The South is thought of as a fried chicken, hush puppy, and biscuit kind of place, but we also have a long tradition of Italian influenced cooking. In fact, the first reference to the mafia in the US was in the New Orleans Times in 1869, which reported about “well-known and notorious Sicilian murderers, counterfeiters and burglars, who, in the last month, have formed a sort of general co-partnership or stock company for the plunder and disturbance of the city.” Not that I am trying to perpetuate a stereotype or anything, but one of the best restaurants in the city reportedly still has a room reserved just for mobsters.
However, my favorite restaurant was the now closed Corsino’s in Montgomery, Alabama. No room for mobsters there: it was an Italian family run place with diner booths and metal pedestal tables. I don’t get that far south often anymore, but they formerly had two options for buying wine–by the glass or by the jug. We always went for the jug.
Their food was rock solid, and they flew in desserts from New Orleans. Their pizza was great, but their lasagna was the best. Now I’m reduced to making my own. I’ve taught myself how to make fresh pasta.
The secret is the ingredients, and there are only two or three. Bill Buford, in his superb book Heat, gave away the secret. He studied in Italy with one of the most traditional and famous pasta makers, and she said it was good eggs, and good flour. In fact she used bootlegged locally grown eggs, which is an EU story that is too complicated to get into here. Here’s the pasta recipe for one big dish of lasagna.
1 cup Antimo Caputo 00 flour from bella Napoli (Naples)
1 jumbo Egg (I currently have pasture raised)
Water if needed
This is an Imperia pasta machine, which is Italian, and not absolutely necessary, but it really speeds up things.
With an egg this big, no water was needed. Just kneed these two things together, and progressively roll into thinner pieces with the pasta machine. Here’s what you end up with.