It’s so easy in summertime to put together a fabulous meal to share with friends. The produce is green and abundant and it barely needs to be touched to put together a lavish, seasonal meal. The days are long and warm, so food can be served more slowly than usual, outdoors or in, with no hurry, and lots of lingering conversation.
For our first outdoor feast of the Seattle summer season we were blessed by the added luxury of an overnighted package of the best Italian cheeses we have tasted outside Italy, sent with care from RITROVO® friend and new N.E. distributor, Ken Skovron of Darien Cheese and Fine Foods in Connecticut. Through one of his VIP East Coast-Italy connections he has begun bringing into the East Coast a portfolio of raw milk, organic cheeses that show a true sense of Italy’s food terroir.
Thanks to Ken’s special additions to our summer feast, we were able to create a cheese board that included his two Tuscan pecorinos, one fresh but firm and the other perfectly aged to a snackable density. We served these with a green chickpea and Casina Rossa Lemon Oil spread and Radici Quince Jam, respectively.
A Roccolo di vino–creamy, almost cheesecake like Lombardian cow’s milk cheese–was made for our Feudo delle Ginestre Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Grape Chutney. And shards of perfectly crystallizing Parmigiano Reggiano –a standout among Reggianos we have had here in the U.S.—were the perfect contrast when placed atop summer’s fresh arugula and Radici of Tuscany Artichoke Carpaccio.
To complete our cheese (and meat) board we offered some sliced meats, including a chicken galantine from our friends at Delaurenti Food and Wine in Seattle, which we simply wrapped around some asparagus that had been marinated in Trampetti Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Pirankse Soline Refosco Vinegar. A few Tenuta Cocevola Taralli Crackers, a tub of Miller Farms Truffle & Salt Almonds, and Tavolozze al Tartufo Crackers and the feast began.
Summer Stuffed Conchiglie
One bag Casina Rossa Conchiglie Pasta
¼ cup Casina Rossa Extra Virgin Olive Oil
12 oz. fresh ricotta cheese
1 ½ cups cooked, chopped vegetables (can include chopped, cooked asparagus spears, blanched fresh or frozen peas, diced zucchini, chopped ramps or garlic scapes)
1 tsp. Casina Rossa Fennel & Salt
2 Tbsp. + 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 jars RITROVO SELECTIONS™-Casina Rossa Pasta Sauce
1 extra jar Maida Golden Tomato, if desired
Cook conchiglie until just al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain well and toss lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine ricotta cheese, vegetables, fennel salt, and 2 Tbsp. parmesan. Add some extra virgin olive oil if mixture is too dense.
Pour both jars of pasta sauce in a 13” x 9” inch ovenproof baking pan.
Carefully stuff each shell of pasta individually with ricotta mixture. Set carefully in the pasta sauce base, with the open edge of the shell facing upward. Fill pan with pasta shells. If there is more space, prepare another pan with a layer of Maida golden tomato sauce and place remaining stuffed shells into that sauce. Top with remaining parmesan cheese.
Bake in a 350° F oven for about 25 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and cheese topping is melted.
To complete the meal we created a meat dish that was inspired by one of the surprise ingredients of the feast, discovered very unexpectedly at the West Seattle Farmer’s Market: a container of fresh black currants. When we brought these dark, earthy fruits back home thoughts flowed back to summer in the Italian and Austrian Dolomites, with meals enhanced by mountain flavors like dark berries. Without even thinking, from a deep culinary memory place we tossed these together with Acetorium Black Currant Vinegar, Madonna dell’Olivo Itran’s or La Bella Dolce Moliture Extra Virgin Olive Oil, some good coarse-grain mustard and Casina Rossa Sweet & Salt to form a thick, rich vinaigrette sauce. Later we tossed this macerated mixture with salad greens and over thin slices of roasted organic pork tenderloin to make a closing salad for our feast.
As the great food, conversation, and long lingering sunset filled the evening we could only think to say, “Grazie mille e buon appetito”.