SERVES 4 TO 6
Passing along the traditions of Italian food to the next generation is very important to me and has been a distinguishing characteristic of Ciao Italia. It is one of the reasons that I am sharing this little-known recipe for spezzatelle, a traditional wild dandelion dish from Foggia, in the region of Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot.
Resembling a soufflé after it is baked, spezzatelle shows the French influence in Foggia. The recipe was demonstrated for me by Grace Gallucci, an inspiring cook from Cleveland, Ohio, who learned how to make it from her mother Giovanina.
One of the peculiarities of this dish is the addition of garlic powder and dried onion powder, which, as Grace explains, are used so as not to overpower the taste of spezzatelle or be seen in the dish. This came as a complete surprise to me since the region of Puglia is noted for cooking with lampasciuoli, a special type of wild onion. Spring, when wild dandelions are plentiful, is the ideal time to make spezzatelle, but they are also available most of the year in supermarkets.
2 1/2 pounds (one large bunch) dandelions, stemmed
3 tablespoons Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 pound cubed lamb
1 teaspoon dried onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried garlic powder
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
4 large eggs
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup reserved dandelion water, kept hot
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.
Meanwhile clean the dandelions thoroughly by soaking them in several changes of cold water. Drain them and add them to the pot of boiling water. Cook the dandelions, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Drain them and set them aside. Reserve 1 cup of the dandelion water and keep it hot.
In an ovenproof 3 1/2 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil and brown the meat. Sprinkle the meat with the onion and garlic powders. Add the tomato, parsley, and rosemary and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the dandelions and turn off the heat.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
In a bowl whisk the eggs together, then whisk in the cheeses, one at a time, until the mixture is well blended and very thick.
Pour the egg and cheese mixture evenly over the top of the meat and dandelions. Bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and puffed.
Remove the spezzatelle from the oven; it will collapse somewhat. With a knife cut it into 4 to 6 wedges. Use a large spoon to lift the wedges out of the pan and serve them in soup bowls. Pour a little of the reserved dandelion broth over the top of each wedge and serve immediately.
Did you know that you can leach out the bitterness of dandelions and other bitter greens by plunging them in ice water after they have been cooked and allowing them to soak for 30 minutes before continuing with the recipe?
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