Curious Appetite

pasta

Unique flavors for any palate to discover in Florence

My life revolves around 3 things: Italy, food and hooch. Food being my first love, Italy second and Hooch the last but not least! I knew one day I would move to Italy but I didn’t have any clue I would have been this lucky. In a country as paradoxical as Italy, I somehow managed to make a way for myself without knowing anyone. In exactly what I wanted to be doing. Believe me, I took odd jobs, had my patience tested and I did whatever I needed to do to. So now that I’ve bored you all to tears with my Dr. Phil Opera book club ego stroke fest, I will tell you that I do plan on writing a book about this experience, it will include of course the token romantic scandal. Stay tuned!

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Cooking: Pesto alla Siciliana

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I discovered a new sauce that has inspired a couple of new dinner ideas. I have been trying to cook more at home these days, and there is a cookbook on the traditional cucina fiorentina (Florentine cuisine) that is haunting me on the kitchen table with several bookmarks mocking me to venture and make traditional goodies like salsa tartufata (truffle sauce for pasta or meats), fegatino (chicken liver and heart pate) and ribollita ( 2X cooked peasant bread, tomato, veg and bean soup).  But I am too intimidated. Every time I go to  the butcher at my local farmer’s market to brave buying pure chicken hearts and liver, I get scatty as soon as I see the blood covered butcher howling “Prego” at me. I run away and just get my typical dainty fruit and veg and perhaps some cold cuts.

So I end up instead at the grocery store, reducing myself to the pre-made pasta sauces accepting my reluctance to make a salsa tartufata. I see a jar that looks interesting, it’s called Pesto alla Siciliana. It had a nice little picture of ricotta and tomatoes on it and I thought hmmmm this looks adventurous! Until I read the ingredients: Instead of olive oil, there is sunflower seed oil. Instead of pine nuts, there are cashews (anacardi). And to my great disappointment, there is glucose syrup AND sugar! I put my foot down (and the jar back on the shelf) and said: “this avoidance to cook is not to be tolerated any more!” I will make this myself!

So from the label, I gathered more or less what this recipe was asking for. Fresh tomatoes, tomato concentrate, garlic, ricotta, pine nuts, grated aged pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese), herbs and a touch of olive oil.

I looked up a recipe for Pesto alla Siciliana just to be sure and I got chopping and grinding away. I used a hand blender to put it all together and voilà! A thick creamy umami nutty goopy pink sauce that will make any pasta more cozy.

 

Fry up some sausage on the side and mix in with this red pesto. Boil up some pasta (ideally penne, rigatoni or tortiglioni tubular pastas for the sauce to coat and the sausage to stick to), mix in the red pesto BY adding the pasta to the pan with pesto sauce and sausage and jump/toss the pasta to mix all together. 


I top this pasta with chopped parsley that comes in with my odori (herb) bunch from my veg guy Leo, who has a strange resemblance to the comic book guy on The Simpsons.

You can also cooked in chopped sage with the sausage, again from odori bunch from Leo. It came out extremely delicious to say the least. The sauce and bits of sage coated sausage coated and filled the big chewy hollow pasta tubes.

If I were drinking this month, I would have paired it with a glass of Negroamaro from Puglia, which is basically Italian for Zinfandel. It tends to be pretty basic yet full and slightly fruity while being high in alcohol. This pasta doesn’t need some complex aged wine with tons of structure. I wonder if a layered white like a Sauvignon from La Maremma (southern Tuscany) would have fared well. We will never know…unless you try.

This sauce is very simple to make and I highly recommend you make it to add some variety to your pasta routine. I think this would make an excellent lasagna base as well. Oh want a recipe? Here ya go!

http://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Pesto-alla-siciliana.html

It’s in Italian so maybe turn on the English version or your go go google translate super powers.

Buon appetito!

La Pentola Dell’Oro- Renaissance fare in 2012

La Pentola Dell’Oro means “A potful of gold.” I live in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance (consider the museums like the Uffizi, The Accademia, THE DUOMO,  the Boboli Gardens, etc)  and of the Italian language (remember Dante Alighieri and L’Inferno? Dante was Florentine and Italian was born from his laments on hell and society.) I overheard about La Pentola from a group of locals cooing over their recent experience with renaissance inspired fare describing spices from the orient and other exotic posts that influenced Florentine society during the Rinascimento, Italy’s cultural “rebirth.”

Mostly what I’ve found eating out in Florence is either Tuscan “delicacies” of animal guts (such as la tripa and il lampredotto, good thing Italian is such a pretty language because these are all words for offal), pizza or pasta or some other variation concerning tasteless Tuscan bread, tomatoes, pork products and pecorino cheese. Delicious, yes. But not exactly intense culinary technique (excitement) compared to foods of the south.

ThisPot of Gold” was indeed a worthwhile venture. Consider the following:

Le Pappardelle sulla lepre (pappardelle fresh pasta w/ wild hare ragu’ made in the Etruscan “Artusi” fashion)
Le Lasagnole (lasagna-like cut noodles tossed with ginger, cane sugar, chestnut honey and walnut. Not sweet, but very savory!
Il Porco Cinghiale in dolce forte- Wild Boar in a chocolate, cedar & pine nut sauce. Looks like mound of mud but indeed very yum num. Ever had “mole’?” Well, imagine instead,, a melt in your mouth savage forest ranged pork that feasted on chestnuts and filberts in an aromatic olive oil pine nut chocolate spice marinade.

And wine? A Chianti Classico with notes of herbed violet and tobacco tannins to cut through the fat and protein pleasures of the boar in order to radiate this plethora of layered savor.

Good wine by the bottle for under €20 (at a restaurant)

After this imbibement, my belly was also feeling like a pot of gold. This is definitely off the beaten tourist path and thankfully undiscovered but frequented enough by locals (am I a local yet?) to stay churning slivers of rich, historic gastronomic bliss.

More info here: http://www.lapentoladelloro.it/

You might need a zing bing or go go google translate super powers if you can’t quite decipher the Italiano. BUON APPETITO 🙂

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