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Minestra con il Romanesco e spaghetti spezzettati 

Recipe n. 41

I made this delicious soup the other day.

I was looking in my fridge for some inspiration for a simple, light and nourishing dinner and voilà, there it was: this amazing pointy green broccolo, which looks like a sculpture from nature.

In Sicily during winter the green broccolo is probably the most popular vegetable that you see at the market. It’s a pretty picture to look at: lots and lots of bright green broccoli. The romanesco is not as common as the plain green one, but they are very similar in taste.

I followed my mom’s old fashioned technique to prepare the spaghetti for this soup. Nowadays you can purchase a bag of broken spaghetti everywhere, but there is something ‘therapeutic and mindful’ in breaking your own spaghetti, especially if done in the way my mom taught me when I was a child.

You don’t need much, just half bag of long regular spaghetti (I like to use wholewheat pasta) and a kitchen towel, where you first would place the spaghetti broken into large pieces and then after wrapping them inside the towel,  you start crushing them on the counter with the strenght of one of your arms, using the palm of your hand in a motion movement until they become about 1 inch long or less.

In my moms version of this soup there is no garlic or tomato paste, but I thought adding these simple ingredients would give a little kick to the soup and oh boy they did the job, especially  when you add some hot chili pepper flakes.

I could have eaten the enire pot, no kidding!

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Ingredients:

  • 250 grams of whole wheat spaghetti (broken)

  • 1 romanesco

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • 1 to 2 tbsp of tomato paste

  • 1/4 teaspoon hot chili pepper flakes

  • olive oil

  • salt

  • pepper

Wash the romanesco and cut in small pieces. In a large pan sautee the garlic, hot chili pepper flakes in olive oil. Add the tomato paste and the romanesco. Let it mix well for a few minutes with all the ingredients and slowly add enough water. Add some salt and pepper and bring it to a boil.

As soon as the romanesco is well cooked, you can add the broken spaghetti. If the water evaporated too much you can add some more.

Once the pasta is cooked serve immediately and enjoy.

Go for seconds with zero guilt: it’s all good!

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Long squash with a taste of sicily

MINESTRA ESTIVA DI ZUCCHINA LUNGA SICILIANA –  SUMMER SOUP WITH LONG  SICILIAN SQUASH

Recipe n. 24

A funny coincidence happened last week: I received two ‘super long funny looking squash’ from two different friends. They are typically  grown in Sicily around this time of year. It must have something to do with the meaning of my last name in sicilian dialect: ‘cucuzza which means zucchina’! We use the zucchina and its leaves when they are available (which are called tenerumi), to make  a simple yet deliciuos minestra which can be eaten hot or cold. I was sure that I would have never found them here in New York, but I was wrong. Apparently every wednesday at Carmine st. and Bleecker st. there is a local farmer who is selling them, along with delicious fruit and vegetables. I dedicate this recipe to my dear friend Amy, who cycled all the way to our place on her bicycle, together with her young son and the zucchina lunga siciliana. She was also very excited with the new discovery…not to mention that she had dressed the zucchina in a beautiful red silk ribbon! What more could one ask for?

Ingredients ( Serves 4)

  • 1 zucchina lunga siciliana
  • 1 white medium size onion,
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 small potatoes,
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth (optional) or regular water
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese or pecorino romano
  • 5 fresh basil leaves
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • pinch of hot chilly pepper (optional)
  • Olive oil

1 cup of spaghetti (broken in small pieces) to cook separetly and then add to the minestra (optional)

Cut the 2 extremities of the zucchina, peel it and cube it. Try to get rid of most of the seeds, if you can. Rinse all the pieces and let them dry in a colander.In the meantime wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. Peel the potatoes and cut in small pieces (same size of the zucchina). Place  about 3  tbsps of olive oil in a  large pot and let the onion, previously chopped, cook for a few minutes together with the hot chilly pepper and the cherry tomatoes. As soon as they soften, crush them slightly with a wooden spoon and then add the zucchina lunga siciliana. After cooking for a few minutes at medium/high heat, take the hot chilly pepper out and lower the heat. Now add 1 cup of water (or broth). While it’s cooking, the zucchina will also release its own water contained in the vegetable. Let it cook at medium heat until the broth will be slightly evaporated and the zucchina will look tender and soft. Adjust with salt and pepper and add some chopped  basil leaves. Just before serving add some grated cheese to the minestra and a few spoons of cooked spaghetti , if you wish.

Not really summer yet…

ZUPPA DI CECI – CHICKPEA SOUP

Recipe n. 20

With these sudden changes of weather in early summer it’s hard for me, to make up my mind about what to cook (and what to wear too!). When it’s rainy and cloudy like today I feel like finding some comfort in a warm and creamy soup while looking out the window at the rain coming down, but then it’s sunny and hot again and I feel like I want to eat a fresh summery crunchy salad. Today I made a soup and realized that soups are not just meant for the winter. They are good even in summertime, as long as you eat them room temperature. Usually when I make my own hummus I cook enough chickpeas to make this soup with some of my favorites herbs.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dry chickpeas soaked overnight
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • Good quality olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh chives chopped
  • Salt and Pepper

Farro or Rice to go together with the soup (optional)

Soak the dry chickpeas overnight. After draining the chickpeas, place them in a medium sized pot and cover them with water, cooking for about 2 hours. In the meantime in a small skillet add 4 spoons of olive oil and when it is hot add the onion and garlic cloves until softened. After 2 hours remove the chickpeas from the heat and put a few spoons of cooked chickpeas in a small bowl on the side for later. In the pot with the rest of the chickpeas add the rosemary and thyme, the onion, garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper. Use an electric immersion blender to obtain a creamy velvety soup.

Transfer to a serving bowl or dish and add the whole chickpeas and chopped chives for garnish.