In this blog we go back to my mother’s kitchen (get used to it) and recreate a soup that I make in my own kitchen quite frequently. It’s a dish from Naples called PASTA E PISELLI, known in Italian-American speak as BASTA BAZEELS. The dish as I make it uses a can of peas and it’s liquid…REALLY?? DID HE JUST SAY THAT?? yes, yes I did. In Italy, or Naples the dish is somewhat different and many Italian-Americans adhere to that style which is tubettini mixed with peas that have been cooked with lots of diced onion in olive oil. Some add prosciutto or pancetta. (unless you are a new immigrant from Italy there’s no way that back in 1940 any Italian household in America was using pancetta except for maybe a select few that cured their own varieties. It was just not available until much more recently.) So for the families that added the cured pork it most likely was chopped sopressata or prosciutto rind. The dish that came down to me via Grandma Scaramuzzi (from Naples) and my Mom, (from Staten Island, NYC) is a dish of broken spaghetti, onions, tomato, olive oil, pinch of oregano, and black pepper finished with pecorino. There it is. I don’t think I can stress enough that most Italian dishes except a few elaborate ones, but the majority of them rely on not a very big ingredient list. There is no Olive Gardening (my term for too many ingredients in a an Italian dish) here. The massive flavor comes from a few places. 1. the peas and their canned liquid, I use, as Mom did, LeSueur Peas. Feel free to use the canned peas of your choice, there’s lots of great organic varieties out there now too. 2. the onions (see, no garlic, stop thinking that EVERY dish that’s Italian needs or uses garlic..I love garlic..but it’s not in all our food, never way) which cook till sweet and soft, it gives the flavor. 3. Black pepper..AHA! you say! Finally, Battaglia cooks without Peperoncino. Well this dish is more aromatic with the spicy notes from black pepper. Be generous. 4. the tomatoes. Mom used Tomato sauce or some crushed Italian plums (again back in the Stone Age 1960’s, San Marzano Tomatoes were something you HAD to get in Italy, they were really not imported here like they are now)..but I use something slightly different, in fact it’s a very Napoletana addition to the canned tomato family and used very often, it’s the POMODORINI, or the cherry tomatoes that you can get here now imported from Southern Italy. They are packed in a 14-15 oz can. They also cook quickly. So there you have it…reasons why I make this dish the way I do..Nods to it’s roots, to my family’s heritage recipe and just a bit of making it A FOOD OBSESSION’S. You will like what you me here for sure.
SERVES: 3-4 TIME: 40 minutes
1 CAN LE SUEUR PEAS AND THEIR LIQUID
1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED
1/2 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER
1/4 tsp. KOSHER SALT
PINCH OF OREGANO
1 CAN POMODORINI OR 1 CUP OF CRUSHED ITALIAN/SAN MARZANO TOMATOES
8 OZ. BROKEN SPAGHETTI OR FIDEOS (ALREADY BROKEN SPAGHETTI IN A BOX..AWESOME!)
1/8 CUP WATER
In a saucepan, heat 2 tbs. of Olive Oil, Extra Virgin will add more flavor, up to you…then add the onions and the oregano and let them saute’ for a good 10 minutes. About 1/2 way thru, add the 1/8 cup of water to the pan. and let it continue to cook. While this is all happening cook the broken Spaghetti according to the package directions till just al dente. Drain and keep the pasta loosely covered. Now add the tomatoes to the onions, BUT, make sure they are soft, if not, let them cook longer. Bring to a boil and then add the peas and their liquid. Stir to mix giving a taste..add salt at this point just in case you need to. Remember, there is salt in the canning liquid and the tomatoes. Don’t be afraid, you just do not want to over salt, you are adding cheese at the end. Pecorino is salty AND delicious. Let this now cook for 15 minutes on low. Then add the pasta and stir. Cook for an additional 5 minutes on low, then remove from the heat. Add 2 tbs. of grated Pecorino Romano. A good amount of black pepper and a drizzle of a little more Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Let it rest. Check for seasonings to make sure it’s not over or under seasoned. Adjust accordingly. There, it’s all done. Reward yourself with this vegetarian friendly bowl of Pasta E Piselli. If you omit the cheese it’s a vegan delight but the only label that is deserves is Italian-American. When done right it’s a cuisine that one can be proud of.