Dania’s Pasta Sauce from La Chuisa

by Hilary Gauntt on October 4, 2016

A highlight of our Italian adventure was a cooking class in Tuscany at locally famous La Chuisa; a lovely inn and restaurant high in the rolling hills near Sienna. Our teacher was Dania Lucherini, the owner and head chef, a thoroughly entertaining, glamorous blonde in high heels and a fairly low cut dress. (Italian women are amazing.) We made pastas, risotto, her special chicken dish and a rich caramel ice cream with fig compote for dessert. I loved when she looked at the clock and said “11:00! That’s white wine time in my kitchen!”

The last hour or so was spent on the gorgeous walled patio eating the fruits of our labors, plus a number of other dishes she wanted us to try; course after course. This was the only time in my life (other than when bedridden with the flu) that I didn’t have a bite of dinner!

This sauce she has tried to take off the menu, as she is tired of making it every night for 30 years, but people always request it. Fairly easy to make and usually served with the local specialty pasta shaped like a thick spaghetti, called “pici”. An important ingredient is Pecorino cheese, one of Tuscany’s treasured exports. It’s a strongly flavored sheep’s milk cheese that I found delicious in small doses. Famous New York restaurateur Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe) says “When you say Parmigiano here, it’s like saying Presbyterian in the Vatican.”

1 lb.2 oz. tinned tomatoes

5 oz. olive oil

5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1 bunch of basil

3/4 oz. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

3/4 oz. Pecorino “stagionato”, grated

1 pinch salt


Pinch or more of red pepper flakes

Pasta of your choice

In a saucepan, saute the tomatoes in the oil for about 10 minutes on a low heat, season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes cook for a further 20 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, thin it down with a little boiling water.

Meanwhile pound the basil, a pinch of salt and a few drops of oil into a paste in a mortar.

Boil the pasta noodles in plenty of water to the “al dente” stage,drain it in a colander, and add it to the sauce in the pan and toss together for a few minutes. Then mix in the basil paste, the parsley, and the grated cheeses.

Transfer to warm plates. Garnish liberally with finely chopped parsley and serve at once.
Note: Photo by fellow traveler Dana Gabriel, who beat me to trying this recipe at home! She said she used more tomatoes and made it a bit spicier, which I agree are good ideas. Teacher Dania used her gorgeously ripe tomatoes from her garden, which of course is the best way to go if you have them.


Making Pici

Cooking class with a view!

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