Tag Archives: Pork

CICORETTA CON SALSICCIA (Chicory with fresh pork sausage)

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This photo above is a photo of one of the courses I very much enjoyed in a Sardinian Restaurant in Bologna called Taverna Mascarella. It was listed on their the menu as Cicoretta con salsiccia (fresh pork sausage)

Cicoretta is either young chicory or it can also mean wild chicory. The large featured photo is of a man collecting wild greens in Agrigento (by the entrance to the temples) and the one below is a photo of wild chicory sold in the Catania market in Sicily.

I have written about chicory on this blog before and it is one of my favourite green leafy vegetables. You could also make it with other greens: Cime di rape or Cavolo Nero (also called Tuscan cabbage) or Kale or even spinach.

See:
CICORIA
CAVOLO NERO
KALE

This is how to make Cicoretta con salsiccia:

INGREDIENTS
1 bunch of Chicory.
2 Italian fresh pork sausages (with or without fennel or chilli)
 
PROCESSES
Clean and wilt the greens. Drain them.
Cut sausage or remove the mince from the skins and separate it into small pieces. Saute the sausage in some extra virgin olive oil. Add the greens, salt and pepper (to your liking) and toss them around in the hot pan with the sausage meat until the greens are well coated and flavoured.
 
Cheese wafers
The crusty wedges you can see in the photo are made with grated Pecorino sardo (Sardinian pecorino).  If you add grated cheese to a heated non stick frypan and keep on cooking it it will stick together and form a wafer. You could do this on a stove or in an oven.
Try making small ones at first, just add a spoonful of grated cheese to a non stick frypan and watch it melt. Cool in the pan and the cheese will solidify and you will be able to lift it out with a spatula.

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PORK IN RAGUSA (I Ragusani mangiano molto maiale)

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The Sicilians from the southeastern corner of Sicily, especially from Ragusa, eat a lot of pork. One of their signature dishes is ravioli di ricotta al sugo di maiale. These are ravioli stuffed with slightly sweetened ricotta and dressed in a strongly flavoured, slow cooked, tomato ragù (ragout) made with pork meat, which includes some pork skins.

Another dish my relatives in Ragusa make are causuneddi, which is a Sicilian word with no Italian or English translation. Causuneddi are gnocchi-shaped pasta cooked with what Sicilians call broccoli which are, in fact, young kohlrabi complete with leaves. Strips of pork skin are added for flavour. My aunt Niluzza is a champion at making both of these.

Pork sausages are added to sugo (a meat tomato sauce used to dress pasta), eaten fried or grilled. I have included a photo taken when I was last in Ragusa of a length of coiled pork sausage being cooked on a rustic grill – the Sicilian version of a BBQ – in fact, an Italian BBQ. No fancy BBQs for Italians. The length of sausage has no links and it can also be cooked in a frypan. Done this way the sausage is poached in a little water, without a lid. When the water evaporates the coiled sausage begins to brown in its own fat.

This is another version of braciole di maiale, except that these are stuffed.

The braciole (see previous post) are farcite or imbottite (word for ‘stuffed’) mainly with a mixture of pork liver and pork sausages. You would have to ask your butcher to supply you with double pork chops with a slit in between them (as if you were cutting them into two chops) and then you can go home and stuff them.

My younger relatives (daughters of my cousins) would not dream of making them at home, they have a favourite butcher and he made these braciole for them. It was a different story for their mothers.

INGREDIENTS
pork braciole, (chops) 6 double
minced pork, 100g
pork liver, 100g, chopped finely
sausages, 100g, pork preferably made with fennel
pork salame, 100g, cut into very small pieces
fennel seeds, ½ teaspoon, crushed
white or red wine, 1 ½ cups
water or stock, 1 ½ cups
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
salt, and freshly ground pepper, to taste
onion, 1, chopped
PROCESSES
Mix liver, sausages (without skins) minced pork, salame, pepper, fennel seeds and a little red wine.
Stuff each double chop with some of this mixture.
Close the chops by sewing the edges.
Softened the onion in the oil, add the chops and sprinkle with the wine and water (or broth). Braise the chops (with lid) for about 30- 40 mins over low heat until cooked. You may need to add more water/wine – do not let them dry out.

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BRACIOLI DI MAIALI O’ VINU (Sicilian for Pork Chops Cooked In Wine)

Unfortunately the camera did not capture the image I wanted to use – I needed a video camera to record the action. The piglets’ mother seemed very gentle-natured and was allowing the piglets to climb all over her. The piglets were frolicking, leaping into the air, chasing one another, tripping each other over. I had never imagined that piglets were as playful as puppies or a litter of kittens.

These photos were taken in the North Island of New Zealand, on the way to Napier. They were not the only pigs we saw in pastures, foraging freely with plenty of space. We returned to take a photo of other pigs close to Greytown but unfortunately it started to rain and the pigs retired to their ‘kennel’ to shelter from the rain and cold.

The photo below was taken in Mondello, close to Palermo in Sicily.

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Sadly, when my thoughts turned to food, I did think that the pigs would be supreme in taste and tenderness; as cute as these piglets are, I know that eventually they will have to face the butcher’s knife. Quality meat is achieved through keeping pigs in a stress free environment, able to graze their whole lives and free to roam. The care and quality of life that appears evident for these pigs points to a more humane end than what is apparent for the live cattle or sheep that are being  sent to brutal and cruel slaughters in some other countries.

Last time I ate these braciole (Italian spelling) I was in Ragusa at the country house of one of my relatives – these are the equivalent of Australian holiday or beach houses or weekenders. At that time I can remember us discussing “il suino nero dei Nebrodi,” the Sicilian Black Swine from Sicily’s Nebrodi Mountains in northeastern Sicily, which are very similar in appearance to wild boars: they are small and black and bristly. My partner and I had just returned from Monreale (near Palermo) where we ate some salame (photo) made from Nebrodi swine which still graze and forage in wooded areas. On that particular visit to Sicily I was very interested in Carlo Petrini and the Slow Food Movement and the Nebrobi pig is listed in the Ark of Taste, an international catalogue of heritage foods in danger of extinction.

The recipe for cooking the pork chops is easy, but when made with proper pig, the chops are very tasty.

INGREDIENTS
pork bracioli (chops) 6
fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon
red wine, 1 glass
water, 1 glass
rosemary or oregano, fresh, 6 small sprigs
lemon juice, 2 lemons
salt, and freshly ground pepper
PROCESSES
Make a small incision in each chop and insert either rosemary or fresh oregano.
Place chops in a fry pan in one layer with a little water and the salt.
Braise the chops (without a lid) and when the water has evaporated and they begin to colour, add the wine, fennel seeds and pepper.
Evaporate the wine, add lemon juice and serve.
If the meat is too lean, you may need to mix a little olive oil with the lemon juice (salmoriglio).

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MEAT BALLS or POLPETTE (PURPETTI CU’ SUCU, Sicilian)

I love the Italian language – polpettine, polpette, polpettone, much better than small meatballs, meatballs and meatloaf. (Polpette from polpa, meaning flesh). The Sicilian word for meatballs is purpetti, and even better.

I had bought some beef mince (my butcher selects the meat, shows it to me and then puts it through his mincing machine in front of me – no additives, no preservatives) and I was going to use it to make a fausu magro – a large braciola stuffed with hard boiled egg, mortadella and cheese and braised in tomato passata).

Usually this dish is made with a large slice of beef topside, (a lean cut of beef I buy in Australia) but some Sicilians use mince and I wanted to see what amount of stuffing the mince would tolerate without falling apart in the cooking.  My mother used to cook a large unstuffed meatloaf which was partly based on the cuisine from Trieste where we lived. She called it a polpettone (Italian name for meatloaf) and rightly so because sometimes she braised or baked it using a little white wine and some stock for moisture rather than using tomatoes.

Then a friend arrived unexpectedly from interstate and I had no time to prepare the fausu magru so I made large meatballs instead. It only took about 15 minutes to make the meatballs – they were great.

If you look at recipes for making meatballs, they are always sealed (sautéed in hot extra virgin olive oil) before the braising liquid is added (passata or tomato paste and water) but not this time. A Sicilian friend of my mother’s once told her that where she came from (Agrigento) meatballs were dropped unsealed in the hot tomato based sauce – this results in a much lighter dish. The other thing I did was to add cinnamon sticks and bay leaves to the braising liquid.

As a teenager I had a friend who was from Calabria and her mother would always add sultanas to her polpette. For a short time I also lived next door to a family from Naples. The signora added sultanas and cinnamon to her mixture – my mother was even more horrified about this – obviously this was not part of the Sicilian cuisine that my grandmother knew (my grandmother was born in Catania, on the east coast of Sicily). Both the Calabrese and Napoletana women seemed to add a large proportion of bread to their mixture, much more than I was used to in my mother’s kitchen.

I have checked my many resources and there are Sicilian recipes that list ground cinnamon, dried grapes (currants or raisins or sultanas) and pine nuts in the meatball mixture, as well as the usual ingredients used to make meatballs all over Italy: breadcrumbs (usually soaked in water or milk beforehand and squeezed dry), grated cheese (parmesan or pecorino, depending which part of Italy you come from), salt, pepper, nutmeg, raw egg and a little chopped parsley.

I even found a version in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi Di Sicilia which lists amaretti biscuits, whole pine nuts and ground pistachio nuts, cinnamon and sultanas as part of the meatball mixture (I can see more meatballs coming!)

Meatballs, of course, were eaten throughout Italy way back in time, and in many other parts of the world, too (maybe not always shaped like a ball) – think of the Greek (sometimes with powdered cloves) and the Middle Eastern lamb variations with coriander and cumin; Swedish meatballs with a cream gravy (tomato-less and much like my mother’s version of polpettone); Vietnemese meatballs with pork mince, water chestnuts and fish sauce; or the Chinese lion head and the oversized pork meatballs from Shanghai cooked in a clay pot. (I could go on, but it is not appropriate for a blog.)

INGREDIENTS

minced beef, 600g
eggs, 2
fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices good quality sourdough white bread, crusts removed)
cinnamon sticks, 2
grated pecorino cheese, a small handful
salt and pepper
nutmeg, grated, a pinch
parsley, 1-2 tablespoons, sliced finely
bay leaves, 2-3
sun dried sultanas, a small handful
pine nuts, a small handful
extra virgin olive oil, a good splash
passata, 1-2 bottles( or tomato paste and water or tinned tomato)
garlic, 1-2 large cloves, whole
oregano, dried, a pinch

 

PROCESSES

Mix minced meat, cheese, eggs, bread, parsley, salt and pepper and nutmeg together, add pine nuts and sultanas and shape into balls (mine were large- tennis ball size – I was in a hurry).
Place passata, oil and garlic, a little salt and pepper, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and oregano (or fresh basil which I try to do without in winter) in a pan and bring to the boil.
Drop the balls in gently, turn down the heat and do not stir or turn them over for at least 10 minutes (prevent breakage). I like to have the meatballs completely covered with liquid.
Poach them on low heat until cooked (approx. 30mins).

They smell good too and unsurprisingly, the sauce can be used to dress the pasta, the meatballs are presented as second course.

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GELATINA DI MAIALE and HAPPY BIRTHDAY BAR IDDA (Buon Compleanno Bar Idda).

The happy chefs of Bar Idda (photo).

Lisa and Alfredo (right) are the proprietors of Bar Idda in Lygon Street. They have returned from their holiday in Sicily full of ideas and enthusiasm for their small, Sicilian restaurant.

See previous posts:

 

On the 5t of July they celebrated their first birthday and their new menu strongly influenced by their recent discoveries of different recipes experienced while in Sicily.

Anthony is the bar person and after discussing the wine with him we selected a bottle of ROSSOJBLEO, a bio-organic, Sicilian Nero d’Avola from Chiaramonte Gulfi (Ragusa). My partner and I then ate our way through many very enjoyable Sicilian specialties. These included:

Hot ricotta soup with home made pasta. Ricotta is very much appreciated by Sicilians especially when it has just been made.  Particularly in Ragusa and the environs people visit cheese makers (sometimes on farms) and watch the ricotta being made. Ladles of hot, fresh curds and whey are usually poured on broken pieces of bread and eaten like soup.  See earlier post:

SICILIAN CHEESE. A VISIT TO A MASSARO (farmer-cheese maker) IN RAGUSA. 

Gelatina di maiale (brawn, made with pork- see recipe and photos below) and some affettati (a selection of cold cuts of salumi). An eggplant caponata was also included in this antipasto.  (See recipe CAPONATA SICILIANA).

Farsumagru (il falsomagro is a beef, meat roll stuffed with hard boiled egg and can include cheeses , salamini and mortadella).  It is braised in a tomato sauce and presented sliced. In this case it was made with minced beef and Alfredo’s version included a little zucchini for colour and variety of textures. Farsumagru translates into false–lean. It contains delectable ingredients including meat, so this is a pun on ‘lenten’ food – during the liturgical seasons Catholics were required to eat simple food and to abstain from eating meat. These laws have relaxed over time.

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The farsumagru was accompanied by a warm potato salad with capers and comichons, and a fennel and orange salad with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

We then had a glass of Malvasia a very rich flavoured dessert wine made by drying Malvasia grapes (bianche– white variety)  before crushing.  It was an excellent accompaniment to the small fried pastries called cassateddi. There are many local variations to this recipe, and in this version the dough was stuffed with ricotta, cinnamon, and honey. I could taste some alcohol too. (Honey is used instead of sugar in the Ragusa area).

Thank you Bar Idda, for a very enjoyable meal. Auguri e complimenti and may there be many years to come.

 Recipe and photo of the Gelatina I make



Gelatina (means gelatine or jellied). It is sold as a Smallgoods food.

In various parts of Sicily the gelatina di maiale is called by a variety of names: jlatina di maiali, Suzu, suzzu, or zuzu.

I found a recipe for gelatina scribbled in one of many notebooks which I use to record recipes when I visit Italy. In this particular notebook from 1980, there are many Sicilian recipes, but on this particular trip I must have visited the relatives in Genova (a Piedmontese aunt married to my father’s brother and living in Genova and her daughter Rosadele who is an excellent cook also). There were  also some recipes written in Trieste (my zia Renata was from Rovigo and married my mother’s brother).

I have not made gelatina di maiale for many years but I have always included a half of a pork’s head – this provides the jelly component. The tongue adds texture and extra flavour (you can throw out the eyes).

It is always a good idea to pre-order a pork’s head beforehand and I was not able to purchase one. I used pork feet instead (as you can see by this photo) and fortunately it turned out very well. In this gelatina I included approx 1.500 kilo of lean pork (cut into large pieces) and four pig’s feet.
INGREDIENTS AND PROCESSES
The recipe is one of my zia Niluzza’s who lives in Ragusa (Sicily) and it simply says:
1 part vinegar to 3 parts of water, red chilli flakes or whole pepper corns and salt. Use a mixed selection of pork meat, including the head.
Place in cold water mixture, cover meat.
Boil for 6 hours (covered) on slow heat.
Filter broth, remove some of the fat and reduce, remove bones, shred meat.
Lay meat in earthenware bowl, cover with cooled broth and leave to set.

Over time, I have altered the recipe and include bay leaves and peppercorns and I boil the pork without the vinegar only for about 3 hours (until I can see the meat falling off the bones).

Once it is cooked, I leave it to rest overnight.

The next day I remove the meat from the jelly, I add ½ cup of vinegar and the juice of a couple of lemons to the broth and reduce the liquid down to a third of the original amount.

I shred the meat and place it into a terrine and cover it with the cooled reduced stock. Any fat will rise to the surface and can be scraped off when it is cool (in fact, it acts as a seal).

 Recipe and photo of the FARSUMAGRO I make.

I call it Polpettone.

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PORK, SALUMI (Smallgoods). Tasting Australia

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Some of you may remember the film/documentary about bizarre local rituals called Mondo Cane (literally translated as a dog’s world – 1962). This is a collection of disconnected snippets from around the world on rather repellent cultural customs and ritual practices, among which there is one showing the slaughter of pigs in New Guinea and an other of Asians who eat dog meat.

In Adelaide I attended a Tasting Australia event called Mondo Di Carne, held at Rosa Matto’s cooking school – Rosa has been the queen of Italian cooking in Adelaide for many years.

Vincenzo Garreffa is a famous butcher from Western Australia and Mondo Di Carne is the name of his business. Vincenzo seems to have a good sense of humour (having spent five hours with him at the workshop) and I hope that he intentionally named his business with the film in mind, however he is also very serious about his meat – he bought all of his own meat to the event including a small suckling pig which was 3-4 weeks old and weighed 5.2 kilos.

As a participant I learned the fundamentals of Italian smallgoods manufacturing – how to make and prepare fresh sausages, capocollo, pancetta, salamini – these are small dried sausages, also called cacciatori (a cacciatore is a hunter and this type of small sized salami were ideal for a long day’s hunt).

I was not expecting a piglet, but there it was. Vincenzo boned it and stuffed it with three whole pork fillets (it had to be flesh as tender as the piglet), blanched almonds and a few slices of pork liver. Salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and rosemary are a must. I have written about roasted suckling pig once before (a different recipe). As you can see he had trouble fitting it in the oven; there is a drip plate underneath.

And we all ate it and it tasted wonderful, and I kept on telling myself that there is no difference between slaughtering and eating a mother pig and a baby pig.  Those of you who may be thinking that you might like to try cooking a baby pig, can have one dispatched to you by Vincenzo within 24 hours. As for the price, it will cost you as much as a large pig, so you may think again.

Here are some of the photos:

It was a piggy weekend. On Sunday I also attended A Word of Mouth session called: Is Spanish the new French?

And pork features strongly in Spanish cuisine. I heard chef and co-owner Frank Camorra from Movida ( in Melbourne) and his travelling companion and writer Richard Cornish (books = Movida and Movida Rustica) discuss the delights of travelling and eating pork with writer John Barlowe . John, an Englishman, lives in Galicia, with his Spanish wife and two sons and in the book we encounter his travels and his experiences of eating every bit of the pig. (Book = Everything  But the Squeal, recently republished by Wakefield Press.)

I feel all pigged out.

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MAIALINO ARROSTO (Roast, suckling pig)

Cooking large pigs roasted on a spit is a festive dish in many parts of Italy. Ariccia is a town south of Rome famous for its maiale (pork) especially popular at festivals and sold as street food.

Smaller versions of this dish are cooked in homes – the piglet is called a maialino di latte (it is still being fed by its mother’s milk) and the cooked dish is called porchetta (roast suckling pig) a popular dish in in the Lazio region of Italy and Rome is its principal city.

This maialino di latte- milk fed /suckling (and one other piglet) was cooked by a chef at Libertine, a French restaurant in North Melbourne. It was one of the courses for a festive occasion – a farewell lunch for friends who were going to live overseas for six months. It was also their twentieth wedding anniversary.

The piglet needs a fair sized oven. In villages in rural Italy the piglet was often roasted in the local baker’s large wood-burning oven – this would be made available to the local residents usually on a Sunday when the baker was not likely to be working.

In Italy some cooks bone the piglet before cooking – this makes carving and stuffing easier (usually a flavourful mixture of minced meat and often the organs of the pig).

The piglet can also be stuffed simply with herbs (regional Italian variations exist – in Sardinia it is called porceddu and it is likely to be flavoured with myrtle leaves, in Rome it could be rosemary and garlic and in other parts of Italy fennel seeds are used. Grated lemon rind also goes well.

Maialino is not something I cook, but I am familiar with this dish which is often cooked as the celebratory meal at New Year by some Italian families living in Australia (Porchetta). If you intend to use your oven, make sure that the piglet fits.

Begin preparations a day before cooking – the piglet will benefit from steeping in the herb mixture overnight.
Cooking time is approx. one hour per kilo (piglets available for sale in Australia are usually 7-10 kilos in weight or larger).

INGREDIENTS
1 small suckling pig
extra virgin olive oil,1 cup for basting
wine (or water) approx 2 cups

Mixture to rub into piglet:
About 1 cup of fresh rosemary leaves cut finely, 3-4 tablespoons of crushed fennel seeds, 6-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed, salt
(liberal amount), and black pepper, 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil.

PROCESSES
Ensure that the cavity of the piglet is clean with organs removed.
Make the mixture that you will use to rub into the pig.
Make slashes on its skin (at least two over the hips and two over the shoulders and others evenly spaced elsewhere) and insert some of the mixture into the slashes and on the inside cavity.
Place the piglet on a wire rack, over a tray, cover it with a large plastic bag and place it in the fridge overnight (keeping the outside skin of the piglet dry will help the crackling to form).
Preheat your oven with the fan on to 220 C.
Place the piglet in an oiled roasting pan (belly down, with its legs close to its body and tied together with string).
To prevent burning wrap the ears and tail in foil.
Place about 1 cup of white wine in the bottom of the pan to create steam and keep the meat succulent.
Rub the skin with more oil all and sprinkle salt over it (for crackling).
Place into the oven and roast it at 220C for 30 mins.
Lower the temperature to 200 C and cook it for the required number of hours. Turn the pan (but not the piglet – handle it gently) around every 30 mins and baste it with more oil and place some more wine
(or water) in the bottom of the pan each time.
Increase the temperature to 210-220 C in the final 30 minutes of cooking – remove the foil from the ears to allow the whole piglet to brown. The piglet should be a golden brown
Take the piglet out of the oven and leave to rest for 20-30 minutes to set.
Add more water or wine to the roasting pan and make a sughetto (gravy)
Carve it and serve with the sughetto.

See posts:

PORK SALUMI  (smallgoods). Tasting Australia 2010

NOT QUITE PORCHETTA

KOHLRABI with pasta – a wet dish (Causunnedda che cavuli )

Kohlrabi are called cavoli in Sicily (in Italy cavoli are cauliflowers, cavolo verza is a cabbage).

Just to confuse things, Sicilians call cauliflowers broccoli.

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As well as the purple coloured roots there are light green ones; the root is always sold complete with the leaves and the whole plant is eaten.

Kohlrabi can be eaten as a vegetable – boiled with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, but mostly they are cooked with pasta.

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The kohlrabi I am able to buy at the Queen Victoria Market are always much bigger than the ones in the photos (from market in Syracuse) but unfortunately only one stall sells them complete with the leaves. Because the plant is picked when large, the leaves are not as tender.

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Still, it is better than nothing, and the broth- like pasta dish I make with them tastes rather good, although I could never say that it is as tasty as the one my relatives in Ragusa make. For a start, they make it with home made pasta (called causunedda) and they also put in strips of cutini (cotenne in Italian, pork skin in English) to flavour the vegetable broth. The cutini (from fresh pork) are common in Sicilian cooking especially in Ragusa. They are eaten stuffed, rolled and braised as a secondo (main course), but mainly added to soups (especially pulses) and always as an ingredient to make a strong sugo to dress pasta or the ravioli di ricotta (a local specialty from the south eastern part of Sicily).

The recipe could not be simpler. In the feature photo above and below is Franca, my cousin in Ragusa and she is preparing causunnedda – Sicilian homemade short pasta.

Because I do not make my own causunnedda, I buy gnocchetti shaped pasta or pasta or casareccia.

(See  post GNUCCHITEDDI (Making small gnocchi shapes using my…)

Clean the greens and separate them into manageable pieces; peel the kohlrabi root and cut into bite sized pieces.
Boil them in salted water (add strips of fresh pork rind if you wish). The water will be used as the broth to cook the pasta so calculate the amount of liquid carefully. When the vegetables are soft, drain them, but save the water and the rind. Cook the pasta in the water. Return the vegetable to the water and the pasta. Add chopped chilli or chilli flakes. Now for one of the most important parts: dribble with your finest extra virgin olive oil and serve. It should resemble a wet pasta.
Grated pecorino is placed on the table as an option – I prefer it without. I like the fresh taste of the vegetables and the oil.

The Ragusani also cook the causunnedda with dried beans (in winter). The causunedda are also cooked in the same way using fresh borlotti beans (when in season) and in spring with fresh broad beans. These are cooked without the kohlrabi (which is an autumn – winter vegetable). It is amazing how something so simple can taste so good.
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