The kitchen at Eccelsa School is buzzing with excitement. We are enthralled by Domenico Maggi’s relaxed presentation style. Now he’s talking passionately about simple Apulian dishes, made with local ingredients like eternal tomatoes whose longevity is anything up to nine months. Intense flavours burst in the mouth.
He starts by explaining the pasta. In this region no eggs are binding the mixture – it’s just water, hard wholemeal flour and durum wheat (this is rich in glutein and binds the mix). Some chefs use 30 egg yolks to 1kg of flour, cholesterol rich, no good for health, Maggi explains. This region was very poor and people just used what they had. Eggs were extravagant. We have a go at making our own and I tried when I got back to the UK but it just didn’t seem the same.
Recipe 1 – So long as you use the best ingredients you’re onto a tasty winner. For the sauce, you can use any local veg you like. As usual you start by frying off onions in virgin olive oil. You don’t have to use garlic either if you don’t want. Just make sure you season well. Then add your tomatoes and any other ingredients you happen to have around such as mushrooms, aubergines etc.
When boiling the pasta, it’s extremely important to use a very large pan of salted water so that there is plenty of room for it to move around. Using a colander to remove it and keeping the boiling water for recipe 2, add the PASTA to the base sauce, not the other way around. Toss the mix well and add chopped herbs. Add grated Parmesan to finish.
Recipe 2 -Boil the turnip tops until they are tender this time in the pasta water you kept from the last dish. (Domenico explains that normally you would cook the veg ‘al denté’ (having bite) but this time the veg are becoming part of the sauce and need to be soft so they become part of it.) Meanwhile, in another pan fry garlic, dried chilli flakes, chopped tomatoes and anchovies with plenty of olive oil to make the base sauce. Then remove the Chimé di Rapé (turnip tops) from the water with the sieve or colander and add it to the sauce. Season well. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.
So there you have it – quick, affordable, healthy and easy cooking. Love it. Thanks Domenico.