Cavatelli with Carmela

Mario Carmella

Walking into the house Carmela Fusco shares with her husband – ace mushroom harvestor, Mario Mancini, and her family, the first thing the one notices is a petite elderly woman sitting next to an open fire.  Zia Peppinella, Carmela’s mom, lives with the family.  This sense of family and great outpouring of love make a trip to Carmela’s a wee bit like going back in time to a place where we all felt loved and safe.  It is not unusual in Southern Italy for multiple generations of a family to live, work and share their lives together.  That is something that I remember growing up in rural New Jersey – unfortunately it seems to have ended with my generation.

Carmela Fusco is a Pontelandolfese through and through.  As passionate about her home town as she is her cooking, Carmella was willing to leave it behind and help advance her husband’s career by moving to Milan.  With a degree in primary education and an experienced teacher, she looked at the Milan assignment as a culinary adventure.  She had the opportunity to explore and embrace the fare of Northern Italy! During her 13 years there, her spontaneity, smile and neighborliness insured her a circle of friends. Through them, she cultivated her appetite for cooking and explored the secrets of Milanese cuisine.

Back now in the village she loves, Carmela takes care of her large extended family.  Every day, in a kitchen filled with great smells and laughter, Carmela cooks lunch for a minimum of eleven people!  She looks at that as an opportunity to further experiment and cultivate her devotion to cooking.

Carmela’s dishes are an interesting mixture of traditional Southern Italy cuisine, learned from her mom, and the best Milanese traditions. She shops daily for the freshest ingredients and is fortunate to have a husband who forages the mountains for truffles, mushrooms, spring asparagus and more.  You too can feel like you are invited to lunch – read her cooking hints on the Facebook page, A Pranzo Della Nonna!   Her motto is cooking with the heart is good for the soul too.

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Happy Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo Cooks & their Cicategli!

Carmella is one of the women who open their homes to those adventuresome foodies who visit our little village as part of the Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo project.  Cicategli is a pasta mainstay in Pontelandolfo.  Served with a thick meat sauce and lots of freshly grated  cheese it can a make any day a happy day.  My nonna’s cicategli sauce was made with pig’s feet and I still smile when I think of it.

Cicategli -Cavatelli Ingredients

Flour 0 and 00 – Fine and Extra fine.       Water as needed.

Before the class started, Carmella showed us the Cavatelli maker she bought that allows her to spin out enough pasta for 11 -15 people in about a half an hour.  We got excited about using it.  She smiled and put it away!  You will learn to make pasta the way my grandmother taught my mother and my mother taught me!

Boil the water. Carmella never uses cold water to make cavatelli.  As her mother before her, she discovered that when you make this pasta kneading hot water into the flour insures the cavatelli, while boiling, won’t stick to each other.  Also, after working the dough a long time, if you use cold water, you would have to continually put your fingers in water or the dough will be too dry.

Put 500 grams of each type of flour on the wooden pasta/bread board.  Carmella’s board was huge and is used almost daily.  We tossed around the idea of just using our American counter tops.  Carmella and Zia Peppinella looked at us, smiled and said try it!  But I knew in their heart of hearts we should all go buy a board.

Make a well in the middle of the flour.  While kneading, slowly add hot water to the flour.  Knead on the floured board until you want to toss the board at your husband.  Keep kneading and add flour – lots of flour.

Kneading

Using the heel of your hands – fold over each side of dough, add flour and do again.  She used up both bags of flour – 1000 grams and it still felt wet.  Knead about half an hour. Seriously, I kept sneaking a peak at my watch – we kneaded about half an hour.  No one got tired or else we refused to admit that our arms didn’t have the power of an Italian home cook!  We all kept kneading, talking and of course sipping wine!

The dough will tell you when it wants to be made into pasta.

That is not the wine talking – it is the dough talking. When you touch the dough, your fingers will come away dry.  Carmela said it was like testing a cake – when you put a knife or toothpick in a cake and it comes out dry – the cake is done.  If dough still sticks to your fingers add flour and knead.

Cut about 1 inch or a two finger width of dough off the kneaded loaf. Put that dough through pasta machine on number 1 two or three times. Or get out that trusty rolling pin and roll the dough thin, thin, thin.

Cut the thin sheet into 2-finger or 2-inch long strips.  Then cut the strip into about 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices.

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Using your fingers, pull the strip towards you – saying cicategli and then flick the rolled pasta away from you.  Sounds easy right?  We laughed at our mounds of flattened dough.

Carmella made us do it again and again and again. Hey!  We got it!  Thanks Carmella!  Start the 3 fingers just on the outside of the strip of dough and then roll back. Using three fingers you are pulling the dough towards yourself while saying cicategli.  It is important to the pasta gods that you say cicategli!

Now practice the two handed technique.  You have to feed your family at 1:30 and need to get these four million cavatelli done.  Carmella astounded us with her two handed technique.  She whipped that pasta out using both hands to roll and flick.  Who needs a machine!!

Put the finished cavatelli in one layer on a wooden board or cotton sheet to dry a little.

The dough will keep for 3 days in refrigerator or you can freeze it.  Making it with hot water allows you to freeze it for 3 months.  It is important to remember to defrost the cavatelli for two hours before you use it.

Carmella reminded us to never clean wooden boards with water.  Scrape the goop off the board with the flat back of knife.  Water gets in the wood and the board hates that. Make sure you wipe the board with dry rag.

Zia Giuseppina, Carmella’s mom looked at us all firmly and said, when you go back,you must continue to make pasta this way  or the traditions of our village will be lost.

She also noted, You have learned how to make cicategli now you must learn how to eat it! Cavatelli amano tante formaggio e sugo!   This type of pasta loves a lot of thick sauce and tons of grated cheese.

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After boiling the pasta we covered it with a hearty meat sauce and used the local hard sheep cheese.  Because you will love the sauce do not foget the Scarpetta – little shoe – a piece of crusted local bread used to clean your plate!  Let me tell you, each and every one of us cleaned our plates.

You too can Eat, Cook and Laugh in Carmela’s Kitchen!  There is one spot available for the September 2018 and 4 spots available for the May 2018 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program.  Or you and a group of pals can contact me to set up your own dates.  Just e-mail info@nonnasmulberrytree.com.

Visit us on FaceBook or our Web-Site.

Ci Vediamo!

Midge

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Cook, Eat, Laugh!

Cook, Eat Laugh!  That is exactly what happens each time a group of adventurous foodies – women and men – come to Pontelandolfo and hang out in local kitchens and learn the dishes that nonnas have been sharing for generations.  Pontelandolfo – to me – is an example of the best that Italy has to offer.  No backpack swinging tourists. No overpriced cappuccinos. Simply incredible mountain views, fresh foods cooked seasonally, a population that embraces life with joy and a welcoming attitude that surrounds all newcomers.

Just a scant two years ago, Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo was an idea floating around a kitchen table.    How could we bring some tourism money to Southern Italy and not promote the town into another jammed packed tourist site.   The “ah- ha” moment came when a visitor said to me, I would love to just spend a week here living like the Pontelandolfese.  Bingo!  Together with a group of homemakers an incredible opportunity, for folks who love to cook and travel off the beaten tourist track, was born.  Visitors have been Cooking, Eating and Laughing ever since we produced the first event in May 2016.

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Our First Group Visited Our Historic Tower

Now it is your turn!  Cook, Eat, Laugh!  Become part of a small Southern Italian village’s life.  See a different part of Italy and taste dishes that go back generations.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

May 19 -26 or September 8 – 15 2018

Limited to 8 people!

The Experience Features –

  • Transportation from the Benevento Train Station
  • 7 nights at B&B Il Castello
  • Welcoming apertivo and snacks.
  • Pranzo (lunch) at an agriturismo.  A great example of Italian Farm-to-Table eating.
  • 4 half-day cooking classes with local cooks. After preparing the dishes for pranzo or cena you will sit down and eat with the family.  Here is an example from September 2018 – some of you may have seen this!
  • English Speaking Translator for all classes and events.
  • Wine and artesian food tasting at a local vintner
  • Pontelandolfo Day – open air market, tasting of locally produced products and other activities.
  • Excursion to  Sepino Altilia Roman Ruins
  • Walking Tour of Historical Pontelandolfo
  • Visits to another village’s cultural site or a cultural activity – to be determined.
  • Last night “arriverderci” with all the local cooks.
  • Apron
  • Written recipes in English.

Regretfully, there are no special dietary considerations.  This medieval village has charming cobblestone streets but it is not handicapped accessible.  The adventure and experience in the home of local families requires the ability to climb stairs, walk on uneven streets and feel comfortable in a hilly environment.

To see more photos of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo, visit our Facebook Page.

Cook, Eat and Laugh with us!

Registration materials and financial information will be sent via e-mail to those that want to join the adventure.   info@nonnasmulberrytree.com 

Ci vediamo a Pontelandolfo!

Time travel through your taste buds


You’ve seen lots of folks “cry in their beer.”  But, I’m willing to bet that I’m the only person on the planet seen crying over cooked pig’s feet.  As I slurped the meat and fat off the bones cooked to perfection in parrozz, I could feel my nonna hugging me and hear the squabbling of my Italo-Americano family fill the Flagtown farmhouse kitchen. Parrozz- what the heck is parrozz? Thank you Angelamaria Addona of B&B Calvello for whisking me – and our group of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo September 2017 cooks – back in time.  To the time when subsistence farming, foraging and eating every single bit of the animal you raised was the norm.

Kathy, one of my best foodie buds, couldn’t believe it when I called her about this dish. I literally had started crying when I ate it and when I talked about it. Crying for my Nonna Rosa, Zia Caterina and all the elders of my family who not only had made this dish after foraging for dandelions and wild fennel but passed me the mapeen so I could wipe my hands on the communal towel after sucking the meat off every bone in my bowl.  Pig parts and weeds, I said to Kathy. Pig parts and weeds – so delicious that I could have stayed at B&B Calvello long after the van came to pick up the American cooks and kept on eating. Kathy suggested that I stop calling the dish “pig parts and weeds”. In dialect it is called Parrozz con Cacchiarella!

In her turn of the 20th century kitchen, Angela made parrozz  – vegetable and meat soup/stew – and cacchiarella – unleavened corn bread. Parrozz con cacchiarella is a dish that dates back to the time my ancestors scampered over our Sannio hills searching for what today’s foodies call edibles.

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If you are not afraid to forage, here is how you make it. Go out in the field and pick what ever vegetable green is in season. Verdure di compagnia– greens from the countryside. She used the white part of bietola, which is in the rhubarb family.  Cicoria, chicory, was raising its green head on the countryside so that was the second veggie. She washed the veggies and cut them in big chunks. They were tossed in a pot and covered with water with a dash of salt. When the water came to a boil the veggies simmered for half an hour.

Angela cooked some local cabbage leaves while pig parts were cooking away in yet another pot.  These are the parts of the pig I LOVE  – pig’s ear, feet, cheeks etc. Boiling softens them and lets some of the grease out. After the pork had cooked, she tossed out most of the water and layered the cooked vegetables on top of the pork pieces. Chunks of garlic were tossed into the fray. Do not mix it up! Top it with the pre-cooked cabbage. Think of this as a green lid. Toss a wee bit of salt on top and a tiny bit of olive oil. Not a lot since the pig parts are full of fat. Cover the pot and cook it very slowly on a low heat. It is great with wild fennel – but they weren’t in season now – so Angela added fennel seeds.

A wee bit later, Angela took the lid off the parrozz to let the extra water evaporate. She lowered the flame even more and pushed the cabbage down on in the pot. Do not turn the pot! The pig parts stay on the bottom and the vegetables stay on the top! The minestra will be bubbling, you will smell the pork and veggies and keep on wanting to stir it up.  DON’T!  Leave the pot alone and let it simmer along until the weeds – oops – I mean greens are cooked and the scent of pork wafts through the kitchen.

When the liquid comes to the top and the veggies sink. Turn it off!!! It is finished. But what about the cornbread called Cacchiarella?  You would have been working on it while the soup/stew was bubbling away.

The first step to making the cacchiarella made no sense to me – until my ah ha moment later. Take giant cabbage leaves and cut off the bottoms and slit the core a wee bit. Wet them and put them in the sun so that they will wilt and get flat. Then go out to the fields and cut some sambuca tree branches to make a broom. Why? You will of course be using a wood burning oven and need the broom to push the coals back to the side while maintaining the temperature of the oven. Wet a second broom to really clean the base of the oven. Oops, guess I forgot to mention that Angela’s kitchen has a wood burning oven and stove!

Back to the corn bread. Make a flat circle out of four or five flattened cabbage leaves. Flatten them further. They are now the tray or parchment paper for the corn bread. The corn bread she made with our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo cooks included 600 ML of water, 1 kilogram of corn meal, 4 spoons of salt – well they were spoons, a hand full of wild fennel seeds and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Knead it up!  Take your aggressions out on the dough! Meanwhile, for a few hours your wood burning oven has been filling the air with the scent of days gone bye. Oh, only use olive tree wood in the oven and when the bricks turn white sweep the coals over to one side with a broom made with sambuca leaves.  Then take the dough and spread it out on the cabbage leaves and with your handy pizza peel slide it into the prepared wood burning oven.  Wheeeooo, this is a lot of work.  Watch it rise and fall and turn a golden brown.   Then pull it out and remove the cabbage leaves – let it cool a second or more first.  Rip up the corn bread and add it to the top of the soup/stew pot.  Serve it immediately and watch me salivate. Watch the tape and enjoy.

 

You too can learn traditional Southern Italian cooking.  Join us.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo May 19 -26 and September 8-15, 2018

For more information, send an email to info@nonnasmulberrytree.com.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

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Some of the great people who follow my exploits in Pontelandolfo (BN), have asked why they too can’t experience the life in a little Italian village.  Hmmm, I thought, why can’t you!  From Saturday, May 21 to Saturday, May 28, 2016 a very small group – 5-10 people only – will be up to their elbows in Southern Italian home cooking and up to their ears in village life.

For one week, become part of a very small hill top village. No belching tourist buses unloading hordes of people. No souvenir shops filled with stuff made somewhere else. Instead, discover the heart and soul of Southern Italy through its people and food. The Italy that still rests in the afternoon. The Italy that loves to shop directly from the local butchers, pasticceria, fruit and vegetable trucks and the weekly outdoor market.

Hmmm, the scents of fresh vegetables, herbs, meats and grains waft through the kitchen. Pots simmer, pasta boards are out and a wood fire burns in the oven. Welcome to the kitchens of Pontelandolfo. Experience the Southern Italian cooking perfected by the women of the south. Not in a restaurant, not in a cooking school but in the same kitchens these women use to feed their families. Learn the recipes and techniques that have been passed down for generations. Roll up your sleeves, don your apron and get ready to cook.

A local translator will be available for all classes. Or you can practice your Italian – all the cooks and local shop owners only speak Italian.

Included Highlights:

Transportation from the Benevento Train Station to Pontelandolfo

7 nights, single room, with television, refrigerator, morning caffè and coronetto

Welcoming apertivo in a local bar.

Sunday Pranza (Lunch)

5 morning Cooking Classes with local cooks culminating in lunch.

Excursion to the Festa of St. Rita in Casalduni

Open-air market

Excursion to Roman Ruins – Altilia Ruins

Walking Tour of The City of Martyrs – Pontelandolfo 1861

Wine tasting at a local vintner

Meet the local butchers, baker and cheese makers.

Excursion to the museums and shops of Benevento

Translator

Transportation to a different local restaurant each night.

Leave a comment asking for the particulars and I will e-mail you!

Nonna’s Mulberry Tree’s first Italian excursion to Alghero, Sardinia with great Italian classes at Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera was a smashing success.  A second adventure is scheduled for October 2016!  More to follow!