Want to have a day filled with amazing scenery, lots of laughs, fabulous food and learn to bake the traditional bread of the Garfagnana? All you need to do is join in on a Panini Girl In Lucca tour and you too can experience what we did on this sunny Monday in the mountains outside of Lucca. Up and around we went passing tiny towns clinging to hillsides, snow capped mountains off in the distance. Our destination was the borgo of Petrognola where we would spend the day with Paolo, the town’s baker.
Paolo (with our guide Francesca translating) gave us a good introduction to exactly what he does on his farm. His mother was the local bread maker and he has carried on the tradition after her passing. Paolo introduced us to the various types of flours and the basic ingredients that go into his bread and we were thrilled to know that we would each be making our own loaf.
We each went up to his work station and took turns ricing hot potatoes into the flour mixture and then gave it a go trying to incorporate the water into the dry ingredients.
Next came the kneading, which is no easy feat for the seven loaves we were making, but nothing compared to the two hundred loaves Paolo usually makes on the weekend (with the help of a mixer) for the neighboring towns.
We each formed our own loaf with a little guidance from Paolo and set them to rise while we adjourned to his dining room for a mid morning snack. We sampled locally cured meats and cheese with freshly baked bread along with piping hot pasta fritta (fried dough). What a delight to break open one of the pastry balls and stuff the prosciutto and cheese inside!
Paolo added wood to the oven which was already hot as he had already baked bread earlier in the morning before our arrival.
Once the loaves were risen Paolo cleaned out the oven and in went the bread. Before they went into the oven each loaf was marked with our initial so that we knew exactly who had made each loaf. Truth be told they all looked just about the same!
One hour until the finished product so we took time to tour the farm where Paolo grows farro which was used in the bread and the pasta fritta. Below is the charming Francesca showing us the farro.
When our loaves came out of the oven it was time for lunch prepared by Daniela, Paolo’s wife. First course was farrotto, a creamy risotto like dish made with farro and leeks. I’ll definitely be preparing this once I’m home with farro grown on the farm. Next was comfort in a bowl-polenta with a tomato sugo with pork and sausage-the perfect dish for an unseasonably cold spring day. It was pretty hard to choose a favorite! We ended with a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with wild blueberries