I have already told you that my big, noisy, lively and warm family comes – as regards my father branch – from Lucania, in the South of Italy: Grandpa Biagio, in fact, was born in Rapolla (PZ) and raised in Melfi, where still live many uncles, aunts and cousins. A branch of the family lives since many years here in the province of Siena, and I think I can adfirm, without doing an injustice to anyone, that Aunt Teresa is the most representative example of the cuisine from Melfi in Tuscany.
In the early decades of the twentieth century my family had a small restaurant, the Trattoria Giardino, in Melfi. The owner was Felice Scarpaleggia, the grandfather – and namesake – of my father. It was in the market square, just below the Bank of Naples, and often in my uncles’ stories you can find traces of memories of those times. The only tangible sign that remains today are two dishes that still bear designed the logo of the restaurant, which are carefully preserved in the display case with the Chinese cups from my great-grandparents.To make the photos I had to make an application on stamped paper. Do you see the restaurant in the lower right corner of the picture?
Sàgn’ a lu’ fuòrn’ – Rich pasta bake from the South of Italy
Rich pasta bake
- 300 g of fresh lasagne pasta
- smoked scamorza, a kind of cheese, firm and savoury
- grated 'Pecorino' cheese
- spicy sausage
- 2 boiled eggs
Tomato sauce ingredients:
- 1 l tomato sauce
- 1 red onion
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 braciolina, I mean a slice of veal to be cooked in tomato, wrapped in on itself and tied with twine, filled only with salt and rosemary or even with an omelette and ham
Small meat balls:
- 200 g veal mince meat
- 2 eggs
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 large tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 3 large tablespoons grated 'Pecorino' cheese
- olive oli to fry
- Let's begin with tomato sauce: it will take about 3 hours so it's good to take a whole afternoon of time and have patience! Chop finely onion and sautée in extra virgin olive oil. Add meat and brown it on each side, then pour in the tomato sauce and cook over low heat for about two hours. Check frequently the tomato sauce: let it cook slowly, adding a bit of water to help cook - if needed.
- Now is the time to make meatballs. Combine in a bowl mincemeat, garlic and chopped parsley, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper and eggs. Mix well with a fork and shape small balls with your hands, slightly larger than a pea, flour them and fry in hot olive oil: remove them from the pan when they are golden and let them to dry on a sheet of towel paper.
- At this point, about two hours have passed since the tomato sauce is cooking: remove the meat and add meatballs: let them simmer in the sauce for another hour. If you want, you can slice the meat andeat with pickles, says Aunt Teresa!
- Now it's time to make lasagna: pour a few tablespoons of tomato sauce and meatballs on the bottom of a baking dish, make one layer of pasta sheet, then sliced boiled eggs and more sauce and meatballs again. This time add the slices of spicy sausage, sauce and meatballs, lasagne sheet and sliced smoked scamorza. Keep on making layers with your ingredients. Usually they make 4 or 5 layers, at least! It should be pretty high and rich!
- Cover with grated cheese, tomato sauce and meat balls and a few knobs of butter. Cook in hot oven at 200 °C for about 40 minutes, until top is golden, brown and crispy.
I find it hard to call this recipe a first course, given the rich harmony of flavors and ingredients, but actually during our family lunches, this is a first course, followed by second course and side dishes and desserts… so welcome once again in my family.