It's hard to believe that today was the last day of class in Siena. The three weeks flew by, and flipping through the hundreds of pictures of all the dishes we've prepared, I can't believe how much I've learned.
Today Luisa taught us about Sardinia's island cuisine, assisted as usual by our amazing translator Kara, an American college student with remarkable maturity and wonderful Italian who has patiently helped us understand the intricacies that surpassed even the most expressive Italian hand motions over the last few weeks.
Our antipasti was tortino di piselli e pancetta, a twist on a frittata, made with peas, pancetta, onions, and eggs. The dish was simple to prepare and delicious – definitely one to repeat at home. I started by sautéing the diced onion, then the diced pancetta, then added in peas, parsley and seasoning. Once it was mostly cooked we took it off the heat, added in whisked eggs, and put it into the oven to bake. It was basically an inverted frittata, with peas as the primary ingredient rather than the filling.
Our primi piatto was ravioli sardi di patate pecorino e menta, a version of ravioli made with a different type of dough and folded into a half-moon shape. I made the dough with a harder flour and egg whites and it was much tougher to knead into a ball than typical pasta dough. While the dough rested we made a filling of goat cheese and pecorino, potatoes, onions, and mint leaves, which are quite common in Sardinian cuisine. The sauce was a simple tomato and garlic combination. Given the dense flour and the potato based filling, I expected the pasta to be heavy but it was actually light and very tasty, with the goat cheese shining through and balancing well with the acidic tomatoes.
Our secondo was arrosto di maiale al latte, one of the best meat dishes we've made so far, and also extremely easy. We tied up a large piece of pork shoulder and then browned it in a pot with oil and sage leaves. It was surprisingly difficult to wrestle the meat off the bottom of the pot with my two tall wooden spoons but I managed to get an even-ish brown before we put in onions and milk. After that we let the meat braise for over an hour, periodically checking it and adding water if it was getting dry. In the end we had tender and flavorful meat with a rich sauce made by blending everything that had cooked with it in the pot.
This was accompanied by a contorno of carciofi all'uovo or artichokes simmered with herbs. Interestingly, once the artichokes were cooked, we mixed some egg in with them to create a sauce. Eggs featured much more prominently in our Sardinian dishes than they have in most of the other regional recipes.
I thought that the dolce – budino di amaretti – was going to be similar to most of the other desserts we've made since we started out making a typical vanilla custard, then mixed crushed amaretto cookies into it. It turned out to be a very different sort of dessert – almost like a flan with crust. The cookies rose to the top to form a crust while baking and the custard solidified, making for a sweet and refreshingly different final course.
After we finished the meal, Luisa presented us with certificates and aprons and there was lots of hugging and picture taking. I was really lucky to get to spend the last three weeks with such lovely people and will certainly think of them as I attempt to recreate some of these dishes at home!