This cookbook was a Julia Child Cookbook Award Finalist in 1998.
A Finalist in the International Category
In Nonna's Kitchen:
Recipes and Traditions from Italian Grandmothers
Author: Carol Field
In Nonna's Kitchen Tip:
"Capers are the small unripe buds of a plant that grows wild around the Mediterranean basin, climbing into tiny clefts and minute openings in stone walls and clifts. Capers come in two sizes: tiny nonpareils, which are usually bottled in vinegar brine, and a much fatter variety that is often preserved under salt. The finest capers are collected on the islands of Sicily, such as Pantelleria, and kept under salt. They must be soaked in cold water for 15 minutes and then rinsed before they are used, but they truly taste of caper and add immeasurably to a dish, while the brined variety may taste strongly of the vinegar in which they are preserved. Keep salt-preserved capers in the refrigerator and you will have them for up to 2 years."
Pasta with Almond and Basil Pesto from Trapani
Serves 6 as a first course, 4 as a main course
America has long since fallen in love with the basil pesto of Genoa, but wait until people discover this spicy pesto sauce from Trapani. Dazzling to taste, incredibly simple to prepare, it is a sensational Sicilian alternative to the winning northern combination.
Antoniette de Blasi Rocca, the grandmother who gave me this recipe, insisted that it must be made in a mortar to get the right texture. That may make a difference, but I've made it several times in a blender and a food processor and it is delicious. Make it a few hours ahead so that the flavors can mingle well. Serve it on spaghetti and pass lots of grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table. Have enough on hand for the seconds that your guests will inevitably demand.
3/4 cup (3-1/2 ounces) blanched almonds
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 cup or 50 large leaves of fresh basil
5 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 small (about 1-1/2 pounds) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
At least 5 quarts water
1-1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1-1/4 pounds spaghetti
If you are making this in a food processor, set the almonds and sea salt in the bowl fitted with the steel blade. Grind together until they are so fine they are almost a coarse flour. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the water, coarse salt, and spaghetti and process until they are a creamy sauce.
If you are making this in a marble mortar, pound the almonds with a pestle. Add the salt, garlic cloves, basil, parsley, and red pepper flakes and crush them well. The salt will help you crush the other ingredients. Transfer to a bowl, mix in the tomatoes, and amalgamate the mixture with the oil. You can keep this pesto for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze and keep it for 2 or 3 months.
Bring a large pot with at least 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil, add 1-1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with the pesto on a warmed serving platter. Serve immediately.
Tip: If a garlic clove is old, it may have sprouted a small green interior shoot. Remove it, says Luisa Cappelli; it is sharp and bitter.
In Nonna's Kitchen
by Carol Field
This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.
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This page modified January 2007
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