The culinary specialties of Cosenza are based on local, simple foods. Primo, or first course, often features fresh fusilli pasta or thick tagliatelle. The secondo piatto, the second or main course along the coast is often fish. Fried cod has long been popular, but it is grilled swordfish that has the more esteemed reputation. Once inland, the variation in climate made the need to preserve food in the event of crop failure a must in centuries past. Therefore, the ability to preserve foods in oil, salting and drying became a necessity that developed into its own culinary niche by adding richly fragrant mountain herbs.
Homemade Fruit Liqueur
This popular summertime liqueur is the Calabrese version of Limoncello. Made at home, it needs to sit for one month. So now is the time to prepare it for a summertime evening refreshment.
1 medium sized citron
16 oz 90-proof alcohol (or 86-proof vodka)
16 oz water
10 oz sugar
With a very sharp knife, remove the colored parts of the rind for each of the five types of fruit, avoiding the white skin. Pour the alcohol into a glass container which can be sealed air tight and add the rinds. Seal and leave in a dark place for 48 hours. Filter the alcohol to remove the rind.
Boil the water with the sugar to form a syrup. Place it into the refrigerator until it is well-chilled and then add it to the alcohol infusion.
Place the mixture into a glass bottle, seal and allow to sit undisturbed for at least 4 weeks. Before consuming, place into the freezer as you would with Limoncello, to ensure that the liqueur is frosty cold before serving.
Fileja Tossed in a Spicy Sausage Ragu
Courtesy of Chef Franco Lania
For the Fileja Pasta
1 ½ cups all-Purpose Flour (unbleached)
1 ½ cups fine semolina
1 cup water at room temperature
For the Spicy Sausage Ragu
1 lb Italian pork sausage (spicy, without fennel seeds)
4-5 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed with the back of a knife
2 medium-sized red onions, chopped, or cut in thin half-moon slices.
2-3 tbsp red wine
1 can of tomato puree (28 oz.)
1 chili pepper, sliced in half
1 tbsp fresh oregano
Pecorino to taste (grated)
salt to taste
To Make the Pasta: Mix the flour and semolina together in a bowl to combine. Create a well in the center of the flour and mix in 3/4 cup of the water until incorporated. Gradually add the rest of the water, little by little, if needed. The dough will be firm. Knead the dough on your work surface (5-10 min) until smooth and pliable. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Once the dough has rested, knead again for a few minutes to make it pliable.
Pinch off a marble-sized amount of dough and roll it out to the size of a small rope. Roll each piece around a metal skewer or knitting needle, stretching it outward with the palms of your hands as you roll to form the Fileja shape. Carefully remove the pasta by twisting the needle while gently holding the pasta. Place on a tray to slightly dry for about 30 minutes.
To Make Spicy Sausage Ragu: Remove the sausage from its casing. Crumble it with your fingers and set aside. Heat a large sauté pan with the olive oil and add the garlic over a medium flame. Sauté garlic until lightly golden. Remove the garlic. Add the crumbled sausage and toss well to coat in the in the oil, then leave to cook. Stir occasionally once the meat starts to lightly caramelize. Add the onions and toss well. Let cook an additional 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Deglaze with the red wine. Once it has reduced, add the tomato sauce, chili pepper and a little salt. Cover and let cook on a low flame for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the ragu has thickened nicely, taste it and readjust for seasoning if necessary.
In a large pot of boiling water, add 2-3 tablespoons of salt. The water should taste slightly salty. Add the Fileja and cook for 3-4 minutes. You will finish cooking the pasta in the saucepan. Strain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
Add the pasta to the saucepan, increase the heat and add the oregano, a couple of tablespoons of Pecorino and some of the pasta water, little by little, as necessary. Toss well and reduce quickly to create a nice ragu. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and let the pasta sit as you prepare to plate it. Just before serving, toss the pasta with 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. To Plate: Serve the pasta on warmed plates. Add a little extra ragu on top and a sprinkle of Pecorino.
Trippa con Patate
2 lb tripe, plus vegetables for pre-boiling (see below)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
splash of white wine
8 oz canned tomatoes, hand-crushed
5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
salt and pepper
Raw tripe requires hours of cooking to become tender. In Italy, tripe is sold completely pre-cooked and cut into serving pieces so it only requires a half-hour or so of further cooking to prepare. In the United States, tripe is usually sold in large pieces and requires at least 90 minutes of pre-boiling to as much as 3 hours. Add water to cover, together with some aromatic vegetables (onion, carrot and celery) cut into large chunks, as if you were making broth. Boil the tripe until it is almost, but not quite tender, then drain it under cold water. Using a sharp knife, cut the tripe into bite-sized pieces, about 1 ½” long.
In a large, heavy-gauged pot, add a generous amount of olive oil and gently sauté the onion, carrot and celery over a medium-low flame until soft and translucent. Do not allow the vegetables to brown. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Add the tripe strips and stir well, so every bit of tripe is well covered with the soffritto. Simmer the tripe for 8-10 minutes. Add a splash of white wine; raise the heat and stir until the wine cooks off.
Add the canned tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them to the pot. Mix well and cover the pot. Turn the flame to low; add the potatoes; cover and simmer for 45 minutes until the tripe and potatoes are tender and the sauce has reduced. About halfway through the simmering, remove the cover and taste; adjust for seasoning. Serve in individual bowls with crusty bread.