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Walnuts-flavoured "lasagnole" of Francesco Gaudenzio, cook and jesuit of the XVII century

(Lasagnole al savor di noci di Francesco Gaudenzio, cuoco e gesuita del XVII secolo)

  • 400 grams of "lasagnole" (a type of pasta)
  • 300 grams of minced veal
  • a chopped mixture composed by:
    1 white onion
    2 carrots
    1 garlic clove
    1 rib of celery
    some branches of parsley
    a bunch of thyme
    4-5 spoons of olive oil
    the skin of a big lemon (but just the yellow part)
    1 meat stock cube
    200 grams of walnut's kernels
    1/2 litre of skimmed milk
    nutmeg
    powder cinnamon
    sugar
    Parmesan cheese
    white pepper
    salt
Take a saucepan and put the bunch of thyme, oil and the chopped vegetables, let them cook on a slow fire (without browning), very sweetly, turning and continuously scraping the bottom of the pan, for 40 minutes or, alternatively, until the chopped vegetables will not be too much cooked. Add the meat, turn and mix, cook this meat on a slow fire together with the chopped vegetables and the bunch of thyme, turn very carefully in order to avoid anything would attach on the bottom of the pan or become coloured, and cook for, at least, 15 minutes.
Boil the milk and let it cool down; put it in the blender together with the meat stock cube, the first 100 grs. of butter and the skin of lemon. Mix these ingredients but without disintegrating them, grate 1/4 of nutmeg, add 1/2 tea spoon of cinnamon and one big spoon of sugar, mix a little bit more, pour this mixture in the saucepan, which is boiling very slowly.
Increase the heat a little bit and then, turning and carefully mixing, adjust the heat in order to have a sweet boiling; let this stuff cook for at least 30 minutes, covering the pan with a lid and taking care anything would attach on the bottom of the pan.
Then add this mixture and, if necessary, add some more salt and sugar in order to have a very light bitter sweet flavour, after having turned the mixture, switch off the heat.
Cook the pasta (it does not have to be too much "al dente"), drain it (but not too much) and then drop it in a soup tureen and season it with abundant "savor di noci", turn it very well diluting (if necessary) with some more cooking water of the pasta, then cover with some more abundant "savore" and uniformly spread the grated Parmisan cheese and the remaining 100 grs of chopped walnuts.
Once the pasta is served in the dishes grind the white pepper over the "lasagnole" with the aid of a pepper grinder, in order to enrich the flavours bouquet and to brighten up the light bitter sweet flavour with a pungent note.
This is a recipe dating back to 1600 (Francesco Gaudenzio) in our very personal current transposition, but in the maximum respect for the original version. Thanks to its delicate tastes and its involving flavour, it represents a real example of sensational blunder, which has envolved the plethora of "philologists" who, for decades, according to a "paying" fashion, have raged in the field of cooking "pubblicistica" (but also in the field of non-fiction), and they have always defined difficult to eat ancient recipes. We would like to demonstrate that the execution of an old text cannot be faced in a superficial manner, carrying out the indications of centuries ago in a non-critic way. There are too many things which separate us from the past times, such as working methods, technical instruments, heat production, cooking tools, foods features and properties, conceptualism of the excellent taste parametres, the concept of cooking and eating inside the society and inside some environments (for example the court of princes and noble men), which brought to some preparations.
For our current proposal it is very fundamental the first stage of cooking, that means the browning of the chopped vegetables, that we have indicated with the term of "cooking on a slow fire": we would like to mean stewing, a complete change from raw to cooked, in a quite insensitive manner. It is the same of the ripening of fruit with the sun; using a liquid (the oil) and a closed environment (the saucepan), it is possible to obtain the most advanced cooking, from a cultural point of view (the stew which is opposed to the roast, more primordial), different from the "browning", which characterized the first stage of all the sauces made with red meats. The type of cooking of this recipe allows to obtain a soft, light and delicate taste, both in the flavour and in the smell; it seems to be under a softened blanket.

A Giuseppe Alessi recipe
Translated by Gianna Toni
Picture by Kee-Ho Casati


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