Gianluca presents a problem for me! How do you write a story about an invisible person? Well, no he’s not necessarily invisible but he is hard to read! These stories I write about the guys are my version of their stories. Their stories as seen through my eyes. Yes, I do incorporate their stories into mine but basically, it’s my story. Gianluca being as quiet as he is makes it hard to write about him. So, what do I know about Gianluca and his likes and dislikes for food? Very little! The only thing I’m sure of is that he likes bananas and I think he has a sweet tooth. So where do I go from there?
One day, I was listening to Gianluca speak with some friends on Instagram and one of them mentioned Verrigni. Gianluca lives in Roseto degli Abruzzi this is where the company Verrigni is located. Verrigni is a company that makes pasta.
In the early 1900s the Verrigni pasta was made from stone-ground semolina. The grains were local, and everything was kneaded with the water of the Gran Sasso and dried in the air, hanging from bamboo canes. After more than a hundred years this is unchanged. The greatest care is given to the raw material which are carefully selected and controlled in every step of the processing.
Let me say Abruzzo is known for its pasta. Why?
GRAN SASSO D’ITALIA
The Gran Sasso contains the Corno Grande, the highest peak of the Apennines. So, the idea came to me to make pasta from the region and make a pasta which I’m sure Gianluca has had at some time in his life.
So, I went on Verrigni’s website, and I saw a pasta that my mother used to make and so it is the one I chose. My mother’s family is from Abruzzo. They are from Introdacqua (Introdacqua means, built in the water – for the abundance of water in the region).
Introdacqua is about an hour’s drive from Gianluca’s town. We are on the Monte Maiella (known as the mother mountain) the second largest peak in the Apennines while Gianluca is from the Gran Sasso which is the highest peak in the Apennines.
Before I start Cooking Abruzzo Style with Gianluca, I would like to say a word about Gianluca’s town Montepagano overlooking the beautiful town of Roseto degli Abruzzi.
“Porta da Sole” in Montepagano overlooks the splendid Vomano Valley, from the Gran Sasso Mountains to the Adriatic Sea.
The symbol of the town is the belltower of the ancient Church of Sant’Antimo, built at the end of the sixteenth century when a statue of the weeping Madonna attracted a large number of worshippers and vast amounts of money were collected, sufficient to build the church.
The small town of Roseto was founded in 1860 and as its first houses were adorned with oleanders and roses over time the town took the name of ‘Rosburgo’ (or borough of roses), a name that appeared on postmarks as early as 1886 and that remained until 1927, when it was replaced by the current name Roseto degli Abruzzi.
This town was already inhabited in the Roman age. The most ancient settlement going back to those times is Cologna today a “frazione” of Roseto degli Abruzzi, which is often mentioned in medieval documents, above all in relation to the presence of the Monastery of San Salvatore in Bozzino. In the Middle Ages and for centuries Montepagano was the main center in the area. It is mentioned in several documents both for the presence of the Emperor Lotharius and because it was part of the possessions of the Abbey of San Giovanni in Venere. Remains of the ancient medieval fortifications can still be identified in the four entrance doors and in the Romanesque-Baroque belltower built in red bricks, belonging in the past to the now lost church of Sant’Antimo.
In 1251 Montepagano was included in the newly established Diocese of Atrii.
Montepagano is a medieval hamlet that is part of Roseto degli Abruzzi administratively but is a different world from the modern beach resort. The classic Old-World hamlet is six kilometers inland from Roseto on a commanding hill with spectacular panoramas.
Founded in the 12th century, the town was placed away from the sea but with a view of it as protection from incursions by pirates and Turks. Wander the sinewy streets and little piazzas and enjoy the views of the sea as well as the mountains that this petite but pretty town enjoys. It was under the Papal States from the 13th century until Napoleon and French rule arrived in 1798. The town has a noble aspect, with lovely palazzi and ancient city gates intact.
Located between the Tordino and Vomano rivers, there are abundant vineyards that sprawl out below the town, ensuring excellent wines with every meal. The culinary traditions here are rich and varied, taking in the best of both the nearby sea and the hills.
There are pieces of the original protective walls intact, along with arched gateways into the hamlet. And a gothic gate with Pretty arched Porta Borea, which frames a view of the sea. The church is the commanding presence in town, along with the 40-meter-tall bell tower. The church is Santissima Annunziata (the annunciation) was completed in 1602; the stone portal was placed in 1611. Topped by an octagonal cupola, the church has four side chapels and several excellent paintings inside. The bell tower bears a Romanesque lower part and a Baroque upper section.
The joy of Montepagano is to wander and find the charming corners amongst the cobbled lanes, and the wide views that greet you at many turns.
A beautiful town to live in! I’m sure many of you have seen the videos of Gianluca’s house and garden. And, what a beautiful view of the beach from his garden?
Though Abruzzo is in central Italy, it is considered a region of Southern Italy because of its historic association with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Almost half of Abruzzo is protected through national parks and nature reserves, more than any other region on the continent, leading it to be known as “the greenest region in Europe.”
Abruzzo’s parks and reserves host 75% of Europe’s animal species.
When I travel from Rome to Abruzzi where my family lives, I love passing alongside the Abruzzo National Park and seeing the bears and other animals roaming around the mountains. It’s like a zoo in motion! Just magnificent!
The region is also home to the Calderone glacier, one of Europe’s southernmost glaciers. The glacier can be found in the Gran Sasso d’Italia mountain group, it lies just beneath the Corno Grande, the highest peak in the Apennines. This is the mountain range that Gianluca’s land is a part of.
Before I move on to the recipe, I would like for you to listen to Gianluca singing “Your Song,” in Agrigento this past week. Before he began the song, he got very emotion talking about family and the guys and I want you to know what he said….
By now I have become a bit Sicilian. You have known me for 13 years now and that by now I really love Sicily! I love Sicily, I love it, especially this part of Sicily. You eat like gods but believe me that where I ate better than here was at the home of Barone. It is a unique thing in the world that among other things, I greet everyone because I want to say that we have truly become like three brothers. We are a big family.
I believe that this is also transmitted from the stage, how we support each other as we have grown together artistically. Personally, we have matured we have lived an anomalous life of 14-15 years from school desks to travel the world because even if we have not chosen it, it binds this great passion for music, but not only the emotions experienced on stage but around the world only with Ignazio and Piero can we really understand one another.
It’s deep! What do I mean deep! We share these emotions which are so strong and then I believe that the greatest privilege in life is that of being able to recognize, what it is you know? To be truly happy on this journey, especially during adolescence, that the most delicate period when we still don’t know who we want to be or what role to play, our parents played the most important role of all because at least we can say ours have helped us to understand what we wanted to do, who we wanted to be without imposing anything on us. But I have always done what I liked to do and my parents our parents have always supported us. They believed in our talent and helped us to bring it out. And this is not obvious, but I also want to thank the parents and also thank my parents, uncles who are more present tonight, the parents of Ignazio and Piero.
We have different tastes, but the passion of bel canto unites us, but I have idols that are the great American voices like Frank Sinatra, like the great Elvis. Incidentally, Frank Sinatra was Sicilian, but most of the great Italian artists abroad are of Sicilian origin from Abruzzo, the Abbruzzese Dean Martin, Lady Gaga from Sicily, Madonna from Abruzzo, therefore probably I don’t want to say about us, obviously it wasn’t a sin of presumption, I just wanted to say that precisely the great international voices have really changed the history of music in the world, you understood me it was not presumption. It is not that, I expressed myself badly, but I did not mean that as no. But I did not mean this because then you see one can also express badly when excited, I did not mean that you understood me: look how presumptuous he thinks he is.
But tonight, I will sing one of the most beautiful songs in the repertoire of English music, I feel embarrassed, and I apologize because I got sick. I made myself like this, see you see I don’t think about it but I don’t is that okay?
Before we begin, how about a little inspiration!
Enough inspiration! Let’s move on!
So, now to the pasta I chose is: Pasta cacio e pepe – Pasta with Cheese & Pepper
This is a fast and fragrant dish made with a few ingredients:
Pasta of your choice – I would use spaghetti or thin spaghetti (Thanks to Pat Farley, I now know that Verrigni pasta is available on Amazon.)
Pecorino Romano Cheese
Peppercorns grated – you can substitute Black Pepper
Boil the water for the pasta with a little salt, since the Pecorino Romano Cheese is already very salty. When the water is boiling, add the pasta. Check the cooking time on the box.
In a frying pan, heat a drizzle of oil with a grated pepper. This will emphasize the smell and taste of the pepper and give more taste to the dish. Add some of the pasta water – about a cup. Be careful adding the water. You are pouring the water into oil. Do it slowly and carefully.
When the pasta is halfway done (soft but not ready to eat), remove it from the water but do not throw the pasta water out. Add the pasta to the frying pan. It will finish cooking in the frying pan.
Mix the pasta well with the pepper and oil mixture in the frying pan. From time to time add a ladle of the pasta water until the pasta is al dente (to taste). Always leave some liquid in the bottom so it doesn’t burn.
Turn off the stove. Add pepper. Mix quickly. Now start incorporating the Pecorino Romano Cheese little by little turning the pasta as you add it. The cheese will be melting. Add more cheese only after the previous one has melted.
Transfer the Pasta to a serving dish, sprinkle with more cheese and pepper if needed. The pasta must be served when hot. If you let it lay it will get sticky.
I do hope this is something you will enjoy, and I wish we could share it with Gianluca.
Serve with red or white wine. Of course, my choice, as you know, is always Montepulcino d’Abruzzi!
I started this story by saying Gianluca is hard to read but what I do know for sure is every meal for Gianluca is a production! When he goes to dinner, he tells us about every course of every dinner! So, we may not be Cooking Abruzzo Style with Gianluca, but we sure do know what he eats when he goes out to dinner! One order of Sushi please! It’s in every meal.
When asked which Morricone song he preferred, Gianluca said, “The Ecstasy of Gold.”
One Final Note:Some of you have heard about Nonna Maura’s accident and have asked me for information on her condition. Thanks to Daniela, who has been in touch with her, we know, she is better, so to speak. She is recovering nicely!
Daniela said, “when she called her two nights ago, she was very cheerful. Daniela told her about all the messages and prayers for her speedy recovery and she was very happy and greets all of you!”
Please continue to pray for Maura to have a quick recovery!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
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