I met Sarah a few years ago, when Emiko introduced me to her agriturismo, Poggio Alloro, a few kilometres past San Gimignano. I fell in love instantly, I could not find words to describe how peaceful and soulful that corner of Tuscany was. Yet today here we are again: a book, a recipe and my love for a generous dish.
If I think at the perfect idea of the classic farm with animals, fruits and vegetables, olive trees and vines, a few cats and a dog, people working together from sunrise to sunset as if they were a family, the first thing that comes to my mind is Poggio Alloro, an organic farm and agriturismo overlooking San Gimignano. They do not work as a family, they are a family. In 1955 three brothers left the Marche to move to Tuscany to work on a farm. In 1973 they bought the property, which was totally different from how it looks now: a lot of empty fields and only a few vines. From then on they began a process of respect and love, they planted more trees and other vineyards, introduced the saffron cultivation and farm animals.
At Poggio Alloro they offer their guests a genuine spontaneity and the warmth of a family in every moment: the grape harvest, the crop, the olive picking or a simple meeting among relatives and friends are perfect chances to experience their hospitality.
The most representative character is Amico (who’s name means friend in Italian), Sarah’s father, one of the three brothers who moved there from the Marche in 1955. He is a generous man, he loves showing his vegetable garden, with spruce rows of ripe tomatoes of so many different varieties: San Marzano, Canestrino, Costoluto fiorentino, pulpy and delicate.
Everything is produced organically: DOCG wines and the famous Vernaccia wine, extra virgin olive oil, green and fragrant, vegetables and cereals, honey and pure DOP saffron of San Gimignano, a precious spice since the Middle Ages. They breed rabbits, guinea fowls, Cinta Senese and the huge and majestic cattle of the Chianina breed, one of the most ancient breed of the rural world. The farm is a closed cycle, that is the breeding involves reproduction exclusively in the cowshed without buying in animals from outside.
At Poggio Alloro they produce their own cold cuts in the farm: ham, capocollo, salami and sausages. The cured meats open the dinners at the farm along with crusty bread, figs if in season, milky cheese with jam and honey. The dinners are just the perfect moment to understand the relationships and the passion behind all the daily work at Poggio Alloro: we chat together, just like a real family, you pass along the good olive oil and the bread, the symbols of the Tuscan food culture, they talk lively about fun shared memories, in a succession of do you remember that time when…
Fattoria Poggio Alloro
Via S. Andrea, 23 – San Gimignano (Siena)
Tel. 0577 950153
All these passion, culture, landscapes and love, the smiles, the stories, the recipes, the true life of a family farm in Tuscany, all this is perfectly described in Sarah’s book, A Family Farm in Tuscany.
I decided to do a recipe I wouldn’t have done otherwise: pasta, sausage and leeks. You usually think twice when it comes to sausage and pasta, nowadays you try to keep it simple, light. Though, I wanted something special, and this recipe was calling me from the book pages, hearty and rustic, the kind of pasta you deserve when you work the whole day outside in the fields or, seeing the period of the year, picking olives in the biting wind. I was right, we loved the pasta till the last sausage crumb and my grandma appreciated it leaving a clean plate, it was one of those dishes that can bring you back to the real flavour of past times.
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups (265 g) leeks, sliced ¼ inch (6 mm thick)
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt (1g), plus additional for the cooking water
- 1 pound (454 g) sausage, casing removed
- 1 pound (454 g) dried fusilli
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon (6 g) grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the leeks and cook stirring occasionally until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and cook 5 more minutes, stirring often.
- Add a few tablespoons of water to the leeks and add the sausage into small chunks. Stir and cook for about 7 minutes.
- While the dressing is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the salt and cook the pasta al dente.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the leeks and sausage. Add the milk and cheese and toss over medium heat for one minute. Serve immediately.
If you love Tuscany and want to have an insight into the real family life in a Tuscan farm, if you are searching for a good recipe for ribollita o donzelle, if you already love my dear friend Emiko’s photography, well, this book is for you: simple and unpretentious recipes, interesting in-depth descriptions of Tuscan products such as pork, Chianina, saffron and olive oil and a good laugh. Christmas is close, Sarah’s book could be a really nice idea for your dear ones. If you are interested, you can buy it online on Amazon.