Pino and I knew that garlic (“aglio”) highlighted the tangy tomato sauce for a favorite southern Tuscan pasta favorite, pici all’aglione, but now we know that not just any garlic will do. The garlic for this dish must be the ivory-colored aglione della Valdichiana, indigenous to the southern Tuscan area, now recognized officially as an agricultural product of excellence, registered as a PAT (Traditional Agricultural Products). The garlic can weigh up to nearly a pound!
[lcaption]Aglione della Valdichiana can weigh up to a pound![/lcaption]
We learned all this at lunch near Montepulciano at Ristorante Pizzeria L’Angolo in the small town of Acquaviva – nearby lives one of the Italy’s ten Italian aglione farmers – where chef/owner Paolo’s pici all’aglione (“thick spaghetti with garlicky sauce”) won over Pino.
[lcaption]Ristorante Pizzeria L’Angolo, Acquaviva (near Montepulciano)[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Pici all’aglione for Pino[/lcaption]
That pasta would have been my choice, too, but In wintertime, any dish with winter squash tempts: I ordered a buonissimo Paolo creation, garganelli alla zucca e noci. A sauce of crushed walnuts, pine nuts, Parmesan, pepper tops the pasta, chopped arugula adding color and a flavorful bite. The white foam mystified me: whipped steamed milk, Paolo told me. Squisito!
[lcaption]Garganelli alla zucca e noci[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Paolo serves up his pasta creation[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Pici all’aglione for Pino and garganelli for me[/lcaption]
…..and before our primi, we shared a tasty Tuscan antipasto of liver pate’-topped crostini, crostini con porcini and mozzarelline:
On this cold December day, the restaurant was empty except for a table of local workmen savoring Paolo’s homemade gnocchi with creamy gorgonzola cheese:
As the workers enjoyed their gnocchi, Pino took on the tagliata di chianina, the steak dish typical of the Valdichiana area, but with a ‘Paolo touch”: rubbed with garlic, rosemary, hot red pepper before grilling.
[lcaption]La tagliata – with the “Paolo touch”[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Pino squeezes lemon on his tagliata[/lcaption]
No way I could follow up my pasta dish with a secondo as Pino did: a plate of steamed artichokes more than satisfied:
Before we left, Paolo showed us a cookbook featuring some of his recipes – and telling all about the aglione della Valdichiana.
Ah, this Italy, “land of the endless discoveries.” Our Montepulciano outing revealed one: l’aglione della Valdichiana. The search for new treasures continues…..
Read about another favorite spot for pici all’aglione
Click here to read about a food festival in southern Tuscany where pici all’aglione is a favorite dish
Read about a southern Tuscany spot for the tagliata di chianina steak
Read about another southern Tuscan spot for the eating of pici
Read about the nearby butcher and links to this restaurant