A column for Food52: Regional Italian Food
It’s been busy over here lately, with lots of researching and recipe testing going on in between nap times and the demands of a nearly eight month old (none of which I am able to do without the help of Marco, my husband and number one pasta maker), but finally I’m very excited to announce the launch of my new weekly column over at Food52, dedicated to regional Italian food traditions and recipes.
The Regional Italian Food column will join the ranks of the other brilliantly themed columns, such as Gluten Free Girl’s The Good Life (gluten free recipes), Half Way to Dinner (great ideas for how to stretch your staples), Genius Recipes (an endless source of inspiration of truly genius ideas), Cooking for Clara (a baby food column!) and Strange Food History, just to name a few of my favourites.
What I am pleased about most is what the launch of this column says about the love and interest in regional Italian food outside of Italy – it is, after all, the only food52 column dedicated to a specific country’s cuisine, and not only, but that country’s specific regions. It’s true that Italy’s regions are still, after 150 years of unification, distinctly different from each other, carefully guarding their identities through their food for the most part. It’s a constant reminder that “Italian cuisine”, in many ways, does not exist. It is many cuisines. I cannot help but think of the phrase written by Mario Pei (Roman-born Columbia University linguist) in Ada Boni’s 1950 publication in English of her 1927 classic cookbook, The Talisman:
“The countries that display the widest range of dialects are also the ones in which cookery assumes the most diversified forms; while the lands where dialectal differences are slight exhibit a certain monotony in their food. Italy appears very close to the top of the list among countries with a wide dialectal array, and correspondingly, the food of Italy is so diversified that the cuisine of one region is practically foreign to another.”
What a Tuscan eats on a regular basis is quite different from what a Venetian eats. The Arabic influences of Sicilian cuisine could not be further from the French influences in Piedmont’s kitchens or Liguria’s maritime influenced dishes. This column will take a look at these distinctly different regions, all twenty of them, exploring some age old dishes, some favourites, some lesser known.
I couldn’t help but start with something Tuscan, naturally. After making my home in Florence for seven years, Tuscan food is what drives this blog, as well as most of the happenings in our kitchen, even now, many miles away in Melbourne. Funnily enough, it’s a pasta dish that isn’t so easily found in Florence as it comes from Siena and its surrounding countryside (and here we go with what happens in each region – the cuisine is even distinct city to city, town to town… but we won’t go too far into that just yet).
Pici are thick, hand rolled noodles made from just flour and water (no eggs), a sign of its poor origins, and typical of southern Tuscany. It is a dish that reminds me of Tuscany itself in many ways. Firstly, only a Tuscan would think of dressing pasta in bread. The thrifty use of very simple ingredients, scraped up from the pantry, that results in a dish that packs a punch in terms of flavour is the mark of ingenious Tuscan cooking. And finally, aesthetically, with its golden olive oil-seeped breadcrumbs, thick, hand-rolled noodles, flecks of chilli and perhaps parsley, I am reminded of the golden countryside of the Crete Senesi, outside of Siena, the undulating clay hills dotted with cypress trees and crumbling farmhouses. Yes, this is a dish that is all Tuscany.
For the article, head over to the Regional Italian Food column. Below you’ll find the list of ingredients in grams (cups and tablespoons are on the Food52 recipe) and for the rest of the recipe, head to Food52.
Pici con le briciole – Pici with breadcrumbs
For the pici:
- 200 grams of plain flour
- 200 grams of semolina flour
- 200 ml lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
For the dressing:
- 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 4 salted anchovy fillets
- a large handful of homemade breadcrumbs (always better to use than packet breadcrumbs for this)
- salt, pepper and dried chilli, to taste
- grated pecorino cheese and chopped parsley, optional
See the rest of the recipe at Food52.