After The Tito’s fantastic analysis of the struggles we’ve had to witness of Gaetano Castrovilli, I wanted to start a whimsical spin off series here on Viola Nation. We’ve had a few discussions in the comments that divulge deeply into food which as a chef for the past 16 years I cannot help but join in on.
How will it tie back to Fiorentina you might ask though? Afterall, we’re here to share in our love of the Viola right? I plan on looking at the roster, starting with our Italian born players and studying the region they are from. Italy is surprisingly diverse country, and the unique regional cuisine is incredibly well documented due to the global popularity of it. Think of this as an anthropologic and gastronomic dive into the various areas of Italy. Please feel free to share your stories or experiences!
The Place – Canosa di Puglia, BT
We’ll start with the namesake of the series, Gaetano Castrovilli. Raised near the banks of the Ofanto river in a town called Canosa di Puglia located 80 km north of Bari and 20 km west of Adriatic Sea. This region, Apulia or Puglia, is often affectionately known as the "heel" of Italy’s "boot." Holy Roman Emperor Federico II had a great love for the area and was even nicknamed Puer Apuliae (Pugliese Boy). His fondness of the region lead him to supposedly say, "It is obvious God never knew this land, this natural environment, otherwise he would never have given his people Palestine as the Promised Land."
Puer Apuliae’s chef was Mastro Berardo who was known to embrace the humble ingredients of the region such as borage, arugula, wild chicory and cardoncelli with simple preparations. This approach is still seen today and leads to a slightly ironic nickname of Cucina Povera (poor kitchen), a nod to the local’s frugal approach to food. This simplistic approach is really a practical presentation of honest dishes elevated by the natural ingredients of the region.
Overlooked like many Southern regions of Italy, Apulia has gained in popularity for tourists the past few years. Having 800 km of coastline, the most of any region in all of Italy, will certainly help. It does, however, have all the deep history and incredible scenery you’d expect of Italy. The wine has started to gain international recognition as well.
The Dish – Orecchiette con Cime Di Rapa
How can one start an Italian food series on a soccer blog and NOT go with a pasta dish right off the bat, amirite? While there is no documented proof that orecchiette originated from Apulia the locals will tell you that the shape is partly inspired by the trulli, the cone shaped huts found throughout the region.
Rapini or Broccoli Rabe is a slightly bitter cruciferous vegetable that has edible leaves, stems and buds that somewhat resemble broccoli or broccolini. While the resemblance is uncanny, Rapini is more closely related to a turnip than it is to broccoli (fun fact, broccolini is a hybrid between broccoli and gai lan). Rapini is thought to have originated in the South of Italy.
Below is a recipe that I have pulled from The Silver Spoon’s cookbook simply titled Puglia but many variations can be found online. The simpler the better would be my advice. I’ve paired the dish with a personal favorite red wine from the area as well. Also do not fret if you do not feel up to making your own orecchiette as you can find high quality dried options these days. I will say, however, that it is an easy date or family night kind of activity to work on together. Check out this video here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0K16WIal0k) to learn how to make them from scratch!
400 g semolina flour
200 g 00 flour (reserve some for dusting the table)
Pinch of coarse salt
200 g warm water
1 kg broccoli rabe
100 ml olive oil
1 small red chilli, seeded & sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
5 anchovy fillets, chopped
Salt & pepper
Mix the two types of flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center and then add your salt and enough water to form a smooth dense dough. Place on a slightly floured surface and cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a cylinder about 2.5 cm in diameter. Working with one cylinder a time, cover the remaining with a cloth. Slice one cylinder into rounds roughly 5 mm thick. Using a simple table knife, place the back of a knife on the edge of a round and push the dough towards you so that it curls around the blade. When you have rolled all the rounds in this way, carefully stretch each of them over the end of your thumb to make the shape of a little ear. Continue until the dough is used up. Set aside to dry for about an hour. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Blanch the broccoli rabe in salted boiling water for 1 minute and then drain. Heat some of the oil in a skillet or frying pan, add the broccoli rabe and fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until cooked through. Season well with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a separate skillet or frying pan and add the chili and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant. Stir in the anchovies. Add the cooked orecchiette and broccoli rabe and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with grated parmesan.
The Wine – Luccarelli Negroamaro 2018
The grape varietal, Negroamaro, is grown almost exclusively in the Apulia region. After genetic analysis it was determined to be the father of the popular California grape varietal Zinfandel. This lovely wine punches well above its weight with its depth but approachable flavor. A quintessential table wine that needs no time to air out. This will pair well with the bitterness of the rapini and the spice of the chilies.
Who’s Next? –
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments which player on the team I should research next. If you made the dish or drank the wine… please share your thoughts! And as always, Forza Viola!