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Kevin72

The Cooking and Cuisine of Campania

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In September, we are covering the cooking of Campania, whose best-known city is of course Napoli or Naples.

Do I really need to do best-known dishes? Pizza, calzones, pasta with tomato sauce, spaghetti with clams . . . it’s amazing how many mainstays are listed here. But then, immigrants from Campania formed a sizeable portion of those Italians who left the poverty of their home country for America and other destinations at the beginning of the 20th century, so their cooking naturally is at the heart of our “red sauce joints”.

But there’s much more to the cooking than tomato sauce and buckets of garlic (which is in an of itself a misunderstanding of the more delicate native Campanian cooking): the mountainous regions have hearty fare with goat forming a basis of their ragus. Along the coast, you have wonderful, herbal, light seafood and shellfish dishes. One of the isle of Ischia’s most famous dishes is braised rabbit, of all things.

Cookbooks listed as dedicated to Neapolitan cooking on Amazon:

Guiliano Bugialli's Food of Naples and Campania

The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania by Carla Capalbo

Naples at Table : Cooking in Campania

by Arthur Schwartz

Schwartz's book is really good; I don't have experience with the other two.

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For Q4, here’s how the voting’s shaking up so far:

Tuscany is in the clear lead and will most likely be the region up for October.

The runner-ups, conveniently, are Le Marche and Umbria. A couple people voted for doing a combo thread on both as I suggested. Pontormo came up also with the interesting idea that we do two threads in one month for these two. I still think that one of these two options is best, again due to the limited availability of resources for Le Marche in particular. That would leave both of them for November, or Le Marche in November, Umbria in December.

Should we do some sort of a combo, the bonus would be that in December, we’d get to do Emilia-Romagna, which a few people specifically requested for this month, and I think the two go well together with all the festive, Holiday eating.

Not to sway the group, of course, but that’s my opinion on how it should run. I’ll leave things open for the next week and everyone can PM me their thoughts, then we’ll come to a final decision.

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Hooray for Campania! It's maybe my favorite region of Italy. I love its hill towns and the gorgeous coast. I swoon over its history and unmatched archaeological sites. And as I wrote back in the spring, I'm absolutely in love with Naples, a gorgeous, thrilling city, with food as good as one can find anywhere in Italy.

I have a couple of Campanian cookbooks that I'm looking forward to using-- including one written by a friend's parents, who run a guest villa in Cuma and cook amazing food there.

I began the month last night. Taking advantage of the cooler weather that had followed Ernesto, I fired up the oven and made that crown jewel of Parthenopean cuisine, pizza Margherita. No pictures, I'm afraid; it all went into our hungry mouths before I even thought to bring the camera out.

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I'm really psyched, too, since there are still tomatoes and eggplants at the farmers' market. (I will be cooking Chinese & Spanish food this week, but catch up soon.) Not sure I'll be brave enough to coat an eggplant in chocolate, but I would very much like to push on beyond pizza and calzones, especially when it comes to seafood and cheese. Nonetheless, I hope that some of our eGullet experts would be willing to help us out with local traditions in making pizza and once there's a chill in the air, ragu.

I don't remember suggesting we combine Le Marche with Umbria, just Abruzzo & Molise. Hmmm. I say we stay with Hathor while she's still in Umbria in November. We can all use a break around Capo d'Anno and then wait till spring or summer of 2007 to solidier on into the remaining regions. I'd make a case for covering Trentino-Alto Adige in January or February, though, since some of us live in areas where it's been known to snow :wink:.

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very very psyched! I bought the Schwartz book a month ago and cannot wait to start cooking. The problem here, just like Sicily, is where and what to start. I mean so many things are from Napoli and surroundigs.

I made my first meal yesterday and will post as soon as time allows and pics are downloaded. hint: it is a baked item!

BTW, and I apologize for any Neapolitans here for this, but I am planning to break one rule Mr. Schwartz talks about quiet often. I am talking about the "ONLY use garlic OR onions, but not both in a dish"!!! I say that is nuts :smile: and in my book the two usually go hand in hand. so be forwarned, rampant rule breaking will ensue here and I will make sure to document it :hmmm:

Who besides me is up to making a nice Timpano? I am hoping to make one following Mario's recipe online towards the end of the month. Maybe prep the components seperatly and combine them and bake them the day of service.

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Even though my wife would probably want otherwise, I'm going to save timpano as a once-a-year, New Year's Eve only treat.

But, you DO have cause to celebrate, and I believe that Lynn Rosetto-Kasper even says in Splendid Table that it's traditional to serve a baked pasta for a new birth . . .

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I have a busy month ahead, but we'll do at least one multi-course meal. :smile:

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I kicked off Campania on Labor Day with one "inspired by" dish and one traditional dish.

The "inspired by" item was a pasta with a vegetable and mozzarella condimento, the idea taken from Marcella Cucina using broccoli and mozzarella. The broccoli is cooked to a falling apart stage and half is pureed in a blender to make the sauce. Then everything is tossed with pasta, mozzarella, and the cooking water to melt the cheese (this is the recipe where she declares her disdain for the "pasta roux" as she calls it: using the pasta cooking water to augment the pan sauce).

Instead, I used peeled red bell peppers, garlic, and chilies in the sauce, and added basil at the end; sort of a pepper-based Sorrento sauce, I guess:

gallery_19696_582_55619.jpg

The main was pork chops alla Beneventana, seared pork chops dusted with ground fennel seeds (standing in for fennel pollen) off the heat:

gallery_19696_582_52256.jpg

Broccoli with lemon and chilies was the contorno.

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Lovely food Kevin. The pasta looks great as does the -as Mario would call it- hammered broccoli contorno. As much as I respect Marcella, I certainly disagree with her opinion about pasta water. That pasta water trick is one of the coolest things I learned from watching/reading Mario.

I kicked off Campania with my wife's probably favorite thing to eat. She requested it as soon as she hear we're in beautiful Naples!

PIZZA MARGARITA!

My favorite pizza dough for this is J. Steingarten's recipe in his second book. It is a very loose dough rested in the fridge overnight. It is so loose you definitly cannot do that flying pizza trick, but it makes the lovliest crispy chewy dough ever. I do not follow any recipe for tomato sauce, I just use good quality canned tomatoes BOTH onions and garlic, dried oregano and some fresh basil.

I get the oven screaming hot for to bake the pizza and the oven is always lined with bricks for baking bread and pizza.

The pizza "mise"

gallery_5404_94_316128.jpg

Before baking topped with fresh mozzarella

gallery_5404_94_76218.jpg

Finished and topped with fresh basil

gallery_5404_94_180703.jpg

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Allow me to return the compliments on your food, FM. I used Steingarten also last year for my Napoli pizza outing and aged it overnight, as well, and it turned out the best of my crusts. I'll probably be proactive and head off my wife's inevitable pizza request this weekend, as well.

Do you do only the bottom with a pizza stone or one on top, as well? I only have the one and am perfectly happy with it, but I do wonder from time to time about how much difference a second one above would make.

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Do you do only the bottom with a pizza stone or one on top, as well?  I only have the one and am perfectly happy with it, but I do wonder from time to time about how much difference a second one above would make.

whoa, i never heard that idea before, and yet the concept makes so much sense i wonder how i've missed it.

i have an extra pizza stone and will totally do this next time. how far above should i put it?

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hmmm..don't know about putting bricks on top. It will probably help, but it's also a hassle to remove. Now, the bricks layer the bottom of the oven and they always stay there. I cannot say I am not intrigued tough, so next time I might try placing bricks on one of the racks as well.

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Maybe two racks up? I'd think not so close to burn it but not so far you don't get the effects . . .

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Maybe two racks up?  I'd think not so close to burn it but not so far you don't get the effects . . .

Exactly, because also if it is too close it will be pretty hard to use the peel and slide the pies in and out.

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Fresh air. Blue sea. Fish and fruit. Campania has been a tourist destination long before passports were needed. Somewhere, depending on your sources, between the 8th and 5th century BC, the Greeks arrived in Campania. The city of Napoli, or Naples, which means ‘new city’ was founded by the Greeks and is located on the Via Appia, which connects Rome to the Adriatic port of Brinidisi, gateway to Greece. The Romans annexed the area in the 4th century BC, and thus began the legend of Capri as an island of the rich and famous. Roman emperors, enamored with the fruit, vegetables and sea life, built fabulous villas around Naples, Capri and Ischia. Life was fairly stable until August 24, 79AD when Vesuvius erupted and destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabaie. The volcano taketh away, but in return it left the soil very fertile and productive.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Campania area is fought over by many nations and periodically falls under various foreign rulers. From around 1000 on, Napoli is a thriving city, the de facto capital of southern Italy and a center for art, culture and economic activity. Charles of Anjou lost control of Sicily in 1281, but retained the mainland territory of the Kingdom of Naples; which included the areas now known as Campania, Abruzzo, Molise, Bsilicate, Puglia and Calabria. In 1504, control of the Kingdom of Naples was ceded to Spain. Spain ruled the Kingdom from 1504-1713 and they did not do well by the area. Infighting between the church, Spanish and Italian nobility, widespread disease and famine caused this once rich area to suffer terribly. The Austrians move in around 1707, but don’t stay for long. By 1738, the area is back under the rule of the Spanish crown. In 1816, Sicily and Naples are merged into the “Kingdom of Naples”, and are under the rule of Ferdinand IV. By 1860, Garibaldi was unifying Italy and Campania formally joined the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

From a culinary perspective, Neopolitan and Sicilian cooking share a common background. Again we see the Arab influence with dried pasta, spices, rice, citrus, peaches, apricots and even the artichoke.

What did all this sunshine, wine, olive oil and lemons do the people of Napoli? I went to my trusty little 1931 Italian Touring Club Gastronomic Guide, and found this comment, loosely translated, “the city where one not only lives in the kitchen, but between orgies and baccanals, the city of gluttony.” The guide goes on to say that its not true; the Napolitani are ‘in love with a good table, they love singing and the sea, all because they are in love with everything that possesses poetry.” Now, that sounds good to me.

Maccheroni or Spaghetti?

Although the Napolitani will argue this point, they did not invent pasta. As we know, the absolute origin of pasta is still being debated. What the Napolitani did do, according to documentation from the beginning of the 17th century, was invent machinery for making ‘spaghetti luogo”. This was a crude machine, but if effectively made long, thin pasta that would be dried and sold commercially. This industry is still thriving, dried pasta from Napoli is currently exported and enjoyed all over the world. Try to find Gragano pasta if you can, it has a wonderful rough texture and absorbs flavors beautifully.

What’s the difference between maccheroni or spaghetti? It depends on where you are from: in southern Italy it generically means a long spaghetti. Other ‘long spaghetti’s” mentioned, and descending in size are: zitoni (ziti large enough to be stuffed), zita, mezzani, mezzanelli, maccaroncelli, perciatelli, bucatini, vermicelloni, vermicelli, spaghetti, vermicellini, spaghettini and finally, capellini. There will be a test on pasta sizes at the end of the month! In central and northern Italy, maccheroni (or macaroni) usually means a short pasta with a hole in the middle,

like ziti or penne.

The Golden Apple or Pomo d’oro

The Napolitani also did not invent the tomato, although they do worship at the altar of the red orb. It is not until 1750 that the tomato begins to show up in the gardens and on the tables of the regular inhabitants. The tomato plant just loved the fertile soil to be found on the sides of Mt. Vesuvius and Campania is home to many, many varieties of tomatoes.

One of the most popular sauce tomatoes is the San Marzano, a smallish, pear shaped tomato. The original San Marzano no longer exists, although through recent DNA research they are trying to bring it back. So, all those San Marzano tomatoes in a can that you pay extra for, are a recent development, not the original San Marzano. Just some trivia to roll around in your brain while you are in the supermarket decided if its worth spending the extra money. I still buy the San Marzano’s, I think they make the best sugo. Another tomato that has been showing up in the market lately is the “coure di bue”, a big, ridged tomato, it is excellent eaten raw. Here is a photo of some coure di bue with a little basil-ricotta on the side. It’s a perfect month to be studying the cuisine of Campania….there are tomatoes everywhere!

gallery_14010_2363_421959.jpg

Pizza

The guy who ‘invented’ pizza should get the Nobel Peace Prize. What other food is so internationally eaten and enjoyed? Everybody loves pizza in some form or another.

The origins of ‘pizza’ trace back to Ancient Rome, and the foccaccia oven or “picea”.

One of the first recorded recipes for the “Pizza napoletana” is found in the 1858 “Usi e costume di Napoli e contonrni”. Here is a rough translation of the recipe: “Take a piece of bread dough, and using your hands, shape it in a round form until it is the size of a head. Season with oil, lard, cook in the oven and eat it.” The classic pizza napoletana usually has tomatoes, anchovies, capers and mozzerella. Would the first person who makes this, please let me know? I’ll be right over. Napoli may be the birthplace of pizza, but it has found a home in everyone’s heart.

Mussels, Mussels, and more Mussels

Mussels, clams and oysters all play a huge part in the cuisine of this region. From the simple “Impepata di Cozze” (mussels, pepperoncino, parsely, lemon juice and some bread), to far more elaborate recipes, the mussel rules. The rest of the sea bounty is also treated well. A classic “fritture de pesce” might include small calamari, small whole fishes, little shrimp and big prawns. If fried food is going to kill me, this is how I want to die.

gallery_14010_2363_171973.jpg

Buffalo Mozzarella

This mozzarella really does come from the water buffalo. Honest. Its not just a brand name.

Campania raises 80% of the water buffaloes in Italy and as a result is one of the largest manufacturers of this type of mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella should be eaten within 24 hours of being made. Which brings up the argument: buy imported mozzarella or local? I’m just bringing it up, I’m not offering to settle the question. Buffalo mozzarella is recognized to be more delicate and flavorful than mozzarella from cow milk.

Fior di Latte mozzerella comes from a cow and has a very soft, more liquid texture. Its also delicious. Be careful when cooking with it as it may have more liquid than you bargained for.

Other Cheeses

Here are some Campania cheeses to be on the lookout for:

Caciocavallo: can come from either the water buffalo or the cow, smoked and unsmoked. Comes in a round shape with a little top knot. Legend has it the cheese were strung over a horses back and carried around. More likely it was tossed over a beam to age. In any event, I would like to formally dedicate the extra inch (one of the extra inches) around my hips to Kevin72 and his recipe for fried caciocavallo with oregano.

Caciorictta di capra: a soft, crustless goat cheese

Pecorino: sheep cheese, comes soft and fresh right up to mature and rip the lining off your tongue picante

Scamorza: Can come from the cow or water buffalo and traditionally is a bulging oblong shape with a rope around the middle, indicating what your waist will look like after consuming lots of this cheese. Comes smoked and not smoked, melts beautifully over roasted vegetables or a little bit of prosciutto.

I’ve only selected broad categories of cheeses, there are literally hundreds of variations on each of these cheese.

Meat

A quick trip inland and you will be eating lamb, pig and courtyard animals, just as you would in central Italy. The island of Ischia is famous for its rabbit dishes. Prosciutto is made in Pietraroja, in the province of Benevento. Good salamis are to be found throughout the region.

Emigration

Between 1899 and 1910, approximately 2,000,000 southern Italians emigrated to the United States. Conditions in southern Italy were extremely harsh, the populace was literally starving to death, jobs were rare as the industrial infrastructure found in the North of Italy was nonexistent in the South. This massive migration into the United States, and the immigrants desire for products and produce that they were familiar with, expanded the North Americans exposure to “Italian” cooking, and spaghetti and meatballs became a staple “Italian” meal.

All these things that we take for granted, that we might recognize as ‘generically” Italian, things like tomato sauce, pizza, dried pasta are the result of desperate people emigrating to the New World. They created quite a legacy, didn’t they?

Campania is rich in many things, it should be a very satisfying month for all of us.

Buon’appetito!

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Great summary, Judith.

Reading the section on cheese reminded me: if you can get hold of some buffalo ricotta this month (or any month), do it. It's a blockbuster cheese: sweet, rich and light at the same time, with a little bit of fruitiness, like apples or pears. It's tough to get in the US compared to mozzarella, but is absolutely worth it.

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The "inspired by" item was a pasta with a vegetable and mozzarella condimento, the idea taken from Marcella Cucina using broccoli and mozzarella.  The broccoli is cooked to a falling apart stage and half is pureed in a blender to make the sauce.  Then everything is tossed with pasta, mozzarella, and the cooking water to melt the cheese (this is the recipe where she declares her disdain for the "pasta roux" as she calls it: using the pasta cooking water to augment the pan sauce). 

You've got to be kidding me....the pasta water thing is one of the best vehicles for imparting flavor directly into the noodle. hmmmm...... :unsure:

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Don't get all excited. This is just a deserved word of praise to Hathor for a wonderful introduction, illustrated with the bufale and bufali that she and Ore made famous.

Okay, to make reading this worth the trip to the Italian forum, here's a nice little slide show of sorts demonstrating how to make mozzarella di bufala from scratch.

Kevin, I don't quite get what you said about Marcella's gripe unless the pasta water you added to your dish was in defiance. However, bravo for your status as the first to document a meal in this region.

And thanks, Elie, again, for more tips! I will consult J.S. to make pizza dough when I get around to it. Sigh, but the cheese just will not be the same :sad: !

* * *

I checked through Ada Boni and was surprised by her list for Quattro Stagione pizza. In Tuscany I am used to artichokes in one quarter, prosciutto cotto in another and then usually Margherita and olives for the other two. Is this a regional thing? She's got seafood which does make sense for Naples...


Edited by Pontormo (log)

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PIZZA MARGARITA!

I do not follow any recipe for tomato sauce, I just use good quality canned tomatoes BOTH onions and garlic, dried oregano and some fresh basil.

Hi

the sauce should not contain anything but salt if you really need to. It should be just made of crushed peeled San Marzano tomatoes. It should not be cooked.

In addition, the Margherita should not include garlic, onion and oregano.

Below is few example of my margherita, marinara and the crust consistency and structure:

gallery_24289_683_1106693500.jpg

gallery_24289_683_65704.jpg

gallery_24289_683_28326.jpg

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Kevin, I don't quite get what you said about Marcella's gripe unless the pasta water you added to your dish was in defiance.  However, bravo for your status as the first to document a meal in this region.

Either in this recipe or earlier on in the book, she goes on at length about the "roux" technique and how in her opinion it makes everything taste the same and too starchy. The only time she makes the exception is for that sauce, to help melt the cheese.

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My goodness, P.N., that Pizza looks fantastic! I long to be back in Napoli for la vera pizza napoletana.

I was under the impression that mozzarella di bufala had a higher moisture content than fior di latte, although the moisture content of both is proportional to their freshness. It is the moisture content of the bufala that requires an oven with a very high temp so that the crust doesn't get soggy.

In southern Campania, around Paestum in Salerno province all of the bufala is used. The meat, as one might imagine, is quite beeflike.

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My goodness, P.N., that Pizza looks fantastic! I long to be back in Napoli for la vera pizza napoletana.

I was under the impression that mozzarella di bufala had a higher moisture content than fior di latte, although the moisture content of both is proportional to their freshness. It is the moisture content of the bufala that requires an oven with a very high temp so that the crust doesn't get soggy.

In southern Campania, around Paestum in Salerno province all of the bufala is used. The meat, as one might imagine, is quite beeflike.

The Mozzarella di Bufala was drained for 12 hours

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PIZZA MARGARITA!

I do not follow any recipe for tomato sauce, I just use good quality canned tomatoes BOTH onions and garlic, dried oregano and some fresh basil.

Hi

the sauce should not contain anything but salt if you really need to. It should be just made of crushed peeled San Marzano tomatoes. It should not be cooked.

In addition, the Margherita should not include garlic, onion and oregano.

Below is few example of my margherita, marinara and the crust consistency and structure:

gallery_24289_683_1106693500.jpg

gallery_24289_683_65704.jpg

gallery_24289_683_28326.jpg

Darn it, I knew this was going to happen! :smile: I am not even going to think about arguing with a person named Pizza Napoletana about...pizza Napoletana. You are certainly more in the know about this than I am. I can only point you to my original disclaimer and apology and please apply that to Pizza Margarita too.

BTW, and I apologize for any Neapolitans here for this, but I am planning to break one rule Mr. Schwartz talks about quiet often. I am talking about the "ONLY use garlic OR onions, but not both in a dish"!!! I say that is nuts  and in my book the two usually go hand in hand. so be forwarned, rampant rule breaking will ensue here and I will make sure to document it 

On the bright side I did use very good quality San Marzano tomatoes and I used the onion/garlic/herbs very sparingly. I also have tried the no cook-pure canned tomato version before (granted not in Naples, but in my kitchen) and I prefer the one I make :unsure: .

What's up with the eggplant in chocolate sauce? I am so intrigued with this I might try it this weekend for a dolci course. Anyone tried it? thoughts?

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PIZZA MARGARITA!

I do not follow any recipe for tomato sauce, I just use good quality canned tomatoes BOTH onions and garlic, dried oregano and some fresh basil.

Hi

the sauce should not contain anything but salt if you really need to. It should be just made of crushed peeled San Marzano tomatoes. It should not be cooked.

In addition, the Margherita should not include garlic, onion and oregano.

Below is few example of my margherita, marinara and the crust consistency and structure:

Darn it, I knew this was going to happen! :smile: I am not even going to think about arguing with a person named Pizza Napoletana about...pizza Napoletana. You are certainly more in the know about this than I am. I can only point you to my original disclaimer and apology and please apply that to Pizza Margarita too.

BTW, and I apologize for any Neapolitans here for this, but I am planning to break one rule Mr. Schwartz talks about quiet often. I am talking about the "ONLY use garlic OR onions, but not both in a dish"!!! I say that is nuts  and in my book the two usually go hand in hand. so be forwarned, rampant rule breaking will ensue here and I will make sure to document it 

On the bright side I did use very good quality San Marzano tomatoes and I used the onion/garlic/herbs very sparingly. I also have tried the no cook-pure canned tomato version before (granted not in Naples, but in my kitchen) and I prefer the one I make :unsure: .

What's up with the eggplant in chocolate sauce? I am so intrigued with this I might try it this weekend for a dolci course. Anyone tried it? thoughts?

Onion and Garlic go very well in the Ragu sauce.....

About the cooked sauce preference.... I was in Pittsburgh-PA on a consulting trip and voice got around that a Neapolitan pizzamaker was in town.. I was invited at home of a lady with a wood oven because she was not able to use it properly. She prepared all the ingredient for us, and there it was: Cooked sauce with herbs.... Very politely I told her to cook some pasta and dress it with that sauce ;-) and then asked her for a can of San Marzano.... I crushed these by hand, did my pizza, and she went: "I did not realise could use uncooked sauce and get a pizza that taste better....."

Anyway, to conclude, about the Eggplant/choccolate dessert, I normally do a modern version, inspired by Don Alfonso restaurant, but quite changed by myself. It is sublime.. I only have bad picture of it, before I had a digital camera...

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P.N.-

I promise you, I will give the version with uncooked tomatoes a try. Who knows, maybe the prior time the tomatoes were off. I will try it with very good quality S Marzano and see.

About the eggplant, the recipe is from Naples at Table and I think the author credits Don Alfonso as the originator. Working from memory here, but I think it is slices of eggplant coated in a thick egg batter and fried, then layered with a bittersweet chocolate sauce. I'll verify when I get back home.

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      Hi.  I'm brand new to this site.  I used to be on Chowhound but I see now that that site is a mess. I found this site and it looks pretty cool.  The main reason I joined is  I’m looking for recommendations for a restaurant to hold my wedding in March 2018. We were hoping maybe in Brooklyn but we are open to anything interesting. There will be 55-60 people and the ceremony will also be at the restaurant. I’m thinking of a brunch/early afternoon affair, most likely on a weekend. Would love to find a funky/old school/unique/charming type of place for my sweetheart. Inexpensive please! Thank you in advance!
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