This hearty vegetarian soup gets superb flavor and texture from the long cooking chickpeas and dried and fresh mushrooms. But the secret to the great taste is the paste (pestata) of aromatic vegetables and herbs, ground in the food processor. Before adding it to the soup however, you give the pestata even more flavor by browning it in a skillet-which makes it, in culinary Italian, a soffrito. As you will see in the coming pages, this pestata - soffrito step is used in many Maremma recipes, in sauces and stews as well as soups. In the country, such a soup is often served with grilled bread, making a whole meal. Adding rice or small pasta to the soup pot during the final 10 minutes of cooking is another way to enhance it. Or drop some good Italian sausages into soup for the last 20 minutes cooking. Slice them right into the soup or serve the sausages separately as a second course.
Add the rigatoni to the pasta water and cook until al dente. Remove pasta with a spider and add directly to the sauce, cook and toss until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Off heat, sprinkle with the grated cheese and toss again. Serve immediately.
Sprinkle in the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and peperoncino. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Add the prepped, drained artichokes, and bring the soup to a rapid simmering. Cook, uncovered, until potatoes and artichokes are tender and the potatoes have broken down to thicken the soup, about 1 ½ hours.
Boil unpeeled potatoes in water to cover until tender. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and put them through a potato ricer or food mill. Spread them out, season with the salt and let cool.
When they are cooled, pour over the eggs and sprinkle with half of the flour. Gather the dough together and knead, adding more of the flour as needed, until the dough comes together and is not sticky. Don't knead too much or add too much flour or the gnocchi will be heavy.
Pasticcerie, pastry shops, also referred to as Catlisch (a name inherited from the Swiss) are a grand tradition in Palermo. The city was greatly influenced by the French and Swiss in their pastry making. When I am in Sicily, cannoli and desserts made with citrus are my favorites.
In Palermo I always enjoy desserts and a great cup of espresso at my dear friend’s pastry place Pepino Stancanpiana’s Catlisch.My Sicilian chef at Felidia, Fortunato Nicotra, makes an elegant version of this Sicily’s favorite dolce with deep-fried disks of cannoli pastry, stacked high with layers of ricotta cream in between. I like to fry squares of pastry in a skillet—no deep fryer needed—and build a crispy, creamy Cannoli Napoleon. In Sicily, cannoli filling is made with sheep’s milk ricotta which has a distinctive flavor that can’t be matched by ordinary processed ricotta. Fresh cow’s milk ricotta, which is widely available now, is what I use.
Be sure to drain it well, sweeten lightly, mix with chopped bitter chocolate, candied orange and toasted almonds—and add a touch of Grand Marnier—for a real Sicilian cannoli.
Fill the pot with 6 quarts water, add 6 tablespoons salt, and bring to a rolling boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, drop in the lobsters and start timing: cook them, uncovered, for 10 minutes total, after the water returns to the boiling point (and then keep it boiling). At the end of 10 minutes (or a couple of minutes longer if the lobsters are larger than 1 1/4 pounds), lift the lobsters from the pot, rinse with cold water, drain, and let them cool.
Food is at the very heart of Latin culture. The savory aroma of a favourite dish can transport you back to a time and place half a world away. TLN’s lifestyle shows take you on a culinary tour while serving up the best food and recipes from Italy and Latin America. Buon Appetito! ¡Buen apetito!
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