Sunday, May 19 2024

In 1837 Ippolito Cavalcanti gave to the presses the cookbook Cucina teorica-pratica, which is rightly considered a cornerstone of Neapolitan gastronomic literature.

Cavalcanti’s cookbook Cucina teorica-pratica

This is a very special publication, in which the second part, entitled “Cucina Casarinola all’uso nuosto napolitano,” is written entirely in Neapolitan dialect.

If the beginning of the volume reports several recipes for timballi and sartù, typical achievements of an elaborate cuisine linked to haute cuisine, the second one surprises us by the extreme modernity of the recipes presented, which are clearly distant from the more traditional gastronomic panorama.

Some preparations stand out for being particularly up-to-date, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce and spaghetti with clams; among them is also one of the first examples of macaroni seasoned with stew sauce made with only onion, without tomato.



This recipe has the particularity of creating a very savory and aromatic base, which goes perfectly with the pasta, while the meat is served separately, as a second course, according to traditional usage.

The recipe requires many hours of cooking, but considering that, for better or worse, we are at home, we might as well fill the air with these wonderful scents.





Ingredients for the sauce (serves 4):

  • 2.65 pounds of veal in one piece (recommended cuts: top round, silverside, eye of round, or bottom round)
  • 7 ounces of aged white lard
  • 1 and a half onions
  • Salt (very little because of the salted lard)
  • Pepper
  • Optional: one clove of garlic and/or a pinch of ground clove


For the pasta:
  • 14 ounces of ziti or zitoni
  • 2.8 ounces of grated aged provola and caciocavallo cheese
  • A few basil leaves



The original recipe calls for putting lard, onions and meat in the pot at the same time.


This method requires great skill to brown the meat perfectly without burning the onions, so we recommend proceeding in separate steps.


First, finely chop the lard and slice the onions.


Place a high-sided saucepan over low heat and melt the lard.


The saucepan should be cast iron, or better yet, earthenware, to ensure even cooking at a low temperature.


When the lard is completely melted, increase the heat to raise the temperature, add the meat and brown it carefully on all sides, turning it often and being careful not to burn it.


This step is extremely important because the Maillard reaction will release the aromas of the meat, which will then infuse the sauce.


Otherwise, you will end up with a “boiled meat with tomato and onion.”


Once the meat has turned a nice brown color, add the onions and let them sauté for 5 or 6 minutes before adding a ladleful of water.


Allow the water to evaporate completely and repeat a couple of times.


When the bottom of the pan has reached a dark color, add enough water to cover at least half the meat.


Add a little salt, plenty of pepper and cover with a lid, lowering the heat to low and simmering for about 5 hours, turning the meat occasionally and stirring the bottom.


After 5 hours, partially open the lid to evaporate the excess liquid until it is reduced by about one-third.


This should take about 3 hours and it is very important to stir often, especially toward the end of the process when the sauce begins to thicken.


When the meat sauce is ready, remove the meat from the pot and keep it warm with some of the sauce.


Meanwhile, break up the ziti by hand, as is traditional, and boil it in salted water.


Drain the pasta a minute before it is al dente and place it in a serving dish covered with provola and well-aged caciocavallo cheese.


Mix the pasta thoroughly with the grated cheese and finally add the meat sauce.


Let the pasta rest, covered, in a hot oven (about 158°F) for 15 to 20 minutes so that the pasta has time to absorb all the aromatic flavors of the sauce.


Finally, stir and serve with a basil leaf on top.


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