A Week In A Magical Italian Village
Now for the giveaway. Wouldn’t you love to own one of those wooden implements to make your own maccheroni alla chitarra at home? I’m giving one away so you can try it yourself.
Maccheroni Alla Chitarra
printable recipe here
For the pasta, follow the step-by-step instructions and recipe here:
For the sauce – use your favorite or this one – a tradition sauce made with lamb and peppers from
Italy Dish by Dish:
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb lamb, cut into small pieces
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 lbs. peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves (substitute basil if you don’t have it)
a pinch of hot pepper flakes
1/2 red pepper, cut into strips
1/2 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1/2 green pepper, cut into strips
grated pecorino cheese
Saute the onions and garlic in 1 1/2 T. olive oil, then add the lamb and brown. Add the wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, marjoram and hot pepper flakes and lower the heat. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Let the sauce cook while you make the pasta. After the sauce cooks about an hour, saute the peppers in the remaining olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta in salted water, drain and toss with the peppers, then with the lamb ragu. Serve garnished with grated pecorino cheese.
Santo Stefano provides the ideal climate for growing lentils – cold, long winters and a short, brisk springtime. Lentils love the predominantly limestone soil of the area and don’t need any fertilization so they’re ideally suited for the poor terrain of the mountains. They’re harvested between the end of July and the end of August and the town holds a festival the first weekend of September to celebrate the legume. It can take as long as 15 days to bring in the harvest, which is almost always done manually. That’s mainly because the lentils, which must be separated from their pods, are so tiny, and there’s a loss of 30 percent to 40 percent with mechanical harvesting. But it’s also difficult to get equipment into some of the growing areas. The photo below shows the lentils just released from their dried pod.
Most of the lentil growers in Santo Stefano are older retired people who cultivate them strictly for family use. That means each year fewer and fewer are available commercially, and they’re impossible to find in the U.S. Even in Italy, they’re not readily available outside of Abruzzo. To help stem the sale of lentils falsely claiming to be from Santo Stefano, the local Slow Food organization, or presidium, requires identification of the grower to be on the label. Below is a photo of Silvan Fulgensi, among the younger growers, and a member of the presidium, shown holding a sifter used to shake the lentils from their outer pods. Silvan and his wife Anna were just putting the finishing touches on a new bar in town called Il Ristoro Degli Elfi, so if you do visit Santo Stefano, stop in, have a drink and a bite to eat.
|Daniele Kihlgren and his omnipresent bulldog
Like many rural villages in Southern Italy, young people were fleeing to the larger cities, leaving behind empty homes and a sagging economy that was destined to become worse. The population had dwindled to about 100 at the time, from about 3,000 in the 16th century when Santo Stefano di Sessanio was a thriving way station on the wool trade route. Kihlgren, whose mother is Swedish and father Italian, decided to do something about it. Fortunately he had the means to fulfill his vision, since his family had made a fortune in the cement industry. He bought up much of the uninhabited buildings, and set about creating Sextantio, an albergo diffuso.
Coniglio in Porchetta
photo and recipe courtesy of Le Virtu
printable recipe here
1 whole boneless Lancaster County rabbit (available from Sonny D’Angelo on Philadelphia’s 9th St.)
3 sprigs of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
1T kosher salt
1/2 T black peppercorns
1/2tsp red pepper flake
4 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 juniper berries
Join me and Kathryn Abajian in Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Italy to savor the slow life, to start or refine your memoir or other writing and explore a lesser-known part of Italy. Only a couple of spots left for this week in an unspoiled village amid stimulating company, great food each day and excursions to interesting places nearby. Life is short – go for it. It’s really as good as it sounds, so don’t dally – check out “Italy in Other Words.”
printable recipe here
2 1/4 t. dry yeast (1 package)
1 t. sugar
4 cups flour (I used bread flour)
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 cups warm water (between 105 and 110 degrees)
olive oil to drizzle on top
coarse, or kosher salt for the top
Dissolve the yeast in about 1/4 cup water and add a tsp. of sugar to help get it started. The temperature of the water is very important. I use a meat thermometer to get the right temperature. Too cold and it takes forever for the dough to rise. Too hot and you kill the yeast.
After the yeast has sat in the small bit of water and sugar, it should start to bubble up in about five minutes.
Mix it with the flour, the rest of the water and the salt. You can use a food processor or just mix it by hand in a bowl until it’s all blended. Add more flour or water if needed. Knead for about five minutes, then place in a greased bowl and cover it with a dish towel, plastic wrap or a large plate. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled. This could take a couple of hours.
Punch down the dough and split it in half. Spread out half in a cast iron skillet if you have one. If not, just make a free-form circle of dough by rolling and stretching.
Let it sit for about five minutes in the pan, then use your fingers to dimple the top. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, then some minced rosemary.
Bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Check to see the bottom is browned and if not, take it out of the pan and place directly on your oven rack. Repeat with the other half of the dough once the cast iron skillet is cool enough to handle.
|Top row, Julie and Lori and Cynthia. Seated, Linda, Kathryn and Diane|
Helen instructed the group on Abruzzese traditions that link us with our past, regardless of nationality.
We read the words of Italian writers such as Ignazio Silone, who wrote about the long-ago struggles of peasants in Abruzzo, struggles that are still relevant around the world today. We walked in the footsteps of shepherds who led their flocks in a twice-yearly migration over hundreds of miles of rocky, mountainous paths in search of warmer climes, a custom known as “transumanza.”
Near the Gran Sasso mountains we ran for shelter as the rain fell, while the cow nearby didn’t budge:
|Lori, Diane, Juli, Linda, Helen and Cynthia|
|Santa Maria della Pieta
We had time to walk below the town where poppies bloomed beside a church boarded up since the 2009 earthquake:
Gabriella’s Torta Di Crema e Ricotta
Printable Recipe Here
This recipe was enough for a very large pan – probably 10 to 12 inches in diameter.
for the dough:
2 1/4 cups flour
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
For the filling:
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
grated peel from one lemon
1/2 cup to 1 cup ricotta, depending on taste
amaretti cookies crumbled on top – about 1 cup or so
Blend the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl. Add the softened butter by hand or put everything in a food processor until it forms a ball. Roll out and place into a buttered 10 to 12-inch baking dish or tart pan.
per la pasta base ingredienti:
325 grammi farina
175 grammi burro
100 grammi zucchero
una bustina lievito
Procedimento: Impastare il tutto e intanto preparare il ripieno:
per il ripieno:
150 grammi zucchero
75 grammi farina
buccia di limone
500 ml latte
100-150 grammi ricotta
Procedimento: Far bollire il latte con il limone e intanto sbattere le uova, lo zucchero e la farina.
Stendere la pasta e metterci la crema e la ricotta. Sbriciolarci gli amaretti sopra. Cuocere a 180 gradi per 25 minuti.
The views of surrounding fields were mesmerizing too, swathed in yellow and red flowers from mustard greens and poppies.
I ate wonderful meat, vegetable and dessert dishes too, but I’ll save some of them for my next post. But I will show you what was offered when I arrived – a glass of prosecco, some breads, crackers and the freshest and creamiest ricotta I’ve ever tasted –
Until then, here’s a recipe for pappa al pomodoro. For those of unfamiliar with it, be warned, it’s not at all liquidy – it’s a very thick tomato soup – almost more of a bread pudding with tomatoes – perfect for when those red beauties start ripening in the garden. The recipe below is from Napa Valley’s Michael Chiarello, one of my favorite chefs.
Pappa Al Pomodoro
Printable Recipe Here
Stir in the basil. Season, to taste, with pepper. Add extra-virgin olive oil, if desired. Let the soup continue simmering for 10 more minutes, then serve immediately in warmed soup bowls. Garnish, to taste, with Parmigiano-Reggiano.