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  • Rustichella d’Abruzzo

    Rustichella is the benchmark in the world of artisan durum wheat dried pasta.

    Discovering their linguine (still a favourite strand, but now one of many), is one of the reasons you are reading this today.Rustichella is the first brand of the foundation ingredients we are highlighting in our 25th year of Sabato, and has long been a key brand in our range.

    Rustichella pasta is an excellent illustration of how using best quality core ingredients give you a more delicious, more forgiving, more nutritious and more pleasurable dish.

    Simply boil your chosen shape in plenty of salted water until cooked to your liking (the Italians prefer it quite ‘al dente’). Rustichella is more resilient and does not overcook as quickly as other pasta. Drain and dress with your favourite Sabato-selected extra virgin olive oil and a dusting of one of our fine Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then enjoy. Simple and delicious. If dairy is not your thing, use instead one of the tasty Sabato bruschetta, sauces, pastes or vegetables.

    Because of the qualities of this pasta, you will find that the flavours of your other ingredients will be absorbed by the pasta and may taste even better over the next few days. This pasta holds its mouthfeel. You may find you have leftovers as a little Rustichella goes a long way. Another of its fine qualities is a high yield. Cook and keep up to four days in your fridge. Cooled, cooked pasta is higher in resistant starch, which has been linked to reduced gut inflammation. This pasta is very digestible pasta, which is the word we found the delightful Peduzzi family (who founded and still operate Rustichella) often use to describe it.

    Based in the charming region of Abruzzo, apparently often overlooked in favour of Tuscany, this too is a very picturesque place of rolling hills, ancient towns, good food and relaxed friendly people.

    Amusingly, and quite appropriately, the Rustichella offices are in the town of Penne. It is a family-owned company consisting of a brother, a sister, in-laws - and now quite adult children. All of whom are very dedicated ambassadors of their fine brand, and when you taste it, you understand why. They are dedicated to excellence, from the selection of specifically milled wheat and using local pure mountain water, to the long and slow artisan process of production and attention to the finer details.

    I asked what happened to the loops which are trimmed from the long strands so the pasta will fit into their familiar brown bag after slow humidified drying over rods. The answer? Off to be added to a gourmet dog food brand.

    How Italian!

  • Catching up with the Girolomoni brothers

    The only thing that momentarily drew our attention away from the demands of the bumpy, winding road leading towards the crest of a hill (we would call it a mountain) in Isola del Piano, in the Marches, was the appearance of busy local bee keepers, as we headed up the slopes, to visit Girolomoni. They are our organic supplier of pasta, farro, mountain lentils, extra virgin olive oil and a few other very interesting grains.

    The Girolomoni entrance sign. The Girolomoni entrance sign.

    We were particularly intrigued to return to the 14th century Montebello monastery that the late Gino Girolomoni was making his life's work to restore, complete with a small museum, when we first visited some years ago.

    Entrance Arriving at Girolomoni.

    A pioneer of the organic movement in Italy, Gino is renowned throughout the region as the man who brought it back to life again through the introduction of organic farming. At one point he had also been a very innovative and progressive mayor. These days, both his sons and daughter are involved in the co-operative which now includes 200 farmers spread through this, and other regions, in Italy.

    Seven years ago, Gianluca, the General Manager, had told us how lucky he was to work in this company and this environment, a comment he reiterated this visit. Everything in this unique area is farmed organically and the movement has grown considerably over the last few years. Girolomoni grow organic ancient varieties of wheat and grains onsite, and make pasta from these. We heard of plans to build their own flour mill next year on the side of the 'hill'. This will close the circle. Durum wheat is quite difficult to grind compared to normal flour, as it is more like sand in texture. If environment can be seen to directly influence the end product then this mill will produce truly wonderful flour as the views are serene, and the air has a crisp freshness, even on a sunny afternoon. Their power sources are mainly supplied by solar and wind turbine.

    View View from Girolomoni farm.

    The farro used for Girolomoni’s farro pasta is from the father of all modern wheat: triticum monococum. It is characterised by a very appealing natural sweetness. We tried it simply dressed with their extra virgin olive oil. Often people who are sensitive to gluten find they can tolerate this pasta, and the pearled farro they also supply us with. We have recently added their semi-integrale pasta to our Sabato range, which has part of the husk left on, ensuring it is higher in fibre than normal pasta but is still delicious to eat.

    The businessman and the farmer. The businessman and the farmer.

    Gino’s son, Giovanni, is involved on the business side and his brother Samuele, on the farming side. There is a small restaurant onsite, where the chef, Andrea, was mowing the lawn as we arrived. Andrea's previous employment had been at a two-starred Michelin restaurant and he had been interviewed and employed by Maria, their sister, who later became his partner. Andrea cooked us a really delicious lunch and his talents extended to an interesting crispy cracker made from leftover pasta.

    The Montebello monastery chapel. The Montebello monastery chapel.

    All three of Gino’s children now have children of their own, with Giovanni having married in the chapel of the ancient Montebello monastery, lovingly restored by his father from the roofless ruin we had last seen. In the last few years the children have managed to get through the red tape of Italian administration to have the remains, of both their mother and father, laid to rest in the simple, beautiful chapel.

    Here, there is a strong focus on educating the next generation to ensure the survival of the organic movement and Girolomoni frequently invest in this by conducting visits to the property for school groups. The students are shown first hand the passage of the wheat from farm to grain or pasta. Everyone at Girolomoni is very passionate about organic being the sustainable way of the future, and in that environment you can understand the appeal.

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    Des HarrisWhat are your favourite Sabato ingredients and why?

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