Think Italian food is just pizza and pasta? Think again

Caponata: The fllavour-packed 30-minute Sicilian dish we should all be eating
Caponata: The fllavour-packed 30-minute Sicilian dish we should all be eating


I often ask friends about their favourite cuisine, and it’s surprising how many of them immediately answer: “Italian.”

I, too, am very partial to good Italian food, and often gravitate towards an Italian restaurant in a town where I’m not familiar with the foodie scene. For a relatively small country, the variety of recipes and styles is amazing.

From one town to the next, and from one valley to the next, there is a different spin on even very familiar dishes like Bolognese sauce and pasta Carbonara.

Millions around the world assume that Italian food is all about pizza and pasta, and stay stuck in this much-trodden culinary rut. And it’s true that most Italian restaurants catering to tourists in their own country, or to diners abroad, tend to stick to safe dishes familiar to the foreign palate.

I learned the basics from an Italian friend years ago, and then went on to expand my repertoire. What I like about Italian cooking is its simplicity and its use of fresh ingredients. Olive oil is central to most dishes, especially in the south.

In Sicily, if some household has neither wine nor olive oil, neighbours will wonder what’s wrong with them. Giorgio Locatelli, owner of the Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli, star of TV cooking programmes, and author of several cookbooks, is an expert on olives, and claims that Sicily produces the best ones.

Locatelli, for Good Things Magazine
Locatelli, for Good Things Magazine

He uses them and the oil they provide in many of his recipes. In his recent book Made in Sicily, he writes: “Italian food is much more than just pizza and pasta.”

“When you take away the twigs and leaves and press the olives into paste you have to separate the olive oil and water, which is done in a centrifuge which pulls the oil to the top. And that is it. The first, cold pressing is what gives you virgin oil, and provided it has an oleic acidity of less than one percent, it can be labelled extra virgin oil which is the very best quality.”

“If an oil is just labelled olive oil, it will be a blend of virgin oil and inferior oil that has been refined in some way, or the oil will have been extracted using a faster process which involves heating…”

However, when Locatelli deep-fries something, he uses vegetable oil as olive oil has a lower smoking point, and its chemical composition is transformed into a less beneficial cooking medium at very high heat.

One trick I have learned from Locatelli is to reserve half a cup of the water I have boiled the pasta in, and later pour it into the finished dish when you are tossing the sauce with the pasta.

Here’s a recipe for Truck Drivers’ Pasta that is quick, simple and filling:

For 400g of spaghetti, you’ll need 450g of chopped ripe tomatoes, two tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil; two garlic cloves, finely chopped; 10 basil leaves, finely chopped; five mint leaves, finely chopped; salt and freshly ground pepper to taste; and 80g of freshly grated Parmigianino cheese.

Put the chopped tomatoes into a bowl with the oil, chopped garlic and herbs, plus salt and pepper to taste, and leave to infuse for an hour.

Easy to whip up and delicious!
Easy to whip up and delicious!

Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil, add salt, and lower the pasta in gently. Cook until al dente, or just cooked, and drain, reserving a little of the water. Add the tomatoes, the cheese and toss well, using some of the reserved water from the pasta. Serve in warm, deep plates.

This easy but elegant dish showcases Italian cuisine in all its simplicity. As long as you have good quality tomatoes, you can’t really go wrong. By all means use canned tomatoes if you can’t get good fresh ones.

Buon appetito!

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 10th, 2017

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Documentary explores farming heritage of Italian migrants

Jacinta Dickins

FAIR GO: Minister for Multiculturalism Ray Williams with award winners Silvia Pianelli and Michele Grigoletti from the Migrantes Foundation. PHOTO: Supplied.

 FAIR GO: Minister for Multiculturalism Ray Williams with award winners Silvia Pianelli and Michele Grigoletti from the Migrantes Foundation. PHOTO: Supplied.

The film was titled ‘88 days on Australian farms: a journey through dreams, hopes and thoughts of young Italians in Australia’.

The Best Short-Form Feature was created by Michele Grigoletti and Silvia Pianelli from the Migrantes Foundation, and explored personal stories of Italian migrants working on Australian farms, with a focus on Griffith.

HARD WORK: A screenshot from the film which explores the Italian community's impact on farming in the Griffith area.

 HARD WORK: A screenshot from the film which explores the Italian community’s impact on farming in the Griffith area.

“The reportage help us understand why they have made that choice, where and with whom they live, how they feel, what they think about their future and what they expect from a country like Australia,” Mr Grigoletti said.

The documentary portrays the experience of many thousands of young Italians who left Italy to endure agricultural labour such as fruit and vegetable picking.

“It was excellent to hear that the majority of Italian migrants had such a positive experience in coming to Griffith,” Mr Grigoletti said.

“I know Griffith well and I know a lot of families there and reminds me of my home town in Italy. What I like about Griffith is it showed me hard work really pays off. I can see there is a difference in cultures, backgrounds and religions all living together and working harmoniously in a beautiful town.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Multiculturalism Ray Williams announced the winners of the 2017 Premier’s Multicultural Media Awards.

“I congratulate the winners for reporting on these important stories that often remain unheard in mainstream media,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Mr Williams said the winners demonstrated outstanding reporting on multicultural affairs. “One of the great strengths of our harmonious multicultural society is the variety and quality of our multicultural media outlets who serve their communities,” Mr Williams said.

Last year, 20,000 young Italians arrived in Australia on temporary visas, exceeding the number of Italians that arrived in 1950-51.

The video is part of the research “Young Italians in Australia: a journey, from temporary to permanent”(Giovani Italiani in Australia: un viaggio da temporaneo a permanente).

The story Documentary explores farming heritage of Italian migrants first appeared on Good Fruit & Vegetables.

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Why Travel to a Small Village in Italy?

Margie in Italy

Your Guide to Bella Italia

Savoca, Sicily Photo by Margie MiklasWhile traveling in Italy, I discovered the magic of visiting a small village. This travel off the beaten path allowed me to have a real feel for the people and to experience the local flavor of an area. With no crowds, I was able to see how the people live, listen to the stories they shared, and have incredible photo opportunities.

photo by Margie Miklas

While visiting the village of Colle d’Anchise, a small town of 900 in the hills of Molise, I felt like I was stepping back in time.

Italy Molise Photo by Margie MiklasA woman was carrying greens wrapped in a scarf on her head, a man was sweeping his doorstep with a hand­made broom, and a woman was outside cleaning fava beans, freshly picked from her garden.

For me this travel experience had no price tag, as I was able to see first­hand how real people live today in a place without all the modern conveniences.

Italy. Photo by Margie MiklasIn the nearby smaller village of Longano, the people shared stories of their lives, mostly in Italian and sometimes a little English. In fact I was surprised to learn that some of them actually knew any English. They were especially determined to tell me about any relatives in America, or about any of their own travels to other countries.

To outsiders, life may seem harder, despite being simple, yet the people I met seemed happy, and nobody was complaining or acting rude. Within minutes of arriving in the piazza in Longano, I could see that all the local residents who were outside, knew immediately that I was from someplace else.

They were very curious, asking questions about where I was from, and were eager to continue a conversation. I learned a lot from the local people regarding the simplicity of life and its relationship to happiness.

Italy. Photo by Margie Miklas
The value of these interactions was priceless and I wished I could stay longer. The more we talked the more they seemed to want me to stay. One man invited me and my family to return and stay for a month, promising a home­ cooked meal of pigeon.

Visiting a small non­ touristy village guarantees no crowds, the photo opportunities are endless. Around every corner there was another scene more interesting than the last.

Photo by MArgie MiklasThe men sitting on the church steps were pleased when I asked to photograph them. When I asked an older woman for permission to photograph her, she seemed surprised and asked “perche,” why, then smiled and allowed me to capture the magic of the moment.

Photo by Margie MiklasA visit to a little known place is full of surprises and never disappointing. The memories of the experiences with the people I met will remain with me for a lifetime.

Photo by Margie Miklas ItalyWhat are your experiences with visiting small villages? I’d like to hear your stories so please leave a  comment.

Grazie and Ciao

If you like this post you may be interested to read more about the many small towns and villages I visited during my 3-month solo travel adventure in Italy. Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy is available on Amazon.comin paperback and Kindle editions, and also Amazon.UK.

Memoirs of a Solo Traveler - My Love Affair with Italy


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