Cycling and food go hand-in-hand, and few places is this more evident than in Italy, considered by many to be the cultural heart and home of bike riding (and joy of eating!).
So if you ask us, the Giro d’Italia isn’t just a chance to indulge in the world’s best road racing, but also a chance to indulge in the dolce vita. We caught up with some of our favourite bike holiday tour operators and asked them what their most memorable Italian feast has been.
Put the pasta on the boil, pour a vino, and prepare to be seduced by the culinary adventures of some passionate cycling lovers of the Giro, and all things Italian.
Few people are better placed to host cycling tours to the Giro d’Italia than Grace Fitzpatrick of BikeStyle Tours. Of Italian origin, the love and enjoyment of food is in Grace’s DNA, and she likes nothing more than getting deep into the heart of the towns BikeStyle Tours visits to meet the locals, unearth the regional specialities and share the knowledge and pleasure with her cycling guests. Grace’s favourite Italian dish is going to make you hungry. Very hungry.
Grace explains in mouth-watering detail....
"Funghi di bosco, or wild mushrooms, differ vastly from the cultivated varieties we normally see in markets. In Italy the mushroom hunt is almost as important as the mushroom meal; it is not unusual for families or social groups to converge in the woods and begin the gathering… The entire day or half day can be centred around the fun of finding just the right varieties (and knowing which are the poisonous ones to avoid). Italy’s alpine area is an incredible source for some of the most delectable wild mushrooms on offer, and a freshly made tagliatelle ai funghi di bosco is the kind of meal that’s remembered for years to come.
I remember one such meal whilst we were on a bike tour following the Giro d’Italia. The restaurant in which we were eating was run by three generations of family, and that morning they’d all gone out to collect mushrooms for the day’s meals. What they came back with is the sort of vision you don’t always see at home - a basket of wild mushrooms, many different varieties in all shapes and sizes and colours. It’s the kind of bounty that would cost an arm and a leg back here, yet all it cost them was an enjoyable morning spent together in the woods.
But that particular day - to our absolute incredible good fortune - the family had also come across a black truffle. Any foody knows that a truffle is the stuff of legends. A few shavings of fresh truffle and a simple dish goes from great to a culinary masterpiece. It also sees the price sky-rocket. But again, this family had found the truffle at no cost and, incredibly, they were more than happy to share it with their diners that day. So we sat down to enjoy wild mushroom tagliatelle with shavings of black truffle. It was the kind of meal that an entire holiday of memories centres around. It was unforgettable."
Tagliatelle ai Funghi di Bosco (with Truffle Shavings)
- Knob of unsalted butter
- Big bowlful of ‘wild’ mushrooms (if you’re going out to gather them then make sure you know the safe from the poisonous!) otherwise aim for porcini, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms etc
- Garlic clove, crushed and minced
- Fresh black pepper
- Quality salt
- Packet of dried egg tagliatelle (or if you want the dish to be really rich, go for fresh pasta instead!)
- Handful of chopped parsley and chives
- Small amount of shaved fresh truffle (or you can buy truffle infused olive oil as an alternative)
- Grated lemon zest
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated
Soak dried porcini mushrooms in some boiling water until they look really plump and soft.
Retain the soaking liquid, but remove the mushrooms, drain and place on some paper towel.
Pat dry the mushrooms and then chop them up - don’t make it look too uniformed! The more rustic, the better.
Heat some butter in a frying pan and then add garlic, salt, pepper and chopped fresh mushrooms. Wait for these mushrooms to turn a golden brown before adding the porcini.
Stir in the left-over porcini soaking water. Allow to simmer for a minute or so and then remove from the heat.
Put a pot of water onto boil and once water is boiling add a pinch of salt, then the dried pasta.
Allow to cook for 6-7 minutes or until al dente.
Drain the pasta, return it to the now empty pot and stir in the final amount of butter. Add chopped herbs.
Serve pasta onto individual plates, top with the mushroom mixture, some truffle shavings or infused olive oil, add the lemon zest and Parmigano Reggiano if desired and serve.