I have a boring life when August steps in. My vacations are finished and I start cocooning myself inside the house until the peak of the summer heat subsides. With the whole country going to the beach (including my kids and husband), I choose to stay indoors and enjoy being away from the reach of the sun. People are baffled about this when I live just a few minutes from the beach. The only explanation I can give is that growing up in the Philippines, a tropical country with 365 days of sun (well, most of them), I enjoyed practically a lifetime of beach living. Being an archipelago comprised of 7,107 islands, it's a beach paradise. In that sense, I cannot let go of the memories of the comfort of staying in almost isolated beaches with white sands.
Going out is just because of mere necessity. You will have to drag me to go out or you will have to give me a very good reason why I should give up my comfortable niche. EATALY is one good reason to open that door and step out. Ever since I read about it and its immediate success in Rome as soon as it opened last month, I couldn't wait to go there myself. It's a gargantuan dome of buying, eating and studying Italian food.
It's Slow Food in full throttle to take a strong position against its nemesis, fast food. Expect the prices to be higher than normal because everything you can find here is done with quality ingredients and the old and proper methods of producing food. But as you go around this 17,000 square meter building, you will understand the reason why you pay a few Euros more for that bottle of artisanal lemonade done with Sicilian lemons, that jar of anchovies caught in Cetara at the Amalfi Coast or that box of nougat done with hazelnuts of Piedmont.
The first time I went there, I just had a good scan of what the hype was all about. After a month of being open to the public, the place was still very much crowded on a weeknight. With 23 restaurants inside, we didn't get a single seat and the food shopping was not so easy with my kids candy shopping on their own. I was amused about their choices of candies, their old favorites that I introduced to them, violette and rose candy drops from the old Italian candy company, Leone.
Yesterday was my second time and this time, I had a good look at all the products and I was even able to sit down and eat. For some reason, I had grown fixated with the fried fish of Pasquale Torrente of Cetara. One thing that I noticed was its lightness, no trace of of fried food taste and they were so easy to digest. I was also able to watch how they made mozzarella right before serving them on the plates in Roberto Battaglia's laboratory. Freshly done mozzarella doesn't need any description.
In the same area are the laboratories for making fresh bread done with lievito madre (natural yeast), artisanal beer, ice cream, fresh pasta and I'm sure there are more that I am failing to mention.
My son can attest to the superior quality of the cappuccino d'orzo (barley cappuccino) of Caffe' Vergnano 1882. He had two cups and went to the barman himself to tell him that he just had the best cappuccino d'orzo in his life.
Now before you abandon my post completely and start wondering what happened to the pasta, here I am to discuss about it.
I used short pasta called i gigli (lilies), aptly named for their flower shape. I simply mixed them with grilled salsicce (sausages), a big amount of formaggio ubriaco (drunken cheese), sun-dried tomatoes & fennel seeds. It's the second time I did this and after a delicious result with ricotta affumicata (smoked ricotta) from northern Italy, I did it again but using another kind of cheese from the north too. Between the two kinds of cheese, ricotta affumicata blended better with the sausages. Use whatever aged cheese you have and enjoy this simple pasta!
Pasta with Salsiccia, Drunken Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 350 - 400 g. short pasta (I used gigli.)
- 3 big salsicce (sausages)
- 1/2 cup grated formaggio ubriaco (drunken cheese) or any similar cheese
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes, chopped finely
- about 4 - 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper
- Boil water for the pasta. When the water boils, add salt then add the pasta. Cook until al dente, following the number of minutes suggested in the packaging.
- Meanwhile, while waiting for the water to boil, prepare the sausages.
- Punch holes in the sausages with the tip of a knife. Grill on a griddle until all sides are brown. If the sausages are fat, slice them in the middle, vertically, opening them up like a book. Brown both sides. When they are cooked, chop them to small pieces.
- Transfer chopped sausages to a big saucepan without oil. Add sun-dried tomatoes and fennel seeds. Add cooked pasta. Mix everything together.
- If the pasta seems dry, ladle some water that you cooked the pasta with. Not too much that you make it soupy. Just enough to take away the dryness. Turn off the fire.
- Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil until the pasta is coated well.
- Mix in the cheese.
- Season with pepper and salt (if still needed).