26 February 2009

La Terra Fortunata

“There are people everywhere who form a Fourth World, or a diaspora of their own…. They can be Christians or Hindus or Muslims or Jews or pagans or atheists. They can be young or old, men or women, soldiers or pacifists, rich or poor. They may be patriots, but they are never chauvinists…. When you are among them you know you will not be mocked or resented, because they will not care about your race, your faith, your sex or your nationality…. They are exiles in their own communities, because they are always in a minority, but they form a mighty nation, if they only knew it. It is the nation of nowhere, and I have come to think that its natural capital is Trieste.”


Trieste is one of my favorite cities. It reminds me in a many ways of New Orleans. Both sit on the water, both have wonderful seafood, and both have a schizophrenic history. Trieste is part Italian, part Germanic, part East European and as Jan Morris points out, "the capital of nowhere".

La Terra Fortunata by Fred Plotkin looks at the history and food of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the northern most province of Italy, the Italy of Trieste.

This recipe is one of those recipes you read and think -- no way. Then you run across someone who makes it and you reluctantly take a bite. From that moment on, you can't believe you never make it for yourself. Be forewarned, this is one of those dishes that tempts you to grab a gigantic bowl and spoon. Well, a little goes a long way. Serve it with a sweet pork roast or a plain roasted chicken.

Penne con Ricotta e Cannella

Pinch of salt
1 pound penne
12 ounces fresh ricotta
2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Set a large pot of cold water to boil. When it reaches a full boil, add a pinch of salt. When the water returns to a boil, add the penne and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. One minute before the penne is supposed to be done, test one and decide for yourself how much more cooking you need.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Put the cheese into a large bowl (big enough to contain the hot pasta). Stir the cheese with a wooden or plastic spoon for a minute to make it more creamy. Add the cinnamon and stir in well. Taste for sweetness and, if you wish, stingily add a little sugar and cinnamon. Add one tablespoon water from the pasta pot and stir into the cheese to make it creamier. You might wish the sauce to be even creamier, in which case you should then stir in another tablespoon hot water.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander but leave a little hot water clinging to the penne. Transfer to the ricotta sauce, toss well and serve immediately.

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