It is our first full day here and it starts with a bang. Due Papaveri is hosting a six person week-long cooking class. Heaven. Guests get the royal treatment and are served breakfast, lunch and dinner on the deck overlooking the Modenese hills or in the candlelit dining room adorned with modern Italian/Balinese décor. Their time is filled with cooking classes, vineyard tours and trips to the Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic vinegar factories.
Charlotte’s staff is comprised of WWOOFers (those who work on organic farms in exchange for room and board). Currently there are five of us: Luca from Canada, Sigis and Agne from Lithuania and Troy and me. Each of us has our own reasons for choosing the WWOOFing path, but we are all here to experience the local food and culture. Luca, Sigis and Agne all have dreams of running their own restaurants. As you may know, Troy and I are WWOOFing because it allows us to immerse ourselves in the Italian way of life, so that we can gain the best possible understanding of the origins of the food. We are at Due Papaveri specifically to learn all about Charlotte’s cooking (and a little about running a bed and breakfast).
A bit about Charlotte. Her passion is food, and she is committed to living a life according to this passion. Hence, she runs her own bed and breakfast and gourmet restaurant. Her kitchen is based on Italian tradition combined with a modern international style. Her menu is seasonal and offers dishes made with local products. Even her drinking water is fresh from a spring up the hill.
Today is make-your-own pizza day for the cooking class. Our WWOOF team prepares the fixings: Salami, tuna, chicken, sausage, bacon, fresh tomatoes, red peppers, thinly sliced eggplant and potato, arugula, onions, homemade tomato sauce, Parmiggiano-Reggiano, ricotta, mozzarella, Peperoni a filetti, Cipolline (pickled onions), marinated mushrooms, olive oil, herbs, capers and Pepe Verde (pickled green peppercorns that are very spicy). The dough is rolled thin, and we separate each layer with parchment paper. Add two portable red pizza ovens, many bottles of wine and we are set to go.
At Due Papaveri, WWOOFers are treated like guests. Don’t get me wrong, we work hard, but we are free to enjoy the resort to its fullest and we generally eat with the guests.
Back to the party, we all clink wine glasses and get a fixin’. Charlotte gives us a few rules of thumb for making her Italian pizza. Two spoonfuls of sauce per pizza max, if using red sauce. Make sure when placing ingredients to leave enough dough around the edges to allow the crust to get crunchy. Keep the pizza light. Use ingredients sparingly.
This is so much fun. Now, which one is best? For me it is clear. The best pizza of the day is the potato and rosemary. The rosemary (that we just picked) jumped off of the plate. It is mild, fragrant and brings out the richness of the olive oil. The potatoes are paper thin, crispy and taste buttery. A touch of Parmigiano-Reggiano adds nutty depth, and the ricotta provides a creamy soft balance. Light, unexpected and so good.
Hurray for pizza pizza! Pasta party next…