How to make Cappelletti

Once you have practiced a couple of times on making the phillo dough you can really begin to have fun. OHMYGOD this is so lame. Anyway, the first type of pasta shape I want to talk about is “cappelletti”, literally small hats, a type of stuffed pasta dumplings usually served in chicken broth during winter and a MUST of the Christmas meal. This type of pasta is a central Italian speciality , mainly from Emilia-Romagna and Le Marche, and it predates the most widely famously shaped tortellini. Grandma cooked it last sunday for the first time as, winter has arrived in Italy so we all needed a warm and cosy main course.Image

Let’s go back to the pasta dough sitting cling-filmed in a bowl. As we all know the pasta has to rest for at least an hour in the fridge, so what to do in the meanwhile? Have a bath? Have a chat with an old friend? Have a wank? Well if you want to make cappelletti just wait in the kitchen and prepare the filling for the cappelletti.                                                           Filling for 6 servings in a bowl mix:

  •  250gr beef mince                      100gr butter                         salt and pepper
  • 250gr pork mince                       100gr Parmesan                  1/2 spoon of cinnamon
  • 1 egg yolk                                  1/2 spoon of nutmeg            lemon peel

The filling is READY. Swear on your genitalia you won’t cook it separately from the pasta sheets as I have realised my people do. Brilliant, now let’s go back to the pasta. Divide the dough into pieces and start flattening one by one either using the rolling pin or the pasta machine, which should be set at the widest setting then feed the pasta through the rollers 3 or 4 times folding and turning the dough decreasing the setting one notch at the time. Now cut the sheets into 2 inch square and place a finger of the filling right into its centre as the images below show.

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Now fold the dough over the filling triangularly corner to corner, and seal (you may need to wet a finger in water and run it along the bottom edge of the dough to get it to stick together). Keeping the roounded edge facing down, take the two pointy corners, stretch them around the back until they meet and seal them one on the top of each other as shown below. Image

It is an almost mechanical movement which can’t be forgotten, therapeutically mindless and a very good way to spend a rainy afternoon. When last week I made cappelletti with my grandmother she assummed I could not remember how to make them, ohh how silly of you nonna, how have you even thought such a thing: all those sunday mornings of my young age spent over the pasta board practicing that simple movement and eating uncooked cappelletti. Opps I did it again! Sorry another romantic rant about my lost childhood. Now, if you like eating uncooked cappelletti like I do please carry on, I only want to warn you that raw meat can give stimulate the growth of tapeworm, like my grandmother used to tell me. Otherwise, if you feel more civilized bring the broth that you prepared beforehand, either made with chicken or vegetable as you prefer, to a low boil, avoid a rolling boil as this may cause the pasta to open up. It won’t take more than 4 minutes if the cappelletti are fresh, while a bit longer if they are frozen. Serve with a splash of lemon or topped with parmesan and your perfect winter main course is ready.

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MamAxhaustion

As much as mamas can look different they will always have an element in common: a glimpse of blessed exhaustion in their eyes, typical to whom thinks that their hard work has never been and will never be appreciated enough. To disclose this physical and emotional distress mamas often embrace a FrazzledDomesticLook, which can be easily replicated. Let’s see how analysing three examples of MAMA-OUTFITS, well at least two as I am still a mama in progress.

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(I apologise for the low quality of the picture but aside from my selfi the other two pictures were taken in secret; if they know I uploaded such pictures they will disown me)

 Me and my mother show off a very sporty I-DONT-GIVE-A-SHIT-ABOUT-HOW-I-LOOK-LIKE outfit: leggings and  hoodie for myself and a baggy sweatshirt for my  mother, who in this picture looks pretty banging compared to when she wears her wintery ridicolous stripy dungarees. On the contrary my grandmother chose a less random outfit. Since I have got memory I remember her wearing these church-length camel or black skirts and animal print jerseys; however to protect her expensive wardrobe from the pasta sauce splashes she always wears aprons,whose colours change according to the time of the year. Even though they show very different styles of mamaness the element that indicates that they are well beyond the point of caring about their appearence is the lack of any breast support resulting in saggy boobs hanging around the house all day long.  If you scroll your eyes down to the bottom of the pictures, you can appreciate my favourite piece of mama garment: shoes. Somewhere between running around toddlers and getting tired of hearing husbands complain that “your feet probably hurt because you are wearing ridicolous shoes to go food shooping” most mamas decide to buy a super comfortable pair of shoes to be worn with everything; what this really means is that at some point most of their life mamas decide to sacrifice their  attractiveness for comfort.

Moving on, hairstyle and make up are two words that have been erased from mamas’ dictionaries the day they got pregnant. Hairstyle-wise mamas often choose a “let’s see what happens if I tide up my hair with this string I found in the kitchen”; however, again, they are not interested in what they look like but in not to wear loose hair that mamas would have to justify if they end up in someone’s plate. Regarding that expensive make up women used to own to attract the usual saturday night scumbag this hasn’t gone missing; in fact it can still be found in most houses seemingly to serve only as a distraction for kids. And last but not least, something I don’t feel like showing you: a MAMA NIGHTDRES. Forget the sex appeal when a mama lays in bed she only wants to get the most out of those hours rather than being a sexy beast; trust me I have seen many mama’s pijamas and I am fullly sympathetic with marriage crisis, man’s cheating over their wives or men starting using strong marijuana at the age of 40. Mamas I am not encouraging you to embrace one of those embarrassing teenager look, I also totally understand you are tired and your husbands should love you for what you are and not the way you look, but for fuck’s sake do please think about the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” theory when you look at yourself in the mirror sometimes.

Beat it bitch

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What else but fresh egg pasta could have inaugurated this section? At the end of the day I am a pasta-land citizen and even though PASTA IS NOT ALL WE EAT, differently from what many foreigners think, it is undoubtedly the most important player of the Italian culinary culture. I think I won’t make a huge mistake if I say that every Italian family eats dried pasta at least once a day; pasta dishes are mainly served for lunch as they are incredibly easy to make and can be prepared between 12.30, when mamas get out of their offices or  go to pick up their kids from school, and 13.00 when papas come back from work and the meal is served. On the contrary fresh egg pasta is something made only for specific family meals and occasions; in my personal family experience the making of fresh pasta is related to sunday meals. When I was younger I used to love sleeping at my grandma’s on a saturday night and what I remember most vividly of those sunday mornings is walking into the kitchen around 9.00 am for breakfast and seeing my grandma bent over the pastry board, already half covered with tortellini, kneading more dough. Oh the beautiful smell of fresh pasta mixed with my grandma’s cold coffee is something that cannot be descried with words. I apologise, concision has never been my forte; let’s go back to this precious recipe and discover how to make sheets of pasta -also called phyllo dough-  in my grandma’s words typed in italics

Ingredients:  

  • 1 egg per serving/person
  • 4 spoons of flours per each egg
  • salt
  • time
  • arms strength

Primarily, in order to make good pasta you need a wooden pastry board as only its roughness will give pasta a strong character; I don’t really understand what this means but if you don’t have one go and buy it before continue reading! Now, as showed in the pictures below, begin by making a fountain of flour with a deep wide crater where you will break and beat your eggs with a fork. Make sure to keep the flour piled as to contain eggs and  when the eggs have homogeneously mixed start bringing the flour little by little into the eggs. When the eggs have been completely absorbed by the flour it begins the most delicate phase of the pasta-making in which you have to literally beat the pasta with your hands as the pasta needs the heat of your palms. This is also the last moment in which the dough can be rectified by either adding water if the dough is too hard or flour if the dough is too soft. Immagine1-1

It took me a while to understand what beat the pasta meant. Essentially: place the palms of your hands on top of the dough, now pinch its edge with your fingertips and apply a perpendicular pressure with the bottom part of your hand, the one closest to the wrist, while you keep pinching the pasta. If that is too complicated or for some reasons you skipped geometry classes at school imagine to be fucking someone hard, and with your hands placed on its shoulders nerves you slide forward and backward as you are about to reach the orgasm.Immagine6-2Well if you manage to beat the pasta with the pre-orgasm intensity and pressure for about 20 minutes you are done; while if you get stucked or if you stop as you get tired it might take a bit longer but the pasta itself will tell you when it’s ready as the  dough will get hot in your hands and when cut in half it will show none or very little bubbles. Now place the pasta in a bowl, cling film it and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour before shaping it as you like.

Immagine3e-1What are you waiting for now?  BEAT IT BITCH.

Le Marche in da Kitchen

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If you didn’t get it I am from Le Marche: a region in the central part of Italy, an almost mystical territory, a peaceful area which you would never hear on the news: a proper middle-earth. In many ways it is the mirror image of its more internationally renowned neighbour Tuscany especially  for its cuisine and landscape; nevertheless it has remained an hidden jewel, rustic and a bit backward. I am totally in love with my region: its gentle hills that always welcome me home like a mother’s arms, its ploughed fields that always remind me of the diligence of my people, and its coastal cliffs  severe like a father and haughty like the fashionable girls from our area. 

 

Anyway, sorry I am done with this rant. Do not worry, the “from mama with love” section won’t include chapters of any epic poem, but it will surprise you with recipes about the cuisine of my lovely region or more precisely of my family culinary traditions carefully handed down by my grandmother. Our cuisine is a mix between the sophisticated delicacies of northern Italy combined with the more rustic and almost craggy southern peasant food, which creates a disparate magnificent culinary heritage; from meat to fish dishes, from liver salami to the finest truffle, from vincisgrassi (a local type of lasagne) to brodetto (a very particular fish soup) each of which will be presented with its own personal and family story.

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mama or not mama this is the matter

The word “mama”, which is a spelling variant of mamma, means mother; however it does not refer to any female figure bearing progeny and capable of cooking but it depicts the strongest ruling matriarch of Italian families. These legendary female creatures with one fist rule the Family, and with capital F-family I mean that kind of extended-intruding family you have seen in The Sopranos, and with the other feeds her sons, grandchildren, family friends’ kids, kids from the neighborhood or anyone else under the age of 16 happens to be in the house.  Image

There are numerous samples of mamas immortalised by media: from the hot-blodded and provocative MILF, a mix between Sophia Loren and “Stacey’s mum” lookalike, the kind of mama that comes with hordes of schoolmates that finds her house the best place ever to study; to the short, old, bitter and superstitious kind of mama, the one that lights a candle for you when she goes to church and thinks that all men are created equals but she always prays that her daughters may not pop out a mixed race kid. Then there is the most stereotypical image of mama: the sweet, blessed, gentle and voluptuous nonna that wears  24/7 sensible thick black oxford and homey aprons which partially pictures my family’s model of mama: my grandmother. She is a robust blonde-and-blue eye lady dressed with expensive clothes always shielded by colourful aprons with pouchy bottomless pocket filled with dirty napkins, not with candies as you might have imagined, as she suffers from chronic cold. She is a mix between the gentle, elegant mama of the American 50’s adverts and the wicked stepmother of Walt Disney that always complains because she never has time for her.

While being a mama is always a choice sometimes being a mother is not an option, well at least until 1920 when the Soviet Union first legalised abortion. A mama knows that  she will always be the last step of the family ladder, that she would never cook  her favourite dish if someone in the family dislikes it, she knows that she will be the one that has to find compromises in an argument, that most of the time her opinion won’t be even heard and that it does not matter if she hasn’t bought a new coat since 1987 as long as the kids can buy the schoolbag of the latest TV little idol. Being a mama is a choice of social and personal annihilation and as any other choice can be regretted: there will be days in which she will cry on her own while waiting for the laundry to be ready, days in which she wished she did not delete the numbers of her pre-marriagge drug dealers and other in which she will give thank for all of that. Some time ago I was talking with my grandma about tattoos as I am planning to expand my selection of body scarification, and she told me that she wanted to get one as well; when I asked what she replied:

“Grazie”

“Thanks to what grandma?”

“Thanks to life for all of this, my darling”

Maybe it only happens after years of self-mama-domestication, or it only occurred in the past when being a mama seemed to be the only acceptable career girls could have taken or maybe is a matter of personality I don’t know, but according to me the happiness of living for someone else and be the guardian of the family traditions is what really distinguish mothers from mamas.

What is to be an Italian mama

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Among maternal figures the Italian mama often ranks high. In February 2012  the Wall Street Journal columnist Joe Queenan writes that in the recent hubbub over weather the strict Chinese mothers are better than the Mongolian single mothers or the relaxed matriarchs from the Fiji Islands, Italian mothers do not even need to enter this competition as they are rightfully entitled to get on the podium for their excellent culinary skills. However this stereotypisation of the Italian woman as a cook-waitress, caring mama and inferior figure at the service of the alpha man of the house was considered in Laura Borini’s last week talk an important element to understand the many recent episodes of femecide in Italy…

Whatever, I am done with trying to be clever; I think that Mr Queenan had a point but omitted many other reasons why Italian moms are great, feminism is not reactionary and our President of the Chamber of Deputies Laura Boldrini is trying too hard to prove she is an emancipate woman. I know I know I know that the Italian-mamaness can be considered an old anthropological model, a further generalisation of the Italian women, an anachronistic and fascist way which imposes women to stay at home baking kids and cakes. But you know what? I DO NOT GIVE A GLITTERING FUCK. This is the kind of mama I had, this is the kind of mama I want to talk about and this is the kind of mama I want to be. Oh yes, I want to force-feed my kids with love, bath them in olive oil and wrap their baby bums in mortadella and prosciutto slices. Cause food at mine is not about physical sustenance, it is a proper unspoken language with which mama have transmitted me her love, anger and rules. For example today after 2 hours at the gym I went home where I found for lunch boiled rice with olive oil: I knew while I was devouring that delicious flavourless dish that mom was mad at me. After lunch I went into my room, or what remained of  it, and discovered that numerous pieces of garments including bags had been literally thrown on my bed forming a pile of tangible rage. So I fixed the problem: I tidied up my room, made myself and my mum an espresso and engaged in a random conversation about X-Factor and you know what? At around 4.00pm she had already made bread, at 5.00pm she asked me what I’d preferred for dinner and at 6.00pm she baked cookies.

By saying that Italian mums are great ONLY because they cook amazeball food don’t do them justice. An Italian mom prepares a meal not to feed her family but in order to spend time with it, she takes care of the health of her kids by buying seasonal fruit and veggie, she teaches them lessons by making (or not) an effort in preparing meals and she hands down traditions by creating family events around food. I do not have a particularly great relationship with my mother but I know that she is happy to see me if she cooks me my favourite food, she is fuming at me if she cooks me rice, she feels good if she makes pizza for all the members of the family and she feels lonely when she eats cheese on bread as there is none to cook for. Of course Italian mamas have many many many flaws: their sense of protection brings up forever-teenager-adults, their effort in creating a reassuring environment around kids encourages them to stay at home till they are decrepit and  their compassionate lack of strictness brings them up with no idea that in the real world it is important to respect rules, times and people. Nevertheless, there is nothing that can’t be solved over mum’s lasagne or grandmum’ wild boar pasta sauce!

Domestic Training

This is my post number one; if you are here you probably know me in person if not read what follows, mum taught me that it is polite to introduce myself to strangers.

I am Roberta but everyone calls me Bobbi, A’bobbi, Bobs, Robs, Roby, Robby, Gypsy, N, and many many many others; pick the one you like or give me a whistle I generally turn around anyway. My breed originates from central Italy where I was raised in the bucolic setting of my hometown under the strict untold rules of my family traditions. Suffocated by this provincial environment, I decided to emigrate to the UK. In 2008 I moved to London where I accomplished my academic studies (BA and MA, I am not ready for a PhD yet). Ca va sans dire that London was a life changing experience: from a 15.000 inhabitants town I moved to Camden, I mean CAMDEEEEN TOWN motherfuckeeer. Over the last 6 years I changed colour of hair every other week, from blonde to bleached, from bleached to blue, from half shaved to a mohican, then black and shaved then again bleached, orange, red, purple, very bright purple, burgundy red, chocolate brown and now blondish again; I slept with more than 23 nationalities,  I blocked my credit card 4 times and I got given, asked or pretended 8 different clubs or bars membership cards.  Eventually, 10 days ago, I returned to my small rustic hometown for the first time without possessing a return ticket to London.

While I am “stuck” here, in this beautiful tiny medieval village built among the gentle hills of Le Marche with loads of free time and not many pubs, clubs, events, galleries, talks or gigs to go to I realised that there is one thing I could do, something I always wanted to learn and could improve my CV of current unemployed-seeking-for-a-rich-man-who-likes-kids perspective: how to be an “Italian Mama”. I do not know how long this culinary and domestic training will last but till the day I could cook some tagliatelle in person for you, I decided to create this page to keep my friends from all over the world informed about this weird experiment I am carrying under the supervision of my grandmother Antonietta and my mother Barbara.