Nidi di spaghetti (Spaghetti nests)

Gustare un piatto fatto come Dio comanda è uno dei piaceri solitari più raffinati che l’omo possa godere, da non spartirsi con nessuno, manco con la pirsona alla quale vuoi più bene. (da Gli arancini di Montalbano)

To savor a meal prepared like God intended is one of the most refined solitary pleasures that a man could possibly enjoy, not to be shared with anybody even the person you love most. (You will excuse my translation, but English is not my native language and Camilleri’s language is difficult in itself)

montalbano, the shape of water

One of the most outstanding peculiarity of Inspector Montalbano is for sure his appreciation for food. Traditional Sicilian food prepared by his faithful governess Adelina or enjoyed in one of the “trattoria” in the fictional city of Vigata. Andrea Camilleri, Inspector Montalbano’s “father” has created a language of his own, a mix of Italian and Sicilian, the dialect spoken where the action take place, Sicily. Stories are interwoven with irony, suspense, social comments, introspections and a lot of amazing description of the food.

Today, I felt like preparing a dish that recall the Mediterranean flavors, something that even a sophisticated palate like Montalbano will not disdain. So I started with a tomato sauce rich in oregano, garlic, basil and chilli, and I end shaping the spaghetti like a nest and decorating with a small mozzarella, as we are in Easter season. The result was a tasty main course that also the kids loved.

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Ingredients:

(4 people)

320 gr. Spaghetti

500 gr. of peeled tomato

80 gr. of Cailletier olives

2 tablespoons of capers

6 tablespoons of olive oil

6 cherry mozzarella

Bread crumbs

2 cloves of garlic

15 gr. basil leaves

oregano,  chilli (pepperoncino) and salt to please

This is how it looks before been grated in the oven

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Directions:

  • Grease a small oven pan with olive oil and sprinkle with bread crumbs
  • Peel the garlic and remove the bud if necessary, then grossly chop, put in a small pan with the peeled tomato, oregano, pepperoncino and salt. Let it cook with very low heat for half an hour. Don’t mix them.
  • Roughly chop cailletier olives, basil and capers
  • After half a hour crush the tomato with a wooden spoon, then add the olives, the capers and 4 spoonful of olive oil and put on very low heat for another 15 minutes
  • Meanwhile cook the pasta, and when still very “al dente” (bit hard), drain it an cool with cold water
  • Mix the sauce with the spaghetti, then with the help of a fork and a spoon, prepare six nests, carefully placing them in the greased pan, put a cherry mozzarella in each one.
  • Sprinkle the preparation with more bread crumbs and two spoonful of olive oil, put in the oven at 180’ C. for 10-15 minutes and serve hot.

This is just out of the oven:

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And this how it looks like after eating a generous portion:

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Colomba (Dove, an Easter Cake)

In fair Verona, where we lay our sceneRomeo and Juliet, W. Shakespeare, prologue

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It is common believe that the Colomba, the Italian Dove shaped Easter Cake, is original from Milan or Pavia, and there are legends about dove shaped cakes back to the Byzantine Era. True is that most probably the mother country of the Colomba is Verona, Romeo and Juliet’s town, THE town of love.

Shakespeare seems to have a thing for Verona, as he set there also another play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Verona is a very nice town, not far from Venice and Padua, absolutely worthy to be seen especially in the summer when it hosts a precious opera festival, in its magic Arena.

Coming to the Colomba, it is not easy, I made two tries, using the recipe of Vittorio from the Blog  Viva La Focaccia (https://www.vivalafocaccia.com/ricette/video-ricetta-colomba-pasquale-lievito-birra-casa-impasto-ingredienti/). In the first try I followed Vittorio’s recipe very carefully and everything was fine, until I spread the glaze before baking it. The glaze was probably too cold and the Colomba deflated. I was so sorry

So the second time I baked the Colomba first, and the I spread the glaze and I put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes. The result was great! a fluffy, fine textured cake that was melting in the mouth.

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As it not an easy cake, I prepared a PP presentation with all the necessary steps to follow.

Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD THE COLOMBA RECIPE’S POWERPOINT HERE OR AT THE END OF THE POST:

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Crescia, Easter bread

I already have the opportunity to talk about Giacomo Leopardi, the great Italian poet. I love his poems, but also his romantic, short life. If you get curious about his life, there is an award winning film, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/sep/01/il-giovane-favoloso-review-giacomo-leopardi-venice-film-festival, that I strongly suggest you to watch.

Giacomo didn’t want to live in his native Recanati, and moved in different cities in Italy, but he missed his home town.  On the 17th  March, 1826, he wrote to his sister Paolina:

Salutami il curato e don Vincenzo, e dà loro a mio nome la buona Pasqua, che io passerò senza uovi tosti, senza crescia, senza un segno di solennità”. (Give my regards to the pastor and don Vincenzo, wish them Happy Easter for me.  A Easter that I will spend without uovi tosti, without crescia, and any celebration at all).

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From this excerpt it is clear that Giacomo couldn’t cook, otherwise he could have done what I did, ask his granma her recipe (yes, I have a grandmother alive and yes, she is 99 at the moment and finally yes, she can still share recipes– all thanks to the Mediterranean diet, I suppose).

So I prepared a big Crescia and I shared with friends coming from that area of Italy.

What can I say, I am a poetic, homesick, Italian expat 😂

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INGREDIENTS

  • 500 gr. flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 gr. Grated pecorino romano (it a sheep cheese, usually can be found in big supermarket)
  • 150 gr. grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 10 gr. Dehydrated yeast
  • 100 gr. Gruyere cheese (diced)
  • 250 gr. milk
  • 50 gr. of lard (I used butter, as lard is not easy available here)
  • 50 gr. of olive oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. Oil one large soufflé mould, and using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the dish adding an additional 5 cm. of height.
  2. Add the yeast to the warm milk in the bowl of the stand mixer and mix, and let sit until bubbly.
  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the olive oil, the butter, salt, and grated cheese.
  4. Add it to the yeast mixture and stir it with the dough hook, then add the flour, little by little. Stir it until you get a very smooth dough (it may take 20- 40 minutes at medium speed).
  5. Let the dough sit until doubled,
  6. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand, folding in the diced cheese as you work the dough.
  7. Place the dough in the mould and let it sit until more than doubled (my grandmother suggests that it is read when, gently touched, the dough trembles like jelly)
  8. Bake it at 180’ C. for about 45 minutes (I used the bread program in my oven – with 100% humidity for the first 5 minutes and then decrease at about 30% humidity).
  9. Remove the cake from the mould and let it cool completely, serve it as a snack or at breakfast with cured meat and boiled eggs.

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Semlor, a sweet treat for Nils Holgerson

“TWO days later, another strange thing happened. A flock of wild geese came flying one morning, and lit on a meadow down in Eastern Skåne not very far from Vittskövle manor. In the flock were thirteen wild geese, of the usual gray variety, and one white goosey-gander, who carried on his back a tiny lad dressed in yellow leather breeches, green vest, and a white woolen toboggan hood.” The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgerson by Selma Lagerlöf 

Did you know that this child novel is actually a geography school book?

Nils is a mean child which is turned very small by an Elf. He took off with a flock of wild geese that fly over Sweden, he finally learn the geography of his country but also how to be kind.

Selma Lagerlöf is one of my favored author especially the novel “The prince of Portugalia”Today’s recipe I learned when I was living in Lund, in the beautiful Skane, and I decided to prepare it today because is a seasonal treat, the Lent bun.

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INGREDIENTS

100g butter

300 whole milk
100 gr caster sugar
500g, strong floor
10 gr tsp fast action yeast
¼ tsp ground cardamom
a good pinch salt
1 egg

FOR THE FILLING
100g  marzipan, grated
¼ tsp ground cardamom
200ml (7 fl oz) whipping cream
3-4 tbsp icing sugar
lingonberry jam

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the butter and milk in pan and heat until the butter has melted, let it cool until 35 c.
  2. Place 1 tbs of caster sugar, 1 tbs of flour, 1tbs of honey and the yeast, along with the milk and butter in the bowl of a free-standing mixer and an mix it for a minut.
  3. Let the mixture rest for an hour.
  4. Add the rest of the sugar, the rest of the flour, the egg and the cardamom. Use the dough hook on the mixer to, then knead over a medium-to-low speed for 15-10 minutes
  5. Place the dough in a clean bowl covered with a damp tea towel.. Let it rest for 3 hours or until doubled in size, in a warm place.
  6. Dust your surface with flour, knock the dough back and roll into a sausage shape. Divide into 14 same-sized buns of about 8g  (I weight any piece of dough to make them as regular as possible.)
  7. Place on a large baking tray, spaced evenly apart and lightly cover with cling film. Leave to raise or about 30 minutes in a warm place.
  8. Once the buns are ready, brush the tops of the buns with milk. Bake the buns for 25-30 minutes in a 200 C. oven.
  9. When the buns are cooled cut the tops off and use a teaspoon to scoop out some of the crumb inside the bun to make space for a for a teaspoon of lingonberry jam and some crumble of marzipan.
  10. . Whip the cream and pipe over the top of the marzipan and to the edges. Place the hat back on the top of the buns and dust with icing sugar.

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