I'm thrilled to collaborate, once again, with the wonderful foodblogger and friend, Laura Tulimiero. The English translation of her recipe you will read below; the original Italian version is at her foodblog, Matematica e Cucina.
In the Neapolitan home, it's not Christmas if you don't have struffoli. And even if the basic ingredients are the same, every family has its own personal recipe and maintains that their struffoli are obviously the best, their recipe being the authentic one.
Today I will explain to you, step by step, how we prepare struffoli in my family. I don't know if this is the recipe for "authentic struffoli"; I know only that we've been making them this way for many years and that for us, and for anyone who has tried them, the results are excellent.
The recipe is quite easy to remember; in fact, the amounts can easily be diminished or augmented, given that everything is "in sixes." Seeing as my blog is also a diary, I wanted to prepare the stuffoli in my mother's kitchen, repeating her same motions and using her cast-iron frying pan (which is almost 60 years old), ideal for frying.
6 hectograms of flour (600 g, or 21 oz)
6 whole eggs
6 TB sugar
6 TB extra-virgin olive oil
6 TB seed oil (preferably corn)
a pinch of cinnamon
the rind of one lemon, grated
1 tsp baking powder for desserts
1 pinch salt
peanut oil for frying
wildflower honey (miele millefiori)
confetti cannellini (a white, sugar-coated candy with a cinnamon interior)
candied fruit (citron, orange peel, and little cherries) -- I didn't use them
Onto a pastry board, pour the flour and make a well, into which put the eggs, sugar, oil, lemon rind, cinammon, baking powder, and salt.
Mix it well, until you have a smooth, homogenous dough.
Cut into little pieces and "lengthen" them with your hand, in the shape of a bread stick about a centimeter (0.4 in) wide.
Cut the sticks in little chunks about 1 cm (0.4 in) long, and arrange them on a paper plate, covered with a dish towel. It is preferable not to add too much flour at this stage, otherwise when you fry the struffoli the oil will become "dirty" and will form an unpleasant foam.
Into a frying pan with high sides, pour the peanut oil. Put in one struffolo, to test the temperature of the oil.
When the struffolo rises to the top and the oil around it begins to sizzle, the temperature is right, and you can add the rest of the struffoli.
Cook them, turning them with a fork, until golden.
In order to cook them just right, don't cook them all at once. These were cooked in four batches.
As soon as they are cooked, remove the struffoli from the pan and dry them on paper towels.
Clean the pan, and heat a couple of TB of the honey. Add the struffoli to the boiling honey (here again, it's preferable to subdivide the struffoli into batches). Stir well in order to evenly distribute the honey and to avoid burning.
Arrange them in the form of a ring onto a serving dish, as in the photo.
Immediately after this, add the sprinkles and confetti. You must do this immediately, while the honey is hot, otherwise the sprinkles will not stick.
Here is the finished product.
Struffoli can last for a week. It is said that it's better to make them a day or two ahead, to heighten the flavor. That piece of advice has been written in cookbooks and passed down through the generations. What a shame that I cannot testify to its accuracy ... in my house struffoli don't last more than twenty-four hours!
Giuseppe Di Stefano (* 24 luglio 1921 Motta Sant’Anastasia, CT — † 3 marzo 2008 Santa Maria Hoè, LC) era un tenore smisuratamente popolare in America durante gli anni Cinquanta. Non sono grandissimo fan di “Pippo,” ma nessuno ha catturato la malinconia e la sincerità di questa canzone meglio di lui.
Giuseppe Di Stefano (born 24 July 1921 Motta Sant’Anastasia, near Catania — died 3 March 2008 Santa Maria Hoè, near Milan) was a wildly popular tenor in America during the Fifties. I’m not a huge fan of “Pippo,” but no one captured the melancholy and sincerity of this song better than he.
(Scroll down for the English translation)
Quando ragazzi felici andavamo alla scuola
con la cartella a tracolla ed in tasca la mela
per il futuro avevamo un vestito di gala
quante speranze di gloria e di celebrità
ma inesorabile il tempo tracciava il cammino
e a testa china anneghiamo nel nostro destino.
Addio sogni di gloria
addio castelli in aria.
Guardo con sordo rancore la mia scrivania
cerco a scacciare ma invano la monotonia
Addio anni di gioventù
perchè perchè non ritornate più
Sono una foglia d'autunno che nella tormenta
teme il grigiore dei giorni l'inverno paventa
La donna sincera aspettai
compagna dei sogni miei
ma invano cercai cercai
amore anche tu dove sei
Addio sogni di gloria
addio castelli in aria
Prendo la penna e continuo la doppia partita
faccio una macchia d'inchiostro mi treman le dita
Meglio tacer le memorie o vecchio cuor mio
sogni di gloria addio
When we were happy children, we went to school,
with our books on our shoulder and an apple in our pocket.
For the future we had a fine suit.
So many hopes of glory and of celebrity!
But inexorably, time was tracing the pathway,
and with bowed heads we drown in our destiny.
Farewell, dreams of glory
farewell, castles in the air.
With dull rancor I look at my writing desk.
I try, but in vain, to drive away the monotony.
Farewell, years of youth.
Because, because you will never return.
I am an autumn leaf which, in a storm,
dreads the grayness of the days of winter.
I waited for a sincere woman,
companion for my dreams.
But in vain I searched, I searched.
Love, even you: where are you?
Farewell, dreams of glory.
Farewell, castles in the air.
I pick up a pen and I continue the double game.
I make an ink stain; my fingers tremble.
Better to keep the memories silent, old heart of mine.
Dreams of glory, farewell.
The most delicious recipe in the world is that which you make from the stuff that you would have thrown away.
So I was cleaning the kitchen. And I saw the very browned frying pan in which my wife Jeanette had made butternut squash with caramelized onions. (She didn't intend for them to be THAT caramelized, but with two little ones running around the house ...)
So here was this pan, with the glorious bronze remains of this wonderful dish. And the adjective "glorious" is never exaggerated when speaking of butternut squash. (See Butternut Squash: Glory of the Fall Garden.) I was ready to take the pan to the sink. But there was no way I could discard this burnt goodness.
I deglazed the dirty pan with one cup (8 oz., 237 g) of white wine. At this point I still didn't know what I was going to make. But I knew I had to save the flavors in this pan!
After adding the wine and scraping the pan for a minute or two, I added 14 oz. (400 g) of canned plum tomatoes, with their liquid. Already in the pan was the remnants of the oil, butter, onions, and squash. By chance, Jeanette happened to forget the garden sage. (Again, with two little ones running around ...) So I picked some sage and added it. And I added more butter. True to its name, butternut squash is very buttery and very nutty. Having added the butter, I then added quite a good quantity of freshly ground nutmeg. You wouldn't think nutmeg would go well with the tomatoes. But the flavor was stupendous.
I cooked all of this down for 10-15 minutes.
While all this was going on, I made polenta. I poured the sauce over polenta, and voilà!
Now, how does one make polenta? Please don't buy the instant; the real thing is so easy to make that there's no need make that compromise. I have tried many recipes for polenta, but the following is the best one, by Lidia Bastianich. I have made it many times.
Lidia's Polenta 4 cups water, or use half milk for a richer taste 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 bay leaf 1 tablespoon coarse salt
1½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal
In a medium cast-iron saucepan or other heavy pot, bring all ingredients except cornmeal to simmer over medium heat. Very slowly, begin to sift corn meal into the pan through the fingers of one hand, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk. (This operation will be greatly facilitated if the meal is scooped by the handful from a wide bowl.) Gradually sift remaining meal into the pan, continue to stir, and reduce heat to medium low. Continue to stir until the polenta is smooth and thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan as it is stirred, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf, pour polenta into a serving bowl or onto a wooden board, and allow it to rest 10 minutes. To serve from the bowl, dip a large spoon into hot water and scoop the polenta onto individual dishes, dipping the spoon into the water between scoops. To serve from the board, cut polenta into segments with a thin, taut string or knife and transfer to plates with a spatula or cake server.
The above polenta recipe is from La Cucina di Lidia (1990).
Saridda è una nativa orgogliosa di Palermo e un abitante riluttante di Milano. Comunque, lo sunshine siciliano della sua personalità è un dono che lei porta a quella città lombarda e a tutti i lettori de “I Pi@ttini.” Questa ricetta è dolce (i pomodori, il vino), chiara (le acciughe, i capperi), e un po’ seria (l’aglio, l’origano). Credo di aver catturato la personalità di Saridda in questo piatto sicilianesco.
500 g penne candela (Divella #28)
55 g acciughe rotolate con capperi (7 o 8)
2 spicchi d’aglio, tagliati in metà
4 pomodori pelati San Marzano
mezzo bicchiere vino rosso
origano dal giardino
Nella padella, aggiungete il peperoncino, le acciughe, i capperi, e l’olio dalla scatola. Fateli cucinare per 2 minuti. Aggiungete i pomodori, strappati a mano; fateli cucinare per 2 minuti. Aggiungete il vino; cucinate per 5 minuti circa. Spegnete, aggiungete l’origano, aggiungete la pasta, e voilà! Non avete bisogno nè dell’olio, nè del sale, nè del formaggio. (La scatola di acciughe e capperi già c’ha l’olio e il sale. E il formaggio non si mette col pesce.) Buon appetito!
Saridda is a proud native of Palermo and a reluctant inhabitant of Milan. However, the Sicilian sunshine of her personality is a gift that she brings to that Lombard city and to all of the readers of “I Pi@ttini.” This recipe is sweet (the tomatoes, the wine), bright (the anchovies, the capers), and a little serious (the garlic, the oregano). I believe I have captured Saridda's personality in this Sicilian-style dish.
1 lb penne candela (Divella #28)
crushed red pepper
2 oz. anchovies rolled with capers (about 7)
2 garlic cloves, halved
4 canned plum tomatoes
a half glass of red wine
In the frying pan, add the pepper, anchovies, capers, and oil from the can. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ripped by hand; cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine; cook for about 5 minutes. Shut the heat, add the oregano, add the pasta, and voilà! You don't need oil, salt, or cheese. (The can of anchovies and capers already has the oil and salt. And one doesn't put cheese with fish.) Buon appetito!
The credit — or the blame — for my starting this blog goes to no one other than dear Laura Tulimiero, author of the marvelous and very popular foodblog, Matematica e Cucina (http://matematicaeccina.blogspot.com).She not only encouraged me, but she published my very first foodblog post, on her own blog. This was a great honor and an enormous pleasure.
The following is an English translation of this début post.
I dedicate this peasant recipe to my dear wife Jeanette, who likes it very much.
1 lb. pasta (we prefer cavatappi)
extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 onion, cut in little pieces but not diced
28 oz. peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible)
1 small chili pepper, or crushed red pepper
12 oz. frozen peas
pecorino romano or another Southern Italian grating cheese (absolutely NOT parmigiano or another Northern Italian cheese)
Americans are not very adventurous in their use of bacon. They have it for breakfast. Certain people drape it over a turkey before putting it in the oven. And of course, BLT's are very popular. I, on the other hand, use bacon in a completely different way.
I keep it not in the refrigerator but in the freezer. When I want to use it, I take it from the freezer and with a large, serrated knife, I cut widthwise a piece about an inch thick. Then, I defrost the piece either in the microwave or in the frying pan. (In this recipe, I employed the second method.)
In the frying pan, on a low flame, I heat the oil. Then, still on a low flame, I add this frozen piece of bacon.
After about 5 minutes, the little pieces separate.
Fry them until golden.
Then, add the onion and fry it until translucent. Don't brown either the bacon or the onion too much; the flame must always remain low.
When the bacon and onion are golden, add the tomatoes that you've already puréed in the blender.
At this point, absolutely do NOT add sugar. Add a carrot and a few raisins (perhaps also one sundried tomato). Use these, never sugar, to sweeten the sauce.
Add the hot pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes, always on a relatively low flame.
5 minutes before the end, add the peas.
Shut the gas and add the basil. Add the pecorino at the table.
Note: the recipe does not need salt. Between the salt in the pasta water, the salt in the bacon, the salt in the can of tomatoes, and the salt in the pecorino, you do not need extra salt.
The Calabrese-style salame I can buy at the supermarket. The dry white wine I can buy at the liquor store. But the home-style taralli with fennel I can buy only at Tutto Italiano in Wellesley, Massachusetts (http://www.tuttowellesley.com/).
Il salame di stile calabrese posso comprare al supermercato. Il vino bianco secco posso comprare all’enoteca. Ma i taralli caserecci al finocchietto posso comprare solo a Tutto Italiano a Wellesley, Massachusetts (http://www.tuttowellesley.com/).
One day, a dear friend gave me a recipe called "Chicken & Chorizo Paella." It was supposed to be a Spanish recipe. I tried to reproduce it. Under my hands, however, it came out as an Italian recipe that happened to have chorizo in it! I said to myself, "If I substituted pepperoni for the chorizo, it would be an entirely Italian dish."
It is a piatto unico (meaning, instead of a first course and second course, it is the only course). I have made it many times; Jeanette and I love it very much. I don't make it for guests: the place setting includes a spoon (for the orzo), a fork, a knife (for the chicken), and a separate dish (for the discarded skins and bones). It's a dirty, oily affair, and SO tasty that one could die. In fact, one could resuscitate the dead with this dish. (How appropriate that I made it a couple of days before Halloween!)
FOR THE CHICKEN STOCK
a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
1 stick butter
a few fennel stalks (optional)
a few potatoes (optional)
a few tomatoes
orange (or lemon) rind
a small cinnamon stick (about 4" long)
a few bay leaves
a couple of hard ends of parmigiano reggiano
other "junk" from the freezer
water to cover everything
Of the garden herbs, you can use whatever you want, but you HAVE to include tarragon. The marriage between chicken and tarragon is as harmonious as that between tomatoes and basil.
I once wrote on my blog, "The most delicious recipe in the world is that which you make from the stuff that you would have thrown away." The part of the tomato around the stem — I put it in the freezer. Fennel stalks — in the freezer. The hard parmigiano ends — in the freezer. The core of the radicchio — in the freezer. Then, when I'm ready to make the stock, out comes all of this magnificent "junk."
In a big pot, put the oil, chick, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and butter. Brown the chicken but be careful not to burn the butter.
Then, add all the other ingredients and let it boil for several hours.
FOR THE DISH
Ingredients 1 lb orzo
8 chicken thighs (with skin and bones)
1 onion (minced)
4 garlic cloves (halved)
1 chili pepper
paprika (hot, sweet, or smoked)
a drizzle of olive oil
In a clean, dry frying pan, add the orzo and toast it until golden (not brown). Shut the heat and put the orzo aside.
Preheat the oven to 425º. Put all of the above-listed ingredients except the orzo in a Dutch oven. (I use our beloved Creuset.)
Bake it, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven. Add:
28 oz. pealed San Marzano tomatoes (puréed in a mixer)
2 cups homemade chicken stock (see above)
2-4 TB red wine vinegar (for a sweeter flavor, you can use a vinegar of Marsala or Sherry)
7 oz. pepperoni, cut in medallions about 1/4" thick.
Cover and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Add the toasted orzo. Return it to the oven and bake, uncovered, for exactly 8 minutes.
(Cliccate qua per la versione italiana di questo post.)
Federico Lorenzo Ciampa (“Freddy”) is the second of my four sons. He is six years old. He likes fusilli, pancetta, bacon, garlic, and dandelion greens. (Yes, dandelion greens.) Tomatoes, not so much. In this way, I decided the elements of the dish that I prepared today for the formidable Freddy.
In truth, this dish is not totally original. A similar recipe was made by the magnificent tenor-chef Pasquale Carpino, native of Calabria but inhabitant of Toronto (therefore not Italian-American per se, but, let's say, "Italian-North American"). Except that Pasquale used tomatoes ...
1 lb fusilli col buco (the brand Anna isn't bad at all)
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole garlic cloves
1 bunch dandelion greens, cut (without the stems) HOMEMADE chicken stock (click here for stock recipe)(WKHM*)
s & p (WKHM)
pecorino romano (at the table) (WKHM)
* = Who knows how much?
Fry the garlic in the oil. When it's golden, add the pancetta and bacon. After a couple of minutes, add the stock. After a couple of minutes, add the dandelions. Cook it about 5 minutes. (From the color of the leaves, you'll know when it's done.) Shut the heat, add the fusilli, and buon appetito!
Now, listen to a little bit of the tenor voice of the beloved Pasquale. (But tell me: what song is he singing? For the life of me, I absolutely don't know what song that is!)
(Click here for the English version of this post.)
Federico Lorenzo Ciampa (“Freddy”) è il secondo dei miei quattro figli. Ha sei anni. A lui piaciono i fusilli, la pancetta, il bacon, l’aglio, e il taràssaco. (Sì, il taràssaco.) I pomodori, non tanto. In questo modo, ho scelto gli elementi del piatto che ho preparato oggi per Freddy il formidabile.
In verità, questo piatto non è originalissimo. Una ricetta simile preparò il magnifico cuoco-tenore Pasquale Carpino, nativo della Calabria ma abitante di Toronto (dunque non italoamericano per se, ma, diciamo, “italonordamericano”). Eccetto che Pasquale usò i pomodori ...
500g fusilli col buco (la marca Anna è mica cattiva)
olio d’oliva extravergine
2 spicchi d’aglio, interi
1 mazzo foglie di taràssaco, tagliate (senza i gambi) brodo CASERECCIO di pollo (cliccate qua per la ricetta)(CSQ*)
bacon, oppure pancetta affumicata (CSQ)
sale e pepe (CSQ)
pecorino romano (alla tavola) (CSQ)
* = Chissà quanto?
Soffriggete l’aglio nell’olio. Quando è biondo-biondo, aggiungete la pancetta e il bacon. Dopo qualche minuto, aggiungete il brodo. Dopo qualche minuto, aggiungete il taràssaco. Fatelo cucinare 5 minuti circa. (Dal colore delle foglie, saprete quando è pronto.) Spegnetelo, aggiungete i fusilli, e buon appetito!
Adesso, sentite un po’ la voce tenorile del beneamato Pasquale. (Ma ditemi: quale canzone sta cantando? Per la mia vita, assolutamente non so che canzone è!)
This post was first published on March 22, 2010, on the blog Faultbook.
This afternoon I was like some sort of star-struck teenager, meeting my favorite rock star. It still hasn't sunk in that I met Lidia today, at Williams-Sonoma right here in Boston. (As you can see, Antonino met her as well.)
The book signing began at 5. We got there at 4:25. Already a line had formed; there were 12, maybe 15, people ahead of us. Nino was impressed with how long the line was growing behind us. I asked him, "How many people do you think are in this line?" He said, "I think a million."
While we were waiting, the crew at Williams-Sonoma passed out samples of Lidia's Salsicce all'Uva. Lidia herself didn't make it; the staff prepared it following her recipe. Still, it was a tasty treat.
The staff of WS had everything down to a science. Only books that we had purchased at that actual store could be signed (which means I brought two books from home for nothing. Three books made for a heavy backpack on the return trip!). While still in line, we were given a yellow sticky, on which we wrote what we wanted Lidia to say. I mention this because when we finally reached Lidia, she looked at my name on the sticky and said, "Oh, you're the one who sent me that link" (i.e., the previous Faultbook post). Then she said, "So, you're a musician." I was floored that she remembered that much about me.
She treated my Nino, and all the children there, like members of the family, with great down-to-earth-ness and a warmth that was in no way false. That, I am convinced, is what sets apart her cooking. She has the culinary techniques of the greatest virtuosi, yet she has the taste and the love of the Southern Italian peasants (though she is a Northerner). My Sicilian grandmother used to always say, "No amuri, no sapuri" ("No love, no taste"). This, my friends, must certainly be the secret of Lidia.
SAUSAGES IN THE SKILLET WITH GRAPES
From “Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy,” published by Alfred A. Knopf (2009)
¼ cup extra- virgin olive oil
8 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
2 ½ pounds sweet Italian sausages, preferably without fennel seeds (8 or more sausages, depending on size)
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
1 ¼ pounds seedless green grapes, picked from the stem and washed (about 3 cups)
Pour the olive oil into the skillet, toss in the garlic cloves, and set it over low heat. When the garlic is sizzling, lay in all the sausages in one layer, and cover the pan. Cook the sausages slowly, turning and moving them around the skillet occasionally; after 10 minutes or so, sprinkle the peperoncino in between the sausages. Continue low and slow cooking for 25 to 30 minutes in all, until the sausages are cooked through and nicely browned all over. Remove the pan from the burner, tilt it, and carefully spoon out excess fat.
Set the skillet back over low heat, and scatter in the grapes. Stir and tumble them in the pan bottom, moistening them with meat juices. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the grapes begin to soften, wrinkle, and release their own juices. Remove the cover, turn the heat to high, and boil the pan juices to concentrate them to a syrupy consistency, stirring and turning the sausages and grapes frequently to glaze them.
To serve family-style: arrange the sausages on a warm platter, topped with the grapes and pan juices. Or serve them right from the pan (cut in half, if large), spooning grapes and thickened juices over each portion.
Ecco una razza estinta di tenori. Richard Tucker è come un dio qua! Questo tipo di vocalità, di passione, e d’intrepidezza ricorda il Caruso – paragone che non faccio leggermente! Figuratevi che un tenore americano cantasse in questo modo. (Merrill era americano anche lui.)
Here is an extinct race of tenors. Richard Tucker is like a god here! This type of vocality, passion, and fearlessness recalls Caruso — a comparison that I don't make lightly! Imagine that an American tenor sang this way. (Merrill was also American.)
(Please scroll down for the English version of this post.)
È vero che molti italoamericani sanno poco della cultura italiana. Ma il contrario è anche vero. Gli immigranti che arrivarono ad Ellis Island fra il 1892 e il 1924 erano poveri di beni materiali ma ricchi di valori. E la loro virtuosità nel giardino e nella cucina è la roba di leggenda!
Mi stupisce che i meridionali facevano tali miracoli culinari in un clima così diverso a quel mediterraneo. Boston e New York non offrivano il sole arido, l’inverno mite, il suolo vulcanico. D’altro canto, il nostro estate umido produceva un basilico (posso dirlo?) superiore. E i carni, specialmente il manzo, avevamo in abbondanza.
Sì, la cucina tipica italoamericana è molto limitata rispetto al vasto repertorio delle cucine in Italia. Ma il “melting pot” dei meridionali da diversi luoghi d’origine creò un’amalgamazione interessantissima di sapori e di metodi. La salsa di pomodoro da Napoli, il salamino piccante dalla Calabria, la ricotta dalla Sicilia, il metodo d’impanare anche dalla Sicilia — elementi pregiati da diverse province, tutti venivano assieme in una cultura. Per esempio, il nostro “Chicken Parmesan” è mica un piatto parmense. Viene invece dalla predilezione siciliana per impanare le cotolette e i filetti siano di carne siano di pesce. E se le nostre lasagne sono inautenticamente bolognesi, sono autenticamente siciliane, poiché il siciliano del 1892 conosceva la ricotta e non conosceva la besciamella.
Poi, il coronamento della cucina italoamericana: il sugo domenicale.
È impossibile illustrare l’aspetto “religioso” del sugo domenicale, il capolavoro della bellissima nonna. Saltare la Messa, e ti senti che ci sia qualcosa che non va. Saltare il sugo, e ti senti che ci sia qualche GRANDE cosa che non va!
Allora, il contest: create la miglior ricetta per il sugo domenicale.
* Il contest inizia oggi l’11 novembre 2012 e termina fra due mesi l’11 gennaio 2013.
* Se avete un blog, linkateci la ricetta pubblicata con il banner e il link del contest. Potete partecipare anche con ricette già postate. Ripubblicate il post vecchio, e inserite il banner e il link a questo post. Non dimenticare di lasciare il link della vostra ricetta come commento a questo post.
* Se non avete un blog, partecipate comunque e inviateci una ricetta a mezzo email corredata di foto.
* Allegate al minimo una bella foto del prodotto finito, ma preferibilmente delle foto delle diverse fase.
Il giudice sono io. Naturalmente il giudizio sarà completamente soggettivo. Ma dagli altri post in questo blog discernerete facilmente le mie suscettibilità al Vecchio Mondo.
Assegnerò tre premi (primo, secondo, terzo). I premi non saranno monetari ma ... musicali! I dettagli in seguito!
It's true that many Italian-Americans know little about Italian culture. But the reverse is also true. The immigrants that arrived at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924 were poor in material wealth but rich in values. And their virtuosity in the garden and in the kitchen is the stuff of legend!
It amazes me that the Southern Italians performed such culinary miracles in a climate so different from the Mediterranean. Boston and New York did not offer the arid sun, the mild winter, the volcanic soil. On the other hand, our humid summer produced a basil which was (can I say it?) superior. And meat, especially beef, we had in profusion.
Yes, the typical Italian-American cuisine is very limited compared to the vast repertoire of cuisines in Italy. But the "melting pot" of the Southern Italians of different places of origin created a very interesting amalgamation of flavors and methods. The tomato sauce from Naples, the pepperoni from Calabria, the ricotta from Sicily, the method of breading also from Sicily — prized elements of different provinces, all coming together into one culture. For example, our Chicken "Parmesan" is hardly a dish from Parma. It comes instead from the Sicilian predilection for breading cutlets and filets of meat and fish. And if our lasagna is inauthentically Bolognese, it is authentically Sicilian, for the Sicilian of 1892 knew ricotta but did not know béchamel sauce.
Then, the crowning glory of Italian-American cuisine: the Sunday sugo.
It is impossible to convey the "religious" aspect of the Sunday sugo, the masterpiece of our beautiful grandmothers. Miss Mass, and something doesn't quite feel right. Miss the sugo, and something REALLY doesn't feel right!
And so, the contest: create the best recipe for the Sunday sugo.
* The contest begins today, November 11, 2012, and ends in two months on January 11, 2013.
* If you have a blog, link your published recipe with the banner and the link of this contest. You can participate with recipes that have already been posted. Republish your old post, and insert the banner and the link to this post. Don't forget to leave the link of your recipe as a comment on this post.
* If you don't have a blog, you can still participate. Simply send us a recipe by email, furnished with photos.
* Include at least one good photo of the finished product, but preferably several photos of the different stages.
The judge will be me. Naturally the judging will be completely subjective. But from the other posts in this blog you will easily discern my Old World sensibilities.
I will grant three prizes (first, second, third). The awards will not be monetary but ... musical! Details to follow!
ADDENDUM (12 January 2012): The winner has been announced! Click here for full details!
The above four photos are from various websites, not affiliated with this one.