Italy Discoveries: A Cinque Terre Kitchen

Join Elena as she’s invited into local homes to learn age-old cooking traditions, and to taste incredible Italian food.

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Travel to the top of the cliffs in Cinque Terre, a beautiful, rugged section of coast on the Italian Rivera. Here World Nomads’ Elena Valeriote meets with an array of local food producers, chefs and winemakers. Despite the language barrier, cooking is a universal language. But, will Elena do a homemade ravioli recipe justice?

Elana Valeriote: I think that if anyone would have asked me, what's the thing you want to do most in the world, I would have said I'd like to go to Europe and eat, and if they'd asked me to specify where I would have said Italy. So, when I got the chance to do just that, I was just over the moon excited. But what I didn't realize was that even more than that, part of this trip that I would love is being in the kitchens and the wine cellars with the people here and getting to talk with them about how they cook and why they cook and where they got their recipes from. I think one of my favorites was making the ravioli, one of my first cooking experiences here because even though there was a bit of a language barrier between me and the woman I was cooking with, cooking is a universal language. You can really communicate through food. She would just show me, you know, you pinch it off this bit of dough here and you press it in this way, and when I would do something right, it was bravissimo and it felt so great.

She was so willing to give me the recipe and to show me this thing that had been in her family for generations. It was really special. I mean, coming from an Italian family, and not really being able to cook with any of my Italian ancestors, I felt like she was my Italian grandmother that I didn't have, and the food was just, it was so great. I've never had pasta that, that was that fresh. Oh my gosh. I'm always amazed at how good every single glass of wine is here. The ravioli ended up being our dinner for that night at Louchio wine cellar and everyone said over and over that I had made it and that they were so proud of it. I love to cook alone, but cooking is a shared experience. Always you cook so that you can give it to someone else and eat with them.

The dish that we made was an, um, anchovy dish, and again, just very few ingredients. You've got some anchovies, some potatoes, some onions, tomatoes and the first step, of course, is you have to prepare your anchovies, uh, which is not something I particularly enjoy doing. I've never done it before, but I was willing to give it a go and you have to start by ripping the head off of the anchovy, which is a bit gruesome for me. I knew that anchovies were particular to the region and I wasn't looking forward to it, but I thought, you know, I'll get through it. It'll be all right. Uh, but I have found that they can be prepared in pretty delicious ways. You could taste the dry white wine in it, which is, of course, from Cinque Terre. All using the local things and you could taste just the freshness of the vegetables in it. It's incredible what you can do with just these few ingredients and that's what I've seen here again and again, in Cinque Terre, especially is because those work with just five basic ingredients, either in their pasta or their cookies or their bread dough, and they turn these simple few ingredients into what they call "poor food" because it's such a basic amount of food, but they're decadent at the end. You know, they have a really rich flavor that doesn't need to be overwhelmed with salt and pepper and parmesan.

I don't want to leave here at all, but I also feel like this is the sort of place that if you let it, it stays with you. And I feel like this trip is definitely going to linger over me for a long time.

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