A Farm in Italy

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ashley is a food and travel writer and photographer who is happily living out her dream with her Chef husband, Jason. 

Jason and Ashley Bartner dreamed of buying a farm. But not just any farm, and not in America.  It all started when the Bartners, college sweethearts in Seattle, then living in the Big Apple, honeymooned in Italy. By the time they came back to New York City, the idea of owning a farm in the scenic  countryside of Italy had firmly settled in their hearts.

The idea grew into a concrete plan as these two career-driven professionals decided to leave their lives in New York City, where Jason served as an executive chef and Ashley worked in hospitality for a private club, and move to the hilly countryside that nestles between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea.  They longed to own a place where people could come to take in the beauty of Italy and learn about the culture. A home spacious enough to rent out rooms to guests. Lots of land for growing organic vegetables and fruits.  And a place where Jason could spread his culinary wings and host cooking classes.

La Tavola Marche - the organic farm and inn that is a dream come true for the Bartners.

After a series of trips to Italy over the next year, combined with an immersion in the language and networking with locals, they finally found their dream place - a 300-year-old farmhouse situated picturesquely on 250 acres with plenty of room for gardens and animals, guests and cooking.  Packing their bags, these newlyweds moved to Le Marche in 2007, a region Ashley describes as "a treasure chest rich in history, nature, art, folklore and culinary tradition" where Slow Living has been a way of life for centuries. Here, they have poured their heart and soul into creating La Tavola Marche, an organic farm, inn and cooking school.  Eight years later, the fruit of their labor is sweet as their farm has become a choice destination recommended by a large variety of publications such as Food and Wine, London's Sunday Times, the Huffington Post, and many travel magazines.  The Bartner's dream has paid off.

Jason and Ashley in their kitchen, where seasonal Italian cooking carries the pulse of this beautiful countryside.

Freshly picked berries by Ashley, divine pastry crust by Jason.

Vegetables are harvested fresh daily from the garden for cooking.

The perfect ride to the village for a basket of supplies from the market.

Pecorino - sheep's milk cheese made by local artisans

Who could say no to this sublime vanilla panna cotta liberally doused with chocolate ganache?

A student learns how to make cavatelli (little caves) - a pasta made with semolina dough and no eggs.

Plenty of room in the spacious kitchen  for cooking classes.

Gorgeous artichokes at a farmers' market in Fano.

Freshly picked cherries from the orchard.  Some will be made into jam while others will be used for baking or homemade liquor.

The leaves will be used to make a cherry liquor prepared with an authentic Italian recipe from the Bartner's neighbor.

 Fresh from the Adriatic, these anchovies will be fried with sage leaves in a light beer batter for an afternoon cooking class.

Deep into the forests of Le Marche, Ashley is on the hunt for white truffles.

No matter the season, this Italian landscape has a way of lingering in the heart.

Jason and Ashley plan to start a consulting firm in 2016 focusing on sustainable tourism and social media marketing as well as producing short films on food, travel and artisans throughout Europe. To learn more about the Bartners, their cooking school, or availability to stay in one of their apartments, visit their website hereLa Tavola Marche.


Now this is home cooking in Italy. Verdure Gratinate can be found on many tables here in our area,always delicious - warm & toasty or packed up for a pot-luck.  The thick slices of onions are my favorite and are basically the best onion rings ever! They come out soft & warm inside with perfectly light & crispy crunch. To top it off this healthy dish is incredibly simple to make & can be served as an antipasto or at the end of the meal with your meat as a contorno.

Baked Vegetables with Bread Crumbs

(Verdure Gratinate)

Serves 4

1 tomato
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
About a cup of plain bread crumbs
Season plain breadcrumbs with fresh herbs.
Place veggies on cookie sheet, (covered in parchment paper) drizzle with olive oil, add salt & pepper.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over vegetables, covering them completely (but don't go crazy with a half an inch of breadcrumbs).
Finish with another drizzle of olive oil.
Bake 375 F / 190C degrees oven for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until vegetables are soft & breadcrumbs are browned on top.
Serve warm or room temperature.

(Below are suggested veggies, you can use any kind of vegetables you like, cut in half, lengthwise so they have a large flat surface)
1 small zucchini
1 eggplant
1 onion (thickly sliced)
1 pepper

Small handful of fresh herbs of your choice (we use: oregano, parsley or marjoram), chopped

The perfect Lemon Tart

Shortbread Dough 
(Pâte sablée)

255 g flour, sifted (9 oz)
150 g butter (3.5 oz)
90 g confectioners sugar (3 oz)
few drops of vanilla
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1-2 tablespoons ice cold water

Sift the flour onto the work surface and make a well in the center. 
Dice the butter and place it in the well, then work it with your fingertips until its very soft. 
Sift the confectioners’ sugar on the the butter and add the salt, working it into the butter.
Add the egg yolks and mix well. Gradually draw in the flour and mix until completely incorporated/amalgamated. Add the vanilla extract.
Give the dough a turn or two.
Briefly kneed the dough and form into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. (Dough will keep well refrigerated for several days if necessary.)

When well chilled (an hour or so), roll out on your board. Transfer to an  8 in. tart ring. Blind bake at 375 F / 190 C

Lemon Cream
175 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (6 oz) - about 5-6 lemons
150 g unsalted butter at room temperature (3.5 oz) - cut into pieces
200 g sugar (7 oz)
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks

In a stainless steel pot, heat the lemon juice, butter and 150 g sugar over low heat until the butter has melted and the mixture comes to a gentle simmer (about 2 minutes).

Using a wire whisk, beat the eggs, egg yolks, and remaining 50 g sugar until the mixture is pale and light (about 4-5 minutes).  Slowly pour half of the hot lemon juice mixture into the egg/sugar mixture to temper, beating until blending and fluffy.  

Return the mixture to the saucepan containing remaining  hot lemon mixture and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a spoon, until the mixture nearly starts to simmer - about 3 minutes. 

Transfer the lemon cream to a metal bowl and place over a water bath to cool. (If not using immediately, lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream.)

When cool, spread the lemon cream evenly into the pastry shell. Smooth the top with a spatula. Place the tart back in the oven and bake for 5 minutes to set the filling slightly without coloring it. 

Carefully remove the tart if made in a ring pan and let cool on a wire rack. Place in the fridge until the tart until the filling is firm. Remove from the fridge 10-15 minutes before serving.

Garnish with compote of wild berries or candied lemon zest!

All photos courtesy of Ashley Bartner and used with permission.

1 comment:

  1. What an ambitious couple, we are planning on going back to Italy and this sounds like a perfect spot to stay and visit and learn about the surrounding areas of interest. Thanks for the link, I will check it out. Thanks for the recipes too.