The UPside of Lock DOWN

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Last time this year…one of our first zoom aperitivi

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Always with a cocktail , Barbara at her mountain house in Northern Italy, Oma in Iowa and me in Georgia

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Barbara with a cap on , she was henna-ing her hair, I told her she looked like a tellatubbie…

Ciao everyone! By now you all know that I am here in Italy. Spring has sprung, and I await summer with bated breath. As I reflect on 1 year ago when we were locked in the house, frightened and had no idea what was about to come, I can’t help but think about all the good things that came from this apocalyptic event. I always look at the bright side, even if there appears to be zero. But spending loads of time with my husband and pets, the ability to test new recipes for my new book, La Fortezza Cookbook, write recipes and do research, made the lock down bearable.

And the one thing that was a lifesaver and a constant (it kept me sane) was the Zoom Aperitivo every Saturday at 8:30 pm CET, in Italy and 2:30 ET  in the US. with dear girlfriends Barbara and Oma. I can’t even remember how it actually started, most likely a split-second idea that blossomed into a weekly event, an event I truly looked forward to, and one that kept me going through the endless lockdown weeks on the calendar.

At first, we invited many friends and girlfriends to join, but our weekly Aperitivo eventually came down to just us, the core 3, the original gang, the best friends. One in Italy, Barbara, one in the US, Oma, and me either in the US or Italy. We have been religiously meeting every Saturday with few exceptions for 1 year. One year of sharing, complaining, laughing, worrying, giving advice. One year of loads of cocktails and glasses of wine.

We watched the seasons change together, and Presidents come and go. We talked about the world, the pandemic, politics, our children, our husbands, our work or lack of work. Occasionally one of the family members would stop by say to hi, or just walk through and wave as we zoomed our troubles away. It was less lonely, and gave us all a reason to show up for each other.

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Sometimes things were just stressful, Oma with one of her signature expressions…

I love these ladies, more than I did before the Zoom Aperitivi, and believe me, I loved them a lot before the pandemic. But showing up for each other at a time of uncertainty and making each other laugh really took the edge off an uncertain time. It is a reason to celebrate our 1 year anniversary. We made it. I am sure as the summer approaches and things get better, this ritual will have had its run, but I sure hope not. Maybe we can switch to once a month, but right now it’s still going strong. I still look forward to the conversations, words of wisdom, and emotional support these Aperitivi provide…

The UPside to the lock DOWN was this Zoom Aperitivo, and I will never ever forget what a gift it was and is…

Happy Anniversary, Tanti Auguri on our 1 year milestone. I love you ladies and I always will.

Cin CIn. x

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Garden Update

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loading these baby olive trees to be added to our grove

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Ciao Everyone! If you’re following me on instagram, you most likely saw me at the local garden center yesterday. My groundskeeper/gardener Gianluca accompanied me. We had a great time. I thought I’d share an overall garden update, along with a few more updates about the grounds.

One of the things I will be working on this season is adding 50 olive trees to the grove. We currently have about 150 trees on the grounds. We had to plant an olive grove on the property. Oddly our property had a few olive trees, but the terraces had no more than 10, so Frank decided we needed a proper olive grove. We had a fully functioning vineyard, but not an olive grove which in these parts is pretty rare since we are surrounded by abundant groves. I asked Gianluca what he thought had happened to our olive groves, and the only thing he could come up with is the maybe the property was planted with grain-like wheat. I guess we will never know, but right now our olive grove is expanding.

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The pool project is a big one this year. I met with the company working on the pool hardscape. Tiles will go on the deck in April once the chances of freezing are reduced. Our timeline is to finish by the end of May. I bought two large olive trees, one large pomegranate tree, a huge agave, and some fucshia azaleas. We will plant lavender and rosemary, succulents and cactus as well around the pool plus loads of soft green grassy areas. We will also have a fire pit on the lower portion of the pool deck.

Right now the pergola is going up at the end of the pool. It will provide loads of shade for relaxing, dining and reading. It’s pretty exciting around here. I love designing the garden. There will be loads of additions this year to the landscape, but the most beautiful part of our garden is the view. I never get tired of it.

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Our incredible view

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Gianluca with our new addition

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I am excited for our workshop attendees to come and enjoy the pool addition this year. I can’t believe I am saying this, but we are almost full. Folks are signing up every week. I guess everyone is excited and optimistic. I am too. Working outside always gives me a boost and puts me in my happy place.

For more updates from La Fortezza…definitely follow me on instagram if you aren’t already.

xx Annette

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My Tortellini Recipe

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Ciao everyone! I hope you were able to join Tina Prestia and me on Friday for our IG Live cooking class. We chatted all things pasta and specifically, tortellini. You can watch the class/interview itself here. Below, you’ll find one of my favorite recipes for tortellini. It’s a staple in my house and is not as hard as it seems to make. Give it a try! Enjoy.

xx Annette

Greens and Ricotta Stuffed Tortellini with Walnut Pesto
Serves 4

Pasta: For Tortelli Pasta, use the Basic Pasta recipe. Find it here.

For the filling, you will need:

– 3 cups baby kale
– 2 cups  baby arugula
– 1 cup baby spinach
– 1 1/2 cups ricotta
– 8 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
– 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
– 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 eggs

To prepare the filling:

Fill a 4-quart pot 3/4 full with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water to a boil. Fill a bowl 3/4 full with ice water. Add the kale, arugula, and spinach to the boiling water blanch them quickly about  30 seconds to 1 minute. Pull the greens from the pot and plunge into the ice water.

Drain the greens in a sieve and then squeeze the liquid out of them by pressing into the sieve over the sink to remove excess liquid. In a food processor place chilled greens, ricotta, parmesan, pepper, one teaspoon salt, and nutmeg. Blend until a smooth, about 30 seconds. Add 1 egg, and blend. Place the mixture into the fridge until ready to fill the Tortellini.

For the walnut pesto, you will need:

– 1 cup shelled walnuts, reserve 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts for garnish
– 1 clove of garlic
– 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan, + ¼ cup for topping
– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon of salt

To prepare the walnut sauce:

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Put the whole walnuts on a sheet tray, and put on the middle rack in the oven to lightly roast them to golden brown, about 3-5 minutes watch them so they don’t burn. When the walnuts cool, chop the walnuts *set aside 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts. Combine walnuts and garlic in a food processor, and pulse about 30 seconds. Add  parmesan, olive oil, and salt, and blend for 30 seconds to a minute, until combined, it should be a loose consistency.

To prepare tortellini: 

Use the directions of the pasta recipe, you should have 4 sheets. Using a  2  “ round cutter to cut the pasta cut our rounds.

Place the filling into a pastry bag. Using the pastry bag place a 1 inch dollop of filling into each circle of dough. When all the rounds are filled. With a finger dip into a bowl of water and then brush water around the filling fold in half press gently to seal, then take the 2 points and pull them to connect press together to form the shape of a tortellini.

Cooking tortellini:

Fill a 7 to 8-quart pot 3/4 full with water and add 3 tablespoons salt. Bring to a low boil over high heat, and then reduce to medium-low retaining the gentle boil. Drop tortellini in the water to cook for 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the tortellini using a slotted. Place them in a 4 quart mixing bowl, toss with the Walnut Sauce. Serve immediately.

To serve:

Spoon the Tortelli onto four bowls, top with grated parmesan.

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Traveling to Italy, my first week back

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Ciao Guys! If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have been back in Italy for a little over a week. Traveling to get here was quite effortless. After 2 Covid tests, one from Walgreens and one from Delta at the airport, I was on my way. Because I am an Italian resident, we own a home and live here, most of the year entry was easy. I have no idea when Italy will open to the world, but I am optimistic that come fall, it will be open, and Italy will welcome travelers, I would assume with a vaccine passport, but we shall see.

As I write this, my region of Tuscany is in orange. Italy has a system of well-outlined restrictions based on color-coded zones. Red, orange, yellow and white. Red being a strict lockdown, orange having restrictions on bars and restaurants and travel in the region and between regions, and a curfew of 10:00 pm. Yellow is less restricted and allows travel between regions, and the opening of bars and restaurants for lunch. For the official codes, read about it here in my favorite magazine The Florentine.

For me, these restrictions don’t affect me much since I live in the countryside and travel very little.

I am in the middle of editing the finished manuscript of my cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook. Once England can travel, our British team, photographer David Loftus, and our stylist Rosie Scott, can enter the country, and we can start working on the winter chapter. I am hoping that this will be mid-March, bu obviously, I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, we are preparing the garden for the spring, and I have some cool additions to La Fortezza coming soon. The pool will commence and my friend and uber stylist Barbara will be helping me style it up. There will be the construction of the pool pergola, and lots of planting going on.

Until next time, be sure to check the La Fortezza Workshop page, and if you want to join us here, I would not wait. Once Italy opens up, it is going to be nuts!  In the meantime, I will keep posting on Instagram. We have some fun Instagram Lives coming up, so don’t forget to check in and see what’s happening!

xx

 

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William Abranowicz’s new book

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I couldn’t go this month without telling everyone about Bill Abranowicz’s new baby. Some of you already know that I adore him. He is one of the finest humans I know. Not only is he incredibly talented, but he has an enormous heart. Not only is he a fine photography instructor at La Fortezza Workshops, but he is also a social activist and uses his talents to spread his message. His latest endeavor is This Far and No Further, a book that documents the voting rights movement in America.

Beautifully captured this is a book that should live on your shelf.

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I hope you pick up a copy and come to La Fortezza Photography Workshop with Bill in September. Spaces are going fast, and as I like to say, it’s worth the flight just to hear his lecture, and this year we will make sure he talks a bit about his new book. Bring your copy, and he’ll sign it for you. Congratulations Bill, it’s truly an honor and great pleasure to know you. x

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