Pizzelle, fried small (ish) pizzas, are iconic and beloved Neapolitan street food whose strong hold on Italian popular culture has been assured for ever by being the protagonists of a legendary sketch in the movie L’oro di Napoli (The gold of Naples, 195 ) where a young and voluptuous Sophia Loren plays a flirtatious pizzaiola, a pizza maker, whose pizzelle as well as her prosperous bosom are legendary in the neighbourhood. As she fries the pizzelle she shouts: “…Scialate…scialate…Mangiate oggi e pagate fra otto giorni…” (Enjoy…enjoy…eat now and pay in 8 days’ time…”).
They are also firmly rooted in local home cooking though. As a kid, I used to spend a couple of weeks every summer in Salerno, not far from Naples and I clearly remember pizzelle being prepared by relatives: what a feast, for a little Milanese kid, whose mother was a reluctant cook and who would never embark in any deep frying. My aunt’s pizzelle were simply dressed with a a little tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan: stuck one on top of the other, they would be kept warm in the oven, ready to be devoured with gusto after an exhausting morning at the beach -they are amongst my strongest food memories. Continue reading
“Blessed be the stuffed peppers! what a clever thing they are!…What are they made of? Not much: peppers, bread, a couple of aubergines cooked ‘fungitiello‘ style (i.e. deep fried), a handful of capers and Gaeta black olives, some anchovies and, let’s not forget, a pinch of oregano and parsley, a clove of garlic and few bits of tomatoes. And from these humble ingredients, a masterpiece is born: one of those dishes that makes your mouth water just thinking about them. Continue reading
One of the best, easiest summer soups, to be eaten tepid or at room temperature (or even slightly chilled, for me), pappa al pomodoro is a thick tomato and bread soup, strongly associated with the cooking of Tuscany. On a hot day, few other dishes bring more comfort. Continue reading
This is the savoury version of scarpaccia, that unusual courgette cake from North Tuscany I described in the previous post; in fact savoury scarpaccia is regarded as the original dish by Tuscan food authority Paolo Petroni, whose recipe I used as a template (the sweet version, he says, came later). Continue reading
It took a leap of faith and my avid curiosity to try this cake: could a basic sweet batter and some grated courgettes make a good cake? No nuts, no sultanas, no spices…really? A resolute “yes!” is the answer.
This is a most unusual and excellent cake come dessert: delicate, plain and light, but not at all boring, with a delicious custardy quality. Burnished golden outside, yellow with specks of green inside, it is also pretty.
Scarpaccia means “nasty/old shoe” and no one really knows why such an uninspiring name; it is possibly something to do with the appearance of this dessert: a genuine scarpaccia should be a fairly thin and crusty affair – like an old, over-worn shoe. It is the contrast between the sugary and crusty exterior (due to a good drizzle of olive oil) and the custardy, vanilla scented interior that make this unposessing looking dessert sing.
It is a Tuscan speciality and you will not find anywhere else in Italy – Continue reading