It all started with a bowl of bucatini con salsicce.
If you are reading this blog, you can thank (or blame) Lidia Bastianich’s recipe for bucatini con salsicce (bucatini with sausage). While lounging around the house this past May, Liz and I caught an episode of Lidia’s Italy on PBS. In this particular episode she made bucatini con salsicce and canederli di ricotta (ricotta dumplings with strawberry sauce). Both looked amazing and I set out to make both as soon as possible.
Given that is was peak strawberry season in New Jersey, we had the ricotta dumplings the next day. The dumplings were light as clouds and the strawberry sauce tasted like summer the way only farm picked strawberries can. They were an excellent match. After the success of this dish I was even more excited to try the bucatini con salsicce.
The appeal of the dish was it’s simplicity of ingredients: Italian sausage, peperoncini, white wine, garlic and canned tomatoes on a thick spagetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. I have never been very fond of plain old pasta with marinaria sauce, but I love the acidity and tartness of a good (fresh or canned) tomato. So, this recipe seemed like a great way to liven up a tomato sauce. I hoped we’d like it.
And, we ate it up. It was “lick your plate” good. As I was going and on about how excited I was to have a new go-to, easy to make pasta recipe, I mentioned to Liz I should pick up the Lidia cookbook it could be found in. She walked over to the bookcase and pulled it out. Turns out, I had owned this particular Lidia cookbook for several months and didn’t realize it. It came to me the way most of my cookbooks had, pilfered from the “free pile” at Liz’s work.
It wasn’t until 22 inches of snow forced Liz and I inside for several days after Christmas, that I spent any time looking through Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy. I had made bucatini con salsicce again recently and was inspired to try other recipes, so I began flipping through and plotting out what I’d make next.
An idea began to take root. Of the 20 regions of Italy, Lidia covered 12 in this particular cookbook. I could spend all of 2011 cooking with Lidia as she cooked from the heart of Italy. Each month would be dedicated to a particular region and I’d try to cook three to five dishes from that region.
And, that’s what I’m doing now. I chose Trentino Alto Adige as my first region since it bordered the Alps and had winter appropriate foods. I’ve already made two dishes from Trentino Alto Adige and hope to make one or two more before January ends in 8 days. I’ll be blogging about each recipe I make and sharing pictures and thoughts.
I’ve had a growing interest in Italian food over the past year having tried a few excellent new recipes and reading the culinary adventures of my ex-pat friend Katie Parla as she eats her way through Italy (among other places). So, this fun little experiment seemed destined to happen.
I might blog about other things I’m cooking as well. Someone recently told Liz they thought of me as a “purist’ when it comes to food and I can’t decide if that extends to blogging as well. I have a feeling if I make something I think is worth sharing, it will make these “pages” too. Hopefully I’ll inspire others to try some of these recipes and if you aren’t a big cook, I’ll inspire you to come over for dinner.