Simple Recipes from an Italian Country Kitchen
Strangozzi alla Spoletina
Living in Italy has opened up a whole new food culture for me. Our region of Umbria is famous for its "La Cucina Povera" ...the peasant's kitchen. The traditional regional recipes are often frugal in ingredients but generous in flavour. Always, only the freshest of produce is used to create simple, delicious, sensational meals.
Food fascinates me...I love to cook (& I love to eat) & I like to explore the traditions & history of food cultures. I am delighted when my neighbour Ida asks me if I would like to make pasta with her in her cosy country kitchen. I am so excited because Ida has the reputation of being the best pasta maker in the entire locale; having been employed by many of the best restaurants in Spoleto to prepare their fresh pasta on a daily basis. She is extremely modest regarding this talent. We spend the morning making Strangozzi the traditional pasta of these parts; a descriptive name, translating to "priest stranglers" in local dialect (as the priests were usually strangled with shoelaces!).
The principle ingredients are only flour & water; there is no real recipe to follow she tells me, I must simply watch. One cup of flour, made up of two grades, tipo 0 & tipo 00 & just enough water to create a good consistency...that's it. It seems simple enough but it takes patience & practice to get that consistency right. As we knead & roll the dough we talk; this exercise is as much about "bonding" as it is about teaching me how to feed my husband properly! As we work together on our separate dough a sense of awe engulfs me. This is good work, being able to feed so many mouths so well with such simple wholesome fare. The Italians really are furbi, (clever) I marvel!
Pasta is best kept simple & served with an uncomplicated sauce to enhance the end product (ie long noodles or cut shapes). Here, Strangozzi is always dressed with the sauce pertaining to the locale..."alla Spoletina." Olio, aglio, prezzemolo e un po pepperoncino . Oil, garlic, parsley & a little fresh red chilli. Simple & delicious using premium fresh ingredients more often than not, plucked directly from the family orto. It tastes amazing! With a glass of rustic red & hunk of crusty bread it makes a lunch to die for! A light green salad can be served on the side.
Making pasta is womens business & I have the best teacher possible. It is such a simple pleasure to prepare food with the ladies of this borgo, afterwards feeling humbly grateful & satisfied that these ancient traditions are in some small way being passed on down the line.
*one cup of flour makes enough pasta for one person
*the dough is only ever hand rolled, then cut into lengths & laid to dry on a clean cloth sprinkled with a little polenta, then covered to keep moist
*cheese is generally not served with the spoletina sauce
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