Week 4: Italy (+ Wrap-Up of Our European Staycation)

I started the day with one of Massimo's amazing lattes.

I started the day with one of Massimo’s amazing lattes.

This is the last in our European Staycation series, which is introduced here.

We’ve capped off our European Staycation with dinner in Italy, and we were joined by Massimo’s father, brother, and sister, which made it even better. Although our quaint, dinners-for-two have been lovely, there is something about Italy that makes you feel like you should be eating with large ground of people – family, strangers, it doesn’t matter. The more the merrier!

For this meal, I’m sorry to report that there are no recipes. That’s because we wanted the centerpiece to be Massimo’s grandmother’s gnocchi, which happens to not be written down. This gnocchi is the stuff Italian dreams are made of: once you have it, you will never stop thinking about it. My father-in-law happens to be an amazing chef (straight from Italy), and I’ve had it at each of his restaurants, but I haven’t had it in a while, and I was craving it. Solution: Massimo, it’s time to learn the family recipe!

Massimo kneading the pasta dough.

Massimo kneading the pasta dough.

My father-in-law, Antonio Barbi, rolling and cutting the gnocchi.

My father-in-law, Antonio Barbi, rolling and cutting the gnocchi.

To compliment our gnocchi, Massimo whipped up some marinara sauce and we melted some ooey-gooey mozzarella in it until it was all just one smooth, cheesy, plate of comfort food. We served it up with some melon slices wrapped in prosciutto de parma, touched with a balsamic glaze, an arugula salad, and Massimo’s homemade bread. We finished it off with a trip to the bakery for an assortment of Italian pastries, which we shared among the five of us with wine, of course.

It was a delicious evening, filled with amazing scents, filling flavors, and my loving family – you can’t really ask for anything more. This meal lives on in my mind (and fortunately through leftovers in the fridge). I wish I could go back to Italy every day of my life.

The gnocchi after it's first cooking.

The gnocchi after its first cooking.

As we completed our European Staycation project, I was thinking back on all our amazing meals and journeys, and I’m so glad we decided to do this. At times it was a little crazy, especially when we got so busy it seemed silly to put so much work into something we didn’t need to do. But so many good things came out of this project, like:

Not a great picture, but here you can see the ooey gooey deliciousness that is this gnocchi. God bless Italy!

Not a great picture, but here you can see the ooey gooey deliciousness that is this gnocchi. God bless Italy!

We didn’t go out to eat at all the whole month, and really never had the itch to go out. The fabulous meals we were making at home made it so we didn’t even think about restaurants. Eating at home is healthier, and we saved some money, always a plus!

– Our at-home dates were purposeful, fun, and dare I say romantic (yuck, this isn’t that kind of blog; I’m sorry). Dates are all about having fun, reconnecting, and making memories together. Staying at home and trying (and messing up) new recipes together accomplished all that and it was fabulous. Cooking with Massimo is my favorite thing, so these dates were perfect.

Prosciutto-wrapped melon anyone?

Prosciutto-wrapped melon anyone?

We broke up the monotony and stress of our regular routines by making these meals together. Chores were neglected, homework was put off, and the laundry list of to-dos was ignored when we were making these dinners. It really was like we went away somewhere else. I’m going to miss that, but maybe we can make those little moments somehow anyway.

Homemade bread, of course.

Homemade bread, of course.

We learned about new places and tried foods we’d never had before. Each week, I researched the destination to plan the meal, because a country’s history and geography greatly affect their cuisine. It was fascinating to find out what is important to each country’s palette, and getting to appreciate their unique ingredients and flavors.

We ate the desserts so fast, I didn't get a chance to photograph them. But this was the box.

We ate the desserts so fast, I didn’t get a chance to photograph them. But this was the box.

When we recover from our European trip, we may think about exploring another continent. Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with us, and I hope that we might have even inspired some travelling (or staying) of your own.

-debarbibee

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