Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Strozzapretti - Cooking with Nonna Violante Part 2

Does Carmela have a passion for pasta? Some would say this is a ridiculous question, I live and breath pasta. From the moment I open my sleepy eyes to the moment I close them. I wouldn't call it an obsession , it is a passion, a passion and love I adore in so many ways.

My first book 'Southern Italian Family Cooking' touched lightly on pasta, offering around 20 or so pasta recipes. The second book I'm writing will have between 100 to 125 recipes, including regional pasta and sauces, many that you may not have heard of but I will discover and fall in love with their history as well as their flavour and taste , I'm sure!

Whilst visiting Romagna recently I was honored to cook with Nonna Violante at the beautiful family run Hotel Eliseo. Strozzapretti , is the names of a pasta shape and this is a shape I cook all the time, when I am able to find them, however I was yet to master the shape by hand. Nonna Violante soon demystified how to make 'Strozzapretti' by hand. Its simply a little breathtaking, well it is to me as pasta is a fundamental part of my writing, teaching and daily life.

So 'Strozzapretti'....What does this long word mean? Strozzaprezzi means - Priest strangler or priest choker. Is there any significance to the name at all.   Well as a matter of fact, legend has it that priests were so taken with this shape they would gorge on it so quickly, choking and some even collapsing to the floor and dying! This is a regional shape from the Emilia Romagna, Marche and Umbria regions of Italy. A beautiful shape that can withstand a robust sauce.

I wanted to share with you a few pictures of Nonna Violante and I making strozzapretti by hand.
The dough is made with 00 flour, egg and water. Rolled out and cut into strips. Each strip is then rolled between the palm of your hands and cut to the desired length. A beautifully delicate shape which is relatively easy to master with a little work. Grazie again Nonna Violante, forever my inspiration.....x

Rolling pasta dough

Nonna Violante and I making Strozzapretti

Making strozzapretti 

Strozzapretti fatt a mano

Strozzapretti con pomororini e salsicia

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Loving Romagna - Cooking with Nonna Violante - Hotel Eliseo Part 1

I fall in love often, possibly more often than I should but it's normally with a newly discovered cheese or a new shape of pasta that I have eaten. I am incredibly easy to please as you can tell, however I am full of passion. A passion for Italy and everything that is has to offer. From the various regions, to the fine wine and regional dishes that have me generally falling to my feet in pure awe and amazement.

So yes, you got it. I fell in love, again! Head over heals in love with the #Romagna region of Italy! Romagna like most of Italy has a vast history. The province of Rimini has two equally precious jewels : Bellaria Igea Marina, this is where I was staying,  to Cattolica, and a coast in total of around 40km. I will tell you more about Romagna and the history in my next post, however this post is about the jewel that I found. My treasure that I can't wait to return to again. Her name was Nonna Violante. A 78 year old grandmother who stole my heart. I was staying at Hotel Eliseo on the coast of Bellaria Igea Marina and this is where my story begins...

I was introduced to Nonna Violante by her beauitful Grand-daughter Maria Regina who also helps to run Hotel Eliseo. One of the first conversations I had with Nonna Violante has stuck with me, she said to me (In Italian)  'Carmela, welcome to Hotel Eliseo, this is a family run hotel, you are part of the family, and in every family you will find a Nonna'....That was it, I needed to take home nothing more from this trip.  She was right, that was the money quote, in every family there is a Nonna. The backbone to most Italian kitchens, offering passion, and knowledge, the teacher who always has something boiling away on the stove, the one who has recipes stored in her very heart. The one who we as grandchildren should learn from to ensure recipes are not lost forever. These are our history, our jewels which should be treasured.

This trip was to learn about the Romagna region. What it has to offer as a region, the history but for me the food is absolutely paramount, and I must say it did not disappoint. Romagna reminds me of the food from Molise and Puglia, (where my family are from) food made with seasonal produce and love. I spent a morning with Nonna Violante at Hotel Eliseo along with other food writers to learn a few regional dishes. The hotel was transformed from a dining room into a professional cookery school, you can only begin to imagine the excitement on my face. I made sure I was at the front of the class to ensure I made 'Star Pupil'. From the moment the class started, I didn't want it to end. Hotel Eliseo is a beautiful hotel, offering impeccable service, a family feel and is a mere shell throw from the beach. I will be returning with my family so they can enjoy the coastline, sea and sand and I can cook again with my jewel.

A mixture of demos and hands on techniques. From a simple slow cooked sugo to mastering the perfect piadina using 'Strutto' (which will be another post) to making strozzapretti (pictured above)  pasta together and passatelli. Now passatelli made me jump for joy as I have been working on a recipe for my second book but I wasn't totally happy with the final results. What better way to learn ; than with the master herself Nonna Violante.

The recipe below is from Nonna Violante. A recipe that I class as being cucina povera cooking, in the sense of its basic ingredients and simple method. A dish that will bring all of the family around the table, a bowl of passatelli in brodo is perfect to warm you up on these early Autumn evenings.

So here is the recipe, with love Nonna Violante and and her adopted granddaughter (me).

Passatelli in chicken stock                                                                  

250g breadcrumbs
250g grated parmesan
5 eggs
Grating of nutmeg
Zest of 1 lemon
Chicken stock

1. Tip the breadcrumbs and parmsean onto a wooden board and incorporate.
2. Make a well into the centre and crack in the eggs.
3. Add the nutmeg and lemon zest. Add a little salt and pepper (optional)
4. Incorporate all ingredients and work into a dough. Once you have a soft dough, cover and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
5. Using a passtelli press press the dough in stages and cut. Lay the passatelli onto grease proof paper until you are ready to cook them. Cook in plenty of delicious chicken stock for 3 minutes.

Serve in a warmed bowl with the stock and an additional grating of Parmesan.

Buon appetito

Passatelli being pressed

Passatelli in brodo