There’s something rather alluring about the simple pleasure of enjoying pasta fresca while exploring the backstreets of Firenze, Tuscany’s capital.
Perhaps it’s the family recipe used to make the pasta, passed down from one generation to the next; maybe it’s the fresh ingredients sourced from local markets that require a crack of dawn risveglio to set you on a path to forage for just the right eggs. Then again, perhaps it’s the quaint atmosphere of the tiny trattoria where your enjoyment takes place, where a walk to the WC entails manoeuvring between fellow diners and leaves you feeling fresh off the samba dance floor as the requisite bead of sweat makes its way down your left temple.
On the road to Rawsonville
Whatever you put it down to, there’s nothing quite like fresh Italian pasta. Now, however, you no longer need to cross the African continent and navigate the Mediterranean Sea to satiate your taste buds. Nope, a simple trip up the N1 from Cape Town and over the Du Toitskloof Mountains will deliver you to the pasta-promised land in the small town of Rawsonville.
Picardi Place, carved out within the vineyards of a working wine farm, is where you’ll find local pasta legend Jaco Brand. As the owner and operator of this guesthouse and eco-friendly cottage, you may just be lucky enough to join one of Jaco’s pasta-making classes to learn how to make pasta from scratch.
The art of pasta making
But, you may ask, how does a good boerseun from Namibia become somewhat of an authority on pastasciutta here in South Africa? As it turns out, what culminated in a rather wise investment of a small inheritance received following the passing of his grandfather, and on the occasion of his 40th birthday, Jaco decided to visit Italy with friends. While in the land of countless Renaissance masterpieces, Jaco and co joined a man named Giovanni for a pasta-making course. The rest is, as they say, history.
From within the kitchen of the guesthouse, and sometimes the dining room, depending on the group’s size, Jaco shares with eager gastronomes what he learnt in Italy. But it doesn’t start here. “It all comes down to the ingredients,” Jaco shares with me as we make our way to the permaculture veggie garden on his property.
Local winemaker, Ivy du Toit from Jasons Hill Private Cellar in the nearby Slanghoek Valley, joins our group with her husband, Alistair. Jaco has told me we are about to enjoy the farms’ first Cap Classique, so new the labels haven’t yet arrived. Jaco aims to include local wines from the Breedekloof Valley in the pasta courses he hosts.
Vines and wines
At a long table in the middle of the veggie garden, Ivy shares about her Arrois Cap Classique journey as we sip the delicately moussey nectar made from the Chenin Blanc cultivar. Reading our enjoyment from the laughter shared around the table, Ivy presents the Izak Bordeaux Blend and Beatrix Chenin Blanc, also from her farm, on which she is the sixth generation to work the land, together with Alistair.
Having kicked off our pasta evening thanks to the fruits of Ivy’s vines, we move into the dining room, where the real work begins. At yet another long table, Jaco instructs the group in the art of making pasta. Flour is laid out, eggs are cracked, and extra virgin olive oil is added. Kneading begins in earnest as the laughter from the veggie garden continues unabated, only briefly subdued as we help ourselves to fresh farm bread made by Jaco that very afternoon.
Memories and meals
Having prepared the pasta, we move on to the room that is often the centre of attention at any party — the kitchen. The wine continues to flow as Jaco supervises the cooking pasta, together with a Bolognese sauce he prepared earlier. Laughter continues. Our meal is taken in the eclectically decorated barn as conversations between new friends continue long into the night. Such is the nature of the marriage of good food, locally produced wine and great people.
There is something to be said for freshly made pasta. And when that freshly made pasta is the fruit of your own labours, it’s somehow that much more delectable.
Jaco offers day classes and culinary weekends during which he teaches pasta-making, including accommodation at his beautiful property. I enjoyed a shortened pasta experience. He’s hosted over 600 courses to date, and with the full experience, Jaco will take you through selecting ingredients fresh from his veggie garden for your Bolognese sauce. Indeed, you will prepare a full meal, from scratch. Ottimo!
An overnight stay
Spending the evening at the eco-friendly Chamomile Cottage at Picardi Place was the perfect end to my Rawsonville pasta experience. The two-storey cottage reveals the attention to detail that Jaco’s hand commands. The large, stackable cottage doors open onto a manicured garden overlooking the neighbouring wine farm, complete with a hot tub for the exclusive use of cottage residents.
Although the cottage sleeps six singles, it’s ideal for two couples. Having spent the afternoon and much of the evening learning about pasta, laughing and eating, staying on the property was a welcome respite from the journey back to Cape Town.
Three additional en-suite accommodation offerings are available in the guest house, which makes the pasta culinary weekend at Picardi Place a perfect group activity. And it’s considerably more affordable than flying to Italy!
Find Picardi Place on the Slanghoek Road, in Rawsonville, in the Western Cape. Plus, the town has many exciting attractions to explore should you decide to make a weekend of your pasta-making experience, such as the Rawsonville Food Market, which takes place on the last Saturday of each month. Also, keep an eye on Breedekloof Wine Valley on Instagram for more happenings in Rawsonville.
Images courtesy of Ryan Enslin and Jaco Brand