YARMOUTH — A farmhouse on West Main Street was filled with the sounds of friendly laughter, the aroma of simmering onions and garlic, and the sight of fresh pasta, as an Italian woman taught a cooking class to a small group of residents.
Loredana Betti, resident of Spannocchia, a 1,100-acre organic farm in Tuscany, taught eager students last Friday how to make fresh pasta, a traditional meat sauce, a lemon chicken dish and a panna cotta with berries.
Betti speaks no English, but Daniela Cosarin, her co-worker and translator during a 10-day U.S. trip, said this was the second visit they have made to teach cooking classes and promote the Spannocchia Foundation.
“We teach people how to cook original recipes with their own local food,” she said. “Smaller classes are better because you can talk to the people and get to know them in their own setting.”
Students in the class were Joyce Hartigan, a Masschusetts restaurant owner; Ian Hayword, manager at Rosemont Market and Bakery; Matt Howard, board member of the Spannocchia Foundation, and Nancy Evans, owner of Hugo’s restaurant in Portland. The class was hosted by Mike and Melissa McNaboe, Yarmouth residents.
Melissa McNaboe said her family visited the Italian farm two years ago, stayed in a farmhouse and fell in love with the area.
“You get the feeling the way it is now is they way it’s always been, and the way it will always be,” McNaboe said.
Erin Cinelli, executive director of the Spannocchia Foundation and great-granddaughter of the owner of the Italian property, grew up in Yarmouth, and went to school with Mike McNaboe.
She said the property was sold to her great grandfather, who passed it down to his son Ferdinando, who used the land for archaeological digs in the 1950s. In 1992, she said, her aunt Francesca Cinelli and uncle Randall Stratton moved in. They are now the general managers of Spannocchia.
“Spannocchia wasn’t what it is now,” she said. “The educational piece just grew and grew. There are over 25 different programs and an agri-tourism component today.”
Cinelli said Spannocchia is committed to promoting organic farming and sustainable living, educational programming and tourism.
“The secret to our success has been the multi-faceted approach to the property,” she said. “We have an organic farm and use it as a
tool to teach students about sustainable agriculture. We
use the food from the garden to feed the guests, and teach cooking
classes from the produce. It is all interconnected.”
The land has nearly 900 acres of forest products, 40 acres for legumes and grains, five acres for wine grapes and 800 olive trees. There are local breeds of animals and they are known for their heritage Cinta Senese pigs.
Matt Holden, president of Investment Engineering, has been a Spannocchia board member for three years. He said he appreciates all aspects of the programs.
“The integration of the people that visit the property and the local culture is so important,” Holden said. “Visitors support the local economy, students participate in the local agriculture and there are numerous educational opportunities provided.”
His son Max, a student at Casco Bay High School in Portland, said his trip to Spannocchia was memorable.
“The best part of the visit to Spannocchia was the feeling you get when you are there,” he said.
Cosarin said she and her family of four live at Spannocchia with the owners and another family. Together, they run the farm, raise the animals, give tours, teach the interns and make reservations for the visitors who stay at the farmhouses.
“When I first visited, I felt as though it was a place I could stay,” she said. “There is a lot to do, but everyday is something new.”
At the end of the cooking class, participants enjoyed a feast. They ate gorgonzola and pear crostinis, handmade pasta made with eggs from
the McNaboe’s chickens, thinly sliced chicken with herbs and lemon,
fried vegetables and panna cotta.
“We like to come here and give cooking classes to show people what we do and why we do it,” Cosarin said. “It’s good for people to try new recipes and if it doesn’t come out, try again and again. It it something you learn and practice for life.”
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.