Tag Archives: Italian Regional Cuisine

ITALIAN SAUSAGE CLASS IS IN SESSION: CHEESE AND PARSLEY, “LUGANEGA”, BARESE SAUSAGE

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Class is in session, sit down and “FA ATTENZIONE”  (pay attention).  Today’s class is not about sausage making it’s simply about a particular type of Italian Sausage, the thin Cheese and Parsley sausage that goes by a host of names.  It can be called BARESE SAUSAGE (quite the popular name of it in Canada), Cheese and Parsley Sausage, the most used in the NYC and surrounding areas, LUGANEGA which is the ancient name for a COILED ITALIAN PORK UNCURED SAUSAGE, also called Lucanega, Lucania and many Italian-Americans whose ancestry is from Bari and Puglia or Basilicata refer to it as “SHIVILATZ”…which definitely is an American corruption of a dialect word.  Take it from this Italian American, we confuse ourselves with 1000 names and pronounciations for the same thing.

Pure LUGANEGA most likely was a coarse ground pork sausage  with spices for preserving it and made in long coils came from LUCANIA now called BASILICATA.  It’s the region my maternal grandfather Innocenzo Scaramuzzi was born in and immigrated to NYC from when he was 25.   I blame him for my insatiable taste for this delicious treat.

008  There I am with Grandpa, Christmas Day 1978.  Much of what is in my cooking comes directly from his style, region, and dishes.  Grazie Grandpa. I n my home region of NY/NJ cheese and parsley sausage held together with a crisscross of wooden skewers always signaled the beginning of the Summer as the most popular way to make them was on the grill and Summer is our grilling season.  Today they are sold year round and many places refer to them as Luganega.  Those sausages contain fresh chopped parsley, grated Provolone or Pecorino, lots of ground black pepper.  Most likely if you asked for Luganega in Italy you would get the more Northern Italy style which is a thicker continuous coil of sweet pork sausage, no cheese or parsley.   Basilicata makes a fennel version and local hot chile spiked version.  No studies have been done on this to back me up so if you know of the “REAL” reason why, please comment back to me..but…my assumption is that since the Barese-Americans all seem to have the special name of it (Shivulazz) and the Canadians call it Barese Sausage…the Cheese and Parsley version must be from Puglia (Bari is the capital of Puglia).008  A beautiful locally made Cheese and Parsley ring.  This became the grilled version you see in the top picutre.    Succulent and bursting with flavor this sausage it too be savored.  I can’t speak any more highly about it, get out and find a ring.  Best way to cook it?  Over Charcoal or Roasted or Pan Fried.  Takes only about 15 minutes to cook it all the way thru, just not over too high of any heat source.  You want to create a crisp caramelized casing on the sausage.  Let it sit for 5 minutes after removing it from the heat source.  This is a thin sausage, yes, cooks quickly but it’s tight wrapping means it could still be raw where the coils touch.  15 minutes should do it.  Cut a piece from the center if you’re not sure and cook a little longer, just don’t overcook because when it’s dry is just not as good.  Rub a lemon over the sides of it right before serving along with a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Serve it over a bed of greens, cooked with garlic and oil OR raw, it’s just beautiful.

It can also be served with a variety of sides and along with small meatballs.  Stuff cut pieces into Brick oven Italian loaves of bread, with roasted peppers, with fried peppers and onions..dice it up and add to a pasta dish or roast with potatoes, carrots, celery.  In concluding this “class” on a type of Italian sausage..while there may be certain recipes that are most traditional with a food by no means is it the end of what you can do with it.  There are many ways to make a dish out of these Luganega.  Try your hand at it…and let me know what you came up with.

Happy Cooking!!

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CHICKPEAS WITH TOMATOES AND ONIONS, VERY ITALIAN, VERY EASY

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Chick Peas…they are NOT just for Hummus!!  No disrespect to Hummus, it’s a delicious and amazingly healthy and filling treat.  I think though that Hummus really introduced many to their first taste of a chick pea, unless you were Italian, Middle Eastern, North African..basically from Mediterranean ancestry or culture..Indian,  yes there are many places where the Chick Pea flourished. Not so much in the U.S. Till Hummus.  Ok, but I’m going to take you today to where my first recollection of eating Chick peas was, at my kitchen table.  First of all I didn’t know that the thing people called Chick Peas was the same as the CECI that we ate in our home, regularly.  Italians call them CECI, or in dialect, Cecira, or Cicidda.  Garbanzo Beans?  WTH??  Ok, there were cans of them in the grocery store under the GOYA label but it took me a while to put it all together and realize they all were the same thing..a chick pea!    Who doesn’t love a Falafel!

That mash of chick peas and spices fried in small balls and then stuffed into a pita with vegetables?  Or a Panelle?  A chick pea flour square fried and served in a soft roll with caciocavallo and ricotta cheeses?  See???  It’s not just hummus..they also are great tossed cooked and warm or cold into salads, with pasta (Pasta e Ceci is a staple of the old school Southern Italian Diet)..they are also wonderful roasted with spices, or dry roasted (a bag of them is a must while walking thru the Feast of San Gennaro in NYC, very old school)..but , as usual, I digress.  The most common way we had Ceci growing up was in a sort of tomato “stew”…not a soup, not a side dish per se, something in between.
At this point you should be as confused as I am.  Anyway, here is my recipe:

2 14 1/2 oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano (try to find the Sicilian or Greek Oregano that come dried in a bunch)
pinch of peperoncino (red hot dried pepper flakes)
1/2 can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine (remember, something you enjoy drinking, not cooking wine)
kosher salt to taste
1 1/2 cups cleaned baby arugula

Let’s cook.

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil then add the peperoncino and 1/2 the oregano, 1/2 tsp of salt…then the garlic.  Cook until the garlic is just ready to take on color, about 1 minute or so, then add the chickpeas and completely coat with the oil and garlic, let this cook, stirring frequently for about 3 minutes..now add everything else except the arugula.  Stir.  taste, add a little salt at this point if necessary. Let this simmer for 15 minutes.  Now add the arugula and continue cooking for 10 minutes more.  Don’t let it get dry, if that happens add a little more wine. Keeping it at simmer should prevent that from happening.Let it sit for a good 10 minutes before serving.  This will be a nice entree for 5-6, or side dish for 7-8.
Serving suggestion (ok, i never suggest anything, this is how i think you better be doing it…lol..)..in a bowl. with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of peperoncino, a grating of Pecorino Romano, and pinch of oregano.    Now you are eating like A FOOD OBSESSION eats and ate while growing up.
Enjoy!  Great for Vegetarians too  (I guess vegans too if you don’t use the cheese).

SPAGHETTI ALLA PUTTANESCA, A GIFT FROM NAPLES, ITALY…BELLA NAPOLI!

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Ever not know what to cook?  It happens all the time and so often a meal starts  by opening the refrigerator then taking a peak as to what’s available.  It’s such a popular way to decide what you are going to cook that the Food Network’s hit CHOPPED is loosely based on that premise.  You are presented with a random group of ingredients and that will spark an idea.  This was what I found one evening after work in the fridge:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Gaeta Olives (an Oil Cured Black Italian Olive), flat leaf Italian Parsley, Sicilian Anchovies, Salt Cured Capers…to that I added some standard pantry items like Dried Sicilian Oregano, Peperoncino, Garlic, San Marzano Tomaotes.  PUTTANESCA went off in my brain.  I had no plan of making that but it was right there in front of me..CHE FORTUNATO!!! What’s a puttanesca?  It’s a dish with legendary and questionable origins with many stories swirling around as to why, who, and what caused this dish to be created.  The ingredients are basic to the cuisine of the area in and around the city of Naples,  BELLA NAPOLI!  My own heritage is based in Naples as that’s the city my maternal grandmother lived in from the time she was 10 until she immigrated to Staten Island, NYC at the age of 20.   These ingredients along with dried pasta are always in my fridge and pantry.  So, this so called “Whore’s Pasta”, (Puttanesca translates to made by Prostitutes) was most likely born of the same circumstances as my dinner was, using the ingredients on hand to create something delicious.  Not so sure that the local street walkers concocted it to feed themselves and their Pimps inbetween “jobs”…ok..we can say that’s what happened because stories are always better when they are scandalous. Naples is a  crowded ancient city which spawned most of what America considers is the food of Italy.  It sits the shadow of Mt.VesuviusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand has given my kitchen table so much inspiration.  Puttanesca Sauce is one of those favorites I love to cook.  As with most Italian Sauces and pasta preparations it’s relatively quick.  Yes, Yes, I know, your Nonna cooked her sauce for 100 hours on a Sunday so don’t even start with me..that’s only one type of Italian sauce.  There aren’t enough days in the year to discuss each region’s pasta dishes.  Have no fear of the time factor!  A pasta dish during the week is not a long and laborious process!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Let’s pass through the gates of the Port of Naples now and enter the #AFOKitchen, my #AFoodObsession playground, ie: my  home’s kitchen and start to cook SPAGHETTI ALLA PUTTANESCA.

This recipe will feed 4 people and will take approximately 30 minutes or so.  (by the way don’t panic if you are falling behind on the time..that is just a guide..if you are still cooking it after an hour i suggest you order out…lol)

1 lb. good Italian Imported Spaghetti (cheap pasta is just that, it’s cheap, filling, but lacks the toothsome qualities the better pasta gives you.  DeCecco, Barilla, Delverde, a few of the good choices, although Barilla is now made in the U.S.)

2 tbs. salt cured capers, ran under water and drained

1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped CURED Italian Olives, such as the Gaeta variety  (canned black olives lose any flavor when cooked, the oil cured are amazing and stay flavorful throughout the cooking process.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 can crushed San Marzano Tomatoes

Anchovies..here’s where I am going to veer away from possibly what many prefer, i used about 4 filets in this dish, others prefer up to 12…you be the judge.  Anchovies are a concentrated powerhouse of salt and Mediterranean fish love.  chop them.

1 tsp. peperoncino (red pepper flakes)

Salt to taste (sea salt best for this)

1/8 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley

In a wide pan heat 2 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil..add the olives,  the oregano that you rub between your hands first then let it fall into the pan, add 1/2 the peperoncino, then the garlic and anchovies. Add 1/2 the parsley.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Your nose is your best cooking tool, after your hands and once you can smell that garlic you are now ready to add the tomatoes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and the capers. Bring this to a boil THEN down to a simmer and let this cook for 15-20 minutes.  Stir frequently, and why? Tomatoes are loaded with natural sugar (they are a fruit!!)and they will burn and scorch.  Number one pet peeve with having tomato sauced foods out…scorched sauce. You don’t need to cook it that long!!!  Sorry, I digress, back to the pan of sauce before I burn it!!  While this is happening in your pan cook the spaghetti just until AL DENTE according to the package directions.  Drain and then add directly into the pan and toss well for no more than 3-4 minutes. Then serve.  Simple.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Here’s an important note…add salt to taste only if you need it..the capers and anchovies and the cured olives have plenty of salt in them.  However some like more punch than others so don’t add it until everything has been added and cooked down.  You can always ADD salt, you can never TAKE IT OUT.

See that…that dish you thought would take so long to make?  It’s not that hard and here’s why, Italian Plums, especially San Marzanos cook down rather quickly, the ingredients are packed with flavor which gives up some of that to the sauce.  Garnish with the remaining parsley and peperoncino.

And in your mind, let this be the view you have in your mind while enjoying the meal.  Sunset over the Bay of Naples and Monte Vesuvio  (pic taken by me in June of 2008).

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La Bella Napoli!!