Lemons are in such abundance on the Amalfi coast that you¹d imagine the locals might be a bit fed up with them by the end of the summer! Coming up with some novel and tasty new ways to use their lemons is appreciated, so have a go at making this one. You don¹t actually eat the lemon skin; it¹s just there to flavour the mozzarella. It¹s obviously best to make this using amazing Amalfi lemons, but it does work equally well with large, unwaxed, preferably organic lemons instead. The finished thing is perfect as an antipasto or with an aperitivo to get your tastebuds going. I made about forty of these for my birthday dinner when I was in Minori and they went down really well.
This pasta dish is loved all over Italy. It is eaten by families at gatherings or celebrations and is also something the monks I visited at the Abbazia di Farfa, just outside Rome, have every Sunday as a special lunch. I’m pleased to say my faith in this dish has been restored, as I did fall out of love with it recently (as a result of trying to cook it in schools over the last year on a 37p budget, using the cheapest pasta in the world). When I was in Altamura, in Puglia, I visited a school where they were eating baked pasta for their school lunch, bizarrely enough! However, Italian government laws state that the schools must use organic pasta and extra virgin olive oil, and they also had freshly made mozzarella! When made properly like this, it’s absolutely delicious. This was the recipe that was made for 1,000 kids at the school I visited and it was very, very good.
Vignole, or vignarola, is a Roman word to describe this incredible stew which is a celebration of spring. Please please try it – you will end up making it forever! If you don’t have any chicken stock to hand, just use some of the water you cooked the beans, leeks and chard in. You can leave the cooked prosciutto in or take it out before serving it, as you like. This is absolutely lovely tossed into cooked, drained pasta. And you must try it with asparagus if you can.
The equivalent of sausage and mash in Italy is definitely a good roasted sausage with a pile of lenticchie di Castelluccio and a spicy salsa rossa tomato sauce – a genius combo.
The southern Italians often cook fish whole, especially baked in salt. The basic principle is to pack salt around the whole fish before baking, whether it’s a whole sea bass or turbot or tuna (as in the picture) or smaller fish like sardines. Any whole fish can be beaked in salt, but you have to gut it first. The other thing to bear in mind is that you don’t want the salt to get into any exposed parts of the fish – the salt is not used for seasoning, it’s part of the cooking method. What happens is that when the salt goes into the oven it bakes hard like pottery, giving you really dry and crispy fish on the outside while retaining the juices and natural flavours on the outside.
Food is at the very heart of Latin culture. The savory aroma of a favourite dish can transport you back to a time and place half a world away. TLN’s lifestyle shows take you on a culinary tour while serving up the best food and recipes from Italy and Latin America. Buon Appetito! ¡Buen apetito!