Heading to Italy!

In one week, I’ll be flying off to Italy on a long-awaited trip with all my three siblings and a couple of other family members. Watch for updates. We’ll start in the north, but spend a few days in the south, Sorrento area, at the end of the trip. The crazy weather in Europe recently has had us all watching forecasts with some anxiety. We are hoping for some spring temperatures and sunshine, but are determined to have fun together regardless. Here’s a hint about my arrival city: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Good Friday in Lucca

Good Friday in Lucca

This year I will be in Lucca on Good Friday, March 30, with a family group of seven adults. As you might expect, a religious procession is usually held on that day, and I have read that the participants sometimes wear historical garb. That rings my bell!

I attended a (very long) religious procession in L’Aquila in 2004, the Perdonanza. Here are a few photos, culled from more than 300, which showed the costumes I especially liked.  Because the Perdonanza recognizes a medieval event, while Good Friday recalls ancient/Biblical times, the clothing will likely be different. Regardless, I plan to be there taking photos and contemplating those ancient events.

These are pre-earthquake photos of L’Aquila. Hope you enjoy them!

 

Pompeii’s art treasures

Pompeii’s art treasures

In a few weeks my sisters, brother-in-law, and niece will visit Pompeii for the first time. I can hardly wait to see their reactions to that amazing place! Here are some photos from my last visit there. Mosaic tiles, sculpture, fresco, and beautiful detail–imagine what a rich atmosphere this place had in its day!

Back to the Italian South!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn April, after a few days up north in Lucca, I’ll return to the south of Italy for about ten days. This time my two sisters and brother are traveling with me (along with two husbands and a daughter), and I’m so excited to share a few days near Sorrento with them.

Honestly, we are all very eager for this trip. Our beloved mother passed away last September. She was probably with me when I took these photographs in Sorrento in 2004, featuring architectural details from the cloister of a former monastery of Saint Frances of Assisi. It is a beautiful building, and a popular wedding venue. We were both attending Italian language school in Sorrento at the time, and had a wonderful two weeks there. On this trip, we will be in Italy on Mom’s birthday, and look forward to sharing memories of her as we travel together. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I will soon begin posting regularly again. Thanks for your patience, to all my readers!

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In honor of Amatrice

Perhaps you have (as I have) been thinking of central Italy more often the last couple of weeks, following news of the devastating earthquake which destroyed several towns in the mountains between Perugia and L’Aquila on August 24.

Una_via_di_Amatrice

A street in Amatrice, 2012. Photo by Silvio Sorcini, Wikimedia Commons.

Amatrice, a town of about 2,600 residents, was about 75% destroyed. The death toll is nearing 300 in the region, including several other villages with major destruction. In addition to the tragic loss of lives, homes, and livelihoods, nearly every historic church in Amatrice was destroyed. The city’s bell tower survived the quake, and now stands over piles of rubble.

For about sixty years, from Italian unification up to 1927, Amatrice was part of L’Aquila, before being annexed to Lazio. L’Aquila, about 75 km to the south in Abruzzo, suffered its own devastating earthquake seven years ago. Last month L’Aquila’s annual religious festival, the Perdonanza Celestiniana, cancelled all social and cultural activities, all but the religious rites, in solidarity with  Amatrice and surroundings for this year’s disaster .

Bucatini_amatriciana

Bucatini all’Amatriciana–and don’t forget the wine! May I recommend Montepulciano d’Abruzzo?  Photo by Rkolarsky/Wikimedia Commons

Italian foodies might honor and remember the town with a dinner of Pasta all’Amatriciana, and I’ve been scouring recipe books and the internet reading about this traditional dish of Amatrice.

The traditional pasta, bucatini, is a long hollow tubular shape, which, frankly, I find a challenge to eat because it isn’t as flexible as typical long spaghetti or linguine. It tends to sproing off the fork and fling bits of sauce, however Marcella Hazen, in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, says, “It’s impossible to say ‘all’amatriciana’ without thinking of ‘bucatini.’ The two are as indivisible as Romeo and Juliet.” If you’ve never used bucatini, give it a try, but another long pasta would be an acceptable substitute.

Now, the traditional meat is called guanciale, a bacon made from the jowls of pigs that feast on acorns, according to Carol Field’s Celebrating Italy cookbook. Good luck finding guanciale if you aren’t in Italy. Pancetta is a good substitute and more widely available in the USA, and bacon is an acceptable substitute.

The traditional cheese is pecorino Romano, a very sharp sheep milk cheese which Hazen considers indispensible to amatriciana sauce, though it is too sharp for her taste as a table cheese. It’s readily available, so no need to fall back on the parmesan.

With all that in mind, here’s my proposed recipe, adapted from several sources:

2 tablespoons olive oil, or half oil, half butter

1/2 lb. pancetta, cut in thin strips

1 dried red chili pepper or flakes (amount to taste)

1 medium onion, sliced thin or diced fine

1 lb. tomatoes, chopped (peel them for a smoother sauce)

Salt

1 lb.  bucatini or other long pasta

plenty of grated pecorino Romano cheese

Heat olive oil (and butter, if using) over medium heat, and saute the pancetta for about five minutes. Add chili or flakes to taste, and continue cooking until pancetta browns a little. Add onion and cook until golden. Stir in the tomatoes and cook about fifteen to twenty minutes, until the sauce thickens.

While the sauce cooks, heat a large pot of salted water to boiling, and cook the pasta until it is al dente. Drain the pasta. Remove the chili pepper from the sauce if you have used a whole one. Then add the pasta to the sauce  in its pan, and toss well.

Serve with plenty of pecorino Romano