This past weekend we taught a food writing class in Vicenza. Each time our eight and more hours of conversation become an opportunity to reflect on many aspects, which go beyond writing. We begin with the use of specific adjectives and action verbs, we move on to the experiences and to a strong sense of the place, and then we come to ask ourselves larger-than-life questions, which touch the philosophy behind the creation of a blog.
Why do we feel the urge to share our recipes and our lives online? When is too personal? How much deliberation is behind every single recipe?
The spirits get carried away in a discussion, there are sides, the inevitable doubts show up. This is when I usually stand up, and I say a phrase that cheers everyone up, and helps put everything back into perspective.
We have a food blog, we’re not saving the world.
If a recipe somehow leaves an imprint on my life, I feel the need to share it here on the blog. If it gave me the chance to spend an enjoyable evening with friends I’ll write about it. If someone I love gave me a good recipe, I’ll post it here, as you would do with a photo on an album of memories: when you miss him, you browse through the pages and you find his unfading smile.
There are recipes that I tried three or four times before I could get the results I wanted, others that are promoted here on the blog after years of humble and reassuring presence in the home kitchen. Those are part of my cooking repertoire.
Then there are other recipes, just like the one I’m sharing today, which come from a perfect combination of flavours you tasted almost by chance. They strike the right note, you know that they will work. You hurry up to buy the ingredients as you want to try it again.
In these cases the trick is to follow your instinct. If pastry is alchemy and precision, I like to improvise in the kitchen. I do it sometimes even during cooking classes, to show how, starting from quality ingredients, you can still get to prepare a good dish, which leaves us with a satisfied smile and a full belly.
Maltagliati with olives, escarole and guanciale
in partnership con Luciana Mosconi
This recipe is a canvas of ingredients that work well together, which are already part of the Mediterranean gastronomic culture. Luciana Mosconi asked me me to use its egg maltagliati, which they cook in a few minutes.
In those days when you have at most half an hour in between the moment you enter the kitchen and when you would like to sit at the table you need recipes like this, which can be made a occhio: we enjoy cooking a occhio in Italy, judging ingredients just by looking at them, this is how grandmas have always passed down recipes. They show you the way but leave you free to follow your rhythm.
Brown the guanciale, the cured cheek of pork, in a pan. Add the sliced escarole, the olives, then the pecorino. How much guanciale? The amount you have available in your pantry, or even decide according to the quantity you would love to find in your dish. Use pancetta if you don’t have guanciale. How many olives? If you listen to me a lot, as I like their bitter taste. Use these ingredients to season the maltagliati that in the meantime are cooking, and you’ll be sitting with a hot plate of pasta in fifteen minutes.
- 100 g guanciale cut into strips
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 500 g escarole washed, dried and sliced
- 4 tablespoons leccino olives or even taggiasche
- Black pepper
- 500 g maltagliati
- Aged Pecorino Toscano
Cut the guanciale into thin strips and collect in a large pan with olive oil. Cook until it starts to melt and to brown.
Add the escarole, toss and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until wilted.
Add the olives, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cook the maltagliati in a large pot of salted boiling water, drain and add to the pan.
Toss the maltagliati with the seasoning and cook for one minute, then sprinkle with grated pecorino and serve.
This seasoning works just as well with spaghetti or linguine drained al dente and with light and pillowy potato gnocchi.