Benevento in Campania is well-known for small farms producing olive oil, wine, fruits, especially apples and cherries, nuts and legumes and also some of the finest durum wheat is the world.
Liquore Strega, one of Italy’s most famous liqueurs, has been made in Benevento by the Alberti Family since 1860. Words fail to describe this unusual yellow liqueur with its secret recipe of over 70 different herbs and spices. Besides being enjoyed as an after dinner digestivo, it is also used in local desserts.
The Valle Telesina wine district is one of the most beautiful areas of the province. It is interesting to note that Benevento is the only province in Italy with what amounts to a natural wine route. Almost all of the estates and vineyards are located along the Fondovalle Telesina and are easily accessible. The local wines produced are Solopaca, Aglianico del Taburno, Falanghina, Beneventano and Dugenta.
Zuppa di Ceci e Porri
This traditional soup of chickpeas and leeks is an alternative to pasta e fagioli. In this recipe, the soup is lightly pureed, which adds a sophistication to this otherwise cucina della povertà.
12 oz chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 medium potato, peeled
5 medium leeks
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium garlic cloves, finely sliced
salt and black pepper to taste
3 cups vegetable stock
½ cup Parmigiano cheese, grated
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
In a medium saucepan, rinse the soaked chickpeas, cover with water and cook with the sliced potato over a medium-low flame until tender. Remove the outer skin of the leeks, slice lengthways from the root up and wash carefully. Slices should be about 1/8” wide. Warm a sauté pan and add the tablespoon of oil and the butter. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan and sweat gently with a good pinch of salt until tender and sweet. Add the drained chickpeas and potato and cook for 1 minute.
Add about 2 ½ cups of the stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Lightly puree the soup in a food processor. You want to blend the ingredients, but the soup is more flavorful if left slightly chunky. Return the pureed soup to the saucepan and add some of the remaining ½ cup of stock until you reach the desired consistency. Continue to heat for an additional 4-5 minutes. Add half of the grated Parmigiano, plus salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Serve in a large bowl with a good drizzle of extra virgin oil olive, with a grinding of black pepper and an extra sprinkling of Parmigiano cheese.
Mozzarella di Bufala con Salsa di Crema di Peperoni
In Naples they serve Mozzarella in Carrozza, mozzarella in a carriage, which sandwiches the cheese between slices of bread before frying. In Benevento, they bread the mozzarella instead before frying. The result is delicious. The trick to the proper preparation is in the double breading, which seals the cheese for frying. Served with a cool sauce and fresh, crisp greens, these at once crunchy and creamy slices of buffalo mozzarella make for a superb spring and summer meal.
buffalo mozzarella 1 cup for every 2 servings
salt & pepper
oil for frying
1 large sweet red pepper
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper
12-14 basil leaves
Grill the pepper, turning it often until it starts to char evenly on all sides. When cool enough to handle, peel away the skin, cut open the pepper and clean out the seeds and any pulp. Cut it into smaller pieces and place in a food processor along with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper, garlic, basil, mascarpone cheese and a pinch of salt. Process until smooth. Place in the fridge to thicken while you prep the cheese. Remember to remove the sauce about 5 minutes before serving and give it a good stir.
Set out small plates, one for flour, another for the breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Drain the mozzarella and slice each ball in half. Gently pat both sides of the slices dry with a paper towel. Now dredge each piece in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, making sure to cover the cheese entirely and set aside.
Heat the oil. You want at least an inch of cooking oil, so use a small-in-diameter pan and fry the cheese in batches. Gently slide the slices in the oil. Flip after 3 to 5 minutes when golden brown. Fry the other side for 3-4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and cool slightly. Drizzle the pepper cream sauce directly over the cheese and serve with a salad of fresh greens.
Penne Gratinate con Verdure e Formaggio
12 oz penne pasta
8 oz eggplant
8 oz yellow and red pepper
4 oz white scamorza cheese
a small handful of basil
a small handful of parsley
grated Pecorino cheese
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta. In the meantime, tear the basil leaves and chop the parsley. Chop the peppers and eggplant into cubes and sauté in a pan over high heat with the olive oil and a pinch of salt for 3-4 minutes. Wet the vegetables with a ladle of the pasta cooking water and lower the flame to warm. Drain the pasta once al dente and add to the vegetables. Add the basil and parsley, mix and then add the butter and let it melt into the pasta. Transfer to a baking dish.
Beat two eggs and pour over pasta and vegetables with a bit of salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of grated Pecorino cheese. Complete by covering the pasta with the scamorza slices and place into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes and serve.
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