03 January 2013

AUNTIE PASTA: Novara's Paniscia Soup?

SARONNO, Italy - This hearty peasant dish originated in the northern Piedmontese town of Novara where the weather in the winter can be bone chilling cold. There is one problem with the dish, however. It suffers from an identity crisis. It’s not quite sure if it is a soup or a risotto, or a risotto made from soup or a soup made with risotto. What it is is a classic recipe from the heart of the rice belt that can be eaten as a first course if you are doing a traditional Italian three course meal, or as a piatto unico, a one dish meal.  
 Paniscia Novarese
There have been a few changes in the recipe over the years. Back in the day Novarese mamas used to add a piece of boiled pig skin to the sausage, and fry it along with chopped lardo – which is not lard, which is called strutto in Italian, but an Italian delicacy that has graced the tables of Italian gourmets since the days of the Romans. (See Auntie Pasta: Me and Waverly Root published Dec. 2, 2009). 

 The Panisca Club
At Soms San Martino (Via Perazzi 1/F, Novara Tel: 0321.613156), paniscia is made the old fashioned way, which is why the bar/restaurant is, and has been for more than 100 years,  home to the Circolo Paniscia, a club of dedicated paniscia eaters.  You’ll find other Piedmontese and Novarese specialities there such as donkey stew with polenta,  frogs legs, deep fried kidneys and snails in a tasty sauce. 

You’ll find recipes on their web site for those delicacies, plus Nona's recipe for paniscia which calls for a piece of pig skin and a dollop of lard, in Novarese dialect unfortunately for those of use who are dialect deficient,As well as recipes like the one that follows that the less squeamish among us might prefer.  www.circolodellapaniscia.com/index.php,)  

Novara's Paniscia


Serves 4

1 lb savoy cabbage

¾ cup Arborio  (Roma or Canaroli) rice
3 ½ oz dried Borlotti beans
3 oz fresh pork sausage (without casing)
2 ½ oz pancetta (Italian bacon) Smoked OK if you like the taste.
3 oz canned tomatoes or 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 small stalk celery finely diced (without leaves)
1 medium size carrot, finely diced
1 medium to small onion, finely diced
1 oz butter
8 cups vegetable broth (bouillon cubes OK)
½ cup Barolo wine (1/2 wine glass)
salt and pepper to taste 

30 minutes preparation + 1 hour and 30 minutes cooking

Step 1 - Finely dice the onion, carrot and celery.  Put the beans into a large casserole, cover them with the stock and season with a pinch of salt. Begin cooking them.

 Step 1

Step 2- Add the diced carrot and celery, cover, and let simmer for about 1 hour.
Step 2
Step 3 - In another frying pan, sauté the diced onion in the butter along with the finely-chopped sausage meat and let it cook.

 Step 3

Step 4 - Add the pancetta, then the rice, mix and let sit for 10 minutes to gain flavor.   
 Step 4

Step 5 - Pour the red wine over the rice and cook over medium/low heat until the wine evaporates.  
 Step 5
Step 6 - Continue to cook the rice, as you would any risotto, by slowly adding the stock and the vegetables a little at a time.
 Step 6
Step 7- Add the finely chopped cabbage, the peeled or puree of tomato and continue cooking until the cabbage is tender and the rice is cooked.
Step 7

Step 8 - When the soup is ready to be served, top with some basil leaves. Resist the temptation to add grated cheese.

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