I sometimes wonder if I was adopted. My love of pasta is not normal for a Canadian chick. Canadian chicks are supposed to dig things like poutine. I hate poutine. Yet I love pasta beyond measure. Cook me something with a noodle in it and it’s a safe bet you’ve made me one happy chick. Which leads me to believe I’m adopted. I have daydreams about it. I mean I loved my folks, but I’m not going to lie, I think they may have paid handsomely to get me. I was meant to grow up on a farm in Tuscany, I’m sure of it.
So when I was contacted to review a copy of A Family Farm in Tuscany I jumped at the opportunity. I mean not only do I get to take a peek at a cool cookbook but you just never know when my real family might stumble upon me. I mean it happens every day right. If nothing else I was going to get a glimpse into the life that might have been. Before my folks paid handsomely for me.
A Family Farm in Tuscany was written by Sarah Fioroni. Sarah is a chef who manages her family’s organic farm near San Gimignano. Three generations of Fioroni’s work on the farm, and their love of food and each other shines through in every single page of this cookbook. It’s a remarkable book that not only shares over 50 Tuscan recipes, but it takes us through life on the farm month by month. Sarah tells us tales of things that go on behind the scenes at the farm in a way that pulls you into her world like one of the family. She sets the scene like most people set the table, and then serves up recipes that are interwoven into the book and their lives. She tells us about Umberto who milks the cows and Fabio who is a hard-working man who loves women. You feel welcomed into Sarah’s world and you do, in fact, feel like an adopted member of the family by the time you finish the book.
The recipes are outstanding. What I noticed immediately is the simplicity of most of them. Fresh food that is top quality so the flavour shines through. Simple ingredients you can find locally so you don’t have to go hunting down some oddball ingredient most of us can never find where we live. Sarah cooks like we do. It’s one of the many reasons I love this book.
I tried multiple recipes from the book. For me, I feel that in order to give a good review its necessary to try as many recipes as possible. Every single recipe impressed me. The Saffron Lasagna is remarkable and for me, truly unique. Sarah’s Apple Cake is delicious and perfect for fall. Her Jam Tart is pure heaven. The Pasta with Leeks and Sausage is to die for, I was so blown away by this one. I adore leeks and this was a great way to utilize them. I decided to post her Poggio Alloro Beef Ragu Sauce since it was my favourite. A good ragu sauce is worth it’s weight in gold if you ask me. This one fits the bill and then some. It’s simple, it’s packed with flavour and the use of oil olive in the beginning makes all the difference. I tend to use butter to caramelize my veggies but Sarah uses olive oil. You can taste the difference immediately. It has such a rustic, deep flavour. I hope you all try it and love it as much as I do. I’ll be making this sauce over and over again.
Recipe for Poggio Alloro Beef Ragu Sauce/ Ragu alla Poggio Alloro:
Full credit to Sarah Fioroni
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds lean ground beef
5 cups tomato sauce, preferably with San Marzano tomatoes
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
In a large 6 quart saucepan heat your olive oil over medium heat.
Add your veggies and garlic. Cook until browned, about 15 or so minutes.
Add the ground beef and continue cooking until it is lightly browned. Break it up as much as possible.
Stir in tomato sauce and cook for another 25 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking.
Remove and use as desired.
Serve with a big old I love my Tuscan family smile!
This ragu is simple and delicious. It’s a new fave and being entered into the Bee recipe rotation on a regular basis. I made minor changes but only due to not wanting to use a store-bought tomato sauce for this. I’m not opposed to store-bought tomato sauce but since this was a recipe where I imagined myself living on their farm in Tuscany with the family I felt making my own was suitable for this occasion.
Now for the nitty-gritty. Us bloggers are required to tell you when we receive compensation for any review of a product. Which I think is an awesome rule. I wish radio stations had the same rule. I always wonder if the D.J. really does like his alarm system and if he paid for that alarm system out of his paycheck or if it was provided to him by the company. I hear about this alarm system constantly and it weighs heavy on my mind whether he actually uses their service or not. So for me full disclosure is not only cool but necessary for my reader’s sanity. I mean if I stay up nights worrying about whether my fave D.J. is being robbed cuz he really doesn’t have an alarm system in his house then I would think my readers would worry about me and whether I actually use the cookbooks and products I talk about. Trust me folks, if you think I could sleep at night if I wasn’t being honest when I already stay up at night worrying about whether my D.J. is being honest then you got another thing coming. The cookbook company sent me a copy of the book to review. For free. So basically they paid me in recipes. And a book. See where I’m going with this. I was compensated for my review but that does not alter my opinion, yadda yadda yadda.
Now if you’re a regular reader you know I’m a straight shooter. I could not tell a lie if my life depended on it. I could not tell a lie if your life depending on it. It’s not how I roll. So here’s the straight up, for real, dish on the cookbook. I loved the book because it’s beautiful, it tells an amazing story about amazing people, it shares recipes that real people can make easily, and the photos were remarkable. Now you want the dirt on what I didn’t like right? Ya, I knew there were some of you trouble makers out there. Here’s the dish. I wish the book was hard cover since I tend to favour hard covers. It’s a small detail but you want honesty right. The only other thing that I noticed was that not every recipe had a photo of the finished recipe with it. For some people this is no big whoop de do. For me I like when each recipe has a finished product photo. It’s just my preference. Saying that though I also know that it’s costly for cookbook companies to do full colour photos of each finished recipe. The cost of the cookbooks can be significantly higher if every recipe has that. In this case the book more than makes up for it with photos of the land, the people, the farm, the animals and life in Tuscany. There are oodles of photos, all of them gorgeous and full colour. There are lots of pages in the book where you get 6 to 12 photos of life on the farm, or food in various stages of cooking. So my complaint is not lack of photos, but lack of finished recipe photos. Not everyone feels this way. Some people don’t mind just recipes without a photo.
The bottom line is I would totally buy this book at the store if I happened upon it. I really enjoyed it so much that I emailed my contact and begged them to provide a book to giveaway to one lucky reader. Okay, so I did not need to beg. I sent an email and they loved the idea of giving one copy to one of you lucky ducks out there. Isn’t that sweet of them? To enter all you need to do is leave a comment telling us what you love most about Tuscan food. For an extra entry feel free to tweet about the giveaway and leave a separate comment telling me you did so. Make sure you tag @CravingsLunatic so I can verify your tweets. I will randomly draw the winner on Wednesday November 7th at midnight. Winner will be contacted by email and given 72 hours to respond. In the case that the winner does not respond I will draw another name.
So what is it you love most about Tuscan food? For me it’s the simplicity of the recipes paired with the freshness of the seasonal produce used. There is also a sense of a rich family history intertwined with the recipes. A family history where a poor Canuck chick never got her chance to live on a farm in Tuscany because she was adopted and her family paid handsomely for her.
You can purchase Sarah’s book on Amazon: A Family Farm in Tuscany: Recipes and Stories from Fattoria Poggio Alloro by Shearer Publishing. Also make sure you scoot on by their website for more information on Sarah and her lovely family, you can find them at Fattoria Poggio Alloro.
Make sure you hop on by Cooking with Chopin, Living with Elmo to see more recipes and posts about A Family Farm in Tuscany- World Tour Blog Hop. A big thanks to Ginny and Sarah for this wonderful opportunity. I’m so honoured to have been a part of the tour.