Regional dishes, cooking styles

As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
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MarcuccioV
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Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by MarcuccioV »

I grew up on mostly Italian cuisine as my mother was the cook of the household.

Both my mom & her twin brother were good cooks (my uncle's career revolved around cooking; my mom was a housewife). I was never thrilled with my grandmother's cooking. It wasn't to my taste.

My grandmother, despite her mtDNA originating in Sicily, seemed to favor the northern parts of the country. Her appearance bordered on an almost Franco/Germanic look, with Italian features thrown in. Her cooking was very Northern in style -- light, almost bland, and relatively simple ingredient-wise.

My mom, on the other hand, created hearty, robust & spicy dishes. So did her brother. My grandfather (who favored the southern half of Italy/Sicily) would always insist on my mother do the cooking if she were visiting (which was a couple of times a month). She enjoyed doing it for him as they were a lot alike.

Two dishes that I remember well were what we called "chicken cacciatore" (but it was NOT tomato-based as is common; instead it had an olive oil/anchovy base with rosemary and other spices/ingredients) and "gnocchi lunghi", which was made by taking gnocchi potato dough and putting it through a pasta machine & making long egg-type noodles (we also did the usual dumpling-style). It was apparently a specialty of my grandparents hometown of Valmontone in Lazio.

My mother's pasta sauce ("sugo") was very thick (lots of tomato paste), arrabiata and flavorful. She often used diced pepperoni as the protein, and mostaccioli was her go-to pasta. Fortunately my wife has mastered both it and the chicken recipes.

My grandmother's sauce was so light/thin it barely gave the pasta a red tint. No flavor (at least in my opinion), either. She more commonly made "aglio-oglio" (which I DO like) than she did a red sauce. She preferred spaghetti or spaghettini.

Lasagne was not big on our family menu. my mom would make polenta for herself.

Curious as to the traditions of others from different regions...
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by joetucciarone »

Thanks for your post; it reminded me of the long-gone family traditions from my Lazio, Molise, and Sicilian heritage.

Spaghetti and meatballs was the favorite dinner at our house. Long before I learned to drive, I knew how to make meatballs and pasta from scratch. Like you, I used a hand-cranked pasta maker.

"Sauce" was always a big topic of discussion in my family. Everyone agreed that it started by simmering tomato paste, tomato puree and seasonings in a huge pot for hours. But the meatballs were a subject of endless debate. There was the "ground beef only" faction, but they were a minority. Most everyone else used a mixture of beef and pork, and a contingent of them insisted on adding veal as well. My Carovillese grandmother put raisins to her meatball mix, shaping the end-products like footballs to differentiate them from those without raisins.

Another controversy involved the cooking of the meatballs. Some of my kin baked them first, adding them to the simmering sauce pot for finishing. The more primal among my family simply dropped the raw meatballs into the pot and cooked them that way, low and slow.

Either way, the resulting product - the fully cooked mix of tomato and meatballs - was reverently referred to as "the sauce."
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

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Our sauce had meatballs on occasion -- they were large (about 2") & contained a small amounts of parsley and finnocchio. I'm not a fan of either, but it wasn't overwhelming, and the sauce tended to overpower those tastes.

I believe we used the "meatloaf mix" (beef, pork, veal) as well. I think at my uncle's, meatballs were more common (his wife was Sicilian).

Other proteins mixed into the sauce at times were hot Italian sausage, cut up pork chops, neck bones & clams.

When my mom was teaching my wife to make the sauce many years ago, she said after everything was fried & all the ingredients added, to let it simmer for hours until the olive oil rose to the top & turned dark. Then it was done. There's nothing better. We have it every Sunday. Only changes are we mix the diced pepperoni and crumbled hot sausage and serve it over penne. My mouth is watering thinking about it... :D
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by joetucciarone »

That sounds so good, I'm coming to your house next Sunday!

By the way, the olive oil dressing you mentioned on your chicken cacciatore reminded me of our traditional Christmas Eve dinner that we called "white spaghetti." Instead of tomato sauce, we used garlic-infused olive oil on the spags, with chopped parsley and maybe a dash of chopped anchovy to flavor. The dish was rounded out with fried squid, smelts and scallops. I took this picture of my "white spaghetti" dinner on Christmas Eve in 1981, with a little red wine on the side.
1981_squid_Christmas_Eve.jpg
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by MarcuccioV »

joetucciarone wrote: 13 Sep 2021, 16:08 That sounds so good, I'm coming to your house next Sunday!

By the way, the olive oil dressing you mentioned on your chicken cacciatore reminded me of our traditional Christmas Eve dinner that we called "white spaghetti." Instead of tomato sauce, we used garlic-infused olive oil on the spags, with chopped parsley and maybe a dash of chopped anchovy to flavor. The dish was rounded out with fried squid, smelts and scallops. I took this picture of my "white spaghetti" dinner on Christmas Eve in 1981, with a little red wine on the side.1981_squid_Christmas_Eve.jpg
It might be a bit of a commute, but you're welcome any time, LOL.

I often wonder if some of these regional "recipes" didn't travel along with their creators from commune-to-commune as families migrated around Italy (especially peasant or tenant farmers, which my ancestors all seemed to be). And perhaps combined with other dishes to make new creations along the way.

Not to mention emigrated families where the spouses were from different parts of Italy (especially if both could cook). I suppose the possibilities are endless...
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by MarcuccioV »

Here's a photo of the pasta in the pot. We mix the cooked penne with the sauce before serving, it hasn't been fully stirred up here so most of the sauce is still underneath. The sauce is about the consistency of a thick chili. Sooo good.
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by darkerhorse »

What comes to mind is: beef braciole with hard boiled egg inside, veal scacciata, Italian wedding soup, green olives marinated with carrots and celery, green salad with olives and orange slices, and pizza with oil, oregano, crushed red pepper and maybe anchovies (no red sauce or melted cheese) - similar to faccia di vecchia.

I think most dishes were specific to their home town or province.
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by darkerhorse »

One unique thing I remember about my grandmother's cooking was her use of capers, for example in scicciata and on pizza.

How common are capers in Italian cooking?
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by MarcuccioV »

darkerhorse wrote: 18 Sep 2021, 00:30 One unique thing I remember about my grandmother's cooking was her use of capers, for example in scicciata and on pizza.

How common are capers in Italian cooking?
The chicken recipe with the olive oil & anchovies has capers. Also marinated artichoke hearts. I would think capers would be rare due to their expense, except maybe in nobility or higher-wage earning families. But I could be wrong.

Another thing I forgot is "orange salad". It consisted of slices of fresh oranges, topped with rings of raw onion, olive oil and coarse ground pepper... A special treat around the Holidays. Love it to this day...
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

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In my family, we use capers in stuffed peppers, in escarole pizza, in "pasta alla puttanesca"...and I think a lot more!
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

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PippoM wrote: 18 Sep 2021, 12:13 In my family, we use capers in stuffed peppers, in escarole pizza, in "pasta alla puttanesca"...and I think a lot more!
escarole pizza, what's that? Io non la conosco :)
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by PippoM »

Ciao Livio,
"escarole pizza" è il nome inglese che ho dato alla pizza di scarole napoletana, che è una pizza ripiena di scarole lesse e ripassate, olive, capperi, acciughe e, volendo, uvetta e pinoli.

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza_di_scarola

O ti stai prendendo gioco di me? ;-)
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

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PippoM wrote: 18 Sep 2021, 20:39 Ciao Livio,
"escarole pizza" è il nome inglese che ho dato alla pizza di scarole napoletana, che è una pizza ripiena di scarole lesse e ripassate, olive, capperi, acciughe e, volendo, uvetta e pinoli.

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza_di_scarola

O ti stai prendendo gioco di me? ;-)

We use to grow our own scarole at home and it was often used in minestra or sometimes as a salad. It is suppose to be very good for you, but I always found it very bitter and kept adding lots of home made cheese to disguise the bitter taste. Your recipe here with the sultanns and the anchovies is quite an interesting combination. Maybe together they disguise the bitterness of the scarole.

Angela
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Re: Regional dishes, cooking styles

Post by MarcuccioV »

AngelaGrace56 wrote: 18 Sep 2021, 21:58

We use to grow our own scarole at home and it was often used in minestra or sometimes as a salad. It is suppose to be very good for you, but I always found it very bitter and kept adding lots of home made cheese to disguise the bitter taste. Your recipe here with the sultanns and the anchovies is quite an interesting combination. Maybe together they disguise the bitterness of the scarole.

Angela
Sometimes my grandmother would go out and harvest dandelions and wild arugula (we called it "rughetta" in our dialect) that grows as a weed here in SoCal.

She would add olive oil, fresh lemon juice (we always had a lemon tree) salt & pepper. That was her typical personal salad.

I didn't like the bitterness of the greens either...
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