When I prepare a batch of ravioli I usually also put a saucepan on the stove. While the water is boiling in a big pot, I add into the saucepan a generous knob of butter with a handful of torn sage leaves. I carefully adjust the heat: it must be hot enough to melt the butter and turn the sage into crisp and fragile leaves, but not too strong, as not to burn the butter and have a bitter outcome.
When the ravioli are cooked and float to the top, I spoon them out of the boiling water and lay them in a shallow dish. I drizzle the brown butter over the ravioli, admiring how they instantly start to glimmer once covered with the golden liquid. With a spoon I equally distribute the sage all over the ravioli, then I sprinkle some Parmigiano on top. Serving the ravioli, I make sure to leave extra crisp sage leaves for me. It’s my favourite morsel. If I close my eyes I can perfectly imagine the crisp sage crackling on my tongue as rustling autumn leaves.
Elizabeth David in her Italian Food admits that she prefers mint and basil to sage as it has an overpowering musty dried-blood smell. For me, sage has the reassuring smell of home food, as we normally use it with veal liver, pork roast, beans and as a dressing for pasta. There’s nothing better than the crisp sage left at the bottom of a ravioli dish, covered with melted butter and cheese. Oh, wait. Actually there’s something better and way more simple. Have you ever heard of fried sage leaves?
In these days I crave for real life. Sometimes I get bored with what I see on Social Media. When was real life surpassed by a glossy cover life, where everyone eats the same food, drinks the same cappuccino or latte onto the same marble table, reads the same magazines?
Real life is different in this nook of the world. I don’t live in a postcard-like Tuscan village, here we sit outside in fading plastic chairs that have seen better days, there’s a romantic swing in the garden, but it would need hand of painting, our vegetable garden grows in slow motion and a few herb pots have been dried up by a scotching sun. It might not be as picture perfect, but it is definitely tasty, as a rugged sage leaf dipped in batter and fried until golden. Here sage grows in bushes underneath olive trees. We never use dried sage, this is something you won’t find in an Italian pantry, as usually you just exit your door and pick up a few leaves, those you need for a roast, or a sauce.
Fried sage leaves
Fried sage leaves are probably the easiest appetizer you can serve to open a summer Tuscan meal. They are usually paired with other fried goodness, such as zucchini flowers or leftover slices of stale bread. Look in your pantry: do you have flour? Beer? I guess you have water, salt and black pepper. Now you just need meaty fresh sage leaves, the biggest you can get. You’re done. Make a batter thick enough to cover the sage leaves and deep-fry every leaf until puffed and golden. Sprinkle with flaky salt and serve piping hot with a chilled wine.
- 4 heaping tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 pinch of ground black pepper
- 50 ml of beer
- 100 ml of water
- About 30 sage leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil
Make the batter. Mix in a bowl flour, salt and pepper, then add slowly water and beer. Add the liquid little by little in order to avoid lumps. Let the batter rest in the fridge for half an hour until chilled.
Heat two inches of olive oil in a large skillet, dip the leaves into the batter and remove the excess. When the olive oil is hot, lay the leaves well spaced into the skillet and fry for a few minutes per side, until crisp, puffed and golden. Fry the leaves in batches, so they won't stick together.
Remove the sage leaves from the olive oil, lay them in a plate with a few sheets of paper towel to absorb the excess olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy!
- Read Elizabeth Minchilli‘s recipe for fried sage leaves. A few minutes in few inches of hot olive oil, and they become crunchy, earthy treats. Sage chips more or less.
- The new post of my friend Regula, still in theme with batter: Batter pudding, a Dutch baby and the scent of a ripening nectarine. A nectarine scented travel back in time through memories.
- A flowery cocktail from Ireland, Elderflower-Honeysuckle (Mock)tail from Farmette. Refreshing and fruity, this blossoming combination of musky elderflower-honeysuckle nectar and sparkling water is the perfect thirst quencher for a long summer day, and it doubles as a dazzling drink for farm dinners al fresco.