The markets here in Bra are quite different from the local markets back home. For one, they are much larger affairs – spanning entire squares and some of the surrounding streets, filling the normally busy byways with temporary edifices stocked high with wares to be sold.
Secondly, the market here is dedicated to much more than just food. There are clothes, shoes, housewares – in fact, most of the market is dedicated to these other items, whereas at home in Northeast Ohio, the vast majority of the stalls would be for farmers and other food producers.
The energy of both sets of markets is the same, however. Filled with vigor and chatter and people of all ages browsing, buying or just socializing with one another. It’s such a wonderful experience no matter where in the world you happen to be.
I decided to stick with a simple recipe for my first MARKET TO TABLE recipe here and I chose something that, though not traditional to the region of Piemonte in any way, utilizes one of my favorite pasta making methodologies. I have a favorite pasta called cacio e pepe that is regional to Roma in Lazio. It is basically pasta, pecorino romano cheese and black pepper. It sounds deceptively simple, but it is prepared by mixing the ingredients together with some of that magically starchy and salty pasta water, which creates a perfectly creamy and delicious meal.
Although cheese is more commonly referred to as formaggio in the north, rather than the cacio that is used sometimes in the center of the country and the south, I chose to call this dish ‘cacio‘ because of it will be made very similarly to cacio e pepe. I found a fantastic local cheese to use in this recipe called Bra Duro, which is similar in taste and texture to a young Manchego. Also, instead of using black pepper, I used some local tiny peperoncino to impart a nice kick and add some color to the meal.
Finally, I bought a pound of fresh tagliolini (also called taglierini) very cheaply from a pastaficio (pasta-maker) at the market. Together, these three simple ingredients (plus a bit of olive oil) made an excellent lunch for me. I can wait to play with more of the lovely items at the market, especially as the seasons begin to change. It’s a wonderful way to get to know a new place. Buon appetito!
Tagliolini Cacio e Peperocino
- I used fresh pasta in this dish, but you may use dry as well. You may need a lesser quantity of dried pasta – approximately 12 oz. instead of 16 oz. of fresh. Also, fresh pasta cooks very quickly (this size in about 30 seconds) so make sure everything is ready to go when you put the noodles in the pot.
- The cheese used here is Bra Duro, which you are unlikely to find outside of Italy. I recommend substituting a young Manchego, or another younger medium-hard cheese.
- If you cannot find peperoncino, substitute another hot pepper, or even crushed pepper flakes. The spice can be added to taste. I like my food quite spicy so I add quite a bit, but the cheese helps calm the bite of the pepper. You can remove the seeds if you wish – I left them in.
1 lb. (500 grams) fresh tagliolini (or another long fresh noodle)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
20 small peperoncino (or 4-5 medium hot peppers), minced
1 cup grated medium-hard cheese, such as Bra Duro or a young Manchego
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Once the water boils, salt it well. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente, but do not drain the cooking water (or reserve some).
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Once it comes to temperature, add the minced peperoncino and cook for 2 minutes, until slightly softened and fragrant.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the pasta to the pan with the oil and peperoncino and mix well. Next, add the cheese and a small ladle of pasta water to the pan. Mix everything together until the cheese has melted on the pasta. Add more pasta water a tablespoon at a time if the pasta seems sticky. Serve immediately.
Serves four. Enjoy!