Maureen B. Fant

discovering Italy through its food

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Department of language, manners, and mores

February 25, 2014

Tags: surveys, manners

I am always saying that people don't think about what words really mean. Here's the latest example.

For the umpteenth time a shopping website has interrupted my browsing to propose I participate in a survey. I always read the message in case they are offering a little thank-you prize, like some airline miles or (more…)

Sugo alla marinara

January 29, 2014

Tags: pasta, tomatoes, sauce

You've all seen the video of Lidia's recipe by now. Here's the one from "Sauces & Shapes."

For the condimento:

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound (450 grams) very high quality canned peeled tomatoes with their juice or red, ripe sauce tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, peeled and seeded
at least Ĺ teaspoon salt

Minestra di fave

January 21, 2014

Tags: soup, pasta, recipe, fava

Here's a nice winter recipe from "Sauces & Shapes" (page 258):

MINESTRA DI FAVE (dried fava bean and pasta soup)

for the soup:
1 pound 10 ounces (750 g) dried fava beans soaked 24-48 hours (depends on age)
1 large white onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Before serving:
8 ounces (225 g), or less according to taste, small (more…)


January 13, 2014

Tags: pizza, New York, De Blasio, table manners, ketchup, hot dogs

There's a thread on Chowhound (Food Media board) about Mayor De Blasio's use of knife and fork to eat pizza. Here's what I wrote yesterday. Link to the thread follows.

I grew up in Manhattan when pizza, at least outside Little Italy (AFAIK), meant a slice eaten with your hands standing up. I used (more…)

More about the timballo

January 3, 2014

Tags: pasta, capodanno, new years, pasta al forno

In I think 2004, or maybe ought-three, I was working on a book about Rome for Williams-Sonoma. They wanted a baked pasta and the first thing that came into my head was bechamel-mushrooms-prosciutto-peas, why I don't know. Then I said, oh no that's too retro, but by then they had said they loved the idea (more…)

Il timballo di San Silvestro

January 1, 2014

Tags: pasta, capodanno, new years

For some years now Franco and I have been inviting friends, and their friends, to come on December 31 for a buffet supper. As New Yearís bashes go, itís pretty tame, but we pop the midnight corks on our roof terrace just opposite the Colosseum and watch the fireworks that successive city administrations, (more…)

What's "the Italian way"? 1

November 29, 2013

Tags: pasta

I've been in the US for a couple of weeks now mostly launching the book I wrote with Oretta Zanini De Vita, Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way, published last month by W. W. Norton.

So what do we mean by the Italian way? Here are a few of its elements. More to come in future posts.

- Don't overdo it on the sauce. The pasta is the main attraction. The sauce is the condimento. The pasta is not an excuse to eat sauce. Just get a spoon.

- Don't get into a substitution mentality. To lower the cholesterol of recipes you deem unhealthy, simply look up broccoli or beans in the index, don't mess with the carbonara formula. When we call for pork fat, it's usually necessary. If you can't get salt-packed capers locally, order them on the Internet.

- On the other hand, you can almost always substitute tomato puree for pelati or vice versa, for example, or eliminate the garlic if you don't like it. You can substitute a yellow onion for a white or vegetable broth for meat broth. But don't imagine you can substitute water-packed supermarket tunafish for good Italian or Spanish tuna packed in olive oil. Clear? The key to the apparent paradox can be found in the Italian word "snaturare" -- to radically change the nature of something. You don't want to snaturare the sauce recipe.

- Use enough salt in the pasta water. The metric formula is 1 liter of water to 10 grams of coarse salt to 100 grams of pasta. Add the salt before adding the pasta to the boiling water. You cannot "always add it later" -- it won't taste right.

Love Chowder

August 29, 2013

Tags: food, poetry

Maine poet Duff Plunkett has kindly let me reproduce some of his work. Please don't reproduce without permission.


Let us praise one fine chowder
Thick with fish in the drink of a broad bowl
We couldn't think praise any louder
Big spoons clink bottom catching it all

Thick with praise sung by (more…)

Rome on Sunday Evening

August 29, 2013

Tags: Words or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section

REVISED. It's getting harder and harder to eat anything but pizza on a Sunday evening. Here are a few ideas from the Gambero Rosso guide. The ones I've tried and liked have an asterisk. In addition, there are a number of hotel restaurants and pizzerias as well as a few wine bars and ethnics.

*Dal Bolognese (classic, upmarket, haven't been in years)
Al Bric (Campo de' Fiori) (never been)
*La Campana (I find it tired but often irreplaceable)
*Cavour 313
*Al Ceppo (upmarket, in Parioli, great food)
*Checco er Carettiere (Trastevere, stick-to-your-ribs Roman)
*Cul de Sac (wine bar, much love, much uncomfortable)
Il Focolare (Monteverde Vecchio; it's fine, just not fantastic)
Giggetto al Portico (the Ghetto classic)
*Giuda Ballerino! (Tuscolo; very good creative restaurant)
*Grano (upscale trattoria near the Pantheon)
'Gusto (hate it, but it's the 800-pound gorilla of off-hours eating)
Le Jardin du Russie (never been)
Mamma Angelina (Quartiere Africano) (never been)
*Montevecchio (adorable, near via dei Coronari)
*Il Sanlorenzo (stylish seafood place in via dei Chiavari)
*Tram Tram (San Lorenzo, chaotic but yummy)
*Vecchia Roma (P. Campitelli, beautiful, food is uneven)

Selected Works

Pasta is so universally popular in the United States that it can justifiably be called an American food. This book makes the case for keeping it Italian with recipes for sauces and soups as cooked in Italian homes today. There are authentic versions of such favorites as carbonara, bolognese, marinara, and Alfredo, as well as plenty of unusual but no less traditional sauces, based on roasts, ribs, rabbit, clams, eggplant, arugula, and mushrooms, to name but a few.
Food culture and recipes with fabulous photos
A personal guide to traditional eating and drinking in three cities
A to Z Italian-English lexicon of food terminology
The Classical World
A source book on ancient women
By Oretta Zanini De Vita