Happy Fat Tuesday!
It's been a crazy, busy week at Casa Bramasole what with Valentine's Day, and a Sweet 16 to celebrate. Unfortunately, we also got visited by a certain nasty stomach bug that left a few of us feeling rather drained and needing something light to soothe the sore bellies.
Stracciatella was what my northern Italian Nonna always gave me when I had a bit of a tummy ache as a child. It was so delicious that I would sometimes fake it, though she always knew.
My Sicilian grandma had another way of dealing with an upset stomach. She would sit on the edge of my bed with her Rosary beads in hand and massage my belly with a drop of olive oil while casting away "the mal' occhio" with a prayer. The dreaded "mal' occhio" was the Evil Eye. Apparently an upset stomach COULD be cause by someone who was envious of you and wished you unwell. No problem-the evil "mal' occhio" could never stand up to Grandma and her Rosary!
I can still feel her hands gently rubbing circles on my belly. I would watch her face intently as she murmured the prayers in her old world Italian and then shut my eyes as she would make the Sign of the Cross on my forehead. Then she would bend over, kiss my cheek and say "Good! You're fine now. Come and eat!"
I miss you, Grandma
My Northern Italian Nonna made the most wonderful soups and Stracciatella was no exception. I remember the first time, as a child, that I ever saw someone eating egg drop soup in a Chinese restaurant- I wondered if they had a Nonna cooking in the kitchen!
Until I tasted it, that is. An Italian stracciatella has a richness that is hard to describe and impossible to resist.
To be authentic-and it's so very worth it- the broth should be homemade. However, if absolutely necessary, a good quality, low sodium boxed soup can be used. This is a classic Roman soup, but variations can be found all over Italy, particularly in the northern areas.
these measurements are approximate as this is one of those dishes that I've made since childhood and learned from watching my grandmother. I tried measuring as I made it today and this is what I came up with
6 cups of homemade chicken broth-remember, this soup is only as good as the broth
5-6 eggs ( I used 6)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I always put leftover bread scraps in my food processor and keep the crumbs in the freezer) OR semolina. I use semolina-it's what my Nonna used, but try it both ways. I think it's "smoother" made with semolina and a tad more "rustic" made with bread crumbs. BOTH ARE DELICIOUS!
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
Fresh chopped parsley
very thinly sliced lemon-optional
Bring most of the broth to a low boil. Whisk together about 1 1/2 cups of the reserved broth( this should be at room temp or cooler) the eggs, crumbs or semolina, cheese, salt and pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture into boiling broth. Simmer 1-2 minutes, whisking. Serve in bowls or cups with a sprinkle of parsley and a thin slice of lemon floating on top, if desired.
By the way, I would have posted a picture, but my neighbor came to the door and while my back was turned, my parents found the soup
It looked pretty in here
Because this is Fat Tuesday and Pancake Day, I'm going to add one of my favorite "pancakes". Have fun celebrating an Italian Mardi Gras! :)
Crespelle alla Ricotta e Spinachi
(Crepes with Spinach and Ricotta)
You can use any favorite crepe recipe here-this is the traditional way my grandma made these. These can be made ahead- add a few minutes to the baking time. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (or spray with Pam) a casserole dish.
app. 2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 Tblsp. Light extra virgin olive oil (if your oil has a heavy flavor, use canola or melted butter)
pinch of salt
3/4 cup flour, sifted
Whisk all together or whirl in blender. Heat a small skillet and LIGHTLY brush with melted butter or oil. Pour a small amount of crepe batter in the pan and swirl to thinly cover bottom. After about 30 seconds, shake pan, flip crepe and cook about 15 more seconds. Lay on parchment or wax paper till finished.
Mix up filling:
I used one bag of baby spinach, lightly steamed, squeezed dry and chopped.
Mix about 1 1/2 cups ricotta
1 large egg
3-4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
and fresh grated black pepper to taste. Stir in spinach.
Make a besciamella sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk or half and half, heated
about 1/2-1 cup finely grated Fontina cheese
Melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute to cook off floury taste. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Season with salt and pepper and stir in cheese slowly till melted. Put a ladleful of sauce in the prepared casserole. Place crepes on sauce seam side down, side by side. Top with more sauce and sprinkle with grated nutmeg. Bake for 20-25 minutes till hot and bubbly
I've gotten many email inquiries about the linens I collect. This is a true passion of mine along with my love of beautiful table accessories. My friends all know that if you give Pattie dishes, you've made a friend for life! :)
My Sicilian grandma was a lover of fine linens and textiles and passed her love and much of her knowledge to me. She taught me to filet crochet before I was 8 and would tell me stories of how she and her sisters would work on their trousseaus and how they would even work in the dark during wartime when the lights had to be out. It was done by feel and was the test of a good seamstress or needleworker. She always bragged about the speed of her sister, Katie, whose fingers"flew so fast you couldn't even see them!" My Aunt Katie was a 4 1/2 foot tall dynamo and I never doubted this story. I have many of Grandma's pieces including all her hankies many of which she had edged with beautiful lace. In those days a lady NEVER left the house without a sparkling hankie in her purse. I will be blogging about some of these special pieces in the future, but here's a glimpse of the net lace cloth that I'm using tonight. Can you imagine the patience this took??! And the time!
Happy Fat Tuesday!
and As Always,
Buon Alimenti, Buon Amici,
Pattie and Allie