Archive for February, 2010
Lasagne ai Carciofi
Making pasta is something that I took for granted as a child. In fact I almost found it a chore to help my mother as she rolled the pasta through the machine, sheet after sheet. It never seemed to stop because if you’re making pasta, you don’t just make some for one meal, but enough for a few dozen meals. And if you’re like my mum, you also make enough for the neighbours and to give to friends so the quantities were out of proportion for a young child.
I seem to remember it would always be on a Saturday afternoon that the table in the spare room would be cleared and dusted with flour. Wet cloths covered freshly kneaded pasta dough while it rested. I was called in to help when it came to the rolling, cutting and hanging. Broomsticks would be placed to rest horizontally between the table and chairs so the freshly cut pasta could be hung to dry. The one thing I do remember enjoying, apart from eating the pasta, was making my own pasta shapes from left over scraps of dough, a sort of maltalgliati.
Totani Ripieni ai Carciofi
The first time I heard about calamari with artichokes I thought it was a little strange. For me there didn’t seem to be a natural affinity between coastal food and this vegetable. Being predominantly surrounded by water and having artichokes growing in most of the country, this natural affinity is something I hadn’t seen until I went to the hilltop town of Perinaldo in Liguria.
This dish comes from Liguria and is the perfect light starter or by bumping up the portion size, could make a main meal. It goes well served with a fluffy, long grain rice. I played around with the styling of this dish for this post so you can choose whatever you feel appropriate.
Perinaldo boasts one of the only two Slowfood listed species of artichokes in Italy and most of the town has sea views so it makes sense that they have a traditional dish with seafood and artichokes. I will post some photos and write a little more about Perinaldo and the artichoke celebration/sagra I visited there, so stay tuned.
Torta Rustica di Carciofi e Ricotta
I’m going to make a sweeping generalisation here and say that like most Italian migrants, I grew up with a wood fired oven in my parent’s backyard. Certainly, many of the people from the same villages as my family baked their own bread and would occasionally bring some around to our place as a little gift. It was always interesting to try bread made by other hands as it could be lighter, saltier, more dense, crispier or darker than the bread my parents would usually turn out.
Regular bread making would always happen in the shed at the very back of the garden. Most of the hard work of mixing and kneading by hand happened in the small hours of the morning while I was tucked away in bed. This was a good time to get the oven up to temperature, making most of the smoke before neighbours woke up and began hanging their washing out. By the time I was up and about there would be at least twenty loaves already baked and the neighbours would have already been handed a couple of loaves over the fence by my folks.
Sarde al Forno Con Carciofi
In an earlier post I mentioned a recent trip to Puglia in southern Italy where I met Aldo in his beautiful trattoria. He invited me back to have a night in his restaurant and celebrate with a full selection of artichoke dishes on his menu. I’m going to be heading down there in late April to help him out in the kitchen for a couple of days and try to record as many recipes as he throws at me.
This recipe comes from Puglia known for its its rich and fertile agricultural terrain, producing the largest amount of olive oil and vegetables (including artichokes) in Italy. It is also blessed with some of the most stunning and unspoiled coastline remaining in the country and so boasts a healthy presence of fish and seafood on menus but I’m not sure that this dish is in Aldo’s repertoire as he is not a coastal dweller.