We can smell another fantastic recipe for hungry cyclists! Welcome to our special feature in the lead up to the Giro d’Italia as well explore some of the most delicious Italian dishes through the eyes – and bellies – of some of our favourite tour operators.
Each year these operators deliver memorable cycling tours abroad that stay with their guests for a lifetime. And of course it goes without saying one of the stand-outs to any amazing cycling trip in Italy is of course the incredible food.
So we asked some of the best tour operators in the country to share with us their most memorable eating experience during the Giro d’Italia.
Introducing Toni Folque from Thomson Bike Tours. Toni is the lucky man responsible for Thomson Bike Tours in Asia Pacific. This cycling holiday operator was the brainchild of Peter Thomson, a Scott who once raced with Bernard Hinault’s Club Olympique Briochin. Although he now calls the Mediterranean town of Sitges home, Peter lived for ten years in France and has an incredible knowledge of the area and of course, riding around it. It was in Sitges that Peter met Toni, a native to Spain who was also living in the town with his wife and two children.
A passionate traveller and cyclist, Toni would join Thomson tours as their van driver and general support, as well as helping guests achieve their physical cycling goals. When Toni and his family made the decision to move to Australia, Thomson Bike Tours didn’t want to let such talent leave their group. The solution was clear – Toni would expand the business to Asia Pacific so that Thomson Bike Tours could include in their repertoire some of the best cycling in the southern hemisphere.
Here’s what Toni had to say:
“Some of my fondest Italian food memories come from the kitchen at Sporthotel Europe in Alleghe. This is a lakeside hotel where we stay for a few nights on our Giro d’Italia and Trans Dolomites trips. It has honestly become the second home for the team that runs regular trips through this area – lucky us!
Each time I am here I just can’t help but order the homemade ravioli filled with fresh ricotta and spinach; it is just so delicious after a hard day of riding in the Dolomites. The delectable antipasto and variety of fresh salads that accompany the meal are equally superb. Anticipating this incredible three-course meal (of course there is dessert after all our hard work riding!) served with wonderful Italian wine and sparkling water is simply the best ride recovery… And it gets us suitably fuelled for the next day of climbing!”
Fresh ricotta and spinach ravioli
Serves four normal people, or perhaps two hard-working cyclists
- 1.25 cups of plain flour
- ¼ cup hot water
- 1 fresh egg
- Pinch of quality salt
Mix the flour with salt on a clean bench surface (i.e. no bowl).
Stir the water into the egg, mixing well as you go.
Create a volcano like mound out of the flour/salt and crater out a little bit at the top. Pour into this crater the egg and water. Mix and then knead until firm. The dough should not be too sticky or wet, nor should it be too dry. Roll it into a ball, place it in a bowl, cover it and leave it in a room temperature environment for one hour so that gluten starts to work.
While this is happening you can turn your attention to the ravioli mixture and cream sauce.
- 1 x tbsp olive oil
- 600g spinach
- ½ cup grated Reggiano Parmigiana cheese
- ¾ cup fresh ricotta cheese
- ¼ tsp quality salt
Heat olive oil on medium heat, add spinach and cook with a cover on. Stir every now and again until spinach wilts. Once this happens remove the cover and cook for another 5 or so minutes until the liquid evaporates.
Chop cooked spinach finely and place in a bowl. Add the salt, both cheese and mix well.
OK – it should soon be time to return to the dough. Perhaps have a quick little Campari and Soda and then you’re set to get back into it!
Making the Ravioli
Divide the ravioli dough in half and roll each into a very thin sheet. You really need to aim for paper thinness here so that the ravioli mould is easy to use. Have some flour handy for dusting the surface and/or rolling pin to avoid stickiness.
Dust your ravioli tray with flour.
Place a thin layer of pastry across the tray and then press in the holes.
Fill the holes with the above mixture but don’t overfill.
Now place flat another paper thin layer of dough over the mould.
Roll the rolling pin over the top of the mould to press, close and cut your ravioli.
Tip the mould upside down to allow the ravioli to fall out individually.
Now it’s time to make the salsa!
Making the Tomato Cream Sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 generously sized tomatoes (more mature is fine – the juicier, the better!)
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- Handful of sprigs of thyme
- ¼ cup white wine
- ½ cup full cream
- 20 grape tomatoes – ideally different colours
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
Chop tomatoes and garlic and add both straight into the pan to cook (covered) for about 10 minutes.
Add to this white wine and the thyme and then bring to boil all this mixture before cooking uncovered for another 5 more minutes or until half the liquid has evaporated.
Remove from heat, let it cool for a bit and then place in blender to puree. Return the pureed sauce back into the same pan you’ve been using, reheat and add cream. Stir well.
Cut the coloured tomatoes in half and add them into the sauce.
Add salt to taste and more of the thyme if you’d like.
Now it’s back to the ravioli! Place in boiling water with a pinch of salt and cook for five minutes.
Drain and place into sauce.
Fold ravioli into sauce. Place into individual bowls and garnish with more thyme if you’d like.
And your Campari is no doubt long finished now – time for a crisp Italian pinot grigio and a delicious feast!