Tag Archives: Antonello and Giacomo Gagini

Cooking Pasta for Piero by Susan

Alas! Piero doesn’t cook! I think during quarantine he learned how to use the microwave. In an IG conversation with his friend, singer, Anastacia, Piero mentioned that during quarantine, his mother was cooking for him every day. It’s so nice when mom’s your neighbor!
Piero may not cook but being a good Italian, he knows what’s best to eat ~ Pasta!

I’m sure by now you all figured out that Piero loves Pasta. And as part of his regular routine, he eats pasta three hours before a performance. How do we know this? Piero talked about it in “Un’avventura Straordinario, La Nostra Storia.”

As you know when the guys were young, they traveled with one of their parents at all times. In his story, Piero recalled an incident in Cuernavaca, Mexico…..
I remember my father talking to the Mexicans while he cooked me the pasta. Because before singing, three hours before, I always eat a hundred grams (approx. 3 ½ ounces) of tomato and basil spaghetti. I love that moment.
He (Piero’s father) comes in the dressing room, brings me the spaghetti made by him (we bring the packages from home). And that year he started explaining to the Mexicans how spaghetti, tomato and basil were cooked.
So, Gaetano, Piero’s father, introduced the Mexican cooks to spaghetti in tomato and basil sauce.

In Sicily they make a very rich tomato sauce and with this sauce we will be Cooking Pasta for Piero.

But, before I get to the recipe, and another little surprise, 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 the Sicani, 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???

One of the most important events for the inhabitants of Naro is the Feast of San Calogero. The Patron Saint is celebrated on 18th and 25th of June. In nearby Sciacca you can visit the Sanctuary of San Calogero.

Now before we go to the Tomato Sauce, how about as little inspiration?

I always include this picture because Piero looks like one of my ex-boyfriends in this picture. Whenever I include it and say who he looks like, I get a hundred messages and emails! Let me save you the trouble! The answer is no and none of your business. Kind of the same answer I give you when you ask about the girlfriends of our guys!

Moving on! Concentrate ladies!
A little music to entice you!

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
salt
pepper
pasta of your choice
Preparation:
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 a 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 is the recipe for is a plain sauce that would be used alone or with fish. When making a pork (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.
Strattu is tomato paste. You can buy tomato paste in your local grocery store.

                                                  Their Version

                                                    My Version
Simple Tomato Sauce
In place of ripe tomatoes use one can of plum tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands. Or crush them with a potato masher but, make sure to poke the whole tomato before crushing it otherwise it will squirt back in your face.
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion sliced thin or diced if you prefer
fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper
pasta of your choice
Preparation:
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.
Buon appetito!
Dinner Music!

Now for my surprise!
A while back, I learned that Piero likes Pizza Margherita. Sorry, I don’t make pizza. My mother did but it’s not something I picked up from her. So, my advice to those who don’t make pizza, order from your local Pizzeria. They all make Pizza Margherita.
On Friday’s I always order pizza and the kids come over and we have dinner together. During COVID, this was not possible because it would require everyone coming to my house and we would exceed the 10 people limit so, we decided to share our pizza together on SKYPE.
For those of you who are brave, here’s the recipe for Pizza Margherita:
Don’t make the dough, pick it up from your local pizzeria or local bakery. Just ask for pizza dough.
Toppings:
2 Cans of diced tomatoes, drain some of the juice
Fresh basil to taste (for me I can’t get enough of it)
8 Cups of Shredded Mozzarella (you can use skim mozzarella if you like)
½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon salt (go by your taste but don’t get carried away)
1/8 teaspoon pepper (go by your taste but don’t get carried away)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Stretch out the dough and spoon the tomatoes on it. Top with Basil, Oregano, Mozzarella Cheese, Pepper Flakes, Salt & Pepper. Drizzle oil on top.
Bake in a 450-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. ~ Does that sound right Ignazio?
So where did the name Pizza Margherita come from? Margherita of Savoy (Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna) was the Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy by marriage to Umberto I. According to legend, in 1889, the Margherita pizza, whose red tomatoes, green basil, and white cheese represent the Italian flag, was named after her.

After I finished this story my dear friend at Flight Crew, Daniela Perani, sent me a picture of herself standing in front of this portrait of Margherita of Savoy. She was at the museum in Palermo.  She didn’t know I wrote this story. What are the chances?
Enjoy the pizza!

When asked “what is your favorite song from the Morricone album,” Piero answered, “Being from Sicily, I would have to say ‘Se,’ from the movie Cinema Paradiso.”
So, let’s listen to the guys sing this amazing song!

 

I hope you liked Cooking Pasta for Piero and I hope you try to make Pizza Margherita. As to me, I will leave the pizza making to the expert, Ignazio, as I’m sure Piero does!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
If you would like to share a story with me, please email:  susan.flightcrew@yahoo.com
To read more Il Volo stories visit us at www.ilvoloflightcrw.com
Credits to the owners of Photos and Videos.
Excerpts from: Il Volo, Un’avventura Straordinario, La Nostra Storia