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- Ancient flavours and fragrances of the Sorrentine Peninsule -

The Middle Age's conventual cuisine


(Translated by Marianna Mastro)

The straining of the anchovies introduces us in the argument, which concerns the Cuisine of the Convents and the Monasteries, which were numerously built in the Campania region during the thirteenth century.

We cannot omit to mention this phenomenon because I believe that in these places, the cuisine has been considered with sobriety and with much passion but mainly because it has been handed down during the centuries, in yellow-paged notebooks sometimes written with goose-quills, which reveal recipes hidden for years in the secret of the storerooms.

Around the Convents were the areas of the agricultural labour: the important gardens were those of the medical herbs and those of the cattle, sheet, and pig stables of which the cattle ones were very famous and provided the milk for the milk shops where it was transformed in fine quality cheese. These religious institutions became shortly important production and commercial centres.

All mentioned above allowed the Father cooks and the Mother abbess to use various very genuine products and therefore spur their inventiveness for the preparation of unique tasteful dishes like the minestra maritata, the dried broad bean soup, the chick pea and “chiodini” mushroom soup, the chestnut soup, the “laganelle” with eggs and zucchini, the “maccheroni 'ncasciati”, and the chocolate dressed eggplants.

Minestra maritata -   (Photo and realization by  Enrico Cosentino - Restaurant Massa (Caserta - Italy).The "minestra maritata" is a very well known dish and so we will not dwell on an explanation, as we will also do for the chickpea and chestnut soup. The minestra maritata dish has remained in the New Year's Eve Dinner of many citizens of the Sorrentine Peninsula in remembrance of the ancient cicerali which gathered in the homonymous neighbourhoods, and today still exist in various towns of our region, in order to offer their yellow nuggets as a symbol of richness much superior, according to me, than the propitiated modest lentils. The broad bean soup is mentioned to give credit to a product of our territory, which has nourished for centuries generations of our ancestors.

For the other dishes I retain it is necessary to furnish also the procedure for their preparation, not well known but which deserve to be re-proposed as the broad bean soup. For the other two dishes which, are also proposed as ancient Sorrentine dishes, I will not explain the procedure since they are dishes that only a few passionate know.

The broad beans of our territory were very appreciated already since the Middle Ages and principally a quality produced in the Baia of Capri as some renting contracts prove or as a mixture found in Amalfi's Regest as we discovered from the recent publications of the Prof. Giuseppe Gargano.

The "fave caliate" were obtained by soaking in water overnight the broad beans and then quickly fried in a pan with a little bit of oil shaking it constantly. When the broad beans became gold they were sprinkled with salt. The farmers always used to bring some along in their pockets and ate them in the fields when they were hungry.

For the dried broad bean soup occurred: dried broad beans, onions, celery, parsley, cow cheese, milk, bread, and salt. Boil in salted water one kilo of peeled dried broad beans on a low flame, Add a couple of onions, some celery and parsley. When the broad beans are cooked, pass them through the sieve and put them again on the flame adding some hot water and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Put the broad bean soup in a bowl where previously you have beaten three egg reds with an a abundant portion of grated cheese and a glass of milk stir everything and serve with croutons.

“Laganelle” with eggs and marrows: this dish is very common in the towns of Sorrento and along the Amalfi Coast, where in some localities it becomes an important dish, such as to be dedicated to the Patron Saint in occasion of his recurrence. The laganelle, which we will describe further ahead, is a fresh pasta made without eggs, shaped similar to the modern pappardelle more or less wide. Cut in thin slices about ten marrows, put them in a pan with oil, two cloves of garlic and half a glass of wine cover the pan with the lid and cook on a low flame. When the marrows are cooked and tender, sprinkle them with basil leaves minced with the fingers: In another pan cook in boiling water 400 gr. of laganelle; as soon as they are ready drain the pasta and put them in a bowl with two (entire) eggs previously beaten, the marrows with their sauce and some pepper. Mix all the ingredients and put everything in a pan on a low flame until the eggs thicken, complete the dish with grated cow and sheep cheese.