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swirl and savor

Cooking Like Locals

Beth Ribblett

One of the things we really enjoyed about our recent trip to Italy was cooking the local fare at our villa using only the freshest ingredients as all good Italians do.  On the Amalfi Coast seafood is king and you eat in every which way from raw to marinated, grilled or stewed, it is the star of every meal.  So much so that we got a little meat craving one night and decided to cook at home.

Enoteca Cuomo, one of our favorite stops.
 Not wanting to do anything that would take too much time, we stopped at Enoteca Cuomo on our walk up from one of our forays to da Adolfo.  They sell many different cuts of meats and meat products, so we opted for their house made sausage and also some parmigiano cheese and a few bottles of wine.  Next stop was the alimentari (small neighborhood grocery) where we picked up fresh veggies for our insalata and some locally made pasta.

Fresh veggies brought in daily at the alimentari
Now for the most important ingredients we had to look no further than the garden at the villa.  Chiara and Giuseppe, the wonderful owners, have a beautiful vegetable garden that they allowed us to pick from for our meals. We gathered up fresh San Marzano tomatoes, lots of basil, lemons and lemon leaves for the meat preparation.  I had decided to try to make a version of a typical southern Italian dish, meatballs wrapped in lemon leaves. I didn't have a recipe, but kind of pieced on together from different versions I found and was very happy with the results.

San Marzano tomatoes in the garden
One of many lemon trees in the garden
One of the things that made this work was the simplicity of the sausage; it was only pork, white wine, salt and white pepper, so I'm not exactly sure how it would be with our version of Italian sausage, but it is definetly worth trying to find out!  Also, since I didn't have a recipe, these are not exact measurements, but it would be pretty hard to mess up if you follow what I did...

I also made a fresh tomato sauce using one of Lidia Bastianich's tried and true recipes that was absolutely delicious and very quick once you peeled the tomatoes.  This recipe will follow the meatballs.

Meatballs on Lemon Leaves
Serves 6

2lbs Pork Sausage casing removed
1 egg lightly beaten
2 1/2 handfuls of plain breadcrumbs (I grated some day old ciabatta bread we had left over)
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1-1/2 handfuls of grated parmigiano cheese
salt & pepper
2 T. chopped parsley
24 lemon leaves washed and dried completely
olive oil

-Pre-heat over to 350 degrees
-Combine sausage, egg, bread crumbs, lemon peel, cheese and parsley, mix with your hands until everything is well incorporated.
-Heat a little olive oil in a pan and make a small patty to test for seasoning (the amount of salt you add will depend on the saltiness of your cheese and sausage).  Quickly fry it, taste and adjust accordingly.
-Roll the mixture into small cigar shaped patties, wrap with a lemon leaf and secure with a toothpick.
-Brush the leaves with olive oil and put on a baking sheet.
-Bake for 20-30 minutes, check at 20, you want the meat to be moist but not pink.

Fresh Marinara Sauce
Serves 6

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 pounds ripe fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded (click here for instructions on peeling fresh tomatoes), or one 35 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid
Crushed red pepper
10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Parmigiano cheese for garnish
1lb cooked pasta

-Heat the oil in a 2- to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife, add it to the oil, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
-Carefully slide tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. Bring to a boil, and season lightly with salt and crushed red pepper. Lower the heat so sauce is at a lively simmer, and cook, breaking up tomatoes with a whisk or spoon, until sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes.
-Stir in the basil about 5 minutes before sauce is finished. Taste sauce, and season with salt and red pepper if necessary.