Culinary Travels in Tuscany with Pauline: Colorful to White
After experiencing all the colors of the villages along the Cinque Terre coast yesterday, we took our culinary travels in Tuscany to the town of Carrara. The city is dwarfed by mountains that are draped with what you might think is snow, but NO, it is white marble–the infamous Carrara marble, no less. These mountains have been excavated for 1,200 years and apparently, there is still enough marble for another 1,200 years or more – WOW! I am a huge lover of this marble and to be here surrounded by this gorgeous stone is stunning!
I learned the purest white marble is most sought after and most expensive. The marble that has the grey grain reduces the cost of the marble–go figure. I actually prefer the grey grains. The more grain the better for my taste.
It was a treat, indeed, to load up in Land Rovers with helmets and safety jackets to go to the heart of all the action–the top of the mountain! I had to smile. With helmets and jackets on, we proceeded at our own risk. It was an adventure, to say the least, and the drive tested our fear of heights.
Alberto, our guide, is a fifth-generation member of these mountains and knows them inside and out. Together we had a nibble and some Champagne against this beautiful backdrop while he told us about the inner details of Carrara! I was hoping to take home a slab of marble home, but I settled for just a pure white marble salt shaker and a grey grain marble pepper mill!
We continued on our journey to lunch, which was a hidden, outdoor family-owned restaurant in the village of Colonnata, famed for producing a dish called Lardo! Lardo is a type of salumi made by curing strips of fatback with rosemary and other herbs and spices and has been made since the Roman Empire.
Making lardo is an art. Here, they take the pork fat from the pig’s back and cure it for up to a year inside white marble boxes and black bags, which hides it from any light. It is widely considered to be the best in the world! I had never eaten it before, but it did taste quite fabulous! What an experience!
How to make Lardo
5lbs Fresh Skinless Pork Back Fat
2lbs Kosher Salt
12 Cloves Minced Garlic
6 Sprigs of Thyme
4 Sprigs of Rosemary
2 Tablespoons Crushed Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Crushed Juniper Berries
1 Crushed Star Anise
- Mix all ingredients (except pork) together to create the cure mix.
- Place pork in cure mix and distribute evenly.
- Place into a black plastic garbage bag.
- Set in a container to hold in the fridge for six months.
- Each month redistribute cure over the pork, ensuring all sides are covered with the cure.
- After six months rinse, pat dry. Enjoy on its own or on fresh toast.
We dined under the shade of the bougainvillea. This luncheon was particularly lively as we dined on local fare, drank local wine and enjoyed the local hospitality. The chef was indeed a character, and the lunch ended with him entertaining us on his harmonica. He gave my husband a guitar (because he looked like he might be able to play, LOL) which turned into a session of song and dance. We loved it all!
We couldn’t believe it was now 5:00 o’clock! Next, we went to Pietrasanta Square, a charming, artsy village that booms with modern and vintage artworks. We sat down here for an Aperitivo, of course!
And dinner took us to Monteggiori at Le Tre Terazze. We dined on fresh Pappardelle with asparagus and speck, fried chicken, pan-cooked rabbit with olives and tomato with vegetables, salads, roasted duck fat potatoes and Sangiovese wine from Maremma. You might say an unbelievable day!
Read Part One of Pauline’s Trip To Tuscany here. And stay tuned for Part 3 of her journey to come!