For the third of our four-part series on Italian cooking, we eschew heavy meat and dairy in flavor of simple, fresh abundance.
All of today's recipes " the third of our four-part series on Italian feasting " are cheap, and vegan. Perhaps you think that doesn't sound like much of a feast. As Homer Simpson observed: "You don't win friends with salad."
The very word "feast" summons up images of carnivorous excess: Obelix scrunching his way through a heap of wild boar; whole oxen turning on Tudor spits; swans stuffed with songbirds and served to pomaded emperors.
But some of us have neither the income nor the appetite of a Sun King. I don't actually enjoy feeling so overstuffed that my seams strain. I prefer my feasts plainer and less rich, leaving me room to breathe and chat.
So this feast comes from the rustic, rather than regal, tradition. The recipes are all from Puglia, in the sharp heel of Italy's boot. A flat and fertile area largely given over to farming, it produces olive oil, pulses and durum wheat (used to make pasta) in abundance. The very word "feast" summons up images of carnivorous excess: swans stuffed with songbirds, served to pomaded emperors.
Teamed with Mediterranean vegetables " tomatoes, rocket, courgettes, fennel, peppers, onions " these simple ingredients can be turned into bold and beautiful dishes. They will make your guests swoon and guzzle, without breaking into a gouty sweat. Salad may not win you many friends, but trust me, chickpeas will.
Tagliatelle with chickpeas
Traditionally, hard pasta was made only with flour and water. For the sake of speed, we have used the ready-made fresh pasta that you can buy in the supermarket, which usually contains eggs. Find an egg-free version if you want the meal to be fully vegan.
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
6 garlic cloves
½ red onion
2 cherry tomatoes
1 small dried chilli
1 sprig rosemary
400g fresh tagliatelle
150ml olive oil, for frying
Salt and black pepper
1 Drain the chickpeas and place in a pan. Cover with water and add the garlic, leek, onion, tomato (don't chop) chilli and rosemary. Bring up to the boil and simmer for about an hour until the chickpeas are tender. Make sure the chickpeas are always covered with water.
2 Remove the veg along with 100ml of liquor, discard the rosemary and blitz together the veg with the liquor in a food processor. Return to the pan and stir through the chickpeas. Season well.
3 Divide the tagliatelle roughly into three. Break it into shorter strips "about 6cm long. Cook one third in lots of boiling salted water. Add another third to the chickpeas and simmer until just cooked, adding more water if necessary. Fry the final third in hot olive oil until the pasta pieces are crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll.
4 Combine the cooked pasta with the chickpeas, adding a little extra water so it isn't dry. Season well and top with the fried, crisp pasta pieces before serving.
Broad bean puree
N'capriata or fave e cicoria, as it is known, is served with braised chicory and fried green peppers. Recipes can vary throughout the region, some having cooked mashed potato added to the puree. Below we are using padr"n peppers, chicory and chard.