For Allegra Antinori, summer months have always equated to strolling along the crops of her family vineyards in the Tuscan countryside. The Antinori family has been crafting fine wines for six centuries now, a love of wine being written into their DNA. As kids, as Allegra and her sisters crushed grapes with their hands and feet, following their father’s lead, she reflects that the “special game” was a fundamental part of her education. “It gave us the chance to understand the different steps that are necessary to make wine; it allowed me to understand agriculture, its long term vision and seasonal rhythms.”
On Sundays, when the girls were allowed a small glass of wine at lunch, they were taught the pleasure of wine, not just for its taste but by relishing the moment, the meal, the setting and the company of their family and friends. It is no surprise that at her house in Bolgheri, a village on the Tuscan seaside, Allegra enjoys hosting dinner parties, which she says she likes to be composed of guests of all ages. Known for cooking dishes that celebrate the rich produce offerings of Tuscany, below she shares two of her favourite recipes for summer entertaining.
I like entertaining a lot at home, putting together different people of different ages, also last minute. My favorite gatherings are spontaneous and sporty ones, long bike tours in the countryside but also at home with good music and, most importantly, good wine and food.
I have the good fortune to live in Palazzo Antinori, located in the centre of Florence, owned by my family since 1506. Right now I’m in my house in Bolgheri, located on the beautiful Tuscan coast.
My favourite time of the day is dusk hour, around 7pm, when the intense workday is finally over and you can enjoy the moment with a good glass of white wine.
As early as I can remember, vineyards have always been part of the panorama. I remember lots of strolls with my father and sisters. That gave me the chance to experience first-hand and to enjoy Nature and the Tuscan countryside (Chianti Classico and Bolgheri in particular). I still remember with joy that, together with my sisters, we used to make wine ourselves every year, crushing grapes with our hands and feet and following the wines through his steps. Back then, that was our special game, but it has been fundamental because it gave us the chance to understand the different steps of winemaking and the long times that are necessary to make wine.
When I was a child, every Sunday I was allowed to drink a little glass of wine at lunch, it was some kind of ritual for me and my sisters. Being raised in a family like mine, since I was a little girl I grew up surrounded by people that talked about wine all the time.
Wine has always been part of my DNA and so, to be honest, I’ve never thought to do something different rather than what I’ve been doing. It was a natural decision, helping my father in his mission and, over time, it has become part of my normal life.
Cooking has always been one of my biggest passions so probably, if not wine, I would have become a cook. I’m not sure if I’d have been a decent chef but definitely a passionate one.
Wine is probably simpler than people can think. A wine is the expression of its territory and so it can have many different nuances. It is able to provide emotional pleasure but not necessarily intellectual pleasure. So at the end of the day, a wine must be pleasant and enjoyed by people, without overthinking too much nor trying too hard to taste like a pro if you are not.
Tuscan cuisine is very simple but very tasty at the same time. The secret here lies in the excellence of the ingredients that are used: local, seasonal, genuine, always fresh and of the highest quality. Tuscany is the perfect place not only to grow grapes, but practically any other fruit or vegetable.
I learned to cook at home in the kitchen with my grandmother, trying to replicate traditional Tuscan family recipes handed down from generation to generation.
Many of my summer memories are tied to Bolgheri, scanned by the rhythm of Nature. Like the smell of the harvested wheat or the sound of the sea which is always in the background. The vineyards are part of my summer memories too, as I closely watch the grapes growing on the vines till harvest time.
ZUCCHINI FLOWER FILLED WITH RICOTTA, WITH "MISTICANZA" SEASONAL RAW VEGGIES
- 8 zucchini flowers
- 200g sheep ricotta cheese
- 30g grated pecorino
- 1 Egg
- 300g Fresh spinach
- Nutmeg q.b.
- 50g Wild rocket
- 50g Dandelion
- 50g Portulaca
- 4 Radishes
- 50g Thin green beans
- 1 Lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
- Sunflower oil
Put the ricotta underweight to make it lose as much moisture as possible.
In a saucepan, sauté the spinach, season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and drain to remove excess water.
Prepare the batter in a bowl by mixing flour with cold water. Leave to rest in the fridge.
Clean and wash all the mixed salads, the radishes cut into rings and the green beans. Season them with lemon juice, salt, pepper and oil.
Prepare the filling by combining the ricotta, spinach, grated pecorino and egg. Season to taste and fill the zucchini flowers, previously washed and deprived of the internal stalk.
Heat the sunflower oil to 190 ° C, pass the flowers in the batter and fry.
Arrange the fried flowers on a serving dish and serve with the “misticanza”.
CHICKPEA FLOUR FLATBREAD WITH CALAMARI AND SHRIMP
- 200g Chickpea flour
- 4 Large shrimp
- 4 Calamari
- 1 bunch of Agretti
- 1 bulb Fennel
- 1 Lemon
- White wine
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
In a bowl, mix the chickpea flour with 50 gr. of olive oil, 100 g. of water, salt and pepper. The mixture should be thick and smooth. Let it rest in the fridge.
Clean the agretti and blanch them in water. Cut the fennel into julienne strips and put the two ingredients in a bowl; season with salt and olive oil.
Shell and gut the shrimps. Clean and cut the calamari as desired.
Prepare aromatic water with lemon, salt and white wine. Bring to a boil, add the shrimps and calamari, then immediately turn off the heat and finish cooking in the hot aromatic water.
Heat a small non-stick pan with olive oil on the base, pour a cup of chickpea mixture, brown on both sides.
Place the flatbread on a serving plate, drain the fish from the aromatic water, place the fish on top of the flatbread and accompany with the agretti and fennel salad.