Sformato autunnale di tre verdure (layered autumn three vegetable terrine from Piemonte)

Time to change gear: autumn is here and I want to explore more of the wonderful northern Italian repertoire, which I think lends itself better to this time of the year.

This vegetable terrine hails from Piemonte, or, to be precise, from this tremendous book about Piedmeontese cooking: if you read Italian, do get it. This is not your typical recipe driven cookery book but one where the emphasis is on food as culture.
it is a layered affair of cooked chopped vegetables, with each vegetable layer enriched with eggs and béchamel sauce: an excellent example of that Italian bourgeois , Sunday lunch cooking, now almost disappeared. Continue reading

Sfincione di Bagheria (sfincione from Bagheria, a Sicilian pizza)

Sfincione is the pizza of Sicily: contrary to its Neapolitan counterpart, which is generally round, sold in individual portions, with a thick cornicione, a thin centre and not too much topping, sfincione is generally baked in large trays and sold cut up in hefty portions (even if there are also small, individual  sfincioni, called sfincionelli, approximately 300 g each); it is quite thick all over, with a soft and pillowy dough (sometimes a little lard is added to the dough, which I greatly approve of) and it is laden with toppings. It is another thing altogether and something I urge you to explore – sfincione lends itself to domestic home baking much better than Neapolitan pizza. Continue reading

Pasta cù l’agghia (al pesto trapanese) (Pasta with garlic, almond and tomato pesto from Trapani, Sicily)

“Pesto alla trapanese” is a vibrant, intensely garlicky Sicilian pasta sauce made with almonds, tomatoes, garlic and basil – it is lesser know that its Ligurian basil and pine-nuts cousin, but equally glorious. It comes from Trapani, on the west coast of the island ,and it is generally eaten with busiate, a spiral-shaped, chewy, durum-wheat, egg-less fresh pasta (here, if you want to learn how to make it). Pasta con il pesto alla trapanese is also known as pasta cù l’agghia, pasta with garlic (in dialect): if you are after a delicate sauce, this is not for you. Continue reading

Biancomangiare siciliano (Sicilian almond milk pudding)

On a scorching Italian summer day, few refreshments are more welcome than a small glass of cold and luscious home made latte di mandorla, almond milk. If you have some of this Mediterranean nectar in your fridge, you are then only few steps away from one of the glories of pasticceria siciliana (Sicilian patisserie), biancomangiare, a snow white, tremulous pudding made with sweet almond milk and cornstarch, delicately perfumed with cinnamon and lemon peel, served with lemon leaves and with a few scattered jasmine flowers. It may not look much but it tastes heavenly. Continue reading

Giri assassunati ovvero bietole ripassate con pomodoro, aglio e peperoncino alla siciliana (Sicilian chards with tomatoes, garlic and peperoncino)

Sicilian chards in tomato sauce
Sicilian cooking is not just opulence and extravagance. This dish of chards  with tomatoes, garlic and peperoncino (chili pepper) is a good example of cucina povera:  a handful of a few basic, cheap ingredients delivers a hugely satisfying contorno di verdura (vegetable side dish).  “Giri” is how chards are named in the dialect of Palermo and “Assassunare” derives from the French “Assaisonner” which means “to season”: in Sicilian culinary terms when something has been sautéed  in oil and garlic, to get impregnated with that lovely flavor,  they say it has been “assassunatu”.

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