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28 January 2014

Mascarpone Affogato al Caffè and Umbrian Towns Montefalco & Bevagna

Oftentimes, I take home ideas after I travel. A break from the usual four corners of my house to a new place without any corners limiting me is a big refresher. When I feel that daily routine stress is weighing me down, I approach the subject of a weekend out with my husband and off we go somewhere with the kids. It's a chance for me and my family to stop from our routines and take a stride of discovery together.

When we took a break a couple of months ago, we went to Montefalco and Bevagna, both beautiful and small ancient towns to see in Umbria. And I also took home a wonderful idea for a dessert that I tasted in one of the restaurants we visited. Scroll all the way down for the recipe or scroll slowly to see these magnificent towns that captivated my two kids.

One of my favorite Italian regions is Umbria. I can say that it's one of my whole family's favorite destinations also because the last time we were there, my son and daughter (but she copies everything he says) expressed their feelings of wanting to move to Umbria. Sigh. Don't we all?

Montefalco and Bevagna gripped their little hearts. I didn't expect that small ancient towns even attracted them to even think about living in one of them. Both kids like simple small town atmospheres where they can run around within the confines of ancient walls and greet everyone living in every single house like what they love doing when we visit towns around. There's a feeling of welcoming warmth that lacks so much in bigger places. I guess where we live, the size makes them feel too anonymous.

Montefalco is a ancient radial town inside ancient walls that had been been settled in between during the times of the Umbri, between the 9th to 4th centuries B.C. It has a circular-shaped square where all main roads converge in Piazza del Comune.

It's a small Umbrian town with cobblestone alleys, stone buildings, ancient doors and walls. The main road is lined with restaurants, hotels and gastronomic shops, all done in way that they blend well with their surroundings. So don't imagine shops with big lighted impersonal signs. One good thing about the old towns is how they are able to comply with the whole look of the place.

The most popular product of Montefalco is Sagrantino wine, the ruby red wine made from 100% Sagrantino grapes. When the grapes are left to dry, they also produce the Sagrantino Passito, a sweet wine that is also celebrated as one of the best. And then, there's also the Montefalco Rosso, a mixture of Sangiovese, Merlot & Sagrantino.

The gastronomy is not to be forgotten when in Umbria because they have their own special hams, salami, cheese and sweets too. Extra virgin olive oil produced in this area, where Colli Martani is, has a special characteristic of instense and fruity flavors with a rich golden yellow color. In fact we went home with bottles of wine and extra virgin olive oil. We even met a family who drove all the way from Veneto (Venice area) just for the day to buy extra virgin olive oil and wine too. Umbria is always worth the trip.

Bevagna is just 7 kilometers north of Montefalco and equally beautiful too. The best part to enter the town is through its southern gate. It has a bridge over the rushing water of the Clitunno River. On the left of the bridge, you can still see the old public wash of the town, where the town's women used to do their laundry (my picture didn't come out well so I didn't include it here).

The main square is Piazza Silvestri where the important ancient monuments of the town are located. In the middle, there is the 113-year old fountain then there are the two Romanesque churches almost infront of each other. The small Chiesa di San Silvestro and the bigger Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo, both from the 12th century. The Palazzo dei Consoli, the 13th century Gothic building with the stairs stands proudly on the side of the piazza.

At the square, if weather permits, it's nice to sit down at the bar and have something to drink while you bask under the sun and marvel at the ancient buildings from different periods put together in one place that created a harmonious ancient beauty. That's Bevagna. Like its neighbor Montefalco, it is also a place to see and feel.

I have been to Montefalco and Bevagna more than once but I never get tired of seeing them over and over again. It's a perfect destination for a weekend out because it's not too far from Rome. The food and wine are exceptional and the scenery will keep you in awe. Beautiful, that's all I can say.

As I promised, let's speak about the Mascarpone Affogato al Caffè. The idea came after I ate something similar in a restaurant in Bevagna. Mascarpone in place of the vanilla ice cream? It's interesting, isn't it? At least on the photography angle, mascarpone doesn't melt like ice cream so I didn't panic in taking pictures of this one. The one I had in Bevagna had 3 big scoops of mascarpone floating on coffee sauce. It looked good but the amount of mascarpone made me twist and turn after a few teaspoonfuls. It was too much! 

So what did I do? I made my own version at home, more to my liking. Less mascarpone, I added a chocolate cake base (something store bought) and chocolate balls for garnish. They broke the taste of the mascarpone and the blending of chocolate and coffee was spectacular! This dessert is so easy to make, you will be surprised! Since Valentine's Day is coming up, this can be the dessert that you can serve. Promise, it won't take up so much of your time and effort. Just don't be heroic in making the chocolate cake from scratch!

Buon appetito!

Mascarpone Affogato al Caffè


Serves 2

  • 100 g. mascarpone
  • 2 servings espresso in espresso cup
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (adjust if you find the espresso too bitter)
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 2 round slices chocolate cake
  • chocolate balls
  • cocoa powder

  1. In a small bowl, mix the mascarpone, icing sugar & 1 tablespoon chocolate liqueur. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Prepare the coffee. When it's ready, in a small bowl, mix it with the  granulated sugar (more if you find it bitter) & 1 tablespoon chocolate liqueur.
  3. On the serving plate, put a slice of cake then a scoop of mascarpone.
  4. Garnish with the chocolate balls and cocoa powder then pour the coffee right before serving.