One week into Italian life


Bra

I am one week into my new Italian adventure. And of course it is nothing less than bellissimo! I am living in Northern Italy in a little town called Bra, yes let’s get all the giggles and jokes out of the way early on. No the town does not have two large mountains, yes it does have a disproportionate number of lingerie shops, I considered going bra-less for the whole 12 months but that would just be silly.

My first observations of Italian life is the warmth and friendliness of the people. A lovely woman had a 10 minute conversation with me in the supermarket line, all in Italian, of which I understood nothing. But she seemed very nice and so I just smiled and nodded my way through it. Even this interaction is so unfamiliar in London! Another stark contrast is the pace of life, everything runs on Italian time, including an afternoon siesta for three hours each day. Which at first I found quite irritating, being caught out several times wondering the empty streets. But now I am embracing this enforced quiet time, whilst still trying to figure out exactly which three hour period everything is shut.

The food. Of course the food is amazing. My little town actually has some fantastic restaurants of which I have only tried a handful so far. And the produce in terms of cheese, meats, fresh pasta, and vegetables is all delightful. But it’s interesting that when you move to a new place you always notice the things they don’t have. No quinoa, no coriander, oats, tahini, noodles or Asian produce of any description, no rice, no decent tea. This brought on fits of panic and frenzied list compilation of goods I must get sent in care packages in order to survive. I came to my senses in one of the three hour forced siesta moments, that I had got it all wrong. I must embrace the Italian life. If copious amounts of pasta and bread and cheese and cured meat is what is on offer then that is what I must eat. Sure with all this carb loading I am going to have to become a marathon runner, but so be it. It’s the Italian way.

And so I have been cooking it Italian style. Here are two tasty dishes I rustled up this week, both super easy and simple, which is what makes Italian cooking such a delight. Buon appetito!

PastaSoup

Pasta with anchovies, capers and parsley
Serves 4
Ingredients
Glug of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 tbs of capers
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 lemon, zest and juice
4 portions of fresh spaghetti pasta (or dried is fine, I just wanted to rub in that I can get fresh!)
half cup of grated Parmesan
large handful of parsley, chopped

Method
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, then cook spaghetti until al dente.

Meanwhile put a generous glug of olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and anchovies, saute on a medium heat. Add the chilli flakes and capers and lastly the lemon zest. Turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta then add to the saucepan with the garlic, anchovies etc. Squeeze the lemon juice over the pasta and add the grated Parmesan. Gentle stir through until the pasta has a nice coating.

Divide into bowls and top with parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Pasta e cecci
My version of this soupy pasta, comfort food Italian style
Serves 4
Ingredients
Glug of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
100g diced bacon (optional but I think it gives a nice flavour)
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas
500ml chicken stock
100g of small soup pasta
Parsley to serve

Method
Put the onions, celery and garlic into a large saucepan with olive oil and rosemary and cook gently with the lid on for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and translucent.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas then add them to the pan with the bacon, stir for a couple of minutes. Cover with the stock. Cook gently for 20 minutes.

Add the pasta to a pot of salted boiling water and cook until al dente, then drain.

Remove about half of the chickpeas from the soup using a slotted spoon and set aside. Puree the soup in the pan using a handheld blender, or in a food processor. Add the reserved chickpeas and cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve drizzled with olive oil and some torn parsley.