Update: I wrote this post a few months ago and have since learned that Antonella passed away last year. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family. I am fortunate that I had the opportunity to cook in her kitchen and share time with her family. Her family can rest assured that she made special memories for the many tourists she taught in her home kitchen.
I have been reminiscing about Italy a lot lately. The sights, the smells, the food, the coffee, the desserts, the pasta… did I mention the food? Every bite of food I ate while in Italy was incredible. Best food of my life. It was also such an empowering trip. Traveling alone is a much different experience than being with people you love. I will always remember my solo three-week trip to Italy and that country will always hold a special place in my heart.
David and I have been talking about where we would want to take the kids on their first international trip. We have talked about France because David has never been and the girls have seen it depicted in movies and TV shows. We’ve also talked about England because it’s easier going to a place where you can speak the language. The more I think about taking them somewhere, the more I want to take them to Italy. It’s only been 5 years since my trip, but I feel I have been away too long. There is so much more of Italy to discover.
Of course part of my reminiscing has been about the food. I took several cooking classes while there and two of those were taught by the same woman in her home. Antonella was a wonderful teacher and host. She welcomed a bunch of Americans into her home and taught us some of her family favorite recipes. She talked about how she would get her sons and husband in the kitchen together to cook big family meals. We made a caprese cake which was one of her sons’ favorite recipes and she would be making it for his birthday a few days later. Antonella introduced us to tools and ingredients which were new to us, but that she uses regularly.
Cooking in Antonella’s kitchen with her was so inspiring. The way she respected the food she worked with, and made sure to add love to each dish that she would be serving. She takes the time to make meals special for her growing family, and I often think about her small Italian kitchen along the Amalfi coast. I learned many lessons during my trip to Italy, and Antonella taught me to add a personal touch to each meal I prepare, whether it is for my family or a client. I thought Antonella’s Italian Pumpkin Pasta was the perfect recipe for Epicurious’ Personal Touches in the Kitchen series because it reminds me to add that extra special touch to everything I serve.
Italian Pumpkin Pasta is simple to prepare and delivers all the comforting flavors of the Fall and Winter seasons. Bonus, it requires the use of only one pan. In Italy, our cooking class prepared this meal together following the instructions of Antonella. She welcomed us into her home, into her kitchen, and set a table for us in her dining room overlooking the Amalfi Coast. We sat, ate, and chatted with her for hours. She told stories of her kids and husband, what they love and what they do. She talked about the food of Italy and the joy of showing hospitality to foreigners and introducing them (us) to her beloved county through food. Antonella’s husband and son are jewelers and we had the opportunity to visit his shop and I went home with a beautiful sea stone encased in a ring. Her husband fed me three… maybe four… servings of tiramisu. The personal touches Antonella and her family give to their crafts make them one of the most memorable families and experiences I have ever had.
Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more. This post is sponsored by Epicurious. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
30 minCook Time
30 minTotal Time
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 sugar pumpkin (about 2 pounds), skinned, seeded, and diced
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
- 20 ounces (2.5 cups) low sodium vegetable or chicken stock
- 20 ounces (2.5 cups) water
- 1 pound dried pasta
- kosher salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- grated pecorino romano cheese
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the garlic, red pepper, and pumpkin. Saute until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add the thyme leaves and 1 cup of stock. Lower heat, cover, and simmer until the pumpkin in fork tender, about 10 minutes.
- Uncover, add the remaining stock, water, and pasta. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente, about 15 minutes. Keep the liquid at a high simmer or gentle boil, do not allow it to come to a full rolling boil. If the liquid absorbs too quickly and the pasta is not yet cooked, add more liquid and continue cooking until al dente.
- When most of the liquid is absorbed, remove from the heat and serve immediately with grated pecorino romano cheese.