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Casa Caponetti Days

A piece of heaven only an hour and half drive north of Rome

Sign announcing Casa Caponetti

When I shared the news that my husband and I would be driving from Rome to Piedmonte, my friend and colleague, Lani Raider, of NOBULL Specialty Foods, Inc. told me with no equivocation that I must stay at her friend, Lorenzo Caponetti's agriturismo retreat and maybe even do a little "cheffing" while I was there.

Lorenzo was a frequent guest lecturer in Lani's course on sustainability and food culture at the CIA in Hyde Park and they became fast friends. I immediately reached out to him and booked our 4 day stay at Casa Caponetti. Lorenzo and I briefly discussed my cooking while I was there, and decided we would work it all out when I arrived.

Lorenzo Caponetti with daughter on his shoulders

Lorenzo's eldest daughter

Casa Caponetti is located in central Italy, about an hour north of Rome. Turning off Hwy SP3 after passing through the town of Tuscania (2 km away) we drove down the long dirt road taking in the sprawling olive tree covered fields and vegetable gardens and got our first glimpse of the farm house and yards surrounding it. A group of people were finishing a luncheon at the picnic table as we drove up. Lorenzo and his girls (the youngest on his shoulders) came to greet us with warm welcoming smiles and perfect English. His older daughter displayed a couple of excellent cartwheels as we chatted.

We would later meet Lorenzo's wife, Guidetta Orlando, who was tending to the livestock (horses, pigs and cattle), her role on the team being animal husbandry.

There was a lot to talk about and we were excited to see the property, our room and the guest house. We were looking forward to learning about what was growing, and to discuss menu ideas for the dinner I would cook with their chef. We discovered that Lorenzo's family had moved to the property to help his parents, who had purchased it in 1992. Lorenzo is a self-taught farmer with a passion for sustainability, using crop rotation to cultivate their 100% organic vegetable crops and olive groves, using water which travels through an ancient Etruscan tunnel. Lorenzo's extensive research of local ancient farming practices guide the methods they put into practice.

His wife, Guidetta, cares for the livestock, raising the pigs and cows for meat and for enriching their soil, using the same philosophy of respect and sustainability in her animal husbandry practices as Lorenzo uses for his crops. Sustainability is also the guiding philosophy in the structures on the property. The simple elegant suites and guest house were designed and built by Lorenzo (who is also an architect) with local and recycled materials.

Chef Alison with house chef, Giorgio Castellani

I met their house chef, Giorgio Castellani, and his sweet friend, Sabrina Rouha, and liked them immediately. I learned that we would cook only what was available on the property or within a few miles. That would not be difficult as Italy was in full Spring, with asparagus, fava beans, early tomatoes and cheeses readily available. We were to cook a beef tenderloin sourced from one of the Casa Caponetti cows raised on the property.

Sabrina Rouha at Casa Caponetti

Looking around I noticed wild herbs, edible flowers and a wild fig tree. I suggested we use the fig leaves to wrap fresh cheeses flavored with herbs and lemon, and bake them to serve as our first course. Giorgio asked if we could use the wood oven for this as he was going to make focaccia. I was pleased and excited when we decided together to use the wood oven for the whole menu.

This is what we cooked:

focaccia bread
herbed ricotta baked in fig leaves

Giorgio's AMAZING focaccia (link to video here)

Buffalo ricotta wrapped in fig leaves with rosemary, lemon and thyme

New potatoes and asparagus roasted with lemon and rosemary

Sauté of fava beans, artichokes and guanciale

Herb crusted beef tenderloin al forno with sauce verte

Strawberry and apple crisp (made by Sabrina using the Chez Panisse recipe!)

Casa Caponetti is a perfect getaway, accommodating small groups of 10, or for couples and families looking for a place to experience real Italian country living with beautiful and modern accommodations. There is much to see and do if using it as a home base to explore the nearby region of Tuscany. A short drive into the village of Tuscania is great for lunch or dinner if you want to stay close to home, but Orvieto and other Tuscan hill towns are within a couple of hours drive if you rent a car. Lorenzo and his family are perfect hosts; providing espresso and a breakfast of delicious breads, cheeses, chestnut honey and preserves. You are left alone to wander the property during the day, to view amazing Etruscan ruins, wild flowers, places to read and relax, or arrange for one of the many sightseeing tours offered by the Casa Caponetti team.

Chef Alison and Giorgio in front of brick oven

With these words of the Caponetti's, my husband and I continued on the road north to Piedmonte, knowing that we would return to this piece of heaven some day:

"When you leave Casa Caponetti you take more than your holiday memories with you. We hope that you will look at the land on which you live, the food you eat, and the people you meet as interdependent parts of a whole, and that the idea of maximum yield with minimum damage will become as important to you as it is to us."

Here are a few of the recipes and photos from our lazy Casa Caponetti Days.

brick oven full of fire and focaccia

Herb crusted beef tenderloin al forno with sauce verte

Herb Crust (for each filet)

Serves 20

4 cloves garlic

8 fresh sage leaves

4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

4 tsp. olive oil

4 tsp. salt

1 ½ t. fresh ground black pepper

1. With machine running, drop garlic into food processor and blend until finely chopped. Add sage, thyme, oil, salt and pepper and process until a paste is formed.

2. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Rub meat all over with herb paste. Cover and chill at least 3 hours up to overnight.

3. When ready to grill, place whole tenderloin(s) in a wood-fired oven if you're fortunate enough to have one, or in a Weber or Green Egg when the coals have turned white. Turn frequently on the grill to mimic a wood-fired oven. Cook to the desired internal temperature, according to your taste.

Sauce verte

Serves 20

4 bunches Italian parsley

1/8 cup chopped fresh thyme

1/8 cup chopped fresh rosemary

1/8 cup chopped capers

3 chopped shallots

4 chopped garlic cloves

3 chopped anchovy fillets

2 lemons, grated zest and juice

2 cups good olive oil

Salt and black pepper

1. Chop herbs, shallots, garlic and anchovy fillets by hand if you have time, otherwise use a food processor or robot coup.

2. Add lemon zest and juice.

3. Drizzle in the olive oil.

4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Serve at room temperature.

Sauce verte is a good sauce for most grilled meats, poultry and fish, as well as fried potatoes and vegetables.

Asparagus and new potatoes prepped for recipe

New potatoes and asparagus roasted with lemon and rosemary

Serves 8


2 lbs. asparagus spears, discard root end and cut into 2 inch lengths

2 lbs. new potatoes, cut in half or quarters (depending on size)

1 T. chopped garlic

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 small Meyer lemon cut into bite sized pieces (with the skin remaining)

Optional: add artichoke hearts as seen in photo


1. Toss asparagus and potatoes in separate bowls with garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and fennel seeds.

2. Place the potatoes and lemon pieces on a sheet pan or baking dish in single layer and roast for about 15 minutes (include the artichokes if using)

3. Add the asparagus to the pan with the asparagus and roast for another 10 minutes.

Roasted asparagus and new potatoes

Casa Caponetti logo

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