Monday, November 14, 2011


Eastside Road, November 14, 2011—
Lagani.jpgI AM ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT a cookbook I bought last week: My Calabria, by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher. Of course I'm completely programmed to like it: it's by an Italian-born woman who grew up in Oakland, where her parents had settled after World War II, having brought not only their cuisine but their vegetable seeds with them. The family reminds me of Lindsey's father's family. It's about cooking from the garden, and from a peasant past.

Then too, the book's co-written by a woman I like a lot who worked her shifts at Chez Panisse. I think I recognize some of her input, but the book's more than that: the principal author's voice is present in every sentence.

I could hardly wait to cook from it, but I waited until today, when I tried four recipes. The heart of the meal was pasta, home-made pasta — nothing could have been easier: a cup of flour, a little more than a quarter-cup of water, some time, my two hands, and a rolling pin. Oh: and a sharp knife and a straightedge: you see the result at the left.

The vegetable was sweet Italian peppers, cooked so easily, but with such an interesting and delicious twist: you cut the stem and core out of the pepper, leave it whole, ribs and seeds still inside, put an anchovy inside, and fry it in olive oil, over high heat.

I strayed from Costantino's recipe for Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, adapting it to the meal that was taking shape, and using the lagani I'd just made — a sort of fettucine — instead of spaghetti. No point in cleaning out the skillet I've just used for the peppers, I thought, and sliced a couple of cloves of garlic thin, and a couple of tiny sweet tomatoes, and the stipulated hot peppers into the same, sweet-pepper-and-anchovy flavored skillet, cooked them just a minute or two, and then put the cooked, drained lagani in the skillet.

Meanwhile Lindsey had cooked up some little carrots and spring onions (spring, in November?) that had from a neighbor's truck garden; that's what you see at the bottom of the plate. It was a delicious dinner, and the salad matched it: wild arugula from my garden, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Oh yes: I said I tried four recipes. The fourth was marinated eggplants. They're still marinating; maybe I can describe them tomorrow or next day…
Arneis, Tintero (Langhe), 2009 (a very favorite white, fresh, crisp, light-bodied but full of flavor)


Curtis Faville said...


I never made "water" pasta. I always made/make it with egg and olive oil. Is yours hard to work?

How to keep it--as with good bread dough--pliable and damp but not so that it sticks to one's fingers.

I find that a little more flour is needed to keep the finished pasta from stretching out of shape. I use a pasta machine for thin strips, and of course I can't make the round pasta (no machine for that).

Nothing like fresh egg pasta. It's heavenly. Sad that it isn't used more in Italian restaurants. There are never very many true Italian restaurants around here. There was one years ago across the street from the bike shop on Telegraph (down the street from Zax) which was a family run operation that served fresh made pasta ravioli. It was dreamy. Long gone, alas....

Charles Shere said...

Not hard at all. Cup of flour, quarter-cup of water, then a spoonful more. Work up in stainless bowl at first, then right on breadboard, slamming it a lot. No sticking. I used rolling pin; next time I'll get the pasta machine out.

You can get good fresh egg pasta in Berkeley at that brick building on Addison street next a park, a couple of blocks west of Sacramento, I forget the name.