I’m sure by now you figured out that Piero loves Pasta. So, I will make Pasta with Tomato Sauce.
In Sicily they use a very rich tomato sauce. But, before I get to the recipe, let me tell you a little bit about the town Piero lives in.
Naro is a small medieval town in the province of Agrigento,not far from the Valley of the Temples.
The hill town offers stunning views of the surrounding hills, all the way down to the sea.
This monumental city has a very ancient history, dating back to theSicani, the most ancient inhabitants of the island. According to ancient Greek writers, Sicans, where the original inhabitants of central Sicily. The Greek historian Thucydides believed the Sicani to be Iberians from Spain who were driven out by the invading Siculi into the central parts of the island. (From Sicans and Siculi derives the name Sicily.) They were also invaded by Arabs, Normans and Swabians. We can find remnants of their presence everywhere: from the ancient city gate, the only one left from the seven gates, to the mosque which was transformed into a Norman Duomo. There is also an ancient Jewish quarter and the Medieval Chiaramonte Castle which rises high above the city.
The monuments, also, tell us about Naro’s important history. The city received the title Fulgentissima (Splendor) and had a seat in the Sicilian Parliament. There are many churches, in particular, the Church dedicated to Maria SS Annunziata (Our Lady of the Annunciation). Within the church we find many treasures including the statue of the Madonna of the Chains by Antonello and Giacomo Gagini.This beautiful church also has a medieval baptismal font.
Note:When the Spanish invaded they brought along Empanadas which Piero mentions in his story and calls by its Sicilian name “impanate.” This is how Piero described them, “Impanate are rolls of pizza dough with vegetables inside, a typical dish of my area.”
In Naro, there is an old tradition which says, “The righteous, before going to paradise, take a tour of the island to say farewell to seven ‘special’ places in Sicily: the Castle of Naro, which is windswept day and night;Caltabellotta,coiled up around the rock; Mount Erice, that looks towards Africa; Ustica,a small island in a green colored sea; Stromboli,the volcano that mingles with the waves; Ortigia,the ancient Greek island…” (I count six – I checked and couldn’t find seven). Piero, do you know what the seventh one is???
The most important event for the inhabitants of Naro is the Feast of San Calogero, the black Patron Saint, who is celebrated on 18th and 25th of June. In nearby Sciacca you can visit the Sanctuary of San Calogero.
Now to the Tomato Sauce.
I’m going to give you two recipes. One is the actual recipe with whole tomatoes. It’s wonderful if you want to do the work. The other is a simpler version which is very easy to make. The sauces in this region are very rich.
Tomato Sauce from the region of Agrigento
2 1/4 lb. of ripe tomatoes (you can use vine tomatoes or plum tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion sliced thin or diced if you prefer
fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pasta of your choice
Wash and dry the tomatoes, cut them in half and crush them. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan together with garlic, (If you were making this for Piero, you would have to leave out the garlic because he’s allergic to it.), onion and basil. Add a small amount of water. A half cup should do. Cook for about 15 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and puree them. I’m sure you don’t have a mill to puree so, I suggest you take a colander and place it over a saucepan. Add the tomatoes to the colander and crush with your hands. Be careful it’s hot. You could use a spoon to do this.
This will allow the sauce to flow through and what will remain are the skins and seeds. Next, put the tomatoes back in the saucepan, add oil, salt and pepper and heat over a low flame to thicken the sauce. Cook for 30 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil the water for pasta. Add salt.
When the water boils, add the pasta. Follow the cooking instructions on the box. Try to have the pasta ready when the sauce is ready.
Before I get to the simple recipe, I want to mention Strattu. Strattu is Sicilian word for tomato paste. The Sicilians jar their tomatoes in the summer for winter use. While doing this, they take some of the tomatoes and spread them out on a ceramic or wooden tray and leave it out in the sun for two – three days, constantly stirring it, to turn it into tomato paste. It takes about seven pounds of tomatoes to make one jar of strattu!
The first sauce I gave you the recipe for is a plain sauce that would be used alone or with fish. When making a pork (ex. sausage) sauce or any meat sauce (meat balls) you would add strattu (a couple of tablespoons) to it because pork will thin your sauce and, strattu gives it a thicker consistency.
Simple Tomato Sauce
In place of ripe tomatoes use one can of plum tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands.
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion sliced thin or diced if you prefer
fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pasta of your choice
In a saucepan heat the olive oil, add onions, garlic (remember Piero is allergic to garlic) salt & pepper. Sauté a few minutes and then add tomatoes. Now add the basil. After the sauce bubbles, lower the flame. Let it cook for 30 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil the water for pasta. Add salt. When the water boils, add the pasta. Follow the cooking instructions on the box. Try to have the pasta ready when the sauce is ready. If you want to make a meat sauce add tomato paste (two or three tablespoons) as a substitute for strattu. Serve with red wine. Of course, my choice, is always Montepulcino d’Abruzzi.
These days, Paul Larson published the interview he did backstage with Il Volo, for the PBS special recorded in Matera.
Here it is.
As recalled at the beginning of the video, Paul Larsen had interviewed Piero, Ignazio and GIanluca, for the first time, seven years ago, on the occasion of their first PBS Special, let’s review also, this interview.
They were really little kids.
Of course, if we look at the two photos, Paul Larson doesn’t seem like seven years have passed, but we see that Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca have left their image of little boys and are now handsome men.
But their sympathy and their humility is always the same, their heart is always full of affection and their skill has grown considerably.
Yes, after days of silence or old videos, finally, something new is happening.
There will be a nice surprise for Christmas day!
Piero has published this short video, which portrays him and Ignazio traveling, united, by train ……. destination ????
Immediately the fans began to investigate and among the various searches this news came out.
This news concerns the schedule of Rai 1’s Christmas day and if you read it carefully, you will see that at 08:30 pm (Italian time),there will be15 minutes of connection with Il Volo from Piazza S. Pietro in the Vatican-Rome.
So, Piero and Ignazio were probably traveling from Bologna to Rome to rehearse or record this beautiful event. Gianluca will come from a different and shorter road, but he will also be arriving.
What a nice surprise !!
In fact, the news was confirmed by this announcement of a Facebook page “TV Guide” which informs about upcoming television programs, and that I translate for you.
PREVIEW OF IL VOLO: AT CHRISTMAS IN THE VATICAN AND ON RAI UNO Among the many television presentations arriving in the coming days there is also the performance of Il Volo in St. Peter’s Square scheduled for the evening of 25 December. It will last a quarter of an hour and will be broadcast by Raiuno at 8.30 pm, immediately after Tg1 at 8 pm. Gianluca Ginoble, Ignazio Boschetto and Piero Barone will wish us a Merry Christmas by singing the classics of the Holidays.
We will see our dear Gianluca, Ignazio andPiero on Christmas Day, from the beautiful Piazza S. Pietro.Despite the anti-Covid rules, it will be a nice event in a Christmas atmosphere different from other years, but no less meaningless.
Even if the Covid situation raises a lot of concern around the world, here in Italy the tension is a little relaxed, even if we are always subjected to very strict rules, in particular always mandatory masks and distancing. From day 13, only one region remained orange, which means medium risk and that is Abruzzo. For this reason, the Abruzzo Region has published this video of Gianluca with this appeal:
Here are the words of Gianluca:
Hi everyone, I’m Gianluca Ginoble from Il Volo.
We all have a great responsibility, which is to secure fragile people, the elderly, but also young people suffering from pathologies, who without knowing it, every day, come into contact with positive asymptomatic people.
You too can participate in the Abruzzo Region screening project, only in this way, by doing our part, will we be able to contain the virus.
We need each of us, and you too.
Christmas is approaching, so let’s listen to this beautiful concert done in Assisi in 2013.
And now let’s laugh a little with this short video that I saw on Katrina Angelus Facebook.
Well, despite all our serious thoughts due to the current situation, let’s try to see the light, at the end of this year to forget.
We remember the beautiful moments of love and collective union, hoping that soon they will not be just a good memory.
Gianluca’s Pasta cacio e pepe – Pasta with Cheese & Pepper
Time to move on to Gianluca. He was a problem for me. 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?
I was listening to him speak with some friends on Instagram one day 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.
Let me say Abruzzo is known for its pasta.Why?
The pasta is made with the finest semolina and the water is from the Apennine Mountains. The water that flows down from the mountains is the best in all of Italy. Gianluca has talked about the Gran Sasso even in some of the concerts.
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.
GRAN SASSO D’ITALIA
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 hours’ drive from Gianluca’s town. We are on the Monte Maiella (known as the mother mountain) the second largest peak in the Apennines.
Before I go on, I would like to say a word about Gianluca’s town. Roseto degli Abruzzi (Roseto) is known for its beautiful beach. It’s called the Lido delle Rose (Beach of the Roses). Its beaches are pristine. It is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Adriatic Sea.
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.
A beautiful town to live in! I’m sure many of you have seen the videos of Gianluca’s house and garden. Isn’t that a beautiful view of the beach from his garden?
So, 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 (I don’t believe Verrigni pasta is available in the States. At least I haven’t seen it.)
Pecorino Romano Cheese
Peppercorns grated – you can substitute Black Pepper
How to prepare:
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 all share it with Gianluca.
Serve with red or white wine. Of course, my choice is always Montepulcino d’Abruzzi!
Ignazio’s Chicken Marsala and Tortellini with Pesto Sauce
When I read Daniela’s article on The Support of Il Volo about the porticoes of Bologna being nominated for recognition by UNESCO, I remembered that I did series on Cooking Il Volo Style and with Ignazio’s recipe I spoke about the Portico of San Luca. So, I decided to share this series with you again.
Today we will make Ignazio’s own recipe for Chicken Marsala. We actually have a video of him making it. But let’s start in Bologna where Ignazio was born. I decided to include a recipe from the Emilia-Romagna region.
Originally I made Gnocchi but in Daniela’s article Ignazio said on Sunday morning walks, with the family, in the center, under the portico there was lady who made fresh pasta and he said they would buy Tortellini from her. So, Tortellini it is!
Let’s begin with some history of Bologna where Ignazio was born and some history from Marsala where Ignazio moved to at the age of 10. Let’s start with Bologna.
Bologna is a city in northern Italy that is about a one hour drive north from Florence. Over the centuries, Bologna has acquired many nicknames: “La Grassa” (the fat) refers to its cuisine, in which the most famous specialties are prepared using rich meats (especially pork), egg pasta and dairy products, such as butter and Parmesan cheese.
To discover Bologna, we need to step back in time to the 6th century BC when it was known by the Etruscans as Felsina. It was one of the most important settlements in the Po Valley. Bologna has numerous archaeological remnants of an early civilization.
Eventually, Bologna fell to the Romans, a colony was set up and it was renamed Bononia. Its strategic position on the ancient Via Emilia road gave it a certain prestige in the area. During the Roman occupation of Bononia it is believed that as many as 20,000 people lived there.
When the Roman Empire declined in the 5th century AD, so too did the city. The city was sacked and variously groups such as the Goths, the Huns, the Lombards and the Visigoths occupied it. Bologna’s fortunes declined but, it managed to slowly regain its former political and economic stability.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the city expanded and extended beyond the confines of its defensive wall. It was in the mid-18th century that the Portico of San Luca was built. The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is known for its porticos. In all the cities the shops are covered by porticos so you can shop in any weather. Entire blocks are covered by porticos. The most famous being the Portico of San Luca. The history is quite long but briefly, the portico was built to protect the painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus (which is believed to have been painted by St. Luke) as it is processed from the Basilica of San Luca on the top of the mountain to the Basilica of St. Peters in the city center. The Portico was built to protect the painting from the rain. This procession happens every May. The San Luca portico is the longest covered walkway in the world.
Let’s turn to Marsala where Ignazio moved to when he was 10 years old.
Marsala is a town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily. It is built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city of Lilybaeum, and within its territory is the archaeological site of the island of Mozia, an ancient Phoenician town. (Mozia is a small island, formerly known as Motia and San Pantaleo in the Trapani province, in Sicily. It lies in the Stagnone Lagoon and is generally included as a part of the commune of Marsala.)
The Carthaginian army set out to conquer Selinunte in 409 BC and landed and camped near the site of the later Lilybaeum. In 397 BC when the Phoenician colony of Mozia on the southwestern coast of Sicily was invaded and destroyed by the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius I, the survivors founded a town on the mainland nearby, the site of modern-day Marsala, which they called by a Punic name meaning “Town that Looks on Libya.”
Many armies invaded but, with the arrival of Arabic Berbers at the nearby Granitola mount the rebirth of the town started. The town was renamed Marsala. The modern name, Marsala, likely derived from the Arabic (marsā llāh)“God’s Harbor.”
Since the end of the 11th century, the area has been conquered by Norman, Angevin and Aragonese troops. During this time, Marsala became wealthy, primarily through trade. However the blocking up of the harbor of Punta Alga, decreed by Emperor Charles V to stop Saracen forays, brought an end to this period of prosperity.
The development of Marsala wine at the end of the 18th century, headed by English merchant John Woodhouse, from Liverpool, who exported the fortified wine, triggered an economic expansion in Marsala. Other English and Sicilian businessmen followed his example, and it was in fact one of these men, Joseph Whitaker, who began excavating and piecing together the history of Marsala.
The history of Bologna and Marsala are long and rich and, it would take too long to talk about here. Take the time to look it up. It’s interesting!
Now to the recipe. The first recipe today is Tortellini with Pesto Sauce and I’m going to make this very easy for you.
Tortellini is a ring-shaped Italian pasta stuffed with cheese or meat that is most traditionally served in broth. For our recipe we are using Pesto Sauce but, many people make it with tomato sauce. It can also be made with a tomato sauce with mushrooms or meat. Tortellini originates from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and it is particularly associated with Bologna. (Just a note Pesto Sauce has pine nuts in it so, if you are allergic to nuts or tree nuts perhaps you shouldn’t eat this.)
Tortellini with Pesto Sauce
Tortellini – there are different kinds of Tortellini. The most common is stuffed with cheese
Pesto Sauce in a Jar (Pesto Sauce has pine nuts in it so, if you are allergic to nuts or tree nuts perhaps you shouldn’t eat this.)
Boil the water for the pasta. Add a handful of salt to the water. This will prevent the Tortellini from sticking together. When the water boils, throw in the Tortellini and follow the cooking instruction on the package.
For Pesto Sauce just open the jar and add it to the pasta. It is not necessary to heat. The hot pasta will heat it.
Now to Ignazio’s Chicken Marsala!
It’s easy to make Ignazio’s chicken.
The ingredients are:
Chicken Cutlets (not too thinly sliced)
Just a pinch of Cinnamon
In a frying pan add olive oil, salt, Marsala Wine (be careful when you add the wine because it is alcohol and it could flare up) and a pinch of cinnamon. Keep the flame low until the Marsala is in the pan. Then slowly raise the flame but not too high. Dredge the cutlets in the flour and shake them off so you don’t have an excess of flour. When the liquid in the pan starts to bubble carefully, add the cutlets to the pan (you’ll see in the video when Ignazio added the cutlets, the liquid splashed back). Judge for yourself when it is done. Chicken cooks quickly.
Quick, easy, wonderful dinner! Don’t forget the wine. You can drink red or white wine with Tortellini and Chicken Marsala. In Sicily they drink De Bartoli wine from the De Bartoli Winery in Marsala.(I don’t know if we are related even though I know some members of my family went to Marsala in 1800 – 1850). For me it’s always Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. What can I say? My mother’s family is from Abruzzo!
By the way, I know Ignazio is Vegan but, I think he would be happy if we tried his recipe which he made for the guys when they lived in LA.
Credit to owners of all photos and videos.
Come in and share the love of life, friends and Il Volo!