Le Magnolie is an olive oil farm that has opened up some rooms for guests, and has a small restaurant on premises with rustic brick floors and communal tables. The food is strictly local, mostly grown right on premises, or at least up the road. Their daily supply of fresh ricotta is from the neighboring sheep farm, and if the produce they serve is not grown right outside their kitchen, it’s from outside their neighbors’ kitchens. Jay was originally told about this farm by some wonderful restaurant friends in Philadelphia, who set up for him to stay there on his first trip to Italy. We had visited a couple of times before, and couldn’t wait to go back.
Ravioli were on the menu for the night, however there was a catch. We had to (help) make them ourselves. Everyone donned deep green “Le Magnolie” aprons and rolled up their sleeves. Olga soon had everyone hard at work, up to their elbows in pasta dough, having a lovely time rolling out the dough and filling them with that delightful fresh sheep’s milk ricotta until all the ravioli were ready. Our ravioli were perhaps not quite as uniform as Olga’s, but then practice makes perfect.
In the meantime, the smells from the rest of the evening’s meal were getting all of our stomachs rumbling, and we eagerly sat down to dinner. The antipasti, as befits a farm, were simple and fresh. A local young pecorino cheese was served with the farm’s spectacular olive oil and fresh made bread. Le Magnolie’s olive oil is a beautiful green color, with very bright grassy flavors, and a hint of peppery spice at the finish. Eaten together with the creamy cheese… I couldn’t have manufactured a better combination myself.
A puree of baby asparagus soup, finished with the farm’s olive oil, brought a concentrated burst of spring flavor.
Finally, served in a big communal dish, the fruits of our labor arrived. The ravioli, bathed in a simple tomato sauce, passed around from hand to hand. The hands that made it, serving each other, and then tasting the results of their work. And what a taste it was – I may be biased, but these remain some of the best ravioli I have ever had. The ricotta had a wonderful flavor of fresh air and wildflowers, and was just the right texture, moist yet light and fluffy. They simply melted in your mouth. I will never tell how many I ate.
The secondo, or main course, was chicken in the style of porchetta – braised and stuffed with herbs and garlic. Chicken is usually not so remarkable, a dish I eat when I am on a diet, or when there is absolutely nothing else very interesting. This dish was an exception. I would have happily ordered this in any restaurant. Another version of braised greens with white beans was served with it. The chicken was succulent and packed with flavor.
A homemade tart and pizelles, both filled with local montepulciano (wine) grape compote made our dessert. The compote was almost savory, and paired wonderfully with the last drops in our wine glasses.
The barking farm dogs followed us to our van as we piled in, sleepy and satisfied. The ride back felt quick and comfortable, the glow of good food, wine, and olive oil surrounding us like a warm blanket. An ending to a good day, just as it should be.