When I visited Italy in 2006, I didn’t make it north of Florence or south of Rome. Not exactly a bad thing since the sites and culture in both cities is enough to last a lifetime. However, I know that I missed out on some pretty incredible food experiences especially since the 20 regions of Italy are drastically different from one another particularly in regards to la cuinca (the kitchen). My trip to Italy was prompted by an incredibly cheap fare I found one night after classes on the budget Spanish airline Vueling from Madrid to Rome. During my semester abroad in Spain I had traveled to France and Morocco along with countless destinations in Spain and so I hadn’t figured I would be visiting any other European countries when there. Thankfully the great deal Vueling was offering changed all that. As the trip had been planned somewhat last minute and food seemed secondary due to my wanting to see and do everything I possibly could, I didn’t exactly eat at the most memorable of food establishments. I hope that when I return to Italy my dining experiences will be just as memorable as the country’s sights.
A week ago I borrowed a couple of cookbooks from my local library, one of them was Anna Teresa Callen’s My Love for Naples: The Food, The History, The Life. Although I’ve been blogging about my food adventures for over a year now, I’ve yet to make anything from Italy. Good cookbooks can remedy that especially those that go beyond “Italian American” fare. Although I still ended up making a pasta dish, it definitely wasn’t your standard plate of spaghetti and meatballs. The author notes that the recipe is from the “Neapolitan aristocratic table.” It’s a baked pasta dish which I enjoy since baked pasta is not always as common as “stove top” pasta. The sauce that the recipe calls for (the recipe for the sauce is below) was quite delicious too.
Timballo di Capelli D’Angelo
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Unflavored dry bread crumbs
1 1/4 pounds angel hair or capellini pasta
2 cups Veal and Mushroom sauce
8 ounces whole-milk ricotta
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound whole-milk mozzarella, thinly sliced
Unsalted butter for dotting
Butter a 2 quart oval baking dish from which you can serve. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and set aside. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil, add some salt and cover the pot. As soon as the water comes back to a boil, add the pasta and stir. Cover the pot and let the pasta cook at a constant boil according to package directions, stirring occasionally. Drain and toss with half of the veal-mushroom sauce. Add the ricotta and eggs, mix well.
Place on thin layer of the pasta in the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with Parmesan and top with a layer of mozzarella slices. Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of pasta.
Dot with butter and bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
Veal and Mushroom Sauce-Sugo di Vitello al Funghi
Makes 2 cups
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut in half
1 carrot, quartered
1 celery stalk, quartered
8 ounces shoulder or rump of veal in one piece
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 (28-ounces) can peeled tomatoes
Salt to taste
Freshly milled-pepper to taste
In a saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Saute briefly and add the veal. Brown on all sides, then add the wine. Let evaporate.
Gently remove the mushrooms from the water, reserving the water. Add the mushrooms to the veal. Strain the mushroom water through a paper towel or a coffee filter and add to the veal. Reduce the heat and cook at a simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Stir, crushing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40-45 minutes, or until veal is tender, stirring often.
Strain the sauce through a food mill. Do not use a food processor, it will crush the seeds of the tomatoes and make the sauce bitter. Return the sauce to the saucepan.
Remove the veal and reserve for another use (or it can be chopped and added to the sauce). Reheat the sauce before using.