Archive | Italian Regional Cooking RSS feed for this archive

Though Italy is one country, it is also a collection of tiny states, each with its own history, culture and cuisine. Regionality!

Melanzane Calabre, Calabrian Eggplant

Hot weather and spicy foods go hand-in-hand; here’s a tasty chilled eggplant dish from Calabria that will work nicely as antipasto or vegetable in the summer months:

  • 4 long eggplants, peeled, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch (slightly thinner than 1 cm) slices, and salted for an hour
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 hot peppers, minced
  • Minced fresh oregano to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extravirgin olive oil
  • Salt

Rinse the eggplant slices, boil them 3-4 minutes, and lay them on a towel to dry. Make an emulsion of the vinegar and oil, and stir it into the herbs. Put a layer of eggplant in a dish, season it with the oil, put down another layer of eggplant and continue until all is used up. Chill for 4-6 hours before serving.


Pomodori col Riso, Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice

Rice is one of the most classic fillings for tomatoes; the tomatoes will work well as either an antipasto or a side dish, and can be served wither hot or cool. The recipe is drawn from Caróla Francesconi’s La Cucina Napoletana.

To serve 6 you’ll need:

  • 12 round, large tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) rice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Fresh shredded basil or oregano

Wash and dry the tomatoes, then cut around their caps and scoop the pulp into a bowl with a spoon, catching all the tomato juice as well, and being careful not to puncture the tomatoes. When you are done blend the pulp and juice. Then combine the blended tomato pulp with the remaining ingredients except the wine.

Preheat your oven to 375 F (170 C).

Stuff the tomatoes with the filling without tamping down too hard, replace the caps, and put the tomatoes in a lightly oiled oven proof dish. Pour the wine into the dish and bake the tomatoes until done, about 45 minutes. Serve either hot or cool.


Livio Jannattoni gives a very similar recipe in La Cucina romana e del Lazio, though he increases the cloves of garlic to 3 and the rice to a cup (200 g). He suggests parsley in addition to oregano and basil, and also suggests that you slice some potatoes thinly and bake them with the tomatoes, observing that they become wonderfully tasty as they absorb the pan juices.

He also discusses a closely related Roman dish, tomatoes stuffed with pasta, which calls for a pasta shape known as cannolicchietti (small rings of pasta, of the same sort one puts into thick soups) – a tablespoon or at the most two per tomato.

Empty the tomatoes as you would if you were filling them with rice, reserving the pulp and juice and setting the caps aside. Mince basil, a little garlic and some parsley, and combine the mixture with the cannolicchietti, seasoning everything with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkling some olive oil over it. Fill the tomatoes with the pasta mixture and put them in an oven-proof dish. Put the reserved tomato pulp through a strainer to remove the seeds and sprinkle it around the tomatoes, together with a little more oil; the liquid in the pan should reach half-way up the tomatoes (add more if need be).

Cover the tomatoes with their caps and bake them in a 360 F (180 C) oven for 30-45 minutes. Serve either hot or cold.

Pimmaduori Siccati, Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun Dried Tomatoes

This recipe is Calabrian, and is drawn from Ottavio Cavalcanti’s Il Libro d’Oro della Cucina e dei Vini di Calabria e Basilicata. It calls for ripe tomatoes (plum tomatoes will be best) you should dry yourself; before you begin check the weather forecast because you’ll need several days of hot dry weather with intense sunlight.

You’ll want at least 2 pounds (1 k) of sun-ripened plum tomatoes.

Slice the tomatoes lengthwise, set them on a rack with the cut surfaces up, dust them with salt, put them out early in the morning (if where you live has a lively insect population cover them with fine netting), and bring them inside at night lest dew fall upon them as the temperature falls. Continue setting them out each morning until they are dry. Depending upon the humidity where you live this could take 2 or more days.

You’ll then need:

  • Garlic (SEE NOTE)
  • Oregano
  • Freshly shredded mild or hot pepper to taste
  • Basil
  • Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Rinse your dried tomatoes with water and vinegar. Mince the herbs in the proportion that suits your fancy, and then layer the dried tomatoes in a jar, sprinkling the herbs and some salt over each layer. Press well, then fill the jar with olive oil, shaking repeatedly and tapping the sides of the jar to make sure no air pockets remain. Seal, and let the tomatoes sit in a cool dark place for a few months, at which point they’ll make a fine antipasto, over slices of crusty bread. They will also be quite nice sliced fine in cold pasta dishes or insalata di riso, and as a general flavoring agent in zesty dishes. .

NOTE: recent studies have shown that garlic packed in oil can harbor botulism. Therefore, if you hear a hissing sound as you open the jar discard the contents. Or, to be safe, omit the garlic.

Rice and Eggplant Soup, Minestra di Melanzane e Riso

Eggplant is one of the most classic south Italian vegetables, and though it often finds its way into pasta sauces, it’s not common in soups. This recipe is Puglian, and also calls for rice, which, legend has it, was introduced to Italy by the Arabs who once dominated southern Italy.

To serve 4:

  • 3/4 cup (150 g) rice
  • 3 medium eggplants, stemmed and cubed
  • A medium onion
  • An egg
  • A small bunch parsley, minced
  • A dozen fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • A quart (1 liter) of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (50 g) freshly grated Parmigiano or mild Romano cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the cubed eggplant in a colander, sprinkle it abundantly with salt, and let it set for a couple of hours. While it’s setting, chop the onion and the herbs, and heat the broth to a simmer.

Heat a quarter cup of olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the onions and the herb mixture. Rinse the eggplant well and drain it.

When the onions begin to soften, add the diced eggplant and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the simmering broth and the rice, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the rice is done. While the rice is cooking, lightly beat the egg and mix the cheese into it.

When the rice is done, remove the pot from the fire, briskly stir a ladle of the soup into the egg mixture, and then stir the egg mixture back into the soup. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, check seasoning, and serve.

Salsa di Pomodoro alla Napoletana, Neapolitan Tomato Sauce

Fusilli Col Ferro With Tomato Sauce

Fusilli Col Ferro With Tomato Sauce

Though slow-cooking pomarola is quite tasty, there are times you’ll want something quicker, and then this classic Neapolitan sauce comes into play. It’s perfect for pasta, but will also work well with rice or pizza. To make a jar of sauce you will need:

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Set a large pot full of water to boil. Meanwhile, wash the tomatoes and remove the brownish patches where the stems were attached using a sharp-pointed knife. Dump the tomatoes into the boiling water, blanch them for about a minute, and then run enough cold water into the pot so you can pick out the tomatoes without burning yourself. Peel the tomatoes, discarding their skins, seed them, slice them, and put them in a bowl. When you are done heat the oil and the garlic in another pot – traditionalists prefer terracotta – and stir in the chopped tomatoes before the oil garlic begins to crackle. Season with salt and pepper, simmer over a low flame for 10 minutes, stir in the basil leaves, simmer for five more minutes, and it’s done.

Figure about 1/4 cup of sauce (or more to taste) and 1/4 pound of pasta per serving; serve the pasta with grated cheese on the side.

Note: To keep the sauce from becoming heavy, it’s very important that the oil not get too hot before you add the tomatoes. Also, some Neapolitan cooks of the older generation made this sauce using lard rather than olive oil.