An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Beating the Heat in an Italian Kitchen

This is the time of year in which my Nonna memories are the strongest. Growing up, our summers were all about visits to Italy ... or Italy visiting us in the form of relatives who arrived bearing gifts, and for two weeks our home would filled with laughter, a mixture of Italian and English, and fun times.

Then, for two glorious years we actually lived in Italy, and during the summer my sister and I took turns spending an entire week with Nonna. Imagine, if you will, a doting Nonna and her nipote americana, the two of them sewing elaborate Barbie clothes, shopping, visiting relatives, and watching black and white movies in bed with the bedroom window thrown wide open to catch the evening breeze.

Especially memorable were the mornings. To beat the heat, Nonna would do most of her cooking early so that by the time I entered the kitchen, something would already be bubbling on the stove. And because it was summer, meals were lighter (who wants a heavy meal when it's hot outside?) and quick (so as not to heat up the kitchen).

Today, living in the deep south, I take my Nonna's lessons to heart. Evening meals in our family are all about fresh fruits and vegetables, grilling, and pasta with sauces that require little or no cooking (see below for a few recipes).

A fresh garden salad, a chilled glass of wine, and something like pasta al tonno can be on the table in no time.

Pasta con Tonno (a favorite in my family):
Cook one box of spaghetti (reserve some of the pasta water). Mix one pouch of tuna (family size), juice of one lemon, 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss with spaghetti (add some pasta water for moisture). To serve, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Variation: Sometimes I add half a can of cannellini beans for some extra protein.

Prosciutto e Piselli:Saute a little minced onion, olive oil, and green peas. Add fresh prosciutto which has been cut into small pieces. Toss with cooked pasta.

Pasta Estiva:Cut into small pieces the following: tomatoes, black olives, capers, fresh basil, and mozzarella. Mix with olive oil. Serve on cooked pasta.

Pesto: Blend the following ingredients in a food processor until it resembles a smooth paste: 3 cups fresh basil leaves, ½ cup pine nuts, ¾ cup parsley, 2 cloves of garlic, dash of sea salt, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Toss with spaghetti and top with grated parmiggiano-reggiano. (Note: pesto can have a strong flavor, but the use of parsley in this recipe gives it a lighter flavor. Also, remember to lightly coat the pasta … a little goes a long way.)

Olio, Aglio, Peperoncino:Saute minced garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Remove from heat. Just before serving on pasta, mix in fresh parsley.

Finally, some words of wisdom from my zia Tiziana, who shared some of the above recipes with me: Naturalmente, ci vorrebbe sempre il grana da mettere sopra alla pasta. (Naturally, you should always have parmesan cheese to add to the pasta.)

And by the way, the stuff in the green cannister doesn’t count. Buy a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano and grate as needed.

Buon Appetito!


tiziana said...

AHH!! Perchè devo piangere anche di lunedì??!!
Sei fortunata ad avere questi bei ricordi della nonna, io putroppo ho conosciuto per poco tempo solo la nonna di Negrar. Ho ricordi lontani di una nonnina vestita di nero sempre sorridente che viveva in una casa di campagna con un grande camino. L'acqua si doveva andarla a prendere con i secchi alla fontana e tutto mi sembrava così strano. La mamma mi diceva che la sua è sempre stata una famiglia numerosa e molto, molto allegra. Anche se erano poveri ridevano, scherzavano e avevano un grande rispetto per il nonno che doveva sempre essere servito per primo a tavola. Aveva una grande nostalgia della sua famiglia, soprattutto dopo che si era sposata, perchè si era trovata in una casa da sola con una suocera severa e appena poteva prendeva l'autobus per andare a Negrar dai suoi cari. Quante cose ci ha raccontato sulla sua infanzia, come si divertivano con piccole cose, come all'inverno si radunavano nella stalla (il posto più caldo) per parlare e cantare.
Grazie Maria per i tuoi bei ricordi, la nonna ne sarà molto felice.
Buon appetito.

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

Yesterday we had a party, and Mac my almost 25 year-old son was to grill. He's been living in Baton Rouge, and he said it's "nothing" here compared to there. He put on a black polo to grill...

The next time I saw him, he was wearing the one and only sleeveless shirt he owns...a white NBA All Star souvenir jersey his dad bought him when he was 11!

I believe that was the first time he's ever donned it. Gee, I guess it WAS hot here.

We have so many leftovers, some WILL be out there tonight. Maybe I'll grate some cheese...

Lisa said...

Bia -- you know I print and save all your recipes to my files. These are perfect, like you said: light, easy, quick, healthy. Perfect. Thanks!