July 2020 Challenge - Italy

Joined Mar 1, 2017
Nothing wrong with sharing info. In fact it is very much appreciated!
I just think that teamfat meant that the discussion (authentic or not and allowed or not) should be done (held) respectfully.
With which I fully agree :)
Indeed. And it was. :)

I'm familiar with teamfat teamfat . I don't think he meant to be offensive or disrespectful.
Joined Dec 18, 2010
“Lightening it up”... a summer pasta.

Despite my American and ancestral propensity for heavier southern Italian and Sicilian dishes, here’s my nod to the north!

Short tubular pasta with freshly made sweet I-talian sausage, grilled summer squashes and arugula (rocket to some) in a sauce of virgin olive oil and Parmesano Reggiano.

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.... and a sprinkle of oregano from the garden.



Stay tuned for the conclusion!

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Joined Nov 5, 2007
I'm familiar with teamfat teamfat . I don't think he meant to be offensive or disrespectful.
True, I was just trying to come up with some clever way to work the 'leave the gun, take the cannoli' scene into this thread. I could have done better I guess.

O bought most of what I need for chicken piccata, a favorite of mine. While browsing Youtube I came across a series of videos from Buon-A-Petitti where an Italian grandmother, Gina, makes various dishes. Good stuff. Might do her chicken francese instead of piccata.

Joined Nov 5, 2007
Some years ago my wife Karen and I went to an Italian restaurant a few blocks away. I ordered one of my favorites, chicken piccata. What was set in front of me was chicken, I think, but piccata? No way.

There were two little capers on the plate. If lemon juice was involved it was rationed out with an eyedropper. Or maybe the sauce was not made in house, but just ladled out of a 55 gallon drum of Chef Boyardee's finest. It was one of those meals I'll remember for a lifetime, but not for good reasons.

The Players


Chicken, of course. I actually bought a whole chicken, cut out the backbone and split it. Did a leg quarter in the air fryer for dinner the night before. Tasty. Got a nice slice off the breast for this meal. When I buy a chicken there's at least three meals in it. The supporting cast included capers and lemon, of course, as well as a couple of anchovy filets. And some nice white wine, a New Zealand sauvignon blanc from Monkey Bay. And the usual pantry staples like salt, pepper, flour, butter and olive oil.

The Procedure

The chicken was seasoned with salt and pepper, dredged lightly in flour. Olive oil and butter in a pan, medium heat, chicken added when hot.


I might have let the butter get a bit too brown, but it didn't have any effect on the final flavors. After couple of minutes on each side the chicken was removed to a plate. Heat cranked up a bit, about half a cup of the wine went in, reduced for maybe 6 - 7 minutes. Pasta water put on to boil earlier, getting close. After the wine reduced about half a cup of chicken stock was added. It was a very nice batch of homemade stuff, very gelatinous, sort of a chicken demi. Capers, anchovies and the juice from half of the lemon.


Got it reducing, put the angel hair in the water.


You know, if you get the camera too close to the steam coming off the boiling water, picture quality might suffer.

Chicken put back in the pan, splashed with the sauce, heat turned off. A couple tablespoons of butter stirred in slowly. Chicken put back on the plate, the pasta drained then stirred into the sauce.

The product

Pasta and sauce laid down on the plate, chicken on top, some more sauce spooned over, parsley to garnish.


Maybe I overdid it a bit on the sauce. But wow, this had flavor, brightness, acidity, everything that bland, limp and lifeless sludge I got at the restaurant years ago did not have.

And of course, there was still most of the wine left in the bottle.

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Joined Jul 13, 2012
I made "Pasta al Pesce Spada" today - pasta (whole grain rotini) with swordfish. The sauce was cherry tomatoes, parsley, capers, olives, garlic and olive oil. The rotini really held the sauce such as it was. The sword fish was cubed then sauteed in evoo and garlic with peperoncino, salt and pepper. I removed the fish then added the other ingredients to the same pan then added the fish back right before the pasta went in with a ladle of pasta water. Finished with a grating of Pecorino-Romano, parsley and fried breadcrumbs. Simple, light and fast - perfect for summer!

Joined Sep 8, 2015
I've been making this dish from The Frugal Gourmet for many years. When I get the texture of the zucchini just right along with the pasta, which I prefer to cook in this case slightly more than al dente, the simple combination of ingredients is quite remarkable. It may be Mrs Hanks favorite pasta dish.

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Zuchinni, pancetta, Parmesan, garlic and cream. And pasta and olive oil.

Joined Aug 20, 2010
I am delighted to see that the challenge has caught off well. I also see that the theme I've chosen has provoked quite some heated debate about what should or should not be included, whether authenticity is a meaningful pursuit, what constitutes authentic Italian cuisine, etc.

I was thinking when deciding on the theme and gravitating towards Italy whether I should allow Italo-American dishes, as I expected that since many members are from the U.S., they would be most familiar with the latter and therefore likely to post those dishes. Primarily, of course, I had Italy proper in mind, but I just didn't want to exclude any diaspora, as interesting novelties and stories might come from there, too. And I love stories about food.

Plus, what's the point of ''disqualifying'' Italo-American dishes? First, I don't know much about them, and there might be something interesting for me to learn. Second, I get to choose the winner anyway. So yes, all diaspora counts.

I believe it was Iceman who rightly pointed out that there are many ''authentic'' versions of any one dish in its place of origin. However, I disagree with the flat-out dismissal of the pursuit of authenticity. Yes, there are variations on, say, pasta all'amatriciana around Amatrice - some put in onions, others believe they have no place in the dish; some insist on guanciale, others allow pancetta; some insist on a specific pecorino, others allow any pecorino, maybe even parmesan or other similar (possibly non-sheep) cheese; fresh or canned tomatoes, you get the point. But there are limits. Using ketchup instead of tomatoes might occur in some household, but it'll surely considered bad cooking, and rightly so.

At the same time, we shouldn't perhaps be ''too'' authentic. As Coleman Andrews put it in his Flavours of the Riviera:
"Take that plate of ravioli, for instance. The old-fashioned Genoese recipe for this popular dish includes, in the filling, not only lean veal, sweetbreads, and calf's brains but also spinal marrow and heifer's udder. Now, if we leave out these specific ingredients (the last of which is considered particularly important to the flavour and texture of the dish in Genoa), we are obviously not being authentic. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that we are able to find calf's spinal marrow and heifer's udder - the latter, at least, is sold in this country, in various kinds of ethnic markets, but is hardly common - and do include them in the dish. Sorry, but we're still not being authentic. Why? Because these are, for us, speciality ingredients, unfamiliar, even exotic; the whole point of ravioli is that is uses bits and pieces of commonly available raw materials, which udder and spinal marrow are, or at least were, to the Genoese. If we track them down and use them, we might echo the flavour of the original - but we will alter its whole spirit.

Does this mean we shouldn't try to make Genoese ravioli? Of course not. We just have to adapt the recipe to our own circumstances - just as a Genoese cook would do if he or she were suddenly set down in a kitchen in Blackburn or Brighton and invited to prepare the dish. Adapting doesn't mean making it with minced turkey and low-fat ricotta, but it might mean leaving a few things our, or making a few educated substitutions."

I believe it worthwhile to attempt authenticity in a dish, without going into extremes such as tracking down heifer's udder to make ravioli. Cooking, like all arts, is subjective to a large extent, but not completely so. There is a measure of objectivity to it, just like there is a measure of objectivity to music, literature, sculpture, etc. In short, I don't believe in postmodernism.

My personal approach is to try to understand the ''spirit'' of a dish, the place it comes from, what kind of people created it and why, and then go for the spirit, not necessarily 100 % replica of a stone-set recipe. And can we try to improve it? Or improvise something entirely ''new'' in that spirit? Certainly. Massimo Bottura was right when he said that we should look at the tradition not in a nostalgic way, but in a critical way. But we should first look at it, learn the ''rules'', and only then start breaking them. You might disagree, that's my approach.

Anyway, sorry for this detour, I'm looking forward to many more of your entries. Keep cooking! :)
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