I really enjoyed a pasta making demonstration by Carmela Sophia Sereno at the New Bookshop in Cockermouth and loved her book-Southern Italian Family Cooking.
Carmela is very engaging and amusing -a more down to earth sort of Nigella without the affectations and irritations of the latter.
From an Italian family she is influenced by her mother and grandmother’s cooking and has then developed her own style and recipes. Her business ‘Carmela’s kitchen’ has blossomed from teaching in her family kitchen to large scale demonstrations, radio shows and pop up kitchens as well as writing books. Happily, she is enjoying a whirl wind of activity at the moment despite having 4 bambinos at home. I was exhausted just listening to her.
We watched as Carmela made basic pasta, with the speed of someone who does it all the time and knows what she is doing even though she only had a tiny table to work on in the middle of a bookshop! She showed us how to cut all the different shapes and sizes with only some basic equipment. This was an impressive performance whilst keep up the constant chat, anecdotes and tales of her family’s cooking back home. Particularly impressive was the pretty, parsley lasagne-laying individual leaves on the pasta and them repeatedly passing it through the pasta machine until it stretched in situ. Holding the pasta sheet up to the light it did look like very pretty wall paper!
Carmela’s (first) book –SOUTHERN ITALIAN COOKING–simple, healthy and affordable food from Italy’s cucina povera is widely available. I liked it, not least, because it is a small paperback (A5 size) and simply printed, in fact just like a family recipe book. It doesn’t have the beautiful photographs you almost always see in cookery books nowadays and is all the better for it. These, dispiritingly, look nothing like the dishes that you will produce at home. Nowadays the camera, almost certainly, will lie. Her recipes are family friendly, easy to follow and you can really feel the echoes of home Italian cooking. I was intrigued by Carmela’s advice not to put cream in Spaghetti alla carbonara and tried her recipe to the letter (now that’s a first for me) and it was lovely and rich without it. It did remind me of when I travelled around the poorer regions of Italy many (many) years ago. I suppose over the time we have ‘anglicised’ Italian pasta dishes serving them with far too much sauce perhaps to disguise poorer quality pasta. Now I am going to try the lasagne without the béchamel sauce.
Also in the book are recipes for antipasti, homemade pizzas, soups, bread, risotto and biscotti, cakes and desserts including a special Tiramisu recipe from her grand-mother. I must give this a go, it must be one of the most popular Italian puddings made here probably incorrectly.
Get in touch with Carmela:
Buy Carmela’s book on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/q4uq233
Here is Carmela’s recipe for Spaghetti alla carbonara reproduced with kind permission:
Preparation time: 5 mins
500g packet spaghetti
4 tbsp olive oil
400g pancetta, cubed
2 garlic clove, crushed
70 Parmesan, grated (plus a little extra for topping)
1 large egg, plus 3 egg yolks
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp basil, chopped
- Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions in salted, boiling water.
- Fry the pancetta in a little olive oil with the crushed garlic until coloured.
- In a bowl mix the cheese, whole egg and yolks together and season with salt and pepper and add the chopped parsley.
- Drain the spaghetti and add it to the pancetta and garlic, then stir well. Stir the egg sauce into the spaghetti and add the chopped basil.
- The heat of the pancetta and spaghetti will cook the mixture as you stir.
- Serve in large bowls with the reserved grated Parmesan sprinkle over the top.
And my attempt, I hope that it does justice to this lovely, simple dish…..