SARONNO, Italy – All that reminiscing last Sunday about Bari and the trays of handmade orecchiette drying outside of the houses in the historic center got me hankering for a taste of Puglia.
Pugliese food is simple to make and simply delicious. There are no complicated sauces or techniques needed, just some good Pugliese olive oil, a little garlic and the freshest ingredients available. You can find both fresh and dried orecchiette in the grocery stores in Saronno and I will often buy fresh orecchiette and freeze them. I like the texture of fresh pasta better (even after its been frozen) than dried. Probably because my grandmother used to make pasta and its a texture I grew up with.
There are beautiful, blood red pomodorini – cherry tomatoes - in the markets as well, so it’s the perfect time to make Orecchiette with Pomodorini.
The weatherman is promising a break in the 80 degree weather we are having, so I’m thinking about making soup over the weekend. I know 70 degrees isn’t exactly soup weather but this recipe for bean, barley and chickpea is so simple and delicious I’m anxious to fast forward the season.
The original recipe calls for dried beans and chickpeas, but it was obviously written by people who have more time on their hands than I have, so I find canned beans (you can use whatever kind you like) and canned chickpeas just as good. Barley cooks in 15-20 minutes and does not need to soak for hours like the beans and chickpeas.
|Orecchiette with Cherry Tomatoes|
Orecchiette with Pomodorini
400 grams of fresh orecchiette
300 grams di arugula (sometimes called rocket)
10 mature cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic spicchi di aglio
10 black olives
1/2 of a hot chili pepper or red pepper flakes
50 grams di aged ricotta (or pecorino)
extravergin olive oil
2 tablespoons of toasted breadcrumbs (optional)
Wash the arugula under running water and dry. Boil it in salted water for about 2 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and let cool. Then squeeze well to remove excess water. Save the cooking water for the pasta.
Wash and peel the cherry tomatoes, cut them into quarters and place in a colander. Sprinkle with coarse salt and set aside. Peel the garlic and dice it, along with the pitted olives.
Heat 4 tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the chopped garlic and olives, the drained cherry tomatoes, chili pepper, stir and cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the arugula, season with salt and turn off the flame. Cook the orecchiette in the same water that the arugula cooked in. When the pasta is cooked, (if you are using fresh orecchiette they cooked rather quickly), drain and put them back in the pot and add the sauce. Mix and cook together for 30 seconds. Turn off the flame. Serve with a grated ricotta or pecorino, a few drops of olive oil and a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs.
|Bean, Barley and Chickpea Soup|
Bean, Barley and Chickpea Soup
100 grams of of dried beans
100 grams of dried chickpeas
100 grams of barley
4 Porcini mushrooms (medium size)
1 clove of garlic
½ liter of hot vegetable broth
Two liters of hot water
extravirgin olive oil
sprig of fresh rosemary
Put a little olive oil in a soup pot. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.
Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth and cut off the tip of the stem. Then chop. Add the cleaned, chopped mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.
Add the hot water and the broth, stir, and then add the barley. Let simmer for 20 minutes on a low flame, until the barley is cooked, then add the beans (drained) and chickpeas (drained) and fresh rosemary.
Simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes over very low heat. Season with salt (if needed). Turn off flame and let sit for at least half an hour to develop the flavor, then gently reheat if necessary. This soup shouldn't be served boiling hot. Serve topped with a few drops of good extravirgin olive oil.