Italian dishes that don’t exist on any menu

By Patrizia Cucca

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays. I finally got through the bout of overindulging and returned to the arms of more moderate eating which leads me to this article and this simple recipe. Today’s writing was inspired by a cooking demonstration I attended over the holidays. Our cooking class was just over two hours long and led by a Neopolitan chef preparing dishes I was very familiar with. He reminded me of how lucky I was, the only one in a group of 30 people that knew what he was making. None of the dishes he prepared could be found on any menu anywhere and unless you have had the privilege of growing up in an Italian home, you wouldn’t know about many of these dishes either. As in any part of Italy, Neapolitans are passionate and quite opinionated about their cuisine. The food of Campania is as exuberant as its natives. Even though the heartier food of Northern Italy is so well known for its prosciutto, parmigiana, and balsamico ingredients, what is known as the healthy Mediterranean Cuisine, from the Southern part of Italy, including the food of Naples and Campania. The cooking of this region aims to preserve the flavors of the seasonal fresh ingredients as well as their fragrance, thereby maintaining a focus on simplicity Southern Italian food is considered to be the soul of Italy. The cuisine is more spicy and reliant on the sun-kissed vegetables available year-round, including superb artichokes and aubergine (eggplant), courgettes (zucchini), pomodori (tomatoes). Crops of dried red chili peppers, garlic, herbs, olives, olive oil and salty capers are also harvested. Everyone knows lasagna, ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine al fredo as the Italian staples on every menu. But, have you ever heard of Pasta con Cavolfiore (pasta and cauliflower), pancotto Rape e Fagioli, Melanzane a Scarpone (stuffed eggplant), pasta e ceci ? They are not on a menu anywhere and unless our mothers make them for us I am not sure how many of us kids prepare these tasty dishes in our homes. Let’s honor our mothers, our roots and make something you love and can’t find anywhere other than mamas kitchen. This recipe is easy to make, requiring just 30 minutes and 10 basic ingredients. This makes the perfect quick weeknight meal when you’re craving something substantial and comforting, yet light. It’s a dish the whole family will love.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Parsley, and Breadcrumbs
2 Sea salt and ground pepper
2 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
2 1 head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds), cored and broken into small
florets
2 5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
2 1/4 cup olive oil
2 12 ounces cavatappi or other short pasta
2 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (optional)
2 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 2 Tbsp (17 g) toasted pine nuts, plus more for serving
2 2 Tbsp white raisins
2 2 Tbsp toasted breadcrumbs for serving
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (232 C).
2. Add cauliflower to a mixing bowl with olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and sea salt. Toss to coat. Then spread on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, flipping/stirring once at the 15-minute mark to ensure even cooking. Sample and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside.
3. Once your cauliflower has reached the 10-minute mark, prepare your pasta. Add about 4-5 cups water (or however much to generously cover your pasta) to a large pot and bring to a boil.
4. Once boiling, season well with sea salt and add pasta. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and cook according to package instructions for ‘al dente’, 7-10 minutes.
5. Conserve a half a cup of the pasta water then drain
6. Add the cauliflower, pine nuts, raisins, cheese and parsley to the pasta and toss to coat. Add some of your reserved pasta water to the mixture to your desired saucy preference.
7. Remove from heat and sample pasta. Adjust seasonings as desired, adding salt or pepper if necessary. Serve with additional red pepper flakes, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Serve topped with bread crumbs, if desired.
Enjoy this dish with a glass a heart healthy vino rosso.

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