TDM CCN Header

01 May 2012

Boccole with Asparagus, Guanciale & Tomatoes and The Village of Ceri (Part 2)

Communicating whole sentences without uttering a single word is possible if you live in Italy. 

Italians are animated conversationalists accompanied by the innumerable gestures that the language has.  When I just moved here, I loved to step back and watch how the conversations flow by watching the gesticulations.  You can understand what is being spoken about from how the hands, eyes, shoulders and heads move (strongly aided by voices that can be heard from far, far away). 

Gesticulating is a part of the language.  Not only was there a verbal language to learn, but there were also the gestures to remember.  I thought I would never learn them but apparently, they come out naturally.  Yes, I am a bona fide gesticulator and when I am outside Italy and speaking another language, I wish I had a straitjacket to stop gesticulating.  No one would understand the need to use the body to communicate and there are some things I cannot express anymore without using gestures.

I was once in Prague with a kindergarten classmate who moved to France with her husband and kids.   They have adapted to the French ways just like I have adapted to the Italian ways.  And if you are familiar with the French and Italian ways, the difference is like black and white.  Reserved and animated.  Quiet and loud. 

After repressing my gesticulating for days, I met some Italians and had a normal animated conversation for once, with the help of the hands, shoulders, heads and eyes.  It was strange but I found comfort in using body gestures again. 

Fast forward.  

You must be wondering what these pictures are.  They are another batch of pictures I did of the ancient village of Ceri, which I recently wrote about in this post.  We went there again two days ago and I thought I of sharing what I captured while walking around the town. 

Windows, doorways, family emblems and door knockers are some of my favorite subjects to photograph while traveling.  Every country has its own distinguishing character that makes every one of them unique and beautiful.   And they also leave you wondering how old some are.  Each has a story to tell and has seen so many generations of people passing through them. 

While in Ceri, we witnessed a simple and heartwarming wedding ceremony of an old couple renewing their vows after 50 years.  The small square was filled up with family and friends in a jubilant mood.  How often do you see marriages reaching the golden years?

After a full day of staying out, a big plate of pasta was what we needed to end the day.  Guanciale and tomatoes are always in my fridge and asparagus is the season's crop so I usually have them too.  Putting the three of them together was a perfect choreography of flavors.   Love is the only word I have for it.   It was the theme of day. 

Have a good week!

Boccole with Asparagus, Guanciale & Tomatoes

Serves 4
  • 400 grams boccole or any short pasta 
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 150 grams guanciale (or bacon if you cannot find it), strips 
  • 250 grams asparagus (weighed after taking away hard ends), chopped to short pieces, about an inch (separate tips from the rest)
  • 425 grams canned tomato pulp
  • 8 cherry, grape or datterini tomatoes, quartered
  • grated pecorino 
  • parsley, chopped finely
  1. On high flame, in a saucepot, bring some water to a boil. When it boils, add the salt then the pasta.  Cook them following the number of minutes suggested in the box or until al dente.
  2. Meantime, while waiting for the water to boil, sautè the garlic and guanciale in a large saucepan with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.
  3. When the garlic turns golden, discard it.  
  4. When the guanciale are toasted and crunchy, take them away from the saucepan and set them aside.  If you see that there's too much oil in the saucepan, adjust the amount by discarding the excess.  It depends on how much the guanciale's fat runs.
  5. Add the asparagus, putting first the harder parts.  Cook for 5 minutes then add the tips.  Cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato sauce.  Cook for about 30 minutes on low-medium fire.  If it's drying up a bit, ladle some water from the water you are boiling for the pasta.  
  7. When the pasta is cooked,  add to the sauce.  Mix well for a couple of minutes then turn off the fire.
  8. Add the guanciale, fresh tomatoes, grated pecorino and parsley. 
  9. Serve while still hot.


  1. This post made me laught out loud because I know what you mean about Italians being animated! I'm a reserved person by nature, so I think studying Italian is good for me because it forces me to relax and let go.

    I hope you don't mind - I'm going to pin one of your photos of Ceri as well as your boccole because it is so beautiful! Guanciale and tomatoes are some of favorite pasta toppings too.

    1. I agree with you Laura. Italian can make you relax and be comfortable with yourself. It's a beautiful language. I saw your pin. I don't mind, instead I'm glad you like it enough to pin it. Thanks Laura!

  2. What a wonderful pasta dish! Love your observations about how Italian folks communicate. The photos of Ceri are lovely. I need to get to Italy sometime soon. Have a great rest of the week!

  3. I love the way Italian's communicate...even when I would watch my aunt talk on the phone while she was here with me i would smile because it is exactly how I was imagine it..and you explained to really well!:))
    Now the pasta looks the color and the recipe too! I don't have to say much about photos, they are simply stunning!!!

    1. Oh how I love watching them speak too. There's always a lot of life! Thanks Sandra!

  4. I've always felt that somewhere inside me is an Italian :) Many a cocktail or wine glass has toppled by my hand in conversation. Lovely spring pasta - I love photographing doorways, too!

  5. I'm so jealous of you on so many fronts: 1) You live in Italy 2) You speak Italian compared to my phrase book version 3) You get to visit charming old villages like Ceri--I feel like I've been there with your beautiful pictures and most of all, 4) You always have guanciale in your fridge. It's rare that I'll find it here for sale. I would love to be able to cook with it and create a beautiful pasta dish like this. It has all the things I like.

    PS: I speak with my hands, too, and my husband has all but given up trying to get me to stop doing it. It's impossible! :)

    1. No one can top the fact that you fly airplanes Jean! I envy you on that. That had been my dream but long abandoned it because I got scared of flying. :-( Maybe you and your husband can retire here. :-)

  6. How interesting and I learned new word "gesticulating". I've seen how Italian talks from TV or whatever, but it must be quite interesting to see how Italian talks in Italy because everyone talks similar way. I always thought American use a lot of body gesture (compared to Japanese) but I guess Italians do even more...or maybe Japanese just don't use body gesture much... I always notice I'm using too much hands when I went back to Japan and even when I talk in Japanese. Other people might think I'm strange and I become self conscious about it for a while... haha. Anyway it was a fun post, along with your beautiful pictures. The pasta looks delicious too. I wish I was born in Italy... it's always one of my top 3 countries that I wanted to visit or where I wished that I was born. Haha.

    1. When we use gesticulate so much, we tend to be self-conscious around people who don't. Haha! I know what you mean!

  7. Visiting Italy is high on my list, and this makes me want to go very soon!
    This pasta looks delicious!

  8. I'm there with Jean's comment! Oh, how I'd love to be able to live in Italy...! We have family friends living in Rome and they are Filipinos, too. They own Valera Tours - I know their son, Adrian and they do tour groups and private tours around Italy and the rest of Europe. Speaking of travelling, I have good memories of Prague! Loved it there because things are cheaper compared to Italy, France, the UK. Maybe on day, I can visit you there :) so please have your guanciale ready!! I, too, always have guanciale in the fridge - which is bad news! I eat them all the time!!!

    1. I try not to use guanciale too much in cooking because of the cholesterol. Just that sometimes it's irresistible! Thanks Jen!

  9. Fun to know that it really is like you think in Italy with all the gesturing. My husband would fit right in since he is always talking with his hands and can be loud. I come from a quiet family so but not to say that I can't be loud. I love that photo of the red flowers in the pots on the wall. I need to ask the question though what is guanciale? Your pasta looks like a lovely meal and one I could do quickly except the one ingredient I'm not familiar with.

    1. Guanciale is the Italian bacon made from pig's cheeks, similar to pancetta, the Italian bacon that is made from the pig's belly. They are similar but the tastes are different. Guanciale is much better. Check out this wikipedia link (but the picture is not so great. Google it so you will have an idea on how it should look like. I think I made a post discussing extensively about it. Found it! In my old post about the white amatriciana, you can find pictures of the guanciale. Hope that helps.

      I think people who gesticulate and a bit loud are fun, don't you think?

  10. Thanks for the idea of cooking with asparagus. Very flavour and easy!!!
    It turns out amazing!!!
    Awesome pictures!!! Thanks for all your shares.

    1. I'm so glad you liked it. Thank you!


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I would love to know what you think!