A cooking class from the magic storybook-land of Aosta

There’s a fairy tale behind the Rustic Italian Alpine cooking class I’m teaching next week…. Once upon a time (in 2007), our eldest, Annie decided to walk the 900 km Camino de Santiago from the Pyrenees in southern France to the coast of northern Spain. Alone.

They say you meet your soulmate on the Camino … so along comes Gianluca, an Italian engineer  …

and blah blah blah … before you know it, this happens …


Photo by Angelo Morelli

And now, they live in Aosta, where Gianluca is from … which is as pretty as a place gets. When they look out their kitchen window, they see the glacier on Mont Blanc. When you walk around town, you see this:

And then there’s the whole Roman thing.

The 2,000 year old theatre, the tall Roman walls that still surround the city, the monstrous Arch of Augustus, numerous digs, etc.  The Valle d’Aoste is about 55 miles long, starting about 30 miles north of Turin and ending at the Mont Blanc tunnel that heads into France. Aosta, pop. 35,000, sits right in the middle. On either side of the narrow valley looms the big boy Alps and lots of beautiful quaint farms and villages. When I visit Annie, I drive her car up into the villages via windy narrow roads with bazillion foot drops off the side and often no guardrails. I drive and Annie screams.  But it’s worth it because we get to visit farms like Roberta’s.

Roberta and her husband have two young kids and they live at the top of an Alp in a tiny hamlet in a restored rustico that’s about 8 million years old. They raise goats and cows and Roberta is a cheesemaker the likes of which you’ve never seen.

Annie’s a physicist who makes organic body products for a living now using ingredients she gathers from her farmer friends. And speaking of friends, Gianluca and Annie’s friends love to gather and cook and eat and drink the delicious voluptuous edgy regional wines. And that brings me back to this class where I will be sharing some of what I’ve learned from Gianluca and Annie’s friends & family.

Gianluca and Angelo are making polenta. In an outdoor fireplace of course. With sausages.

Grilled on a giant slab of rock propped up on bricks on the fire.

That get served with the polenta, which, of course, is also cooked in an iron pot on embers.

And then the polenta is turned out on a board to serve with the meat and the local fontina cheese. I’ll save the cow vending machine cheese story for the next post.


And that’s what we’re going to do in the Rustic Italian Cooking class next Wednesday. Minus Annie and the cute Italian boys. Sorry.

And they all lived happily ever after.

PS You can read more about Annie and her adventures cooking and living in Italy here. 

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One Comment

  1. I have a pair of brightly-colored woolen mittens that I bought at a Goddard College auction. The person who donated them said that they came from Val d’Aosta. I wear them every winter.

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