thousand times. By now, I think we have, too. On many Saturday mornings, Ed makes a huge pot of ragu—tripling, quadrupling the recipe—and another of tomato sauce. We consider these our natural resources. For lunch, while the pots are still on the stove, we spoon ragu over bruschetta, add some cheese, and run it under the broiler. By afternoon, we're ready to fill several glass containers of different sizes and freeze them. We're then free to pull one out during the workweek.”

Giusi’s Ragu

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 Italian sausages, casings removed

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 cup soffritto (recipe below)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

16 to 20 tomatoes or 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped

Pour the olive oil into a 4-quart heavy pot with a lid. Over medium-high heat, brown the meats, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and 1 cup of the red wine. After the wine has cooked into the meat, about 10 minutes, add the soffritto, and stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes.

Bring the sauce to a boil, and then lower to a quiet simmer. Partially cover, and continue cooking for 3 hours, stirring now and then. Along the way, add the remaining cup of wine if you think the sauce is too dense. —The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, minced

Saute the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until they begin to color and turn tender, 5 to 7 minutes.—The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen

Access Culinary Trips is a proud sponsor of the PBS Dream of Italy “Tuscan Sun” half-hour special that began airing around the country in October 2019. The show interviews author Frances Mayes and explores her adopted hometown of Cortona, which is the heart of our popular culinary trip. More information about our sumptuous 5-day culinary trip to Tuscany!

Onion soup in the Arezzo style

From The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes

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  • Categories: Soups Italian Vegetarian
  • Ingredients: yellow onions vegetable stock Tuscan bread Fontina cheese Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Under the Tuscan Sun - Recipes

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Bramasole wins Gold at the
New York International Olive Oil Competition
Click here to learn more.

In the serene hills around our home, Villa Bramasole,
we hand-pick our olives and grind them without heat in the artisanal manner. The fresh and lively oil becomes the focus of feasts and celebrations every fall, and a source of pleasure in the kitchen all year. We’ve come to believe that each spoonful of this sublime oil connects us to the roots of life in this ancient Tuscan landscape and with the great old Mediterranean sun.

“ Aromas of ripe fruit, green leaves, tomato and notes of fruit, mint. Taste exhibits abundant fruitiness, green grass, some sweetness, some bitterness, light pungency and notes of tomato, fruit, mint, with exceptional harmony, a high complexity and a high persistence.”
–NYIOOC 2014 Judges

Website Design by John Dutton © The Tuscan Sun | Photographs © Steven Rothfeld | Photographs © Mark Harvey

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Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Though I disliked the movie, which was absolutely nothing like the book (and not in a good way,) Under the Tuscan Sunis so beautifully written that you almost feel as though you’re walking through sunlit fields of sunflowers in the countryside surrounding Cortona. Normally, I don’t go for these types of memoirs, simply because the majority of them – and I’m looking at you, Eat, Pray, Love – are such self-absorbed, whinily written, so-called journeys of discovery by wealthy, pampered, spoiled women who don’t appreciate what they have. Frances Mayes’ gorgeous tale of her life in the stunning countryside of Tuscany, however, is truly a voyage of discovery.

The author is a teacher who, with her husband, buys a rundown villa in the town of Cortona. They fix it up when they return each summer, and it becomes not just a second home, but a true oasis for them both. They become friends with the natives of Cortona, and eventually truly become citizens of this magical little town tucked into the hillsides of Tuscany.

I’ve actually visited Cortona and found it as beautiful as any place in Italy. Pitched roofs, pigeons, a historic town square, the ubiquitous flowers and trees that scream Italy, cornerside bars and cafes, yellow-striped canopies that wave in the breeze………Cortona is the quintessential small Italian town that charms and seduces. Below is a photo I took in that wonderful town. It is a place that is filled with happy memories, not to mention it had one of the only hotels that still had on the heating during that chilly late spring.

The house Frances buys in Cortona is called Bramasole. Isn’t that just gorgeous? It means “yearning for the sun.” I think that is all of us, no matter where we are. We are all yearning for the warmth and comfort of the sunshine, especially in the depths of winter. And of course, one of the things she does in her new house is cook. She cooks up a storm, utilizing the seasonal bounty that is Italy in the summer and winter, and her cooking echoes the ongoing work she and her husband do to the house. She learns to use the raw materials to enhance the beautiful life in Italy they have created together, just as they have created this gorgeous oasis of a home in a country not theirs by birth, but by love.

I chose her recipe for sage pesto with basil, because I needed to use up some of my homegrown basil, and also because I just adore a good pesto and hadn’t had any in awhile. It is so nice to have around, to spread on toast or atop a piece of grilled meat, or with roasted vegetables. And it is so simple, and yet so gratifying to make! Yum!

For the sage pesto:
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup sage leaves
1 cup walnuts
5 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Using a food processor or a small food chopper, finely chop the sage, basil, and garlic until very finely chopped.

Add the walnuts and pulse again until everything is finely chopped into an almost paste-like texture. Add the olive oil gradually, in a thin stream, pulsing all the while.

Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper here if necessary. Add in the lemon juice and sprinkle in the Parmesan and pulse again until the sauce thickens. Taste again and season as needed. Set aside.

Under the Tuscan Sun - Recipes

I just finished reading "Under The Tuscan Sun" by Frances Mayes. We saw the movie way back when it was released. I don't remember much about it, other than it was a syrupy romance with some great scenery. I saw a news segment recently on the CBS Sunday Morning Show with Frances Mayes being interviewed and it prompted me to read the book.

I enjoyed the book but soon realized that what I was reading was a lot different from the film, pieces of which began to slowly trickle back into my memory. I assume Mayes sold the rights to her book and the film adapters used the basic premise and the setting and then added all the fluff. I was curious as to Mayes's reaction to the film but I could not find a comment from her about it.

So, if you loved the film and are looking for romance, you probably will find the book disappointing (a lot of Goodreads reviews confirm this). On the other hand, if you really want to read about a couple buying a house in Tuscany and renovating it, you'll like it. Mayes and her husband, both college professors in San Francisco at the time, purchased Bramasole, a neglected two-hundred year-old farmhouse on five overgrown acres on a hillside in Tuscany.

As projects of this nature go, it was not all sunshine and roses (although both sunshine and roses are in great quantity here). They began by hiring three Polish workers to mend the crumbling walls which terrace the property (do a search - I love the walls as much as the house and gardens!). Interior remodeling followed, with new plumbing installed, walls torn out and reorganized and lots of scraping, painting and polishing. In addition to loving old houses, the couple are also avid gardeners and accomplished cooks. The gardens are filled with olive trees, roses, lavender and she describes their experiences with working on the garden as well as sharing recipes.

The book sometimes goes off on various tangents, such as a road tour of Italy or discussing saints. She also writes a good deal about food, which is never a bad thing. There is an entire chapter filled with recipes. I made the lemon cake today. It is like a pound cake with a nice, light lemony flavor. This is a very simple recipe with just a few ingredients. I made a few minor changes (I increased the oven temperature to 350 after reading a review that said the cake was not done at 300 degrees in 50 minutes. I also increased the amount of lemon juice just a tad.

Lemon Cake (adapted from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes)

1 cup butter (softened)
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
5 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray or butter and flour a Bundt pan or tube pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar for several minutes until the mixture is very light.

Mix in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.

Add the lemon juice and the zest.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.

Add a glaze if desired. (I made a glaze from mixing powdered sugar and lemon juice. The book calls for a glaze made by mixing 1/4 cup of soft butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice).

Allow to cool on a baking rack for 10 minutes before inverting onto another wire rack to cool completely.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

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Hi Phillip, Yum! I read the book long before the movie came out, so, of course, I loved it more than the movie. Yes, the movie was completely different. There were also a series of books set in Provence where Peter Mayle renovated his house. The first, and I think the best one was A Year in Provence. He's written many others. Same trials and tribulations. I will make this cake very soon for my family and send you a photo. I love your new garden. Is it easier to garden in the Pacific Northwest?

Another one to put on the reading list. Thanks Dee! And yes, it is easier to garden here. :)

A DIY Christmas

I’ve been wanting to make limoncello for Christmas gifts for years. With the success of last year’s DIY Christmas of Homemade Never-ending Vanilla Extract behind me, I decided this was the year for limoncello. Now, limoncello takes a little time and patience to make but once you get the first, more labor-intensive steps out of the way, it’s basically a do it and forget about it project. Well, at least for a few weeks until it’s time for part two and then again when it’s time for part three. You see, Marcello’s abbreviated description of his family’s recipe for this smooth (albeit, a little strong!) sweet and lemony elixir is not far off the mark. You basically steep lemon peels in a grain alcohol for 2 to 4 weeks, remove the peels, add simple syrup and let that rest for 3 to 6 weeks before bottling. So if you’d like to make this for Christmas gifts, you’ll need to get started in the next week or two.

I used organic lemons to ensure that there was no pesticide on the lemon skins and gave them a good wash before peeling. Some recipes call for vodka, others opt for Everclear to get the purest flavor. I used three 750ml bottles of 151 proof Everclear that happened to be on sale at BevMo. I found a good lemon to bottle ratio is 10 lemons to every 750ml of alcohol. Be prepared for the most awesome, lingering, lemony scent to fill your kitchen as you peel lemons!

Last year for the vanilla extract, I bought my bottles from Specialty Bottle. They worked out great so I went back there to look for bottles for my limoncello. Typically, it’s served as an apéritif, ice cold straight from the freezer in a chilled shot glass and sipped. Since I am planning on giving this as gifts, I wanted it to feel like a substantial gift and decided that I needed to give at least 16 ounces away. Specialty Bottle has a 17 ounce swing-top bottle for $2.56 but it’s square and aesthetically – because I’m all about packaging – a square bottle wasn’t what I wanted. A quick Google search later, I wound up at Northern Brewer and found exactly what I wanted: 16 ounce round bottles with a swing-top cap sold in cases of 12 which brings the price per bottle down to $2.25. Compare that to a 17 ounce swing-top bottle at Container store that sells for $4.99 each and it’s a total steal!

For tags, I opted to design my own on plain card stock, hand cutting them to size and tying them to the bottles using baker’s twine. This way, the bottles can be re-used by the recipient for whatever they like without having to bother with scrapping off adhesive.

After adding up my expenses, I think I’ve made out pretty well. I have 12 bottles to gift and my price per gift is just at the $10 mark. I am pretty excited to gift these and hoping that the friends that receive these bottles of lemony yum enjoy them as much as I enjoyed the process of making it for them.

Italian esacpe? Try my Under The Tuscan Sun Cocktail.

Under the Tuscan Sun is one of my favorite books. Written by Frances Mayes, an American journalist, and set in Italy, the book details a summer set in Positano. Mayes, unfamiliar with the Italian lifestyle and her new fixer-upper villa, discovers the labors and love of renovation, cooking, gardening and life. Ever since I finished the pages in her book, I have wanted to experience an Italian getaway of my own and the chance to be creative with their local communities and seasonal offerings.

Since my dream Italian escape is out of my reach at the moment, I do my best to make the most of what I've got. Therefore, on a hot Los Angeles Sunday, I visited the Melrose Farmers Market and grabbed some goodies for cocktail mixing. I came home with kumquats, rosemary and a bunch of other herbs. Kumquats are great because they are sweet and tangy and even their exterior is edible - just beware of the seeds. With a little imagination and some fresh ingredients, I created my new Under the Tuscan Sun cocktail.

Watch the video: Tuscanys Dolce Vita (May 2022).


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