Arrivederci La Cucina Italiana

I'm sitting here, with a glass of gorgeous Cantine Sardus Pater Arruga Carignano del Sulcis Superiore 2007 aside the laptop.  That's a little naughty because, while I am cooking, it is barely lunchtime.  I've long been trying to think of how to bid farewell to 'a friend' who moved away permanently and didn't bother to tell me they were leaving.

Now you might be asking, "what kind of friend does this?".  I'm wondering too, I mean, were they really a friend after all?

This friend joined me and our family at many a meal and provided frequent inspiration for our dinners and gatherings.  We went shopping, bought clay bean pots, truffle shavers, Alessi cheese graters and sourced organic cecceri together.  They were always a source of great advice that I used on trips to the Val d'Aosta, Piemonte and the Veneto. 

Given that history, you'd have thought they would have, at least, left a forwarding address.

This is pretty much what the publishers of La Cucina Italiana have done. It's been just over a year since they upped and r-u-n-n-o-f-t without so much as a cu-l8r. The website is gone and subscriptions have been forwarded to Bon Appetit.

I am not alone, there are a few others who were also a little upset at La Cucina's abrupt exit.  But, finding out that Conde Nast Italia has had 80% ownership for some time, it is not surprising, economic climates and all that.  But, from a country where the farmacia will gift wrap your prescriptions, in terms of customer service, this seems a severe contrast.  Let it be a cautionary lesson in typical customer service for Italophiles that live in the US or Canada, I hope this is the only bad experience you have with la belle paese.  As those who live in Italy know, it could be worse.  

Anyway. While my other half might define it differently, I have a modest collection of cooking magazines.  I buy some more loyally than others.  Of them, the one I, rarely, if ever, picked up, leafed through and placed back on the shelf was La Cucina Italiana.  It always managed to get into the basket.

And although I did frequent the LCI website as well, it was usually to get a quick recipe when I didn't have time or was too frazzled after a long day to remember which edition held the recipe I was after.  A website, while practically essential these days, was certainly no substitute for the glossy pages and recipes I went to again and again.  I understand that the internet age has made it easy(ier) to still get a recipe fix, but I find it somehow less satisfying to curl up with a laptop or other electronic device than a magazine with my cuppa.   

Magazine Mondays was born as a justification to use the piles of magazines and clippings in one Canadian kitchen.  It makes me wonder how many of those events and how many bloggers have included LCI references in their recipe reppetoire.

So, while the Italian original is still alive and eating well, the North American magazine and website are, sadly, no more.  I'm keeping a lookout for a website to resurface to ease the adjustment, and posts that may exist out there.. if you have one, I'd love to know about it.

Arrivederci La Cucina Italiana.

Ceci in Vulcania clay bean pot.

Pasta with Chickpeas

First, this doesn't have to be a 3 day affair, there are lots of more rapid versions of this recipe out there using tinned beans and the like, so no offense taken if you just want soup and not a multi-day project.  I soak dried beans overnight because we like the texture.  And second, I/we also have a preference for beans without the outer skin. So I go through the process to remove them.

Rinse 1 cup of dried chickpeas well and remove any extraneous bits (rocks or leaves).
Allow the chickpeas to set overnight in 3x as much water as chickpeas (3c)

In the morning, drain the beans and place in a pot (clay is great if you have one) with 1-2 crushed garlic cloves, a sprig of bruised rosemary and a bay leaf.  A coarsely chopped carrot and rib or two of celery along with other herbs you may favour are also fine to add. Slowly simmer this mixture until beans are tender but not mushy, about 2 hours.

When beans are cooked, remove form heat and cool. Now this part is optional: I remove the outer skin from the ceci.  This involves gently rubbing all the ceci between clean hands to loosen most and remove some skins, however, ultimately (and with all my free time), I pinch all the beans to make sure they are skin free.

When the beans are ready, you can start the soup straight away or refrigerate them overnight.

Pasta e ceci

Chickpeas (perpared as above) or from a tin
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or a mixture) - add a Parmigiano Reggiano rind if you have one
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stalk of celery, finely diced, no tough bits and strings removed
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 rasher streaky bacon or pancetta, finely diced
Few tablespoons of white wine
1-2 cloves of garlic

Combine oil and rosemary in a small saucepan; bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat. Remove and discard rosemary. Allow to cool.

Add diced bacon to a fry pan and cook on medium heat until brown, a little water gets things started nicely and simmers off to let the bacon brown slightly.  Add the onion and cook until transleucent.  Finally, add all the remaining diced veg to the bacon/onion along with a pinch of salt. Cover and cook until just soft and then add chickpeas with a grated clove of garlic.  Cook until fragrant. 1-2 minutes then top with broth.  This is where I move the mixture back to my clay pot I used to cook the beans.  Cook everything together so flavours can mingle - until it reaches a simmer.

Remove as much of the chickpea mixture as you like to to mash or puree.  I like to remove only anywhere from about 1/3 to 1/2 of the chickpeas and only mash, not a smooth puree.  Return mash (or puree) to pot.

At this point, depending on how you like your soup, you could eat as is, drizzled with a little of the rosemary oil and some garlic or cheese toast.. OR you can add pasta.

This can be done two ways, by adding the pasta to the pot with a little water to cook with the soup OR cooked separately and added to suit. I like the latter if this is made for a weeknight because it makes more than we can eat at one meal and I don't like the texture of the leftover pasta.  If it's for 4 adults, you could go ahead and throw it all in one pot for one less pot to wash.

Divide soup among bowls, drizzle with rosemary oil, fresh cracked pepper and chopped parsley. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano is always welcome.

Serve warm. 




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