Pasta e fagioli
This is a Tuscan version of a very typical Italian dish that varies in its interpretation from region to region.. In Lucca, there is a cousin to pasta e fagioli called Zuppa di Farro (Tuscan bean and splet soup) and the only difference is that instead of using the maccheroni, they use farro (spelt) instead.
- 2 400 gram cans of borlotti beans
- 1 400 gram can cannellini beans
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 pepperoncino dried and split
- 1 vegetable bouillon
- dried rosemary a pinch
- 1 liter boiling water
- 200 grams dried or fresh strip maccheroni (cenci)
- 1 400 gram can of chopped tomatoes
Boil water for pasta, add a pinch of salt and then add the maccheroni strips.
In a separate deep pot sauté the pepperoncino and the vegetable bouillon in the olive oil for a minute on medium heat until the bouillon dissolves.
Add the rosemary and the beans in their own liquid. Let bubble.
Reduce heat and insert hand mixer. Mix until mixture is pureed.
Add canned tomatoes.
Add the pasta strips and some cooking liquid from the pasta until the mixture thins out enough to be soupy and light.
Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
This recipe has a million variations. One I particularly like is to use is with ceci beans instead of the barlottti and cannellini beans. It comes out a lot creamier. If you use the ceci, only add about half a can of the chopped tomatoes. Also, in the ceci version, I would add one clove at the beginning with a clove of garlic. Make sure to fish the clove out before you are ready to purée.
Risotto al Cavolo Nero in una salsa di gorgonzola e noci
I first ate this rich, flavorful dish at a local restaurant in the hills of Lucca. I liked it so much, I think I ordered it about three times in a row. Then decided to try my hand at making it. The below recipe is the result of my experimentation.
Tuscan Kale Risotto in a Gorgonzola and walnut sauce
- 500 grams Tuscan Kale also known as Lacinato Kale
- ½ cup vegetable broth, not too salty
- 1 vegetable bouillon
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 500 grams Arborio rice ( I normally use brown rice to be healthy, but the Arborio tastes better)
- ½ cup low fat cooking cream
- 100 grams gorgonzola cheese (if you like this cheese, use more to make a sharper sauce)
- hand full of walnuts
- salt and pepper to taste
Start by washing the kale and removing the stems. Then, with a scissors, cut it into inch long pieces and put it in a deep pot to boil down with the vegetable broth on low heat, cover.
When the kale is nice and soft, transfer about a third of it to a blender and blend. Then slowly add the rest of the mixture, bit by bit, adding and blending until the entire lot is blended into a puree.
In another pot add the olive oil and the vegetable bouillon to low heat and let the olive oil melt the bouillon.
Add the rice and sauté it for about a minute. Then add hot water slowly, a cup at a time, letting the rice absorb the water little by little, and cook the rice and bouillon mixture.
When there is still a little water left in the rice and the rice is almost cooked through, add the puree of kale to the rice and stir over low heat.
As the mixture gets drier, slowly add in the low fat cooking cream. If you are using the Arborio rice, you may even skip the cream if you like, as long as the rice has a creamy consistency. I add it in when I use the brown rice as it does not get as creamy as the Arborio. You may not need to add the whole half cup. I usually go easy on the cream as I'm going to add the gorgonzola sauce on top and don't want the dish to feel too heavy. Add just enough to make the consistency creamy without feeling heavy.
Once you have that slightly gooey risotto consistency, turn off flame.
In a saucepan over very low heat, add two or three tablespoons of the left over low fat cooking cream and 100 or so grams of gorgonzola cheese. The amount of gorgonzola depends on how sharp you want the sauce to turn out. I normally start out by adding in a slice that is as long and wide as my index finger, then I slowly add more as I taste. Always stir as this can easily get overcooked. To finish chop up the walnuts finely and add to the sauce.
Spoon some risotto in a dish and drizzle it with the gorgonzola sauce.
Season to taste with fresh cracked black pepper and salt.
Note: you can do the same dish in the Spring substituting the kale for fresh nettles (ortica in Italian) and it tastes delicious.
La zuppa di verdura
||Morena and Aristide
||Fresh Produce Vendors
Aristide and Morena run a little store in via Santa Croce. You can easily
spot Aristide's car in the morning: it's the antique green
Renault 4 carrying
as many crates of fresh produce as can possibly fit in (and on top of!)
in such a small car.
They always have great fruit and veggies.
La zuppa di verdura (vegetable soup)
Ingredients (feeds 4 people):
- 1 red onion chopped coarsely
- 2 spring onions coarsely chopped
- 2 large carrots chopped
- 1 bunch of escarole
- 1/4 of a stalk of fresh fennel chopped
- 2 medium sized potatoes peeled and chopped
- 1 can red beans
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 can of lentils
- 3 tbs tomato paste
- salt/ pepper to taste
- 2 to 3 slices crusty bread
Clean and chop all vegetables and put in large soup pot with 2 cloves
garlic crushed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cold water, to point
where veggies are completely covered and cook until it comes to a boil.
Then lower heat and let simmer until veggies are tender. Add can of red
beans and can of lentils. Then toast 2 to 3 thick slices of crusty sour
dough, french or italian bread. Rub garlic on both sides of toast to
create croutons. Cut toast up into squares and through into pot. Cook
anothe 5 minutes. Then add tomato paste and stir until the paste is
completely disolved into the soup. Cook another 5 minutes. Soup should be
rather thick, with a taste that is simillar to lentil soup. If soup is too thick,
because the bread has soaked up too much of the liquid, add some water and let cook
again. If the soup is too bland after that, add some more tomato paste, garlic, and
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La Cernia con pommodorini e basilico
Antonio is usually very busy, as people line up to get fresh fish from
his store in the Mercato (market), but he took the time to give me this recipe, made with
my favourite fish:
La Cernia con pommodorini e basilico (Tilapia with tomatoes and basil)
- 2 small or one large Tilapia filet enough to feed 4 people
- Flour (for dusting fish)
- Salt/Pepper to taste
- 1 tbs Olive Oil Vegetable Oil (enough to coat your fry pan liberaly)
- One clove garlic
- 2 pepperoncini (small dried red peppers)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 6 or 7 basil leaves, finely chopped
- 20 or so small, vine rippened cherry tomatoes
- 2 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
- 1/2 lemon fresh
Take the Tilapia filets and dry them thouroughly. Salt and pepper both
sides. Then lightly flour both sides. In large frying pan heat
vegetable oil on high with 2 pepperoncini. When oil is hot enough to
splatter, but before it starts to smoke, put in fish and move fry pan
around a little. Brown fish on one side, flip to other side and add
garlic at this time. When other side is browned add white wine, halved
cherry tomatoes and a little lemon juice, one tbs olive oil cover fry
pan and reduce heat to medium. Let simmer until fish is just done on
inside. Remove cover and add fresh basil and parsley. Serve
immediately with lemon wedge on side.
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Italian food is famous around the world. Here are a few recipes that
we discovered in Lucca, usually presented by the people who shared them
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