"There's nothing more romantic than Italian food."
- Elisha Cuthbert
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One of the greatest things by far about my study abroad is that is founded on the concept of hands-on learning. In order to fully grasp a language, you need to learn about the culture that accompanies it. I know, I know, I say it all the time but it's so true.
When you learn about a culture you gain perspective into how language in used in different contexts. Different dialects, street slang, word usage all can be learned when immersed within a cultural community.
Moreover, the lifestyle of a population can be quite telling as well. For Italians, like many other cultures, food plays a massive role in everyday life. In fact, the day is centred around food.
* Colazione (breakfast) sets the tone for the day. Usually, a cappuccino or espresso and some biscotti for an early morning pick me up.
* A few hours later it is time for a merendina (snack), a light amuse-bouche that will tied you over until lunch. Typically, some crackers, schiacciata, fruit or even a light panino.
* Pranzo is where things get really interesting. If you are lucky enough to return home for lunch, you can expect that mamma is making a delicious pasta for you to enjoy, a hearty way to give you enough strength to tackle the rest of the day. If you are out and about in the working world, chances are that you will be give a one to two hour lunch break. Amazing considering that many North Americans are allowed a half-hour lunch break, with many opting to have lunch at their desk.
* After work or some afternoon gallivanting, you might need to partake in the classic aperitivo (pre-dinner snack). This ritual calls coworkers or friends together for a light cocktail and some nibbles like cheese, olives, nuts, and bread.
* Then, comes the long awaited cena, the dinner that never seems to end! A meal that usually consists of meats and vegetables, it isn't a rarity to also be served an antipasto and, of course, a gelato or some sweets to finish!
What a whirlwind! So many meals, yet there is always time to share in the enjoyment and camaraderie of eating!
But that's not all, Italy is the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement, an initiative dedicated to restoring how food should be: real and natural. From stopping by the local mercato to pick up some fresh produce to sharing traditional recipes, food rules the Italian lifestyle!
I am so grateful for the many unique opportunities and experiences that studying abroad has given me. More specifically, my program, which is offered through the University of Toronto, has been stellar. We've gotten to form strong relationships with our professors both inside and outside the classroom. In organizing unique gite (field trips), we have visited several historic museums, tasted the finest Chianti, and now have had the pleasure of participating in pasta-making workshops!
I am constantly reminded of the importance of the Italian culture, a culture that still places a strong emphasis on homemade meals, local ingredients, and the tradition of passing on iconic family recipes.
Below is the recipe for tagliatelle con ragù, a speciality brought to you by my culinary professor, a woman who taught me and my classmates not just about technique but about life throughout the process of making this dish. With many laughs had, smiles shared, and impeccable teamwork, this dish was a smashing success!
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Tagliatelle con ragù
* Makes 8 servings *
• 1 onion, peeled
• 2 carrots, peeled
• 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
• 1 teaspoon (several leaves) of parsley
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 package of ground beef
• 2 cans of diced Roma tomatoes
• 2 cups of water
• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 5 cups of flour, tipo 00
• 5 eggs
1. Put the onion, carrots, celery, and parsley in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are chopped. Transfer into a deep pan with olive oil, over medium heat.
2. Sauté beef with the chopped vegetables until cooked, stirring frequently.
3. Add water and tomatoes, making sure to crush them with a spoon as they cook into the sauce. Stir in spices and simmer on low heat for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
4. For the pasta, make a well in the centre of the flour. Crack the eggs inside and beat until smooth. Slowly begin incorporating the flour into the egg mixture. Once it is incorporated, knead it for several minutes before letting it rest for 15 minutes.
5. In small pieces, run the dough through a pasta machine 3 times on a thick level. Then, run the pasta through a thiner level an additional 3 times. Once it is has reached the desired thickness, gently fold the pasta several times, cutting 1/8" strips to form the tagliatelle.
6. When the sauce is almost ready, cook the pasta in a boiling pot of water that has been seasoned with salt and oil. Cook to al dente, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and add sauce to the tagliatelle.
7. Enjoy your homemade tagliatelle with a big glass of Lambrusco!