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Alessi cuisine



Penne with egg plants and "old" parmesan cheese

(Penne con le melanzane al parmigiano vecchio)

  • 400 grams of penne rigate (a type of short pasta)
  • 800 grams of egg plants
  • a chopped mixture composed by:
    4 garlic cloves
    20 leaves of basil
    5 spoons of olive oil
    ½ glass of white wine
    a pinch of dried basil
    30 grams of butter
    50 grams of Parmesan cheese
Remove the stalk of the egg plants and peel them; cut them (along their width) in quite thick slices and lay them in a strainer sprinkling them with abundant kitchen salt; leave them one hour and more to clean their vegetation humour, which is not very agreeable. At the right time take them out (one by one) from the strainer, shake them very well in order to remove any remaining salt grains, press them very well to let the humour go out, humour which can be kept inside and cut them in pieces, not too small. Take a saucepan with a thick bottom and provided with a good lid, put the oil, the chopped mixture and the pieces of egg plant: mix them very well by turning them a little bit, let this stuff boil over a medium heat; the pan has to be covered with the lid because the ingredients should stew, but take care that anything would stick on the bottom of the pan, so that you should turn the stuff as less as possible in order the pan would be covered as long as possible and anything would disperse in smoke.
At the right time remove the lid, turn the stuff and, eventually, remove with care any crusts on the bottom of the pan; then add the dried up basil to strengthen this flavour which distinguishes this preparation, and cook, always over a medium heat for 10 minutes more, without the lid in order to condensate the flavour of the preparation, by turning very often and with care. When the egg plants will start to melt and will get coloured, bathe them with the white wine, turn and mix them, let evaporate for 5 minutes, then switch off the heat after having tasted the stuff (if necessary add some salt, but probably the preparation does not need it, also because the egg plants have to be sautéed with the Parmesan cheese). Cook the pasta and strain it "al dente", put a knob of butter in a frying pan together with 4-5 spoons of egg plants sauces, then pour the pasta and some spoons of its cooking water in order to facilitate the mixing, then a "dusting" of Parmesan cheese and one of black pepper; turn very quickly the pasta in the frying pan and serve immediately in the plates covering with some other Parmesan cheese.
This is another vegetarian first course, which would like to take advantage of the flavour of a vegetable and the aroma of a herb, and that's all. But the presence of Parmesan cheese results very important. It should be "old" like the real "grana": that means granulous. Please do not be deceived by the fashion, demagogically launched, of the "sweet" Parmesan cheese: if it is young it does not present all the characteristic flavours of the herbs that cows eat in the mountains. It is flat and too common in its taste, and furthermore, as it is not dry, it has not "yield" for the consumer, because it remains sticked to the grater. For sure it has more yield for the producer, because it does not lose weight (this happens if you mature and dry up the Parmesan cheese) and does not create any costs for the stock and the maintenance of the warehouses of maturation. For the producer the "sweet" Parmesan cheese is surely the best: but it makes you to consume it: "buone le patatine, dicea i' pret' a taola: ma 'ntanto mangiaa la ciccia!" (old Tuscany country saying).

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

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