giovedì 11 luglio 2013

Zuppa alla Pasquale (English)

(Cliccate qua per la versione italiana di questo post.)

“When people see my television program, they often ask me why I sing when I am cooking. To me singing a beautiful song and preparing a beautiful recipe are the same. They both give us a chance to find happiness in creativity and to share that joy with others. In music there is an infinity — an endless number of combinations of notes and harmonies which will produce original and lovely melodies. So it is with cooking. The chef is like a composer, creating new recipes and adapting old ones to express the individuality which is found in each of us.” 
— Pasquale Carpino (1936-2005)

Pasquale Carpino was simultaneously rustic and refined, simple and wise. He was a wonderful tenor and a wonderful chef, with genuine technique in both arts; but the whole was greater than the sum of those two parts. And there was a third part: this man had his priorities straight! Every motion of his body, every word from his mouth, exuded his love for food, for family, for life.

Before I saw his show, Pasquale’s Express Kitchen (1990-1992), I had never cooked a thing.  I thought that cooking required complicated recipes and specialized techniques.  To Pasquale and Pasquale alone goes the credit for giving me, through the television screen, the confidence to begin to cook. Even more importantly, he also gave me hope that it is possible to combine one’s talents, even if such a combination had never been attempted before, and to succeed without forsaking one’s basic values as a human being.

In 2002, I wrote Pasquale a fan letter.  He responded, not by mail but by telephone!  He called in June of 2002.  I wasn’t available; I was on my honeymoon.  He left a second message.  I returned from my honeymoon, checked my phone messages, and imagine my surprise to hear two messages, on my machine, from Pasquale Carpino, the famous TV chef!  I immediately called him back.  I don’t remember one word of that conversation.  But I remember holding the phone and talking to him.  And I cherish that memory. 

I become a little teary-eyed when I think of Pasquale, because — I realize it now — he was like a member of my family.

In his cookbooks, Pasquale liked to invent dishes and name them after members of his family, or after characters in famous operas.  In this spirit, I present to you Zuppa alla Pasquale.


500 gr. whole-wheat conchigliette, farfalline, or orzo
extra-virgin olive oil
150-200 gr. bacon, thick-sliced, cut in cubes 
1-2 medium onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, whole
3 L water
300 mL tomato juice (You can use the liquid from a can of tomatoes)
1 large, or 2 small, bay leaves
½ of a nutmeg
juniper berries, whole or (for more flavor) crushed (The easiest way to crush them is to put them in a little plastic bag and pound them a couple of times.)
1 hard parmigiano rind
a handful of dandelion leaves
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
crushed red pepper
freshly-grated parmigiano


Put the bay leaves, nutmeg, and juniper berries in a stainless-steel tea infuser, or in a little cheesecloth sac. Whichever container you chose, it must have a cord that you can tie to the handle of the pan.

Heat the pan.  Add olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the bacon.  When the bacon begins to render its fat, add the onions and garlic.  When they are blonde (not brown), add the water, tomato juice, tea infuser, salt, pepper, and parmigiano rind.  Boil slowly for 1¾ hours.  Add the dandelions and a little more salt if necessary, and cook for another 15 minutes.  With kitchen tongs remove the parmigiano rind. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes (or the time indicated on the package). 

Have two bowls and a colander ready.  When the pasta is ready, it is very important to separate the pasta from the stock.  If the pasta remains in the stock, it will absorb the liquid and become mushy. 

Into each dish put some pasta, some broth, and some grated parmigiano. Buon appetito!  And long live Pasquale!

This aluminum colander was a wedding gift to my grandparents in 1934.  From that day till the day my grandmother died in 1999, that was the only colander that she owned.  65 years’ worth of Christmases and Easters — all with that sculapasta.
And now, let us allow Pasquale to have the last word:

1 commento:

  1. A singing chef... I love it. From your story and the pictures, he looks like quite a guy. I was living abroad during the time in question so i missed his show. Wonder if they can be found on DVD or streaming?