Summer Fresh Pesto Pasta

Trofie al Pesto

Maybe it speaks to my personality, but I like a nutty pesto…

Here’s my most recently created (and favorite-to-date) pesto recipe. When tossing with pasta, be sure to add any fresh veggies that are ripe in your garden or that inspire you at your local farmers’ market…a mix of raw and cooked items will add texture and color to this delicious summer staple. (Small dice potatoes boil in 14 min, chopped green beans take 7 min; you can put them in pasta pot at appropriate times and strain when everything is done – al dente, of course!)

Italian Inspirations Nutty Basil Pesto (for 6 servings of pasta)

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (organic, first cold-pressed)
1-2 Garlic Cloves, peeled (more if you like dragon breath!)
1 Cup Pecans
1/4 Cup Cashews
1/4 Cup Almonds
Zest of 1/2 Lemon (organic)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
1 Bunch Basil (large), wash, pat dry, de-stem
1 Cup Grated Cheese(s) (Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, Grana Padano), add more or less to taste
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Cayenne, un pizzico (small pinch)

1) In food processor, first pulse half of the oil plus garlic, nuts & zest until rough chop.
2) Add lemon juice, basil, cheese and remaining oil, then pulse to desired consistency. Adding more olive oil may be necessary…(remember that raw oil is a healthy addition to your meal). Season with salt, pepper & cayenne all to taste
3) Toss into pasta, dress grilled veggies, add to frittata & omelets, etc.
Buon appetito!

May 2015 Tour Pre-Announcement!!

italy-0630Chianina Tartar al TartufoChianti TastingTerra Cotta Impruneta

I’ve got big 2015 Foodie Tour news to announce today:

Italian Inspirations is teaming up with Winslow Art Center for a small-group** 8-night/9-day Foodie’s dream trip in 2015. From May 15th – May 22nd, a brand-new Culinary & Artisan Tour of Tuscany itinerary will also feature the added option of participating in sketching workshops with Italian guest artists to the proverbial plate of experiences.

The official itinerary and finalized package pricing will soon be announced, but here’s a “taste” of what to expect:

  • Lodging in Impruneta, located 40 minutes south of Florence near the Chianti region (8-night stay, includes arrival aperitivo, welcome dinner, daily breakfast buffet)
  • Wine Tastings at small-production Tuscan Estates
  • Brewery Tours & Craft Beer Tastings
  • Farm Cheese Tasting Lunch – meet the producers & their animals
  • Sketching Workshops Supplement Package to feature Italian Artists guiding your hand in panoramic settings (think:  rolling hills, Tuscan olive groves & vineyards, lush gardens & orchards, decadent plates of food, full glasses of wine, Italian architecture, sunsets over the Arno River…)
  • Bellavista Cooking Lesson using fresh seasonal ingredients
  • Fine-Dining Experiences (eat where the locals go)
  • Biscotti Factory Visit & Tasting (some of my favorite souvenirs!)
  • Florentine Textiles Museum & Outlet
  • Artisan Knives & traditional Florentine Paper
  • Famous Impruneta Terra Cotta Artisans

** There will be a maximum of 18 travelers, with only 3 single-occupancy rooms,  so if you’re interested please contact me directly and I’ll send you pre-registration forms & keep you posted as tour details develop.

Pasta Fresca Pesto dell'Ortoitalia-9822italia-9873

Camping with Taste

kayak ladies Full Circle

If your summer plans include hiking, camping, kayaking, backpacking or a foodie’s picnic en plein air, follow this link to an article I wrote for Full Circle called 3 Easy Dishes for Camping that offers a few menu ideas and some important things to keep in mind as you enjoy the sunny season outdoors…

Buon appetito e buone avventure!!

Auguri per un’estate fantastica – Happy Summer

Ciao Italo-amici!

italia-9909Firenze CentroTuscan backyard lunch-1

While I’m often dreaming of magical moments shared when I lived in Italy, there are many reasons why I love being back home in the Pacific Northwest during the summer, where our local bounty always inspires me, both out in nature and back in the kitchen…

SalmonberriesPurple sea starchanterelle harvest

I hope you enjoy the season, wherever it finds you, as you take time to savor the special ingredients and memories summer brings.

Cari saluti e a presto,
Ashlee Redfern – Italian Inspirations

Primavera è in arrivo!

Spring is coming! Firenze dalla collina

Which means it’s time to get ready for your upcoming trip to Italy…or to keep dreaming about one manifesting on your horizon.

For Curious Travelers & Beginners, there’s an Italian Language & Culture Workshop on March 14th in Poulsbo from 3-7pm and another on Bainbridge Island Saturday, March 22nd from 10am-2pm. Then, 6-week Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec class sessions will respectively begin on April 8th & 9th. For more information, please visit my Classes page or call 360.779.9898 for Poulsbo and 206.842.2306 ext. 118 for BI language options.

*** If you’re passionate about Italian culture & cuisine and are looking to join a small group of like-minded travelers, check out the itinerary for my November 2014 Foodie Tour of Tuscany.

Chianina Tartar al TartufoTartufo in manoTruffle dog Pepe finds Ask me or my previous travelers about the white truffle day, when we witness and taste true local, sustainable, farm-to-table cuisine in action…

Buon sole!

Happy Holidays!

Olives Villa Torre Rossa

Cari amici miei,

This is just a quick thank you to everyone who has helped make 2013 a wonderful year — full of new adventures involving Italian language, culture and cuisine!

After fully digesting the deliciously enriching experiences my group of travelers and I enjoyed during our November 2013 Culinary Tour of Tuscany, I am excited to plan (and pre-announce) a new itinerary for May 2014, which will feature tastings and tours to highlight more of Tuscany’s hidden artisan treasures. I will also offer a November 2014 tour that will closely follow the details of this year’s itinerary. I plan to announce these trips to my followers on this site and on Italian Inspiration’s Facebook page before registration opens to the public, so stay in touch if you’d like to know more. Pictures, itinerary details and pricing to follow soon!

Grazie mille e tanti auguri per buone feste a tutti!

- Ashlee

Pecorino e Vino Greve Vino Verrazzano

Reserve your place on a November 2013 Culinary Tour of Tuscany

Happy June!!

I hope this finds everyone well and ready to enjoy to warm weather, delicious food and fun summer outings… I’m already dreaming of our November trip to Tuscany and have finalized the documents you’ll need to start getting ready and registered. Please take a few moments to read through the Travel Agreement before you print, sign and send the Registration Request Form to me with a $400 deposit for each traveler. Please note that $200 of this is non-refundable, and I will honor an extension of the Paid-in-Full Tour Price discount of $175 through June 15th. For more details or answers to specific questions, please contact me directly. Grazie mille!!

Travel Agreement and Registration Form 2013