Saturday, August 13, 2011

Perugia; To Lasagna and Strangled Priests

I never met a Lasagna I didn't like” –Garfield
"Everything you see I owe to pasta" - Sophia Loren

Ah, Perugia.
I’ll never forget the Lasagna or the Strangled Priests.
But it is our Perugian friends who hold center stage in our hearts.
So let’s toast to all three.
Pour yourself a glass.
And if it’s not past noon yet, don’t worry.
It’s gotta be past noon somewhere in the world.

Here’s to the Lasagna
The best lasagna we had in Italy and I ate way too much.
Now, don’t mistake that for complaining.
Coming into our visit to Perugia we knew that we would be having uncharacteristic dining for tourists. Our friends had plans for us to eat at their homes and local eateries whose offerings would be typical regional specialties. And one anticipated treat we were really looking forward to was Graziella’s lasagna. Graziella is our friend Cris’s mother. We dined as royalty in her home and I discovered that unlike here in the States, they really do eat multiple courses at their formal meals. Very multiple.
And like I said, I ate way too much.

Antipasto means "before the meal" and is the traditional first course of an Italian meal. We were served Prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe. Additionally, Graziella served cheese bread that she baked that same day called “Torta di Pasqua al Formaggio”. The name translates as “Easter Cheese Cake” and is traditionally served on Easter morning with all the breakfast fixings.
I ate the antipasto like it was the pasto.

The Primo (The First Course):
Lasagna. Her baked pasta dish was a capolavoro; a masterpiece. Graziella had handmade the wide, flat egg noodles that day.
A busy lady she was this day.
Her lasagna had alternating layers of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, a tomato meat sauce and a savory béchamel sauce (a white sauce made by stirring milk into a butter-flour roux).
I went for seconds and was bursting my buttons. I pushed myself away from the table, leaned back and tried to relax.

Secondo (The Main Course):
Pork Roast. I had thought that we were done with the meal after finishing off the lasagna. But Graziella walked out of the kitchen bearing a plate with a roast. Yes, a roast. We in fact were only getting started.
Her pork roast was seasoned with bacon, pepper, rosemary, garlic and other flavorings and was excellent. That roast was succulent, fragrant and flavorful. Accompanying the roast were two side dishes; fried potatoes and a tossed green salad.
I loosened my belt. I was going to be here a while.

Dolce (The Dessert):
Zuppa Inglese. Zuppa Inglese in Italian means "English soup" and is an Italian custard-based dessert. It is similar to an English trifle, a pudding made by inter-layering cake with cream and other ingredients.
Graziella’s "Zuppa Inglese" was defined by strata’s of savory sensations. Chocolate doughnuts cut into slices and sopped in coffee. Then a baptismal dunking in a sweet liquore. A thick homemade egg custard pastry cream layered with artisan skill. Her Zuppa Inglese was topped off with a layer of dark chocolate pastry cream.
I stared in wonder. I wondered where I was going to fit the dessert sitting before me.
I checked and the only room I had left was my pants pockets.

Dolce (The Dessert-Round Two)
Macedonia Fruit salad. We were all served a lovely salad of cut fruit. The salad is popular across Europe. The variety of fresh fruit alludes to the rich diversity of peoples associated with Macedonia through the ages.
And I ate way too much.

An Italian proverb says, “Chi va a letto senza cena tutta la notte si dimena”.
Which translates, “He who goes to bed without eating will regret it throughout the night
I coined a new one that says, “He who goes to bed with excessive eating will regret it throughout the night”

Here’s to Strangled Priests
Strangled Priests is not a Metal Rock band nor Stephen King’s latest.
Not a bad idea for a title, but we are talking food.
It’s an Umbrian dish that we enjoyed near the town of Assisi at Ristorante La Tavola Rotonda. And this regional specialty is called Strangozzi.
Strangozzi means "strangled priests," and the story is that its name is a reference to a time in antiquity when parish priests in Umbria regularly dined at the homes of parishioners. And in order to make sure they left happy and well fed, the Padres were served noodles sufficient to “strangle a priest”.
Strangozzi are long and irregularly hand-cut pasta. The noodles are thicker and rougher than spaghetti noodles. Rougher to allow better absorbency of the tasty sauces. Our Strangozzi was a handmade egg pasta and came dressed in a rich, fragrant truffle sauce made with tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. The shavings of truffles grated into the mix were excellent. The grilled meat in the sauce was a mix of sausage, pork roast and puntarella (a type of chicory found there). Each bite held a hint of spiciness. 
And again, I ate way too much.

And Here’s to Good Friends
I sit here with a bottle of Montefalco Rosso 2007 and the memories come in a rush. When I think back to our trip abroad to Italy, Perugia will always be our singular experience. In the planning for years, my wife and I wanted to see Rome, Cinque Terre and Florence for sure. But Perugia was our real destination because there is where our good friends live.
We have known Cris for years and last year she got married. On our recent trip there, we had the pleasure of meeting her husband for the first time.
He is a new and good friend and he gifted this Montefalco to us.
The bottle holds special meaning to him as this wine was served at their wedding celebration. And now the Montefalco holds special meaning for us.
Perugia, the capital of Umbria is a medieval hill town that overlooks the famous Tiber River to the east whose course runs past Rome. If you were to push a pin into its location on a map, you'd find that Perugia is very nearly at the exact center of Italy.
Kind of like the heart of Italy.
It certainly was the heart of our trip.
And it was our friends that made it so.
Thank you, friends; Italy would not have been the same without you.
Here’s to Lasagna, Strangled Priests and good Friends.


Anna's kitchen table said...

What a great post! I love your writing so much that I feel I'm right there with you!

Cinzia said...

Hi Mario!
So long is the italia taste of your posts :) I'm happy, it menas that you're been satisfy!
I've also read the post before this one and I'm just laughting about "The bidet: this unknown.." a tipical italian gadget :)
kisses for you anf your wife!

Ale said...

As imagens me deixaram com vontade!

Lilly said...

I can't believe you finished all the courses! It all sounded so good that I know I wouldn’t be able to say no.

Brewed Coffee said...

I would have probably stopped eating after the lasagna...Garfield and I have something in common, except that he could eat more than I do. :-) What a feast!

Lisa Cookwitch said...

Oh Mario, this takes me back to my childhood visits to Southern Italy. We, too, were bowled over by the food and the courses that kept on coming. Hmm. I shall have to write that memory up!

Anonymous said...

An absolutely fabulous post (as always)! Your virtual tours through Italy are so wonderfully detailed. I agree with Anna, it feels like we're right there with you!


LaMagicaZucca said...

Il tuo blog mi piace moltissimo: Le ricette, la grafica, tutti i contenuti interessanti.
Mi sono aggiunta ai tuoi followers cosi non ti perdo più di vista.
Se ti va, passa a trovarmi, sei il benvenuto.
La magica Zucca

Alien said...

What good meals!
I liked this proverb:
"He who goes to bed with excessive eating will regret it throughout the night”, especially with lasanha, lol!

* You was in holiday,or it will be the first time you start to teach?

Have a nice weekend, Mario!

MeLikeyUK said...

Ah, what a wonderful post you have written. Great memories from a trip to Perugia. Although, I have been to Italy many times, I have never been to Perugia but you have just given me good reason to ;-)

Larissa said...

Looks like a great meal! I'm envious of your trip.

Holly Henry said...

Love your post! How nice that you get to enjoy that wonderful culture and thank you for bringing us along with you :)


Alien said...

Dear Mario,
I like your visit in my blog, you are always sweet.
I had headache the last week this why i did not write for almost a week in the blog.
The summer has been beautiful too, but only the last week, I think this gave me headache lol
I wish you good luck at the university, there are many students for your responsibility, wow!

Christine Gloria said...

lasagna, i really want to taste it. cant find one in malaysia. even if there is one, it wasnt the original one anyway.

mangiawithmario said...

Anna, thank you so much. You are always kind with your words
Cinzia, yes. Very satisfied!
Alê, As fotos se envolver apenas um dos nossos sentidos. Imagine os aromas e sons de pessoas felizes.
Lilly, I can't believe I finished all the courses!
Brewed Coffee, Garfield can eat more than me, too.
Lisa, what a great childhood to have grown up in southern Italy.
Tammy, thank you for the compliment.
La Magica Zucca, grazie per tua parole gentile.
C., and I could add, excessive eating will require Pepto Bismo!
MeLikeyUK, what a treat to have been able to go so often to Italy.
Newlywed, thank you
Holly, and thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It was wonderful.
Christine, I've never been to Malaysia but when I do I know now to bring my own lasagna. Thank you.

Jocie's Mom said...

Wow. Your stomach is very impressive...unless you carry a hollow leg with you around that can take the overflow when you sit down to a meal like this!

SavvyMama said...

oh,my! yummmmmmy!been a long time since I had my antipasto.

Unknown said...

i want the lasagna! the absolute comfort food!

briarrose said...

Such a yummy selection of food. It all looks so good.

Maíra Dias said...

Heloo my friend, I'm fine and I am so happy to see you here again. I love write and when someone like this I feel motivated. The pictures in my blog are hand-picked to convey the feeling. And you, how you doing? The travel, the culinary...the last post, omg, is "mouthwatering"(it's rigth?)
kisses end hugs

Junie - 李庭莉 said...

Mario,,,Lasagna is my favorite food , the taste very nice, love it!

Laney said...

Hi Mario, thank you for visiting my blog. I love your writing and I cannot believe how much food you ate in one sitting! But like you said, I would not complain if I had such amazing wine, food and company. Can I say, I'm intrigued that you had TWO dessert courses. I think this is amazing and should be instituted in the United States right away! I also love the story about Strangled Priests. Thank you for all the mouth watering descriptions and pictures!

Christine's Pantry said...

Great post! Love it.

Yen said...

Looking at those pictures of delicious foods makes me hungry now, waaaahhh... craving for lasagna, and the red wine. yum yum. Good friends are really a gifts from God. Happy to be here once again.
Thank you friend for visiting me:)

Mai Yang said...

wow foods O_O!

anyway, thank you so much for the comment..^_^

are you Italian? ^_^


María R. said...

Hola Mario, un gusto saludarte! Paso por tu blog y me da hambre!!!! qué infinidad de cosas ricas!!! adoro! pero estoy a dieta snifffff

Te mando un fuerte fuerte abrazo desde Argentina!

Alessandra said...

You're great explaining italian lifestyle!
Keep on going!

Miliana said...

Hi there!

Thanks so much for your lovely comment on my blog! All of this food on your blog is making my mouth water!

all the best,

mangiawithmario said...

Parsely Sage, I'm afraid my poor stomach was not impressed with me!

SavvyMama, thanks for the visit. I could live on meals of antipasto.

Rita, Briarrose. Yummy and Lasagna were two ideas meant to be together!

Maira, hello my friend. Thanks you for stopping by. I will have to go globe hopping again for new food adventures.

Junie, it is amazing how many people say that lasagna is their favorite food. Maybe because it is so good.

Laney, thank you for the wonderful comments. I agree on the desserts idea. Two courses of dessert should become the staple of the American diet. BTW Laney, if you run for office you have my vote.

Christine, thank you.

Yen, you said it best. Good friends are a gift from God. Thank you friend.

Mai, thank you. Good food is a "Wow".

Maria, lo siento que estas en un dieta. Voy a orar que pasa pronto las dias hasta que puedes comer todo la lasagna que qiueres. Abrazos.

MeandFrankieAvalon, thank you. It does seem that food, wine and friends is the italian lifestyle.

Mili, thank you. I think it's time to eat! Thanks for the visit.

Drizel said...

Ghee me, that's awesome, I only read halfway and had to go get something to eat ;) and then I could continue. Lovely post.
PS thanks for visiting my blog, have a great day:)

Anonymous said...

Ciao Mario!!
Come stai??
è davvero splendido questo post e son felicissima che avete potuto apprezzare a pieno i sapori italiani.. :-p
Un abbraccio

Ana Helena said...

What a great post Mario!!! Great writing and delicious looking photos. Thanks for sharing!

Emily Malloy said...

Beautiful :)

Tiffany said...

I love that Loren quote! :D

Enigma said...

Olá Mário,

Estou aqui, obrigada pelo convite. Bem, Sou do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro. Li o blog e gostei, sou muito ligada a literatura, mas quem não gosta de uma boa dica sobre culinária. Vamos fazer um acordo? Você segue o meu blog, que eu sigo o seu:))) Um beijo!!

henni said...

Hi Mario! Thanks for you nice message! Just starting out on the blogging scene, but I love it! Such a great way to get your ideas and thoughts out there! I've had a look through your blog, and man! I am so hungry now! You have such a knack for writing and a great appetite. In Edinburgh, I work with an Italian family, and pretty much all we do all day is discuss what we ate last night, what we're having tonight, what we wish we were having tonight, and what we will have sometime in the future. Food is love :) Keep up the travels, the eating and the great blog!

Enigma said...

Olá Mário,

Passei para deixar um forte abraço, desejo uma ótima semana. Beijos e mais beijos!!

Angela @ Mind Over Batter said...

Oh wow... The entire meal made me drool a little. Ok, a lot... My lunch of stir-fry veggies made me feel the world was suddenly unfair. Beautiful post, as always! I've got two words for the next time you find yourself in such bounty... Stretchy Pants!

Smareis said...

Gostei muito de ler um pouco teu blog... seu texto é maravilhoso, e de muito bom gosto.
Estou te seguindo, e convido a conhecer meu blog e seguir-me se gostares .
Um grande abraço!

reina said...

HI Mario...
Your blog posts got me hungry.. Like it.. Keep posting...

Smareis said...

Mario, vim saborear um pouco sua receitas e agradecer pela sua presença. Obrigada!Beijo grande!
òtimo dia!

Smareis said...

Olá Mário,passei pra ver as novidades e desejar um belo domingo, com encantada semana. Beijo grande!

Andie said...

Cheers! n.n Love reading your adventures!

Shay Olson said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm now a follower of yours. I've enjoyed reading about your travels. Especially the chocolate kisses. I love dark chocolate too! Looking foward to sharing more!

Linda said...

A truly amazing meal, so fresh and so full of flavor I can just imagine. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience and the story behind strangled priests!

Anonymous said...

What a great meal! That lasagna looks to die for!!!

Anonymous said...

love these all,have a wonderful week

Katerina Wilhelmina said...

Hello Mario! Nice to meet you here! Thanks for visiting my blog & for your kind comments. I really appreciate this! I follow you now...I have seen your recipes! I have forgotten pancakes! I love the fact that you tell the story behind the recipe..Very interesting! As for my article about Halloween, it came spontaneously..So many people talked & prepared about it..The majority couldn't make a decision about what they were going to wear & I decided to give them some kind of inspiration through celebrities...Thanks again for stopping by and we will certainly be in touch! It's a pleasure meeting you!!! Many greetings from Greece!!!

Top Cuisine avec Lavi said...

The lasagnea is my favorite!
I like your blog!
Greetings from Romania!

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