In her last book, even the arch-traditionalist Marcella Hazan said that making egg pasta dough in the food processor is fine. She was finally acknowledging what home cooks and restaurant chefs had probably been doing for a long time, but it was also testament to her intelligence: food and cooking must evolve to stay alive. It would be foolish to ignore that cooking is an ever changing reality that resists being imprisoned in dogmas: we do not eat, cook or think about food one year for the other.
As much as I love traditions and traditional food, I am also very open to “new ways” in the kitchen, as long as they make my life easier and/or my food better. The pressure cooker is a good example. Continue reading →
Crudaiola is one of the most delectable and simplest Summer sauces for pasta or rice. Diced fresh tomatoes, plenty of basil, a little garlic, a generous glug of olive oil and a pinch salt – a delicious no-brainer. Actually, there is one more crucial ingredient the cook must not forget: time. For the magic to happen, crudaiola must be made in advance, the early morning for lunch, for instance. During this time, the ingredients interact with each other and the sauce is transformed from good to excellent. Continue reading →
“La genovese” literally means “The woman/girl from Genoa”. It is in fact a meat dish from Naples and it has nothing to do with Genova, the capital of Liguria, in North-West Italy. Rather confusing, I agree.
A solid piece of beef is braised for hours in a huge quantity of onions – this is la genovese in a nutshell. When you taste, smell and savor it, you realize that there is more, much more going on here. Continue reading →
One of the great pleasures of cooking Italian is that it offers an amazing array of culinary styles and it is not unusual even for the experienced cook to stumble across completely unheard of foods, recipes and dishes. Continue reading →
Timballo is an extravagant, towering pasta pie from Southern Italy: crumbly semi-sweet short pastry enclosing a voluptuous filling of pasta, meat sauce, béchamel sauce, peas, cheese, eggs, ham, mushrooms, giblets etc – the sky is the limit. Timballo is also called timpano and “both words mean the same thing – a drum, as in the timpani of a symphony orchestra” , as Arthur Schwartz says in his splendid book Naples at Table. Timballo has its roots in the kitchens of mid 18th century Southern Italy aristocrats and it has many variations, all of which proudly reject that old adage that “less is more”: the whole point of a timballo is that “more, more, more and even more is better”.
Timballi are festive, celebratory, splendid dishes that only the really wealthy could afford – it was food to impress. In the famous 1958 Italian novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), set in mid 19th century Sicily there is this memorable description of the timballo offered by the grand Prince Salina to his guests at his ball:
“When three lackeys in green, gold and powder entered, each holding a great silver dish containing a towering macaroni pie, only four of the twenty at table avoided showing pleased surprise….Good manners apart, though, the aspect of those monumental dishes of macaroni was worthy of the quivers of admiration they evoked. The burnished gold of the crusts, the fragrance of the sugar and cinnamon they exuded, were but preludes to the delights released from the interior when the knife broke the crust; first came a spice-laden haze, then chicken livers, hard boiled eggs, sliced ham, chicken and truffles in masses of piping hot, glistening macaroni to which the meat juice gave an exquisite hue of suede.” (The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, translation by Archibald Colquhoun).