In Bologna I visited where Filippo Tommaso Marinetti hung out with his futurist friends and discussed the evils of eating pasta. I did not expect to find it to be part of a grand hotel.
Cafe’ Marinetti is located in the Grand Hotel Majestic “Gia Baglioni”. It is an 18th-century palazzo across the street from the Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro and only a 5-minute walk from the Towers of Bologna.
The hotel is decorated with Baroque details, expensive paintings and photographs of famous visiting celebrities….Frank Sinatra, Eva Gardner, Princess Diana, Sting, Bruce Springsteen and others.
The hotel is very luxurious…when I was there there was a Bentley Ferrari and a sports BMW out the front collecting and dropping off guests.
Cafe’ Marinetti is frequented by well heeled guests as I imagine it was then during Marinetti’s time.
But who was Marinetti?
And really why would I expect someone who had such strong views about pasta to be anything else but part of the well heeled set?
It is interesting to see that pasta features on the menu at Cafe Marinetti and there is no risotto.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, one of the founders of Futurism in the early 1900:
My mother used to add cream rather than milk, and a little grated nutmeg.
300g of beef mince 85% fat
150g of pork mince
50g of unsalted butter
50g of onion finely chopped
50g of carrot finely chopped
50g of celery finely chopped
125ml of red wine
30g of tomato paste, triple concentrated
125ml of whole milk
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
Place a large thick-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Add the minced pork belly to the pot and cook until all the liquid from the meat has evaporated, then add the minced beef and cook until golden, stirring frequently. Transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside.
Add the butter to the saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until the onions are very soft and translucent. Finally, add the tomato paste and sauté for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
Return the meat to the saucepan, turn up the heat and pour in the red wine. Cook over a high heat for 2 minutes, then cover the pan and turn the heat down to low
Leave the ragù alla Bolognese to simmer very gently for at least 3 hours. The meat must not be excessively dry. Pour in the whole milk and cook for a further 40 minutes just before serving
Ragù alla Bolognese is very tasty when just cooked, but is even better the next day. Reheat the sauce over a very low heat with a little bit of milk and use it to season pasta.
In a restaurant in Modena we met a beautiful elderly woman who was the mother of one of the three chefs of a fabulous restaurant in Modena and her daughter is the owner. It is often the case that mothers and skilled mature women are responsible for making stuffed pasta in restaurants. They are after all very skilled and practised in this area having made it over many years at home.
La signora comes the restaurant each morning to make the stuffed pasta – tortellini and tortelloni (the squares of pasta are cut much bigger). Both are closed and folded in the shape of a navel. The traditional fillings are usually made with ricotta, spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano and covered with a melted browned butter and sage dressing.
In Bologna the stuffing the for tortelli and tortelloni is likely to be made of prosciutto, mortadella, roast veal and Parmesan.
More often than not, stuffed pasta is dressed with a ragù….today one of us had a ragù made with a mixture of …selvaggina, wild meats – boar, rabbit, maybe pheasant.
Tortelloni di Zucca have mashed cooked pumpkin filling. Nutmeg, crumbed amaretti and mostarda mantovana – pickled fruit in a sweet mustard syrup. I ate Tortelloni di Zucca in Ferrara. But you may be surprised to know that in Ferrara they called these Capellacci….little hats…..Capelletti like tortellini, are the smaller version and these are usually cooked in broth (brodo).
And there are Ravioli.
The pasta for all stuffed pasta can be white (egg, flour and water) or can be green (spinach).
In a restaurant in Bologna we ate ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach but in a restaurant in San Giovanni in Marignano the variation in the stuffing was ricotta and marjoram and the dressing was made with asparagus. It is after all spring in Italy, even if it is raining now in Bologna.
The Trinacria (a three-legged figure) is the emblem of Sicily and I spotted it on a restaurant’s window in all places, in SOHO, Hong Kong. The bar and restaurant is called Posto Pubblico. Before spotting the Trinacria, I had no intention of going to an Italian (or Sicilian) restaurant in Hong Kong!
The strange thing was that this restaurant did not even know what or why they had a Trinacria on their window.
I enjoyed the food very much but most of all I enjoyed instructing the personable and affable waiter about Sicilian matters. The restaurant is classed as Italian and judging by the reviews on the net, no-one has made any association with Sicily, yet much of the food on the menu is Sicilian.
We ordered small plates from the menu… spuntini or tapas-style of Arancini, Rotolini- little roll ups of eggplants (also known as Involtini- see photo above), a marinated tuna dish and because the restaurant make their own mozzarella, a Caprese.
By the end of our meal the waiter knew quite a bit about Sicily and the food of Sicily, how Arancini are shaped and presented alone and not covered by ragù (which by the way was excellent), how it would be best not to flour or crumb the eggplant when making the eggplant involtini (in order to keep the flavours fresh and accentuate the delicate fresh-cheese taste in the stuffing) and most important of all what the emblem on their window represented. The waiter said that he would pass on the information about the trinacra to the staff and the culinary advice to their chef.
Is it arancini or arancine? You will see this word spelled both ways.The Italian word for orange is arancia (feminine) and the word for orange tree is arancio (masculine). Arancina is a small orange and arancine is the plural. It therefore may make more sense to call them arancine as many Sicilians do, however over time arancini seems to have become the most popular name for these rice balls especially in other parts of Italy and the world.
Arancini covered with ragù (not as Sicilians would serve them). This is a photo of the arancini we ate in the restaurant.
I solved the problem of why a Trinacria was on their window: It turned out that there were two original owners, one was from from New York City and the other from New Jersey.
Both had grandparents who had migrated to NY from Southern Italy – one lot from Naples (and that would explain the mozzarella) and one from Licata, that of course is in SICILY.
So all in all….. a very good time was had by all.
Homer referred to Sicily as Thrinakie (or Thrinakrie), which means Isle with a triangle’s shape. The name then changed to Trinakria, a reference to the three promontories on the island: Capo Peloro (Messina) in the north-east, Capo Boéo or Lilibéo (Marsala) and Capo Passero (an island 75 kilometres from Siracusa) or Capo Spartivento in the south-east. The name later became Trinacria, which the poet Dante Alighieri used to refer to Sicily in his Divine Comedy. It is also the name of the three-legged figure that is now the symbol of Sicily.
Below, Arancini shape in Sicily. The ragu is on the inside of the arancino.
My thoughts on Sicilian arancini- variations to the recipe below:
Arancini as made in Sicily are made with boiled rice (in plain salted water) and the rice is not cooked in stock and nor are they made with left over risotto. The saffron is added after the rice is boiled for colour and taste.
Some Sicilians add eggs to bind the rice, others insist that by cooking the rice by the absorption method in the correct amount of liquid and cooled overnight, the rice will be sticky enough not to require eggs.
In Sicily traditionally they are always stuffed with ragù (the meat-based sauce) and peas. In Rome, rice balls are called Suppli and they are ball shaped, made with risotto and have a cheese and often ham stuffing in the centre.
I prefer my arancini shaped as they are in eastern Sicily – they have a more conical shape rather than a ball…. like a small hill. As they are shaped in the palm of the hand , it is easy to see why they can be conical in shape.
I also like the idea of dipping each arancino into a batter before frying – this helps keep them together and gives a crunchy coating, which I like: Beat together 1 egg, some flour and enough water to make a thick batter. Dip each arancino into the batter, then into breadcrumbs.
Although some ragù (the meat-based sauce) sometimes contains pancetta as made in Bologna (and not the bacon used for breakfast), most Sicilians tend not to add it. Also Thyme is not very common in Sicily….oregano or basil is more likely to be used. Tomato paste rather than Passata is also common and if celery and carrot are used it must be chopped very finely.
The following recipe for arancini was printed in the TSAA Newsletter, May 2012 Edition (The Sicilian Association of Australia). Written by Sebastian Agricola.
Arancini, one of the signature foods of Sicily, are also a compact and delicious edible historical record of Sicily.
Few dishes can tell as much about the peoples who have contributed to Sicily over the centuries. The canestrato fresco (a fresh, mild, firm cheese that’s generally replaced with mozzarella off the Island) comes from the Greeks, the rice and saffron from the Arabs, the ragù from French, and the tomato sauce from the Spanish.(Pino Correnti; Il Libro d’Oro della Cucina e Dei Vini Della Sicilia).
Arancini originated in Sicily around the tenth century A.D (that about 1,000 years ago readers!) reportedly during the Kalbid rule, a Muslim dynasty that ruled Sicily from 948 to 1053. The Kalbids also introduced lemons, seville oranges, sugar cane, as well as cotton and mulberries.
The name is a variant of the Italian for orange (arancia) which describes both their shape and colour. There are various recipes for arancini in Sicily and every little paesetto (village) claims to produce the original recipe and the best arancini. The TSAA has its preferred recipe which was used in one of TSAA cooking classes and here it is:
1 Kilo Minced Veal
1 Kilo Minced Pork
2 Medium Onions, finely chopped
4 Celery Sticks, finely chopped
1 Litre Tomato Puree
2 Medium Carrots, finely chopped
1 Cup Dry White Wine
5 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced 1 Cup of Water
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 tsp.
Salt and Pepper
*200gms Pancetta, diced (see my note above)
Cook the onions celery, carrots and garlic in oil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened; about 5 minutes.
Add the pancetta, veal and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps until browned; about 6 minutes.
Stir in tomato puree, white wine and the thyme and gently simmer covered, until sauce is thickened; 3/4 to 1 hour.
Add salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Allow sauce to cool.
RICE FOR THE ARANCINI
500 gms Arborio rice
Several ladles of sauce to make the filling
100gms grated pecorino cheese
2 Eggs, lightly whisked
Add grated pecorino cheese to rice.
Add enough sauce to rice to make it turn orange in colour.
Add eggs to rice mixture and combine mixtur
Cook the rice (absorption method.) Allow rice to cool.
1/2 Fiore di latte mozzarella, cubed into small pieces
250gms Frozen Peas
1/2 Onion, chopped
Fine Breadcrumbs for Crumbing
Salt and Pepper
Sauté onion for 5 minutes, add peas and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste.
Form Arancini by first filling the palm of your hand with rice mixture, then adding a teaspoon of peas and Bolognese sauce and a cube of mozzarella.
Enclose filling with more rice by forming a ball with mixture contained inside. Roll balls in breadcrumbs and deep fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
I am not surprised by this, she loved Tuscany, drinks red wine and she and her husband are marvellous cooks so I am including a recipe for a typical sauce usually associated with this shaped pasta.
Pasta shapes are synonymous with certain sauces. Generally, thin sauces which contain a lot of oil (for example made with seafood or with a few vegetables) are better suited to long thin pasta shapes (spaghetti, spaghettini).
Thicker sauces, made with meat or with larger vegetables are better suited to shapes with large, uneven surfaces (rigatoni, penne). Their shapes help to trap the ingredients in the thick sauce.
Pasta shapes are also regional. While the south of Italy may prefer small pasta shapes for thicker sauces (fusilli, casarecci, orecchiette) other parts of Italy enjoy long, flat ribbons of pasta (tagliatelle, fettucine). Fresh ribbon pasta made with a large number of eggs is enhanced by sauces made with delicate subtle flavours, often with cream.
Tuscany and Umbria specialize in sauces for pappardelle and I hope that all of you who have visited these regions of Italy were able to eat some when there. Now Kate, I do not want you to get jealous, but when I was in Tuscany in December 2008, I enjoyed many primi of pappardelle, one in particular in Sansepolcro ( very close to Umbria) – the accompanying sauce was made from wild boar and it included pieces of chestnut.
The photograph is of Alex, my small friend: it was taken in Greve. He is outside of the butcher shop (we were staying across the road) and he is patting the stuffed wild boar which decorates the front of the shop. Wild boar is very popular in the winter months in Tuscany but I have also eaten some very fine boar meat in Calabria. I bought a hare in Greve and cooked it the same way.
Pappardelle are usually the favourite shape of pasta for strong sauces made with strong tasting meat especially game: either cinghiale (wild boar) lepre (hare), capriolo (venison), coniglio (rabbit), anatra (duck). If not game, maybe salsicce di maiale (pork sausages) or funghi (mushrooms), and preferably the wild ones stronger in taste. Often the pappardelle may have a fluted edge to prevent the sauce dropping away off the sides. These are sometimes called reginette (regina- queen, crowns) but once again, there is local variation in the names.
Sauces made with strong tasting meats as above are usually cooked slowly in a ragout (ragù in Italian) and made in the same way as a Bolognese sauce. Because of their rich taste and choice of ingredients they are autumn and winter dishes, most probably enjoyed with a glass or two of red wine.
Sometimes porcini mushrooms are also added to the ragù.
Sauté in extra virgin olive oil:½ onion, 1 carrot, ½ stalk of celery (all cut finely).
Add the hare, rabbit, boar chopped into sections complete with bones and brown (some add pancetta as well). If using sausages leave them whole but prick them, if using mushrooms slice into thick pieces.
Add 1 glass of red wine and evaporate briefly.
Dilute about 2 tablespoons of tomato puree in a little warm water and add to mixture. Stir carefully and add 1 cup of broth, salt, pepper, 3 bay leaves and a little grated nutmeg and simmer until liquid is almost evaporated and the meat is tender and falling off the bone (this could take 2-4 hours for the hare or boar). Continue to check on the liquid and add more as necessary.
Remove bones from the meat and return to the sauce. Some add a little cream and more nutmeg at this stage.
Dress the cooked pappardelle. Present with grated parmigiano, as a choice for each person. I for one do not add cheese to these sauces – I prefer the unadulterated taste of the ragù.